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10 Ways to Improve Your Restaurant’s Menu to Increase Profitability

Improving Your Menu to Increase Profitability

 

1) Take a hard look at your prices.

Pricing products is one of the most difficult things that any business owner has to do. At it’s simplest, you try to calculate prices that will cover your costs and earn enough of a profit to make it worth staying in business. But, what if you’re leaving money on the table by pricing your items too low? Or, vice versa, what if your menu is priced too high and your losing sales volume? Either scenario could effect profitability in a major way.

Developing an optimal pricing strategy is 1/2 art and 1/2 science – entire books have been written on the subject, so it is too complex to cover in detail here. What it boils down to, however, is matching your prices to the value that your customers perceive in your items. If customers perceive that your $12.99 burger with locally raised, grass fed ground chuck represents an appropriate value, they’ll be happy to pay it – regardless of what it costs to make.

So, how can you gauge your customers’ perceptions of value and price accordingly? Start with your direct competition. Are they pricing the same burger for $8? If so, then, all other things being equal, they’re probably stealing some of your sales. On the other hand, if they’re pricing it at $15, then there may be an opportunity for you to raise your price a little and increase your profitability.

2) Eliminate the clutter

Do you have items on your menu that just don’t sell? Does your menu have so many items on it that you have to use a small, hard to read font in order to fit it all in? If you answered yes to either of these questions, consider ridding your menu of the clutter. Of course you want to keep your classics, customer favorites, and high profit items, but it may just be time to get rid of the rest. Too much on your menu will overwhelm your customers, create a large amount of inventory that you will end up throwing away, and leave you with increased labor costs, all of which reduces profitability.

To combat the clutter, consider recommendations made by O’Dell Restaurant Consulting, a company that offers restaurant consulting services. They recommend taking your sales mix report and eliminating the bottom half of the items; the ones that aren’t selling. Then, take the top half and really evaluate where in your kitchen these items are prepared, using that to organize and balance your menu. For example, have a grilled items section, sautéed selections, fried foods, etc. O’Dell suggests no more than 20 main course dishes, including sandwiches, 4-6 starters, and 2-3 salads. If you have pizza on your menu, it is suggested to make up 2/3 of your main course selections and you should only offer it in a maximum of 3 sizes. You should still accommodate special requests but have a special price for those requests. Cleaning up your menu and getting rid of the clutter will give your customers better food and better service in addition to allowing your restaurant to serve more people.

3) Try a new design.

A fresh perspective and a new look to your menu is a great way to upgrade your brand and improve profitability. Consider investing in the services of a graphic designer or a marketing professional who can use their tricks of the trade to make your menu more attractive and eye catching. Or, look into online companies who offer professional templates, like Vistaprint, to complete this task on your own. Regardless of who does it, design does make a difference. It’s all about the text font and size, the illustrations and images, colors used, and even the shape, thickness, and texture of your menu. It’s also about making sure that your final menu fits in with the concept and atmosphere of your restaurant.

4) Change up your descriptions.

The way you describe your menu items makes a difference. Keep your menu descriptions short but offer descriptive terms that highlight their taste, uniqueness, or ingredients. The tastier it sounds, the more interest there will be in ordering it. If this isn’t your forte, consider hiring a professional copywriter or marketer to assist you with this task. You can find freelance professionals who do this type of work at www.upwork.com.

5) Consider item placement and positioning.

When organizing your menu, here are a few fun facts that may be helpful to increase sales…According to SoftCafe, a developer of menu software for restaurants, customers often remember and order the first two items and the last two items in each category on your menu. On a tri-panel menu, people look at the center panel first and move their attention counter clockwise. Place your highest margin items in these areas, and you could see a substantial increase in profitability.

6) Add fresh into the mix.

Food trends have moved into organic, fresh, and healthier options. Offering “fresh” items on your menu not only sounds attractive to your customers, but can also be a selling point for your restaurant. Supporting the local economy and having healthier options for your customers is good for the environment, good for the local economy, and can make you stand out from other restaurants. In addition, customers are willing to pay a little more for ingredients that are fresh, local, and healthy with an even better taste.

7) Offer specials.

Customers will come to your restaurant not only looking for deals, but also for menu items that they can’t get anywhere else. Consider a specials menu or insert with your regular menu that you change out every so often to push high margin items. A great example of a company that utilizes this strategy is Red Lobster, which has different, short lived, specials like Shrimp Fest, Crab Fest, and Lobster Fest at various times of year.

Play up seasonal offerings during the holidays or offer certain items related to commercialized events like the Super Bowl or the premier of a popular television show in your area. Specials keep your menu interesting and they can even allow you to use up inventory that might otherwise go to waste.

8) Don’t forget photos.

When possible, try to include photos that offer your customers a visual presentation of your food. Some people are visual decision makers; they will see an item and order it because the picture intrigued them. Consider highlighting your popular menu items, a new or featured item, or even something that is a long time classic. With these photos, be sure the images are sharp ones with a professional look. But, don’t go overboard. Too many images can be overwhelming and can look chaotic. Plus, it’s okay to have white space; it gives your customer’s eyes a chance to rest. Applebee’s does a great job of using photos on their menu to entice their customers.

9) Make your menu easily accessible.

In this day and age, people want information in an instant and make their decisions based on the information available to them. Included in this is your restaurant’s menu. Your goal is to get that information to your customers as soon as possible. Yes, you can make sure that your menu is on the table when each customer is seated or that the hostess hands each patron a copy of it when they first sit down. You can even offer a menu on the wall in the waiting area for your customers to read. But, one of the best ways to offer your menu even before any customer walks in is online through a mobile friendly website, app, or on any of the social media sites. When customers can access your menu from anywhere, it may just be the deciding factor that pulls their cars into your parking lot. And when paired with the recommendations above, you’ll be sure to see the profits of your efforts.

10) Consider your customer.

