Is your head in the cloud?
At the recent Foodservice Technology Conference (FSTEC) in California, Union Square Hospitality Group exec Maureen Cushing said in the not-so-distant future, the traditional POS would be obsolete, with personal devices replacing the legacy systems. If you’re committed to your desktop system, it’s understandable, considering the size of your initial investment and the time you have spent adapting your system to your restaurant’s needs. However, it’s important to understand its true costs: In the coming years, you will likely be paying more for less sophisticated technology. Restaurant Insider says costs for hardware, maintenance and tech support – along with the time required to create and manipulate reports – can quickly demonstrate that your legacy system is not giving you an adequate return on your investment. In fact, a study from Nucleus Research found that cloud-based systems can deliver 2.1 times the return on investment of desktop systems. If you’re considering making the switch to a cloud-based system, Restaurant Insider suggests you consider these benefits: Your up-front costs are kept to a minimum because there is no physical server hardware on your premises. Your monthly subscription fees will likely be lower, as they are spread across other subscribers. The systems are easily scalable as your business changes, and you can upgrade your plan quickly, without down time or additional tech support charges. Many systems can help you maintain your existing rewards program and promotions. Encrypted online storage will also provide added security and you won’t have to worry about hardware or software failure – or that your system will lose your data or fail to back it up. In a time when data breaches are reported in the news every week, some added security could give your guests some peace of mind too.
New research clarifies millennials’ food and beverage preferences
Millennials are a business marketer’s dream, and for good reason: They comprise one-quarter of the population, represent $10 trillion in lifetime buying power and freely share their views and buying habits on social media, so businesses can readily collect data on them and adapt easily, according to new data from CBD Marketing. A substantial new study from the firm researched more than 12.5 million social media posts from millennials. In the process, it solidified some important insights about the demographic. While the media often presents millennials as always on the go, these consumers don’t take shortcuts with food and beverage: They want fresh, healthy options that are not branded “diet” or “fat-free. When they cook, they use fresh ingredients from local sources. (While they appreciate convenience, they achieve it by purchasing food via delivery or other user-friendly distribution methods – not by cutting corners with ingredients.) Restaurants can support these guests by offering more sparkling water, kombucha, plant-based milks and other natural options on the beverage menu, and by making it easy for them to access healthy, fresh food that’s either pre-packaged for pick-up or available by delivery. Millennials’ appreciation for keeping things natural extends to your packaging too – ensure you use materials that are recyclable or use renewable resources, and spell that out on any to-go containers that leave your business.
OpenTable helps restaurants open up about allergies
Restaurants are gaining allies in their efforts to accommodate guests with food allergies. OpenTable recently launched a “Guest Share” feature that allows for the sharing of guest preferences – including food intolerances and sensitivities – across restaurant groups with multiple locations, Food & Wine reports. OpenTable had previously offered a similar feature for individual restaurants only. Sharing information across locations could help restaurant groups avoid the liability and bad publicity that may result from a guest’s allergic reaction. What’s more, restaurants are also using the data they collect to enhance their loyalty programs.
Show your celiac awareness
Celiac Disease affects approximately 3 million Americans, or 1 percent of the population, and many more Americans are eating gluten-free foods despite not having celiac disease. (Forbes reports that the number of Americans eating a gluten-free diet has tripled since 2009.) If you’d like to ensure your kitchen is safe for celiacs, the Gluten Intolerance Group and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness are two organizations that offer certification programs that can help you build trust with your gluten-sensitive guests. Once you know how to keep these guests safe, you have more freedom to get creative about accommodating their tastes. The executive chef of Posana Café, a Gluten Intolerance Group-certified farm-to-table restaurant in Asheville, N.C. that offers a 100 percent gluten-free menu, has said that his restaurant has is practically “a fantastyland for people with celiac disease” as a result of the accreditation process.
Preparing for a robotic future?
