Two-thirds of restaurant diners prefer locally sourced meat and produce, according to Statista. So how local is your menu? Toast says food sourced within 100 miles, within your state or by a small-scale production facility typically qualifies as local. These purveyors are increasingly critical to your marketing efforts with guests. Consumers tend to believe that local products taste better. Beyond that, serving local fare can provide you with a compelling story to share with guests – especially if you create memorable experiences around the farmers, cheesemakers, brewers, and others who produce the local items you feature on your menu. To identify more local food producers, the Sustainable Restaurant Association suggests you challenge your largest supplier to tell you what produce is available in your area. Look online too – keeping tabs on Instagram and Twitter can help you uncover new suppliers in your region. When you find those local producers, meet with them face-to-face and look for ways to partner with them as both ingredient suppliers and storytellers you can showcase at exclusive events with your guests. Forging a close partnership with local producers may help you influence what they plant in future growing seasons, or spark your chef’s creativity by alerting you to the produce that will be the freshest, tastiest addition to your menu at a given time – and what you’d be better off omitting.
What does your restroom say about you?
A recent study by the consulting from King-Casey found that 78 percent of restaurant guests rank a clean restroom as a sign of a clean kitchen. So like it or not, your guests could very well be assessing the cleanliness of your kitchen before they’ve tasted a bite of food. To keep your restrooms as clean as possible, Food Quality & Safety suggests some tips: Offer paper towels, which dry hands quicker and keep customers safer from germs (a Journal of Applied Microbiology study found that jet dryers spread germs 1,300 times more than paper towels). Offer high-quality paper products that dissolve and biodegrade easily – they will help you avoid expensive, unsightly clogs and keep your stall floors free of torn and shredded paper. If possible, install touchless soap dispensers, faucets and paper towel dispensers. Consider touchless or foot-pedal-activated trash receptacles and entrance doors as well. To help maintain a clean restroom, use a cleaning log with a step-by-step list of areas to check multiple times daily. Have a cleaning cart dedicated to restroom use to ensure you have all cleaning supplies and paper goods on hand and are reducing the likelihood of cross-contamination with your kitchen. Finally, make sure your supply closet has an ample supply of restroom products and is easy to access throughout the day.
Build a better burger
Creative burgers are on the rise – and adding inventive ingredients to your patties can help you pack in more nutrients, reduce costs and improve the environmental impact of the burgers on your menu. Nation’s Restaurant News reports that operators are experimenting with ingredients like barley, quinoa, mushrooms, tofu and even seaweed as burger mix-ins. These additions can help you retain the flavor, moisture, texture and thickness of your burgers while using less meat. At the same time, you’ll have a good story to share with your guests: The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates far more man-made greenhouse gas emissions than transportation, so using less of it can help slow that trend.
Clean ice is twice as nice
There’s nothing like an ice-cold beverage to beat the summer heat. Just make sure your ice machine isn’t serving up harmful bacteria. The BBC consumer affairs program Watchdog recently carried out a test of coliforms in ice at 10 branches each of McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC and found indicators of possible contamination with feces in more than half of the samples collected. To help keep your ice clean, Food Safety magazine advises operators train all employees to wash hands before collecting ice. Store the scoop outside of the machine on an uncovered, impervious tray that is washed daily in the dishwasher. Hold the scoop by the handle only and do not handle ice or return any unused ice to the machine. Clean ice storage chests monthly (if not weekly) and consider regular testing of ice and the surfaces around it to help you adjust your cleaning frequency and methods.
Accepting tips in the EMV age
If you accept tips at your restaurant, is your technology keeping up with the most convenient ways for customers to offer them? FSR magazine says that as more operators adopt EMV, which includes a secure PIN option, they will have to prepare their payment systems to accept all kinds of payments. That could mean ensuring your point-of-sale system can handle all transactions with tip allowance or transitioning away from a central checkout system in favor of a mobile, pay-at-the-table model. The latter system is widely used in other countries and appears to be where the U.S. is evolving. Though it puts customers in the somewhat awkward position of stating the tip amount at the time they pay their bill, the security offered by these PIN-enabled transactions is likely to outweigh the negatives.
Following a new trend? Adapt your safety protocol
There’s always pressure to stay on trend in the restaurant business, but catering to the latest consumer need raises food safety challenges, according to Food Safety magazine. Hydroponic gardens popping up in restaurant dining rooms – or rooftop gardens used to grow produce used on the menu – can pose risks when guests are in close proximity to ingredients that will land on someone’s plate. The push to provide local ingredients poses another risk. If you purchase from a local co-op, your produce may have come from dozens of growers, so traceability is especially important. If you offer smoothies or other produce-packed beverages, note that some frozen produce wasn’t intended to be served without cooking and may contain pathogens. The demand for delivery is raising safety concerns too – if you use a third-party service, who is responsible for the temperature and quality of the food during transport? Is the food protected from intentional or unintentional contamination?
Fine-tune your hashtags
If you have a presence on social media, hashtags can help you tell your story and connect to a larger online community at the same time. To use them to greatest effect, Social Media Restaurant suggests you keep them brief, memorable and easy to spell – #PerfectPizzaPairings will score higher than “BestWinesWithPizza, for example. Choose an original-sounding (but understandable) tag, use capital letters for each new word and double check it to ensure it won’t be misinterpreted or used in an unintended way. Don’t overdo them – tweets with three or fewer tags are twice as likely to be favorited, answered or retweeted. If you’re running a contest where you challenge guests to post a photo along with a single hashtag, consider using online aggregation services like Tag Board or Rebel Mouse. They will help you bring all entries together onto one easy-to-reference page.
Adopting eco-friendly practices is becoming a necessity for many restaurants – and the practices that operators once established mainly to shrink their carbon footprint and tell a compelling story to guests are now demonstrating they can save substantial money too. Cake, the technology consultancy to the restaurant industry, suggests operators start simply: Turning down the thermostat (even in cooler months), installing low-flow faucets and toilets (at a savings of 20 to 40 percent of water costs annually), winnowing down your menu to focus on a smaller number of ingredients, and replacing paper towels with hand dryers in your restrooms will all add up to substantial savings. Next, Cake suggests you take a look at your kitchen, since 80 percent of energy is wasted because of the heat and noise that appliances in commercial kitchens produce. If you’re replacing appliances, look to energy-efficient models and research what state rebates they might qualify you to get. Barring that, use an energy monitoring system that can help you adjust how much power to use when your restaurant is closed. While appliances like refrigerators obviously need to keep running, reducing power to other parts of your operation can help cut costs. Buying from local farmer’s markets (or using a larger supplier that has relationships with a number of regional farms) is another financially sound decision in addition to a means of supporting your community – especially when your alternative is to have ingredients shipped from far-flung parts of the country. Finally, take a look at your waste and find ways to reduce excess ingredients, repurpose ingredients in recipes throughout the week, and recycle into compost what you must discard. (Green Hotelier suggests that for a trial period, you collect food waste in three separate bins – preparation, spoilage and plate waste – to identify where most of your food waste is coming from so you can take steps to minimize it.)
