Are profits in the cards for your restaurant?
Believe it or not, it will be soon be gift card buying season. Data from past National Retail Federation Holiday Consumer Spending Surveys found that 40 percent of holiday shoppers begin their shopping before Halloween. What’s more, restaurants edged out department stores as the most popular category for gift card purchases. So are you ready? According to Restaurant Business, many operators make marketing mistakes when promoting gift cards. To avoid them, remember these recommendations: Expand your sales channels beyond your restaurant. A study by American Express and Technomic found that 27 percent of the study’s participants buy restaurant gift cards in grocery stores and 20 percent from mass merchandisers. Avoid accounting headaches by using a gift card software provider that allows for automated tracking of gift card costs and discounts. The gift card program should be integrated into your point-of-sale system and work seamlessly with any franchisors you have too. Make it easy for guests to acquire gift cards and redeem their value in your restaurant and online (one study found that 65 percent of gift card holders spend an extra 38 percent beyond the value of the card). Finally, consider using gift cards to make things right with guests when they have experienced problems. Comp cards can be set for the exact amount of a meal and can have an expiration date so the guest has motivation to return in the near future.
Check the health of your sickness policy
How do you respond when your team members get sick? Your restaurant’s food safety record may hinge on your answer. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 48 million people are infected with a foodborne illness in the U.S. each year and half of those cases can be linked to eating in restaurants or delis. The blog Unsafe Foods reports that one CDC study, which tapped data from the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, found that among 457 foodborne disease outbreaks tracked, 300 were restaurant-related. Of those, the most common contributing factor resulting in 137 outbreaks was “handling by an infected person or carrier of pathogens.” Another CDC study, which polled food workers, found that 60 percent of those surveyed had worked while sick. Many of those people took steps to avoid passing on their illness while at work, such as not handling food and washing hands more frequently. But according to the study, nearly all of the workers who had reported to work while sick said it was their own decision to come to work and not their manager’s, and four in 10 said their manager did not know what their symptoms were. Respondents said they had decided to work while sick for a range of reasons: the restaurant’s lack of paid sick leave or any sick leave policy, the restaurant being shorthanded and needing coverage for the shift, and doubt that they would actually pass their illness on to others. When asked to name factors that affected their decision to work while sick, seven in 10 workers cited the severity of their symptoms and the likelihood of making others sick, six in 10 mentioned their dedication to their jobs and not wanting to leave others shorthanded, half considered not getting paid and one in four said their fear of losing their job was a factor in their decision to work while sick.
New Facebook metrics to help you drive engagement
If you buy advertising on Facebook or plan to, the company recently announced some new analytics that could help you understand and engage with your audience better. Social Media Week sees these potential benefits in Facebook’s new reporting metrics: A landing-page-views metric will help you understand how people are finding you on the web after clicking on an ad – and how optimizing your mobile web experience could boost traffic. A second metric will help you see how much of your traffic is from new visitors as opposed to previous ones. Finally, if you are a page owner, there will be several new metrics available, including information about the demographics of your followers, how your followers have grown or declined over time, how many people saw your page in a hover state without clicking through, and how often your page has been referenced in a recommendation.
Curry favor with spice
Spice is on the rise. As fall arrives, curry flavors can tick a lot of boxes on your menu – and in items beyond traditional Middle Eastern dishes. Turmeric, for example, has become a superfood for delivering a high dose of antioxidants, and it can bring warmth, earthy flavor and bold color to your menu. Foodable suggests gin- or rum-based cocktails infused or shaken with peeled, fresh turmeric root for best effect. Or try mixing turmeric into smoothies, antioxidant-dense frittatas, sauces for roasted vegetables, or mixed into hearty seasonal soups, like carrot-ginger.
Scan away your allergy woes?
If your restaurant is serving a greater number of allergy sufferers these days, take heart in some developing technology that could help them (and, in turn, you) in the not-so-distant future. Food & Wine reports that at IFA, Berlin’s consumer electronics and home appliance trade show, Bosch’s new X-Spect food scanner was attracting a lot of buzz for claims that it can tell you the nutritional content and presence of allergens in a dish. The report says at the moment, the technology works best on homogeneous foods like fruit or chicken; getting an accurate reading from a sandwich requires scanning each individual ingredient, then rebuilding it.
Up your website’s wow factor
Your online presence is what will bring new guests through the door. But did you know it takes just 1.7 seconds for a visitor to your site to decide whether to read on or move on? The National Restaurant Association says offering compelling video on your site is a key way to keep visitors there – and bring in new traffic. In fact, offering video will make it 53 times more likely that your website will appear on the first page of a Google search, according to the web design firm Mopro. To make your video connect with people, think about your ideal customers. What interests them? How old are they? How do they spend their time? Then create a video that appeals to that demographic and shows off your restaurant’s authentic self. What are you most proud of? What are the key aspects of your business that set it apart? Humor helps (and so does brevity – remember that 1.7 second rule).
Ensure your order-ahead tech gets you ahead
Order-ahead technology can help you serve more guests more efficiently – but even with systems designed to streamline business, there can be kinks. If you have already embraced order-ahead technology – or you’re thinking about it – the National Restaurant Association recommends some tips from the mobile technology development firm LevelUp: Walk through the process of ordering as if you were a customer. Is the process simple, seamless and intuitive? Store your guests’ favorite orders so it takes minimal clicks (ideally just one) to place an order again. Provide accurate wait times so customers aren’t waiting around or having to eat cold food – and make sure those orders are accurate too. Dedicate prep and pick-up areas for order-ahead meals. Make it easy for customers picking up orders to know where to go – clarify the process with simple directions on your website and clear signage at your restaurant.
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