Robots are taking on a growing number of food preparation tasks, including preparing pizzas, flipping burgers, assembling salads and dispensing cappuccinos, according to recent reports in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and Silicon Valley is buzzing with investment and talk of potential effects to the labor force. Zume Pizza, Miso Robotics and Chowbotics are just three startups trying to transform how restaurants prepare food. In the process, they are taking aim at challenges that can drag restaurants down, like foodborne illness and inconsistencies in food preparation. Costs are currently keeping robots at bay in the kitchen – and it will likely take years for restaurants to adapt. Still, automation of kitchen tasks is becoming more prevalent. Execs in two restaurant technology companies suggest restaurants create programs that will retrain workers on new tasks, give them exposure to areas requiring a human touch (like customer service or delivery logistics) or create other safety nets as the nature of kitchen work begins to shift.
Tune up your business knowhow with Twitter chats
Looking to build your online community and gain some business insights in the process? Consider joining – or starting – some Twitter chats. They’re like a roundtable discussion or networking event, but conducted completely online. They’re helpful forums for people to share articles or tools of use to others in your business. Since the chats are public, they can help you get increased visibility for your brand and pick up some new followers too. Once you have a strong following, you can also start your own chats and use them to engage with your customers, answer questions or enhance your customer service.
Pre-ordering goes upscale
The convenience of pre-ordering technology and other restaurant tech is most often associated with quick-service or fast-casual brands. Upscale restaurants have been slower to adopt the change, but they may be missing an opportunity to connect with guests – and even those that don’t offer delivery can benefit. Modern Restaurant Management suggests upscale restaurants use order-ahead technology to create a stress-free customer experience that also builds excitement. For customers with pre-booked tables, an upscale restaurant can send a link to a secret website with a special menu available on that date, along with background about the food and those preparing it. They can use that initial contact to collect food preferences from guests, or even favorite food memories that can help them enhance the experiences they provide onsite. Finally, providing the option of pre-payment days in advance of the meal can help your guests focus on the food and ambience – not the bill that arrived at the end of the night.
The best point-of-sale system for you is 26 questions away
There’s always going to be a new tech device that promises to make your business hum. But those devices are only as good as the control center operating them. Think of your restaurant’s point-of-sale system as your restaurant’s brain: As Upserve notes in a recent report, your POS routes your orders, helps you transition a guest from your bar to your dining room, secures their payment and provides you with operational data that can help you understand your customers and your business. So if your POS is not serving you well, any bells and whistles you add to it will naturally run into snags. Upserve’s Restaurant Insider blog recently featured a questionnaire to help you ensure you know how the POS options available on the market can help you meet your current and future needs. It asks questions about the size and scope of your restaurant, how important order accuracy is to your operation, whether you need to access your settings and data remotely, how interested you are in providing flexible payment options to your guests, how familiar your team is with consumer electronics that have applications in restaurants, and how you currently communicate with your team. If you are in the market for a new system or want to make sure your current one delivers for you, answer the 26 questions and you’ll get a personalized recommendation delivered to your email box.
Ready to grow?
Are you looking to grow this year, whether that means increasing your sales or expanding your number of locations? Before you think about tactics, take a step back. Richard Kleiner, the CEO of the accounting firm Gerald Edelman and an adviser to many clients in the restaurant industry, suggests a four-step structure based on the Ansoff matrix for thinking about growth. One, sell more of the same product to the same people. Two, sell new products or services to your existing customers. Three, take your current products and services into new markets. Four, create new products and services for new markets. Jumping to step three or four before mastering step one will generate more risk as you grow. So what steps can you take to help you progress through each stage? In a recent Fast Casual report, restaurant veteran Bobby Shaw shared some smart-growth ideas that can apply to restaurants across categories. He suggests you get back to basics and don’t try to be everything to everyone. Optimizing your menu will help you serve what actually sells, make the best use of your inventory, minimize waste and save money. Consider how you can use technology to improve the experience of your guests. Would your loyal customers order more often – or could you attract new ones – if you offered mobile ordering? Or kiosks or tabletop tablets in your dining room? Can your point-of-sale system accommodate those advances? Finding ways to integrate technology to streamline both guest-facing and behind-the-scenes processes can help you increase sales without opening additional locations. Finally, develop a high-performance environment where you only hire and retain your best performers – and then empower them to improve and expand your operation. Offer growth opportunities for the people on your team and those people will develop the next generation of leaders.