Step up your food safety program
Would you describe your food safety program as world-class? If not (and even if so), it might be helpful to know the processes and approaches the best operations use, according to Food Safety Magazine. First, do you have a maturity modeling program? This will help you apply simple principles to measure continuous improvement in safety, productivity and quality and decrease labor, waste and unproductivity. Second, does your food safety program go beyond the FDA’s model food code and state or local variations? While the rules in this food code are an important foundation, they make it easy for operators to slip into reactive mode. You may discover and fix problems just a couple of times a year during inspections and let things slide in the interim. To fill the gap, practice (and enforce) active management, including educating and certifying food safety managers and having standard operating procedures for purchasing ingredients, equipment, facility design and maintenance, and employee health. Then you can establish food safety management programs like Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points to employ verification procedures for sanitation, temperature control, hygiene, maintenance, and safe sources of food and water. Consider the 40-item checklist used during a food safety inspection and collect the same data daily to uncover problem areas early. Finally, use your metrics to improve processes, resources and people. As you improve continuously, you can refine cost-saving opportunities including reducing food waste, power consumption and staffing hours. At this stage it will be part of your culture – and in the fabric of your team – to look for ways to make things better.
Stay a step ahead of fraud
In Verizon’s 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report, nearly 98 percent of all recorded point-of-sale attacks resulted in a confirmed data breach, with the focus of attacks shifting from hotel chains to restaurants and small businesses. To prevent fraud, the report suggests operators request a review of third-party point-of-sale vendors and their security practices—with an emphasis on remote access. Modern Restaurant Management says accepting payments with a secure mobile payment app can help because credit card data is protected through a PCI-compliant payment processor. By ensuring your payment processors and point-of-sale system are PCI-compliant, restaurant operators can streamline and protect all reports in one place.
Social media contests that win
Running a contest via social media can help you generate traffic during slow periods and build your customer database. Just remember a few rules to ensure you maximize the impact of each campaign. Social Media Week suggests you offer more than just recognition – a tangible prize (ideally one that you can brand) is ideal. If you’re giving away a coupon or other minor item, running the contest for a few hours or days is sufficient, while contests for big-ticket prizes can run for weeks. You’re more likely to get a better outcome if you encourage user-generated content from your guests – like photos, taglines or other content they create themselves that involves your brand. Finally, have a few simple, clear rules to govern your contest, but nothing so complex that you discourage people from taking part.
A picture-perfect meal
If your guests regularly post images of their meals online – and the images they post could represent you a little better – consider one London-based restaurant’s approach. Mic reports that a location of the restaurant Dirty Bones lends guests “Instagram kits” to help cast their menu in its best light, literally. The kits include a portable LED light, multi-device charger, clip-on wide-angle lens, tripod and selfie stick, which guests can borrow to stage a perfect photo op for their meal. Food and drinks are served to maximize visual appeal (a pink cocktail served during the city’s Pride Week was topped with a rim of rainbow sprinkles) and the restaurant itself was designed with social media in mind. Guests can pose in front of neon signs that display Instagram-friendly sayings like “Keeping it real.”
Want feedback? Have a chat.
Getting candid, meaningful feedback from your customers is important, but many of the usual methods restaurants use to collect input – like comment cards, for one – don’t provide the kind of actionable information operators need. And it’s not always feasible to have an in-person conversation with your guests to collect feedback. But a recent report in Modern Restaurant Management suggests chatbots have the potential to help operators gather helpful information because they can tap into the mindset of consumers used to chatting via text. By simply transferring the questions normally used on a paper form onto a chatbot interface and sending it via text to customers who have received an online order, one operator was able to elicit descriptive feedback. (It also helps that the chatbot asks an open-ended follow-up question when a customer gives a low rating to an area of service.) Because the feedback is presented in chat form, it feels more personal – yet it is quick and cost-effective.
Clean up to keep ‘em coming back
A Harris poll conducted in 2016 found that 93 percent of adults in the U.S. would avoid returning to a restaurant if they had experienced a problem, including poor cleanliness or odor. Toast suggests tips to help you avoid that scenario. Train your staff to prioritize food safety – not just after a training session but every day. Think of the health department as a partner who can help you bring in business. If you receive a low score, respond constructively and cooperate with their guidance to bolster your food safety practices. Flies and other pests are tell-tale signs to customers that your cleaning practices aren’t sufficient, so keep your operation pest-free with help from a pro. Finally, prioritize cleanliness over customer service. Your attentive service and attractive ambiance won’t matter if your guests notice dirty cutlery or leave with a foodborne illness.
Prevent foodborne illness with four principles
The USDA’s Economic Research Service reports that foodborne illnesses cause more than 53,000 hospitalizations each year and more than 2,300 deaths. To help your operation prevent foodborne illness, Food Quality & Safety recommends you remember four principles: clean, separate, cook and chill. To keep hands, utensils and surfaces clean, wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and running water before and after food handling or using the bathroom. Wash the surfaces of cutting boards, counters, dishes and utensils with warm, soapy water. Use paper towels (instead of cloth towels) to clean counters or spills. Rinse or blanch the surfaces of fresh produce to eliminate dirt or bacteria. Next, separate to avoid cross-contamination. Ensure ready-to-eat foods aren’t placed on surfaces that held raw meat, seafood, poultry or eggs. Use separate cutting boards when preparing fresh produce and uncooked meats and properly wash the surfaces exposed to raw meat, seafood, poultry and eggs in warm, soapy, running water. Next, cook food to the proper temperature to kill dangerous bacteria. Foodsafety.gov recommends steak or ground beef be cooked to 160˚F, chicken or turkey to 165˚F, seafood to 145˚F and egg dishes to 160˚F. Finally, chill food properly to slow the bacterial growth process. Keep the refrigerator at 40˚F or below and maximize air circulation by not overcrowding foods inside. Don’t let raw meat, eggs or fresh produce sit out for more than two hours without refrigeration. Post checklists to help staff remember to follow all of the above steps amid the rush of preparing food each day.
If you operate a full-service restaurant, how do your employees feel about the minimum wage debate? As the minimum wage rises in many areas of the country, pay attention to how restaurant operators and workers in areas as different as Maine and Seattle, Wash. are already responding. The Washington Post reports that following a November referendum in Maine to raise servers’ hourly wages from $3.75 to $12 by 2024, restaurant workers campaigned heavily (and successfully) to overturn it, saying it would greatly reduce servers’ take-home income because it would cause customers to tip less. Servers in New York, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. are already mobilizing against a higher minimum wage. Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who strongly opposes raising the tipped minimum wage, is now working with waitstaff in Minneapolis and Seattle on similar efforts. In light of the minimum wage increase in Seattle – a phased-in $15-an-hour wage was passed in the city in 2014 and is not yet fully in place – a recent editorial in USA Today cited a study by the University of Washington and the National Bureau of Economic Research that said employers had already cut back employee hours to compensate for the higher wages. The editorial predicts that the drop in employment will make it more difficult for people to get jobs or work as many hours as they would like.
Internet of Things has broad food safety applications
Our ability to connect an increasing number of devices is playing out with important enhancements to food safety. Food Safety Tech reports that in farming, we’re likely to see driverless tractors take over traditionally driven ones, aerial drones assess the health of crops and deliver targeted applications of fertilizer and insecticide, which stands to minimize excess costs and damage to food. The Internet of Things will help foodservice operators manage shipments more accurately and improve their monitoring of food quality as well. Expect major advances in pest management too, as a network of connected sensors better identifies and tracks pest populations and monitors their growth, enabling pest management companies to treat infestations in a more targeted way.
