Adopting eco-friendly practices is becoming a necessity for many restaurants – and the practices that operators once established mainly to shrink their carbon footprint and tell a compelling story to guests are now demonstrating they can save substantial money too. Cake, the technology consultancy to the restaurant industry, suggests operators start simply: Turning down the thermostat (even in cooler months), installing low-flow faucets and toilets (at a savings of 20 to 40 percent of water costs annually), winnowing down your menu to focus on a smaller number of ingredients, and replacing paper towels with hand dryers in your restrooms will all add up to substantial savings. Next, Cake suggests you take a look at your kitchen, since 80 percent of energy is wasted because of the heat and noise that appliances in commercial kitchens produce. If you’re replacing appliances, look to energy-efficient models and research what state rebates they might qualify you to get. Barring that, use an energy monitoring system that can help you adjust how much power to use when your restaurant is closed. While appliances like refrigerators obviously need to keep running, reducing power to other parts of your operation can help cut costs. Buying from local farmer’s markets (or using a larger supplier that has relationships with a number of regional farms) is another financially sound decision in addition to a means of supporting your community – especially when your alternative is to have ingredients shipped from far-flung parts of the country. Finally, take a look at your waste and find ways to reduce excess ingredients, repurpose ingredients in recipes throughout the week, and recycle into compost what you must discard. (Green Hotelier suggests that for a trial period, you collect food waste in three separate bins – preparation, spoilage and plate waste – to identify where most of your food waste is coming from so you can take steps to minimize it.)
Step up your food safety program
Would you describe your food safety program as world-class? If not (and even if so), it might be helpful to know the processes and approaches the best operations use, according to Food Safety Magazine. First, do you have a maturity modeling program? This will help you apply simple principles to measure continuous improvement in safety, productivity and quality and decrease labor, waste and unproductivity. Second, does your food safety program go beyond the FDA’s model food code and state or local variations? While the rules in this food code are an important foundation, they make it easy for operators to slip into reactive mode. You may discover and fix problems just a couple of times a year during inspections and let things slide in the interim. To fill the gap, practice (and enforce) active management, including educating and certifying food safety managers and having standard operating procedures for purchasing ingredients, equipment, facility design and maintenance, and employee health. Then you can establish food safety management programs like Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points to employ verification procedures for sanitation, temperature control, hygiene, maintenance, and safe sources of food and water. Consider the 40-item checklist used during a food safety inspection and collect the same data daily to uncover problem areas early. Finally, use your metrics to improve processes, resources and people. As you improve continuously, you can refine cost-saving opportunities including reducing food waste, power consumption and staffing hours. At this stage it will be part of your culture – and in the fabric of your team – to look for ways to make things better.
Stay a step ahead of fraud
In Verizon’s 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report, nearly 98 percent of all recorded point-of-sale attacks resulted in a confirmed data breach, with the focus of attacks shifting from hotel chains to restaurants and small businesses. To prevent fraud, the report suggests operators request a review of third-party point-of-sale vendors and their security practices—with an emphasis on remote access. Modern Restaurant Management says accepting payments with a secure mobile payment app can help because credit card data is protected through a PCI-compliant payment processor. By ensuring your payment processors and point-of-sale system are PCI-compliant, restaurant operators can streamline and protect all reports in one place.
Social media contests that win
Running a contest via social media can help you generate traffic during slow periods and build your customer database. Just remember a few rules to ensure you maximize the impact of each campaign. Social Media Week suggests you offer more than just recognition – a tangible prize (ideally one that you can brand) is ideal. If you’re giving away a coupon or other minor item, running the contest for a few hours or days is sufficient, while contests for big-ticket prizes can run for weeks. You’re more likely to get a better outcome if you encourage user-generated content from your guests – like photos, taglines or other content they create themselves that involves your brand. Finally, have a few simple, clear rules to govern your contest, but nothing so complex that you discourage people from taking part.
A picture-perfect meal
If your guests regularly post images of their meals online – and the images they post could represent you a little better – consider one London-based restaurant’s approach. Mic reports that a location of the restaurant Dirty Bones lends guests “Instagram kits” to help cast their menu in its best light, literally. The kits include a portable LED light, multi-device charger, clip-on wide-angle lens, tripod and selfie stick, which guests can borrow to stage a perfect photo op for their meal. Food and drinks are served to maximize visual appeal (a pink cocktail served during the city’s Pride Week was topped with a rim of rainbow sprinkles) and the restaurant itself was designed with social media in mind. Guests can pose in front of neon signs that display Instagram-friendly sayings like “Keeping it real.”
Want feedback? Have a chat.
Getting candid, meaningful feedback from your customers is important, but many of the usual methods restaurants use to collect input – like comment cards, for one – don’t provide the kind of actionable information operators need. And it’s not always feasible to have an in-person conversation with your guests to collect feedback. But a recent report in Modern Restaurant Management suggests chatbots have the potential to help operators gather helpful information because they can tap into the mindset of consumers used to chatting via text. By simply transferring the questions normally used on a paper form onto a chatbot interface and sending it via text to customers who have received an online order, one operator was able to elicit descriptive feedback. (It also helps that the chatbot asks an open-ended follow-up question when a customer gives a low rating to an area of service.) Because the feedback is presented in chat form, it feels more personal – yet it is quick and cost-effective.
Clean up to keep ‘em coming back
A Harris poll conducted in 2016 found that 93 percent of adults in the U.S. would avoid returning to a restaurant if they had experienced a problem, including poor cleanliness or odor. Toast suggests tips to help you avoid that scenario. Train your staff to prioritize food safety – not just after a training session but every day. Think of the health department as a partner who can help you bring in business. If you receive a low score, respond constructively and cooperate with their guidance to bolster your food safety practices. Flies and other pests are tell-tale signs to customers that your cleaning practices aren’t sufficient, so keep your operation pest-free with help from a pro. Finally, prioritize cleanliness over customer service. Your attentive service and attractive ambiance won’t matter if your guests notice dirty cutlery or leave with a foodborne illness.
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