The gloves are off
Even pros need a reminder sometimes: Gloves aren’t designed to help you take shortcuts when it comes to food safety. Francine Shaw, president of Food Safety Training Solutions, says over the years, she has observed many professionally trained kitchen staff wear multiple pairs of single-use gloves instead of taking the time to wash their hands. In a report for the American Culinary Foundation, Shaw said these gloves are only effective when used one pair at a time and with proper handwashing when they’re changed. She said she has seen restaurant employees wear and not change their single-use gloves when opening cooler doors, checking cellphones, touching their hair or face, handling money or touching menus, doorknobs or even garbage bags, creating a plethora of opportunities for cross-contamination. Every year, 19 million people contract food poisoning because of improper hand washing. Your policies for single-use gloves and handwashing can help you build a culture that limits the spread of illness.
Build a food safety program that survives turnover
In an industry with turnover that has topped 70 percent for the second consecutive year, restaurants need policies to maintain culture regardless of who is on the payroll. A busy shift with new employees can make it tempting to take shortcuts with food safety. A recent report on the blog We are Chefs suggests your food safety program educates employees about not only what to do but why various practices are important. For instance, when training your team to store raw protein on the lower shelves of your cooler, explain what can happen if they don’t follow that procedure. When you develop your food safety program, assess the effectiveness of your current program. How will your safety education be delivered to various levels of your operation so you boost institutional memory? What certification makes the most sense for your business and who should be certified? Who would be most effective at delivering your training? How will you ensure your team is trained on a regular, ongoing basis? As new employees come on board, they should observe that food safety is critical to your business – and that they’re responsible for upholding it.
Bringing restaurants back to the center of food culture
A recent article in The Atlantic pointed out that while food culture seems to be at the height of popularity, restaurants are hardly flying high (NPD Group predicts flat growth of 2 percent this year). People are spending more on food but the multitude of food choice makes the landscape more competitive for restaurants. Where consumers once looked to restaurants for prepared meals, they are frequenting grocery and convenience stores that offer a growing variety of ready-to-eat foods. Food Republic says the restaurants that are succeeding are adapting to this new kind of consumer. For some operators, that means making takeout easy or offering premium delivery items or all-day breakfast. For others, it means building a strong social media following. Your data can help you uncover your best path. Dining industry consultant Damian Mogavero has made a career out of studying restaurant analytics – check out his book, The Underground Culinary Tour, to understand how you can get the most from the data you collect.
Make more room for organics on the menu
A new Nielsen study found that 88 percent of U.S. households purchased organic food and beverages last year, with grocery stores, mass merchandisers and discount grocers accounting for a combined 25 percent of organic sales, Food Dive reports. Overall, organic product sales increased by 9.8 percent and volume grew by 11.4 percent. Those numbers – along with consumer demand – are likely only going up. A recent survey from the Organic Trade Association found that millennials are already significant buyers of organic products and will be more likely to purchase organic foods when they become parents. While price has long been a deterrent to buying organic, private-label brands are changing that, bringing prices down by 18 percent. As organics become increasingly accessible, look for consumers to demand them on restaurant menus as well.
Faster, better, cheaper produce through technology
Could your freshest, best-tasting, least expensive produce soon come from the likes of Wal-Mart or Amazon? Those behind an agriculture tech startup called Plenty think the company could change the face of farm-to-table food. Bloomberg reports that the company is building massive indoor farms on the outskirts of 500 cities worldwide, which could make it possible to get foods from farm to table in hours instead of days or weeks. While indoor farms have been hyped for some time, some deep-pocketed experts are betting big on Plenty: SoftBank invested $200 million in the venture, the largest agriculture technology investment in history, and Bezos Expeditions, the venture fund of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, is another investor. Anthony Secviar, a former sous-chef at French Laundry, liked the company’s produce so much that he joined its culinary council and is basing his next restaurant’s menu on Plenty’s heirloom vegetables.