Who is your customer and what would appeal to them? When your restaurant menu appeals to each customer, especially the news ones, they’ll surely return for more. For example, if your business caters to families, offer a separate kids menu. If your restaurant is located in a college town, offer pricing that appeals to the average college student. Or, if you have an upscale restaurant, offer a menu that caters to your customer in both variety on your menu and in design.

Getting Back to “Base”-ics

Table Bases at TD Burgers

When you walk into a restaurant, what do you notice first?  Your answer probably won’t be the table bases that support each of the tables.  Yet, they are so important to consider.  When purchasing restaurant furniture, table bases should be recognized as the ultimate supporting piece for your customer’s experience, besides the chair or bar stool that they sit in.  Customers want to enjoy a meal in a comfortable space with a sturdy, non-wobbly table that gives them plenty of leg and foot room.  Your base is the piece that is going to provide that support and space, especially when the right one is paired with your table top.  Does it have to be a fancy, expensive base?  No.  But, you can choose table bases with a design element that blends in with your restaurant’s theme so as to coordinate with the atmosphere you want to offer your customers.

Intrigued by table bases yet?  If your answer is “yes” then you will want to check out three of our newest bases and each of their many features.  Not only are they sturdy and supportive, but also easy on the budget.

I Beam Table Base

I-Beam-BH

  • Supports the industrial style because it takes the shape of a steel beam used in construction
  • Made of steel with a clear coat finish
  • Table height or bar height to furnish your entire establishment
  • Three sizes – 18”, 24”, and 30”
  • Meant for indoor use
  • Self-leveling floor glides to make sure your guests don’t have to eat on a wobbly table

 

Newport Table Base

W-NEWPORT-18-SQUARE-TH

  • Supports a modern look and style with its clean lines and square base
  • Made of steel with a black powder coat finish
  • Table height or bar height
  • Two sizes – 18” and 22”
  • Versatile. Can be used both indoor and outdoors
  • Has an umbrella hole for outdoor use to accommodate shade for your guests if your dining area is not in a covered space

 

Milan Table Base

MilanBase
 

  • Supports a more decorative and ornate style with its design
  • Made of cast iron with a black powder coat finish
  • Table height or bar height to furnish your entire establishment
  • Only available in one size so it can only be used with certain sized table tops
  • Meant for indoor and outdoor
  • Offers a little more decoration that most table bases with its unique design

While you weigh out your options, it’s important to consider that different sized bases are meant to fit different sized table tops.  To see which size is recommended to pair with different sized tops, refer to our Space Planning Chart to help you.  Now that you have all of this “base”-ic information, we’re thinking the next time you walk into a restaurant you might just notice the table bases.  When you do, we know that you will take on a new appreciation for these unsung heroes of restaurant furniture.

 

 

 

Instagram for Your Restaurant: How to #DoItTheRightWay

Social media is everywhere. Everyone has an account on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram that they use on a daily basis. These avenues not only keep us connected with others, but they also help us find people and places in an instant. And let’s face it, instant gratification is now the way of the world.

Let’s narrow this social media frenzy down to just one platform; Instagram. Instagram has gained millions on followers in the last couple of years and it is turning into the platform of choice for many. Why? We think you will agree that pictures and videos are way more interesting than reading a post. Plus, with cell phones seemingly attached to everyone’s hip these days, it’s quicker to share a picture or video than to actually write a post for your followers to read.

Now, let’s even narrow it a little bit more to focus solely on Instagram use for restaurants. Do you have an Instagram account for your restaurant? If so, are you using it in such a way that you are creating a buzz or traffic into your establishment? Whether you’re just starting out or have been using Instagram for some time now, let us share some tips we learned from Katrina Padron, founder of Padron Social Marketing, at the National Restaurant Association trade show. These tips are great ways to fine tune your account and make your restaurant stand out.

Posting pictures and/or videos

Best practices suggest that restaurants commit to posting one picture every day. In the chaos called life, we know that can pose some difficulty unless you have a designated person to do the work. If posting every day is not possible, try to at least post five times a week. To help you save time with all of these posts, you might want to consider a scheduling tool to plan out your posts. One such tool is an app called latergramme. With this app, you can sit down once a week and plan out which pictures or videos to post and when you want to post them. The app even sends you a notification when your picture or video is scheduled to post with instructions to follow on how to go live with your content.

Timing

The timing of your post is a big deal. In order to figure out what the best times are to post on Instagram, Katrina recommended checking out a great website called iconosquare.com. Iconosquare will link to your Instagram account and show you analytics as to when your account performs the best. It will also show you what photo filters work best by most likes or comments and which hashtags are performing the best, among other analytics. If you aren’t interested in hopping onto this website to get all of this great information, Katrina suggested posting between 7am and 8am in the morning or before bedtime. But, remember to always think about your target market before choosing these times.

Photo quality

No one likes looking at a photo or video that is fuzzy or blurry. It just isn’t appealing and can even hurt your eyes. Always post clear, crisp quality photos and/or videos. Offering quality shots will make your posts more interesting, hold attention longer, give clarity to mobile users, and add to your business’s professional look. More importantly, it will make your posts more memorable.

Make it interesting

In addition to posting quality photos, it’s important that they are visually interesting as well as full of good content. You can do this several ways:

