Thursday, August 11, 2016
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.
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Restaurant renovations are an expensive and stressful process, whether restaurateurs undertake them as part of a new project or to breathe new life into a dated establishment. Before undertaking such a project, it is critical that individuals do the necessary due diligence to ensure its viability and undertake as much planning as possible to ensure a smooth experience. While the general strategy may require revisions as obstacles prevent themselves, having an overall plan helps individuals to better deal with these hiccups and keep the renovation on track. Below are some of the most important points for restaurant developers to keep in mind as they undertake renovation projects:
1. Check the terms of the lease.
While it may seem like an obvious point, restaurant developers need to discuss their renovation plans with their landlords before committing to a project. Sometimes, restaurateurs take it for granted that the landlord will approve the renovation when this is not actually the case. More importantly, some landlords will actually foot part of the bill. Such terms may be built into the lease, so it is important to review them before speaking to the landlord. Some landlords believe that the tenant needs to foot the entire bill, while others build capital improvement policies into the lease. The policies can vary widely. In some situations, the landlord may foot only a portion of the bill, such as a fixed percentage, while in others the landlord may pay for all — or almost all — of the improvements made to the space.
2. Shop around for contractors.
Not all contractors are created equal, and restaurant developers should consult with several different individuals before making a final decision. Contractors do not just vary in terms of cost. Some people may be better prepared to realize a restaurateur’s final vision than others. Looking at examples of past projects give a good sense of what kinds of styles the contractor has mastered. Vetting contractors also involves reading online reviews and speaking with former customers. Restaurateurs can always ask for references from past projects. While quality is important, restaurant developers should also ask about on-time and on-budget executions.
3. Plan for interruptions to dining service.
Depending on the extent of the job, some restaurants may keep their doors open during a renovation. Often, however, the establishment will need to close its doors for a period of time. The impact of the lost revenue must be taken into account when creating a renovation budget. Sometimes, it is difficult to minimize interruptions, since obtaining necessary permits can take an undetermined amount of time. Restaurant developers need to think about how they can minimize downtime through creative approaches such as continuing to offer takeout or delivery food when the dining room is under construction. When the kitchen is undergoing renovations, it may still be possible to cater events by using other kitchens, but this requires a great deal of planning. In the end, this planning could mean the difference between a successful and failed project by keeping the business solvent.
4. Invest in marketing.
A renovation is hardly worth the time, effort, and expense if restaurant developers do not let the world know. Even before renovations begin, restaurant developers can keep people informed through posts on social media. Then, throughout the renovation process, regular pictures and other posts about progress should be made to keep people excited about the new space. Once the renovation is complete, it is time to kick marketing into high gear with a grand opening event and by contacting customers through the full range of modalities, including social media, mailing lists, and even flyers in the local neighborhood. More buzz about the reopening ultimately generates more excitement from potential customers. While large events like grand openings can be costly, they generate a lot of money and should be seen as an investment in the future.
5. Finance wisely.
While it may initially seem difficult to finance a renovation, restaurant developers actually have a lot of options. However, not all of these options are wise choices depending on the individual situation of each restaurant. Securing traditional business loans from banks can prove difficult since few restaurants have the collateral or history needed for the loans to be approved. Since a restaurant’s cash flow can be somewhat unpredictable, banks are particularly scrupulous with their loan applications. Some alternative forms of financing include turning to the landlord, as previously discussed, or engaging with services like Fundivo, which provides loans specifically for restaurants. When looking for funding, it is critical to ask not only about interest rates, but also about fees and typical timelines. Some processes can take months, while others take only a few weeks or days.
When restaurant developers pursue loans, they should think carefully about how much money they need and build a lot of padding into the estimate. Some individuals may be hesitant to ask for a large loan because they fear that they will not be approved, but it is worse not to take a chance and subsequently run out of money halfway through the project.
