Transform your team into an army of marketers
That time of the year has arrived —the holidays are over and the winter weather means it requires a bit more motivation for people to get out of the house and dine with you. So it’s more important than ever that your team sell your menu effectively. If you’re hiring, the Rail suggests you ask behavioral questions — have candidates tell you a joke or try and sell you something to demonstrate how well they handle the task. Even if they struggle, it’s a chance to see how professionally they respond and to discern where they might fit best, in case you have positions available that require less sales skill. When you train your team, teach methods for approaching sales in order to help them improve and also demonstrate that sales ability is something you value. Have your best servers take part in role-play activities during staff meetings so you can reinforce sales approaches with your larger team. Then, incorporate some friendly competition. Your POS may allow you to set up a system (Springzy is one example) that tracks performance and then updates your team via email so servers have regular feedback about where they stand against the rest of the team, as well as motivation to improve. Create incentive programs during set periods throughout the year to help identify the best performers and also allow the full team to see their progression over time. It can help them appreciate how their check sizes (and gratuities) have increased because of their sales efforts. Finally, look outside your restaurant and consider aligning with social media influencers: Asking some well-known people in your local food scene to come in, try your specials, and then post about the experience on social media can help you boost the numbers of people walking through the door.
Restaurants’ billion-dollar meal-kit opportunity
Meal kit companies like Blue Apron and Plated represent a $5 billion industry. While it’s natural for restaurant operators to view these businesses as competitors, they may actually represent more of an opportunity to operators who learn from their example. According to the National Restaurant Association, 49 percent of restaurant customers say they would buy a meal kit from their favorite restaurant if it were offered. There’s also ample room for growth, with just under 4 percent of households having tried a meal kit, according to the consulting firm Pentallect. How can restaurants seize market share? They have the advantage of greater flexibility to offer either subscription-based or one-off sales, for one. They also have freedom to determine what the kits look like: In a report in Nation’s Restaurant News, Matt Drewes of the intelligence platform Cardlytics said restaurants are still defining what a meal kit is, whether it’s a meal that has been prepared and needs only a finishing touch or two at home (a more common occurrence now), or if it’s a collection of scratch ingredients that the customer brings home to prepare (a less common situation). Regardless, presentation of the dish or ingredients sold is critical to attracting customers, according to Steven Johnson, the industry expert and self-styled Grocerant Guru. Preparing food to be served immediately is a restaurant’s strength — preparing food to be consumed later may require more creativity.
Use FSMA requirements to hold suppliers to high standards
Your food safety program is only as strong as the weakest link in your distribution chain, but how can you adequately monitor the practices of other companies? Hal King of the consultancy Public Health Innovations suggests operators lean on the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act to make their food safer. King’s book, “Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls (HARPC) — Improving Food Safety in Human Food Manufacturing for Food Businesses,” suggests operators look beyond the audits of facilities and safety programs when assessing suppliers. He suggests operators evaluate manufacturers’ food safety plans with an eye toward ingredients, facilities and processes for every product they buy from that manufacturer. As a customer, you have power to require suppliers to provide plant-inspection reports and other government data that can help you thoroughly assess each product you purchase.
Know where to look for fraud
The economically motivated adulteration of food, otherwise known as food fraud, costs the industry between $30 and $40 billion each year, according to Food Dive. Food fraud was among the main challenges discussed at Nation’s Restaurant News’ Food Safety Symposium this fall —particularly because fraud is growing and isn’t limited to product substitutions. For instance, in addition to trying to make lesser products pass for higher-quality ones through intentional mislabeling, fraud also comprises food additives that add weight to meat, false ingredients or nutritional information on labels, and items that were handled in an unsafe manner in the chain of distribution. John Ryan, president of the Ryan Systems Inc. consultancy and author of “Food Fraud,” said at the event that operators must be on high alert any time they extend the supply chain. Everything from the growth of imports to the expansion of restaurant delivery is creating opportunities for abuse.
Amazon technology poised to change restaurant guest experience
Restaurant brands are taking a step closer to offering touch-free reservations, ordering and payment as Amazon makes inroads into the restaurant industry. Nation’s Restaurant News reports that at Amazon’s recent re: Invent 2017 conference, the company announced it would bring Alexa voice ordering, along with Amazon Pay, to TGI Friday’s. Once the technology is phased in throughout the course of 2018, Amazon Prime members or any customer with an Amazon account will be able to talk to Alexa to make orders and reservations, and use their Amazon account to pay without handling a credit card.
Look for tech that builds bridges
If you’re looking to make technology upgrades in 2018, you should have plenty of leverage with suppliers as technology companies vie for business from restaurants. If your technology operates like less of an ecosystem than a collection of disparate parts, there are ample tech tools that can help you connect a multitude of functions. Start by taking a look at the worst pain points of your guest experience. Modern Restaurant Management suggests tools like Guest Center, for one, to help your front- and back-of-house business activities adapt to the patterns of your restaurant so you can run shifts more efficiently, make the best use of your inventory and reach guests more effectively.
The early bird gets the customer
Want to attract a base of loyal customers? Offer breakfast —or enhance your existing breakfast menu. QSR reports that according to analysis of five million restaurant visits from Sense360, those who eat out at breakfast are the most loyal restaurant customers. This was especially evident at coffee shops but also held true across all quick-service restaurants studied. Breakfast is a hit across categories, too. Nasdaq reports that breakfast is driving traffic at most U.S. restaurants and that is expected to continue: NPD Group projects the consumption of breakfast and morning snacks to grow 5 percent through 2019.
Save some green in 2018
Looking to reduce waste in the New Year? From your menu to your suppliers to your energy use, there are many ways to cut back. Toast shared a few hacks that can help you save money. When you adjust menu prices, use a random pricing strategy that raises the price of a few items by a nickel or dime each month, instead of conspicuously increasing prices across the board at one time. What menu items are making you the least money? Even if the items are favored by some guests or you already have the ingredients on hand, eliminate the items that aren’t making money. If you scan prices every week and buy from the cheapest vendor, avoid price manipulation by approaching your favorite supplier and offering to give them a large percentage of your business in exchange for a purchase agreement with better pricing. Consider joining a group purchasing organization, like Team Four/Value 4, to pool your buying power with others to get better pricing. Are you using out-of-season produce for menu items or garnishes? Review your options with your produce supplier every month to find alternatives and avoid anticipated price surges. Apply a similar strategy with your meat purveyor —ask for left-over or alternative cuts of meat that are high in quality but might not otherwise be used. To conserve energy, install cooler, energy-efficient LED light bulbs, limit trips in and out of the refrigerator, and run the dishwasher only when it’s full (installing low-flow toilets can conserve water, too —about four gallons per use).
When delivery eats into your catering business
As corporate luncheons and entertaining have become more casual, many companies are bypassing formal catering services in favor of foods available via delivery (which have become increasingly plentiful as restaurants have tapped into third-party services who offer it). But some operators have found that the plethora of restaurant delivery options is putting a dent in their catering business — while potentially sacrificing quality. Crain’s Chicago Business reports that in the greater Chicago area, foodservice businesses that cater have begun promoting to customers the differences between hiring a caterer or relying on a delivery service to provide food. For example, catering staff will have been trained in food safety issues and will have the equipment needed to ensure food is transported and served at a safe temperature. It is unlikely there will be any such guarantees with a delivery service. If you’re a caterer who offers drop-off meals, be sure to promote any benefits you provide over a delivery service, such as menu planning, delivery, setup, and order accuracy. At the same time, it’s important to make ordering a catering spread as user-friendly as it is to order food via a delivery service: Your technology should allow customers to order food quickly and easily, and your menu should offer the variety and customization that customers expect from their favorite restaurant.
