As technology infuses so many parts of the restaurant industry — and as restaurant brands expand to additional locations — operators may wonder if the connection to consumers suffers in the process, or if the brand could become watered down when consistency-driven processes take over. Sweetgreen is one example of a brand that has kept its guest connections strong through its adoption of technology and physical expansion. Nathaniel Ru, the brand’s cofounder and chief brand officer, calls it delivering “intimacy at scale.” It’s about delivering healthy, real food at scale without losing a local, personal touch. For Ru, that has meant thinking creatively about the supply chain at times. As First Round Review reports, when a winter storm wiped out the peach crop in New England a few years ago, Sweetgreen (in the midst of summer menu planning at the time) had to adjust. Its popular goat-cheese-and-peach bowl was no longer a viable option, so the dish was reinvented in a way that both accounted for supply chain challenges and bonded with consumers. Sweetgreen substituted locally grown strawberries and blueberries for the peaches, changed the name of the dish to the Patriot Bowl and sold it in the northeast, where it quickly became a guest favorite. Ru advises other operators looking to deliver intimacy at scale to keep things simple, from limiting the number of core values to numbers of locations. When you’re ready to expand to a new location, don’t use the same playbook — study the demographics, buying patterns, traffic patterns and basic vibe of each community first. Next, be modular — expect change and build any new locations to account for future adjustments to menus, décor, ambiance and other factors. Finally, collaborate with people and companies that feel like a natural fit — from chefs to musicians to farms — and can help you retain and reinforce the character of a store.
Tap your financial data
Prepare to be shocked: The restaurant industry is known for its unusually thin profit margins (Toast suggests they range from 0 to 15 percent, with most restaurants falling between 3 and 5 percent). Okay, that probably sounds pretty familiar, but as with most other areas of your operation, your data can help you uncover surprising areas of waste and make best use of the profits you do have by tracking your profit and loss, as well as your projected and actual cash flow and cost. FSR Magazine advises collecting information on such costs as your rent and utilities, wages, revenues within a set time period, cost of raw materials, number of items sold and the average cost per item, total food cost, cash flow projections and profit. Reports from your POS can provide the most detailed information here, but also look to your credit card processor to identify trends, as well as records from third-party delivery providers.
For the all-powerful millennial and Gen Z guest, it’s no longer enough for restaurants to offer a healthy menu and run an employee-friendly operation. These consumers also think about their impact on the environment and look to support businesses that try to minimize their carbon footprint. There is increasing power in using local, seasonal ingredients — as well as suppliers who share those values — and then promoting that to your guests. This goes not just for produce but for pantry staples as well, since the carbon footprint of these ingredients can be surprisingly significant. For a sense of how your menu ingredients stack up, check out the tool listed in this report from the BBC. It can help you analyze ingredients from apples to wine for their impact on the environment. For a deeper dive and a better sense of the normal environmental impact of other businesses in your industry, look to Blue Star Integrative Studio, a green business and building evaluation firm that Fast Company reports has developed its own method of tracking restaurant and supply chain emissions — then comparing the result to typical competitors in the industry. The Carbon Disclosure Project, which launched an initiative that Darden Restaurants joined, and the Climate Change Registry may offer you some helpful guidance too.
Interested in enhancing your menu with vegetables that have a long growing season, are sustainably raised without fertilizers or herbicides, offer appealing flavor and nutritional benefits, and are also on trend? Sea vegetables are rapidly rising in popularity. Nation’s Restaurant News reports that the consumption of seaweed is growing 7 percent each year in the U.S., according to James Griffin of Johnson & Wales University. Some of the world’s top restaurants have incorporated the sea vegetable, in both fresh and dried forms, into their menus in surprising ways: Consider the sea lettuce cookie amuse bouche at Chicago’s Smyth.
If your foodservice operation is like most others, it has its fast-paced, all-hands-on-deck days and its slower-traffic days. Your busiest times are an opportunity for you to make up for (and more easily weather) the shortfall that can happen on the slow days. But that’s only if you forecast your sales and staff efficiently. To make sure you’re on track to maximize the opportunity of your high-traffic days, restaurant consultant David Scott Peters advises you to rank your days from busiest to slowest. Analyze your sales history for each of those days and then make staffing and ordering decisions for the following week based on those numbers. Going with your gut — say, assuming Friday and Saturday are your busiest nights when you actually bring in more sales during the Thursday happy hour — can result in under-ordering ingredients, increasing ticket times and delivering poorer service (whether you’re a full-service or quick-service operation) because you have miscalculated your inventory and staffing needs. During your busiest days, your operation should be at peak efficiency, with lower labor costs and well-managed food costs that your sales figures can best help you predict. Is that true for your business? Operating at peak efficiency on those days has the added benefit of giving you some freedom to experiment on other days — with new menu items, promotions or events that can help your business grow.
Technology is making it increasingly possible for consumers to personalize their nutrition and gain insight into how their bodies process foods so they can design their meals accordingly. In the coming months and years, restaurants will be pushed to understand and be transparent about the dishes they’re serving because consumers will have the power to dissect them ingredient by ingredient. Tech Republic reports that a number of universities and tech firms are developing digital tools that help consumers study the quality and nutrition of what they ingest. These tools include swallowable sensors that monitor gut health and nutrients, tooth sensors that monitor glucose and alcohol levels, and eating utensils with the built-in capability of assessing the freshness of the oil used to cook a food as well as a food’s nutrient content.
What’s your challenge? Whether you need help developing recipes and concepts, analyzing food costs, fine-tuning purchasing, planning a marketing campaign or managing another aspect of your business, we can provide guidance tailored to your needs. Contact Team Four at email@example.com or 888-891-3103 for more information.
About Food For Thought and Profit
Food For Thought And Profit is brought to you by Team Four Foodservice/Value 4. We offer the latest foodservice trends, news, safety, and technological advances in the industry. We are 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.