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Modern consumers have a number of conflicting motivations. People want exotic flavors, but they also seek comfort food. The conflicting desires can make menu development particularly complicated. Luckily, one element of menu design that is certain is the need for a thoughtful beverage program. Beverages continue to experience a growth in popularity with more people than ever ordering specialty drinks to go with their meals.
The growth in beverage sales is evident at fast casual eateries, many of which now offer diners alcoholic beverages and other options, ranging from milkshakes and smoothies to fresh juice blends. Today’s diners expect restaurants to have a well-developed and artfully curated beverage program. The following tips can help restaurant developers to identify some of the most important aspects of creating such a program:
1. Embrace customization
The customization trend has gained a great deal of momentum in recent years. Many modern consumers seek out restaurants that embrace customization, making it more of a necessity than a luxury. To illustrate this point, individuals need only think of the new digital soda fountains that offer hundreds of different options through a single machine. By stocking a variety of flavored syrups and other ingredients, restaurants can easily offer individuals the option of creating their own unique flavor combinations.
For a high-end restaurant, this may mean offering a handful of “base” beverages that can be customized through the addition of various salts, syrups, and other flavors. For example, the menu could offer a “basic martini,” but then provide the option of making the drink spicy, bitter, fruity, sweet, or salty. Restaurants will score extra points with consumers if they make their flavorings in-house.
2. Never ignore non-alcoholic beverages
When restaurant developers think of curating a beverage program, they often think of beer, wine, and liquor. However, by offering specialty nonalcoholic drinks, restaurants can significantly boost their sales. Many restaurants now offer mocktails, but some other options are smoother, locally sourced coffees, Italian sodas, craft teas, and more. The non-alcoholic options appeal to people who are health conscious and who cannot or choose not to drink alcohol. When restaurants create in-house infusions and syrups, they should think of creative ways to incorporate similar flavors into non-alcoholic offerings that appeal to all customers.
Moreover, restaurants may want to consider offering to-go beverages for particularly busy customers. Many individuals today will replace their lunches with smoothies or grab a handcrafted coffee drink for a snack before or after lunch. Many customers would pay a little more than the local smoothie shop for particularly unique and interesting flavor combinations.
3. Pay attention to the brand
A restaurant’s brand will have a major impact on what the beverage program should look like. If a Mexican restaurant offers a wide range of imported wines, they may not sell very well. Similarly, an Italian restaurant that only offers beer — not wine — will likely receive a number of complaints from customers. Diners will expect the beverage menu, including both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, to reflect the mission of the restaurant.
For example, a farm-to-table restaurant may want to focus on using fresh fruit and vegetables in its drinks, as well as savory flavors from herbs. Similarly, a restaurant that focuses on cutting-edge food and molecular gastronomy should offer some signature cocktails that make use of these cooking techniques. Importantly, the brand should be reflected in the signature cocktails and other drinks. However, this does not mean that the restaurant cannot offer more basic, classic cocktails should a diner request them.
4. Listen to guests
The best way to find out what guests want is to ask them, whether it’s through market surveys; focus groups; or simply by having a conversation with them before, during, or after a meal. Restaurant developers can also look at sales trends to see what customers seem to like the most. By paying attention to this information, restaurateurs can evolve their beverage programs to meet consumers’ desires and keep the offerings trendy.
A restaurant that initially sold more wine than beer may notice that more people are ordering microbrews, which should prompt the owner to begin offering more beer and to perhaps even add more taps. Similarly, if a restaurant begins selling more bourbon than vodka-based cocktails, perhaps the next rendition of the cocktail list should include a few more bourbon cocktails and less vodka ones. Listening to guests gives restaurant developers a greater sense of changing trends, whether they exist in the populations being attracted to the restaurant or in the food industry in general.
