Use data to expand your “share of stomach”
“When we talk about share of stomach, we’re not just talking about supermarkets, but we are talking about restaurants, and all places that customers go to for their meal needs.” That’s what a spokesman for the food retailer Kroger said to the Cincinnati Business Courier recently. At a time when supermarkets and even convenience stores are steadily improving the ready-to-eat meals they have on offer and Amazon is in prime position to transform consumers’ ability to access quality foods quickly, how is your restaurant setting itself apart? Restaurant operators currently have a leg up on retailers when it comes to identifying their best guests via customer segmentation — they just need to use their data to generate the kind of call to action that results in increased guest visits and improved loyalty. For instance, Bloom Intelligence suggests restaurant operators identify a customer segment that dines with them once every week. Offer those guests a coupon or promotion when they refer a friend or write a Yelp review. Tap into a customer’s buying history to know who might enjoy the new appetizer on your menu. Your high-frequency, low expenditure guests aren’t likely to visit you more often, so focus on helping them attract new guests and on enticing them with offers that might encourage them to add an appetizer or dessert to their usual order. Are there any big spenders in your guest database? Offer them promotions that could encourage more frequent visits.
Don’t call these plants vegetarian
More than half of consumers are boosting their fruit and vegetable intake as compared to last year, citing taste and health as motivating factors. That’s according to Datassential’s SNAP! Keynote Report: Plant-Based Eating. Plant-based foods had a major presence at the recent National Restaurant Association Show — and while plant-based proteins are on the rise and becoming more creative (KFC recently announced plans to test a vegetarian chicken recipe with consumers this fall), you don’t necessarily need to imitate meat to offer a filling meal. Datassential’s report indicates that 85 percent of consumers believe plant-based foods can be just as satisfying as animal proteins. Nuts, seeds, legumes and whole and ancient grains can add heft to a plant-focused dish. Datassential found that more than half of consumers surveyed eat legumes once a week and one-third of consumers surveyed eat seeds at least once a week, often as part of a snack. The company advises that on the menu, operators avoid terms like “vegan” or “vegetarian,” which can make a dish sound less hearty or filling than it is. Instead, consider adding global seasonings to local, in-season produce to easily justify the presence of fruits and vegetables in the center of the plate. Promote the specific health benefits of the ingredients you offer, such as a smoothie with cleansing or energizing components.
Make a tough call on bacteria
Our phones have become extensions of us — and unfortunately, they carry with them bacteria that far outnumber what we typically encounter in a bathroom or other area where we are more likely to think of washing hands. According to research from Mashable, phones carry 25,107 bacteria per square inch, compared to 1,201 bacteria on a toilet seat, 1,736 bacteria on a kitchen counter, 4,500 bacteria on a checkout screen, and 8,643 bacteria on a doorknob. Do you have a firm policy about the use of phones by staff in your restaurant? In addition to encouraging the washing of hands, have guidelines about the use and cleaning of phones. A soft towel dipped in a mix of 60 percent water and 40 percent isopropyl alcohol works, or even a UV light that kills surface bacteria.
Food producers face new risk
Much like the threat of bacteria in food that resist treatment by antibiotics, there is now an increase in food crops’ resistance to antifungal treatments. That’s according to new research published in the journal Science. The study’s authors say the overuse of antifungal chemicals is making crops and livestock more resistant to treatments, which could lead to an increase in the loss of crops and livestock to fungal pathogens, as well as an increase in human fungal diseases. Fungal pathogens could include blights that impact food crops, as well as yeast and mold-related infections in both livestock and humans. The study calls for more selective use of existing antifungal treatments, which are currently limited in number, and also the development of new drugs and treatments.
The menu of the future is here
Ever been to a restaurant and ordered a dish you noticed someone enjoying at the next table? Augmented reality (AR) technology is tapping into our need to visualize the food we order. Upserve reports that the burger chain Bareburger has partnered with the AR food menu app Kabaq to make their meatless burgers appear on guests’ plates in 3D via Snapchat. The technology is designed to encourage guests to “eat with their eyes first,” Upserve reports — and, perhaps, order a little extra. According to a study Kabaq conducted, guests viewing virtual dessert options on a tablet on the table boosted dessert sales by 25 percent. Kabaq currently has more than 150 restaurants on board.
The best of both worlds in food delivery?
Delivery is here to stay — but the debate about how restaurants can make it profitable continues. Fortunately, in addition to handling delivery in-house and farming it out to third-party vendors, there is an emerging third category of delivery management that enables operators to manage delivery growth and retain the data they would otherwise be losing to third parties. In its 2018 Restaurant Tech EcoSystem report, Forbes mentions the emergence of software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, essentially B2B software, which helps restaurants expand and serve their customer base and manage volume at the same time. Check out ordering platforms like Olo and logistics platforms like Bringg.
When you’re talking about restaurant technology, how is the conversation different if you’re operating a 1-to-5-unit business versus a restaurant that’s part of a 500-to-1000-unit ecosystem? It’s more similar than you might think. On a recent episode of Foodable’s Takeout, Delivery and Catering Show, Mo Asgari, president of MonkeyMedia Software, discussed technology deployments across the restaurant industry and said tech providers are all moving quickly to develop offerings that can serve the full spectrum of customers. For small operations, it’s critical to have a tech provider that can provide a scaleable product that flexes as your business does. Before you invest in technology, make sure you understand any challenges your business faces that may not be tech-related (and will need attention before you invest). Where to begin? Take stock of your operating model – MonkeyMedia’s “5 Pillars of Successful Restaurant Takeout, Delivery and Catering” can help.
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