Get ahead with Facebook’s new algorithm
In the wake of Facebook’s recent algorithm change, which prioritizes newsfeed content from a user’s family, friends and social groups over content from brands, restaurant operators with a large following on Facebook have been concerned that their content will now be more difficult for followers to see on the platform. That said, brands that are developing original, creative content shouldn’t have much reason to worry. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said pages that people comment on, or which “prompt conversations between friends,” will be less impacted than those that rely on content that does not generate discussion or engagement in the form of shares with friends. According to Hootsuite, your post will get a boost in the Facebook newsfeed if it generates replies to comments, a “love” instead of a “like,” or if a user shares your link via Facebook Messenger with one or more friends. Hootsuite suggests that to maximize your Facebook performance, create content that sparks some discussion among your followers. Focus on live videos – like a chef demo, for example – that will generate a response from your guests. Try to focus on local events and community building instead of broad messages that could come from a restaurant across the country. Invest in Facebook ads to ensure you’re targeting the right potential customers. Finally, connect with influencers who have a built-in following and are willing to promote your message on your behalf – just make sure it’s something that will generate discussion.
Work effectively with influencers
Your ability to attract new guests by personal referral is a strong testament to your business. Since many personal recommendations happen via social media, social media influencers have gained power through their ability to help brands get the word out. Influencers have built large followings – typically of around 10,000 people – by posting content that their followers trust and find engaging. To help incorporate the right influencers in your marketing strategy, the business consultancy Deputy suggests you improve your social media presence by having a complete online profile and by posting content that’s more engaging than promotional. When considering different influencers who might help you build business, check out their followers’ level of engagement to make sure they are responding well to it. Align with influencers who are passionate about food and restaurants. Opt for influencers who have a strong, local presence on a single platform versus those with a diluted, broad-based presence on many platforms. Start a relationship by responding to their content. Once you have established a rapport, you can contact them directly to propose they come to your restaurant for a free meal. Deputy says influencers may expect compensation beyond a free meal and in that case may mention the conditions of a business relationship at the outset. Make sure those conditions work for your business, or contact an agency that works with influencers and can recommend guidelines to follow, as well as other influencers who could be potential partners. Once your relationship is established, you can take care of it by offering discounts to the influencer’s followers, involving the influencer in events and branding decisions, or making them an ambassador by offering a monthly fee or free meals in exchange for promotional content.
Be aware of Gluten sensitivity
Approximately three million people in the United States have celiac disease and just five percent are aware of it, according to the National Restaurant Association. To accommodate those guests, as well as many others with gluten sensitivity, Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) reminds operators to ensure you communicate about guest allergies across the entire team. Your wait staff should be able to discuss ingredients and cooking techniques with a gluten-intolerant guest if needed. Check the cleanliness of tables and chairs, where cross-contamination can happen, as well as the placement of tongs, ladles and other implements that might be used with the wrong foods inadvertently. Finally, having your manager or chef deliver the plate to the guest with a gluten allergy ensures the plate won’t be contaminated with items from other plates and also sends the message that you care about guest safety.
Avoid foodborne pathogens in produce
The E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce has become more extensive than the deadly spinach outbreak of 2006, according to Food Safety News. As of May 9, it had impacted 149 victims across 29 states and caused one death. While foodborne illness outbreaks are on the rise due in part to improved surveillance measures, as well as increased year-round consumption of produce grown worldwide, it’s still critical to manage your risk. To help, the public and environmental health consultancy EHA Group suggests operators purchase unbruised/undamaged produce, chill any processed produce that has been cut, peeled, or needs to be transported, avoid cross-contamination with poultry, seafood or meat, and take care to wash hands before handling produce, wash fresh fruits with warm water, and wash and sanitize all surfaces that your produce touches.
Manage the talent challenge
If you’re like most operators around the country, your biggest business struggle relates to finding and keeping strong talent. National Restaurant Association President and CEO Dawn Sweeney, who recently attended the National ProStart Invitational, the country’s premier secondary school competition focusing on restaurant management and culinary arts, said the event gave her reason for optimism. In a recent op-ed piece, she said nearly 400 students competed for more than $200,000 in scholarships from culinary and restaurant management programs. The ProStart program encourages experiential learning and career exploration to help develop new talent in the foodservice industry. Participants earn credit in the association’s restaurant manager apprenticeship program. Sweeney said the National Restaurant Association, along with its educational foundation and state partners, are working to expand the number of students who take part in these programs. For more information about the association’s efforts to build industry talent, visit ChooseRestaurants.org.
The positive side to menu labeling?
After many delays, federal menu labeling requirements are now a reality for grocers and restaurants with 20 or more locations. While many businesses have fought the change, there may be a bright side to it. Food Dive reports that Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said these requirements would give not only consumers a new tool to help them manage what they consume, which has been more of a challenge when eating at restaurants, but a new tool for operators as well: The labels should allow for much stronger data collection. This would enable operators and the foodservice industry overall to monitor to what extent people respond to food labels and calorie counts, giving those businesses ongoing insights into the combinations consumers prefer.
The robot is waiting to speak to you
If your restaurant takes reservations, you may soon be fielding more inquiries from a new kind of caller. Google just unveiled a new AI feature that can phone a restaurant and speak in a lifelike voice to a human reservationist. Eater reports that the feature can make an alarmingly convincing phone call. Expect Google to use the technology for other purposes too – such as updating information for its Google Maps service. And who knows? Perhaps restaurants will soon be able to use this technology themselves to field the AI calls they are receiving.
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