A food safety program from one who knows
When your company owns and operates more than 200 sushi outlets in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom, the survival of your business depends on food safety. Josh Onishi, CEO and president of Peace Dining Corporation, talked to Food Safety Magazine recently about how he approaches it. For one, he said, operators must value food safety from the top down and manage to it. That means empowering employees to take action when something does not look right and tying rewards, bonuses and promotions to maintaining safety standards. Communicate about food safety internally and externally, and at every opportunity, whether in orientations, team meetings or advertisements. Select vendors based on their food safety standards and rate them on such factors as their quality, process, handling, storage and shipping. On top of using technology that traces your supply from harvesting to storage to shipping, aim to have real people you trust on hand at each link in the distribution chain.
Storage that promotes food safety
How you store food in your restaurant can either help you avoid a food safety incident —or set you up for one. R Magazine shared some tips to help you stay on track. First, do you follow the first-in, first-out rule? As soon as food is delivered, ensure every item carries a “use-by” label and then store your newest items behind older ones to make sure you’re making best use of your inventory. Use airtight containers for all types of food to extend shelf life and minimize the chance of cross-contamination. Meat should be stored below other items and away from produce. To ensure food maintains the proper temperature when refrigerated, don’t overload your cold storage areas. Clean equipment, shelves and storage units daily to avoid bacteria build-up, and store food items between six and 12 inches off of the floor in order to reduce contamination from water, dust and dirt.
Food delivery, with in-house quality standards intact
To preserve market share in a competitive industry, many restaurants are turning to delivery to “save the day,” according to Doug Sutton of the restaurant consultancy Steritech. Whether you’re looking to save your business or simply improve it through delivery, Sutton advises you incorporate your brick-and-mortar quality-control systems and processes into your delivery strategy. Make sure you communicate a clear pick-up process to your delivery drivers (and the company managing them) to expedite the receipt of an order. Review your packaging to ensure it preserves the appearance and temperature of your food, as well as prevents tampering. Develop standards for maintaining the temperature of hot and cold foods, then work with delivery partners to ensure they have the systems and tools in place to maintain your standards. Have a system to monitor the quality and safety of your food upon delivery and work with your delivery partner to determine steps to take if and when service falls short.
Amazon-style tech for the restaurant industry
As data gains power in the restaurant industry, a number of restaurant technology companies are looking to take their clients from a place of simply understanding customer behavior and buying patterns to a place where they can predict who their customers are online and how to reach them. In other words, they want to bring Amazon-style insight and revenue growth to the restaurant business. When leaders of restaurant technology companies shared their predictions for 2018 with Modern Restaurant Management recently, they said the next year will bring advances in how restaurants will reach customers. Not only will operators be able to identify their customers and preferences but they will be able to connect to them with customized incentives, offering them what they want before they know they want it.
More consumers go out of their way for global flavors
Want to spice up your menu this year? Look beyond our borders and try offering an unexpected ethnic food. A recent Datassential survey of more than 1,000 consumers found that people of all generations are willing to step outside of their comfort zones and sample global flavors. That includes 68 percent of Millennials and Generation Z, 50 percent of Generation X and 44 percent of Baby Boomers. Among the most recent global meals these consumers ate, Asian foods dominated, with the Americas and Europe following, then Africa and the Middle East. More than half of the survey respondents said they would make an effort to try a global food after hearing about it.
Zero in on guest categories
After the Christmas and New Year’s rush, the weather and holiday overspending conspire to keep many restaurant guests at home. If you’re one of the many operators to experience a lull in your business after the New Year, take note of the types of guests that do give you business – and take care to keep them coming back. Upserve identifies several types of guests your restaurant is likely to have: the online orderer who wants food delivered without any (or with just a little) human interaction, the call-in diner who picks up food while scoping you out for a possible sit-down meal in the future, the person who walks in and waits for his take-out order to be prepared, the guest who has read a positive review and wants to give you a try, and the regular who treats your restaurant as a satellite kitchen or freelance office. Making your restaurant a good option for all of these guests requires strength in several areas: For one, you need a strong mobile presence – WebstaurantStore says it’s important to optimize your website for phones and tablets, and to streamline the ordering process (offering an online form instead of requiring guests to make a phone call, for example). Take advantage of foot traffic at odd hours by offering quick-service meals that don’t require a long wait. When serving regular guests (or potential ones) who seek you out for meal, use your loyalty program to entice them to come back. Learn the names of these guests, their likes and dislikes, and help them earn points toward offers good for discounted items when they return for a sit-down meal.
The gift card that keeps on giving
Every year, 34 percent of gift cards sold are for dining experiences, making restaurant gift cards the most popular kind of gift card sold each year. According to CAKE, gift card recipients spend more than 38 percent more on their check than the value of their card. Since many of these cards are given over the holidays, operators have an opportunity to bring gift card recipients in the door during slower periods, win some new guests who might not have visited otherwise, and to collect valuable marketing data in the process. To make the most of the cards you issue, work with complementary businesses to provide bundled offers, like a discounted appetizer when a guest shows you a receipt from the local movie theater, for example. For customers who buy gift cards for others, sweeten the deal by throwing in a gift certificate for them when they purchase a card at a certain price threshold. Or, offer a gift card in exchange for customer information. According to Money magazine, restaurants like Black-Eyed Pea and Benihana have offered customers gift cards when they sign up for their email newsletter or loyalty program and provide information about their favorite dishes.
In a rapid-turnover industry, food safety training that sticks
Turnover is a fact of life in the restaurant industry, which relies on a young and highly mobile pool of workers. While the short-term nature of restaurant employment can discourage operators from providing comprehensive food safety training, there are ways to speed up the knowledge transfer and protect your business no matter how long an employee stays. In a recent episode of the podcast Food Safety Matters, Hal King, a public health professional and the founder of Public Health Innovations, said an employee who takes a training module on proper handwashing and is then assigned to teach and assess that skill in others will retain that information better. An employee who administers a rapid cleaning test and discovers that an area that looks clean may not actually be clean will sooner understand the need for cleaning and sanitizing a surface than the employee who watches a video about it. While this train-to-teach model may not eliminate turnover, King says, you’ll likely expedite the training and knowledge acquisition employees need to carry out a task safely.
In an age of instantaneous food poisoning reports, know the facts
As social media makes it increasingly easy to spread information, both good and bad, comments about the health of the food you serve can spread quickly. Consider the crowdsourcing site iwaspoisoned.com, where people can report food poisoning cases, public health officials can receive instant local alerts and foodservice operators can learn about outbreaks in the early stages, according to NPR. If and when a guest suggests your operation has caused an outbreak, it’s important to know the facts about foodborne illness so you can work with guests and health officials to trace the problem: Illinois health inspector Dave Banasynski said while most people with foodborne illness trace it to the last place they ate, it may have been caused by something days before. Listeria can take nine hours to cause symptoms, for example, while E.coli can take up to nine days.
