Keep customers coming back in 2017
Everyone likes to feel appreciated – here are some ways to show customers love in the New Year. First, value your existing customers before those you hope to attract, which Toast says is more profitable and 10 times less expensive than the opposite. Celebrate them on social media – especially those who won a restaurant contest or shared a birthday with you. Listen to and incorporate their best ideas, then talk up the latest customer suggestion with other guests. Use your loyalty program to offer giveaways and enter guests into contests that bring them back for meals – and when someone new signs up, send a personal note to thank them and encourage their feedback and continued business. Finally, remember them and encourage conversations. Toast says having servers and chefs simply smile and say “how are you?” goes much farther than a simple nod and can launch conversations that form connections.
Innovate with pasta
Pasta is an easy win for a menu: It’s popular, low-cost and provides fertile ground for creativity. Flavor & the Menu recommends several ways to innovate with pasta this year: Substitute an unusual, upscale shape (like bucatini for spaghetti or torchio for macaroni) to add authenticity and distinction to your menu. Gluten-free pastas are growing in variety too, with bases ranging from quinoa to black beans to chestnuts. Pasta is also an ideal vehicle for customization with a variety of shapes, sauces, toppings and proteins. You can keep menu costs low and calorie counts in check by using it to present new proteins on the menu. Finally, pasta helps you mine regional flavors to lend international flair to your menu – consider lending Latin American flair to soups by cooking with fideos, or translating Roman specialties like Amatriciana or cacio e pepe into new signature dishes.
Small restaurants, growing appeal
Americans are favoring smaller, local restaurants over larger chains, according to Bank of America credit card data. Business Insider reports that this may be happening, in part, because smaller restaurants can more easily adjust their prices when ingredient prices drop. This is in play now, with grocery prices in decline and restaurant prices on the rise. Instead of protecting and growing margins like a large restaurant, the report says, smaller restaurants can more easily scale down menu prices as ingredient prices decrease. So in addition to having local appeal, these businesses are earning points for good value.
Some fearsome hand-washing facts
It can’t be overstated: Handwashing is perhaps the most important practice to get right in your establishment. Food Safety magazine recently shared these facts: Only 20 percent of people wash their hands before preparing food – yet 80 percent of communicable diseases are spread by touch. Fewer than 75 percent of women and 50 percent of men wash their hands after going to the bathroom. Each time a toilet is flushed with a lid up, a fine mist containing bacteria like Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus is spread over an area of six square meters – the area around sinks in public bathrooms is 90 percent covered in this bacteria. Most bacteria on our hands are on the fingertips and under the nails (particularly on the dominant hand), though most people wash only the palms of their hands.
2017 presents an opportunity for wine
While the economy may be shaky for restaurants, retail wine sales are flying high – and Uncorkd says this poses a big opportunity for restaurants to grow their profits. First, wine is getting relaxed – sales of canned wine nearly grew 125 percent this year, which could make it a good fit for laid-back establishments and outdoor spaces. There’s also growing interest in young wines and small, growing producers based well beyond France and California. That means providing wine information will likely become more important, especially as up-and-coming generations insist on knowing the back story of the food and drink they consume.
You’ve got game
Gamification – or driving performance through the use of competitive games – is the easiest way to engage employees and positively affect metrics you care about, like sales, guest satisfaction, upsells and average bill size, according to FSR magazine. Say you need to sell a set amount of specials each day. Using a simple back-of-house chalkboard to track servers and their specials sold can boost the team’s motivation to compete. Managers can then use the board to write public praise or share positive guest feedback. In a high-turnover industry, this meritocratic approach can help you retain your best performers. Turning service into a game means you have a steady stream of data pointing you to your top employees, so you can recognize and reward them accordingly.
Harness the power of Facebook for online ordering and more
Facebook has 500 million users and 50 percent of them log in daily – a huge potential audience for you. Restaurant Engine recommends you make the most of Facebook by using the site’s live video functionality to stream a live event, show your chef preparing a dish, or take viewers with you on a shopping trip to the farmer’s market. Encourage guests to post food photos and content to your page and check in to your restaurant on Facebook in exchange for a food or drink offer. Perhaps most importantly, Facebook is the most feasible of social media platforms to place and fill online orders, Restaurant Engine says. You just need to include a Facebook Ordering App on your page and customers can then see your menu, place an order and pay directly from your Facebook page.
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