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Trends within the Food and Restaurant Industry for 2016

2016 Trends in the restaurant industry

 

At the beginning of each year, it’s exciting to think about what it will bring. For those in the restaurant industry, staying current with predicted trends isn’t only about excitement, but also the need to stay relevant and competitive in a cutthroat industry. Two popular companies that provide the latest trends in the industry each year are Technomic, a food research and consulting firm, and the National Restaurant Association, a national food service trade association. Both have published their lists for what they expect the food and menu trends to be for 2016. Here is a summarized version of both reports, in addition to a few up and coming trends based on our conversations with restaurant owners nationwide.

Snacks versus full blown meals

Diners are moving toward snacks and small plates instead of full dinners

In today’s fast paced world, grabbing a snack is much more efficient than sitting down for a full blown meal. It seems as if everyone is always on the go, being pulled into many different directions throughout the day at work and at home. In fact, according to Technomic in their study on snacking, 51% of today’s consumers say they snack at least twice a day with a third of consumers saying that they snack more frequently than they did just two years ago. 45% even reported that they replace one or two meals a day with a snack. In addition to this increase in snacking, consumers are changing their idea of what they consider a snack.  The report found that innovative, healthy and easily portable snacks, in variety, are what consumers want. MCDonald’s snack wrap, Uno Chicago Grill’s house made guacamole and chips, Houlihan’s pot roast sliders, and P. F. Chang’s steamed shrimp dumplings are all great examples of this.

Technomic suggests offering snacks driven by savory flavors with high protein, or ones that are sweet and spicy.  With snacking on the rise, offering these items could be a great way to drive traffic into your restaurant and increase your sales.

High quality fast food

Customers are switching to high quality fast food like bowls with fresh ingredients over cheeseburgers and fried foods

With the popularity of fast-casual restaurants making a huge impact on the restaurant industry, customers have now been exposed to higher quality ingredients like locally sourced produce and hormone-free meats that they can get quickly at a reasonable price. Places like Panera Bread, Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill, Firehouse Subs, and Chick-fil-A are all examples of restaurants already offering these quality ingredients to the public with a short time from order to table.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, American adults are choosing healthier foods. People are making better use of the Nutrition Facts Panel found on most food packages and serving up meals at home versus eating out to achieve this. If your restaurant can respond to these new healthier desires by offering more nutritious foods, your customers may be enjoying dinner in your dining area instead of their own.

Shrinking menus

Small menus are easier to maintain and keep food costs and waste down.

Instead of having a wide variety of menu items to choose from, the trend is moving toward offering a smaller menu with items. According to Technomic, 7.1% of the top 500 restaurant chains have dropped the number of items on their menu. 9% of those drops are in entrees, 8% in appetizers, and 7.5% in desserts. Take Chik-fil-A for example. The company released this statement when they recently removed their famous coleslaw from the menu; “We know many of our customers love our coleslaw, yet we have also heard from them they are looking for new tastes and healthier ways to eat in our restaurants. To provide this variety means we will occasionally have to remove items from our menu.”

Here is why a smaller menu is worth the cuts: less is more. Having less items on your menu gives your customers better quality dishes, faster service, and hotter food. Customers are then happier because restaurants can do a better job with their most popular items. It’s almost like offering your own list of specialty items that customers come to your restaurant and only your restaurant to eat. In addition, restaurants are able to cut costs by cutting food bills and creating less food waste.

Even though trends are moving towards the shrinking menu, it’s not recommended that your take your four page menu and cut it down to one. You surely don’t want to shock your customers with drastic changes. Try making a slow transition by first taking items that aren’t so popular off of your menu. Work your way down, over time, to only offering a few appetizers and salads, a handful of main entries that you are good at and popular with your customer base, and a few desserts to top it off. Small changes, a little at a time, are all you need to fit in with this trend, if it is what will work best for your particular restaurant.