Reduce your electrical risks this winter
Businesses in the restaurant industry are among the biggest consumers of electrical equipment and appliances – and in the rush to get food prepared and served quickly, it’s easy to overstress electrical appliances and lose sight of the risks they pose. The drain on this equipment often escalates during the winter. In a report for Total Food Service, United Energy Consultants suggests tips for minimizing hazards: Ensure all electrical equipment is inspected and maintained regularly. Don’t handle electrical equipment with wet hands or keep it in a location where water is liable to seep in. Watch out for frayed cords, exposed wires or smoke coming from equipment and do not use such appliances until they have been inspected and repaired. Don’t overload your power points and avoid using extension cords as a permanent solution. Install safety switches to reduce the risk of shock and ensure to train your team in how to use electrical equipment safely.
Streamlined sourcing and inventory management through tech
In restaurants, one of the first places technology made its mark was in sourcing and inventory tracking – and those functions have only been enhanced as technology has advanced. In a QSR report, restaurant consulting and technology firms including the New England Consulting Group, Results Thru Strategy, MarketMan and HelloWorld weighed in on the technology that is bringing these functions into the future, including software like Plate IQ, which takes a picture of each vendor invoice, uploads it to an app and scans it for relevant information and, in the process, saves about 60 percent of the labor required to process an invoice. Programs now not only help reduce waste and spoilage; they also help operators manage food waste that does happen by syncing with inventory systems to track unsold items, donate or sell surplus food at a discount, and even access relevant tax benefits when making food donations. Spending too much time managing inventory or trying to eliminate weaknesses in your process? Operators can use technology to better track, replenish and manage their inventory, as well as ensure its safety and quality.
Get beyond the buzzer
If you’re ready to graduate from the buzzer system for seating guests, consider the new front-of house technology from Waitbusters. Dubbed Digital Diner, the technology lets guests get in line or (for a fee) even skip the line remotely, and communicate personally with the restaurant before, during and after the meal. It also allows operators to view the location of a guest or party in line, among other features designed to streamline guest management and service, according to FSR magazine. All of this can be controlled via a widget on your website or social media page. There are some back-office benefits too: The technology lets you pull analytics to see how many guests you seated, how long they had to wait on average, how many no-shows you had and how many people made reservations, so you can make adjustments to your labor and inventory.
A formula for a more profitable menu
Does your menu drive sales as well as it could? Chances are you need to slim it down to focus on your best sellers. Upserve research found that 80 percent of a restaurant’s food sales come from 16 percent of menu items, so any extra options can make it more frustrating for your guests to find their favorites. What’s more, ingredients comprise such a large portion of a restaurant’s costs – 36 percent, according to the merger advisory firm Mazonne and Associates – that condensing them will help you focus on buying the best items you can. Upserve applied this rationale to its new “Smart Menu” builder template, a free tool that draws on menu research from across the U.S., as well as research about human behavior. The template helps users determine the exact number of items that should be on your menu (the fewer, the better), which ones to list first, the best ratio of food to drink items, how to create a visually compelling menu layout, and how a longer menu item description and a photo next to an item can each help you sell 30 percent more food. The menu research behind the template helped Upserve identify a Golden Menu Ratio for improving margins: Entrees account for nearly half of sales, so they should be your highest-margin items. Then, you gain some freedom to take smaller losses on popular but lower-margin appetizers and desserts, which drive 31 percent and 19 percent of sales, respectively.
What’s your cyber security strategy?
To compete, restaurant operators must adopt new technologies designed to improve sales, enhance the customer experience and make business run more efficiently. But these changes can create gaps that criminals target with cyber attacks, according to James Cascone, an advisory partner and global restaurant leader with Deloitte & Touche LLP. Cyber attacks can cause serious damage to a business: Toast reports that 68 percent of funds lost in these attacks are unrecoverable and 99 percent of computers are vulnerable to them. Often times, operators will not know about an attack until more than five months after it has occurred. To help, Toast’s PLATE Framework for Restaurant CyberSecurity suggests several tips. First, make sure your technology is secure – particularly your POS and credit card reader – and that your software is up to date. Second, comply with Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards, which require restaurants accept, process, store and transmit data in a secure environment. Using PCI-compliant technology also sends a signal to your guests that you care about protecting their personal information. Finally, you need a game plan to follow in case your systems are attacked by a cyber threat so you can minimize damage. To help, Toast created its PLATE Framework, which was formed around the NIST CyberSecurity Framework from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The system was designed to help you perceive threats to your systems, limit the risk of a cyber attack, attribute the root of the problem accurately, take action quickly if and when an attack occurs, and evolve after the incident so you have security protections in place to prevent future breaches. Regardless of what security framework you use, you’ll want to have a similar strategy in place to keep your data safe.
Take care with cold grains
Cold rice, pasta, oats and other grains can be healthy staples in grab-and-go salads and breakfast items, but if you have them on your menu, take extra precautions with food safety. It’s easy to overlook contamination in these grains because they keep so well when dry. But once moistened and cooked, they become havens for bacteria. In a Huffington Post report, a representative from the Food Safety Information Council advised cooks keep these items out of the danger zone for bacteria growth, which is generally between 40˚F and 167˚F. Right after cooking these grains, put these items into shallow, well vented storage containers to cool for 15 to 20 minutes. Once the steam has disappeared, secure the container lids and refrigerate the items immediately. Make sure that when you eventually mix in other ingredients with these grains, they’ve been cooled sufficiently to avoid the danger zone too.
Do you feel free to freeze?
Local, seasonal produce is a chef’s first choice, but is there a place for fruit and vegetables in the freezer? Your answer likely depends on your brand and the values you promote, but there are benefits to consider. The blog Chef’s Closet says at a time when skilled labor is hard to find, frozen produce can be faster to prepare and easier on a restaurant’s budget. And as we head into the winter months when fresh, local produce becomes scarce, cooking with fruit and vegetables that have been frozen at their peak helps you provide a wider assortment of nutrient-dense options on the menu. Just be sure to use fruits and vegetables that have been frozen in their most natural state and don’t contain added sweeteners or preservatives. Also note that frozen vegetables carry a higher risk of contamination by Listeria, according to the public health organization STOP Foodborne Illness. Listeria thrives in cold temperatures and is killed through cooking and pasteurization, so make sure to thoroughly cook any produce you freeze.
Images that boost business
Quality imagery on your menu, website and social media platforms will attract more sales. In fact, in many retail surveys, consumers say they are more influenced by images (and image quality) than other factors like ratings and reviews, product information and detailed descriptions, according to the personal finance site The Balance. SkillsLab, the sales and marketing hub, recently suggested some top tools to help you take your images up several notches. For creative social graphics and animated videos, try Adobe Spark. Videorama lets you create and edit quality videos with sound effects, text, filters and other options (also check out Typorama, a related site for images). Hyperlapse can help you create time-lapse videos – you can give viewers a condensed look at your kitchen during the Saturday night rush. If you want to add some artistic flair to your images, try using Touch Color to create eye-popping black-and-white pictures with bursts of color. Or maybe you’d like some help combining photos and video into one memorable package – for that, try PicPlayPost, which lets you combine photos, videos, GIFs and music.
The money is on mobile
A recent survey from Hospitality Technology found that 52 percent of restaurant operators say the integration of mobile features will influence their next POS upgrade, NextRestaurants reports. There’s good reason for that: While 39 percent of customers would rather pay with their mobile device than use a credit card or cash, mobile is proving to be more than just a conduit for payment. It can help guests skip lines, make reservations and otherwise have a better experience with you (and in the meantime, become more loyal to your business). NextRestaurants suggests you use in-app games to give customers opportunities to earn points toward discounts and other promotions. Domino’s Pizza, for one, has created an in-app game that allows customers to build virtual pizzas and even order pizzas they make up. You can create similar games that can help customers win rewards for time spent playing or for reaching different levels. Research has also found that mobile ordering has altered consumer behavior. When customers can skip the line and place an order as soon as they have a craving, it turns out, they are 20 percent more likely to place a larger order – and to order with greater frequency.
