Navigate food delivery – and come out ahead
Offering food delivery is becoming more of a need-to-have option than a nice-to-have option, as restaurants struggle to bring in new customers and find ways to manage decreased foot traffic. In fact, NPD Group found that food delivery sales have climbed 20 percent in the past five years. If GrubHub, Uber Eats or other large food delivery operators have started up in your vicinity, don’t forget about the smaller, independent operators who might give your restaurant a boost. A recent report in Skift Table says business for these operators has been strong overall, despite some early concerns that the larger operators could eat up their market share. The report found that in some cases, the larger operators were slow to make requested menu updates and that a restaurant might not appear as an available option during periods when the updates need to be made. While a smaller operator may not have the advantage of scale, it may be able to provide personalized service to its restaurant partners and their customers. If your take-away menu includes items that require special care or if your delivery business has a loyal customer following, using a smaller player might help you customize your service to that base. They may also be more willing to negotiate with you to earn your business — an important benefit at a time when delivery slims down profit margins for many restaurants.
E. coli inspires technology that prevents it
The E.coli outbreak at Chipotle a few years ago inspired two engineers to start working on a device that would help prevent the spread of foodborne illness. Now, Business Insider reports that they have developed a product called PathSpot that uses light to determine whether or not there is bacteria present on a person’s hands (which, when not properly washed, can cause 89 percent of foodborne illnesses). PathSpot is a small black box attached to an iPad with a connected sensor. When the iPad scans the light reflected by a person’s hand, it runs an algorithm to show how it fluoresces — wavelengths of light fluoresce differently in contaminated versus clean hands. PathSpot will flash red if it detects bacteria on a person’s hands and blue if the person’s hands are clean. It also maintains extensive employee records and can alert a manager if an employee doesn’t rescan within a few minutes of getting a red light, or if an employee is skipping scans altogether. The technology is in the early stages of a rollout — it is already being used in 20 farms, packaging facilities and restaurants in the U.S. The engineers behind the technology have their sights set on making PathSpot the go-to device for sanitation regulation in restaurants, hospitals, schools and airports — and to eventually make PathSpot a portable device that could attach to a smartphone and be used by individuals.
Food inspection schedules impact likelihood of foodborne illness
The time of day when a food safety inspection takes place can have a big impact on foodborne illness rates. That’s according to a new Harvard Business School study, which found that 19 million foodborne illnesses, 51,000 hospitalizations and billions of dollars in medical costs could be avoided every year if food safety inspections are scheduled at the beginning of the day instead of at the end. Food Safety Magazine reports that according to the research, inspectors cited fewer violations at each establishment inspected throughout the course of a day. This is likely due to workday fatigue and an eagerness to complete work toward the end of a day — and it likely provides some operations with better scores than they deserve.
Technology to help you manage labor challenges
Managing swings in the labor market, as well as the costs, are top challenges for restaurant operators. At the recent National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, many technology companies were on hand with offerings designed to help operators manage those challenges. Nation’s Restaurant News reports that a number of companies, including HotSchedules, Harri and Snag, are looking to help operators with labor forecasting to help them avoid the high costs of turnover. Consider them if you’re looking to monitor shifting consumer demands, adapt to the rise of off-premise business, fill staff vacancies quickly and manage other factors that can help you navigate the labor landscape.
Restaurant technology: Experts weigh in
How is your restaurant preparing for technology? If you struggle to use technology effectively, several technology executives from Papa John’s, KFC and Long John Silver’s made recommendations at the recent Restaurant Franchising and Innovation Summit in Louisville, Ky. The primary takeaways: When you’re considering new technology, approach it from a holistic perspective. Your app or digital signage won’t be as effective if you’re not coordinating it with changes to your full operation — and ensuring the technology you have works as an ensemble. They also addressed a popular myth: that embracing digital ordering will help operators reduce labor costs. In reality, they said, your head count may increase because as you become more efficient at accepting orders more quickly, you’ll need people helping to prepare them. Finally, as you incorporate technology to improve customer experience, remember your employees’ experience by providing digital training tools and other resources that can improve their work, such as online shift-trading tools.
Fine-tune your online marketing
There is so much information available about restaurants online that most of your guests have likely researched you on Yelp, Google Business, TripAdvisor or all three before stepping through your door. To reap the most benefit from your online marketing budget, Cake recommends you optimize your listings with specific, relevant service categories and keywords. Ensure you have a brief write-up that uses these keywords to describe your restaurant and menu. Use professional photos and ensure your restaurant’s menu and contact information is updated across platforms. Put your menu online and link it to your listings on review sites. Update your website so it’s optimized for mobile, can accept reservations online and incorporates local SEO to improve your online rankings. Have a complete social media profile and allow guests to book a table through your page. Any email you send should be personalized with names, locations or other information — and easily read on a mobile device.
A tabletop tablet for independent restaurants
Did you think tabletop tablets were out of reach for independent restaurants or small chains? Ziosk, a top player that has in recent years focused on the larger chains, including Chili’s, Red Robin and about two dozen others, is now looking to expand its tablet technology into small chains and some independent restaurants. Skift Table reports that in addition to payments, the Ziosk tablets offer games and also prompt guests with post-meal surveys that can only be taken immediately after making payment (helping operators avoid having servers take surveys and inflate their ratings artificially). Pricing for Ziosk’s offering for independent restaurant starts at $260 per month for 24 devices.
