Thursday, August 11, 2016
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Today’s hyper-connected world makes social media a must for virtually all restaurant developers, whether they’re promoting an upscale restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan or a family diner in Washington, DC. While restaurants can benefit from the exposure offered by social networks like Instagram and Twitter, the most important platform is still Facebook. The mother of all social networks has more than 1.5 billion users from a wide range of demographics and a high level of mobile engagement, meaning you can reach users wherever they are. In addition, Facebook offers unrivaled versatility. Business can post updates, photos, and videos and instantly reach a huge number of followers while giving them the chance to share the post with their friends. The following tips can help restaurant developers create a high-impact Facebook strategy.
1. Be Responsive: People on Facebook do not want to feel like they’re talking to a wall. When restaurants engage both their fans and their critics, they show how much they value their customers’ opinions. Whenever a question or a concern arises, restaurant developers should ensure that they (or a designated employee) issue a response quickly and professionally. Even a quick “thank you” for a compliment can turn a casual diner into a devoted fan of the restaurant. Engagement remains one of the most important aspects of good social media etiquette across all sites, but especially on Facebook, where restaurants get to show their human sides.
2. Embrace transparency: When negative feedback lands on a Facebook page, some restaurateurs may want to delete it or ignore it. When people begin to notice that this is happening, however, they may lose trust in the restaurant. Diners never expect restaurants to be perfect all the time, but trying to hide mistakes leaves a bad impression. A more appropriate response is a quick and sincere apology, followed by an attempt to make amends, such as inviting the person in for a second-chance free meal. With more serious issues, the restaurant may offer direct contact information to resolve the problem in a private forum.
3. Post interesting content: While the purpose of a Facebook page is to increase traffic to the restaurant, trying to hard-sell products does not always impress diners. People are more likely to share an interesting story or engaging piece of content than news of daily specials or a list of reasons to check out the restaurant. For example, a restaurant that specializes in local seafood may want to post a video about the fishermen responsible for catching the fish served. With all the emphasis on eating locally grown produce, it may be interesting for customers to see “locally caught” seafood. Restaurants may also want to share recipes or “human interest” stories about the achievements of their employees, whether related to the restaurant or not. Posting specials and deals is an important part of any social media strategy, but the best accounts offer more to engage their fans and to make the page seem less self-serving.
4. Give discounts strategically: A great way of getting likes and appealing to new customers is to offer discounts or giveaways, such as a free appetizer. While these strategies can indeed increase sales, restaurant developers need to be careful not to trap themselves in a corner. When restaurants offer very deep discounts or group deals, such as those through Groupon, the new customers may have a diminished view of the value of the product, which means that they will not return to pay full price for it. A great way to bring in customers but keep sales up is to offer a “buy-one-get-one” deal. For example, for a given night, a restaurant may offer a free cocktail with every entrée, or a free dessert for couples who order two meals. These giveaways bring people into the restaurant without decreasing the perceived value of the food. Restaurants that want to give away discounts should do so sporadically, so that customers don’t automatically expect them and only return when there’s a new deal.
5. Ensure consistency: The people who respond to customers online are generally not the same people who welcome and serve diners at the restaurant. Because of this, miscommunications can occur. However, restaurant developers need to minimize the number of times people receive one answer online and a different response once they come into the restaurant. This task becomes especially important when a restaurant has multiple locations. Consistency depends on maintaining a strong company culture and creating training sessions that involve all employees. When miscommunications happen, restaurant developers should have a protocol in place to de-escalate the situation as quickly as possible.
6. Take advantage of the platform: With so many different social media accounts available, it can be tempting to post the same content on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. However, each of these platforms has a different focus. If posts to Twitter automatically populate on Facebook, the restaurant may seem terse because of Twitter’s 140-character limit for tweets. On Facebook, restaurant developers can pen longer, more elaborate posts that serve a different purpose than those on Twitter. The latter platform is great for quick updates, but for in-depth stories, longer videos, and series of photos, Facebook is the better choice. A common strategy is to give teasers on Twitter and encourage followers to look for more information on Facebook. Of course, this only works if there is actually more information available on Facebook.
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Diners look for a lot of different attributes in a restaurant, but one of the most universal characteristics that they demand is excellent service. Great service depends on a wide range of factors, from the sincerity of greeters to the familiarity of wait staff with the menu. Few things will convince customers never to return to a restaurant than bad service.
Even worse, in today’s social media-driven world, people are likely to share their bad experiences with their extended network, which could prevent people from trying the restaurant in the future. With review sites like Yelp, bad service can quickly tarnish a restaurant’s reputation.