Three steps to transparency
The costs of a foodborne illness outbreak are steep. The National Restaurant Association says an affected operation may have to manage declining sales and staff morale, negative media exposure, lawsuits and legal fees, climbing insurance premiums, more frequent staff absences and increased spending on retraining. If you build trust with consumers long before you face a foodborne illness outbreak or other crisis, you’re much more likely to overcome those challenges and rebuild. According to Food Safety News, recent research from the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) found that the way to earn trust is through transparency – and there are three ways to do it. First, open the doors to your safety practices: Use video, blogs, advertising and promotion to demonstrate how your food is produced, where it comes from and how it impacts their health. Second, ensure your guests feel they can engage with you about your food. Do you provide clear answers to their questions and respond to other feedback promptly? CFI’s research found that 40 percent of the consumers surveyed agree they have access to all of the information they want about the source, production and safety of the food they consume. That’s up from 28 percent in 2007, when the last such surveyed was conducted, so consumers are feeling increasingly empowered to demand transparency from the foodservice businesses they support. Finally, if applicable to your operation, show third-party certification or audit results as a seal of approval demonstrating your credibility and integrity.
The complications of third-party delivery
Do you offer third-party delivery? The demand for it – and operators’ rush to accommodate it – has resulted in some growing pains, according to a report from The Kitchen. Operators working with multiple third-party delivery services can quickly start to resemble command centers where restaurant staff must monitor multiple tablets to manage orders. (Even large brands can struggle to keep up: At a recent franchisee convention of a brand with more than 500 locations, the COO suggested operators dedicate an employee to simply “watch the tablets” and manually key orders into the point-of-sale system.) There is also plenty of room for error when restaurants update menus and those changes aren’t reflected on the websites of the delivery services. It wasn’t long ago that delivery was tech-free, so when you’re making the transition to tech-driven delivery, make sure your in-house technology is sophisticated enough to accommodate multiple new streams of orders from these services. If they require additional labor and manual order handling, the added costs (and potential for errors) can add up quickly. And the end consumer is more likely to hold you accountable for problems than the person who delivers their meal: A Technomic study found that 76 percent of customers hold the restaurant partially responsible for errors, even if restaurants have formal agreements with third-party delivery companies, and even though the consumer never communicates directly with the restaurant itself during their transaction.
Kitchen tech for improved food safety
How connected is your kitchen? Food Safety Magazine says technology has made it possible for foodservice professionals to improve safety processes in three critical ways. See how your operation stacks up: Do you have technology that monitors your systems around the clock? Employees can be around to monitor equipment for only so many hours in a day, but technology that monitors your refrigerator, for example, can send an alert if the system malfunctions in the middle of the night and threatens the safety of the food inside. Are you using technology to gain insight into your processes and data? If your data indicates there are temperature fluctuations in your walk-in cooler occurring at a certain time each day, for example, you might discover that the cooler is left open during food deliveries and could be causing a food safety risk. Finally, technology can automate manual, tactical tasks such as recording over temperatures at set points throughout a shift, so you’re free to think more strategically about your food safety plan.
Help your team talk about food safety risk
The disclaimer is nearly ubiquitous on restaurant menus: Consuming undercooked meats may increase risk of foodborne illness. But does your team follow through with that message when interacting with guests? Many front-line employees don’t, according to Ben Chapman, an associate professor at North Carolina State University and co-author of a recent study about food safety. The study sent trained “secret shoppers” to 265 full-service restaurants around the U.S., where they ordered one well-done hamburger and one medium-rare hamburger to go. They then noted how well, if at all, the employees communicated about the risk of eating the medium-rare hamburger. The study found that 25 percent of restaurants wouldn’t serve the medium-rare burger but among those that did, 77 percent of servers provided unreliable food safety information, such as noting the color of the burger instead of its cooking time and final temperature.
New preparation methods require enhanced safety practices
Consumers are demanding foods, flavors and dining experiences from around the globe. When experimenting with foods and preparation methods that may be outside of your kitchen’s comfort zone, take extra precautions with food safety. Sous vide preparations, for one, can result in food that remains raw or undercooked. Food Quality News also reported recently that a salmonella outbreak in Canada suggested the cooking method for chicken shawarma may cause food safety risks. When the marinated meat is roasted on the spit in front of the grill, raw portions of the meat may come into contact with cooked portions. Particularly if the restaurant is busy, the food may be partially undercooked.
Airbnb lets consumers reserve restaurant tables
If your restaurant operates in an area popular with tourists or prides itself on providing guests with a chance to experience your region through food, you may now be able to tap into Airbnb to boost your business. Airbnb, which invested in the restaurant software company Resy, is now enabling consumers to book restaurant tables on the company’s mobile app and website, according to Skift. Initially, the reservations will encompass 650 restaurants in 16 U.S. markets, or about 65 percent of the restaurants currently using Resy. According to a recent Nielsen consumer survey of 2,083 U.S. adults on behalf of Airbnb, 66 percent of travelers make restaurant reservations when they’re away from home, and 39 percent would prefer to make those reservations online when they travel.