  • Mix it up. Of course you want to show everyone your delicious looking menu items, like a beautifully presented dinner plate, a decadent desert, or a fresh salad with toppings galore. But, consider sharing more of your business than just food. Add additional content to help your customers learn more about you and your business to create a connection between you and the customer. This connection is often what your customers are seeking. For example, include images of the front line, the kitchen, your walk in cooler, your employees hard at work, an image of your establishment from the outside, your outdoor dining space, etc. The ideas are endless.
  • Use interesting camera angles. Try taking overhead pictures, low shots, or cross angled shots from the side. These angles are catchy and often pull the viewer in, keeping them engrossed for longer than the typical photo or video.
  • Consider the Rule of Thirds when taking photos. The Rule of Thirds is a basic rule in the photography world that divides an image visually into a grid. This grid creates nine symmetrical squares with intersections where the grid lines cross. The points of crossing are the places where it is recommended to place the main content of the image that you are trying to take. It offers a more engaging photo as well as one that has a better balance.
  • Build height with your photos. Adding height to your photos is a great way to pull customers in. Let’s say you are taking a picture of a burger. Add height to the burger by adding layers of lettuce, tomato, and cheese in between a puffy bun to make it taller. Even visualizing this, especially if you are a burger lover, creates a desire to eat one. The image of this tall scrumptious burger will entice your followers even more than the words.
  • Use vibrant colors and backgrounds with props rather than a plain white color. Take photos of food items like fruits and vegetables that naturally have a colorful palette. In addition, add props into the background of your photos like table linens, silverware, ingredients used to make the item, or a wine bottle. Items like these will add a little something extra to your photo to create that visual appeal.
  • Use a photo editing tool. These tools let you play with exposure, highlights, and cropping while offering filters that will brighten, soften, or change the color of your photo. After you choose a photo, Instagram does offer some editing within the app that you can use, but there are additional apps that offer more options with photo editing that are worth checking out. One such photo editing tool that Katrina uses is called Afterlight and it can be found in the app store for a small fee. There are so many other tools that you can purchase for free; it’s just a matter of downloading it and trying it to see which ones work best for you.

Comments

When you post a picture or video on Instagram, you have the opportunity to make a comment with your post. You may think to yourself, “What am I going to say?” A great idea starter when this happens comes from a one page form called A Case of the Blahs, also found on the Padron Social Marketing website. It includes 50 prompts to get your mind moving so that you can post a comment that achieves likes and interaction with your customers. Katrina recommends that you offer a comment with each picture or video that you post as a way of interacting with your followers and customers. And, don’t forget to add the hashtag, our next topic to discuss.

Hashtags

Hashtags are words or phrases preceded by the number or pound sign that offer a way to categorize content. This categorization makes it easier for people to search for information and join conversations on a certain topic. They have gained extreme popularity in the last few years on all social media platforms and you see them all over the internet. On Instagram, it is recommended for businesses to only post up to 3 hashtags per post and to use ones that are unique to your business. Consider hashtags that are important to your community and use them as a way to interact with other people and businesses in your area. Also, find hashtags that are popular on Instagram to add to your posts. You can find popular hashtags by clicking on the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of your Instagram app on your mobile device and search for whatever topic or image your photo/video offers. Hashtags are a new concept and can be hard to understand but when used correctly, can bring more attention to your posts.

Instagram-MenuAdditional Recommendations

In addition to the information above, here are some additional recommendations you may want to consider:

  • Instagram offers information just for businesses like how to get started, finding customers, sharing brand photos, using hashtags in addition to an Instagram for Business blog. Check out Instagram for Businesses online to gather information that will allow you to take full advantage of this platform for your bar or restaurant.
  • Consider making the content on your business Instagram account different from the content on your other social media accounts. If the same content is on every feed, people will tune out. Use each platform for a different reason or to cater to different groups of customers.
  • Instagram doesn’t just have to be all about photos and videos of food from your restaurant. Aaron Allen & Associates, a global restaurant consulting company, offers a blog article called 10 Great Ways to Use Instagram for Restaurant Marketing. They suggest using it as a tool for contests, interactive menus, odd and interesting photo opportunities, behind the scenes looks, or community and culture awareness.    For additional ideas, check out other restaurant’s Instagram accounts to spark your creativity.

Instagram is a great tool for businesses, especially for restaurants looking for a way to market themselves in the social media world. When used correctly, it’s a popular avenue to tell your story and create a buzz that brings your customers in to enjoy your menu.

Things That Make Em’ Go Mmmm! The Art of Creating “Craveability”

Craveability

 

Did you know that 76% of consumers crave a food first, and then select a restaurant based on that craving? As restaurant owners, this is a very valuable statistic because it means an opportunity to position your establishment at the front of consumers’ minds and drive them through your doors.  So, with such a high percentage of people making decisions on where to eat based on a craving, how can you make your menu items more craveable?  We’ve put together a short list of the essential factors that will have customer’s mouths watering at the very thought of your dishes.

What exactly is Craveability?

Craveability is an adjective that means having qualities that produce an intense desire for more. It usually relates to food and is often associated with items that are filled with salt, sugar, and fats. As of late, these specific ingredients have been the blame for food addictions and the ever increasing overweight population, encouraging restaurant owners to offer healthier options. We’re happy to report that there are healthier ingredients and foods, along with other non-food related ways, that restaurants can use to create the craveability that brings customers into their establishment.

Smell can create craveability.Aroma

Have you ever been captivated by the aroma of fresh baked bread when you walked into a bakery? Or taken aback by the smell of pizza in the oven at your favorite pizza parlor? It can stop you in your tracks. It excites you and taps into your emotional cues making you want that bread or pizza even more than you did when you pulled up in your car. Offering menu items that have a distinct aroma, or ingredients that stimulate our sense of smell, can really leave a lasting impression with patrons and keep them coming back for more.

SmokerPreparation

The way you prepare your food can be a great way to trigger a customer’s craving. Customers might walk through your doors for the flavor of your grilled or fried foods, but run through your doors for something that is slow-roasted, wood fired, or braised. Many of today’s diners are more educated in the different ways to prepare food thanks to shows like Top Chef, Chopped, and The Chew.  It isn’t uncommon for hardcore foodies to visit a restaurant simply because the food is prepared differently than what they are used to.  Experiment with new cooking techniques, flavors, textures, and plating options until you hit on that highly craveable combination.

pumpkin pieSeasonality

Every season offers up some type of highly craveable food. It’s safe to say that during the summer, we all want ice cream. During the fall, thoughts of pumpkin pie makes our mouth water. In winter, the idea of a big hearty bowl of chili or soup really warms us up. And in spring, the taste of fruits and produce are so refreshing.  Offering specialty items on your menu that are popular during different seasons is a great way to bring customers through your doors.

mac and cheeseNostalgia

Just think about a food that you ate when you were a kid. When you think of it, you are probably also thinking about people, things, and/or experiences that take you back those “good ‘ol days”, which is why these types of foods are known as “comfort foods”.  Every time you eat a nostalgic food, you are taken back to that time, and you crave it more because it is associated with a good memory.