5. Focus on staff training
The greatest tool that restaurants have to sell beverages is the staff. Restaurant developers need to ensure that all of their waiters are trained in the basics behind the beer, wine, and cocktail offered at their restaurant so that they can answer questions and give recommendations. With some education, the wait staff will have the confidence they need to make unprompted recommendations, such as suggesting a good pairing with the meal that someone has ordered. Proactively selling drinks increases guest engagement and typically results in greater meal satisfaction. As a result, staff training increases the bottom line while also improving the overall reputation of the restaurant.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
In today’s competitive restaurant market, diners are coming to expect an increasing amount of engagement with the establishments at which they dine. One of the best ways to connect with diners is through social media. In years past, restaurants could get away with having their own website and little else. Later, a Facebook profile became necessary. Today, however, restaurants need to reach out to customers through a wide variety of different social-networking platforms, including YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. An extremely popular social-media platform, Twitter allows people to “tweet” short messages and photos to their followers.
For restaurant developers, Twitter offers a great way to let diners know about specials or new offerings. In addition, tweeting is an excellent method of attracting new customers. As followers organically retweet the restaurant’s messages to their own circles, they give the establishment an incredible amount of free marketing that comes across as a recommendation from a friend rather than as an advertisement.
Unfortunately, many restaurant developers may not understand how to use Twitter effectively to market their establishments or realize the wide range of ways to engage customers using the platform. The following are some tips on how a restaurant can get the most from its Twitter account:
People are said to eat “with their eyes first,” so posting appealing pictures of food can bring people into a restaurant. From a computer, restaurateurs can use twitpic, yfrog, and similar services to upload photos, and most smartphone Twitter apps support photo posting. Another great way to share photos is to retweet photos that followers have taken—provided that they make the food look great. Doing this not only demonstrates how much other people love the restaurant’s food, but it also makes individuals feel recognized by the restaurant. When retweeting, restaurant owners should always send a quick thank-you note to the initial tweeter to develop a strong relationship with the customer.
Share daily specials.
Most restaurants feature special dishes and cocktails that aren’t on the regular menu. Before Twitter, restaurants would use signs or chalkboards outside the restaurant to advertise these specials. While Twitter does not render these old-school methods irrelevant, it is often a much more effective way of bringing people into the restaurant to try these unique offerings.
Restaurant developers should think strategically about when they tweet these specials. Dinner specials should be sent out around 4 p.m., when people are just getting hungry and starting to think about what they want to eat. Another approach is to tweet early in the day so that people have time to alter their plans and try a particularly intriguing dish.
Build a strong following.
While many restaurant developers wait for their social media networks to grow organically, it is smart to jumpstart the process by following local food lovers. Often, these people will follow back so that messages instantly reach a larger crowd. Food lovers are more likely to retweet photos and messages so that the network expands at an exponential rate. Restaurant developers should be aggressive about building a following, especially if their establishment is new.
Another trick for building a quick following is to hold contests, such as trivia games. Every few days, the restaurant can tweet a question and offer a free appetizer or cocktail to the first correct response. Many people will follow the restaurant for a chance to win.
Humanize the restaurant.
Followers can get burnt out on pictures and posts about food. To build a strong following, it is important to humanize the restaurant by posting funny things that staff members say and regular updates about employees, such as an engagement or a new pregnancy. With the permission of customers, restaurants can also share photos of regulars having fun at the restaurant. In the case of special events, the restaurant should focus on the fun that people are having as much as the food itself. People love feeling a personal connection to a business that they patronize; therefore humanizing the establishment will build a more loyal following.
Pay attention to what people say.
Twitter allows people to search tweets, so restaurant developers can see exactly what users are saying about them. While this function is a great exercise for collecting constructive feedback and seeing some positive reviews, it is also an effective way to connect with users and respond to their concerns. Restaurant developers should avoid getting defensive and instead focus on making customers happy and letting them know that their feedback has been received.
Restaurant developers can also use Twitter to discover what people are saying about their competition. If someone posts something negative about a competitor, it is a great opportunity to invite that individual into the restaurant for a more pleasant experience. In addition, good reviews of competitors can give restaurant developers and idea about how to improve their own services and align offerings with customer expectations.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
When restaurant developers begin to think about design, flooring is usually low on the list of priorities. However, flooring is an extremely important decision, and making the right choice is more complicated than one might initially imagine. Some of the most critical factors to consider include durability, cost, and aesthetics, as well as safety.
