Are your employees brand ambassadors?
Regular employees have more credibility than CEOs, according to the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer. So what do your employees say about you? Restaurant News recommends you take these actions to ensure your team represents you well and promotes your brand: Clarify your values – once you know what you care about, you can identify employees who share that vision. Review your employees’ performance regularly and reward their achievements. Give your trusted employees freedom to talk up your restaurant online. They’ll have good things to say if you treat them honestly and offer reasonable benefits and hours. Remember to keep communicating about your brand and help employees learn by your example – every meeting or event you hold for employees should amplify your brand image so your team can project it to your guests.
Boost your efficiency behind the bar
Your bar can be a boon to your business – and you don’t have to choose between high standards and high sales volume if you improve your efficiency, says FSR magazine. Can you trust your team to keep the operation running smoothly? What design changes can you make to ensure the elements they need are within reach, including your freezers, carbon dioxide system, faucets, glasses and measuring tools? Finally, which tech tools can help you minimize empty seats? Award-winning bar owner and operator Ross Simon recommends apps like No Wait, which can help you seat guests on a first-come, first-serve basis so you’re not hurt by last-minute cancellations, and Breadcrumb point-of-sale systems and Upserve, which can help you generate analytics to ensuring you’re ordering inventory and scheduling staff accurately.
Subtlety wins on the dessert menu
If you’re itching to test cutting-edge flavors and ingredients, you may want to stick to appetizers and entrées – guests at mainstream restaurants tend to like (and expect) sweetness and tradition on the dessert menu, according to Flavor & the Menu. While savory touches like bittersweet chocolate and salted caramel are common and an avant garde ingredient may create some short-lived buzz, the report indicates that guests want dessert to provide a comforting, nostalgic experience. Feel free to try out savory touches – just keep them subtle.
Combine food and entertainment for growth
Who doesn’t love mixing food and entertainment? Restaurants that provide entertainment along with food (premium bowling and high-quality food, for example) are a key growth category right now, according to the commercial real estate advisory Welsh. The fast-casual boom has contributed to higher rents and lower landlord concessions as the number of concepts looking for locations has exceeded the available locations, according to a Welsh vice president of retail. Operators, as well as mall designers and architects, are looking to get creative with their spaces to create new possibilities.
Do your customers know they’re safe with you?
Food safety doesn’t have to conjure negative headlines for a restaurant. If you have a strong safety record, create a conversation about it. Food Safety Magazine recommends you weave a food safety element into all of your marketing materials. Add a one-sentence message about your food safety standards to your website, Facebook page, direct mail, advertising and menus. If a food safety problem occurs that could make people hesitate to eat out, respond quickly with information that can reassure guests. For example, if an outbreak was traced back to imported produce and you rely on local growers, post a message to your Facebook page or create a direct mail campaign to tell that story.
Tech trends that boost the guest experience
Toast says consumers are now more interested in how they buy than what they buy. In fact, in the past two years there’s been a 50 percent rise in restaurants providing technology to deliver the experience guests want, with mobile apps, online ordering platforms, tabletop tablets and mobile payment services topping the list of desired platforms. If you haven’t taken the plunge yet, focus on technology that stands to provide your guests with the most improved experience. For many, that’s online ordering – or enhancing your existing online ordering with mobile-friendly options. There’s less room for error because guests can check their order before they confirm it and it’s easier to upsell guests when you can show them images of mouth-watering appetizers or desserts before they check out – in fact, Toast says online ordering can increase check size by 23 percent.
Slow food speeds up
A number of health-conscious concepts are demonstrating that health and quick-service can go together, all while offering competitive prices and conveniences like drive-thrus, reports Restaurant Business. The Dallas quick-service concept Start offers organic food, has no fryers in its kitchens, and churns out options like grass-fed, free-range beef burgers and stuffed sweet potatoes in six minutes or less for checks averaging $12. Arizona’s Salad and Go concept provides nutrition at an appealing price point – less than $6 for a choice of 10 options that can be served as a salad or wrap. Miami’s Grown is an organic quick-service destination offering options like falafel, wild-caught salmon and grass-fed brisket in both individual and family-size portions.
Get creative with winter salads
Who says salads are for summer? Even though local produce may be less plentiful, the fruit and vegetables available during the winter months – take avocado, citrus, greens and root vegetables – can add vibrant color and unexpected textures to your salad menu. Foodservice Director recommends pairing seafood with a potato salad that combines Yukon Gold potatoes with Brussels sprouts and cauliflower in vinaigrette. Grains can add richness and warmth to a winter salad that can serve as a side or stand on its own. Consider quinoa (or brown rice, wheatberries or couscous) with onion, garlic, kale, seeds and dried fruit.
No cash, no problem
Fast-casual chain Sweetgreen will go cashless in nearly all of its 64 stores this year, having tested the idea successfully for about a year, reports Fast Company. Other restaurants in the U.S. may not be ready to make this leap but there are some good reasons for thinking twice about it, according to the report: Stores without cash have a reduced likelihood of robbery, eliminate the expense of transporting cash in armored cars, and significantly minimize hygiene problems that can occur when employees handle both cash and food. There is also a boost to efficiency – managers can spend
more time mentoring and transactions move faster. Sweetgreen says its employees can process 5 to 15 percent more transactions per hour when not handling cash.
Self-serve kiosks and chatbots to cut labor costs
Some quick-service brands are circumventing rising labor costs in a couple of key ways – both involving automation. Restaurant Business reports that self-service kiosks are one trend with room to grow – Wendy’s plans to replace some workers with kiosks and McDonald’s is introducing some form of self-service kiosk ordering at all of its U.S. units. Chatbots are also on the rise, with Taco Bell, Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Wingstop all using them to take orders.
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