As a restaurant owner, playing on nostalgia by serving comfort foods can give you a built in advantage because consumers already demand them.  But, you have to be careful because these foods hold special places in patrons hearts, so you will have a high satisfaction bar to clear.

Hibachi GrillExperience

You can drive craveability by creating an experience for your customers when they walk in the door. Whether it’s by creating a novel environment or re-imagining the traditional dining process, the experience your customers crave can bring them in. Consider the experiences you are offered at popular restaurants like The Melting Pot, Rainforest Café, or the Hibachi station at a Japanese Restaurant. Dipping various treats in chocolate fondue with your spouse on an intimate date is an experience. Having lunch within an indoor rainforest while thunder crashes around you and animals belt out sounds is an experience. Interacting with the chef at a Japanese restaurant while he flips a shrimp up in the air and catches it in his hat is an experience.

Now we’re not suggesting that you go out and buy a sound machine or start practicing your juggling skills – you can opt for something much more subtle than that.  The point is that opportunities to create a remarkable experience for your customers abound, and building a lasting memory is one of the best ways to get customers back in your door.

lambAppearance

The appearance of your food has a huge impact on craveability. Presenting foods that offer vibrant colors and a variety of textures can trigger cravings.  Don’t be afraid to experiment with fruits, vegetables and side dishes that add a colorful flair to the dish, but only when it makes sense to pair it with the main item.

Staging your food properly can also have a significant effect.  Remember that craveability is as much about psychology as it is flavor.  Think of yourself as an interior decorator, and the plate is your space.  If the colors clash, or if all of the elements run together, then the effect will be as unappealing as a poorly decorated room.  On the other hand, a great looking plate can actually enhance the taste of the food and leave your customers wanting more.

crab-legsLimited Availability

If you are the only restaurant in town that makes a unique menu item, people are sure to seek you out. Likewise, if you only offer a menu item once a month and it’s one that creates a buzz, people will fill your seats.

Plan your menu around these limited offerings throughout the year by adding different dishes that pair with holidays or events, like a specific fish offering during lent or a platter of popular appetizers for the Super Bowl game. You’ll find that the limited availability of menu items may very well boost cravings which will in turn boost your sales.

pizzaCategory

Ever wonder why there is a pizza restaurant on just about every corner in the US?  Or, why every ice cream shop seems to have a line around the building?  It’s because these are inherently craveable foods which, whether through decades of marketing, the nostalgia factor, or some other reason, customers tend to seek out on a regular basis.  Foods in some categories just tend to be more craveable than others, and that craveability creates built in demand that can drive customers into your restaurant.

While you don’t have to turn your bar and grille into a pizza and ice cream shop, it might not be a bad idea to experiment with new menu items that fall into one of the most craveable categories (pizza, pasta, desserts).  Even if it is just a highly craveable appetizer or dessert that brings customer’s through your door, it will give you the opportunity to sell them on some of your traditional menu items.

chipotle-adTell Your Story

Last but certainly not least, people crave a great story. How did you get started in your business? Why do you source all of your products locally? Why are you in this business? In today’s world, people are looking for a connection and are willing to support a good story before they support a cold purchase. The buzzwords “quality”, “freshness”, and “value” that a lot of restaurants chime into are everywhere, but your story isn’t.  Take Chipotle, for example, which has built one of the fastest growing restaurant chains in the world around the story of “Food with Integrity”, which means using responsibly farmed products.  Without a great story, the company would be another burrito chain in a sea of competitors; however, they’ve been able to use their story to create a unique position in the market that separates them from other chains and adds to their overall craveability.

Everyone has cravings. More often than not, these cravings are driving people to seek out foods that satisfy the taste or the experience that makes them want more. Restaurants can benefit from these cravings if their menu has that one special item that customers need to have. Utilizing these tips to drive craveability into your restaurant is worth the effort to keep your customers fulfilled while your chefs are cooking, your wait staff is hopping, and your doors are constantly revolving.

Get Ready Chicago…Here We Come!

Chicago Blog2

East Coast Chair & Barstool is heading to Chicago! Also called “the windy city”, Chicago is known for its famous Navy Pier; splendid architecture; and food like deep dish pizza, Italian beef, and hot dogs.  This great city is again hosting the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Trade Show from May 16th through May 19th at McCormick Place.

If you haven’t heard about this spectacular event, the NRA Trade show is one of the biggest shows that restaurant and hospitality owners can attend.  Known as the international foodservice marketplace, this show will have the latest and greatest products and trends in the industry, as well as provide every attendee an opportunity to develop their own business to keep their customers happy while still making a profit.  Looking for information on food & nutrition, operations, franchise, or sales and marketing?  How about sustainability, technology or workforce engagement?  The NRA show will have all that through various educational sessions where you can learn from the best in the business.  Plus, thousands of exhibitors line the halls with new products, technologies, services, and foods that any restaurant owner would want to check out.  As an added bonus, many celebrity chefs will be in attendance on the show floor holding demonstrations as well as providing information that you’ll want to know in educational sessions.  Chefs including Robert Irvine, Jeff Mauro, Geoffrey Zakarian, Fabio Viviani, Anne Burrell, and Rick Bayless will all be in attendance.  It will surely be a busy couple of days but with so many great resources in one place, how can you miss it?

All of us at East Coast Chair & Barstool hope that you will visit our booth and check out the amazing restaurant furniture that we are bringing to display.  From indoors to outdoors, we will have chairs, bar stools, tables, bases, and booths that you can get your hands on to see the quality that we are so proud of.  We will also be bringing some of our latest styles that have never been seen before.  We are excited to have you be the first to sit in our chairs and bar stools, check out our tables and bases, and explore the uniqueness of our reclaimed wood furniture.  Our booth staff will be ready for your arrival, so we’ll see you in Chicago!

