There’s a crisis. What’s your food safety plan?
While natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey aren’t common, we’re living in an era when sudden weather events are taking a major toll on people’s lives, not to mention their food supply. Even storms on a smaller scale could cause contamination from flood water, pests, insufficiently cleaned equipment and compromised food sources. Do you have a plan for if and when the safety of your operation is at risk? The FDA recommends a number of guidelines when you’re managing such an event. First, ensure all rodents and other pests have been cleared from the facility, seal any cracks that could provide entry for them and discard spoiled food that could attract them. Discard and properly dispose of any food that has been submerged in flood waters – the only exception is food in undamaged, hermetically sealed cans that have had labels removed and have been washed and sanitized. If your facility has been in contact with flood waters, confirm that your well has not been flooded, wash all facility surfaces in a hot detergent solution followed by a sanitizing solution, recondition or replace surfaces with mold growth, and clean your exhaust system and hood and have it inspected. Examine your equipment, utensils, display cases, filters and other equipment and thoroughly clean and sanitize them. Some equipment, such as dishwashers and ice machines, should run through three cycles following cleaning to ensure they’re free of contaminants. Make sure all equipment can cool or heat to the required temperatures for maintaining food safety. All food supplies should be provided by a licensed, approved food source and received by a person who is responsible for ensuring the food containers are undamaged and that food requiring cold storage arrives either frozen or at temperatures below 41˚F. You may need to serve a limited menu until your operation has its usual inventory and roster of employees on hand.
Don’t make your neighbors hunt for you online
How do locals find you? The National Restaurant Association says 83 percent of adults consult their smartphones or tablets to find restaurant locations, directions, and hours of operation, and 55 percent of adults read restaurant reviews. Further, Google says searches with the words “near me,” “closest” and “nearby” have doubled since last year. To best capture your local online audience, Modern Restaurant Management suggests you have a clear local marketing strategy, along with a thorough, mobile-friendly website that includes the essential information customers need, shareable content and a connection to online reviews. First off, make sure people can find you when they’re looking for nearby restaurants. Check your listings on review sites like Yelp, OpenTable, TripAdvisor and Google My Business to ensure they’re updated with your location, contact information and latest menu. Enhance your SEO with keywords and links that will elevate your standing in online searches. Next, find out where your best guests spend time on social media and focus your efforts on those sites (and with the content that does best on those platforms). If you know your target demographic well, consider Facebook advertising to help you deliver content to people based on factors like gender, age, interests and location. Finally, monitor your online presence and be ready to act when you get reviews – provide a constructive, professional response when a negative one comes through and share any positive feedback on your website and social media channels to get the most mileage from your happy guests.
A restaurant more like a memorable dinner party
Some millennial chefs around the country are testing out new alternative restaurants – pop-up dinner parties that feel more like social gatherings with friends than dining establishments – and they’re generating a lot of buzz. Food & Wine reports that these chefs are cultivating a special social environment – it could be a homey space filled with couches, chairs, friends’ artwork and musical entertainment – and then hand-picking attendees who gather for a flat price to enjoy the company along with a selection of food (though not necessarily anything from a menu). Consider hosting occasions like these for your most loyal guests, or if you’re looking to test new menu ideas or concepts on a willing audience.
We all wish we could be more efficient. Mobile technology can help and the U.S. wants it -- Pew research indicates 77 percent of Americans now own smartphones. Modern Restaurant Management says there are three key ways having a robust mobile strategy streamlines your day-to-day operations. For one, mobile ordering opens you up to a larger customer base that will likely place larger orders because they don’t have to wait for them. Automating the ordering and reservation-making process will free up your staff’s time too. Even an app just for your staff can make ordering, payment, scheduling and bookkeeping more efficient. Next, allowing people to order ahead minimizes errors and therefore, waste. You’ll quickly see what your most popular items are, which will help you know how to tweak your menu. Finally, having a mobile strategy helps you build a better loyalty program. No more punch cards to lose. Your customers will receive points automatically with each purchase, and you will be able to see patterns in how they redeem their rewards (so you can offer more of what they like and bring them back in the door more frequently).
Panera steps up beverage transparency
Panera is making a new push to be transparent with its guests – even if its beverage sales suffer in the short term. Business Insider reports that Panera’s strategy to promote its new low-sugar craft beverage line, which includes options like blood orange lemonade and passion papaya green tea, will include serving drinks in cups labeled with the calories and grams of sugar that its broader line of beverages contains. This will likely steer customers away from high-profit-margin soft drinks (which pack a whopping 17.25 added teaspoons of sugar) and toward Panera’s new craft beverages, which are more expensive to produce but include far less sugar. The chain’s CEO hopes the effort will build loyalty. Panera commissioned a survey that found that 99 percent of Americans were unaware of the sugar their beverages contain. It wants to help educate its guests – and along the way, demonstrate that it’s a reliable place to go for a healthy meal.
Food traceability gets a boost
Food traceability is becoming increasingly important as our supply chain gets more complex. Food Safety magazine reports that a new guideline was published recently by a special traceability workgroup of suppliers, distributors and foodservice operators who wanted to enhance traceability practices in the wake of foodborne illness outbreaks. The guideline suggests case-level traceability processes that use GS1-128 barcodes to track cases of product across the foodservice supply chain. As consumers continue to demand food transparency, locally grown products and sound animal welfare practices, traceability efforts such as these could be critical to business. (A recent study from the Center for Food Integrity found that consumers want transparency around a company’s business practices just as much as they want food product labels.)