Ethnic flavors

Ethnic foods like Sriracha sauce are taking the culinary world by storm

Ethnic flavors are growing in popularity since Sriracha sauce became a savory phenomenon in the restaurant industry. In fact, Technomic reports that 77% of consumers purchase ethnic foods and flavors at least once a month. Chefs across the nation are incorporating more ethnic flavors into their menu and looking for that one unique blend to take the industry by storm.  Flavors like ghost pepper from India, sambal from Southeast Asia, gochujang from Korea, and harissa, suman and dukka from North Africa are likely to make their entrance this coming year. In addition, African flavors and Middle Eastern flavors have gained popularity over this year and are likely to continue in that path. Incorporating these flavors into your current menu offerings is a great way to introduce them to your customers.

Fresh and local sourcing…to be continued

Fresh, locally sourced produce and meats continue to be a hot trend

Articles and research in the restaurant industry over this past year have talked a lot about how important it is to buy locally with minimal processing.  This trend is going to continue into this upcoming year because chefs want locally sourced meat and seafood as well as locally grown produce to make their customers happy. The National Restaurant Association says local sourcing has been gaining momentum for several years and is influencing the culinary scene on a national level. They also state that this comes from the fact that today’s customers want to know where their food comes from and are willing to pay a little bit more to have that knowledge. Paired with the fact that the United States Department of Agriculture says that adults are choosing healthier food options, it looks like local sourcing is a winner-winner, “hormone free” chicken dinner.

Wages and tipping

Tipping is a hot button political issue for 2016

There is a heated debate in the restaurant industry surrounding the idea that minimum wage needs to be raised. Places like New York City and San Francisco have already seen these changes and there’s no telling how if, or how quickly, the rest of the country will follow suit. While looking at this debate, a new topic is coming to the forefront: tips. If restaurant owners are going to be required to pay a higher hourly rate for their employees, is tipping still necessary? Employees who have always gotten tips will likely agree that tips are necessary while employers who pay the increased wages will not. While the answer to this question depends on who you ask, it’s a topic that is of great concern to all involved

A more positive approach on the topic of eliminating tipping focuses on equal compensation with each employee seen as a key player on the restaurant’s team. Danny Meyer, the founder of Shake Shack, is at the forefront of this stance. He is eliminating tipping in his restaurants and pairing it with higher wages. This does mean a rise in menu prices but the cost to customers will not change as drastically as one may think. From this, employees gain a wage structure that is fair for every employee who is a part of each customer’s restaurant experience and it provides more of a living wage, rather than dependence on tips. With 11 million workers in the restaurant industry, this structure could surely help to professionalize restaurant jobs and ensure equal compensation.

As a restaurant owner, your best bet with the minimum wage saga will be to stay current with national and state legislation in order to anticipate the changes that will need to be made if your area is affected. A great resource for information on the minimum wage debate is the United States Department of Labor.

Automation

Automated restaurants help owners keep employment costs down and quaility up.

In response to the intense debate about minimum wages and its implementation, restaurants are starting to look at technology to assist with automating orders, payment, and food preparation to save on labor costs. Some already have. Actually, if this debate fails and minimum wage isn’t raised, restaurants will still be incorporating these technologies. Why? Restaurants are finding that by doing so, it makes processes simpler and faster. Automation is a term that can have many meanings for restaurants. For some it may mean incorporating iPads for ordering and payment; for others, it may mean full blown robotics. Whatever the case, you may find more restaurants in this coming year that are incorporating some kind of automation to make their processes more effective, to control their costs, and to minimize the costs of human employees to complete tasks. For more information on this topic, check out one of our previous blog articles called Automation in the Restaurant Industry.

Hard and Soft Design

 

Soft design with curtains, cushions, and carpet is making a comeback from the hard, industrial look.