3D underwater farming offers creative opportunity to chefs
As climate change threatens the environment (and for fishermen, the economy too), people who make their living providing seafood to foodservice operators are turning to vertical underwater farming, also called 3D farming. One benefit of the effort is that thousands of vitamin-rich sea vegetables are being discovered and brought to menus for the first time. A recent report in Invironment details one fisherman, whose 20-acre 3D farm provides native seaweeds, which he says contain more vitamin C than orange juice, more calcium than milk and more protein than soybeans. By eating what fish eat, he says, people can attain the benefits of eating fish without stressing the fish supply. His farm is partnering with chefs to create kelp noodles, green sea butters and cheeses, and kelp-based umami-filled bouillons, for example.
Nanotechnology set to advance many areas of food industry
Nanotechnology has growing applications in food – and is poised to improve food safety, processing and packaging and even develop new foods that optimize nutrient delivery in the years ahead. New Food magazine reports that between 2015 and 2021, the nanotechnology market focused on the food industry is expected to triple, to $20.4 billion. If you like to stay on the cutting edge of food technology, watch for developments in antimicrobial surfaces and sensors that change color when food begins to degrade, for example, and the development of new ingredients that could enhance food solubility and nutrient delivery.
Harness your in-house social media power
Your social media campaigns need your employees in order to thrive. Do you have their buy-in? Social Media Week recommends you first enhance your employee culture – if people are happy to come to work, their enthusiasm will extend to other areas of their lives. Develop a social brand value – so you’re shifting your company’s influence from your brand onto people who can spread your message and connect with others without launching into a premeditated sales pitch. Identify employees who are willing to spread your message and have thousands of followers and active social lives. Guide your employees to post and share content without telling them exactly what to say. Anything you post and expect to be shared should be share-worthy, support the brand or add value to the customer.
Dynamic pricing gives supermarkets an edge
Technology is making it easier for food retailers t o change their prices during the day based on demand. This dynamic pricing could make products like bananas, for example, more expensive in the afternoon than in the morning, according to the BBC. Digital displays, along with vast amounts of consumer data, are allowing retailers to change the price of hundreds of thousands of items instantaneously to attract specific types of customers at different times of day. Some supermarkets, for example, are starting to use this technology to discount lunch items in the morning to encourage customers to buy lunch early – and perhaps forgo their usual restaurant take-out later in the day.
Sidestep a slowdown
Life slows down in the summer – and sometimes the restaurant business does too. Rod Brant, the president of the restaurant marketing firm Marketing for Independents, suggests that during your slow months, whether they happen in the summer or in the middle of winter, it’s important to focus on existing customers as opposed to trying to attract new ones. Consider contests that will bring people back during your slower periods. One restaurant beat an August slowdown by handing out sealed, dark-colored envelopes with every receipt in July. Each envelope listed a range of potential prizes on the outside and guests were instructed to not open the envelope but bring it back in August, when it would be opened to reveal a prize – and every one was a winner. The prizes promoted on the envelopes included $2 credits for a soft drink, a free appetizer, free entrée, iPad and expensive gift card for the restaurant. For every 1,000 envelopes, the restaurant printed out zero coupons for the lowest-tier prizes (since everyone expects to win this prize, they like discovering they’ve won something better), 798 coupons for appetizers, 200 coupons for entrées, one coupon for an iPad and one for a high-end gift card. More than 38 percent of guests returned with their envelopes – and sales from those guests topped $78,000. Scratch cards work just as well and can build buzz among your guests and employees. Just remember to ensure the promotions reflect your brand.
Choosing tech to enhance the customer experience
Restaurants need to embrace technology – a recent National Restaurant Association survey found that four in five operators agree that technology helps increase sales, makes their restaurant more productive and provides a competitive advantage. But how do you know you’re investing in the right tech? A recent report in Skift features technology recommendations from Ben Leventhal of Resy, the restaurant tech leader that has helped the likes of Union Square Café successfully use technology to improve guest experiences. He suggests providing technology that runs quietly and enhances the human touch instead of preventing it. Of course, technology is not one-size-fits-all. Leventhal predicts we’ll see more screens in fast-casual restaurants and fewer in fine dining establishments in the future. If you’re looking to invest, before asking about what features can help boost business, make sure you have the basics right first. You’ll need strong core technology to build upon later and to ensure all of the siloed technology you use can talk to each other. The National Restaurant Association survey found that most operators looking into the future of restaurant technology believe that the key areas of focus in the next five years will be customer ordering, loyalty programs and payment options. Of course, you’re liable to reap far greater benefits from your investment if you’re part of a network of restaurants that can share customer profiles to build loyalty.
Redirect your food waste
According to a study by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, more than 84 percent of unused food in American restaurants is thrown away, just over 14 percent is recycled and 1.4 percent is donated. But Toast reports that an increasing number of companies are trying to change those statistics for the better. If you’re looking to reduce your waste (and the expense required to remove it), consider getting in touch with one of these seven companies: 412 Food Rescue in Pittsburgh, Penn., Mintscraps in Oakland, Calif., MOGO in Berkeley, Calif., Re-Nuble in Brooklyn, N.Y., Spoiler Alert in Boston, WISErg in Redmond, Wash., and Zero Percent in Chicago. Some of these companies focus on redirecting food to the hungry, some have developed technology that helps operators sell waste food at a discount and others help operators turn food scraps into fertilizers to help protect future harvests.
Kitchen design for food safety
The way your kitchen is designed can help or hinder your food safety efforts. Even if you’re not in a position to redesign your kitchen, there are actions you can take (or file away until repairs are needed) to improve food safety. Francine Shaw of Food Safety Training Solutions recommends you consider the flow of your prep area to maximize efficiency. Sinks shouldn’t be in areas where contaminated water might splash on food or clean dishes. You might need to install a barrier between your sink and prep area if space is tight. Ensure your hot water tank holds a sufficient amount of water to get you through your busiest periods of sanitizing dishes – or get a larger tank or booster. Any areas you cannot reach for regular cleaning should be sealed tightly so they don’t become havens for rodents and insects. Think about even the smallest details: Tile grout, for example, should be minimal to avoid chipping, as well as non-porous, so bacteria cannot grow there.
Food truck food safety precautions
Summer time is prime time for food trucks. Unfortunately, their small spaces and variable conditions can make them food safety hazards – and consumers are becoming more aware of them. If you have a food truck, the non-profit STOP Foodborne Illness recommends you have your vendor license at the ready to show you have met basic food safety training requirements. Make sure workers’ hands are clean and covered – and that they can easily access the sink for washing up. Ensure none of your food is lukewarm. Create enough space for preparing meat, poultry and produce so you avoid cross-contamination. Finally, a dirty truck is always a bad sign that other problems are lurking, so keep it clean.
A cheat sheet to social media success
If you’re not relying on an outside shop to manage your social media presence, chances are you have someone on your team handling it in the midst of a dozen other responsibilities. If you need a quick reference to make the most of your time, OnBlastBlog posted a handy 2017 social media cheat sheet that covers Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn. You’ll find image sizing suggestions for each site, keyboard shortcuts, information on the best days to post on each site to maximize views, social media tools to use daily, tips to generate more shares and comments, and recommendations on how to write the kinds of headlines that succeed on each site.
