Sidestep a slowdown
Life slows down in the summer – and sometimes the restaurant business does too. Rod Brant, the president of the restaurant marketing firm Marketing for Independents, suggests that during your slow months, whether they happen in the summer or in the middle of winter, it’s important to focus on existing customers as opposed to trying to attract new ones. Consider contests that will bring people back during your slower periods. One restaurant beat an August slowdown by handing out sealed, dark-colored envelopes with every receipt in July. Each envelope listed a range of potential prizes on the outside and guests were instructed to not open the envelope but bring it back in August, when it would be opened to reveal a prize – and every one was a winner. The prizes promoted on the envelopes included $2 credits for a soft drink, a free appetizer, free entrée, iPad and expensive gift card for the restaurant. For every 1,000 envelopes, the restaurant printed out zero coupons for the lowest-tier prizes (since everyone expects to win this prize, they like discovering they’ve won something better), 798 coupons for appetizers, 200 coupons for entrées, one coupon for an iPad and one for a high-end gift card. More than 38 percent of guests returned with their envelopes – and sales from those guests topped $78,000. Scratch cards work just as well and can build buzz among your guests and employees. Just remember to ensure the promotions reflect your brand.
Choosing tech to enhance the customer experience
Restaurants need to embrace technology – a recent National Restaurant Association survey found that four in five operators agree that technology helps increase sales, makes their restaurant more productive and provides a competitive advantage. But how do you know you’re investing in the right tech? A recent report in Skift features technology recommendations from Ben Leventhal of Resy, the restaurant tech leader that has helped the likes of Union Square Café successfully use technology to improve guest experiences. He suggests providing technology that runs quietly and enhances the human touch instead of preventing it. Of course, technology is not one-size-fits-all. Leventhal predicts we’ll see more screens in fast-casual restaurants and fewer in fine dining establishments in the future. If you’re looking to invest, before asking about what features can help boost business, make sure you have the basics right first. You’ll need strong core technology to build upon later and to ensure all of the siloed technology you use can talk to each other. The National Restaurant Association survey found that most operators looking into the future of restaurant technology believe that the key areas of focus in the next five years will be customer ordering, loyalty programs and payment options. Of course, you’re liable to reap far greater benefits from your investment if you’re part of a network of restaurants that can share customer profiles to build loyalty.
Redirect your food waste
According to a study by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, more than 84 percent of unused food in American restaurants is thrown away, just over 14 percent is recycled and 1.4 percent is donated. But Toast reports that an increasing number of companies are trying to change those statistics for the better. If you’re looking to reduce your waste (and the expense required to remove it), consider getting in touch with one of these seven companies: 412 Food Rescue in Pittsburgh, Penn., Mintscraps in Oakland, Calif., MOGO in Berkeley, Calif., Re-Nuble in Brooklyn, N.Y., Spoiler Alert in Boston, WISErg in Redmond, Wash., and Zero Percent in Chicago. Some of these companies focus on redirecting food to the hungry, some have developed technology that helps operators sell waste food at a discount and others help operators turn food scraps into fertilizers to help protect future harvests.
Kitchen design for food safety
The way your kitchen is designed can help or hinder your food safety efforts. Even if you’re not in a position to redesign your kitchen, there are actions you can take (or file away until repairs are needed) to improve food safety. Francine Shaw of Food Safety Training Solutions recommends you consider the flow of your prep area to maximize efficiency. Sinks shouldn’t be in areas where contaminated water might splash on food or clean dishes. You might need to install a barrier between your sink and prep area if space is tight. Ensure your hot water tank holds a sufficient amount of water to get you through your busiest periods of sanitizing dishes – or get a larger tank or booster. Any areas you cannot reach for regular cleaning should be sealed tightly so they don’t become havens for rodents and insects. Think about even the smallest details: Tile grout, for example, should be minimal to avoid chipping, as well as non-porous, so bacteria cannot grow there.
Food truck food safety precautions
Summer time is prime time for food trucks. Unfortunately, their small spaces and variable conditions can make them food safety hazards – and consumers are becoming more aware of them. If you have a food truck, the non-profit STOP Foodborne Illness recommends you have your vendor license at the ready to show you have met basic food safety training requirements. Make sure workers’ hands are clean and covered – and that they can easily access the sink for washing up. Ensure none of your food is lukewarm. Create enough space for preparing meat, poultry and produce so you avoid cross-contamination. Finally, a dirty truck is always a bad sign that other problems are lurking, so keep it clean.
A cheat sheet to social media success
If you’re not relying on an outside shop to manage your social media presence, chances are you have someone on your team handling it in the midst of a dozen other responsibilities. If you need a quick reference to make the most of your time, OnBlastBlog posted a handy 2017 social media cheat sheet that covers Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn. You’ll find image sizing suggestions for each site, keyboard shortcuts, information on the best days to post on each site to maximize views, social media tools to use daily, tips to generate more shares and comments, and recommendations on how to write the kinds of headlines that succeed on each site.
Picture building your business
What do the pictures you post online say about your restaurant? Enhance the power of what you post by remembering a few rules. Social Media Week suggests you always tie your images back to a gallery or page on your main site – it will make the images less fleeting and increase your odds of bringing guests through the door. Use the rule of thirds to position your subject effectively and make sure that your subject is clear, not easily confused with other items in the shot. Ensure your images have a consistent style and tone but include something that makes them uniquely yours – not something to be confused with a stock image they’d see elsewhere. Finally, remember your demographic. If your brand is edgy and modern, your photos should be too.
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