Accessibility: What Bar and Restaurant Owners Need to Know

Part 3, Employing Individuals with Disabilities, Person First Terminology, and Communication

handicap_accessible_horizontal_sign_l

Finding good employees can be a difficult task.  You want to hire trustworthy and dependable workers who are great with customers and care about your business.  Who’s to say that an individual with a disability wouldn’t be the right choice?  It seems that in today’s society, inclusion in the workforce is more widely seen than ever before.  This is likely due to the increased acceptance and respect of people with disabilities along with the requirements set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

As mentioned in part 1 and 2 of this series on accessibility, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that protects all individuals with disabilities by prohibiting discrimination and ensuring equal opportunities in the community.  Not only does this law apply in the community, but also to employment in state and local governments, employment agencies, labor unions, and private employers.  It must include all employment practices including (but not limited to) hiring, firing, training, compensation, recruitment, and all other employment-related activities.

Employing Individuals with Disabilities

Title I of the ADA focuses specifically on employing individuals with disabilities, and it’s a title that bar and restaurant owners are required to follow.  It contains terms that every owner of a public company should know, including what constitutes a qualified individual with a disability, essential job functions, reasonable accommodation, and undue hardship.  Being knowledgeable about the basics of these terms will be helpful in the long run and can in fact work in your favor if you hire or employ an individual with a disability.

A qualified individual with a disability is a person who meets all requirements of the job including education, experience, employment history, skills licenses, and the ability to perform the essential functions of the job.

Essential job functions are the fundamental duties of the job that the person must be able to perform with or without an accommodation.  The term “essential” ensures that an individual with a disability will not be considered unqualified simply because of the inability to perform job functions that do not occur frequently.  If the individual can perform the essential job functions with or without a reasonable accommodation, he/she must be considered.

A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to perform essential job functions.  Some examples include restructuring a job, modified work schedules, or using modified equipment. Reasonable accommodations must be provided unless an undue hardship to the employer will result.

An undue hardship refers to an action that would be so costly, disruptive, or extensive, that it would alter the operation of the business.  Factors to consider are the nature and cost of the accommodation, the type of operation, the employer’s size and financial resources, and the impact of the accommodation on the operation.

In addition to these important terms, the ADA also states that:

  • Employers may not retaliate against employees or applicants who apply the ADA.
  • Employers may not ask an applicant whether or not he/she has a disability.
  • Employers can deny employment to a person who poses a threat to the health and safety of himself/herself or others.
  • Employers may not require a qualified potential employee to obtain a physical exam prior to the employment offer.
  • Employees with disabilities must have available to them the same health insurance coverage as all other employees.

 

Person-First Terminology

Person-First terminology is communication which focuses on the person first.  In the realm of disabilities, this type of communication would recognize the person first before the individual’s disability. So instead of saying the “autistic boy,” you would say the “boy with autism.” Or instead of staying the “deaf woman,” you would say the “woman who is deaf.”  And in regular conversation, it’s not appropriate to even discuss a person’s disability unless it is relevant to the topic of conversation.   The best way to not confuse this terminology is to refer to every individual by his or her name; plain and simple.

 

Communication

Whether you are speaking to an employee or a customer who has a disability, it’s important that you speak respectfully and appropriately in order to maintain a great relationship.  Is this part of the ADA?  No, but it is respectful, proper, and appropriate.  Here are some considerations that you and your entire staff should follow when speaking to anyone with a disability:

  • When talking to an individual with a disability, speak directly to that person rather than to the individual who may be accompanying him/her.
  • When speaking to a person who uses a wheelchair, place yourself at eye level in front of the person to facilitate the conversation.
  • Treat adults as adults. Address individuals by their first name and speak to them in a manner that is respectful and appropriate.
  • Listen attentively when you are speaking with an individual who may have difficulty speaking. Be patient and wait for him/her to finish rather than speaking for him/her.  Never pretend to understand what the individual is saying, rather repeat what you did understand and give him/her the opportunity to respond.
  • When meeting a person with a visual impairment, always identify yourself and others who may be with you.
  • Never lean or hang on a person’s wheelchair as it is often thought to be an extension of the individual’s personal space.
  • Don’t assume that the only topic the individual with a disability wants to talk about is his or her disability. Rather, communication should focus on topics that are typical conversation amongst two individuals.  And, when introducing someone with a disability, always refer to them by their first name.  Do not mention their disability unless it is pertinent to the conversation at hand.
  • Always use person-first terminology.

 

As we conclude this series on accessibility for bar and restaurant owners, we hope that we have opened your eyes to where your bar or restaurant stands with regard to accessibility and communication.  Can your customers or employees with disabilities easily enter your establishment?  Are they able to access services once they enter your doors?  Do they feel accepted and respected when dealing with your staff?    Those may be easy questions to answer but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  We encourage you to continue to formulate questions to answer that will help you evaluate your bar or restaurant when it comes to being accessible.  These answers will allow you to make the necessary changes that will in turn welcome all customers into your establishment.  And these changes will keep your doors wide open to the diversity that our world has to offer.

Accessibility: What Bar and Restaurant Owners Need to Know

 Part 2 of 3, Exterior Considerations

Difference-Usability-Accessibility-2
Accessibility isn’t only a requirement for the interior of your bar or restaurant.  Individuals needing accommodations have to be able to drive up, park, and access your services with the same ease as everyone else.  Not to say that an accessible interior is less important but how can a customer with a disability take advantage of your menu items if they can’t get in?