Cashless and carrying on
It’s been nearly two years since the salad-focused Sweetgreen restaurants began experimenting with cashless payments – and it doesn’t sound like that’s changing anytime soon. The brand went cashless in an effort to improve employee safety, reduce line length and eliminate the health concerns involved in handling cash – all while driving consumers (and their data) onto Sweetgreen’s mobile payment app, according to Recode. Cash-carrying customers are left out. The brand’s co-CEO Jonathan Neman took to the stage at Code Commerce recently and said Sweetgreen is looking for ways to help customers turn cash into digital payments, since not everyone is able to pay with a credit card or smartphone. But he didn’t announce any solution to it. That may imply the cashless experiment is working -- at least in the restaurant’s 75 locations in California and the Northeast – and other operators might give it a shot.
Reinvent your menu
You can’t be everything to everyone – it’s why Chili’s just announced it is shrinking its menu by 40 percent after trying unsuccessfully to follow food trends and serve too broad a range of customer, resulting in a “fuzzy food reputation.” When is the last time you fine-tuned your menu? The restaurant coach Donald Burns says there are a few important reasons why you should always be updating your offerings. For one, your guests’ tastes are changing, so you should be aware of what’s on trend and in demand. (With that in mind, of course, you should incorporate trends in a way that extends your brand in a positive way and doesn’t dilute it.) Second, food prices are always in flux. While avocados from Mexico have skyrocketed in price recently, eggs have fallen in value. When you are paying a premium for an item – and when you’re getting a good deal on another – reflect those prices on your menu. Customers will notice your transparency. Finally, staffing is a big challenge for restaurants – it’s the biggest challenge of the year according to Toast’s 2017 Restaurant Success Report. If you evaluate your menu, you will be able to make improvements to your staffing plan. You may discover there are stations in your kitchen that are overstretched and could be giving you food quality issues. Or perhaps you could be cross-utilizing ingredients in a number of dishes (and requiring fewer staff to prepare them). Maybe you need fewer, more highly skilled cooks, or perhaps your current team simply needs some better tools. Taking a fresh look at your menu can have a positive ripple effect across your operation.
Turn allergy sufferers into loyal guests
Allergies and food sensitivities are more the norm than the exception these days – and that is expected to become even more pronounced in the future. The gluten-free market, for example, is expected to grow to $7.59 billion by 2020, up from $3.81 billion in 2013, according to Statista. If you can accommodate a range of dietary requirements in the years ahead, you’re sure to build loyalty (and more business, since people with food intolerances typically have the most say in where their group dines). In an interview with Eater, the Boston restaurateur Ming Tsai said, “You will never get a more loyal client than someone that has a food allergy, comes to your establishment and feels welcome.” To serve this market well, the foodservice technology company Nextep Systems recommends you re-engineer your menu so it doesn’t feel restrictive to those with food intolerances. Having a series of menus – whether in paper or kiosk form – that cater to certain requirements will ensure your guests can scan your menu and see options instead of limitations. Transparency about nutrition and ingredients is important too. Make sure you can provide dietary information about your menu – and the shorter and more pronounceable you make your list of ingredients, the better. Finally, approach food sensitivities in a positive way. If your staff welcomes (and can readily answer) questions about how you cook your food and what ingredients you use, you can connect with your guests, build trust and keep them coming back.
Repurposing food? Be mindful of food safety.
Repurposing food waste can be good for business on several levels – so good that some operators are starting to open restaurant concepts around food that has been discarded by farms and wholesalers. If you repurpose food, make sure you take extra precautions with handling and sourcing, in particular. Restaurant Business suggests that to avoid a food safety problem, focus on using wholesome food that has cosmetic damage (versus food that is past its prime). Make sure the food was handled properly before you received it – i.e. it came from a farm, wholesaler or other approved vendor and was not handled by consumers. Use strict food safety practices when receiving and storing the food, in particular, as items coming in as surplus may need to be used right away. Finally, check with your attorney and health department to ensure you’re protecting your customers and your business.
