Do you have a thorough crisis management plan? How much confidence do you have in it? At a time when a single bad experience at a restaurant can spread online overnight, having a step-by-step guide in place can help you respond better in the moment, keep the issue out of the public eye and get back on track more quickly whether you face a severe crisis like a hurricane causing flood damage or a small one like a scathing review on TripAdvisor. To help, first gather input from your team at all levels so you have a handle on the range of scenarios you might face, what actions would be required to resolve them and which stakeholders are likely to be impacted. Draft some simple, clear talking points that can be adapted to each scenario and present you as both in control of the situation and interested in doing all you can to improve it and keep stakeholders informed. Develop a communication grid that includes those key points, the person responsible for delivering the message, and the ideal communication channel for the message. For larger crises that are likely going to end up gathering momentum online, consider proactively reaching out to someone you trust in the media and providing an interview. After the fact, assess what went well with your crisis management effort and what could have been improved so you can update your plan with new risks, stakeholders or talking points to keep in mind. View some additional crisis management plan guidelines and find sample templates here.
Looking to evolve your methods of collecting guest feedback? Artificial intelligence has been creeping into this space and helping restaurant operators and other businesses assemble reliable data from guests. Chatter is one company to watch. As the Financial Post reports, Chatter has created a tool that uses machine learning to create natural-sounding text messages from the brand. A guest who opts in receives an automated text message with some open-ended questions about the experience they just had. As Chatter puts it, it’s like having a constantly running focus group that depends on conversation instead of a numbered ratings system. Chatter says its platform collects feedback across 850 different categories – more than the 50 to 60 that traditional AI platforms offer – and then assembles completed results into data that can be viewed on a dashboard that helps operators see what is and isn’t working. Chatter won accolades from the Information Technology Association of Canada last year and its AI chatbot is already in use by the likes of McDonald’s and a number of retail brands.
Hepatitis A has reached outbreak status across the U.S., with new cases ranging from Florida to Washington state, Food Safety News reports. The Centers for Disease Control say the liver disease can spread most easily through the ingestion of food that has been contaminated with the feces of an infected person, as well as through uncooked (or not thoroughly cooked) food that has been contaminated. Many of the restaurants where the disease has been present have closed temporarily for employee vaccination clinics, but the best way to prevent the spread of the disease from the start is through – surprise – thorough and frequent handwashing, as well as by ensuring employees don’t work when they are ill. Be aware of such symptoms as jaundice, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, low appetite and fever.
When a food delivery order leaves your restaurant, how confident are you about being able to keep that food safe en route to your customers? A new survey found that nearly 30 percent of food delivery app workers sample food they are delivering – and even more than that are tempted to try. To alert customers that someone has tampered with their food, operators are increasingly using tamper-evident labels. A QSR Magazine report advises using ones that will adhere to the full range of your packaging materials and also have security slits that tear if someone tampers with the label. These labels are a good place to market your food safety values, so they’re also a good place to feature your company logo, website or other identifying information.
The complimentary bread-and-butter basket has become a relic from the past at many restaurants around the country, but according to recent menu trends research in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles by Flavor & the Menu, that’s just leaving space for bread to occupy a more important place on the menu. The report says some restaurants are elevating bread by focusing on creating small-batch varieties of butter – with such flavors as olive and lemon, bacon fat and malt to make the bread more special – while others are raising their bread game with homemade biscuits, cornbread and grilled focaccia. The showstopper in the trends research was a bread sharing platter at Chicago’s Tied House, where a bread course including locally made breads and a range of housemade spreads such as miso butter, crème fraiche with honeycomb, green tomato marmalade and chicken liver mousse sells for a cool $32.
Are you and your guests in sync when it comes to what matters most about food delivery? According to Toast’s new Restaurant Success Report, guest and restaurant priorities don’t align. (And that lack of alignment is likely to keep a brand from succeeding, according to Hope Neiman, chief marketing officer at the restaurant ordering technology firm Tillster, who spoke to Restaurant Dive.) The Toast research found that among the 1,000-plus consumers surveyed, speed (77 percent) and value (74 percent) are key priorities when it comes to delivery. Those factors were less important to restaurants – 57 percent of the 1,000-plus operators surveyed prioritize speed and 49 percent prioritize value. On the other hand, restaurants value driver tracking (40 percent) and loyalty (22 percent) more than consumers do. Only 10 percent of consumers surveyed value driver tracking and 6 percent value loyalty points from delivery. Granted, offering delivery is already challenging enough for many operators to make worthwhile, but stepping into the shoes of your best delivery customers when structuring your service can at least make sure that the delivery you offer is what they hope for. When you survey customers, ask about their delivery service expectations, likes and dislikes in addition to asking about the food. You may have to take such steps as adjusting your delivery menu to make sure the items you offer are delivering the fastest preparation time for the consumer along with the most worthwhile value for you.
