Improving the evolving app
Now that so many restaurants have apps to help them handle everything from managing orders to enhancing loyalty, where do apps go from here? A number of brands are now bringing additional value-added services to their apps to make them stand out from the crowd. As Restaurant Business reports, Dunkin’ Donuts has formed partnerships with companies such as the navigation app Waze, which now allows Dunkin’ Donuts customers to place orders from its app. Those who own new GM cars can also now place orders at Dunkin’ Donuts via their car’s dashboard. But naturally, not all brands can pull off changes of this scale – and the changes you make don’t have to be big to be effective. Simply updating your app to continue to improve the customer experience can be sufficient. Ensure the extra items that customers order in-house – like condiments, sweeteners and other items – are also readily available via app. Also monitor the functionality of your app so it’s delivering the results you seek. Are people navigating it as you envisioned? Are there processes the app is not handling well that are then coming to you and requiring your time? Are you getting guests to use the app to provide reviews? Collecting metrics from your app and then making regular changes to enhance it can help you ensure you are bringing in new guests, offering special deals and services to reward those who return, offering convenience and gaining insights that will help you improve the experience you offer.
Seize the seafood season
Your seafood menu is a promising place to innovate right now, with more consumers willing to experiment. According to new research from Datassential, that means bringing seafood onto the breakfast menu in dishes like frittatas or eggs benedict, and incorporating seafood varieties beyond the ever-popular shrimp, salmon and tuna. Kyle Anderson, general manager of the Rappahannock Oyster Bar in Charleston, S.C. told Toast that he recommends experimenting with options like tilefish, triggerfish and black sea bass, among other varieties. Just as consumers are willing to branch out and try new seafood varieties, they are also showing an interest in the different ways seafood can be prepared. From smoking to brining to seasoning seafood with unexpected spices, seafood can provide a solid base for experimentation. One area where the seafood industry is lagging behind other industries – for now – is in sustainability and transparency, despite the efforts of organizations to hold suppliers accountable for reliably tracing the origins of their catch. It’s expected that as millennials’ purchasing power increases in the coming years, there will be growing consumer interest in transparency and sustainability when it comes to seafood that will require operators (and, of course, suppliers) to be held responsible for the products they provide.
Clean ice is nice
As warmer weather brings people out for cooling beverages, take extra precautions with your ice. As Foodable points out, the FDA lists ice as a food. So serving guests ice from a machine that hasn’t been cleaned in weeks is like serving them drinks in dirty glassware. Bacteria, biofilm, fungi, mildew, mold, scale and slime can all grow in an ice machine that hasn’t been properly cleaned and maintained. While many machines have sensors that can tell you when it’s time to clean your machine or change its filter, Foodable suggests you also simply monitor the quality of your ice. Cubes that are smaller, softer or cloudier than they should be – or which have a funny taste – indicate it’s time for a cleaning using the materials recommended by the manufacturer.
Make sure frozen food shipments arrive frozen
As the warm weather arrives, so does the need for extra vigilance when it comes to keeping foods at the proper temperature. StateFoodSafety.com suggests that when you receive a new shipment of frozen food, it’s important to check for signs of temperature inconsistencies or other problems. Reject any food that is fully or partially thawed, or which has ice crystals in the packaging.
Tech to remove table wobbles
What’s more annoying than sitting down at a restaurant and finding your table is wobbly? If you spend too much time leveling unsteady tables in your dining room, there’s some technology that can help you solve that problem. The company FLAT Tech has developed a stabilization system using hydraulics. Nation’s Restaurant News reports that the company offers table bases that use a system that distributes fluid through the bottom of the base to the feet, which expand and compress to account for any unevenness. Operators not wanting to invest in new tables can try the FLAT Equalizers, which can replace the screw-in feet on your existing tables. When you press on an uneven table, the hydraulic feet shift fluid inside them and then lock to stabilize the table.
What does your packaging say about your brand?
If you’re trying to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, your packaging is a strong place to start: A recent QSR report referenced consumer research showing that millennials consider the use of environmentally friendly packaging the most important step a brand can take to demonstrate its commitment to sustainability. (Packaging ranks higher than the use of renewable energy to produce and transport products, the report says.) As consumers boost demand for foods that can be eaten off-premise, your restaurant could be relying on packaging more and more to represent your brand values. Brands like McDonald’s are already taking action with plans to generate all of its customer packaging from renewable, recycled or certified sources by 2025.
Plant-based foods go prime time
People are hungry for “plant-based” menu options these days (and consumers prefer that term to “vegan,” perceiving those foods as healthier and more flexible, according to a survey by the food consultant Mattson). Many restaurant brands experimenting with different variations of plant-based foods are using traditionally meat-based dishes as inspiration – after all, Technomic found that almost 30 percent of consumers aged 18 to 34 say they’re likely to try plant-based burgers designed to taste like beef. The bleeding “Impossible Burger” is selling well in restaurants, for example, and operators are getting inventive in replacing other meats too: At Fare Well in Washington, D.C., they serve up southern fried seitan, and the San Francisco startup Terramino Foods has created a faux salmon burger made from fungi and algae that looks, tastes and smells like the real thing, Food Dive reports.
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