The bathrooms, the kitchen, and the dining area should have different flooring that reflects the unique needs of each space. If not well thought-out, flooring choices can even affect a restaurateur’s bottom line. The National Floor Safety Institute reports that trips and falls cost the restaurant industry between $11 and $12 billion annually in increased insurance expenses, lawsuits, and missed days of work.
Making Restaurant Flooring SaferRestaurant developers typically consider the following three key points when choosing flooring that is safe and appropriate:
1. Slip resistance—Each space in the restaurant requires a different type of flooring that provides adequate slip resistance. Historically, tile manufacturers included coefficient of friction (COF) information that spoke more about quality of the tile than its ability to prevent slips. While new standards that are more stringent have been introduced, it is the restaurant developer’s responsibility to do due diligence and choose the ideal products for each different space in the establishment.
2. Care and cleaning—Before investing in a specific type of flooring, one should have a good idea of what proper care is required. Indeed, this information can have a major impact on ultimate decisions. When floors are improperly cared for, they become a hazard for customers and employees. If the desired floors will demand a large investment in cleaning, it is perhaps a better decision to invest in something that looks similar but requires less stringent care.
Importantly, restaurant developers should never compensate for care expenses by purchasing cheap cleaning supplies. Over time, grease and oil will accumulate on the flooring in any restaurant, especially in the kitchen. This build-up creates a slippery film that cheap products will not remove. Some especially cheap cleaning products add their own film, which makes the flooring even more dangerous.
3. Floor coverings—All coverings, such as mats and rugs, should have rubber, slip-resistant backings. They should be also be properly maintained so that they do not curl up at the ends and become tripping hazards. When cleaning floors, it is critical to ensure that the floors dry completely before laying coverings back down. Otherwise, the water still on the floor can serve as a lubricant and cause the covering to slip out from under a patron or employee.
Other Flooring Factors to Consider
While safety should be one of the primary factors in a restaurant developer’s mind when choosing flooring, a number of other factors also come into play. Restaurateurs need to think about the restaurant’s brand and what kind of flooring fits the aesthetic. A family restaurant will likely have much different flooring than an upscale Italian eatery or a hip, lounge-like establishment.
Several different types of flooring are available to restaurant developers depending on their needs. Carpeting has long been a primary choice because it is affordable and easily maintained. In addition, carpet has more traction than virtually all other options, and it can have a wonderful acoustic effect. However, when carpet is placed in high-traffic areas, its durability can wane.
Because durability is a major factor, a popular trend in flooring is to mix various finishes so that the restaurant benefits from the acoustic effects of carpet, as well as the bright splashes of color that it can provide, while keeping durable materials in other areas. One of the most durable materials on the market today is finished concrete, which is virtually indestructible. Also, various treatments can achieve a wide range of aesthetic affects. The downside of finished concrete is that it reflects sound waves, which could mean additional costs for ceiling and wall treatments that dampen the echoes.
Another fashionable option for restaurant flooring is reclaimed wood. While hardwood is not typically considered to be extremely durable, reclaimed wood is already worn, therefore damage to it will not be obvious. The other benefit of reclaimed wood is that it is environmentally friendly. However, this option can be extremely pricey. Many restaurants use reclaimed wood for highlights, particularly in bar areas or entrances.
When looking at different flooring options, many restaurant developers forget to ask about installation. Different materials require various subbase and underlayment materials. These additional materials can add to the cost, and failing to adhere to manufacturer recommendations can shorten the lifespan of flooring and even make it dangerous. For example, if people use the wrong kind of mortar and grout with a tile, the flooring may quickly crush and crumble. When installing flooring, it is imperative that restaurant developers consult with experienced experts to ensure a quality job. Something as small as an air bubble beneath the mortar bed can jeopardize the integrity of the floor.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
When developing a menu for a new restaurant, it is important to pay attention to food trends. By incorporating recent inclinations into their menus, restaurants can keep their food feeling fresh and creative. In 2016, a number of new developments are expected to emerge based on the evolution of popular tastes in 2015.