Bin 36 in Chicago, IL

Previous years have brought about the concept of industrial-rustic design. Taking steel chairs and pairing them with refinished wood table tops in addition to pendant lighting, brick walls, and concrete floors has become quite a popular design theme. It still is. But, some restaurants are now pairing this hard industrial theme with softer items: softer lighting, flooring, and colors through curtains, upholstery or vinyl seats, and even on the walls. These softer elements bring about the less stark feeling that restaurant owners are trying to stay away from to offer a more inviting and comfortable atmosphere. You may have even entered a newer Burger King or Wendy’s and noticed upholstered furniture. This new design idea isn’t an established “trend” that is taking the nation over by storm, but it’s definitely a concept that is growing in popularity and will continue to over this coming year.

Restaurant owners need to know what trends are shaping the industry. Responding to these trends are important to staying relevant and competitive.  If you’re willing to conform to new and upcoming ideas while staying true to your brand, you will have a better chance of staying in forefront of the industry in this grand new year.

 

What You Need to Know When Trying to Obtain a Liquor License

liquorlicense

Most establishments plan on serving some type of alcoholic beverage. Alcohol has a decent markup price in relation to the effort needed to serve it, making it ideal to increase profits. The profit margin changes based upon the type of alcohol, but the lowest is usually around 70%.  Before you can serve you need to get a liquor license. Here are a few tips to get you started with this somewhat complicated process.

One of the most important parts of getting a liquor license is to start early. It can take up to a year or longer to obtain, so it is best to begin once you know you want to sell alcoholic beverages. It might not even be possible to get a license if you do not meet the requirements. Once you do have the license, it is much easier to renew. Most licenses are valid for one year and as long as you remain in good standing you can get automatic renewal set up for a smaller sum than the initial purchase amount.

Depending on your state, costs for a liquor license can vary. To find your state’s governing body go to http://www.ttb.gov/wine/state-ABC.shtml#US. The application fee and taxes may only be a few dollars but the number of licenses may be limited. In that case, you’ll have to buy from an existing bar or a license broker.  If you are buying a preexisting establishment, then you might be able to purchase the former owners liquor license as part of your agreement. If you are not so lucky you’ll need to find a license broker. A license broker is a third party than can help you acquire a license by either facilitating an agreement with another license holder or just give overall guidance through the licensing process. That transaction can be thousands of dollars. Having a lawyer that is familiar with the process can be well worth the extra cost and help make sure that everything is in the proper order.

Classes

When applying for a license you’ll need to know what class you’d like to apply for. Licenses have different classes that are based upon a few different factors. You should know which one your establishment falls into. The type of establishment determines the class. What you serve, where you serve, how you serve, and whom you serve is all affected by what type of class your license that you are applying for.

The Major Types of Classes

Class Type Description
Tavern If you serve food but at least half of your sales are alcohol
Beer & Wine Can only serve beer and wine in the establishment in addition to food
Restaurant Only a certain percentage of sales come from alcohol. Usually between 40%-45% but check your states regulations. Can serve beer, wine, and liquor. This is sometimes referred to as an All-Liquor license.
Club This is designed for private clubs such as a country clubs and golf clubs
Brew Pub Some states offer this to places that brew their own beer
Eating Place This license is usually reserved for carry out places like a Deli, and can only sell beer and in a restricted amount
Retail Reserved for grocery stores, drug stores, and liquor stores

Make sure to check your states classes because each varies a little bit. For example Colorado has up to 19 different class types and you’ll want to know which best fits your business model. Several classes are defined by what percentage of your sales will be dedicated to alcohol. If you are considering opening a night club with the intent of have over 50% of your sales be alcohol, your establishment would fall under the tavern class and that is the license you would apply for.

Qualifications

The local liquor control board determines what types of liquor that can be sold, what hours your business can be open to sell liquor, the qualification for obtaining a liquor license, license fees and quotas. Make sure to become familiar with their board’s requirements.