Get ahead with Facebook’s new algorithm
In the wake of Facebook’s recent algorithm change, which prioritizes newsfeed content from a user’s family, friends and social groups over content from brands, restaurant operators with a large following on Facebook have been concerned that their content will now be more difficult for followers to see on the platform. That said, brands that are developing original, creative content shouldn’t have much reason to worry. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said pages that people comment on, or which “prompt conversations between friends,” will be less impacted than those that rely on content that does not generate discussion or engagement in the form of shares with friends. According to Hootsuite, your post will get a boost in the Facebook newsfeed if it generates replies to comments, a “love” instead of a “like,” or if a user shares your link via Facebook Messenger with one or more friends. Hootsuite suggests that to maximize your Facebook performance, create content that sparks some discussion among your followers. Focus on live videos – like a chef demo, for example – that will generate a response from your guests. Try to focus on local events and community building instead of broad messages that could come from a restaurant across the country. Invest in Facebook ads to ensure you’re targeting the right potential customers. Finally, connect with influencers who have a built-in following and are willing to promote your message on your behalf – just make sure it’s something that will generate discussion.
Work effectively with influencers
Your ability to attract new guests by personal referral is a strong testament to your business. Since many personal recommendations happen via social media, social media influencers have gained power through their ability to help brands get the word out. Influencers have built large followings – typically of around 10,000 people – by posting content that their followers trust and find engaging. To help incorporate the right influencers in your marketing strategy, the business consultancy Deputy suggests you improve your social media presence by having a complete online profile and by posting content that’s more engaging than promotional. When considering different influencers who might help you build business, check out their followers’ level of engagement to make sure they are responding well to it. Align with influencers who are passionate about food and restaurants. Opt for influencers who have a strong, local presence on a single platform versus those with a diluted, broad-based presence on many platforms. Start a relationship by responding to their content. Once you have established a rapport, you can contact them directly to propose they come to your restaurant for a free meal. Deputy says influencers may expect compensation beyond a free meal and in that case may mention the conditions of a business relationship at the outset. Make sure those conditions work for your business, or contact an agency that works with influencers and can recommend guidelines to follow, as well as other influencers who could be potential partners. Once your relationship is established, you can take care of it by offering discounts to the influencer’s followers, involving the influencer in events and branding decisions, or making them an ambassador by offering a monthly fee or free meals in exchange for promotional content.
Be aware of Gluten sensitivity
Approximately three million people in the United States have celiac disease and just five percent are aware of it, according to the National Restaurant Association. To accommodate those guests, as well as many others with gluten sensitivity, Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) reminds operators to ensure you communicate about guest allergies across the entire team. Your wait staff should be able to discuss ingredients and cooking techniques with a gluten-intolerant guest if needed. Check the cleanliness of tables and chairs, where cross-contamination can happen, as well as the placement of tongs, ladles and other implements that might be used with the wrong foods inadvertently. Finally, having your manager or chef deliver the plate to the guest with a gluten allergy ensures the plate won’t be contaminated with items from other plates and also sends the message that you care about guest safety.
Avoid foodborne pathogens in produce
The E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce has become more extensive than the deadly spinach outbreak of 2006, according to Food Safety News. As of May 9, it had impacted 149 victims across 29 states and caused one death. While foodborne illness outbreaks are on the rise due in part to improved surveillance measures, as well as increased year-round consumption of produce grown worldwide, it’s still critical to manage your risk. To help, the public and environmental health consultancy EHA Group suggests operators purchase unbruised/undamaged produce, chill any processed produce that has been cut, peeled, or needs to be transported, avoid cross-contamination with poultry, seafood or meat, and take care to wash hands before handling produce, wash fresh fruits with warm water, and wash and sanitize all surfaces that your produce touches.
Manage the talent challenge
If you’re like most operators around the country, your biggest business struggle relates to finding and keeping strong talent. National Restaurant Association President and CEO Dawn Sweeney, who recently attended the National ProStart Invitational, the country’s premier secondary school competition focusing on restaurant management and culinary arts, said the event gave her reason for optimism. In a recent op-ed piece, she said nearly 400 students competed for more than $200,000 in scholarships from culinary and restaurant management programs. The ProStart program encourages experiential learning and career exploration to help develop new talent in the foodservice industry. Participants earn credit in the association’s restaurant manager apprenticeship program. Sweeney said the National Restaurant Association, along with its educational foundation and state partners, are working to expand the number of students who take part in these programs. For more information about the association’s efforts to build industry talent, visit ChooseRestaurants.org.
The positive side to menu labeling?
After many delays, federal menu labeling requirements are now a reality for grocers and restaurants with 20 or more locations. While many businesses have fought the change, there may be a bright side to it. Food Dive reports that Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said these requirements would give not only consumers a new tool to help them manage what they consume, which has been more of a challenge when eating at restaurants, but a new tool for operators as well: The labels should allow for much stronger data collection. This would enable operators and the foodservice industry overall to monitor to what extent people respond to food labels and calorie counts, giving those businesses ongoing insights into the combinations consumers prefer.
The robot is waiting to speak to you
If your restaurant takes reservations, you may soon be fielding more inquiries from a new kind of caller. Google just unveiled a new AI feature that can phone a restaurant and speak in a lifelike voice to a human reservationist. Eater reports that the feature can make an alarmingly convincing phone call. Expect Google to use the technology for other purposes too – such as updating information for its Google Maps service. And who knows? Perhaps restaurants will soon be able to use this technology themselves to field the AI calls they are receiving.
Food For Thought And Profit brings you the latest foodservice trends, news, safety, and technological advances in the industry. We are part of an outsourced purchasing and logistics company that provides comprehensive supply chain solutions to our customers. Our executive team has many years of foodservice experience and we bring that experience to work for you. We have expertise in all areas of the foodservice sector.