Picture building your business
What do the pictures you post online say about your restaurant? Enhance the power of what you post by remembering a few rules. Social Media Week suggests you always tie your images back to a gallery or page on your main site – it will make the images less fleeting and increase your odds of bringing guests through the door. Use the rule of thirds to position your subject effectively and make sure that your subject is clear, not easily confused with other items in the shot. Ensure your images have a consistent style and tone but include something that makes them uniquely yours – not something to be confused with a stock image they’d see elsewhere. Finally, remember your demographic. If your brand is edgy and modern, your photos should be too.
Be customer-service savvy on social media
Social media channels provide inexpensive, visible stages for you to promote your restaurant, extend your brand and deliver customer service. Just remember the right and wrong ways to use it when serving consumers. Social Media Week recommends you use it to listen to what people are saying about you (before you use it to talk about what you want them to know about you). That means that when a customer complains about you on social media, engage with that person one-on-one to show you care about making the situation better. The customer may not always be right but if you respond defensively, it will always make him or her look like a victim – and encourage others to avoid you. In an age when transparency is prized, resist the urge to edit consumers’ responses or delete them – Smuckers, for example, disabled customers’ ability to comment altogether and it can make a brand look worse, according to Customer Experience Insight. In the case of a customer’s negative comment or one in which you’re not sure of the best approach, it’s always best to share your response with team members before posting. While customers expect a fast response (an Edison Research study found that 40 percent of customers expect a response to a social media post within an hour), a short delay can mean your post has a more constructive, positive tone. That said, don’t ignore the forum you have. It can be viewed by millions of people, so make sure you post fresh content frequently.
Tap the millennial talent pool
Chances are you’re not only trying to market to millennials but also trying to engage them as members of your team. Making a connection with them as employees can help you enhance your workplace culture and reach those potential guests you’d like to attract and turn into loyal customers. Millennial Marketing suggests you try to build a collaborative work environment before a competitive one – 88 percent of millennials prefer that in a workplace. Take an interest in their personal lives and demonstrate that you know the work they do with you is just one part of who they are. At work, provide detailed and frequent feedback, describe specific actions they can take (while leaving room for them to leave their own stamp on their work) and provide ample opportunity for them to ask questions and share opinions. A survey by the HR services provider TriNet found that 85 percent of millennials felt more confident in their roles when they have frequent conversations with their managers. Those conversations can be digital or face-to-face – they have grown up using digital media to communicate, after all – but don’t discount how much they value face-to-face interaction with you. In fact, the talent development consulting firm Wild Blue Yonder says millennials would prefer an in-person interaction over an email if given the option. Anytime you need to share serious feedback or discuss setting goals, go with a face-to-face meeting.
The rise of social video
Is the content you post online mostly text, photos or video? In an earnings call last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said 10 years ago, most of the content shared online was text, it was now photos, and soon it will be video. To research the rise of video on social media, Animoto conducted a survey of 1,000 consumers and 500 marketers to get a sense of how businesses are using video to market to their customers. It found that 64 percent of consumers say watching a marketing video on Facebook has influenced a buying decision they have made in the past month and 81 percent of marketers are optimizing their videos for mobile viewing. Facebook, Instagram Stories and Snapchat are the top three channels where consumers are viewing videos from business brands. When posting video, remember that visual appeal is all-important – according to Digiday, 85 percent of posted on Facebook is watched with the sound off.
Don’t fear the delivery app
Do you think that offering delivery could hamper your in-restaurant traffic? Those concerns could be unfounded, according to the data insights firm Sense360. Street Fight reports that the firm tracked 21 million anonymous full-service and quick-service restaurant visits before and after guests had downloaded third-party restaurant delivery apps. The research found that the downloading of these apps does not result in any significant drop in restaurant visits – in fact, consumers tend to use the app alongside restaurant visits. Consumers who download these apps tend to have higher incomes and visit fine dining restaurants 2.5 times more often, according to the study. Therefore, instead of looking at apps as competition for in-restaurant sales, it may make more sense to see them as competitors of grocery stores and grocery delivery services.
Tell your story on Instagram
Instagram Stories is growing fast – it now has 250 million users, according to Recode – and it’s an ideal platform for restaurants. Food lovers can post photos and video, along with drawings, text and stickers. Skift says the platform suits restaurants so well because while Instagram gives operators a place to post well-curated images of the menu, Instagram Stories can help build engagement because it allows for a more casual, behind-the-scenes look at your kitchen, staff or ingredients. You can introduce followers to new ingredients you’re weaving into your summer menu – and everything disappears in 24 hours, so your tone can be more low-key. Instagram is backed by Facebook and has highly engaged viewers: A new report from TrackMaven says Instagram is the stand-out leader in social media engagement, with 96 average interactions per post per 1,000 followers. Even so, there’s still room for growth.
Simple steps to pest prevention
Preventing contamination in your kitchen this summer can be as easy as cleaning up at regular intervals, enlisting employees’ help and changing your lighting. In a recent report in Food Safety Tech, the entomologist Tim Husen recommends asking employees to watch for signs of pest activity. Alert them of areas where pests are likely to breed, as well as what signs of pest activity look like. He suggests setting a zero-tolerance policy for spills, debris and waste, as well as daily, weekly and monthly sanitation routines on top of an annual deep cleaning. Remember to clean beneath the surface – of equipment where bacteria may grow, and around boxes and inside gutters where pests hide. Directing lighting toward your facility (not mounting it on your building) and using sodium-vapor lighting or LEDs instead of mercury-vapor lighting can ensure you’re not attracting pests too.
Help your kitchen handle summer heat
Summer is sizzling, and the change in temperature can pose additional challenges to restaurants. Food safety advisor Lisa Ackerley suggests operators take extra precautions in the kitchen. Sweltering days can make it difficult for refrigerators to hold their temperature for food storage, for example. Keep refrigerator doors closed and avoid storing warm food inside, as it is difficult for refrigerators to cool warm food to the proper temperature quickly enough. Help food reach room temperature more quickly by reducing the size of stored portions to dissipate heat or cooling it in an ice bath first. Make sure your kitchen is well-ventilated but resist the urge to open windows and doors, which can invite pests inside. If you’re preparing or serving food outside, ensure you keep it out of the 41 to 145˚ zone, where pathogens can multiply rapidly. That goes for food deliveries you receive as well – ensure you can promptly store perishables as they arrive.
Be an ongoing recruiter
Do you have high turnover at your restaurant? The turnover rate in the hospitality industry topped 70 percent for the second consecutive year last year, according to the National Restaurant Association. The nature of hourly work and the fluctuations in employee availability throughout the year contribute to the turnover common in the industry – but you can limit it and make it more manageable. In a recent report in Foodable, restaurant coach Donald Burns says many operators can’t get ahead because they recruit only when there is urgency to fill a position, then make a less-than-ideal hire that may not work out and requires you to devote still more time, energy and money to hiring someone new. You can stop that cycle. First, make sure your operation has the kind of culture that attracts top talent and provides opportunities for people to grow. Then dedicate a few hours each week to finding people with the qualities you desire. When you bring candidates in for an interview, your interactions should be less of an interrogation and more of a conversation that taps into the person’s values and soft skills. If they are not a match for your brand, move on to new prospects. Then train everyone on an ongoing basis to develop their skills. If your existing employees see that you want to bring in quality people and develop them, the strong ones are more likely to stick around (and the weak ones won’t want to).