Anyone applying for a liquor license should have a few qualifications in place before applying. Any applicant should be of legal drinking age, for obvious reasons. They must also have a clean personal history. If you have had a few traffic tickets in your past, they do not appear on a criminal record. They will still have record of the information in their systems, but it shouldn’t affect your ability to get a liquor license unless you have a large number or they have been left unpaid and there is a warrant. In that case you have bigger problems than not getting a liquor license. The information on a criminal record varies by county and by state so be sure to check with your local municipalities.

Applicants will need a seller’s permit.  A seller’s permit is needed if your new business is going to sell or lease anything at wholesale or has retail levels that you need to collect sales tax or any taxable services. The State Department of Revenue will need to approve a seller’s permit before you can sell anything. Some states will also require that the applicant live in the same locale as the business for 90 days. Another requirement for some states is the completion of a training course. A responsible beverage server’s training course is sometimes required by the state’s liquor control board (sometimes called the alcohol control board) before a license can be issued.

Liability

It is also a good idea to get insurance. If you are planning to sell or serve liquor for the first time, insurance is important. Alcohol sales can be a risky business, so getting good liability insurance is a must have. Liability insurance will not cover sales that contradict the law, such as sales to a minor or any other laws your state has in place. But it will cover things like assault charges if a fight breaks out, or medical charges if someone gets hurt in your establishment.

A common question is will insurance cover your bar if you serve a patron and they leave your establishment and get into an accident. The answer is yes and no. An intoxicated driver cannot sue the bar owner, but a person injured by the driver can. The bar’s liability in this situation is usually determined by a judge on a case by case basis. It falls to the person suing a commercial alcohol vendor to prove that the serving of alcohol was a “proximate cause” of the injury. They must show a connection between an injury and the drunk person’s act of drinking at that particular bar or tavern. With anything involving the law, it is best to do your own research or speak with an attorney and insurance representative in your area.

If you have liquor liability insurance, the coverage can be used to pay for the cost of a lawyer and court fees. Chuck Brechtel, who is an owner of a chain of bars called The Bulldog and Lager, makes sure to include liquor liability insurance for all of his bars. Stating that “If you have to go out of pocket for tens of thousands of dollars paying attorney’s fees, that can bankrupt you”.

Whether you plan on only selling the occasional glass of wine or intend to brew your own beer, you’ll need to take the necessary steps to acquire a liquor license. Start early, determine your class type, gather the appropriate paperwork, and submit your materials to your state’s liquor control board. If you get frustrated, remember that 70% profit margin. It is a lot of work but all worth it once the profits start rolling in.

Automation in the Restaurant Industry

Restaurant Automation includes technologies for ordering, serving, and producing food.

When you hear the words “automation” and “restaurant” in the same sentence, what comes to mind? You may envision being seated at a table with the ability to order and pay for your meal right from a table kiosk. Or you may jump to the idea of a robot server holding a tray of food that is delivered to your table from the restaurant kitchen. Wherever your thoughts turn, automation is  becoming more popular in the restaurant industry and will likely continue to grow in the future

What is Restaurant Automation?

Restaurant automation, as defined in Wikipedia, means “the use of restaurant management systems to automate the major operations of a restaurant establishment.” Automation can be partial or complete, with partial meaning some human intervention in the major operations and complete meaning none at all. Automation can be seen in ordering food, preparing food, and even in serving and billing, with technologies like mobile and robotics playing key roles in its implementation.

Who is using automation in their restaurant?

Many restaurants are already taking new technologies to partially automate some of the operations within their restaurant. One major chain that has implemented new devices into their restaurants is McDonald’s, which has franchises all over the world, with many in Europe and Australia already using self-ordering kiosks on their front lines. These kiosks are currently being tested in several locations in the United States and will soon be installed in 2,000 franchises across the nation. The kiosks offer customers the ability to customize their order through a new “Create Your Taste” menu that offers options with each order, from the type of bun, cheese, and meat to the toppings and sauces to finish it off. Once submitted, the order is made at a different cooking station and then delivered to the customer at their table. Other popular restaurants that are currently using a complete tablet ordering system are Chili’s Grill & Bar and Applebee’s. The customer’s dining experience involves a friendly hostess escorting them to their table where they arrive to find a tablet to complete their order. And, while the customers wait, the tablet includes games that they can play for a small fee to keep them entertained. The goal is for customers to not only place their order, but to complete payment via the self-ordering tablet. The human server is only needed to deliver the food and refill drinks.

