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.
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