Boost your online influence
If you haven't yet tapped into the micro-influencer market, these social media users can help you make genuine connections with potential guests on a large scale. Social Media Week defines a micro-influencer as any social media user with between 10,000 and 80,000 Instagram followers who commands a niche audience in a specific market. Being in that zone allows followers to use Instagram tools such as Instagram Stories, while also taking advantage of the engagement levels of this group. (The Social Media Week report says influencers in this group generate 50 percent more engagement than influencers with more than one million followers, and they have more than 22 times more conversions than the average Instagram user, making them more powerful than celebrities when it comes to motivating consumers to take action.) When identifying potential micro-influencers for your brand, make sure the influencer's followers match your own audience, that their posts are reaching a lot of people who demonstrate a high level of engagement with the influencer's posts, and that the influencer's content style matches your own. Connect your Google Analytics and Instagram Insights to monitor an influencer’s actual reach, follower demographics, impressions, and engagement.
Do you ever offer free samples? Views are mixed when it comes to giving away anything in an industry where profit margins are slim but a recent report in Upserve indicated that providing free samples -- or tastings, in the case of beverages -- can indeed help elevate check sizes. “What samples do is they give you a particular desire for something,” as Dan Ariely, behavioral economist at Duke University, told The Atlantic. “If I gave you a tiny bit of chocolate, all of a sudden it would remind you about the exact taste of chocolate and would increase your craving.” Further, you feel you owe the person who gave you the sample. “Reciprocity is a very, very strong instinct, Ariely said. "If somebody does something for you, you really feel a rather surprisingly strong obligation to do something back for them." The snack manufacturer Snack Factory has found that more than one-quarter of those who have sampled their products have been converted into customers. If you're looking for ways to entice new guests and turn them into brand ambassadors, samples can boost your business: Upserve suggests they can help you introduce your product to new audiences unfamiliar with your business, build relationships and loyalty with existing customers, expand guests' awareness of the products you offer, encourage repeat customers and more sales of new menu items, and earn attention for your brand leading up to an event. Grand openings, special events or the launch of a new menu are ideal occasions for making some samples available. As a study conducted by Cornell University's Miguel Gomez found, tastings can turn a “satisfied customer” into a “highly satisfied customer.”
Food safety beyond the certificate
Many companies choose to obtain a food safety certification because their customers demand it and not because they are intrinsically motivated to improve their hygiene and food safety -- which puts them at greater risk for having a food safety issue. That's according to research from Ghent University, which found that individual behaviors tend to play the most important role in an organization's food safety efforts, with the attitudes of a company's leaders having influence on to what degree those individuals value food safety protocols. Elien De Boeck, a researcher involved in the study, said foodservice operations need to decide whether to prioritise safe food or more production. "If you give employees sufficient time to do their job well, they will get the signal that quality and food safety are more important than quantity," she said. "Furthermore, stress and burn-out are clearly linked to a weak food safety culture."
Your employees drive guests' food safety perceptions
Do your guests perceive your restaurant as a clean, safe place to eat? Their answer may have as much to do with their perception of your employees' cleanliness as it does with the condition of your restrooms or how thoroughly you have washed your salad greens. That's according to new research from the University of Missouri, which found that restaurants are underperforming significantly in this area. Researchers surveyed 300 adults who dined at a casual restaurant at least once a month and asked them to rank various food safety factors based on their restaurant experience. They said three factors were highly important -- that employees keep fingernails clean, wear clean uniforms and wear gloves when handling food. But they gave the restaurant low ratings, indicating that they may be harming consumer perceptions of their brand by not following through in these areas.
Plant-based protein is for carnivores too
Have you jumped on the plant-based trend yet? Plant-based food sales increased 20 percent in the past year to more than $3.3 billion, according to data from Nielsen and the Plant Based Foods Association, and veggie burgers are only a portion of it. These food products include non-dairy milk, plant-based creamers, cheese, yogurts and meats. Bloomberg reports that it's not just the vegans or vegetarians who are demanding these products, but people who are leaning towards eating less red meat, as well as reducing cholesterol and saturated fat.
Protect against a cyber attack
In recent months, cyber attacks ranging from viruses to malware to data breaches have impacted major restaurant brands including Tim Hortons, Applebee's and Domino's. Are you doing everything you can to prevent cyber crime at your restaurant and protect the customer data you manage? QSR Magazine suggests some tips. First, vet your vendors carefully so you're aware of not only their customer service practices but their security protections as well. Then ensure your computer system has anti-virus protection with the latest updates and patches, as well as web filters and firewalls to control what content is accessible. Next, monitor your WiFi -- make sure you're selective about who can access it and keep one portal for your employees and customers, and another for your POS system. Finally, block off areas of your network to make it more difficult for malware to spread. Segmenting your network can help you keep business information off-limits to third parties.
Monetize your website
Is your website working for you as well as it could? Skift Table suggests you harness it to generate the kinds of big-ticket purchases that can improve margins -- and to enable guests to complete as many stages of a transaction as possible, from the scheduling of an event to the issuing of a deposit payment. For example, your site should offer gift cards for purchase, process catering orders and event requests from the contract through to deposit, sell tickets and conduct other e-commerce. Posting an online form to enable guests to make inquiries can also help increase the traffic that can generate sales.
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