Redesign your way to a new vibe
The right restaurant design can take a business from good to great (assuming your food is just as good as its surroundings). In a Bloomberg interview, the design guru David Rockwell shared some design tweaks that can help transform a space. Some of the details he pays attention to? First, the entrance should have a sense of theater – it’s where guests make snap decisions about how welcoming the place is, what kinds of people eat there and how good the food is likely to be. Second, notice the noise – and make it appropriate for the space. In pockets of the restaurant where you want less of a din, ceiling perforations or fabric can absorb sound. Next, adjust your flow. A room with more than four tables across can feel like a cafeteria, so interspersing long and short tables and different levels can provide contrast. Just don’t create seating areas where people don’t want to go – use banquettes in corners or install displays that transform potentially unwanted areas into focal points. Use lighting as a way to vary the ambience between lunch and dinner and to bring a warmer or cooler vibe.
Look behind your website
When it comes to mining the best data to market your restaurant, your website is the best place to look -- if you know what to look for. To understand how people are responding to it, NextRestaurants recommends you first look beyond the general traffic you're attracting. While it's easy to associate a rise in general traffic with a successful site, it can merely mean that your SEO is doing well. General traffic figures are more reliable when combined with your bounce rate, website flow and traffic sources. A high bounce rate isn't always a bad thing -- it could indicate that the visitor found the needed information and just moved on -- but on a more densely packed page that takes time to load or one with pop-up ads, a high bounce rate might indicate that people are frustrated with the page and are abandoning your site without investigating it further. Understanding the user flow of your site will provide a visual representation of how people use it. If they're navigating the site in ways that differ from the ideal flow you envision, there may be links that are difficult to find or items that are distracting visitors from where you'd like them to go. Finally, if you study your numbers of new and returning users, you'll have a sense of how many people are visiting your site. While attracting new visitors is important to growth, it's also important to attract return visitors. Make sure you're offering content -- whether promotions, coupons or other timely offers -- that succeeds at bringing people back.
Putting UberEATS data to work
Since the UberEATS app launched just two years ago, it has grown to include more than 60,000 restaurants in 112 cities. Now the company wants to continue to push the boundaries of food delivery by building more trust with restaurants and helping advance restaurant technology, according to Chetan Narain, senior product manager for UberEATS restaurants. In a recent Skift article, he discussed how analytics are helping to make that happen. For example, the UberEATS Restaurant Manager tool includes a customer satisfaction section where for every dish it asks what fraction of customers gave it a “thumbs-up” and what tags are associated with the “thumbs-down” ratings received. Say a dish is rated 75 percent thumbs up, for example. Of the people who gave it a thumbs down, 90 percent mention portion size, or 90 percent mention presentation or how the dish held up. This feedback, in turn, is giving restaurants a lot of guidance about how they can change or adapt their menu for not just delivery but for what they're doing in-house too. One operator, Narain says, uses delivery as a testing ground for new dishes, taking in detailed reviewer feedback to make tweaks to dishes that eventually appear on the menu in-house.
Amazon technology to watch
Amazon's latest forays into the food business could pose a challenge to restaurants. Reuters reports that Amazon is exploring a technology first developed for the U.S. military to prepare ready-to-eat meals that don't need refrigeration. Amazon is preparing to sell prepared meals including beef stew and vegetable frittata as early as next year, according to the report. The items are easy to stockpile and ship and could be sold inexpensively, adding a potential new area of competition for restaurants and grocery stores that offer take-out options.
Out with room service, in with restaurant meals
Are hotels (and their employees) part of your marketing plan? Hotel room service -- traditionally a money-loser for hotels -- is becoming a benefit fewer travelers are demanding, according to USA Today. It says the American Hotel and Lodging Association found that 37 percent of hotels offered room service in 2014 as opposed to 22 percent in 2016, and 71 percent of luxury hotels offered alternatives to room service last year. Restaurants and grocery stores are stepping up by providing prepared meals, grab-and-go foods and meal kits to offer some of those alternatives. It can pay to be on the radar of hotels in your region, along with those who work there. Hyatt Centric, for one, has partnered with Grubhub to provide meal delivery from restaurants selected by hotel employees.
Picture-perfect food safety training
When you conduct food safety training, to what extent do you use images to convey important messages? An FDA study recommends it -- both for those who speak English as a second language and native speakers. Food Safety Market says visual presentations and storyboards that use graphics and colors more predominantly than text do a more effective job of communicating safety messages in any language, so when posting food safety signs and conducting training, complement any text with a related image. Use color-coding to help your team readily identify important warnings, as well as kitchen tools used for different foods.
Even if your kitchen has an ideal flow, your sinks are located away from sources of contamination and you have a well-planned sanitation routine, you could still have a contamination problem if your ventilation system isn't operating as it should. Do you have a plan in place for inspecting, testing, maintaining and cleaning it regularly to avoid the build-up of contaminants? If not, Francine Shaw of Food Safety Training Solutions says your ventilation system could be spreading flour dust, nut particles or other allergens throughout the facility. Those particles could contaminate virtually everything. Be sure to cover all flours, nuts and other common allergens to prevent cross-contact.
Ensure food safety door to door
Consumers want speedy, inexpensive food delivery -- but operators have to balance those desires with the need for food safety. Be specific about your needs when negotiating with third-party delivery providers. As Catering Insights put it recently, food safety mandates may vary state by state, but restaurant contracts with third-party delivery companies should be negotiated to include food safety specifications. Consider whether you need to require that drivers use hot/cold bags to keep food temperatures safe and that no more than a fixed amount of time can pass between pick-up and drop-off, for example. Have clear standards in place when it comes to pick-up procedures, complaint processing, minimum insurance levels and limiting the number of stops drivers can make.