For this reason, restaurant developers need to pay special attention to the service at their establishments and both institute and enforce policies that will make diners pleased with their experience. While far from a comprehensive list, the following points address some of the most fundamental aspects of excellent service:
Go above and beyond expectations.
When people walk into a restaurant, they have certain expectations about how the staff will behave. Restaurants can make an excellent impression by going beyond these expectations and anticipating needs.
Holding the door and pulling out chairs is a necessity, especially in fine-dining establishments. An example of “going beyond” would be picking up a fallen sweater and folding it nicely before handing it back to the owner or offering to carry someone’s shopping bag to the door for them. The best restaurants anticipate customers’ needs and offer to meet them, from hailing a taxi to giving directions to a person’s next destination.
Address issues as quickly as possible.
No matter the lengths to which people go to make service impeccable, issues will arise. When these matters present themselves, it is imperative that the restaurant developers or managers address them and correct the error.
Typically, the window between when a problem arises and when anger flares is very small. In addition, when customers must work their way through management chains, their anger only gets worse. Therefore, it is best if managers step in to address the problem at once. They should listen intently to the customer’s description of what went wrong, own the mistake, and propose a solution. Throughout the process, managers need to stay calm and monitor their body language, which can sometimes communicate something different than their words.
Learn to read customers.
One of the most important attributes of a good server is being able to read diners. Each customer is different, and people may be coming to the restaurant for a variety of reasons. By paying attention to context clues, servers can pick up on these signals and make the experience extra special.
People who are celebrating may feel uncomfortable in a lavish dining environment, so making some jokes may make them feel more at home. Individuals who like to try new foods may enjoy long conversations about where the ingredients originated and what types of wines will pair best with their entrees. Parties of business associates may want more privacy and less conversation about what to expect from a sous vide meat.
Keep communication open.
Once a customer is disappointed, it can become very difficult to win that person over again. The key is not to disappoint the customer in the first place. Although this may sound difficult, it is possible with the right communication.
If a diner waits an inordinate amount of time for an entrée, then that customer will likely and rightfully become upset. However, if the server takes the time to apologize and explain why the delay has occurred and then offers something to make up for the shortcoming, such as a complementary appetizer, then the disappointment can be avoided. Customers understand that accidents and delays happen, but they will be less forgiving if such delays are not communicated properly.
Ask about the dining experiences
While restaurant developers can certainly learn about how their establishments are doing with service by examining social media sites and noting what customers have said, a better approach is to ask for direct feedback. When angry customers have the chance to vent and obtain an apology for a negative experience, they may not write that negative Yelp review, or they may share that the manager was concerned about the issue, which reflects positively on the restaurant.
Some restaurants may choose to distribute comment cards, but a better approach is for the manager to circle around tables and verify that diners are having a positive experience. Also, the host can ask about diners’ experiences as they leave. This direct approach reinforces the fact that the restaurant really cares about the level of service it offers.
The environment that restaurants create is part of the service that they provide. For example, the servers should look presentable and smile at diners. The dining room and bathrooms should be spotlessly clean, and the music should be appropriate and not too loud. Server uniforms, decorations, and furnishings should all match the restaurant’s brand, and managers should address inconsistencies immediately. Further, managers need to also look the part. At virtually any restaurant setting, this position involves at least a dress shirt and tie.
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
When restaurant developers begin thinking about a new startup eatery, they have a number of financing options they can choose from. Because new restaurants are expensive endeavors, it’s not uncommon for restaurateurs to pursue multiple avenues of funding, such as traditional loans, small business loans, and even private investment.
The latter option is desirable for a number of reasons, including the fact that private investment often comes with business advice and has much less risk than traditional loans. At the same time, partnering with investors also means giving up some autonomy when it comes to the company. Before signing a deal, restaurant developers should ensure that the business relationship is a healthy one that will let both parties grow. Below are some important tips for securing an investment.
1. Prove your operational skills.
Investors will not hand over money to people who they don’t trust to manage it well. Before agreeing to a deal, investors will want to see a clear business plan and an outline of why the concept will succeed. The business plan should include a full outline of expected expenses and likely income for at least the first year of operation. While it’s impossible to predict these numbers with absolute precision, restaurateurs should be able to provide a realistic rationale for each estimate, as savvy investors will question these numbers.
Operational skills also include your tangible skills and background in the restaurant industry. In addition, many investors like to see restaurant developers with some experience in business administration or accounting, which provides some assurance that they understand how to operate a business successfully. Of course, pointing to past restaurant successes can help convince investors, but many restaurateurs are opening their first business. In this case, investors will want to see other experience in the industry, which could include anything from serving to cooking, as well as managerial experience. The key point is connecting the lessons you have learned in these settings to the new enterprise.