Restaurants serving more holiday meals
If you aren’t open for Christmas or New Year’s Day this year, you may want to plan differently for next year: Eater reports that independent restaurants that were open for business on Christmas and New Year’s Day in 2015 increased profits by 40 to 50 percent compared to their average business days, according to data from CAKE. The Financial Times reports that the online reservations site Bookatable saw Christmas Day reservations climb 32 percent from 2015 to 2016, while OpenTable reservations climbed 43 percent during the same period. Millennials appear to be driving this trend, according to data from Bank of America, as more of them are eating their Thanksgiving meal at home but are looking to dine – and spend – outside of the house on Christmas and New Year’s.
Gratuity grief: Tips versus service charges
Wage challenges in recent months have spurred restaurant operators to take a range of actions, from adding service charges to guest bills, to eliminating gratuities. The changes have affected how restaurants report income, and according to Modern Restaurant Management, making mistakes in characterizing these payments can lead to penalties under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). As you wrap up the fiscal year, note the differences between the two forms of payment, according to the IRS: For a gratuity to be a tip, the payment must be given at the discretion of the customer, who has the right to determine its amount and who receives it. Tips can be given as cash or as goods like tickets or passes, all of which must be reported to the IRS for tax purposes. Employees need to report only cash tips to their employer, who must use that information to populate tip reports needed to withhold income taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes on reported tips. The FLSA lets operators take a tip credit of up to $5.12 toward their minimum wage obligation (or the difference between the federal minimum wage, $7.25, and the required cash wage, $2.13). The IRS says automatic gratuities, such as any gratuity added to a customer’s bill, is not a tip. Employers may keep these charges or distribute them to employees, but in the latter case, the charges should be treated like regular wages for tax purposes. For further information, check out IRS Fact Sheet FS-2017-08 and FLSA Fact Sheet 15.
Deconstruct your data
Restaurant industry experts are predicting that 2018 will be the year of data. But with so much potential data and so many methods to collect it, restaurant data has become a vague term. So how should you focus? FSR suggests you zero in on five main categories: individual customer data, kitchen data, guest management, financial and inventory data and social media data. Individual data can include a name with contact information, food allergies and preferences, and birth date – and offering an incentive usually helps you collect it. In the kitchen, collect data specific to inventory and food preparation, focusing on different food stations and using an automated display system that can track how long every process takes. When it comes to guests, your data should tell you average wait times, turnaround times, party size, guest numbers and how efficiently you’re seating guests at any time. Automated systems can help here, too. Your financial data will help you understand how much revenue you’re generating, how much you’re spending and how effectively you’re using your inventory so you can identify and eliminate areas of waste. Focus on your expenses for utilities and payroll, items that have sold, how much you’re spending on the items you buy, sales of each menu item, total food cost, total menu sales and total profit. Finally, collect social media data – Facebook is a good place to start because it is so widespread and encompasses diverse demographics. Facebook, as well as Twitter and Instagram, will provide you with a weekly count of the followers you’ve gained or lost, as well as how engaged they are with the content you’ve been sharing.
Accommodating allergies – to the extreme
As restaurants go to greater lengths to cater to guests with food allergies – from using technology in the kitchen that monitors for allergens, to creating systems and procedures for sequestering the food of allergic guests from other food served at the table – many have begun designing full menus and restaurant concepts specifically for these guests. As an article in the Washington Post stated recently, “The afflictions of the minority are starting to determine the options for the majority.” The report says a number of college campuses have established dining halls that are allergy-free or limit allergens to specific serving areas. Restaurants are joining the effort – at Chipotle, for one, five of the top eight food allergens are not offered on the menu. While some wonder if limiting allergens will generate more allergy-sensitive people in the future, or will make it harder for those without allergies to find their favorite dishes, the prevailing belief is that this emerging model will spark more innovation on the menu – and across the industry.
Cleaning and disinfecting for an airtight sanitation plan
Does your team recognize the difference between cleaning and disinfecting – and why both are critical to ensuring the health and safety of employees and guests? Food Quality & Safety recommends you first work with a cleaning supplier to conduct a sanitation audit, identify contamination risks within your facility, and create a master cleaning plan that spells out what must be cleaned and how, as well as who should do the cleaning and when. Train employees to understand that sanitation involves both removing the residue from a surface and killing any microorganisms that can cause disease, odor and spoilage. Look for multipurpose products that can both clean and disinfect (many will do just one or the other) so you can reduce your inventory investment, minimize work and simplify training.
Why have reservations?
If you’re not yet accepting reservations via a guest management system, doing so could help you harness valuable data in several ways. Offering online reservations lets you track the origins of your bookings. Are people finding you through a Google search? Facebook? TripAdvisor ratings? Word of mouth? Knowing your best sources of new guests will help you know where to focus your marketing efforts and dollars.
UberEats delivery gets personal
UberEats is taking a comfortable lead in the restaurant delivery market – and its personalization strategy is a big part of it. SkiftTable reports that UberEats recently launched three customer-facing features to help it stand out: in-app ratings, favorites and personalized menu options. Customers using the app get lists, collections of restaurants and search elements – all personalized according to their preferences. Once a customer selects a restaurant, for example, UberEats can now recommend dishes that the customer is likely to enjoy based on his or her taste profile. It can winnow an overwhelming menu of 100 items down to a desirable list of five, streamlining the ordering process while providing data that are helpful to restaurants. These changes will likely spur competitors to enhance their features as UberEats rapidly expands its market share: Since April, the company’s reach has nearly doubled, with 80,000 restaurant partners in 200 cities.
The POS: Your tableside marketing consultant
A tableside POS can help your servers make best use of their time and help you turn tables more quickly. But there are more benefits: QSR recommends you harness your POS to strengthen your marketing, so you can build a strong mailing list of guests who enjoy your restaurant and collect their feedback immediately after a meal, when it’s fresh in their minds. When the guest pays the bill, the tablet payment screen can ask for their email address and offer the option to receive coupons good for a future visit. Once a month, you can send a promotion or other incentive for them to return – it could tip the balance when they are deciding which restaurant to choose among a list of possibilities. When your guest taps the screen to make payment, you have a captive audience – and a chance to collect insights about the menu, specials, service, décor or any other part of your restaurant you want to analyze. Ask a few multiple-choice survey questions (and provide a place for sharing open-ended feedback if desired) that will help you determine what needs tweaking.
Ready yourself for review time
How do you evaluate your employees? Having a set process can help you keep communication lines open, show you’re interested in developing your team and make your operation run more efficiently. Upserve suggests you conduct your reviews on a set schedule – perhaps on the one-year anniversary of each person’s hire – and focus the conversation on performance. (Save all discussions about compensation for one time during the year in accordance with your fiscal year so you can budget accordingly.) To structure your reviews, work from a template to keep the conversations on track. Upserve recommends you create three categories for feedback: qualities, goals and comments. Your discussion of qualities should focus on the nuts and bolts of the person’s day-to-day performance, e.g. punctuality, attendance, communication skills, honesty, customer service and attention to detail. As for goals, discuss whether the person achieved set goals during the year, and, if not, what resources or training could help change that. If the person achieved set goals, ask for input about how he or she might like to develop, e.g. learning a new skill or technique, or taking on additional responsibility. Finally, turn the tables and ask for feedback about your performance as well. It will help your employees feel heard and their feedback could help you understand whether your restaurant is a good place to work. If it’s not, you can engage your team’s help in making it better.