Americans with Disabilities Act

As noted in part 1 of this blog series titled Accessibility: What Bar and Restaurant Owners Need to Know, Interior Considerations, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that protects individuals with disabilities by prohibiting discrimination and ensuring equal opportunities.  There are many titles within this law which specifically target requirements that facilities must follow but the one that is applicable to bars and restaurants is Title III.  This title states, “no individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation (ADA, 1990).”  In doing this, facilities need to remove barriers, yet it is decided on a case-by-case basis as to whether those barriers are easily removed by the establishment without financial hardship.  Regardless of whether the change is made or not, continual re-evaluation of barriers is essential in assuring that accessibility is achieved.
Exterior Considerations

You’ve probably pulled in to many parking lots and noticed designated accessible parking spaces, accessible signs, curb cuts, and ramps, all which welcome individuals with disabilities into any public facility.  The ADA requires that these are in place so as to give those with diverse needs the ability to utilize that particular public service.  In addition to these requirements, there are many other exterior regulations that apply any facility or establishment.  Here is a sampling of the most important requirements set forth by the ADA that would specifically be of interest to bars and restaurants.

Handicapped Sign2Parking and Drop-off Areas

  • An adequate number of accessible parking spaces must be available for individuals with accessible parking tags. The guidelines that determine the number of spaces you need to have depends on the total number of parking spaces that are available.  For example, if you have 1-25 parking spaces, you must have one accessible parking space; for 26-50 parking spaces, you need two accessible spaces; for 51-75 parking spaces, you need three accessible spaces; and for 76-100 parking spaces, you need four accessible spaces.
  • At least one of every eight accessible parking spaces must be van accessible with a minimum of one van accessible space at all facilities.
  • Accessible car and van spaces must both be 8-feet wide with an access isle on each side. For a car, the access isle must be at least 5-feet wide and for vans, the access isle must be at least 8-feet wide.

 

Route of Travel

Route of travel refers to the route that an individual takes to arrive on site, approach the building, and enter as freely as everyone else.

  • At least one route of travel should be safe and accessible for everyone, including people with disabilities. If there are stairs into your establishment, a ramp or alternate route on level ground needs to be added.
  • The route of travel must be free of uneven, bumpy surfaces with holes or breaks as well as be at least 36-inches wide. These surfaces must be stable, firm, and slip-resistant.
  • Any curbs on the route of travel must have a curb cut or a small ramp to the curb for ease of movement.

rampRamps

  • Ramps must host a width of at least 36-inches between railing and curbs with sturdy railings at the height of between 34 and 38-inches. These railings must be on both sides of the ramp if the ramp is longer than 6-feet.
  • Ramps must have a non-slip surface with a 5-foot-long level landing at every 30-foot horizontal length of ramp, at the top, bottom, and at switchbacks.
  • The slope of the ramp must not be greater than a 1:12 ratio. This means that for every 12-inches along the base of the ramp, the height increases one inch.

Entrances

  • The ADA requires that if there are stairs at the main entrance, there must also be a ramp or a lift or an alternate entrance for individuals with disabilities to enter.
  • There must be appropriate signage at all inaccessible entrance as to the location of the nearest accessible entrance, which must also be able to be used independently (without assistance or service to enter like waiting for someone to answer a doorbell, operate a lift, or put down a temporary ramp).
  • Accessible parking must also be located by all accessible entrances for ease of entering the facility.
  • Entrance doors must have at least a 32-inch clear opening with at least 18-inches of clear wall space on the pull side of the door next to the handle so that individuals who use wheelchairs or crutches can get close enough to open the door.
  • Beveled edges in the door must not measure more than 3/4-inch high and any mats or carpeting in the entrance must be secure and not more than 1/2-inch high.
  • Door handles cannot be any higher than 48-inches and must be operable with a closed fist in order for individuals who have limited use of their hands to be able to open.
  • Doors must also be easy to open without too much force and if the door has a door closer, it must take at least three seconds to close.

 

Appropriate Terminology

As you may have noticed in this article, the terms “handicap parking” and “handicap sign” were not used, or any use of the word “handicap” for that matter.  And, you may be wondering why since it is a word that most people use.  Let us explain.  In today’s world, terminology within the world of disabilities is changing for the better.  Instead of looking at a disability in a negative way, a more positive approach with regard to the terms used is taking place.  Instead of “handicap parking,” it is most appropriate to say “accessible parking.”  Just like it is most appropriate to say “accessible signs,” “accessible entrances,” and so forth.  Would you have been aware of these changes if you had not been reading this article?  Likely not, so we’re glad you did.  It takes being educated for change to happen and a difference to be made.  And as bar or restaurant owners, you can make a difference by not only educating yourself and your staff on the appropriate use of terminology but also by using it with your customers.

 

The exterior of your bar or restaurant is the first impression patrons get when they pull up with the desire to explore your menu.  So, why not make it welcoming for all?  By following the requirements set forth by the ADA with regard to parking, signage, routes, and entrances on the exterior of your establishment, any individual with a disability that pulls up will surely feel as if your doors have been opened just for them.

 

For more information on more specific requirements set forth by the ADA, please refer to the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division website at www.ada.gov.

Accessibility: What Bar and Restaurant Owners Need to Know

Part 1 of 3 – Interior Considerations

 

Accessible-Restaurant

As a public establishment, your bar or restaurant surely sees a lot of diversity. Customers of all shapes, sizes, orientations, and nationalities, with an abundance of different characteristics, stroll in wanting to take advantage of the services and menu items that you offer.  But, what about the customer who is using a wheelchair? Or the one who is blind?  Or the one who is using a specialized device to communicate?  Do you have the accessibility at your bar or restaurant for these customers to take advantage of your services and menu like everyone else?  Regardless of how you answer this question, as a public establishment your goal should be to serve all people, including individuals with diverse needs.