2. Find a business partner.
Investors are more likely to give money to an enterprise with two partners than a new business headed by a single individual. In a way, a partner provides a sort of insurance for the investor, especially if both individuals have different but complementary skill sets. However, restaurateurs should avoid finding a business partner simply to make investors happy. If you truly want to hold all responsibility for your business, you might come to resent a partner, which could cause the business to fail if tensions grow too high. A partner can help divide the workload, but you’ll only feel comfortable if you can truly trust him or her. Restaurant developers who have the tendency to micromanage may find themselves poring over everything their partner does, which actually creates more work and can result in burnout.
3. Show investors what the restaurant does.
One of the best ways to get investors interested in a product is to let them experience it. This is no less true with restaurants. If you’ve already worked out a concept with a head chef, then bring samples of the food to investors or hold a special event, whether a lunch, dinner, or happy hour, where the investors have the opportunity to see the food and discover for themselves what will make the restaurant stand out from the crowd. Giving investors a sample of food provides them with a personal connection to the product and if they are adequately impressed, then they will have the confidence they need to sign a deal. This brings up another important point—restaurant developers need to seek out investors who are familiar with, or at least interested in the food industry. Private investments in restaurants are increasing, but an investor who works primarily in tech or finance may be wary to support a new eatery.
4. Play the field.
Restaurant developers sometimes get stalled when they try to put all of their eggs in a single basket. Sometimes, finding one investor to cover all expenses is simply impossible, especially in particularly expensive East Coast markets like New York City and Washington, D.C. Rather than looking for a single investor, it may be possible to get smaller investments from a number of different people or organizations to obtain the capital necessary to launch the project. Investors often prefer to make smaller investments at first, because it’s less risky, so restaurant developers are more likely to get a “yes” when they ask for smaller amounts of money. When taking this approach, however, it’s important that restaurateurs make sure they do not give away too much equity. Keep track of your investments and consider how your promises to investors will impact the bottom line of the restaurant.
5. Add value for investors.
The most common deal that restaurant developers strike with investors is based on equity. Through this model, the investor owns a portion of the restaurant and claims a percentage of the profits. This model works for investors because they aren’t held responsible for interest payments when sales are slow. However, some restaurateurs end up creating deals that are more favorable for investors. One typical approach is to treat part of the investment like a loan with a fixed interest rate, which guarantees some form of payment even when sales are slow. However, restaurant developers need to make sure that they don’t back themselves into a corner and go bankrupt to pay this monthly bill.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Deciding to rebrand a restaurant can be a major risk—it might involve redesigning the physical space, opting for a new logo, significantly changing the menu, or even choosing a new name. In essence, a rebrand is a signal to customers and other businesses that the restaurant’s whole approach to the preparation and serving of food will be different. In today’s volatile markets, rebrands sometimes are necessary. A rebrand can renew a restaurant’s business and generate a whole new group of regular customers if it is approached carefully. Unfortunately, restaurant developers often fall into a few common pitfalls when they decide to undertake a rebrand.
Below are some of the hazards that arise during the rebrand process and a look at how they can be avoided.
1. Failing to do market research.
Before undertaking a rebrand, restaurant developers need to research the market and determine if the rebrand will help secure a greater share of it. What exactly will the new brand say about the restaurant, and why would it appeal more to customers than the current brand? To answer this question, it’s important to analyze why a rebrand is necessary in the first place. Sometimes, restaurateurs will find that they can realign their brand rather than undertaking a radical rebrand.
Since big changes cost a lot of time and money, restaurant developers should see how customers react to more subtle ones. The results may be surprising. Listening to feedback from customers can reveal a lot about what they already like about the brand, which can point to ways of preserving it or identify what elements should be reincorporated into the new brand. The value of market research during a rebrand cannot be understated. Restaurant developers cannot lead a successful rebrand unless they fully understand how customers think about the restaurant as it is now, and how they feel about proposed changes.
2. Not integrating the new brand into all aspects of the business.
When restaurateurs limit the rebrand to just a new name or logo, they may be disappointed with the results of the project. When customers hear that a restaurant is undergoing a rebrand, they will want to see changes in the food, the service, or the look of the place—in other words, in the way the business is run. If longtime customers come into the restaurant and see that nothing has really changed except the name, they probably won’t give the establishment another chance. Even worse, a superficial rebrand can drive off some regular customers who may not like the new name or new look, even if they like the food.