Save time on social media
No time for social media? Most operators handle social media in-house in addition to a host of other responsibilities, so it's easy to give it less attention than it needs. To help you save time, Social Media Week suggests some tips: For one, use a social media management system to set up a consistent posting schedule and streamline your efforts across different channels -- and consider using a dashboard that allows you to look at all of your social media activity in one place. Next, focus on two or three platforms and handle them well instead of dabbling in many of them. This will help you make a bigger, more visible impact on the platforms you select, as well as facilitate management of the customer comments and inquiries that come to you via social media. When someone mentions your brand online, make sure you know about it. Google Alerts is one free service that will send an email when a brand is mentioned. Mention.com and Hootsuite will also track social media and other online mentions and send you an email when they happen. Finally, create a bank of social media posts for different platforms -- sample tweets, Google+ updates or Facebook posts for example, using the language and word count appropriate for each site. Then grab an item from the bank in a variety of situations, such as when you profile an employee or announce specials or contests.
To boost your online power, look to peers with best formulas
As you build your online presence, from your website to your social media platforms, you have to keep a range of best practices in mind to ensure your content is as effective as it could be. Looking for tips from some pros? Toast recently shared the names of several operators who excel in different areas of online content: Sweetgreen, for example, is great at projecting a consistent voice. To weave their clean, modern look throughout their brand, they use only lowercase letters on social media (consistent with their app, logo and website), the same photography across all of their marketing materials, as well as a strategy for emoji use on social media. Looking for guidance in responding to reviews? Check out Paris Creperie's positive, professional approach. Pieology Pizzeria successfully attracts and posts consumer-generated content -- essentially free marketing -- on all of their social media channels and follows up by offering online coupons. Mei Mei Street Kitchen is great at posting features about employees, which has humanized the business and enhanced its image as a friendly brand. To engage followers, Which Wich asks funny questions on social media, managing to make something as mundane as a BLT into a fun discussion topic. If you feel you're lacking for content, try chiming in on some news already happening. For example, when a Nor'easter hit Boston, Upper Crust Pizza hopped on social media and used already-trending hashtags (like #openinBOS) to post a photo of their staff with a local weatherman.
Turn food waste into a business opportunity
Want to minimize food waste? One major food processor, New York City-based Baldor, is turning organic waste into big business, according to Fast Company. Baldor washes, chops and packages produce for grocery stores and restaurants -- and finds creative uses for the trimmings it once discarded. The company, which once sent 150,000 pounds of food waste to landfills or composting facilities each week, now sends nothing. It sells vegetable leftovers to chefs for use in stocks or sauces. Fruit scraps go to juiceries that use them in cold-pressed drinks. Rinds and other items not suitable for people are made into animal feed. Items that fall on the floor or arrive rotten are sent through a waste-to-water machine that turns the food into a slurry that can go down the drain. The company is using some vegetable waste to create completely new products as well, like a dry vegetable blend that can replace wheat in some recipes while increasing the nutrient content.
A better, faster, cheaper way to detect E. coli
The expansion of the food supply chain has made it that much easier for foodborne pathogens to spread, but technologies are aiming to keep up. Food Safety magazine reports that scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new detection system for E. coli, which causes 73,000 illness and 60 deaths in the U.S. each year. The test uses a liquid that binds to bacterial proteins and can be detected by either the naked eye or a smartphone, which could provide a much faster and cheaper alternative to existing food safety tests. MIT hopes to launch a company to commercialize the new technology within the next year and a half.
Get juiced about food safety
If you offer fresh juices on your menu, take note: Fruits and vegetables contaminated with harmful bacteria cause 46 percent of food poisonings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- and much of that contamination comes not from the produce itself but from how it is packed, stored and prepared. Food Safety magazine recommends you wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after prep, give leafy greens a cold-water-and-vinegar bath for five to 10 minutes and rinse, wash all other produce in running water (scrubbing those with firm rinds), cut away damaged or rotten areas, and dry produce afterwards to reduce surface bacteria.
Regulatory hurdles for burger that bleeds
Impossible Foods, which generated positive buzz in recent months because of its plant-based burger that "bleeds" like real meat, may have inadvertently hurt itself by seeking FDA approval for its secret ingredient. Food Dive reports that Impossible Foods is being encouraged to pull its burger from the market (which includes dozens of restaurants in New York, California, Texas and Nevada) until it can prove it is safe to eat. The burger includes a material called soy leghemoglobin, a protein from soy roots that gives the meat its flavor and texture. FDA regulators have yet provide that acknowledgment, though they didn't say the burger was unsafe. While Impossible Foods said their burger was lab tested and that it did not need FDA approval to sell it, it sought the agency's designation of "generally recognized as safe" in order to build its brand.
When following trends, strategize first
It can be tempting to seize on whatever the hot ingredient du jour might be and find a way to work it onto your menu. But trend cycles move faster now than they used to and it no longer takes years (or even months) for a popular ingredient to progress from food producers to restaurants to consumers' kitchen pantries. Instead of constantly playing catch-up to deliver on-trend ingredients, Flavor & the Menu suggests that when temptation arises, take a step back, look at the larger trend surrounding an ingredient and embrace that instead. So in other words, a consumer fascination with Sriracha may not be about the Sriracha itself but about the desire for added heat. Guests who order kale don't necessarily love kale -- more likely, they love the idea of a healthy lifestyle. If you deliver on the wider trend while staying in line with your brand, you're less apt to jump from one passing fad to another.