When to lease your POS
Your POS system can help you make the most of profit points within your restaurant, cut back on waste, and provide you with information that can help you turn occasional customers into your most loyal ones. But the costs of systems may hold some operators back – POS hardware can cost between $500 and $3000 per pay station, according to data from Capterra, and lower-priced options don’t necessarily offer a better value. Web-based solutions promise a high return on investment – but what if you have shaky connectivity, want customized options or need access to specialized support not often included with web-based POS services? If you’re among the one-third of restaurant businesses who are planning to upgrade POS technology in the next year, according to Toast, you may have a case for leasing your equipment. Business.com suggests that leasing could be for you if you are new to the business, want to avoid the up-front payments required for POS hardware, like having the option to upgrade regularly to a system with more bells and whistles or simply need some time to figure out your restaurant’s longer-term technology strategy. Look for complete packages that include all equipment, service and repairs for the lease term. The business technology firm Lightspeed also suggests you study the interest rates from the leasing companies you’re considering, since they can vary widely, as well as what happens if you need to change your contract terms early.
Fast facts about handwashing
Boosting your operation’s cleanliness can be as simple as promoting better hand washing. David Walpuck, a food trainer from The National Environmental Health Association, shared these facts with Food Safety Magazine: 80 percent of communicable diseases are transferred by touch. Just 20 percent of people wash their hands before preparing food. Fewer than 75 percent of women and 50 percent of men wash their hands after using the bathroom. Every time a toilet is flushed with the lid up, a fine mist containing bacteria such as E.coli and Staphylococcus is spread over an area of six square meters. In public restrooms, the area around sinks is 90 percent covered in these bacteria. For every 15 seconds spent washing hands, 10 times more bacteria is removed. Most bacteria on hands are on the fingertips and under the nails, although most people wash the palms of their hands and nothing else. The bacteria count is highest on the dominant hand, but right-handed people wash their left hand more thoroughly than their right hand, and vice versa. Only 20 percent of people dry their hands after washing. Disposable paper towels are the most sanitary means of drying hands (reusable cloth towels harbor millions of bacteria).
Boost your restaurant’s social responsibility
Improving your restaurant’s social responsibility program isn’t just good for your community; it can help you generate buzz in traditional and online media outlets, gain new business and build a positive perception of your brand. In fact, Nielsen’s Global Corporate Sustainability Report found that 66 percent of consumers are willing to spend more money on a product from a sustainable brand. To increase your social impact, Foodable suggests you make it your mission to improve your community, then support that mission with goals, set aside time and resources to accomplish them, and hold people accountable. Your plan could include donating a percentage of revenues to a local cause, looking internally to decrease your restaurant’s energy use and identify products you can purchase from sustainable sources, or donating food or organizing food drives to benefit people living in poverty or recovering from a natural disaster. Make sure your social responsibility program is visible within your establishment, as well as on your website and social media networks.
How tech gives restaurants an edge over grocerants
Grocery stores have become go-to businesses for the convenience minded, offering a growing assortment of prepared foods (and becoming restaurant hybrids in the process). But technology can help restaurants reclaim lost ground. Modern Restaurant Management suggests that tech can deliver convenience, personalization and engagement more effectively than grocery stores. Why try to find an appealing meal at the grocery store on the way home from work if you can use mobile order to have your favorite pizza ready for pick up – or have it delivered to your home just as you arrive? What if you want extra pepperoni on that pizza – or on just half of it? Again, tech provides the customization and personalization that grocery stores don’t – and it lets a customer recall their preferences in a couple of clicks. Grocery stores have long used data to send customized promotions, but again here, restaurants can do this with greater precision. If you mine your technology, you can recall that a customer often orders take-out on Thursday evenings at 6pm and sometimes gets dessert. Armed with that information, you can entice that customer more effectively than any grocery store.
Tech to try next?
How will you improve your restaurant’s technology in the coming year? From providing online reservations to mobile ordering to tableside payment, there are any number of directions you could take. Toast’s recent technology survey of more than 900 restaurateurs and 1,200 restaurant guests may help you decide where to focus. While operators and guests agreed on many benefits of tech, they differed in these three areas: Among restaurant guests, 58 percent will use a restaurant’s app or mobile pay when available (far fewer operators offer these options), 49 percent of guests think kiosk ordering improves their experience (only 39 percent of operators think kiosks help efficiency), and when guests ranked their top tech preferences in restaurants, they listed online reservations, guest wifi and online ordering (loyalty programs didn’t make the cut). If you’re still struggling to decide where to offer tech, take heart: Software that accomplishes multiple objectives simultaneously is within reach. As David Scott Peters, founded of the TheRestaurantExpert.com, said recently, “As technology gets less expensive and more systems talk with each other, software will get smarter and not only provide analytics, it will automatically tell the restaurant owner where the problems are and what they need to fix.”
2018 predicted to be the year of data
Technomic and Restaurant Business have just released the Winsight 2018 Restaurant Trends Forecast and one message comes through clearly: Data is expected to have ever-increasing power at restaurants in both public-facing and business-facing ways in 2018. Kelly Killian, director of the foodservice content group for Winsight, predicts that data will impact every area of operations, from marketing messages personalized based on behavioral analytics, to highly customized menu suggestions based on past purchases, to sensors that track staff productivity. Data’s impact will also extend to the kitchen, where smarter equipment will gather data to make for more efficient purchasing and production, among other processes.
Labor pain relief?
Finding qualified kitchen staff at an affordable cost continues to be a top concern for restaurant operators and executive chefs across the country. Restaurants – even big-name, high-end brands – are struggling to find skilled labor to carry out kitchen tasks. It doesn’t help that the Bureau of Labor Statistics just reported that there are more than 620,000 eating and drinking establishments in the U.S., and the number of restaurants is growing at twice the rate of the population. As the nation becomes “over-restauranted,” as one CEO said recently, just as more states and municipalities raise the minimum wage, restaurants must glean the most benefit from the hires they are able to make. In the meantime, operators and chefs are finding work-arounds to manage the challenge. Some are developing streamlined menus that can be prepared more quickly and with less complicated techniques. Managers are scrutinizing inventory to get the best use out of a smaller range of ingredients in order to minimize waste and save money. The New York Times reports that other chefs are doing such things as preparing large quantities of a dish that line cooks can then simply heat up and serve, deliberately overhiring cooks and then weeding out the ones who don’t pass muster, and replacing servers with cooks and sommeliers who work in the dining room.
VIP experiences through tech integration
A recent survey by a Gartner-owned company found that 55 percent of restaurant owners were not using any kind of POS system or restaurant management software. Others may have a range of technologies – including a POS system, guest management platform, online ordering system and waiting list system – that operate separately from each other. Having one system that integrates a range of functions can generate a range of benefits when it comes to building business and enhancing customer experiences. As a report in Modern Restaurant Management shared recently, integration can ensure that when new guests visit your restaurant, your host can quote an accurate wait time based on real-time table statuses instead of guesses. Integrating a tablet POS with existing hardware can also allow staff to take orders, transmit them to the kitchen and eventually collect payment tableside, reducing errors and speeding up communications between guest and server, as well as server and kitchen staff. Integration can help you enhance the experience of your most loyal guests too. What if your best patron walked in the door and your host could greet him by name, call up his previous visits and recommend his favorite menu items? Connecting data from various points of your operation and making it easy and quick to access it can help you make your best guests feel like VIPs as soon as they walk in the door.