Some of these trends point to greater integration of technology into the restaurant experience, while others show a growing concern about the intersection of food and health. Below are some of the trends that restaurant developers can expect to see emerge in the coming year.
1. A growing interest in exotic, spicy flavors.
Due to the extreme popularity of Sriracha in the past few years, more diners have become willing to experiment with exotic flavors, especially spicy ones. Restaurants can make use of this trend by incorporating unique ethnic ingredients into their menus. Some of the most obvious choices include sambal from Southeast Asia and gochujang from Korea. A few options from North Africa are harissa, dukka, and sumac. Very bold chefs may even explore more uses of the ghost pepper from India.
2. A push against genetically modified foods.
While scientists have not reached a consensus about the effects of consuming genetically modified foods, consumers are growing increasingly leery of GMOs. Some diners have backed a call to require restaurants to explicitly label all dishes on their menus with GMOs, and many choose to eat only at restaurants that advertise a menu completely free of GMOs. However, this trend may be difficult to follow, considering the ubiquitous nature of certain modified foods, like soy, which is used to feed livestock.
3. More interest in elevated versions of street food.
In recent years, street food has grown increasingly popular as people demand affordable and portable edibles. When diners go to restaurants, they are now more interested in trying elevated versions of popular street foods, like sausages and dumplings. Restaurant developers can offer popular street foods with a unique twist for some fun, playful appetizers. Perhaps the menu offers meatballs made out of exotic protein blends. Diners have also shown more interest in dumplings, from the Chinese bao to the Polish pierogi.
4. Smoke will become a driving flavor profile.
Toward the end of 2015, smoke and fire already began appearing on many menus up and down the East Coast. Garnering an enthusiastic response from diners, this trend will likely continue to grow in popularity over the course of 2016. Some excellent ways of incorporating this unique flavor profile into a menu include charred vegetable sides and desserts with burnt sugar toppings or grilled fruits. Some restaurants have even incorporated smoke into their cocktail offerings via smoked salts and syrups.
5. A rise in traditionally-underused cuts of meat.
With the price of proteins rising, restaurants may begin offering some underused cuts of meat, as well as offal, to ensure that they get the most from the money that they spend on animal products. A similar “use it all” mindset in popular culture could drive consumers to opt for these rarer cuts and perhaps even perceive them as exotic. This trend could also extend to produce. For example, last year the fast food chain Sweetgreen began offering the wastED Salad, which combines what many would consider vegetable scraps, such as cabbage cores and broccoli stalks, with upscale ingredients to reduce overall waste.
6. Greater demand for bison meat.
As diners continue to be interested in low-fat versions of the foods that they love, demand for bison meat may increase in the coming year. Bison meat is lower in fat than beef and even turkey, meaning that the bison burger may become the next go-to “healthy” burger option. Bison are also free-range, grass-fed animals, making them a popular choice among ecologically-concerned customers. Restaurants can incorporate bison into their menus in a number of creative ways, from burgers and sliders to stews and tacos.
7. A larger market for artisanal soft drinks.
The craft beer trend continues in full swing, but many people who do not like beer or do not drink alcohol are left behind, and they are looking for something that caters to their tastes. Last year, the National Restaurant Association conducted an online survey of American Culinary Federation members. The results pointed to a sharp increase in interest in artisanal soft drinks, so that people can try homemade colas and root beers while other people in their party enjoy craft beers and cocktails.
8. Increased expectations for food delivery.
Revolutions in technology have made delivery easier than ever before. Uber and Amazon are trying to get in on the food delivery market, and services like GrubHub and Seamless have already expanded out of major urban centers. With the popularity of services like Netflix, more people are spending Friday and Saturday nights at home with friends and family in front of the television. As a result, they are looking for excellent food delivered to their doors.