Accessibility is a topic of increased interest among bar and restaurant owners because it’s one that most owners know little about.  So, we’re here to help! In this three part blog series on accessibility, we will give you the information that you need to welcome a diverse clientele into your establishment whether they walk in, are guided in, or roll through your door.  Today’s article will focus on interior considerations within your bar or restaurant, including the aisles and walkways, seating, tables and counters, interior doorways, restrooms, and other important areas that need addressed.  Part two will focus on important exterior considerations like routes of access, ramps, parking and drop-off areas, and entrances with a focus on appropriate terminology.  And finally, part three will focus on employing individuals with disabilities as well as communication with customers and employees using person-first terminology.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Any discussion of accessibility in a public facility should reference the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The ADA is a civil rights law that protects individuals with disabilities by prohibiting discrimination and ensuring equal opportunities. Signed into law in 1990, the ADA made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of disability in the areas of employment, public services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. Within the ADA, each of these areas is focused on in sections called “titles.”

For bars and restaurants, Title III of the ADA is the most significant.  It states that “no individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.”

New facilities, constructed after the ADA, must make their facilities readily accessible. Existing facilities, constructed before the ADA, must remove physical barriers if readily achievable or easily accomplished without much difficulty or expense.  The regulations do not define the specifics about what the “difficulty” or “expense” is, therefore the judgment is made on a case-by-case basis. It is possible that a facility does not have to remove a barrier because the law will consider the nature and cost, as well as the overall financial resources of the facilityIf this is the case, it doesn’t mean that the change will never be made.  Something that many not be readily achievable now may be later on.  The good news is that most of the time a barrier can be removed by simply changing the physical environment, like adding a ramp when steps are the only means of entrance into a public facility.  But, these physical improvements are not a one-time “fix.” Yearly re-evaluation of accessibility is imperative.

The ultimate goal of the ADA is to give everyone the opportunity to benefit from the services and goods that businesses offer, as well as for businesses to benefit from the patronage of everyone.   Following these requirements will make your customers feel welcome and allow them the freedoms that the law provides them.  And as a bar and restaurant owner, you likely agree that regardless of who enters your building, it’s all about making the customer happy; every single one of them.

hallway PSD

Part 1: Interior Considerations

Bars and restaurants, as public establishments, are required by law to meet specific interior requirements so that their services are accessible to individuals with disabilities.  The following is a list of interior considerations that are required in order to be ADA compliant.  Please note; this is not a comprehensive list that includes every detail of what the ADA requires of all public establishments.  Rather, this is a list of items that are most important for anyone who owns and operates a bar or restaurant.

Routes of access must meet the following requirements:

  • Aisles, walkways, or routes to public spaces must be at lease 36-inches wide.
  • There must also be a 5-foot circle or T-shaped space available for a person using a wheelchair to reverse direction.
  • Any obstacles located in any of the circulation paths must be cane-detectable. This means that any obstacle must be located within 27-inches of the floor or higher than 80-inches, or protruding less than 4-inches from the wall.

Interior doorways must have at least a 32-inch clear opening with handles that are 48-inches high or less and operable with a closed fist.

Tables, seats, and counters must meet the following requirements:

  • In order to accommodate wheelchairs, the height of the tables and counters need to be between 28 and 34-inches. For tables, knee room under the table needs to be at least 30-inches wide, 27-inches high, and 19-inches deep to accommodate a wheelchair.
  • If tables are attached to the wall or floor (fixed tables), 5% of the tables (or at least one when less than 20 tables) must be accessible, if doing so is readily achievable.
  • Accessible seating must be available at each accessible table for individuals using a wheelchair. Movable chairs can be used so that the chair can be moved and the wheelchair can take its place.
  • Cashier and food ordering counters must be 36 inches tall or less or they must have a space on the side where restaurant staff can assist customers or pass food to a customer who cannot reach over the counter.Table-Distance3

Restrooms must meet the following requirements:

  • Restrooms must have at least one available restroom that is fully accessible with a sign located to the side of the door, 60-inches to center-line.
  • Doorways must be at least 32-inches wide for clear passage with the interior having a 36-inch wide path to all fixtures.
  • Restroom doors must be easily opened without more than a 5-pound force and have accessible handles that are 48-inches high or less. And, they must have a lever, loop, or other accessible handle that can easily be used with a closed fist.
  • Accessible stalls must have at least a 5-foot by 5-foot area for a wheelchair to maneuver.
  • Grab bars must be both behind and on the side wall nearest to the toilet with a toilet seat that is 17 to 19-inches high.

Other important requirements that must be met:

  • Service animals used by a person with a disability must be allowed.
  • Permanent signs must have raised letters or Braille text, must be positioned with the center-line 60 inches from the floor, and must be mounted on the wall adjacent to the latch side of the door.
  • Emergency systems must provide flashing lights and audible signals to alert all customers.

Whether you are building a new bar or restaurant, or remodeling the interior of your current establishment, abiding by the requirements set forth within the ADA is a must.  These requirements assure that individuals with disabilities are given the equal opportunity to enter your establishment and enjoy your tasty menu items.  Pair that opportunity with a welcoming atmosphere and we know your bar or restaurant doors will be opening to even more diversity every day.

For more information on more specific requirements set forth by the ADA, please refer to the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division website at www.ada.gov.

How to Avoid the 5 Most Common Problems with Restaurant Furniture

 

It takes a chunk of change to furnish a bar or restaurant.  And when you spend that “chunk” on commercial grade items, you want to see them last.  Proper maintenance and cleaning is the key to long lasting furniture but it won’t fix some common problems that may arise.  So, if they are common problems, shouldn’t you then be able to avoid these issues if they are happening everywhere?  Absolutely!  Our hope is that by providing you with this information, you are able to take a proactive approach to caring for you bar and restaurant furniture so that these common issues don’t happen to you.  Like the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure.”

 

Problem #1:  “The metal legs on my chair and/or bar stool are bending and don’t seem as strong.”