Protecting food safety when a storm hits
Hurricane season is now near its peak and as extremes of weather become increasingly common, it's important to remember practices to protect the safety of food compromised by power loss or flooding. Temperature is key to controlling most biological contaminants. In the case of power loss, food items must be kept at 41 degrees or less in the refrigerator or zero degrees or less in the freezer. Prior to a predicted power loss, place as many perishable items as possible in the freezer. The Washington State Department of Health suggests sourcing a refrigerated truck to help store perishable foods. In the event of power loss, keep track of the time it begins. Stop using gas or solid fuel cooking and heating equipment if the exhaust hood and make-up air systems stop working. Using this equipment without proper ventilation can lead to the build-up of toxic fumes. Throw away any foods that are in the process of being cooked but haven't reached their final cooking temperature. Once power is restored, check thermometers to ensure food is being kept at a safe temperature. Discard perishable foods including meats, milk, eggs or other items that have been kept in the refrigerator or freezer above 41 degrees for more than four hours. If a well has been flooded or damaged, have it tested for contaminants that can affect water safety. Note that portable generators will prevent loss and can help with recovery efforts, but they are not intended to replace approved power sources for foodservice operations.
When it comes to video, spread it far and wide
In a recent survey of 500 marketers by Animoto, 92 percent of marketers said they repurpose existing content and assets to create videos. The video marketing firm Tubular Insights says there are a number of benefits to repurposing video content, including improved search engine optimization, better audience targeting, a wider distribution and more views. To get a bigger bang from your video, Tubular Insights recommends you transcribe the video you create, which can make your videos more searchable because Google can index the closed captions. Next, try breaking your video content into shorter clips that can be used on different platforms. The ideal video length for a YouTube video is 14.5 minutes versus 1.3 minutes for Facebook. The maximum length of a video on Twitter is 30 seconds and for Instagram is 60 seconds. Cross-posting different versions or parts of the video on different platforms can generate more views -- and may lead those viewers to click on the longer video on YouTube after they've watched the teaser on Twitter. You could, for example, shoot a video of your new chef giving a behind-the-scenes tour of the kitchen, then feature the full content on YouTube (or a condensed version of it on Facebook), post quotes from the video in a blog entry on your website, share a clip on Instagram showing your chef wecoming that day's shipment of seafood or colorful produce, and post a humorous, stand-alone question or comment from the chef on Twitter.
September is National Food Safety Month
A recent study of restaurant food safety practices by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that among the 486 workers surveyed in nine states, there were clear patterns in the workers and establishments most likely to spread foodborne illness. Many workers reported engaging in risky behaviors that threatened food safety, including not washing hands or changing gloves between touching raw meat or poultry and ready-to-eat food, not using a thermometer to check the temperature of cooked foods, or working while they have vomiting or diarrhea. The findings suggested that younger, less-experienced workers in independent restaurants (as opposed to chains) were more apt to engage in risky behaviors with regard to food safety -- and that restaurant managers and food safety programs should adjust to focus on those areas.
Retain to avoid recruitment pain
Unemployment is at a 16-year low, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, making it more important than ever to keep the top talent you have. A recent report in Restaurant Business Online shared some retention tips that have worked for successful operators. TaKorean in Washington, D.C. offers achievable bonuses each month based on mystery-shopper-type evaluations that track customer service and speed of food delivery, for example. The average score determines how much the whole team receives -- most months, they take home an extra $30 to $50. Dead-End BBQ in Knoxville, Tenn. offers workers a profit-sharing bonus after three months on the job. LouVino in Louisville, Ken. offers sign-on bonuses of $600, part of which is payable after 60 days of work at the restaurant and the other part after 120 days. Other ideas that employees have received well: Commuter benefits, education benefits and paid vacation time.
Use your website to boost revenue
While online reviews get a lot of attention, don't discount the importance of a well-crafted website. A 2015 OpenTable survey reports that 84 percent of diners visit a restaurant’s website before making a reservation. Since they're the one place online where you have complete control over the message guests are receiving, they're a business opportunity worth your attention. In a Skift article, the CEO of the website development firm BentoBox recommends you build in ample opportunities to boost revenue. That can include giving visitors a place to buy digital gift cards, place catering orders, submit private event requests from contract all the way down to a deposit, or buy tickets and restaurant merchandise.
Strapped for cash? Get creative with social media.
The push for food delivery has given delivery companies a lot of power. These companies charge for both delivery and marketing, the latter being critical for the emerging set of restaurants-without-dining-rooms. but Skift reports that one Los Angeles restaurant, Trap Kitchen, has worked around those marketing costs by relying on its free Instagram account. It posts menus each day to Instagram and solicits orders there too. Two years in, the restaurant has 230,000 followers -- and it has lifted the prospects of the new business. The success of Trap Kitchen on Instagram has encouraged its operators to open a brick-and-mortar location.
How does your marketing measure up?
In the U.S., 82 percent of restaurants reserve at least part of their marketing budgets for social media, which makes it the most popular marketing channel today, according to a new TripAdvisor survey of 4 million restaurant operators worldwide. Print advertising and online listing services were rated the next most effective tools by U.S. operators. Most of those operators are relying on internal expertise to drive their marketing efforts: While 85 percent of respondents said they should be promoting themselves more, only 17 percent of operators have hired someone to handle marketing and 1 percent have hired outside marketing consultants for guidance.