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
When opening a new restaurant, having a soft opening is important to work out any kinks that restaurant developers may not anticipate. The format of soft openings differs from restaurant to restaurant. The choice of how to approach them depends on geographic location, time of year, and even the inclinations of the restaurant staff.
Some restaurateurs choose to open new restaurants early, without any fanfare, in order to give the staff a chance to become accustomed to the menu and wait on a few tables. Other restaurants host a friends and family night to get honest feedback about food and service. Charity events are another popular way to get a test run in before opening a restaurant for business. Restaurant developers who want to keep the event low-key may simply have half the staff serve the other half and then switch.
Regardless of the form that a soft opening takes, it is critical for new restaurants to get a trial run in before the location’s formal opening. This trial run will not ensure everything goes perfectly on opening day, but it can help iron out some of the issues that might otherwise cause disaster when the restaurant officially opens. Below are four pieces of advice that restaurant developers should keep in mind as they plan soft openings for their newest projects.
1. A soft opening is a stress test.
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind about a soft opening is that it is a sort of stress test for the restaurant. As a general rule, restaurateurs should not expect service to go smoothly during the soft opening. After all, troubleshooting is the very reason to have a soft opening. Instead, restaurateurs should view a soft opening as a chance to evaluate employees and see where service providers need improvement, whether in the kitchen or on the floor.
Often, restaurant developers send their wait staff out with very little instruction to see how they operate in demanding situations and then make adjustments as necessary. The stress test applies as much to waiters as it does to cooks. Typically, chefs can only guess what dishes will be the most popular and which will take the longest to make, so a soft opening helps to plan better for future dinner services.
2. Soft openings fuel menu development.
Developers should view soft openings as a chance to make the menu as close to perfect as possible before the restaurant actually opens its doors. Even the most talented chefs cannot guess exactly what diners want, especially since trends in food come and go quickly. The soft opening is the first time that a restaurant’s concept is previewed by people not directly attached to the restaurant, so all feedback should be taken to heart.
For this reason, it may be wise to hold several different soft opening events for different crowds, such as the media, industry workers, and friends and family. Each of these groups will have different opinions, but if all three reported that they did not like the same dish, then it may be time to reconceptualize the offering from scratch. Some restaurant developers will work with chefs to tweak the menu after each soft opening event, while others will take aggregated feedback from all the events to make major changes before the grand opening.
3. A soft opening can strengthen neighborhood ties.
When planning a soft opening, it is wise to involve local merchants as much as possible. Especially when restaurants open in busy downtown areas, they should invite local business owners to a soft opening event, such as a happy hour. This “handshake” can forge important business relationships and create loyal customers. Also, restaurants can also team with other local artisans to offer hyper-local products that draw in crowds.
For example, a restaurant may team with a baker to make special desserts, or with a local brewery to offer special collaboration beers. To build buzz within the neighborhood, restaurants may also want to offer certain services prior to the grand opening. A restaurant could operate as a café or a bar before opening its full dining room. This move brings people from the community into the space and gets them excited for the beginning of full food service.
4. Soft openings are an investment in the future.
Through soft openings, restaurant developers can identify exactly what they need to work on to ensure the future success of an establishment. Sometimes, this work involves a significant financial investment. Different philosophies exist about how to price soft openings, but many restaurants end up offering food and drinks for free as a way to bring people in the door and encourage them to offer honest feedback.
Soft opening events can cost, collectively, tens of thousands of dollars, but restaurant developers need to see this expense as an investment in the future of the restaurant. Many restaurant developers would not hesitate to spend an equivalent amount of money on a spectacular grand opening, but grandeur will not impress diners if the food and service are not up to par. Often, this money is better spent on soft openings to ensure that the menu going out on the grand opening is solid and that servers understand the food and will provide the highest level of service possible.