Turn your food waste innovation into funding
Have you found an innovative way to reduce your restaurant’s food waste? In New York, for one, your ideas could help you earn grant money. Fast Company reports that the city’s sanitation department is offering microgrants of $2,000 for individual small business applicants and $5,000 for neighborhoods that apply with a collective solution to minimizing the city’s food waste (food comprises 20 percent of the city’s daily waste). The Los Angeles Sanitation Bureau is reported to be starting a similar effort. Beyond those cities, other organizations are currently connecting government programs, businesses, nonprofits and investors. Tune in to your own city’s sanitation department, as well as the Food Waste Alliance, a collection of foundations and other entities that have partnered to start a movement around innovation in food waste management.
Weakness abounds in FDA inspections program, report finds
A recent report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has highlighted the importance of transparency in the food supply chain. The deputy regional inspector general of the department told NPR that the FDA’s inspections program has a number of weaknesses when it comes to protecting the nation’s food supply. The FDA relies on facilities to voluntarily correct violations, for example, and that does not necessarily happen. The report cited the 2013 case of a facility in Kansas where FDA inspectors found rainwater leaking onto food preparation areas and also detected listeria throughout the facility. The problems went uncorrected for the next two years, according to the report. Overall, the report found that the FDA failed to conduct timely follow-up inspections to ensure facilities corrected significant violations. In 17 percent of cases, the FDA conducted no follow-up inspection at all.
Food suppliers team with IBM to try Blockchain
The vulnerability of the food industry to foodborne illness outbreaks and security breaches has motivated many industry leaders to find solutions. Blockchain technology has delivered some promising early results. The technology, which is a public database of continuously updated, verifiable and secure information for all points of the food supply chain, allows food companies to track information on everything from food temperature to the safety certifications of the facilities processing a product. The Food Institute reports that a number of food companies, including Walmart, Unilever, Nestlé, Dole, Kroger, McCormick and Co., Tyson Foods, and others are now partnering with IBM to apply blockchain technology to their supply chains, and Walmart has already run successful tests on Chinese pork and Mexican mangoes. In the wake of Walmart’s positive results, look for other food suppliers to take part in such trials in the months ahead.
Broaden your reach through live video
The importance of online video continues to grow. According to an Animoto survey, more than 76 percent of marketers and small business owners who have used video marketing say it had a direct impact on their business. Cisco projects that by 2019, online traffic from videos will comprise 80 percent of all online traffic. If you implement live video, via Facebook Live or Twitch, for example, you can offer compelling visual content and connect with your audience more directly online. NextRestaurants suggests you invite your audience behind the scenes to see your chef cooking up your latest specials or seasonal menu – and invite a local celebrity to taste it, talk about it and live stream it on their social media to broaden your audience. To connect with your community and be a more visible presence within it, live stream your participation in an event. If you’re sponsoring a youth sports team, for example, live stream part of a game and interview players like a professional sportscaster. Your video should be as much about your community as it is about you.
Make it a charitable 2017
More than 90 percent of restaurants in the U.S. make some kind of charitable contribution each year, according to the National Restaurant Association, and with the start of the new year in sight, there is still time to find a charitable cause that meshes with your brand. Foodable suggests you consider your environmental footprint and donate used equipment to nonprofits if it’s time to upgrade. Contribute a portion of your proceeds to a local benefit event or organization that aligns with your brand or demonstrates your support of local military or first responders, for example. Engage your team and your guests in fighting poverty in your area by donating items you can present to a local food bank. If you have already made it part of your mission to give back to your community, elicit feedback from your team about the causes they care about as well – that can help feed your social responsibility strategy in the year ahead.
It’s time to review your sexual harassment policy
Along with the movie industry, the restaurant industry has been rocked by allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct in recent weeks. Food & Wine reports that Louisiana restaurateur and television personality John Besh stepped down from all operations at his restaurant group in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment against him and other managers from 25 current and former employees. In Chicago, Eater reported that Publican chef Cosmo Goss and Publican Anker general manager Antonio Molina were fired for not taking disciplinary action after an “inappropriate” photo of a female employee was circulated among staff without the woman’s consent. In an industry where human resources departments are rare, it can be easy for restaurants to neglect to establish and enforce policies that provide a safe work environment for employees. Take the time now to review your policies for potential weaknesses and risks (alcohol is just one example – if you don’t clearly restrict employees from consuming it on the premises during shifts or, more broadly, on days they are working, it’s one policy to consider.) Make additions and adjustments to ensure you have clearly defined what constitutes inappropriate behavior, and reiterate your policies with employees regularly so they become part of your restaurant’s culture. Your employees should also understand how and where to report an incident if it occurs, and how the information they share will be handled.
Digital strategy 101
If you want to refine your restaurant's digital strategy, take note of some established quick-service brands that have come out on top of the 2017 L2 Digital IQ Index. The index is a review of 126 restaurant brands in the United States based on 12 criteria pertaining to each brand's effectiveness on mobile, social media, desktop and digital marketing, Skift reports. The restaurants earn a rating, which is weakened by a digital strategy that isn't well-rounded and enhanced by best practices like mobile coupons, rewards programs and digital payment options. The index’s top brands, which earned the "Genius" rating, were Starbucks, Pizza Hut, Panera and Domino's. Even if your operation is less established than those brands, you can still apply some of the strategies that have helped them reap benefits. Starbucks, for example, has seen the potential of Instagram: The brand currently possesses 60 percent of all restaurant market share on the platform. Business Insider reports that Pizza Hut has looked to Uber for its tech inspiration by launching "visible promise time," which allows customers to see what time their pizzas will be prepared, ready and delivered before they even place their order. Panera is on track to surpass $1 billion in sales made through kiosks, mobile and web this year thanks to its digital strategy (and its management thereof, which helped the brand avoid the hiccups Starbucks experienced when rolling out its own digital strategy). Domino's won raves for its pizza tracker, which has been around for years but still has few rivals, as well as its wedding registry, which has gotten more Google searches than more traditional registries at Amazon or Macy's.
Cater to food safety at offsite holiday events
As the holidays approach, it’s high time for catering special events – and managing the food safety risks that can accompany those events when you’re operating in unfamiliar environments. If you hire additional employees to help you staff catered events, take care to provide comprehensive training, especially to part-time employees, non-managers and new employees. That’s according to research entitled “Food safety in the US catering industry” published in the International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality. Researchers collected feedback from more than 500 respondents representing 40 chapters of the National Association of Catering Executives. They studied food handling, equipment and personal hygiene and what differences exist depending on gender, training, management status and employment status when it comes to food safety knowledge and practices.
Lessons from the food safety trenches
Want to protect yourself from the biggest food safety risks? Learn from one who is climbing back after a crisis. Jim Marsden, director of food safety at Chipotle, addressed some of the nation's leaders in restaurant food safety at a conference in Washington recently. He shared steps the brand is taking to recover from the food safety challenges it experienced in recent years. According to the National Restaurant Association, Marsden said Chipotle employees must complete the association's ServSafe training courses, and the company strictly enforces HAACP rules and handwashing practices. As part of its current food safety protocol, Chipotle now blanches all produce, with the exception of lettuce, tomatoes and cilantro, which must be inspected at the supplier level.