There are also restaurants that are already taking advantage of complete automation in their establishments. Many of these restaurants can be found overseas like Genki Sushi in Hong Kong, where ordering sushi doesn’t involve any human interaction, and Wall-E Restaurant in China, where robots are your waiters. But, you can also find fully automated restaurants in the United States. One of those restaurants is Eatsa, a quinoa restaurant in San Francisco, California. This restaurant is fully automated with no waiters, no one taking orders at a counter, and very limited staff. The restaurant only employs real people to prepare food, unseen by the customer, and one or two individuals to assist customers with ordering via an iPad and/or to keep the dining area clean. Without having all of the typical staff and experiences when a customer walks in, there is a new process to follow with ordering and paying for food. Customers walk in with the view of a digital menu paired with many iPad’s set up as kiosks for ordering. They proceed with their customized order and once the order is complete, the customer’s name comes up on a screen. When the food is cooked and ready, a number appears next to the customer’s name which corresponds to a “cubby,” on a large wall of cubbies with the same number. This means that the food is ready and available in the cubby. With two taps of the screen, the cubby opens and the customer takes his/her food. Like Eatsa says, “It’s pure magic,” and that magic is resonating well with the customers as proven through many positive reviews on Yelp. So well, in fact, that Eatsa plans to open up two more locations in the San Francisco area by early 2016.

Another restaurant that is using automation is Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant. Located in or near Kansas City, Kansas, the automation in this restaurant comes from service via train delivery cars rather than robots…and humans. Customers grab a table in the dining area which hosts a phone right at the table. They pick up the phone, place their order, and within a short amount of time their food and drinks are delivered by a train delivery car that follows a track which makes a stop at each table. The novelty of a train bringing food and drinks to the table has been quite appealing to customers, especially to those who have a love for trains.

What are the benefits of automating your restaurant?

Automation offers many benefits to both owners in the restaurant industry and their customers. Owners find that there is a more efficient business flow in the kitchen, better control of costs, and easier access to real time sales data. Automation allows for greater output at a lower cost and is typically used as a compliment to labor, rather than a complete replacement. Remaining employees can then focus on the restaurant’s core competencies like food preparation and customer relations.  As owners and managers face pressure to raise minimum wages, utilizing employees as effectively as possible will become even more important and early adopters of automation may gain a competitive advantage in the short term.

For customers, automation is empowering. They are able to customize their order, receive it the way they want it, and get it faster than they’ve had before. Furthermore, automation injects an element of consistency into every facet of the operation where it is utilized.  Customer’s know that when they enter their order into a kiosk, it will be relayed to the kitchen exactly how they ordered it; and, if a robot is cooking it, the final product will have little variation from one time to the next.

What are the challenges of automation?

Automation can have challenges, and those challenges are important for restaurant owners to consider when thinking about automating their business. The first is the initial cost. The technologies needed to make the automation dream come true can have a big price tag, ranging from tens of thousands to millions per location depending on the level of automation desired.  In addition to equipment, owners will also have to factor in any monthly subscription costs, employee training, and maintenance fees.  These costs can put automation out of reach of many single location “mom and pop” establishments.  However, like most new technologies, costs will likely come down with time as new vendors enter and innovate the market.

Second, while early adoption of automation can provide a short term competitive advantage, it also has the potential to commoditize aspects of your operation in the long term.  Think about it. Once kiosk, or tablet ordering becomes widespread, how will you make that part of your business stand out from competitors.  The same goes for server automation; once a robot or conveyor belt is delivering the food to your customers, what separates you from the competition if they have the same robot or conveyor belt?  Gone is the server whose friendly smiles and warm demeanor built a rapport with customers that kept them coming back.  Technology, while increasing efficiency and consistency, can also reduce the number of opportunities to separate your business from the competition.  If an area of your operations is not considered one of your restaurant’s core competencies, then automating it might make sense; but be sure to consider the long term consequences before automating any function that makes your business unique.