Be a content king
Do you have a comprehensive content marketing strategy – or is posting photos, sending emails or tweeting content about your restaurant a bit of an afterthought? A study by the marketing research firm Demand Metric found that content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing and generates three times as many leads, so a sound strategy can pay off. To build one, Restaurant Engine recommends you identify your target audience and find ways to be a resource for them. Then build a calendar that plots out content around holidays, special events and seasons and cross-promotes that content on your blog, website, email list and social media networks. Create a branded, unified look that includes your restaurant logo and is easily identifiable by your guests. Using a combination of text, images and video will help keep your content interesting. Use consistent key words on your website and blog, optimize your content with tags on images and titles, and reduce your image file sizes for faster loading. Finally, you’ll want to monitor and measure your progress, so give your plan some time but ensure you have tactics in place to track how people are responding so you can adjust as needed. If you need a cheat sheet to help you stay on top of the tools and terms that are part of your content marketing strategy, check out this infographic from Curata, which tracks 29 content marketing metrics. Need help cranking out content? Consider launching a blog on your restaurant website that covers topics of interest – from gluten-free eating to wine pairings to seasonal recipes. Feature a monthly video of chef’s tips. Showcase your employees and their unexpected talents or interests. Select one day each week or month and do the same type of post – having the format in place and ready to go can help you stay on track.
Tune up your down time
Even restaurants at the very top of their game have a bit of down time now and then. Those minutes are valuable. Are you using them to improve how your operation runs? Foodable suggests you first take a look at your scheduling to ensure you don’t have a lot of extra waitstaff standing around during slow periods. Or if you do, prepare detailed lists of jobs they can do so business can run without hiccups during busier parts of the day – have them stock beverages, fill salt and pepper shakers, roll flatware and clean up in advance of the next rush. Down times are also ideal for keeping tabs on inventory and ordering. While this responsibility lies with you, apps and point-of-sale programs are making it possible to get other staff involved too. Do you have a monthly or quarterly advertising and marketing plan in place? Review it each week to monitor results, check online reviews and prepare a summary to share with your staff, and to review your social media accounts. Review your point-of-sale reports to get a handle on revenue, guest counts, labor costs, and food and beverage costs and identify areas where tweaks are needed. Have new menu items, tech tools or kitchen processes? Use down time to train employees, have taste tests, discuss new ingredients or role play new service processes. Walk through your operation to conduct preventive maintenance in order to avoid interruptions later. Do filters need cleaning or replacement? Is your equipment using more energy than it needs to? Finally, use down time for meetings, whether as a team or one-on-one, to review personal or operational goals.
Build a social media army
Partnering with your employees can extend your social media reach exponentially if you have a coordinated plan in place – just ask brands like Starbucks and Southwest, which do a top job of engaging their teams to spread their brand message. Social Media Examiner recommends a range of tools to help. Slack is a good one to support centralized communication. You can easily create different channels to address different groups. DrumUp is another that lets you import the RSS feed of your blog so employees can share it across Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. It isn’t always convenient to schedule group meetings, so to capture ideas between sessions, Trello lets employees make suggestions and tag the topic of their feedback. You can also build engagement with employees by posting their social shares on your blog. Try creating a unique hashtag and encouraging employees to use it when tweeting about your restaurant. You can do the same with Instagram with Yotpo, which allows you to identify the best posts and publish them to your page.
Ready to go cashless?
Are cash payments on the way out? Visa hopes so. The credit card giant recently announced the Visa Cashless Challenge, whereby it would offer up to 50 restaurants and food vendors $10,000 apiece for upgrading their technology and marketing costs. In exchange, these businesses must pledge to begin a “journey to cashless” by allowing customer payments via debit card, credit card or cellphone app. A 2016 Gallup poll found that just 24 percent of Americans report making all or most of their purchases with cash, as compared to 36 percent five years ago. If you’re ready to get on board and take part in the cashless challenge, watch the Visa website for more information coming soon.
TripAdvisor tool promises restaurant marketing power
If your restaurant relies on TripAdvisor comments and ratings and doesn’t have substantial resources to manage a comprehensive website or several social media networks, a subscription-based tool from the site may help you harness TripAdvisor feedback into actionable steps to help your business. TripAdvisor Premium, offered by a monthly or annual fee, can help you customize your TripAdvisor Page to receive data and analytics, Skift reports. TripAdvisor’s senior vice president of restaurants says while the service can’t measure how many people are going to a restaurant, it can increase engagement in a restaurant’s page by 25 to 30 percent by monitoring clicks to a restaurant’s website, reservations or phone number.
Clean and green
Aqueous ozone has long been used to disinfect water, preserve meats and prevent the growth of mold and yeast in fruit, according to Food Safety Magazine. Now it is gaining momentum as a green alternative to chemically based cleaning solutions – and as a means of demonstrating your commitment to sustainability. Green Seal, a green certification organization for products and services in a range of industries, including hospitality, recently certified aqueous ozone as safer for users and the environment than traditional cleaning products. One key selling point is that it is generated on site when needed, so there’s no need to walk to and from a supply closet to collect cleaning products. It also cuts back on the number of plastic bottles, cartons and other containers used to ship cleaning materials. Look for more businesses to offer the technology to keep hospitality facilities clean and healthy.
How healthy is that beverage?
Consumers have high expectations when it comes to beverages right now: They expect them to serve as healthy snacks and meal replacements, all while delivering a low-sugar nutrient boost. If you have added “healthy” beverages to your menu to stay on trend, make sure your team can capably walk the line between overpromising their benefits and under-delivering on them. According to Harvard Health Publications, cold-pressed juices made from a combination of fruits and vegetables retain more vitamins and minerals than regular juice – and a wider array of them – but have a higher glycemic index than whole fruits. They also tend to be less satiating. Smoothies tend to contain more fiber and be more filling than regular juice but they can pack in the calories (and sugar, if you’re not careful). If you’re adding almond milk or yogurt to boost protein, make sure they don’t contain excess sugars. For customers looking for a beverage that keeps calories in check, consider offering sparkling or still water flavored with fruit, vegetables and herbs.