A rebrand is a promise to customers and employers that the restaurant will operate in a different way. If a restaurant developer hires a new chef and decides to turn a neighborhood café into a high-end, luxury restaurant, everything from the décor to the presentation of the food must change. Simply altering the menu will result in a strange hodgepodge that drives away old customers and sends mixed, confusing signals to new customers. Customers, whether old or new, quickly see through a superficial rebrand, and it may put them off.
3. Avoiding differentiation.
When restaurateurs are motivated to rebrand their restaurant to make it trendier, they often lose what differentiates them from the competition. Rather than trying to make their restaurant more like the competition, restaurant developers should identify and embrace what the restaurant does well and highlight that with the new brand.
For example, if a restaurant developer notices that their establishment’s seafood dishes sell very well, despite the fact that the eatery presents itself as a steakhouse, it may be time to ditch that identity and transform into a seafood restaurant. However, if the restaurant developer decides to turn their steakhouse into a seafood eatery simply because that’s what the most successful restaurants in the neighborhood are serving, then the rebrand will likely fail.
4. Underestimating or misjudging the power of the existing brand.
Some restaurant developers try to rebrand because they feel that the new brand will appeal to customers more than the current one. Too often, however, restaurateurs do this without taking the time to think about what is appealing about the current brand.
Take, for example, the neighborhood bar and grill that people frequent for a quick meal and a drink after a long day at work. Some restaurant developers may take the success of the eatery to indicate that it could shed its pub image and instead open as a luxury cocktail lounge with upscale food. If customers like the restaurant because it is a laid-back, casual place to get solid food at a decent price, a transformation into a pricey lounge will drive them away.
Monday, May 23, 2016
One of the most important branding tools that a restaurant developer has is a website. For many diners, the website will serve as the first point of contact with the restaurant, and if it looks dated or fails to offer relevant information, people may choose to eat elsewhere. In an increasingly digital world, restaurant developers need to recognize the importance of investing in quality web designers who can create a clean, modern, easy-to-use site for potential diners. In addition, it is important to keep the website regularly updated, not only to reflect changes to the menu, but also to keep up with the latest web design standards. For example, many restaurant websites continue to play background music, which will instantly turn many potential customers away, because this is a very dated feature.
Below are some of the key points to keep in mind for restaurateurs seeking to create a winning website for their establishment.
1. Content is key.
As with any website, clear and engaging content will pull individuals in and keep them reading. The About page needs a well written story that reflects the restaurant’s brand and vision. It should also highlight important members of the staff. A page that includes the restaurant’s address, contact information, hours of operation, and perhaps an embedded Google Map or written directions is also necessary.
In addition, it’s important to create a page dedicated to the current menu, and to keep it updated. People shouldn’t see last year’s Christmas specials still listed on the page in April. Many restaurants only upload scanned PDFs of their menus, rather than building an actual page that lists the current dishes. This can be frustrating for users—no one wants to go through the extra step of downloading a document just to get basic information that should be clearly presented on the page.
To engage with customers, restaurant developers should also consider creating a blog on the site that allows staff to write about the history of the restaurant, highlight specific dishes, announce new menu items, and offer other engaging content. Such a blog appeals to both readers and Google’s search algorithms.
2. Link the website with social media.
Many social media websites have grown into important tools for connecting with current and future customers, as well as marketing a restaurant. A restaurant’s website should link to all its major social media accounts, from Facebook to Instagram. All of these networks have tools for embedding links, and designers should avoid pop-ups or any other sort of “in-your-face” advertising that can detract from the user experience. Give visitors the opportunity to go to the Facebook account and “like” it if they are impressed by the website, as well as the tools needed to share content, including menus, pictures, and blog posts on their own accounts. Nothing more than a simple button is required for encouraging shares.
Some social networks may demand a greater degree of integration, such as booking services like OpenTable. If restaurants use OpenTable or a similar service to make reservations, this should have its own page that is clearly designated in the website’s navigation menu. Many people come to the website with the intention of booking a table, so it’s critical to make this easy to do. In addition, restaurants should also give other options for making a reservation, such as a phone number or an email address.
3. Make intelligent use of color.
Visuals are an important part of any website. When potential diners visit the restaurant’s website, they will expect to see attractive pictures of the food, as well as the dining area. People want to picture what it will be like to sit down at the restaurant, from the décor to the food and drink in front of them. It makes sense to hire a skilled professional photographer to take photos of the restaurant and all signature dishes and drinks. The colors of the photo should pop and make people excited to visit. Usually this means that the photos should be edited so the colors are bright and alluring.
