Make the most of that email
Having a social media presence is important, of course, but do you know what’s even more critical? According to The Rail, email addresses are twice as valuable as Facebook or Twitter followers because they represent direct, unfiltered lines of communication between you and your guests. Of course, you need to make your messages count. It helps to assume your guests will be reading your message on a mobile device (55 percent of email is opened on such a device, according to Litmus). Also, since they are likely multitasking when they open your message, ensure you’re able to capture your guest’s attention in just three seconds, the span of time that passes before they decide whether to read on or move on. Next Restaurants suggests you consider five steps for a strong mobile-based email strategy: When encouraging people to sign up, make it easy, with mobile-optimized landing pages and QR codes, and provide an immediate incentive that would make it worthwhile for a guest to hand over an email address. Second, follow up promptly with a welcome email message and an accompanying offer that solidifies the relationship. Third, format your message and images for a mobile device, limit your subject line to four to six words, and ensure you get your main point across in three seconds or less. Fourth, provide just one call to action in any message you send and include an incentive for guests to follow through. Finally, set metrics so you know what you want to get out of your contact list, then study your analytics to assess what’s going well and how you can improve.
Score your tech options
If you’re thinking of investing in technology improvements in 2018, some new data from Starfleet Research may give you some food for thought. According to the company’s third-quarter 2017 survey of close to 200 operators with first-hand experience in restaurant management and POS systems, 78 percent of full-service restaurants and 62 percent of quick-service and fast-casual operators achieved “significant” or dramatic” improvements in operations and revenue performance after launching a next-generation system. What features fueled these improvements? Advance ordering, payment processing, inventory control, labor management, sales and marketing, guest relationship management and loyalty management tools all helped elevate restaurants to the next level. Of course, it helps to know how to extract the data you need from these features. If you’re assessing different options, find out how well they can answer questions about your operation. For example, what will your revenue forecast look like and how you can improve upon it? How are customers finding you? How do they make reservations with you? How well can you manage labor and inventory costs? Can you create customized trigger notifications to alert you when some function falls short? How well does the technology integrate with third-party CRM, marketing and guest-management technology? Don’t assume the systems will offer what you need. To evaluate your options, Starfleet suggests you create a scoring sheet that lists all of your buying considerations (e.g. ordering capabilities, payment and security functionality, performance reporting and analytics, type of hosting offered, etc.). Assign a weight to each one to calculate a final score and an option that meets your greatest needs.
Where is that tip going?
The plot thickens regarding the tipping debate, in the wake of the Department of Labor’s recent proposal to allow employers to pool tips and use them as they see fit, under the condition that their employees are all paid at or above the minimum wage. The New York Times reports that Labor
Department officials say this will help restaurants direct more funds toward back-of-house workers who likely receive less pay due to a lack of tips. However, operators would be under no obligation to do so and could apply the funds to other areas of the business. If the proposal passes, it’s possible that restaurant guests who don’t know where their tip is going could either slip cash to their server or decline to leave a tip at all. In an age when consumers demand transparency, be prepared to provide it when it comes to your tip allocation policy.
Time for a temperature check
The New Year is a good time to start fresh and make sure your equipment is in proper condition to carry you through the months ahead. Since temperature control is central to your food safety efforts, take the time to make sure your thermometers are in good order. Use thermometers you can calibrate onsite so that you can run a test for boiling point (212˚F, depending on elevation) and freezing point (32˚F), which you can test in a slurry of ice. The National Restaurant Association recommends you calibrate your thermometers any time they have been bumped or dropped, after they have been exposed to extreme changes in temperature, before deliveries arrive and before every shift.
A better food safety partnership
Health inspections are based on a snapshot of what the inspector sees during the time he or she visits a restaurant—they’re an important part of the overall picture of food safety, but only part of the picture, according to a recent Food Safety Magazine podcast with Hal King, a public health professional who has investigated foodborne and other disease outbreaks for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A better model, King says, is surveillance by both restaurant employees and public health officials, with shared responsibility for spotting trends. He suggests checking out Annex Four in the FDA’s food code for a section about how managers can perform tasks on a daily basis to keep tabs on potential problems. This way, when inspectors call, they are not merely scoring a problem; rather, they are collaborating with the operator to brainstorm steps to fix problems already on the operator’s radar.
To be found online, think local
Can people find you in online searches and maps? To be certain, Restaurant Insider suggests you think of several non-branded key words to describe who you are and what you offer—for example, people are more apt to search for “Italian food” or “happy hour specials” than your business name if they haven’t visited before. If you have multiple locations, you will need a landing page (including a desktop and mobile-optimized page, as well as a distinct social media presence) for each location in order to ensure you appear in local searches. Finally, tune in to local, ongoing events that are likely to draw crowds and offer incentives to bring those people in the door when they’re in the neighborhood.
Burgers as you like them
Burgers are big —and even though they have saturated the restaurant market, chefs are still finding new ways to innovate with them. From patty to bun, almost anything goes. For example, Flavor & the Menu reports that the ingredients at the foundation of burger patties now range from lamb to short ribs to fire-roasted beets, and naan bread is sometimes standing in for more traditional rolls. Datassential reports that the penetration of lamb burgers on menus has increased 120 percent in the past four years due to the popularity of Mediterranean, Indian and Middle Eastern foods, quinoa burgers have spiked 260 percent and black bean burgers have increased 49 percent.
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