Two-thirds of restaurant diners prefer locally sourced meat and produce, according to Statista. So how local is your menu? Toast says food sourced within 100 miles, within your state or by a small-scale production facility typically qualifies as local. These purveyors are increasingly critical to your marketing efforts with guests. Consumers tend to believe that local products taste better. Beyond that, serving local fare can provide you with a compelling story to share with guests – especially if you create memorable experiences around the farmers, cheesemakers, brewers, and others who produce the local items you feature on your menu. To identify more local food producers, the Sustainable Restaurant Association suggests you challenge your largest supplier to tell you what produce is available in your area. Look online too – keeping tabs on Instagram and Twitter can help you uncover new suppliers in your region. When you find those local producers, meet with them face-to-face and look for ways to partner with them as both ingredient suppliers and storytellers you can showcase at exclusive events with your guests. Forging a close partnership with local producers may help you influence what they plant in future growing seasons, or spark your chef’s creativity by alerting you to the produce that will be the freshest, tastiest addition to your menu at a given time – and what you’d be better off omitting.
What does your restroom say about you?
A recent study by the consulting from King-Casey found that 78 percent of restaurant guests rank a clean restroom as a sign of a clean kitchen. So like it or not, your guests could very well be assessing the cleanliness of your kitchen before they’ve tasted a bite of food. To keep your restrooms as clean as possible, Food Quality & Safety suggests some tips: Offer paper towels, which dry hands quicker and keep customers safer from germs (a Journal of Applied Microbiology study found that jet dryers spread germs 1,300 times more than paper towels). Offer high-quality paper products that dissolve and biodegrade easily – they will help you avoid expensive, unsightly clogs and keep your stall floors free of torn and shredded paper. If possible, install touchless soap dispensers, faucets and paper towel dispensers. Consider touchless or foot-pedal-activated trash receptacles and entrance doors as well. To help maintain a clean restroom, use a cleaning log with a step-by-step list of areas to check multiple times daily. Have a cleaning cart dedicated to restroom use to ensure you have all cleaning supplies and paper goods on hand and are reducing the likelihood of cross-contamination with your kitchen. Finally, make sure your supply closet has an ample supply of restroom products and is easy to access throughout the day.
Build a better burger
Creative burgers are on the rise – and adding inventive ingredients to your patties can help you pack in more nutrients, reduce costs and improve the environmental impact of the burgers on your menu. Nation’s Restaurant News reports that operators are experimenting with ingredients like barley, quinoa, mushrooms, tofu and even seaweed as burger mix-ins. These additions can help you retain the flavor, moisture, texture and thickness of your burgers while using less meat. At the same time, you’ll have a good story to share with your guests: The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates far more man-made greenhouse gas emissions than transportation, so using less of it can help slow that trend.
Clean ice is twice as nice
There’s nothing like an ice-cold beverage to beat the summer heat. Just make sure your ice machine isn’t serving up harmful bacteria. The BBC consumer affairs program Watchdog recently carried out a test of coliforms in ice at 10 branches each of McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC and found indicators of possible contamination with feces in more than half of the samples collected. To help keep your ice clean, Food Safety magazine advises operators train all employees to wash hands before collecting ice. Store the scoop outside of the machine on an uncovered, impervious tray that is washed daily in the dishwasher. Hold the scoop by the handle only and do not handle ice or return any unused ice to the machine. Clean ice storage chests monthly (if not weekly) and consider regular testing of ice and the surfaces around it to help you adjust your cleaning frequency and methods.
Accepting tips in the EMV age
If you accept tips at your restaurant, is your technology keeping up with the most convenient ways for customers to offer them? FSR magazine says that as more operators adopt EMV, which includes a secure PIN option, they will have to prepare their payment systems to accept all kinds of payments. That could mean ensuring your point-of-sale system can handle all transactions with tip allowance or transitioning away from a central checkout system in favor of a mobile, pay-at-the-table model. The latter system is widely used in other countries and appears to be where the U.S. is evolving. Though it puts customers in the somewhat awkward position of stating the tip amount at the time they pay their bill, the security offered by these PIN-enabled transactions is likely to outweigh the negatives.
Following a new trend? Adapt your safety protocol
There’s always pressure to stay on trend in the restaurant business, but catering to the latest consumer need raises food safety challenges, according to Food Safety magazine. Hydroponic gardens popping up in restaurant dining rooms – or rooftop gardens used to grow produce used on the menu – can pose risks when guests are in close proximity to ingredients that will land on someone’s plate. The push to provide local ingredients poses another risk. If you purchase from a local co-op, your produce may have come from dozens of growers, so traceability is especially important. If you offer smoothies or other produce-packed beverages, note that some frozen produce wasn’t intended to be served without cooking and may contain pathogens. The demand for delivery is raising safety concerns too – if you use a third-party service, who is responsible for the temperature and quality of the food during transport? Is the food protected from intentional or unintentional contamination?
Fine-tune your hashtags
If you have a presence on social media, hashtags can help you tell your story and connect to a larger online community at the same time. To use them to greatest effect, Social Media Restaurant suggests you keep them brief, memorable and easy to spell – #PerfectPizzaPairings will score higher than “BestWinesWithPizza, for example. Choose an original-sounding (but understandable) tag, use capital letters for each new word and double check it to ensure it won’t be misinterpreted or used in an unintended way. Don’t overdo them – tweets with three or fewer tags are twice as likely to be favorited, answered or retweeted. If you’re running a contest where you challenge guests to post a photo along with a single hashtag, consider using online aggregation services like Tag Board or Rebel Mouse. They will help you bring all entries together onto one easy-to-reference page.
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.
