Help your menu send the right message
Just as your guests assess your brand and identity as soon as they walk through the door, they're also taking in this information from your menu. Is yours having the best impact on sales? Foodable recommends you consider several elements: Is it structured so guests can read it easily, like they would read a book? Does your typography and layout help guests categorize your dishes? Use headings, borders, boxes, complementary font changes and even empty space to help guests change gears and process what's on offer. If you use photography and illustration, less is more -- and make sure photos are well lit and appear professional. Color is important too, as its psychological effects should stimulate the right emotions.
It’s snack time
Occasions for snacking now outnumber traditional daypart meals as most consumers eat snacks four or five times each day, according to Datassential. What’s more, their survey of more than 3500 consumers found that 62 percent of respondents agree that anything can be a snack. A wide range of food and beverages now qualify as snacks – and that creates new possibilities for restaurants looking to appeal to snacking guests. The top non-traditional snacks in the survey were sandwiches, wraps, pizza, breakfast cereal, burgers, sliders and chicken wings or nuggets.
Do you have an activist investor?
Activist investors abound in the restaurant industry and they have a reputation for shaking things up: Note Chipotle's recent move to eliminate its co-CEO structure under pressure from one investor. QSR Magazine says these investors can be helpful in lifting a struggling company's stock price, though they often do this by changing up the board and eliminating fat in the form of bureaucracy and waste. While they often have great skill in certain areas of business, they usually need lots of help from the operator. They tend to advise companies to focus on one thing, not several, in order to stengthen their core business. Finally, it's important to watch them and understand their time horizon, which will help you ensure they are there to help you fix problems.
Expand your seasonal coffee menu
If you’re looking to innovate your beverage menu by incorporating seasonal flavors throughout the year, consider your hot and iced coffee selection. According to Mintel research, 43 percent of consumers surveyed prefer seeing seasonal ingredients in coffee drinks. In the survey, coffee came out well ahead of tea, beer and cocktails as the ideal beverage to showcase the tastes of the season.
Innovate with seafood
When is the last time you changed up your seafood offering? According to Datassential research, 53 percent of consumers are interested in trying global seafood items. Nation's Restaurant News suggests you find ways to make it more interactive and experiential -- think Korean barbecue or Asian hot pot. Consider new twists on favorites as well -- like the calamari gunkan sushi with tzatziki sauce served at the international seafood restaurant concept Ocean Basket. And while seafood doesn't have a large presence on take-away menus, it should: 65 percent of consumers surveyed said they were interested in both hot and cold seafood dishes at buffets, especially those offered as grab-and-go options.
Where's the bacon?
Thanks to a devoted following, bacon has evolved well past its position as a breakfast side dish. In recent years, it's been equally at home garnishing a cocktail or adding savory flavor to a dessert. But perhaps the American love affair with bacon has finally gone too far. Grub Street reports that according to the Ohio Pork Council, demand for frozen pork belly is outpacing supply. Farmers can no longer keep up, even as they are raising "more pigs than ever." You can sleep well knowing there are still 17.8 million pounds of frozen pork belly available, but expect prices to rise.
Easy actions to improve food safety
Want a few low-cost tools to boost your food safety readiness? Food Navigator shared these tips from Walmart’s Vice President of Food Safety Frank Yiannas, who addressed the recent Consumer Food Safety Education Conference: Consider clothing – it impacts performance. Studies have shown that a person wearing a uniform that conveys responsibility performs better than one performing the same task while wearing street clothes. Teach the right way AND the wrong way – and show what can happen when mistakes occur. Make food safety the norm. If you talk about how 75 percent of workers wash their hands with soap and water (and not about the 25 percent who don’t), most people will follow suit to be part of the norm. Finally, make it rhyme. Walmart made up a rap song and video to help teach food safety standards to deli employees. Those lessons are more likely to stay with employees than those delivered on a Powerpoint deck.
Make your kitchen pass muster
Would your kitchen pass a surprise inspection? In a report in Food Safety Magazine, Breann Marvin-Loffing of HOODZ International recommends you take four actions to ensure you comply with state and local health regulations. First, make sure you know those regulations, as well as the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Code, and stay abreast of updates. Have a kitchen cleaning checklist for use during and at the end of a shift. It should include items such as washing and sanitizing all surfaces and emptying trash bins. Ensure you properly maintain your kitchen exhaust system, which can be a fire hazard and impact the taste of food if not adequately cleaned and maintained. Finally, conduct self-inspections at different unannounced times and note common violations that occur during specific day parts or when particular team members are working.
Mobile ordering, Disney style
For a look at how mobile technology and food ordering can intersect, take a look at Disney, which prides itself on creating seamless guest experiences. Food & Wine reports that at Satu’li Canteen, a new fast-casual restaurant opening at the resort in May, a mobile ordering feature will allow guests to customize their meals, pre-pay for their order and notify the restaurant when they arrive via an “I’m here” button on their My Disney Experience app. At that point, the app prompts the kitchen to start preparing the order, then tells the guest when the order is ready and where to pick it up. Disney’s aim for the technology is to shorten lines and minimize wait times.
A tech trailblazer must defend its choices
Eatsa, the quick-service brand that has made headlines for its quinoa bowls and high-tech, low-human-contact approach, is getting some negative publicity for its technology choices. Specifically, a lawsuit filed against the chain in New York claims that the entire process of purchasing food at Eatsa, from ordering through pick-up, is inaccessible to the visually impaired. According to Recode, the suit claims that while technology is available to make touchscreens and self-service pick-up accessible to the visually impaired, Eatsa has neglected to adopt it. Further, while the restaurant has a staff person on hand to help guests who need assistance, the suit claims that the touchscreen method guests must use to summon that help is not accessible to blind or low-vision guests and there is no audible cue to signal when food is ready.
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