While some believe eating out is about connecting with others over a meal, let’s face it: Many people also value having some face-to-phone time when they go out. If you can ensure guests have a smooth, sustained wifi connection and power supply, guests are likely to remember and return. Powermat is one company that is helping hospitality businesses ranging from coffee shops to hotels provide the incremental technology improvements that can make a difference with guests. Its technology enables wireless charging of electronic devices. (If you’ve ever been in the position of searching in vain for a place to plug in a laptop while on the road, you will appreciate this benefit.) The wireless charging market is an emerging one poised for growth in the next five years, so if you’re looking to accommodate guests’ technology preferences, it’s an offering to consider.
Restaurant operators often have a love-hate relationship with delivery: They want to accommodate customers’ need for it but often see it as a minefield of challenges. A newly released RestaurantOwner.com survey of 1,000 operators confirms these mixed feelings. More than half of the operators surveyed (56 percent) offer some form of delivery at their restaurant, yet 47 percent of those operators plan to make some changes to their delivery offering. Delivery is worthwhile on the whole -- 67 percent of operators surveyed who use third-party delivery said they were satisfied with the service -- but those who were dissatisfied had feedback that fit three key themes explaining why: the high fees charged by third-party providers, poor service delivered by drivers at those companies, and a lack of control over food quality and presentation. If you’re in the latter category, understanding the overall landscape may help you adjust your delivery strategy. In terms of costs, there was a wide range of fees charged by third-party providers – enough variation to indicate that operators may have some wiggle room when landing on their ideal revenue model: Most operators surveyed are being charged between 21 and 30 percent of the sale but 11 percent being charged less than 6 percent and 3 percent aren’t being charged at all (the delivery service places the order and charges the fee to the customer). To gain more control over the service and overall experience provided, operators who are making changes are taking such steps as adjusting the packaging they use for delivering food (perhaps to both keep food at the proper temperature and to prevent driver tampering), integrating their POS with delivery, limiting delivery to weekdays when the restaurant is in greater need of business, and even – much like large brands like Panera and Domino’s who are showing how it can be profitable and protect the customer experience -- taking on the management of a delivery fleet themselves.
Consumers are getting increasingly comfortable with (and even reliant on) digital assistants. For proof, just ask Alexa: Earlier this year, Amazon announced it had sold more than 100 million Alexa devices to date. For their part, Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri have hundreds of millions of users apiece. Foodservice brands are finding new ways to tap into consumers’ growing ease with such tech tools. Take Aramark, which has partnered with the tech company Mashgin to expand its use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the baseball parks where it operates. Mashgin offers express self-checkout kiosks that are capable of scanning multiple items at once without barcodes, Verdict Foodservice reports. The result is a faster payment and a shorter time waiting in line for consumers, a valuable service when you’re dashing to pick up food and merchandise between innings. Every transaction then feeds data back to Aramark about consumer preferences.
This summer, the Arkansas Department of Health advised people who had eaten at a specific McDonald’s to get vaccinated for Hepatitis A. This followed news that a McDonald’s employee had tested positive for the virus, which has infected nearly 400 people in Arkansas since early last year, Delish reports. When these events occur, expect the food safety landscape to shift – and put restaurant operators on the defensive. As of this writing, Detroit’s Public Health and Safety Committee was in the process of proposing an ordinance to require restaurants to use color-coded signs (as opposed to letter grades) to clarify their standing with the city’s health department, Food Safety News reports. A Hepatitis A outbreak in Detroit motivated the action, which is intended to both push operators to improve results and provide greater transparency to the public about a restaurant’s food safety record. The model for the color-coded system is Columbus, Ohio, which has a four-tiered system to classify a restaurant’s standing with the health department: Green, yellow, white and red signs announce whether a restaurant has passed inspection and meets the city’s standard, is closed based on the order of local health department officials, or falls somewhere in between.
After a couple of tough years following outbreaks of E.coli and Norovirus linked to its brand, Chipotle seems to be riding high, generating strong results in the previous five quarters and most recently, surpassing analyst forecasts with same-store growth of 10 percent. Having to adjust your food safety practices for the sake of your brand’s survival can lead to some progressive tactics. Brian Niccol, who took over as Chipotle’s chief executive in 2018, told the New York Times that the company now has a provision ensuring employees get paid when they call in sick, a zero-tolerance policy on asking sick people to work, and a new bonus program designed to minimize (or at least stave off) turnover. Employees who meet set performance benchmarks can earn the equivalent of an extra month’s pay over the course of a year.