Prevent foodborne illness with four principles
The USDA’s Economic Research Service reports that foodborne illnesses cause more than 53,000 hospitalizations each year and more than 2,300 deaths. To help your operation prevent foodborne illness, Food Quality & Safety recommends you remember four principles: clean, separate, cook and chill. To keep hands, utensils and surfaces clean, wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and running water before and after food handling or using the bathroom. Wash the surfaces of cutting boards, counters, dishes and utensils with warm, soapy water. Use paper towels (instead of cloth towels) to clean counters or spills. Rinse or blanch the surfaces of fresh produce to eliminate dirt or bacteria. Next, separate to avoid cross-contamination. Ensure ready-to-eat foods aren’t placed on surfaces that held raw meat, seafood, poultry or eggs. Use separate cutting boards when preparing fresh produce and uncooked meats and properly wash the surfaces exposed to raw meat, seafood, poultry and eggs in warm, soapy, running water. Next, cook food to the proper temperature to kill dangerous bacteria. Foodsafety.gov recommends steak or ground beef be cooked to 160˚F, chicken or turkey to 165˚F, seafood to 145˚F and egg dishes to 160˚F. Finally, chill food properly to slow the bacterial growth process. Keep the refrigerator at 40˚F or below and maximize air circulation by not overcrowding foods inside. Don’t let raw meat, eggs or fresh produce sit out for more than two hours without refrigeration. Post checklists to help staff remember to follow all of the above steps amid the rush of preparing food each day.
If you operate a full-service restaurant, how do your employees feel about the minimum wage debate? As the minimum wage rises in many areas of the country, pay attention to how restaurant operators and workers in areas as different as Maine and Seattle, Wash. are already responding. The Washington Post reports that following a November referendum in Maine to raise servers’ hourly wages from $3.75 to $12 by 2024, restaurant workers campaigned heavily (and successfully) to overturn it, saying it would greatly reduce servers’ take-home income because it would cause customers to tip less. Servers in New York, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. are already mobilizing against a higher minimum wage. Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who strongly opposes raising the tipped minimum wage, is now working with waitstaff in Minneapolis and Seattle on similar efforts. In light of the minimum wage increase in Seattle – a phased-in $15-an-hour wage was passed in the city in 2014 and is not yet fully in place – a recent editorial in USA Today cited a study by the University of Washington and the National Bureau of Economic Research that said employers had already cut back employee hours to compensate for the higher wages. The editorial predicts that the drop in employment will make it more difficult for people to get jobs or work as many hours as they would like.
Internet of Things has broad food safety applications
Our ability to connect an increasing number of devices is playing out with important enhancements to food safety. Food Safety Tech reports that in farming, we’re likely to see driverless tractors take over traditionally driven ones, aerial drones assess the health of crops and deliver targeted applications of fertilizer and insecticide, which stands to minimize excess costs and damage to food. The Internet of Things will help foodservice operators manage shipments more accurately and improve their monitoring of food quality as well. Expect major advances in pest management too, as a network of connected sensors better identifies and tracks pest populations and monitors their growth, enabling pest management companies to treat infestations in a more targeted way.
3D underwater farming offers creative opportunity to chefs
As climate change threatens the environment (and for fishermen, the economy too), people who make their living providing seafood to foodservice operators are turning to vertical underwater farming, also called 3D farming. One benefit of the effort is that thousands of vitamin-rich sea vegetables are being discovered and brought to menus for the first time. A recent report in Invironment details one fisherman, whose 20-acre 3D farm provides native seaweeds, which he says contain more vitamin C than orange juice, more calcium than milk and more protein than soybeans. By eating what fish eat, he says, people can attain the benefits of eating fish without stressing the fish supply. His farm is partnering with chefs to create kelp noodles, green sea butters and cheeses, and kelp-based umami-filled bouillons, for example.
Nanotechnology set to advance many areas of food industry
Nanotechnology has growing applications in food – and is poised to improve food safety, processing and packaging and even develop new foods that optimize nutrient delivery in the years ahead. New Food magazine reports that between 2015 and 2021, the nanotechnology market focused on the food industry is expected to triple, to $20.4 billion. If you like to stay on the cutting edge of food technology, watch for developments in antimicrobial surfaces and sensors that change color when food begins to degrade, for example, and the development of new ingredients that could enhance food solubility and nutrient delivery.
Harness your in-house social media power
Your social media campaigns need your employees in order to thrive. Do you have their buy-in? Social Media Week recommends you first enhance your employee culture – if people are happy to come to work, their enthusiasm will extend to other areas of their lives. Develop a social brand value – so you’re shifting your company’s influence from your brand onto people who can spread your message and connect with others without launching into a premeditated sales pitch. Identify employees who are willing to spread your message and have thousands of followers and active social lives. Guide your employees to post and share content without telling them exactly what to say. Anything you post and expect to be shared should be share-worthy, support the brand or add value to the customer.
Dynamic pricing gives supermarkets an edge
Technology is making it easier for food retailers t o change their prices during the day based on demand. This dynamic pricing could make products like bananas, for example, more expensive in the afternoon than in the morning, according to the BBC. Digital displays, along with vast amounts of consumer data, are allowing retailers to change the price of hundreds of thousands of items instantaneously to attract specific types of customers at different times of day. Some supermarkets, for example, are starting to use this technology to discount lunch items in the morning to encourage customers to buy lunch early – and perhaps forgo their usual restaurant take-out later in the day.
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.