Harness social media to build your customer base
According to Sprout Social, 74 percent of consumers make buying decisions based on social media. That adds up to a lot of buying power for businesses. Social Media Week shared some guidelines for business operators looking to tap into it: Look to attract social influencers, people who have a large social media following, and ask them to try your restaurant and share their experience on social media. While they are likely being targeted by other businesses too, their reviews have a great impact on others’ buying behavior and could be worth your investment of time if they seem like a match for your brand. Do the same for your current guests and encourage them to post content their friends and family can see – 81 percent of consumers are likely to make a purchase based on this kind of recommendation, according to a study conducted by Market Force. Try creating a contest (promote it on your homepage, blog or other promotional materials too) and then track your results. When you post other content, ask a question or insert another impetus to generate a comment in order to make your post a “trending” one. Be a consistent, engaging presence on social media so your followers know what you want them to do. Develop social media advertising campaigns that take consumers through the stages to making a purchase. Because you want to catch any potential guest who searches for what you offer, ensure your posts use plenty of keywords in their headlines, photo captions and comments.
If you’re already posting mouth-watering images of your menu items on Instagram, you’re likely using hashtags to boost engagement. But do you know which ones resonate best with your audience? Social Media Examiner recommends you try these tools: Command, which is an iOS app only, can show you which hashtags give you the most engagement, as well as the average number of likes and comments you get from different hashtags. Sprout Social offers thorough reports on how hashtags are working for you – you can track whether new hashtags are connecting with people or not. Simply Measured helps you generate detailed data on your campaign hashtags. You can run a single report on many hashtags or study them individually to monitor engagement. Iconosquare allows you to schedule posts, generate comprehensive analytics, track and respond to comments, and study the growth of branded or campaign hashtags.
Extended-stay hotels and Airbnbs consider meal kits for health, convenience
If your restaurant is looking to attract tourists or extended stay business travelers, take note: Skift reports that a growing number of hotels are experimenting with meal-kit and grocery delivery services. The move is an effort to cater to customer convenience and wellness, since it can be difficult to eat a healthy diet on the road. Hilton’s Homewood Suites ran a pilot program in Atlanta and Dallas to test the concept and Airbnb’s CEO is also reported to be considering on-demand grocery delivery as an added service for guests.
Get your piece of the pie
Everyone wants a slice of the pizza business. Pizza restaurants that produce assembly-line, custom-built pizza have been a breakout hit in the fast casual space in recent years, according to Technomic’s Darren Tristano. If you’re looking to break in, there are a number of ways to set yourself apart. Upserve reports there is a ravenous appetite for a range of pizza add-ons, including premium and artisan ingredients, healthy options and organic and locally sourced options. If you’re looking to focus in one area to start, Upserve recommends offering some premium toppings (think eggplant, artichokes, or sundried tomatoes, for example) and some artisan pizzas to help your brand stand out.
New website gives restaurants a food safety grade
Consumers have a new tool at their disposal to build their awareness of foodborne illness at restaurants they visit. At the recent National Restaurant Show in Chicago, Dr. Harlan Stueven, an emergency room physician, announced the launch of a website he created to share information about restaurants’ sanitation standards. The public health organization Stop Foodborne Illness reports that the website, dubbed Dining Grades, provides free access to records of restaurants’ public health inspections, which are the foundation for the grade given to restaurants in 11 states. The site says it currently contains records for more than three million restaurants nationwide. Restaurant guests can post comments anonymously, rate restaurants’ food safety efforts and report food poisoning suspected to be caused by the restaurant. Restaurants who become members can get customized reports and marketing tools to help their food safety efforts.
Pest-proof your restaurant
Summer is prime time for pests. Elevated temperatures and moisture, abundant vegetation and additional daylight hours for feeding mean that pests abound, along with the contamination they spread, according to Orkin. In hospitality operations, cockroaches, rodents, fleas and stored product insects like moths, mites, beetles and weevils are especially common, according to Food Quality and Safety. Keep them at bay by finding and regularly cleaning areas where they are likely to hide (or arranging for a sanitation inspection to identify and sanitize problem areas). Storage areas or cluttered spaces can attract roaches, ants and rodents. Check areas where heat and humidity are common – appliances, drain pipes, floor mats and sinks are often breeding ground for pests – as well as in, under and around garbage bins. Seal any cracks or gaps in tile, walls or entryways that could make it easy for pests to enter.
Take the pain out of pay
Amid the rising minimum wage, conflicts over how to fairly compensate front- and back-of-house employees, and the number of available workers per position at a 15-year low, many operators are left wondering how much they should pay their team – and the talent they want to attract. Toast tackled this question recently. For hourly workers, it reported that at large chains including Sonic and McDonald’s, raising the minimum wage by $1 has resulted in lower turnover. (Turnover, by the way, can cost an employer 16 percent of the employee’s first-year compensation.) McDonald’s has also seen improved customer-service ratings following its wage increase, which has been the case at customer-favorite In-N-Out Burger as well – and it is consistently rated a great place to work. A recent Harvard Business School study actually found that raising the minimum wage weeded out weaker performers. Determining pay rates for employees making a salary is a bit more subjective. Executive and entrepreneur coach Stever Robbins suggests you first determine the highest and lowest amounts you’re willing to pay the person in this role. Will the person help drive growth? Will he or she create efficiencies in your operation? How valuable are those responsibilities in the big scheme of your business? Consult resources like Payscale to find the market rate for roles across the industry and Glassdoor.com and Salary.com for location-specific information. If you are part of a local or regional business networking group or are friendly with neighboring restaurant operators, you might be able to gain some insight there too.
Allergy aware? These advocates can help.
One in 25 Americans has a food allergy or some kind. That number increases in children younger than three, according to the Centers for Disease Control. If allergy management has become too large of a challenge for your foodservice operation, Food Safety Magazine recommends a number of consultants and organizations ready to assist. Several of these resources are parents of allergic children and have launched companies that work with foodservice businesses to build allergy awareness. Check out SnackSafely.com, a trusted source of information about manufacturer partnerships and snack lists, and Jenny Sprague, founder of the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference and Multiple Food Allergy Help. For science-based information on nutrition, health and food safety, look to the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, as well as the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team (F.A.A.C.T.), an allergy advocacy group that works with companies to transform their food safety protocols. Finally, at a time when consumers are more passionate than ever about food transparency, Robyn O’Brien is a consultant who helps companies understand where our food comes from and how it is produced, then advises on ideal ingredient choices. Of course, your guests are potential educational resources as well, since people with allergies (or their parents) must advocate for themselves and tend to collect important information about allergy protection that could be of use to you when serving guests.
