How do your guests eat when they’re not with you?
Do you know how your guests eat at home? What do they buy in grocery stores? Do they prepare their own meals from scratch? Buy prepared foods or meal kits? Their answers could give you important insights that could help you build you menu – and help you determine how to influence their purchasing decisions at the store. According to Edward Hoffman, who oversees the food and beverage practice of the PR firm PadillaCRT, having a broader understanding of consumer preferences, motivations and contradictions deepens your knowledge of your guests and helps you engage them in more meaningful ways. So for example, do your guests eat a healthy breakfast so they can indulge in a cocktail or dessert at dinner? Find out and you can market to them with those preferences and contradictions in mind.
National Restaurant Association launches Restaurant Law Center
If you’re trying to follow restaurant industry legislation or other legal issues pertaining to restaurants, check out the National Restaurant Association’s new Restaurant Law Center. Headed by the association’s senior vice president and regulatory counsel, the center will provide legal advocacy and strategy to the restaurant industry on cases before state and federal courts that may threaten restaurant businesses, operators and employees. Among the first cases the center is managing is Oregon Restaurant and Lodging et al v. Perez, et al., which challenges the U.S. Department of Labor’s rule that allows it to stop employers from tip pooling.
New organic practices set to change animal treatment standards
Things may be changing for animals raised on organic farms in the U.S. – and for operators whose guests demand humane practices. According to Civil Eats, a new set of rules called the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) was just approved by the Office of Management and Budget and could become law within days. The OLPP establishes comprehensive animal welfare standards for living conditions (particularly for poultry), healthcare, slaughter and transport. Previously, buying certified organic meat wasn’t a guarantee that the animals were treated humanely. While some advocates say the ruling does not go far enough, it does provide significantly enhanced safeguards.
Bring on the buzz of winter-weather warmers
Baby, it’s cold outside! (And even if it’s not cold where you are, winter is still a great time to bring in specialty brews to warm up your winter menu.) FSR magazine says pie-spiced beers are plenty, along with malty ones that incorporate nutty, chocolate and caramel flavors. Brews can also help you bring out flavor on your food menu as either accompaniments or additions to marinades and sauces. Goodkind, a popular bar and kitchen in Milwaukee, pairs local brewery Karben4’s coffee stout with its own chocolate stout cake. At Band of Bohemia, a new brewpub Chicago, each of its beers is turned into flavoured beer vinegar to use on the food menu. The chef takes the brewpub’s own black ale made with cocoa nibs, figs, bay leaves and chilies, for example, and creates vinegar he uses to pickle the kohlrabi he serves with a fried chicken dish.
Restaurant design: In with authentic history and sophistication
Thoughtful, sophisticated design is in and the rough-hewn farmhouse look is out. That’s according to a new report from Restaurant Hospitality, which shared design trends from D.C. designers David Tracz and David Shove-Brown of //3877, the firm behind the design of the city’s Momofuku Milk Bar, Matchbox, Territory Kitchen + Bar, Capitale, 3 Stars Brewing and others. They suggest creating new experiences within your restaurant that make guests want to return, whether it’s different types of
seating, food or service. Your décor should have a purpose and a story – don’t just acquire trinkets or reclaimed wood to make it look like you have history. Show your history by taking an old door from your site and making it into a countertop or acquiring a real piece of memorabilia as a showpiece. Balance masculine elements like clean lines and concrete with more feminine ones like colourful paintings and murals.
For Ruby Tuesday, the future hinges on salad
The salad bar has become an American institution of sorts. Eater recently called the classic steakhouse salad bar a “tableau of vintage dining.” Now Ruby Tuesday is banking on its reinvented Garden Bar to turn its struggling business around, Nation’s Restaurant News reports. The brand has expanded its offerings from 36 to 58, including items like roasted vegetables, hummus and freshly made house dressings, in an effort to appeal to its target demographic of women and families. Ruby Tuesday’s interim CEO said half of the restaurant’s guests try the Garden Bar as a main meal or add-on and claims they’ve developed a salad bar with enough complexity that it will be difficult for competitors to replicate.
Train your team to be allergy aware
The top eight food allergens – milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish – account for 90 percent of all allergic reactions, according to Food Safety magazine. That may help focus your allergens training, which many states now require. The National Restaurant Association estimates that guests with food allergies represent a $45 million annual revenue opportunity. (They also represent a potential PR nightmare if a guest experiences an allergic reaction while dining with you.) How are you accommodating these guests? The website Allergic Living recommends that both restaurant operators and diners check out SafeFARE, a national program offering tools and information to make dining out safer and more enjoyable for people with allergies. It includes food allergen management protocols for restaurant staff and information to help guests work closely with restaurants to avoid exposure to allergens.
These days, those who suffer from celiac disease and those who simply feel better when they eliminate gluten from their diets will seek out a gluten-free restaurant. If you’d like to operate a gluten-free kitchen, Food Safety magazine recommends you take these steps: Create your menu in partnership with a gluten-free organization (review the local branches of the Gluten Intolerance Group for potential partners). Develop gluten-free offerings for your menu that are more than just tasteless reinventions of existing items – ensure they are real foods that stand on their own. Isolate gluten-containing items in your kitchen and storage areas and dedicate a section of your kitchen (as well as equipment) to gluten-free preparation. Label ovens and warmers for gluten-free cooking only and consider assembling gluten-free kits containing tongs, spatulas, grill brushes, sauté pans, cutting board, etc. that an employee can grab and use when a gluten-free order comes in, then sanitize and sequester for later use.
Restaurant technology in 2017
How will technology change the game for restaurants this year? Toast experts made some predictions: Automation will continue to make advances to help lower labor costs and drive efficiency, but there is room at the other extreme for restaurants that are purposely technology-free. The ability to share preferences digitally will also continue to expand – consider a guest making a reservation, which allows you to know her drink preferences (red wine) and special needs (allergic to eggs), then accept her payment as seamlessly as Uber would. Biometrics including facial and fingerprint recognition will become more prevalent – for now, biometrics are used mainly to keep data and assets more secure. Finally, mobile payment options will continue to grow – for creative inspiration, look to Domino’s, which aims to have guests order food however and whenever they want it via chatbots, Facebook Messenger, emojis and one-click ordering.
A longer look at trends
While we’re thinking about the future, let’s peer a little more deeply into the crystal ball at the year 2027. That’s what presenters at Technomic’s Consumer Insights Planning Program conference did recently. Restaurant Business reports they predicted these longer-term trends: Educated working families will become increasingly important – and their disposable income will make them attractive consumers. Consider their preferences for healthy, convenient foods and penchant for posting to social media. In 2027, your 60-and-older guests will be much more tech savvy than they are today – find ways to engage them online. Finally, let them eat snacks! Technomic data indicates consumers are snacking more frequently today than they did just a few years ago. Make snack food a normal part of your foodservice.
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