Does your restaurant have a favorite charitable cause? The National Restaurant Association suggests you find a meaningful charity by talking to your employees and guests. There are a number of ways to support hunger-related causes, for example: Donate excess food to a food bank, donate a portion of sales to hunger-relief efforts, offer to provide food to emergency workers responding to a crisis in your area, or host an event to benefit people in need. Look to your community for existing events you can support as a participant or sponsor.
Manage your holiday ingredient costs
The holidays can send your ingredient cost on a wild ride, with limited-time offers changing your menu and seasonal surges and dips affecting your traffic. In a recent FSR magazine report, Tim Campbell, a supply chain specialist with Consolidated Concepts, offered tips to help you plan. He recommended operators make their limited-time offerings simple – they shouldn’t add extra pressure to prep staff and their ingredients should have multiple uses on the menu to limit languishing stock. Don’t be a slave to trendy ingredients – understand your brand and what your guests expect from you. Research and forecast sales before you commit to ingredients and find ways to use excess in other dishes. Finally, order in advance to reserve items available for just a short time, and once the holidays pass, phase out or change your offer. Your guests will be looking for something new.
Monday slump? Go meatless
For many restaurants, Mondays mean light traffic. To change that for the better, Toast recommends you try offering a “meatless Monday” option to guests. While meatless Mondays have become a celebrity gimmick, there are good reasons to try them. First, you don’t have to eliminate meat from your menu – just make a point of celebrating other things: Bring more veggies onto the menu, replace meat and chicken with tofu or other protein, or offer double loyalty points for guests who order a meatless meal. Meatless Monday can also help you boost your social media presence – with photos of meat-free photos on Instagram, for example – and build a narrative around how taking a day off from meat has helped your restaurant become more conscious of the environment and public health.
Maintain safety standards on an ever-changing team
When you can’t find and keep good employees, your food safety can slip. Say, for example, an employee is late and another steps in to help with food preparation but hasn’t been trained in the role. Food Safety magazine recommends you remember these tips when managing a staff with high turnover: Train all of your employees on the appropriate temperatures for cooking, cooling, storing and reheating products. Provide single-use gloves and tell employees where and when to use them. Post signs by hand-washing sinks and remind employees when they must wash hands. Provide clean aprons and towels for all employees and designate a disposal area for them. Lastly, do not allow anyone to work while ill. These items should populate an overarching sanitation plan you share with employees verbally and visually on a regular basis – encourage their collaboration and ownership.
Chains that buck the casual-dining slump
Casual chain restaurants have had a challenging year. FSR magazine reports that the sector has experienced eight consecutive months of declining sales—only February had positive sales growth—and traffic growth has declined since the beginning of 2015, according to industry tracker TDn2K. Chains including Ruby Tuesday, Applebee’s and Chili’s have taken a hit. Some chains have managed to hold on to growth – FSR magazine says Olive Garden’s same-restaurant sales grew 3.1 percent through 2016 and Cheesecake Factory has experienced 27 consecutive quarters of sales growth. TDn2K’s executive director of insights says that’s because of how they deliver the experience to guests – service and value are the key areas that set the top brands apart. He says the most financially successful brands have adopted technology that promotes guest convenience and have adjusted to accommodate more to-go sales.
Expect another tough year for citrus – but this time it won’t last
It’s been a rocky decade for Florida citrus farmers, largely due to a bacterial disease called citrus greening, which ruins fruit and kills trees. Florida now has less than one-third of the citrus crop it had 20 years ago. This year stands to be the lowest in more than 50 years for citrus farmers, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but a recent NPR report says the years ahead actually look promising for the industry. That’s due to research and the development of new varieties that resist citrus greening. These new varieties, as well as screening techniques to shield other varieties from the psyllid insect that causes greening, present a viable short-term solution for growers while scientists research longer-term answers.
Menu-labeling compliance deadline moved to May
The FDA announced that the compliance deadline for new menu-labeling regulations was not Dec. 1 as it had announced previously, but will now be May 5, 2017. This will align the enforcement and compliance deadlines, which will both now go into effect on that date. The National Restaurant Association applauded the change.
Drive-thru pizza is here
Pie Five Pizza Co. is evidence of the innovation happening in the crowded fast-casual segment. Nation’s Restaurant News reports that the 97-unit division of Rave Restaurant Group is opening drive-thrus in some locations in an effort to bring convenience and speed to fast-casual pizza. Rave’s CEO said the chain is capable of drive-thru service in five minutes – slightly longer than a typical quick-service wait at the drive thru but still reasonable, he believes. Pie Five has locations in 23 states and the District of Columbia and Rave operates other pizza-based concepts as well, so if the drive-thru experiment works for Pie Five, it could spread far.
Get the best return on your technology investment
Mobile payments, digital ordering kiosks, tabletop devices…there’s no end to the technology your restaurant can adopt. If you’re struggling to determine where your technology dollars are best spent, consider where you already spend the most money. For example, Restaurant Hospitality reports that new research from Applied Predictive Technologies says 30 percent of restaurants identified labor costs as a threat to business. If that’s the case for you, consider how technology can help you minimize labor costs – with training programs and digital ordering. Other options can help you boost profits by enhancing the guest experience. Take software like Tipping Point, which can help servers be more knowledgeable about your menu by uploading videos that describe menu items with ingredients, suggest pairings, and provide talking points to use with guests.
Cover your cyber risks
The restaurant industry is a popular target for cyber attacks. Are you covered? Many insurance companies are now offering cyber security coverage as a specialty policy and not bundled with more traditional insurance, Restaurant Hospitality reports, so carefully review your existing coverage. Additional insurance may cover computer data restoration, securing your network, theft and fraud, business interruption, forensic investigations, crisis and public relations management, and extortion. Restaurant Hospitality recommends you negotiate for a retroactive date of at least one year and understand that data coverage is broader than just “cyber” and needs to cover use of the cloud.
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