Scrutinize your insurance
Are you spending money in the best places when it comes to insurance? The BDO accounting firm, which has a dedicated restaurant practice, shared some tips from Dan Fugazzi of Hylant Insurance about how restaurant operators can manage and mitigate their risks, identify inefficiencies and gaps, and ensure the coverage they purchase provides strong value. He suggested operators determine whether their business income insurance includes payroll expenses in the loss determination (you’ll likely want to exclude these expenses from your coverage because you will get substantially less in your claim recovery). If your business has a protective safeguards endorsement requiring you to have a sprinkler system, grill hood fire suppression system or security system maintained to receive full coverage, consider eliminating these safeguards from your coverage. Assess your coverage limits for debris removal – if you have a claim for a total loss and rebuild, the cost to remove debris may be far beyond what your insurer will pay. Finally, check the business entity names on your coverage to avoid frustrating delays or uncertainties when you’re trying to manage a claim.
Cut the salt
Chances are many of your guests are looking to cut their salt intake. The FDA called for the reduction of sodium in packaged and processed foods and the new Dietary Guidelines recommend that people over 14 limit their sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams per day, according to Food Insight. Many consumers assume the food they order in restaurants is high in salt but you can change that assumption by reaching for a host of other ingredients to add interest (but not so much sodium) to food. Instead of salt, consider roasted garlic, peppercorns, low-sodium salsa, lemon juice, bay leaves, dill, cumin, balsamic vinegar and cayenne pepper – and make your guests aware that you’re providing a low-sodium alternative.
Perhaps you have a dazzling new dish that is priced for profit and has potential to generate buzz. Or maybe you need a means to catch a person’s eye when you post content on Facebook or Twitter. Either way, the food photos you post online can set you up for success if you remember a few rules. Social Media Restaurant suggests you contrast your food against a background of a different color. Adjust the white balance so food looks appetizing (meat, for example, should be photographed in warm tones). If shooting in natural light isn’t possible, use a flash diffuser or indirect light. Include quality cutlery, plates, bowls and other props in the shot, but not so many items that they upstage the dish. Take a range of shots from various angles, including close-ups that show textures and details and others that show the inside of the food when it’s cut.
Boost your Instagram results
Instagram has become the place for restaurants to be when it comes to social media, especially if they want to attract the Millennial set. To get the most out of your Instagram posts, Social Media Week suggests you keep some tools at the ready. Canva is a widely used tool that provides templates allowing you to add and edit images, shapes and text. Buffer will help you keep tabs on your account and post your content at times when your audience is most likely to be on Instagram. Crowdfire helps you manage your followers on Instagram by helping you see who has recently followed and unfollowed your account, and you can use the non-followers feature to unfollow those who are inactive or haven’t followed you back. VSCO filters and editing tools will help you create eye-catching, stand-out images. If you’re eager to post video, VidLab lets you add a number of additional tracks, from music to voice recordings, to your content. Try the premium version to remove watermarks from your videos and to access extra features.
Contamination-proof your premises
Are there any areas of your premises that might provide fertile ground for the spread of bacteria and other contaminants? Rentokil, a pest management firm that advises clients in the foodservice industry about food safety, recommends you safeguard these food preparation areas: Floors should be made of a material that is safe to walk on and easy to clean. Walls and doors should be made of impervious materials that are nontoxic, durable and easy to clean and maintain. Ceilings, along with overhead pipes, cables and lighting should be designed to prevent the collection of condensation, mold and dirt. Windows should prevent dirt accumulation and have screens to prevent the intrusion of insects. Finally, all food preparation surfaces should be smooth, washable, nontoxic, corrosion-resistant and well maintained.
Elevate your wine list
Warmer weather makes the idea of alfresco dining over a glass (or three) of wine all the more appealing. Does your wine list bring out the best in your food, as well as boost your bottom line? To get your wine list right, Foodable recommends you consider several factors: Create the perfect marriage between food and drink by having your chef and wine director partner to identify the best tastes to bring out the flavors in your menu, with the understanding that the public may need your guidance in selecting the best pairings. Make your list easily understood – group by color, grape variety, country/region and style, for example, while providing extra notations to identify any special attributes of the wine. Next, consider your brand and make sure your wine list conveys the same message and offers a selection in line with what your clientele expect (a farm-to-table establishment would likely focus less on international selections than on wines produced in the region). Your by-the-glass wines should be exclusive to you and not the same ones offered by your neighbourhood competition. When pricing your list, make your prices fair and customer-friendly but not necessarily even across the board: for example, while a markup of between 200 and 300 percent is fairly standard, consider marking up more expensive wines at a lower margin while increasing the margins on your bottles priced between $10 and $20 and your selections offered by the glass. These rules even hold true if you’re a fast-casual establishment. In those cases, choose a handful of options with enough variety to complement your menu and consider offering them on tap so you can deliver a carafe or glass in short order.
What’s your pre-fall awareness?
Slips, trips and falls are the most common injury to foodservice workers – and they can result in substantial financial losses and labor challenges. To minimize these accidents, review your cleaning procedures, equipment maintenance protocol, employee training and footwear to anticipate hazards. In a recent report in EHS Today, Jeff Nelken, a food safety expert and trainer, said he works with clients to create “pre-fall awareness.” You can do the same by asking yourself what accidents or near-accidents you have experienced this year. What led to them? Spilled food or water, condensation, grease, fast-moving workers, improperly maintained floor mats, hot plates and appliances can all play a role in causing accidents if you don’t take precautions. Keep floors clean and dry. Mop up spills right after they occur. Look for cleaning agents with ingredients that both clean the floor and give it traction – Trader Joe’s uses one such cleaning agent in stores. Much like other fields requiring specialized footwear, hospitality work requires footwear that is slip-resistant and offers protection in case of contact with hot liquids or kitchen tools. When helping clients identify potential hazards, Nelken focuses on 10 areas: the surface composition of floors and how they respond when wet, dry or soiled; foreign substances on floors and the best methods for removing them without making the problem worse; surface conditions of floors, including raised edges or loose carpeting; surface changes, such as a floor that changes from carpet to tile; level changes; obstructions including cords or signs; visibility challenges due to lighting or color contrasts; human factors such as physical abilities; stairs; and unusual features that could distract a walker, including loud noises or flashing lights.
Snap up new followers
Snapchat hits a sweet spot for many restaurants: 71 percent of its users are younger than 34 years old and 30 percent of Millennials in the U.S. are regular users, according to the digital marketing agency Omnicore. If you’re trying to market to those demographics, Social Media Week suggests you try Snapchat to generate buzz around a special event or promotion. Plan a flash sale and send a snap to My Story to alert followers. Promote events using an on-demand geofilter, which allows you pay for an announcement according to a geographic coverage area and time span. Snapchat is a good platform for posting casual videos that connect with your community – try posting a video pop quiz, a behind-the-scenes look at your chef making today’s special, or an answer to a question you regularly hear from guests. If you and a neighboring business would like to reach a similar audience, joining forces on Snapchat can help you gain new followers.
Cooler water may do the job
Hot water and soap are best for washing hands, right? New research from Rutgers University that was published in the Journal of Food Protection calls that belief into question. Medical News Today says the study, which examined the effects of hot- and cold-water handwashing, along with factors like soap volume, lather time and handwashing efficacy, found that water temperature did not have a significant impact on reducing bacteria. Whether the person washing hands did so with water at 38˚C or 16˚C did not matter, as long as the person was comfortable with the temperature. The findings, if they lead to a policy change, could result in an energy savings for restaurants since cold water requires less energy than warm or hot water.