Minimize turnover costs through engagement
Employee turnover in the restaurant industry, which reached 72 percent in 2015 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is among the highest of any industry. The Center for Hospitality Research found that turnover can cost $5,000 per employee, so it pays to keep employees engaged. But how? Upserve suggests you provide data-driven feedback on a regular basis – daily or weekly – so employees have a good ongoing understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Your POS may provide data that illustrates a server's sales, tips and turnover rates, for example, which can help you set performance goals. You can also secure buy-in from employees by showing them how they contribute to the restaurant's finances. It will help them see how their day-to-day contributions impact the business and it will support their development in case they wish to pursue greater responsibility in the business.
The payoffs of pay-at-the-table
Increased table turnover rates, better tipping, enhanced security for operator and customer alike. These are just a few plusses about tableside payment, according to POS Advice for Restaurants. If your restaurant has busy periods when customers must wait (93 percent do, according to a study from Long Range Systems, LLC), offering payment at the table allows them to pay their bill as soon as they are ready, freeing servers to tend to other customers. That ensures your servers have quality face time with customers and can otherwise enhance their experience (so when those customers are ready to pay and the tablet suggests a tip amount, they are more apt to be generous). Finally, tableside payment offers instant EMV compliance, so your customers can better protect their data and you can shift chargeback liability from your business to the bank. Hospitality Tech suggests your tableside payment device accommodates split checks, makes tip calculations easy, and provides a warranty of at least three years.
Ready for a food fest?
Food festivals aren’t always an easy sell for restaurant operators. They may stretch staff too thin during busy times at your restaurant, you risk blending into the crowd at large festivals, and it can be difficult to manage your food supply and safety. If you’re among those wary of food fests, consider the potential benefits: According to an Upserve report, after trying food from a new restaurant or brewery at a food festival, 79 percent of festival attendees say they will visit the brick-and-mortar location. There are positives beyond that too. Kate Levenstien, CEO of the food festival company Cannonball Productions, says her company's food fests in more than a dozen U.S. cities provide hour-long breaks between sessions where restaurant operators can network with each other and share best practices. Restaurateur Frank Ottomanelli, who takes part in 10 to 15 festivals annually, says the events are great opportunities to interact with people face-to-face, test new products and collect immediate feedback. What's more, he says, festivals can help you show your support for your community and the causes you value.
What price loyalty?
Loyalty pays. Consider Domino’s, whose CEO recently said the restaurant’s loyalty program has helped propel the company through 26 quarters of same-store sales growth. Upserve found that loyal customers spend more than 67 percent more at restaurants than new guests do. It costs seven times more to obtain a new customer than to keep an existing one. Still, only 30 percent of restaurants offer a loyalty program, so there is ample opportunity to stand out with consumers by offering a strong one. Upserve says the best loyalty programs have several characteristics in common: They help you build a database that includes customers’ email addresses and preferences. They help you make a positive impression that improves your connection to your guests -- by remembering their birthday, sending a reminder for an upcoming anniversary or connecting with them about another important event in their lives. The best loyalty programs offer more than just discounts and rewards: Beyond the punch cards of the past, they also provide experiences and opportunities, from access to reservations before the general public or exclusive invitations to special events. They encourage your loyal guests to refer others. Finally, the best programs find new ways to make dining convenient. (For a large portion of the public, convenience means using an app to manage your program – 56 percent of Millennials and 50 percent of Gen Xers support that, according to Oracle Hospitality.) But you can also achieve convenience by speeding up the process of making a reservation, making it easier for guests to communicate with you, or by streamlining online orders, pick-ups and delivery.
Don’t be blinded with science
Four out of five restaurant operators agree that technology helps increase sales and productivity, all while providing a competitive advantage, according to the National Restaurant Association. The Toast Restaurant Technology Industry Survey found that 73 percent of restaurants are looking to improve their existing technology. Yet many operators resist it – the options are seemingly endless and no operator wants to invest in a product or system only to see it become obsolete sooner than expected. FSR recommends you consider five questions to help you separate the most helpful technology from the least. First, is it easy to use? Specifically, your new technology should not require new hardware and your staff should not need to spend more than 30 minutes being trained to use it. Second, does it improve personal customer service? Make sure whatever technology you introduce spares your guests from inconvenience (think mobile payments), improves guest engagement (think loyalty programs) and frees up your staff to spend more time on the kinds of personal interactions your guests value. Third, will your technology help your revenue grow? You should see a clear path: A 2017 study by Hospitality Technology found that determining return on investment is restaurant operators’ top concern when it comes to adopting new technology. Fourth, does the technology enhance your security and protection? Compatibility with smart-chip cards is one benefit to look for, along with encrypted data transmission and secured data via tokenization. Finally, can you afford it? Across the industry, most operators (65 percent) invest between 1 and 3 percent of their revenues in technology improvements, 18 percent invest 4 to 6 percent and 17 percent invest less than 1 percent.
Are you predictable?
Several cities, including New York, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle, recently passed laws requiring employers to provide hourly employees with predictable schedules. Bills are pending in other regions. FSR reports that these laws require employers to provide hourly employees with 14 days' notice of their schedule (or risk a penalty), among other stipulations. New laws -- or the positive impact of dependable schedules on employees -- may call for restaurants to provide greater predictability. (A Homebase survey found that 46 percent of hourly employees and job seekers prefer having a predictable schedule to earning 10 percent more in wages.) To provide that dependability, FSR recommends using web-based scheduling tools that allow employees to trade shifts with each other without taking the manager's time. These tools should let you forecast labor as a percent of sales on a daily basis, so you can better predict your staffing needs. At the very least, determine your core hourly workers required to operate the business each day so that even if you must add staff hours later, your core team has benefited from having dependable schedules.
Step towards sustainability
Is sustainability important to you and your guests? Upserve reports that the owner of Kellari Taverna in New York has achieved 100 percent sustainability by approaching his menu like his wine list, providing the back story of each item. That meant removing some popular items, like Chilean sea bass, from the menu, and learning about true sustainability -- since "wild" doesn't necessarily mean sustainable. To become more sustainable, Star Chefs suggests you consider one sustainable initiative each week. Just a few ideas they suggest: Look to resources like the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program for guidance on seafood. Consider in-house filtration systems that can help you offer fresh still and sparkling water without generating bottle waste. When buying supplies like floor mats for the kitchen and bar, look to eco-friendly companies that offer items made from recycled materials. Cut energy waste by checking seals on walk-in coolers and consider green energy sources including wind and solar. Contact a biofuel company about recycling your fryer oil. Join or form a co-op for purchasing green items.
Trust through transparency
Despite your best efforts, you don't know when a food safety crisis may hit -- and the effects on a restaurant can be severe. Fortunately, there are steps you can take now to establish trust with your guests, investors and greater community so people know you as ethical and reputable. Research from the Center for Food Integrity suggests it's critical to take steps to prove your transparency in advance. Show your food practices and values openly and talk about them -- in blogs, videos, demonstrations, advertising and other public-facing materials -- and use suppliers who do the same. Communicating shared values is three to five times more effective in earning trust than just sharing facts or expertise. Engage with the public and answer their questions in easy-to-understand language. Lastly, partner with credible, objective third parties who can verify and certify your ethical practices.