The use of color also applies to the overall look of the website. The choice of background color will largely tie into the restaurant’s brand, but the color should also work well with the photos of the food and drink displayed. A popular choice today is the black background. While black certainly does make colorful photos pop, the choice also suggests something about the restaurant’s brand that may or may not be accurate. Restaurant developers should not be afraid of using bright colors, which can actually appeal to diners more than black. Ideally, the colors should be inspired by or complement the food photos. Restaurateurs should also consider the value of textures on a website. While light brown and tan are neutral colors that could be considered boring, similarly colored wood grain or burlap textures can make the website more engaging and appealing, especially for those restaurants that want to cultivate a more rustic or natural aesthetic.
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Although an employee dress code is often an afterthought for restaurant developers, it’s important to consider what servers, kitchen staff, and hosts should wear in order to create the right kind of atmosphere in the restaurant. A dress code policy does not necessarily mean that all servers will wear a uniform, although this makes sense for many restaurants. A dress code policy is closely tied to the restaurant’s brand and says a lot about the sort of clientele that the restaurant hopes to attract.
Imagine three men who all work as servers. One man is wearing jeans and cowboy boots, another is wearing a jacket and tie, and the third is wearing shorts and a t-shirt. All three of these individuals could be wearing appropriate serving attire based on the branding of the restaurants where they work. The cowboy boots fit well into a Southwest-themed barbecue joint, while the shorts and t-shirt work for a casual café in the heart of a college town where the diners are primarily young students. The jacket and tie would look completely out of place at any of these restaurants, but it would fit well into a five-star French restaurant in Manhattan.
Restaurant developers need to think about the message they want to send to customers with their employees’ clothing. In addition, restaurateurs need to walk a line between allowing employees to feel comfortable at work, and ensuring that their choices represent the values and brand of the restaurant. Once restaurant owners have an idea of how they want their employees to dress, they need to create, implement, and enforce the policy.
Creating, Implementing, and Enforcing a Dress Code Policy
When creating a dress code policy, it’s critical that restaurant developers check local regulatory requirements, as well as the food code issued by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Complying with these requirements helps you avoid serious fines and keeps both customers and employees safe. With these requirements considered, it’s time to think about how employees should appear to customers and how much freedom of expression you want to allow them.
Importantly, the rules may be slightly different among employees, depending on their position. For example, a host or hostess often dresses more formally than servers. Furthermore, kitchen employees need to wear proper cooking attire, which is naturally different from the clothing worn by those interacting with guests in the dining room.
Dress code policies should address more than what employees may wear according to their positions. When developing a policy, restaurateurs also need to think about jewelry, hair, fingernails, and hygiene. Written codes should have clear guidelines for each of these concerns. Typically, people who work directly with food may not wear artificial nails or nail polish to avoid contamination. Hair should be kept short or controlled with hair restraints. Jewelry is typically limited, especially among kitchen staff. Usually, servers may wear limited amounts of tasteful jewelry. In terms of hygiene, the code should outline personal cleanliness standards for both employees and their clothes.
Before implementing a dress code policy, restaurant developers need to ensure that they give employees the tools they need to follow it. For example, it’s common to encourage employees to change into work clothes at a restaurant to ensure maximum cleanliness, but this policy requires having lockers where individuals can store their street clothes. Laundry bags should be made available for dirty aprons, chef coats, and other pieces of clothing to keep them separate from clean laundry.
Implementation involves writing down the dress code policy, distributing it among all employees, and discussing it to ensure that everyone understands the rules that apply to their positions. Employees in both the front and back of the house should understand the importance of the dress code, and the consequences of breaking it.
Dress codes need to be enforced uniformly among all employees. While it may seem more important for a kitchen worker to follow the code than a server, only enforcing the code among certain employees sets a bad precedent and breeds resentment, which can create an unhealthy work environment.
When an employee breaks the code for the first time, it’s common to give him or her the option to go home, change, and return to work. Talking with the employee can point to some important considerations that may not have been addressed when the dress code was formalized.
The Importance of a Formalized Dress Code
Employees may ignore a dress code unless they understand why it is important. In some circumstances, restaurant developers can point to local and federal requirements about food safety, but there are other good reasons to implement a dress code. One of the most important reasons was already discussed: creating a good first impression. Restaurateurs should take the time to explain to employees the first impression they want to create for guests. When employees understand this, they’re usually better able to understand what is and isn’t appropriate to wear.
A dress code can also increase team morale. Employees should have a sense of pride in their job and a dress code that makes them distinguishable can make them feel like they’re part of a team. Furthermore, a dress code helps customers identify employees. In the end, a dress code increases the sense of professionalism and cohesion in the restaurant.