Seven steps to minimize food risks
To prepare and store food safely, even small foodservice operations need procedures based on HACCP – hazard analysis and critical control point principles – to identify and control food safety hazards including microbiological, chemical and physical risks. The Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends you remember these principles when setting your strategy: Conduct a hazard analysis to uncover risks. At every step along the way to the occurrence of a hazard, identify critical control points. Set the critical limits that you must meet to make food safe – from cooking temperature to cooling guidelines and storage temperature. Determine monitoring procedures to ensure you keep food safe at each step. If and when you deviate from the critical limits you have set, determine your corrective actions required to prevent a health hazard. Set procedures to ensure your corrective actions are working as intended and document your actions so you have evidence to present to hygiene inspectors that proves you have taken necessary precautions.
Be equipment wise
When it comes to your kitchen equipment, do you have the right tools of the trade? Before you make a purchase, Foodable recommends you consider these areas: First, review your budget and menu to identify the most critical pieces of equipment you need to deliver a quality menu. That will help you decide if you need a premium piece of equipment or can get by with a refurbished item. Next, are these items as green as they could be? As your utility costs will likely rise, investing in equipment whose energy output can be readily controlled will minimize your future costs. Your supplier should offer a range of items within the same category so you can easily identify the pros and cons. If not, shop around. Finally, consider the future growth of your menu before you make a purchase to ensure the items you buy can accommodate changes in scale. If you use a lot of fresh ingredients, ensure your equipment meets your needs for storage and refrigeration.
Create a collaborative community
Building your business is all about creating community, online and offline. And like the famous movie line states, “If you build it, they will come.” (Assuming you deliver quality food and service once they arrive, of course.) To develop a supportive community, Social Media Week recommends you produce personalized content of high quality – engage your community by starting a conversation, entertaining them or sharing a piece of information. Post consistently so your followers know you haven’t disappeared and follow through on what you say you will do. Prove your authenticity and show you care by responding to comments, both positive and negative. When things go wrong, politely show you’re trying to make them right. If someone shares your content, give them a mention. Above all, listen more than you speak – you’ll make a bigger impact on your clientele if you show you are absorbing what they tell you.
Build a culture of positive customer experiences
Do you have a culture of customer service? It’s not something you can achieve in a one-day training seminar. Justin McGurgin, who has spent 30 years in hospitality and currently runs Zealifi, a company that coaches operators about how to build a culture that provides positive, memorable experiences for guests, spends most of his time working with leaders, not staff. In a podcast on Profitable Hospitality, he said staff are simply a reflection of the leadership they’re getting (or not getting). One-off training seminars are little more than a band-aid fix, motivating your team only as long as your trainer is in the building. So what does McGurgin suggest instead? In year-long training modules he conducts with operators, McGurgin typically spends the full 12 months with the organization’s leaders – junior team members join in for just five months across that time frame. When working with leaders, he focuses on engagement and empowerment. Do you build connections with your team by saying hello when they walk in the door? Scheduling one-on-one meetings with them in addition to group meetings? Acknowledging their accomplishments with a personal note and in group meetings, emails or texts? When something goes wrong, have you empowered staff to handle it, instead of having them come to you for guidance when a customer complains? When you can answer “yes” to those questions, you have the makings of a strong culture. That has important benefits: You’ll be able to attract more stars to your team (and have a better chance of enticing them to stay), you’ll have a team that won’t tolerate weak links (so you won’t be the only one managing quality control) and you’ll have more time to focus on firing up the creativity at the top of your organization, so you can ensure you continue to bring customers through the door.
Where to innovate first? Try your back office.
“Today’s delights are tomorrow’s expectations,” according to the Culinary Institute of America’s Tim Ryan, who spoke at the recent Restaurant Leadership Conference. It’s true of your food, service and technology. If you’re unsure of where to innovate across your operation, automating your back office is a good place to begin, according to Alister & Paine, a magazine for company executives. As the nucleus of your operation, running it smoothly can help you manage your scale and achieve goals with less effort. If you’re comfortably paying vendors by check, for example, the number of checks you need to write each month can escalate quickly (and become a chore) when you invest in marketing, increase your customer volume or hire additional employees. Electronic payments can help you accomplish more tasks more quickly and with less effort. Vendors are increasingly expecting shorter payment terms, so providing payment with the click of a mouse can help you keep valued suppliers and stay a step ahead of competitors. And if your competitors are automating their back office, it will quickly become compulsory – not just nice to have. That said, what works for your competition won’t necessarily work for you. FSR Magazine recommends you audit your operation to identify process improvements you can make to enhance any automation you introduce. That could mean synching different processes or software programs, identifying ways to ensure all invoices are processed correctly, or using a special barcode on invoices if it helps you save money on each invoice. Consider outsourcing your accounts payable if you find your back-office work is taking attention away from providing great food and service. When outsourcing gives you access to a dedicated customer management team that handles your invoices and vendor requests, for example, it can help you gain some visibility and control over your finances while freeing up time for focusing on other parts of your operation.
What’s the next kale?
What is it about kale that made it skyrocket in popularity and become consumers’ favorite superfood? According to Nielsen data, frozen breakfast entrees featuring kale experienced a whopping 391 percent growth in sales between 2016 and 2017. David Sax, who wrote The Tastemakers, said it comes down to three traits: versatility, availability and cultural significance. As Food Dive reports, kale can be eaten raw or cooked, has a long growing season in a range of climates and has become a symbol of health, which in combination made it a must-have on menus and consumers’ dinner tables. The ubiquity of food images and experiences on social media can help foodservice operators predict the next foods and beverages poised for a big break. Food industry analysts say drinking vinegars could be the next big thing to go mainstream. While they’re appearing on menus as kombucha or alcoholic mixers, there’s plenty of room for them to grow.
It is really organic? Buyer beware.
Food labels can mean the difference between winning new customers and losing the ones you have. A recent Washington Post report detailed the story of a 36 million-pound shipment of soybeans that originated in the Ukraine, passed through Turkey, was fumigated with pesticide like regular soybeans, priced like regular soybeans, then labeled “USDA organic” and increased significantly in price upon arrival in the U.S. That shipment, along with two other grain shipments that passed through Turkey and subsequently sparked questions about organic labeling, demonstrate weakness in current U.S. standards determining what commodities are organic. (Approximately half of organic commodities, including corn, soybeans and coffee, come from outside the U.S.) The Post report says although organic food imports from Turkey, China and other countries have invited increased scrutiny, gauging the level of fraud in imported organics is difficult because organic companies have little incentive to announce their suspicions about suppliers.
Swap out the sugar
The message is finally taking hold around the globe: Cut the sugar. Food Quality & Safety reports that sugar sales may grow at their slowest pace this year and next as consumption drops in developed countries. Many such countries have proposed or implemented taxes on sweetened beverages, have banned vending machines in schools and introduced warning labels on high-sugar foods, among other measures. The analyst group Platts Kingsman forecasts sugar consumption to increase just 1 percent, half of the annual growth it has experienced in the past decade. While some countries are accommodating consumers’ cravings for sweet foods by using sugar stand-ins like high-fructose corn syrup, many foodservice operations are reformulating products to decrease the amount of sweeteners overall. Now is the time to consider creative ways to bring sweetness (but not added sugar) to your menu.