Eatsa, the fast-casual restaurant that became a media darling for its cubby-delivered quinoa bowls, is formally changing gears to invest more in its technology – and that move is likely to cause a ripple effect across the rest of the foodservice industry. The company recently announced its rebranding from Eatsa to Brightloom, as well as a major infusion of venture capital investment and a new partnership with Starbucks. The partnership will allow Brightloom to access portions of the technology Starbucks uses for its mobile ordering and rewards program and license it to other foodservice companies. Take note if you’re interested in boosting the tech-enhanced service you offer guests or even if you just want to get a sneak peek at the sprouting of new tech trends, as there is likely more to come from the partnership. (As for the cubby pickup model that Eatsa introduced to the foodservice industry, we’re likely going to see more of that too: Pizza Hut is one brand that is currently testing the model.)
Conventional wisdom says that email marketing is king: Restaurant operators have a higher chance of targeting consumers with the right message at the right time if they prioritize email promotions. But what if your promotions are landing in spam folders? A recent episode of the Restaurant Rockstars podcast covered the power of text and how your wifi system can unlock a lot of potential in growing your database and bringing guests back – as long as you’re not giving away access with no strings attached. The guest, Steve Fletcher, runs Wifi Technology Solutions, a firm that partners with hospitality businesses to develop their marketing strategy through wifi. If you currently rely on guests to actively sign up to your mailing list, read on: For better or worse, 62 percent of people who go out to eat are looking to use wifi. Why not accommodate that demand while making it easier to expand your customer database? Fletcher advises tapping into a concept called social wifi, in which restaurant guests connect to a restaurant’s wifi network via a password that connects them to a splash page where they sign in via Facebook, email or cellphone. Thereafter, he suggests sending one email and one text per week (with text being the priority). The open rate for text is north of 90 percent and the conversion rate is about 32 percent – odds that can be profitable for you if text messaging suits your brand. Fletcher usually advises sending a text on a Tuesday morning between 10 and 11am, limiting the message to 114 characters, offering a promotion that lasts four or five days so the recipient has a good shot at using it, and always including an opt-out option at the bottom. Need help finding a solution check, we can help. To learn more check out https://www.palettefoodservice.com/marketplace.html to learn more about our social wifi solutions.
Customizing menu items or related products for a guest can add to your brand’s wow factor and increase your Instagramability. Think chocolates molded into the name of a child celebrating a birthday with you or drink garnishes molded into the shape of the numbers of a couple’s wedding anniversary. That has traditionally required some investment or outsourcing but a new tool called the Mayku Formbox is leveling the playing field for those looking to customize the items they sell (and it’s gaining a following among foodservice brands). The Spoon reports that the product, which has a similar footprint to an open laptop, softens a thin sheet of food-safe material and forms it around an object up of to 7.8 square inches in size. After the sheet sets, it can be removed and then used as a mold for anything from plastic to molten sugar. It currently retails for $699, including 40 moldable sheets.
When you log on to Facebook, it typically takes just a moment to see advertisements for items you are likely to buy. These ads aren’t merely tailored to people in your demographic or posted based on the weather or what other consumers happen to be buying that day. They are tailored to you, specifically. Yet somehow, in the current era of personalization, restaurant menus are lagging. At a time when an estimated 32 million American consumers have a food allergy, and many others have a food intolerance or follow some specific eating regimen, be it paleo or plant-based or Whole 30 diets, even the most forward-thinking of restaurants don’t yet provide menus that are designed for an individual consumer. Expect that to change, particularly in light of McDonald’s recent purchase of the menu personalization startup Dynamic Yield. At the moment, restaurant menu personalization is more about adjusting menus based upon broader environmental conditions as opposed to individual consumer tastes. And as The Spoon reports, a number of barriers still remain when it comes to gaining consumers’ trust with personal data. But it’s not difficult to see a time when a person with a nut allergy might be able to log in at a restaurant and bring up a variety of nut-free food choices based on items he or she has ordered at that restaurant and elsewhere, or reviewed on Yelp, posted on Instagram, or even “liked” on Facebook. How do you accommodate personalization at your restaurant? Does your tech currently help you in this effort?
Restaurant take-out supplies comprise a large percentage of the waste that ends up in oceans and landfills. Beyond limiting your single-use plastic, particularly the black plastic that research has confirmed is hazardous not just to the environment but also to human health, there are steps you can take to scale back your waste and to send the message to guests that you care about the environment. Start by conducting a waste audit so you have a clear picture of which menu items, packaging and office supplies generate the most waste, then adjust portion sizes and purchase orders accordingly. Buy non-perishable items in bulk if possible and use suppliers who can provide recyclable products and use less packaging on the items you purchase. Make extra napkins, straws, lids and other paper goods available upon request only. Finally, minimize the paper you generate by asking guests if you can email or text their receipt instead of printing it.
Have pests become a problem for you this summer? Take extra care with garbage disposal to avoid becoming a haven for them (or encouraging them to make a longer-term home with you once the weather starts cooling). Statefoodsafety.com suggests reminding staff to avoid leaving garbage in places or for long periods where pests can access them easily. That means taking full trash bags to the dumpster immediately — not leaving them in and around your establishment — and emptying bins before they overflow. Use strong plastic liners, clean bins regularly so there are no spills or crumbs left to attract pests, and keep garbage bin and dumpster lids closed securely when not disposing of garbage.