Be customer-service savvy on social media
Social media channels provide inexpensive, visible stages for you to promote your restaurant, extend your brand and deliver customer service. Just remember the right and wrong ways to use it when serving consumers. Social Media Week recommends you use it to listen to what people are saying about you (before you use it to talk about what you want them to know about you). That means that when a customer complains about you on social media, engage with that person one-on-one to show you care about making the situation better. The customer may not always be right but if you respond defensively, it will always make him or her look like a victim – and encourage others to avoid you. In an age when transparency is prized, resist the urge to edit consumers’ responses or delete them – Smuckers, for example, disabled customers’ ability to comment altogether and it can make a brand look worse, according to Customer Experience Insight. In the case of a customer’s negative comment or one in which you’re not sure of the best approach, it’s always best to share your response with team members before posting. While customers expect a fast response (an Edison Research study found that 40 percent of customers expect a response to a social media post within an hour), a short delay can mean your post has a more constructive, positive tone. That said, don’t ignore the forum you have. It can be viewed by millions of people, so make sure you post fresh content frequently.
Tap the millennial talent pool
Chances are you’re not only trying to market to millennials but also trying to engage them as members of your team. Making a connection with them as employees can help you enhance your workplace culture and reach those potential guests you’d like to attract and turn into loyal customers. Millennial Marketing suggests you try to build a collaborative work environment before a competitive one – 88 percent of millennials prefer that in a workplace. Take an interest in their personal lives and demonstrate that you know the work they do with you is just one part of who they are. At work, provide detailed and frequent feedback, describe specific actions they can take (while leaving room for them to leave their own stamp on their work) and provide ample opportunity for them to ask questions and share opinions. A survey by the HR services provider TriNet found that 85 percent of millennials felt more confident in their roles when they have frequent conversations with their managers. Those conversations can be digital or face-to-face – they have grown up using digital media to communicate, after all – but don’t discount how much they value face-to-face interaction with you. In fact, the talent development consulting firm Wild Blue Yonder says millennials would prefer an in-person interaction over an email if given the option. Anytime you need to share serious feedback or discuss setting goals, go with a face-to-face meeting.
The rise of social video
Is the content you post online mostly text, photos or video? In an earnings call last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said 10 years ago, most of the content shared online was text, it was now photos, and soon it will be video. To research the rise of video on social media, Animoto conducted a survey of 1,000 consumers and 500 marketers to get a sense of how businesses are using video to market to their customers. It found that 64 percent of consumers say watching a marketing video on Facebook has influenced a buying decision they have made in the past month and 81 percent of marketers are optimizing their videos for mobile viewing. Facebook, Instagram Stories and Snapchat are the top three channels where consumers are viewing videos from business brands. When posting video, remember that visual appeal is all-important – according to Digiday, 85 percent of posted on Facebook is watched with the sound off.
Don’t fear the delivery app
Do you think that offering delivery could hamper your in-restaurant traffic? Those concerns could be unfounded, according to the data insights firm Sense360. Street Fight reports that the firm tracked 21 million anonymous full-service and quick-service restaurant visits before and after guests had downloaded third-party restaurant delivery apps. The research found that the downloading of these apps does not result in any significant drop in restaurant visits – in fact, consumers tend to use the app alongside restaurant visits. Consumers who download these apps tend to have higher incomes and visit fine dining restaurants 2.5 times more often, according to the study. Therefore, instead of looking at apps as competition for in-restaurant sales, it may make more sense to see them as competitors of grocery stores and grocery delivery services.
Tell your story on Instagram
Instagram Stories is growing fast – it now has 250 million users, according to Recode – and it’s an ideal platform for restaurants. Food lovers can post photos and video, along with drawings, text and stickers. Skift says the platform suits restaurants so well because while Instagram gives operators a place to post well-curated images of the menu, Instagram Stories can help build engagement because it allows for a more casual, behind-the-scenes look at your kitchen, staff or ingredients. You can introduce followers to new ingredients you’re weaving into your summer menu – and everything disappears in 24 hours, so your tone can be more low-key. Instagram is backed by Facebook and has highly engaged viewers: A new report from TrackMaven says Instagram is the stand-out leader in social media engagement, with 96 average interactions per post per 1,000 followers. Even so, there’s still room for growth.
Simple steps to pest prevention
Preventing contamination in your kitchen this summer can be as easy as cleaning up at regular intervals, enlisting employees’ help and changing your lighting. In a recent report in Food Safety Tech, the entomologist Tim Husen recommends asking employees to watch for signs of pest activity. Alert them of areas where pests are likely to breed, as well as what signs of pest activity look like. He suggests setting a zero-tolerance policy for spills, debris and waste, as well as daily, weekly and monthly sanitation routines on top of an annual deep cleaning. Remember to clean beneath the surface – of equipment where bacteria may grow, and around boxes and inside gutters where pests hide. Directing lighting toward your facility (not mounting it on your building) and using sodium-vapor lighting or LEDs instead of mercury-vapor lighting can ensure you’re not attracting pests too.
Help your kitchen handle summer heat
Summer is sizzling, and the change in temperature can pose additional challenges to restaurants. Food safety advisor Lisa Ackerley suggests operators take extra precautions in the kitchen. Sweltering days can make it difficult for refrigerators to hold their temperature for food storage, for example. Keep refrigerator doors closed and avoid storing warm food inside, as it is difficult for refrigerators to cool warm food to the proper temperature quickly enough. Help food reach room temperature more quickly by reducing the size of stored portions to dissipate heat or cooling it in an ice bath first. Make sure your kitchen is well-ventilated but resist the urge to open windows and doors, which can invite pests inside. If you’re preparing or serving food outside, ensure you keep it out of the 41 to 145˚ zone, where pathogens can multiply rapidly. That goes for food deliveries you receive as well – ensure you can promptly store perishables as they arrive.
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