Step up your curbside pick-up
For many restaurants, offering curbside pick-up is a win-win: Operators gain sales without having to add seating, while customers can pick up their food without leaving their car. If you’re considering offering curbside pick-up, the National Restaurant Association suggests you fine-tune your service plan. For one, ensure your curbside pick-up customers have designated parking near your entrance (or in a location where your staff can observe their arrival). Plan staffing carefully so neither your in-house guests nor your curbside customers are left waiting for service. Those handling curbside service should know the make and model of the car arriving for the order and have correct change or a wireless credit card terminal/mobile payment app when they deliver it. Finally, use packaging that will advertise your restaurant and keep foods at the right temperature until they reach the customer’s destination.
Be social media savvy in 2018
Now is a perfect time to develop a strong social media strategy for 2018 – and it’s an ideal way to capture guests’ interest: a MarketingSherpa report found that 95 percent of online adults aged 18 to 34 (and the vast majority of people in older demographics) are likely to follow a brand on social media. Inc. just announced a number of emerging trends to keep in mind if you want to use social media to your best advantage in the New Year. Strong social analytics are making it possible to deliver personalized content. Harness your data to ensure that what you post is relevant to your audience. Many platforms are offering similar features – Snapchat and Instagram both offer timed video, for example, so assess site analytics and reporting features to ensure you’re investing in the platforms appropriate for you. To help you track your performance, note what kind of content your competitors are developing and sharing, as well as what people are saying about it. Mobile optimization is a must. Finally, consider using a chatbot on Facebook Messenger to interact with your audience quickly in a way that feels personal to them.
New products target restaurant hygiene problem spots
What are your top hygiene concerns at your restaurant? If you’re in the market for a few products that can help you eliminate them, Restaurant Hospitality recently pointed out several new ones on the market that might help: If you’re battling flies in your kitchen or elsewhere, the Stealth LED Fly Light from Ecolab uses an LED light to trap flies and can be used in both front- and back-of-house locations. It eliminates the need for fluorescent bulbs and reduces energy consumption too. If sanitized, spotless glassware is your concern, Meiko’s M-iClean with GiO Module does the job in a compact, energy-efficient washer that fits under a counter. Finally, ice machines can pose a range of food safety challenges for restaurants but BioZone’s IceZone santitation system promises to eliminate mold, yeast and bacteria, as well as reduce cleaning time and extend the life of your ice machine.
Make way for pumpkin’s rival
The cooler temperatures of the season mean that everyone has pumpkin fever. But there’s another, less ubiquitous flavor that is vying for the top spot this season. According to Technomic, sales of maple-flavored products have increased 86 percent in non-alcoholic beverages and 14.6 percent in alcoholic beverages this year. Beyond coffee and cocktails, maple is at home on your food menu too.
Snap to it
While it’s possible to overdose on Facebook and select other social media – everyone seems to need a break from it now and then – a new study says the communication experience on Snapchat is more positive and rewarding than it is on other platforms. Social Media Week said the University of Michigan study measured how college students responded to a variety of social media. It found that Snapchat, above other platforms, is being used to communicate spontaneously with friends in an enjoyable way. The study’s participants paid more attention to their Snapchat messages compared to other platforms – which may make it a good place for businesses to focus their marketing dollars. So how do you make the most of the platform? Snapchat posts expire in 24 hours, so instead of using it for rehearsed content, use it to test out new material and show creativity. Toast suggests you release special deals on Snapchat that expire in 24 hours (e.g. offering a free appetizer to the first 15 people to arrive at the restaurant and show you a particular video), to create special geofilters for your restaurant that customers can add to their photos and videos, or to give people a sneak peek at your restaurant behind the scenes. Restaurant Den recommends you offer a small discount to your customers to snap their food at your restaurant, or use it to show off your community and local attractions that happen to be near you. Of course, Snapchat works best when combined with other media. Place your Snapchat code on your website, menus, flyers, table-top ads, and use it as your Facebook cover photo or Instagram profile image.
