A formula for a more profitable menu
Does your menu drive sales as well as it could? Chances are you need to slim it down to focus on your best sellers. Upserve research found that 80 percent of a restaurant’s food sales come from 16 percent of menu items, so any extra options can make it more frustrating for your guests to find their favorites. What’s more, ingredients comprise such a large portion of a restaurant’s costs – 36 percent, according to the merger advisory firm Mazonne and Associates – that condensing them will help you focus on buying the best items you can. Upserve applied this rationale to its new “Smart Menu” builder template, a free tool that draws on menu research from across the U.S., as well as research about human behavior. The template helps users determine the exact number of items that should be on your menu (the fewer, the better), which ones to list first, the best ratio of food to drink items, how to create a visually compelling menu layout, and how a longer menu item description and a photo next to an item can each help you sell 30 percent more food. The menu research behind the template helped Upserve identify a Golden Menu Ratio for improving margins: Entrees account for nearly half of sales, so they should be your highest-margin items. Then, you gain some freedom to take smaller losses on popular but lower-margin appetizers and desserts, which drive 31 percent and 19 percent of sales, respectively.
What’s your cyber security strategy?
To compete, restaurant operators must adopt new technologies designed to improve sales, enhance the customer experience and make business run more efficiently. But these changes can create gaps that criminals target with cyber attacks, according to James Cascone, an advisory partner and global restaurant leader with Deloitte & Touche LLP. Cyber attacks can cause serious damage to a business: Toast reports that 68 percent of funds lost in these attacks are unrecoverable and 99 percent of computers are vulnerable to them. Often times, operators will not know about an attack until more than five months after it has occurred. To help, Toast’s PLATE Framework for Restaurant CyberSecurity suggests several tips. First, make sure your technology is secure – particularly your POS and credit card reader – and that your software is up to date. Second, comply with Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards, which require restaurants accept, process, store and transmit data in a secure environment. Using PCI-compliant technology also sends a signal to your guests that you care about protecting their personal information. Finally, you need a game plan to follow in case your systems are attacked by a cyber threat so you can minimize damage. To help, Toast created its PLATE Framework, which was formed around the NIST CyberSecurity Framework from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The system was designed to help you perceive threats to your systems, limit the risk of a cyber attack, attribute the root of the problem accurately, take action quickly if and when an attack occurs, and evolve after the incident so you have security protections in place to prevent future breaches. Regardless of what security framework you use, you’ll want to have a similar strategy in place to keep your data safe.
Take care with cold grains
Cold rice, pasta, oats and other grains can be healthy staples in grab-and-go salads and breakfast items, but if you have them on your menu, take extra precautions with food safety. It’s easy to overlook contamination in these grains because they keep so well when dry. But once moistened and cooked, they become havens for bacteria. In a Huffington Post report, a representative from the Food Safety Information Council advised cooks keep these items out of the danger zone for bacteria growth, which is generally between 40˚F and 167˚F. Right after cooking these grains, put these items into shallow, well vented storage containers to cool for 15 to 20 minutes. Once the steam has disappeared, secure the container lids and refrigerate the items immediately. Make sure that when you eventually mix in other ingredients with these grains, they’ve been cooled sufficiently to avoid the danger zone too.
Do you feel free to freeze?
Local, seasonal produce is a chef’s first choice, but is there a place for fruit and vegetables in the freezer? Your answer likely depends on your brand and the values you promote, but there are benefits to consider. The blog Chef’s Closet says at a time when skilled labor is hard to find, frozen produce can be faster to prepare and easier on a restaurant’s budget. And as we head into the winter months when fresh, local produce becomes scarce, cooking with fruit and vegetables that have been frozen at their peak helps you provide a wider assortment of nutrient-dense options on the menu. Just be sure to use fruits and vegetables that have been frozen in their most natural state and don’t contain added sweeteners or preservatives. Also note that frozen vegetables carry a higher risk of contamination by Listeria, according to the public health organization STOP Foodborne Illness. Listeria thrives in cold temperatures and is killed through cooking and pasteurization, so make sure to thoroughly cook any produce you freeze.
Images that boost business
Quality imagery on your menu, website and social media platforms will attract more sales. In fact, in many retail surveys, consumers say they are more influenced by images (and image quality) than other factors like ratings and reviews, product information and detailed descriptions, according to the personal finance site The Balance. SkillsLab, the sales and marketing hub, recently suggested some top tools to help you take your images up several notches. For creative social graphics and animated videos, try Adobe Spark. Videorama lets you create and edit quality videos with sound effects, text, filters and other options (also check out Typorama, a related site for images). Hyperlapse can help you create time-lapse videos – you can give viewers a condensed look at your kitchen during the Saturday night rush. If you want to add some artistic flair to your images, try using Touch Color to create eye-popping black-and-white pictures with bursts of color. Or maybe you’d like some help combining photos and video into one memorable package – for that, try PicPlayPost, which lets you combine photos, videos, GIFs and music.
The money is on mobile
A recent survey from Hospitality Technology found that 52 percent of restaurant operators say the integration of mobile features will influence their next POS upgrade, NextRestaurants reports. There’s good reason for that: While 39 percent of customers would rather pay with their mobile device than use a credit card or cash, mobile is proving to be more than just a conduit for payment. It can help guests skip lines, make reservations and otherwise have a better experience with you (and in the meantime, become more loyal to your business). NextRestaurants suggests you use in-app games to give customers opportunities to earn points toward discounts and other promotions. Domino’s Pizza, for one, has created an in-app game that allows customers to build virtual pizzas and even order pizzas they make up. You can create similar games that can help customers win rewards for time spent playing or for reaching different levels. Research has also found that mobile ordering has altered consumer behavior. When customers can skip the line and place an order as soon as they have a craving, it turns out, they are 20 percent more likely to place a larger order – and to order with greater frequency.
Restaurants serving more holiday meals
If you aren’t open for Christmas or New Year’s Day this year, you may want to plan differently for next year: Eater reports that independent restaurants that were open for business on Christmas and New Year’s Day in 2015 increased profits by 40 to 50 percent compared to their average business days, according to data from CAKE. The Financial Times reports that the online reservations site Bookatable saw Christmas Day reservations climb 32 percent from 2015 to 2016, while OpenTable reservations climbed 43 percent during the same period. Millennials appear to be driving this trend, according to data from Bank of America, as more of them are eating their Thanksgiving meal at home but are looking to dine – and spend – outside of the house on Christmas and New Year’s.
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