Facebook brings (some) restaurants one step closer to customers
Soon, it may not be sufficient to simply have a restaurant page on Facebook – your neighborhood restaurants might be accessible directly from Facebook users’ homepages. Facebook recently made it possible to order food directly from its app menu on the main login page. It allows users to find a restaurant list, review the menu, include a tip and pay for the meal without having to navigate away from their Facebook page. The Next Web reports that on the app menu on the left-hand side of the Facebook home page, a new hamburger icon links to local restaurants that deliver (it currently includes just restaurants using Delivery.com or Slice). While the functionality isn’t universally available yet, look for it to expand and give some restaurants first dibs on hungry customers.
What makes for a professional-looking post? Here’s a cheat sheet.
Social media is a must for any foodservice operation – unfortunately, having a professional presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram or other networks requires you to meet different standards for the photos and logos you post. To help, Louise Myers Visual Social Media, which advises companies about using graphics, photos and other images effectively on social media, provided a cheat sheet to help you navigate the requirements of various sites and the recent updates that could alter what you can post. Visit http://louisem.com/2852/social-media-cheat-sheet-sizes for a handy chart you can reference when posting images to a variety of networks.
Protect against pests this summer
As the weather warms, pests will be all the more tempted to frequent your restaurant, potentially spreading bacteria and damaging your property. (JP Pest Services says rodents harbor and spread more than 2000 human pathogens and termites cause $5 billion in property damage each year.) You can help deter unwelcome guests by taking action inside and outside of your facility. Chris Del Rossi, founder of Food and Drug and the Bug integrated pest management company, spoke at the National Restaurant Association’s 2015 Quality Assurance Executive Study Group meeting and recommended operators focus on sanitation, structure and storage to prevent pest infestations. Any cracks or crevices between equipment can house pests, so use equipment with lockable wheels and flexible gas and electric lines to help ensure you can clean hard-to-reach places. When storing food, avoid placing anything on the floor or against walls. Installing wire shelves that keep food off of the floor and inches from walls can help you avoid an infestation. Dispose of food waste in trash bags and take it to a dumpster promptly. Make sure your dumpster isn’t dirty, has a lid and isn’t within easy access of your doors or windows. Consider pests when landscaping as well: Ensure plants around your premises don’t touch the ground or the walls of your property and surround your foundation with a strip of gravel, which can deter pests far better than bark mulch. Check the exterior of your property to make sure your pipes, roof, walls and tiles are crack-free and well-sealed.
Ease your restaurant's labor pains
Labor challenges are enough to keep any restaurant operator awake at night, from the rising minimum wage to the struggle for talent in a high-turnover industry. In a recent Toast survey, 46 percent of restaurant operators said their top challenge was hiring, training and retaining staff. So how do you cope? Restaurant Hospitality suggests you consider a range of actions. To help address the pay disparity between front- and back-of-house workers, you could charge administrative fees (say 2-3 percent of the final bill) or raise menu prices to fund a pay increase for those not included in tip pools. That can help ensure that on a busy night, everyone reaps the benefits; just be transparent with guests about what you're trying to achieve with new charges. Consider opening your books to your team -- training everyone from your dishwashers to your cooks about the financials of your business -- and sharing in the profits to encourage everyone to think and behave like an owner of the business. That can also help you identify and limit practices that waste money and time, from unprofitable menu items to an excess in staff. Some operators continue to experiment with service charges or sales commissions, adding a 20 percent surcharge to checks and not expecting tips (though still accepting them) on top of it, or just eliminating tipping altogether by including a hospitality fee if you feel your clientele will pay the increased menu prices to support it.
Who's in charge of social media?
Social media marketing represents a growing percentage of most restaurants' promotional campaigns. But is your social media best kept in the hands of a tech-savvy team member or is it time to hire a firm to manage it for you? Social Media Restaurant says for the majority of operators out there, the answer to that question should be "both." Consider hiring a consultant with industry expertise who can develop a campaign for you that includes the vehicles that make sense based on your brand, goals and clientele. (If you're part of a restaurant group, your consultant can help you ensure you use a consistent voice across locations as well.) Once you have a creative strategy in
place with clear objectives and tasks built into it, someone in-house who knows your customers well should spend some time each day making updates and accomplishing set tasks.
Prevent summertime Salmonella
The warmer months are prime time for the spread of Salmonella, which causes about 1 million foodborne illnesses each year in the United States. It's often found in foods including chicken, vegetables, eggs, fruit, sprouts, beef and pork. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends you remember four key actions to prevent Salmonella. Remember to properly Clean (wash hands, utensils and food contact surfaces, though not the poultry, meat and eggs themselves), Separate (set the meat, poultry and seafood apart in the refrigerator and use different cutting boards for those items), Cook (ensure foods are cooked to the appropriate temperature and stay at 145 degrees or above after cooking) and Chill (store foods at 40 degrees or colder in general, and refrigerate or freeze perishables and prepared foods within two hours, or within one hour if the room/outdoor temperature is 90 degrees or higher).
Don't let it go to waste
After labor costs, food costs are the top expenditure for restaurant operators, according to POS Sector. Those costs should range from 28 percent of sales (typical of casual restaurants) to 33 percent at fine-dining restaurants, according to the Wall Street Journal. If they're not, review your menu to ensure your top-selling items are also the most profitable. Chef Klime Kovaceski, who opened the Miami restaurant Crust in 2015 and posted sales of more than $1 million and a pre-tax profit of more than $200,000 for 2016, keeps a close eye on food waste. He recommends using minimal ingredients to keep costs down and reduce the incidence of spoilage -- risotto is a common item on his menu, for example, but herbs and spices lend wide variety to it. He also insists employees show him spoilage before throwing away food so they can determine what went wrong, and enforcing strict standards with suppliers to ensure he always receives fresh product.
Marketing with meaning
Investment in social media marketing is projected to increase by 90 percent in the next five years, according to Salesforce.com. Regardless of your budget size, you’re wise to allocate some resources to it. But how? The CMO Survey, which collects and distributes the opinions of top marketers, suggests that your marketing budget should comprise 5-15 percent of your revenue. Of that, 10-50 percent should be used for digital marketing, to include SEO, pay-per-click, social media and content marketing. The types of social media that marketers use vary widely but the most popular outlets right now are social networking on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, blogging (or microblogging on Twitter), and sharing video and pictures on sites like YouTube or Instagram. Video, according to the marketers surveyed, is the medium ripe for expansion in the months ahead.
Give tours of your restaurant (before guests even walk through the door)
Posting your menu online is customary. Posting a Google 360-degree virtual tour of your restaurant is less common – but it’s a great way to bring guests to you. Before consumers read your reviews on Yelp on TripAdvisor, they’re searching for you on Google. When you post a virtual tour, you get the chance to impact consumers’ first impressions of you. Social Media Restaurant says the tours appear in Google searches and on Google maps and you can also include them in your digital marketing. (Facebook just introduced a feature that allows you to post a panoramic shot of your restaurant on your business page, for example.) During a recent Restaurant Week in New York City, 55 percent of participating restaurants offered a “Business View” virtual tour – and consistently, diners booked tables at those restaurants more frequently.
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