Lessen your back-of-house stress
Is your kitchen feeling frenzied? Try to streamline and simplify your back-of-house operations. The National Restaurant Association suggests you first review the complexity of your menu. Can any of your recipes be simplified so fewer ingredients are needed? If you have signature dishes, make sure you walk through each step of the recipe with new employees to ensure consistency, and consider stocking batches of sauce or key ingredients so they’re ready to go during busy periods. Next, harness your data so you know exactly how much of each dish you’re selling and how much you should prepare in advance. If you typically sell 70 vegetable and hummus appetizers, your team can cut up sufficient produce in advance and assemble any custom condiments so they’re ready to grab and serve when your kitchen is busy. This will also help you identify your most popular (and least popular) items so you can adjust your menu accordingly, avoid ordering too many or too few products, and cut back on wasted food. Finally, take a look at your pantry. Make sure you’re using your space as efficiently as possible. Can people access the ingredients they need when they need them? Are items that are frequently used together stored near each other? Are they stored in containers that are the ideal size? Make sure the items you need are easy to open and can be quickly returned for storage afterwards.
Six steps to restaurant cleanliness
Better hygiene means better business. Need help before your next inspection, or do you just want to avoid any possibility of a foodborne illness outbreak? Your daily, weekly and monthly cleaning routines will get you there. The HACCP app recommends a list of six categories your cleaning schedule should include: List all areas and pieces of equipment inside and outside of your premises that must be cleaned. Next to each item that needs cleaning, list the exact cleaning product(s) to be used. Describe how the product is used (e.g. diluted, wiped with a cloth, sprayed, scrubbed). Mention how often (or after what activity) that cleaning must take place. List the person responsible for carrying out the task. Make sure the designated person signs off and lists when he or she completes the task.
Restaurants give back
Disaster brought out the best in a group in restaurant operators in Houston recently – and created a model for others going through similar events. In the midst of Hurricane Harvey, a group of operators and others connected to the industry came together to form the Midtown Kitchen Collective, which coordinated an effort to get more than 200,000 meals to people in need during the five-day period after the hurricane, when food was scarce for many and the safety of food was at risk. The group’s action plan included pre-, during- and post-disaster strategies; recommended people and organizations including nonprofits, secure kitchens, city officials, purveyors of ingredients and other resources needed to store, transport and coordinate the distribution of food; provided a list of helpful supplies and ingredients; and suggested communication strategies and tools. Access the collective’s plan here.
Hop on the fun train
Does your team groan when they hear the word “training”? Two training firms, Convergence Training and Service that Sells, suggest some tips to make it a fun, engaging experience that encourages participants to talk instead of listen for long periods. Adopt the format of a pub quiz or a well-known game like Jeopardy and apply it to food safety, challenging players to choose easier and difficult clues for a chance to win prizes. Use humorous photos or videos of the wrong way to complete a task. Of course, food makes anything more fun. Try incorporating food tastings into break periods or preparing and serving a family-style meal with front- and back-of-house swapping roles to help demonstrate (and then address) the challenges each side faces.
Domino’s dips a toe into driverless delivery
Driverless delivery isn’t far away – if one restaurant tech pioneer has anything to say about it. Domino’s Pizza and Ford Motor Co. are teaming up to test out robotic pizza delivery. Specifically, Skift reports that the companies are testing out how customers respond to a driverless Ford Fusion delivering their pizza. Instead of opening the door to a delivery person, the customer must approach the car and collect the pizza from a locked warming compartment. In all fairness, the cars used in the tests will have drivers because the companies want to monitor how people respond to “the last 50 feet” of their experience – having to walk out of their homes to collect their pizza. The drivers will collect that feedback. Customers who take part in the testing, which is happening only in Ann Arbor, Mich. for now, will also be able to track their pizza via app as it rolls along the road toward their house.
Harness the power of texting
If you’ve yet to become a social media maven when it comes to promoting your restaurant, how about using basic texts to build business? While your guests may be segmented when it comes to social media, smartphones and texting are likely ubiquitous among your target demographics. Next Restaurants suggests four ways you can connect with guests through texting: When business is slow, try offering a time-sensitive deal to fill empty seats or increase take-out orders. Allow guests to order via text. Are you located in a shopping area or near scenery where guests are likely to stroll before their meal? Untether them from the dreaded buzzer by texting them when their table is ready. After their meal, send a survey via text and pay attention to the data you collect. When those guests become loyal ones, text them a coupon every once in a while to thank them for coming back.
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