Vegan cheese is on the rise, according to a new report from Persistence Market Research. The report found that globally, 75 percent of the global population is lactose intolerant. That, paired with growing consumer interest in and acceptance of plant-based foods, has resulted in a predicted annual growth rate of nearly 9 percent for vegan cheese over the next decade. That means that vegan cheese is becoming less of an afterthought and more of a canvas for popular flavor on menus. New Food Magazine suggests looking for varieties such as cream cheese, parmesan, cheddar and ricotta.
Meat replacements are getting a lot of attention lately. But the recent EAT-Lancet Commission report compiled by top nutrition science experts has put a specific target on the amount of meat consumers should eat each week for optimal health and minimal stress on the environment: 3.5 ounces, or just one serving of meat per week. The report also calls for less consumption of poultry and dairy — and says replacing those foods with nuts, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes could prevent as many as 11 million premature deaths per year. As guests clamor for the Impossible Burger and other plant-based proteins, consider working in some of these Mediterranean staples as additional health-focused menu options.
If you operate a restaurant in or near a college town, you’re in a sweet spot: You have access to a large concentration of food-savvy consumers who are looking for their next meal or snack (and are likely not preparing it themselves). If you deliver food, you’re also more likely to be able to maximize your profits by delivering multiple orders in a single trip. But becoming a campus favorite takes some strategy, particularly if you offer higher-end dishes or are otherwise not an ideal match for a student on a budget. To appeal to the convenience- and cost-driven college consumer, Running Restaurants suggests partnering with the college or university on any programs they offer that allow students to use some of their on-campus dining credits at your restaurant. Encourage word about your restaurant to spread on campus by offering promotions in the campus newspaper, taking part in pop-up food events, and hosting happy hours or other social events. Your online presence is important with this demographic, so make sure you offer online ordering and encourage engagement via social media (your social media handle should be visible on all of your marketing materials). Finally, values and transparency count with this community, so if you have a good story to tell about the local produce you offer, or charities you support, or eco-friendly business practices you have long used, talk it up.
If you have ever visited a bakery at the end of the day and scored some steeply discounted bread, you might appreciate an app like Feedback, which helps restaurants with extra meals on hand at the end of the day connect with hungry consumers. Pymts.com reports that the app uses a dynamic pricing model, so a restaurant might charge $10 for a salad at the start of the day but then adjust the discount based on demand throughout the afternoon. While the app is based in Canada and hasn’t yet made it to the U.S., it offers a more universal lesson on how harnessing data about what you’re selling each day can give you tools to help you run business more efficiently, limit waste, and even attract some new customers. The developer behind the app was inspired to pursue the idea when he was presented with the opportunity to buy discounted pizzas at the end of a restaurant shift. How can you use your tech to connect your extra food supply with guests?
Last year, there were 14 severe weather and climate events that the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information says cost $1 billion or more. There have been six such events already this year. Since restaurants can be impacted by severe weather events both directly and indirectly, it pays to make sure you have sufficient insurance protection in place as part of your disaster preparedness plan — not to mention your day-to-day operating plan. Your insurance cover needs to consider your business type, geographic region and the outcome of the risk assessment you conduct to identify your restaurant’s greatest vulnerabilities. Your commercial property insurance policy, for example, likely will not cover any vehicles your restaurant operates or protect against flood damage your business sustains during a hurricane. And even if your property or vehicles make it through a severe weather event unscathed, toppled trees or flooding on your street could make it impossible for you to get food to customers. Make sure you review your insurance policies for commercial property, flood protection and business interruption to make sure you’re not leaving your business exposed. Purchasing insurance cover from companies that specialize in the restaurant industry can help. Just make sure you read the fine print carefully — especially on bundled packages that offer broader cover for a lower total price but may exclude specific risks you need to protect against.
How much science is behind your menu? In other words, to what extent do you review your restaurant’s sales, inventory, scheduling, loyalty program and other areas of your operation where you collect data to better understand how these predictive analytics work together? Doing so can help you predict what will sell, so you have sufficient inventory on hand and won’t lose sales opportunities. It will also help you put your ordering on autopilot by considering both the historical and day-to-day sales of your business when you order supplies. By having a better handle on what you will need, you can plan your food preparation tasks accordingly so you minimize your waste. Best of all, being able to predict the cravings of your guests goes far in bringing them back.
What’s your challenge? Whether you need help developing recipes and concepts, analyzing food costs, fine-tuning purchasing, planning a marketing campaign or managing another aspect of your business, we can provide guidance tailored to your needs. Contact Team Four at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888-891-3103 for more information.
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