Help consumers connect food information to nutrition
Despite the abundance of food information available now, Americans' nutritional literacy is lacking -- and affecting the population's health. That's according to new research from the International Food Information Council Foundation's annual Food and Health Survey of more than 1,000 Americans aged 18 to 80. This year's findings showed that people are making bad decisions with the information they're hearing. For example, while 96 percent of those surveyed seek health benefits from the foods they consume, only 45 percent of people could identify a single food or nutrient that could lead to those benefits. (Only 12 percent could say that foods containing omega-3 fatty acids could improve heart health, for example.) There is an opportunity here for restaurants that clearly state the nutritional benefits of foods on the menu. Nearly six in 10 survey respondents said they use nutrition information to decide what to eat when they're away from home.
Look for links
At the recent TechTable Summit in New York, business leaders and tech creatives came together to talk about the future of restaurant technology. One key theme of the discussion, according to Skift Table, was the influence of data and integration on the future of restaurant service. Brands that are smart about hospitality, panelists said, will link systems to enhance the customer experience. That could mean linking complementary systems like online reservations and car services, or removing the middleman so a guest could simply use a smartphone to connect with his bank to pay his dinner bill instead of paying via a POS. It could mean using technology to link your kitchen and servers to ensure you take special precautions with a guest with food allergies. Can you predict (and provide) the links that streamline the process of dining out?
Do you have a first-rate response team?
From weather to crime to pathogens, there is no shortage of challenges you might face as a restaurant operator. How would your team function in case of a crisis? Do you have a plan for if there were a robbery, a flood, a choking customer, or a shooting on your premises, for example? Francine Shaw of Food Safety Training Solutions recommends you form a crisis management team and document roles and responsibilities. Your team should include an attorney, business leaders, food safety team, crisis management consultant and others. Get to know your local health department and understand how it operates. Are you among the 20 states with FDA-funded emergency response teams? Your plan should account for that. Train your staff on food safety and other safety protocols and take their feedback into account to ensure you’re not missing important steps. During and after a crisis, create honest, transparent, apologetic messaging that includes a clear description of the problem and your plan to address it. Stick to professional, positive messages when communicating about the crisis and thanking first responders via traditional media or social media – and monitor social media networks for negative or erroneous feedback so you’re aware of how your message is being received. Soon after you resolve any crisis, review it with your crisis management team and others involved to ensure you identify where things went wrong – whether it be with vendors, your food safety plan, communication, evacuation or other aspects of the timeline – and retrain your team on any changes needed.
Has your restaurant struggled with EMV compliance standards in recent years? If so, you’re not alone. Upserve says 66 percent of businesses have found it challenging to become EMV compliant, and that misinformation about EMV, along with concerns about abandoning traditional payment methods, have made some operators hesitate to make the leap (even though the technology isn’t going away anytime soon). For those operators, Hospitality Tech recently addressed three common concerns about EMV. First, switching to EMV chip card technology does not mean you can no longer accept traditional cards. The card-reading terminals will just default to reading the chip if the card has it. Second, there are liability risks to not becoming EMV compliant. Before EMV, credit card issuers were liable for fraudulent chargebacks from customers. Now, if a card with an EMV chip is swiped and a fraudulent chargeback is claimed, the restaurant is liable for chargebacks exceeding $25 (unless you have an EMV reader). EMV could therefore be a cost-effective solution for you if your average check size exceeds $25 and you’d like to avoid the hassle of having to manage chargebacks and liability. Third, the transition to EMV includes costs for hardware, software and payment processing, but those costs will vary widely depending on whether you have an in-house or cloud-based POS. Many operators have shifted to a cloud-based POS as part of the EMV transition because their virtual POS likely includes embedded EMV at a lower cost, requires no support fees and downloads software updates automatically.
Chefs are challenging the definition of the word “burger” right now – and the results appeal to the junk-food junkie and health-conscious foodie alike. Restaurant Hospitality reports that chefs are incorporating different beef and pork products to change the flavor profile of burgers. Take the breakfast burger at Staks Pancake Kitchen in Memphis, Tenn., which combines beef and breakfast sausage, then tops it with bacon, hash browns, a fried egg and Sriracha mayonnaise. Slater’s 50/50 in southern California makes its burgers with half beef and half bacon, while others are experimenting with andouille sausage, pork belly and corned beef. On the healthier side, chefs are tweaking the nutritional profile of burgers and making environmentally conscious choices. The Los Angeles chain LocoL combines ground beef with tofu, barley, quinoa and seaweed for a nutritionally balanced patty, then tops it with Monterey Jack cheese, lime and burnt scallion relish, and a tomato gochujang sauce. Finally, mushrooms are popular additions to patties, helping a burger retain its moisture and texture without using as much beef, so the result is cost-effective and better for the environment too.
Snapchat’s new feature links restaurants and guests
Snapchat just launched a feature called Context Cards that could help restaurants turn snaps into reservations. FSR reports that when people post about a restaurant, their Snapchat friends and followers can now simply swipe to read Tripadvisor reviews of that restaurant, make a reservation via OpenTable and even request an Uber or Lyft to bring them to the location. Of course, because Context Cards are bringing restaurants’ online profiles to the fore, it’s all the more important for those restaurants to monitor their reviews, enable online reservations and provide other functionality that will present a polished image to the public.
Social media’s multiplier effect
If social media is a key party of your marketing plan, you know it can help you build your brand, connect with customers and share content – all for a low cost. But have you tapped into social media’s “multiplier effect”? According to research from the CMO Survey in a Marketing News report, more than 25 percent of business marketers are making social media investments in areas traditionally reserved for the human resources department, like employee engagement and talent acquisition. Tapping into those areas on social media can help you build a culture that retains talent, enhances productivity and attracts business. Take Best Buy, which aggregates tweets, feeds, and blogs from across the company’s digital communities and posts them in a centralized location where employees can learn from each another to solve customer problems. A campaign by Reebok encourages employees to post on social media about how they live the company’s brand in their work and play. L’Oreal launched #LorealCommunity to give employees a forum to share their successes with one another (both inside and outside of work) via Instagram. The positive impact spills over the organization to everyone’s benefit.
Take charge of food temperature
Two of the top five risk factors for foodborne illness relate to temperature control, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Monitoring temperature closely is one sure-fire way to minimize your risk of spreading foodborne illness. A report by the American Culinary Foundation says when foods need to be refrigerated in order to be kept safe, hold them at a temperature of 41˚F or below – and ensure that happens even during busy periods when the cooler door is opened frequently. When these foods must be hot to be safe, they have to be held at a temperature of 135˚F or above. Limit the time food spends in the “danger zone” (between 41˚F and 135˚F). A cooling food’s temperature must be reduced from 135˚F to 70˚F within two hours, then from 70˚F to 41˚F within four additional hours. Reheated food must be reheated quickly – to 165˚F within two hours – before being placed in a hot holding unit.
Multi-point restaurant feedback
So what is it really like to eat at your restaurant? Online reviews provide one set of opinions but monitoring your operation from other perspectives can help you accurately read what’s going well and what needs improvement. In a report for Restaurant Hospitality, Justin Cohen of Riot Hospitality recommends you dine in your own restaurant. Seeing your operation from a guest’s perspective can help you better observe everything from wobbly tables to servers’ menu knowledge. Along the same lines, hiring secret shoppers can help you see how your operation functions when you are not around. Perhaps one employee is lax about food safety – or another goes out of her way to make sure your restrooms are clean. Finally, talk to your servers, bartenders and guests. Your servers and bartenders hear what guests really think about your restaurant and see which items guests regularly send back to the kitchen. Your guests can tell you how to fix problems or simply how to make a good experience a great one.
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