Problem-1

Solution:  Damage to the legs of chairs or bar stools often stems from improper use by customers and staff, something that can happen on a regular basis.  For example, customers may lean back in their chair putting all of their weight on the back two legs. Yikes!  If you see this happening, politely ask the customer to refrain from doing this in hopes to keep the leg strength strong…and of course to save your customer from getting hurt.  Another example is when staff members unknowingly use a chair or bar stool improperly.  As a standard procedure when sweeping and mopping floors, most restaurant staff members place the chairs upside down on the tables.  They clean the floors, let them dry, and proceed to lower the chairs back to the floor.  The issue arises when the staff member slams the chair or bar stool onto the floor with such force that the leg strength is compromised.  After this occurs many times, it can in fact make the legs of chairs and bar stools look bent.  To avoid this, it’s important to show and/or communicate to staff members the proper procedure to gently lower chairs and bar stools back onto the floor so as to keep the legs nice and strong.

 

 

Problem #2:  “My chairs and/or bar stools are scratching up my flooring.”

 Problem-2

Solution:  Scratches on floors from chairs and bar stools are often due to the absence or wearing of one or more floor glides.  Floor glides are the pieces of rubber or hard plastic that are placed on the bottom of the legs of a chair or bar stool to protect the floor.  Without them, the chair will scrape along the floor, cause some scratch marks, and even make a sound that can be like fingernails down a chalkboard.  To avoid this, be sure to regularly check the wear of floor glides as well as that they are all in place.  It’s also a good idea to keep a few extra glides on hand, just in case.  Following these suggestions will keep your floors scratch free and looking fabulous.

 

 

Problem #3: “My tables are peeling, staining, or cracking.”

Problem-3

Solution:  It’s important to be aware of what your table tops are made of and how to properly care for them, especially when it comes to wood table tops.  In the case of wood, it is a natural material that expands and contracts with the changes in temperature.  With any wood product, including table tops, it is important to keep them away from direct heat to avoid cracking.  When we say direct heat, we mean in direct sunlight through a window, under a heating vent, or in a warm area that can become humid and warm from the heat of a hot oven.  It is equally as important to not place a hot tray, sizzling pan, pizza pan/pizza box, or anything right out of the oven directly on the wood top, or any table top for that matter.  If there is no way around it, invest in products to protect the table tops from heat generated from hot foods like a hot plate or an elevated pizza tray.  These items will be worth your money and you won’t have to witness an altering of your table top finishes or heat stains that will appear if you’re not extra careful.

 

 

Problem #4: “My chairs and/or bar stools are wobbly.”
Problem-4

Solution:  If you are experiencing wobbly chairs or bar stools, first check the floor glides to make sure that all four are present and not worn out.  If they are in place and not causing the wobble, loose screws that were either not tightened at assembly or have worked loose over time could be the issue.  With regard to assembly, a lot of commercial restaurant furniture companies ship their chairs and bar stools with the seats unattached.  This enables them to stack the furniture and ship more products at a lower price.  Also, by packing the seats tightly together, it reduces the likelihood of shipping damages.  So, when assembling your seats on site, it is important to follow the proper instructions as well as use the suggested tools with the hardware provided.  Make sure that screws are snug and not too tight so as to avoid further damage to the seat.  In addition, it is just as important to routinely check the hardware on all tables, chairs, and bar stools, and tighten them as needed.

 

Problem #5: “My furniture isn’t lasting as long as I thought it would.”

Problem-5

Solution:  When purchasing furniture for your bar or restaurant, it is important to know where these items are going to be placed and how they are going to be used.  If you need chairs, bar stools, and tables for an indoor dining area, it is important to purchase items that are intended for indoor use.  The same goes for outdoor furniture items.  An outdoor chair, bar stool, or table intended for outdoors, should only be used outdoors.  Or, maybe you want items that can be transferred to and from an indoor space to an outdoor space.  Buying items that have this dual use is the key.  Also, chairs and bar stools are meant to be sat in and tables are meant to be used for eating off of.  Any other uses that customers or staff might be using them for can affect the longevity of the item.  Staff and management should be aware of the intended use of all restaurant furniture and doing what is necessary to make sure that use is maintained.

 

 

Buying restaurant furniture is an investment.  As with any investment, you want to protect it so that you get your use out of it for years to come.  But along with that comes your responsibility to do what it takes to keep your furniture in its most pristine state.  Taking care of your items with the suggestions above will help deter common problems and likely, will last for the years that you were hoping for.

 

 

Our Viktor Steel Restaurant Chairs looked “Groovy” Last Night on Restaurant Impossible!

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Last night on Restaurant Impossible, a popular Food Network TV show starring Robert Irvine, our Viktor chairs made an appearance!  And, they sure looked “groovy” in the newly renovated retro modern ristorante!

The show, which airs on Wednesday nights at 10/9 central, features struggling restaurants whose owners and staff are led by Irvine to improve the menu, organization, design, and internal relationships – which are often the cause of the chaos within.  Irvine has two days and $10,000 to turn each restaurant around, a challenge that he always seems to take head-on and with no excuses.  In addition, he leads a design team to complete a total makeover of the interior of the restaurant and, in every episode, the WOW factor is evident.

On last night’s episode (2/18/2015), Irvine visited Be’ne Pizza and Pasta Restaurant, a retro style establishment in Omaha, Nebraska.  At first, the dining room at Be’ne looked more like a cafeteria than a restaurant, with black banquet chairs and cheap red tables adjacent to an arcade filled with classic video games.  The designer on this episode, Taniya Nayak, took that retro motif and went with it!  She used our brushed silver Viktor chairs and filled them into the new dining room along with beautiful gray table tops and new banquette seating to offer a split booth feel.  She also added cream colored Tolix-style backless bar stools with bar height tables to offer more seating for patrons.  The lighting was so fitting, the video game pixel design on the main wall was perfect, and the mixture of colors gave the dining room that retro feel that Be’ne’s restaurant needed.  When the new Be’ne’s opened to service a slew of customers at the end of the show, it was great to see our Viktor chairs being used in this fabulous new atmosphere.

We are so proud to have our furniture make an appearance on this fantastic series!  Our sincere thank you goes to Restaurant Impossible and designer Taniya Nayak for making it possible.

Please leave a comment to let us know what you thought of the show.

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