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?
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