The bottom line.

The decision to implement any degree of automation in your restaurant will, like most business decisions, boil down to your bottom line. Will the financial benefits outweigh the costs involved? The best thing that you can do is to research and find out what automation technologies are out there, as well as the cost of its maintenance and implementation. While doing this, think about your restaurant and envision how and where you can use these devices and services in your current processes. Gathering this information will provide you with a better picture of how best to take the automation plunge.  Although we cannot predict the future, we can assume from past history in other industries that technology is only going to continue to grow, improve, and become more cost effective. With it, it is very possible that automation will one day become a common part of nearly every restaurant experience.

Tips for Hiring Millennials and iGens in Your Restaurant

Millenial server training with chef in a restaurant

Have you caught yourself saying it yet? Those words that made you cringe when your parents or grandparents used to say them to you? “I just don’t understand kids these days! When I was your age, I…” I’m sure you can finish that sentence. As the generations below us keep getting younger, we’ll likely catch ourselves saying those words that we dreaded hearing as a youngster, if you haven’t already.

In the restaurant industry, owners are experiencing a similar situation. They are trying to make sense of the generation that is now taking over the workforce as well as preparing for the generation that is currently and will soon be making their entrance. We’re referring to Generation Y, also known as the millennials, and the new and upcoming Generation Z.

Despite the comments that you may have caught yourself saying about these two generations already, they are both intriguing groups of people who have so much to offer the restaurant industry. They may have a different focus, but that doesn’t mean they won’t make great employees. Let’s explore the characteristics of these two generations followed by some tips that you can use when employing these young workers in your restaurant.

Generation Y or “Millennials”

Born between the early 1980s to the early 2000s, millennials are the most diverse generation ever. Generalizations surrounding this group typically include terms like entitled, optimistic, hungry, digital, social, global, and inpatient. They are tech savvy achievers labeled as wanting to be their own boss, have flexible schedules, but most importantly, doing work that matters. They are known as the most likely generation to volunteer and give back specifically for personal growth. They are engaged when allowed to work independently, when their creative input is valued, and when their thoughts and ideas are heard. Millennials are motivated when they see advancement in their positions as well as when they are given opportunities to earn more money. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is expected that by 2020, millennials will make up almost 50 percent of the US workforce.

Tips for employing Millennials

With their presence in our industry now, here are some tips that restaurant owners can use when employing millennials:

  • Best practices in hiring: tell your story about who you are and what’s important to your company, emphasize the culture within your restaurant, and maintain a strong presence on the internet as well as on social media. All of these practices will pull this generation in to want to work for you because of the connection that you have created with them.
  • Offer applications online.  These tech savvy individuals prefer to do everything online, even completing an application. Have a form they can complete and submit anytime from anywhere. Paired with this, be sure to offer a notification within 24 hours that you have received their materials. You can even ask the interviewee to submit a video application with specific questions they would need to answer like “why do you want to work for our restaurant” or “what makes you stand out.”
  • Interviews should stress what it takes for them to be successful in the position that they are interviewing for. If there is room for advancement, it is important to mention that. It would be helpful to use several decision makers during this process with open ended questions that offer the interviewee the opportunity to be heard by many.
  • When training, it’s important to know that in general, everyone learns differently. Embrace this idea, but make it interactive using creative avenues to appeal to this group. Ideas include using photo and video for training from your website, pairing the trainee with a trainer for mentoring, and/or demonstrating a task followed by the employee doing the task for the most impact.
  • Tips to help them succeed once they work for you:
    • Always encourage employee engagement and feedback. Millennials want to be heard and for you to really hear and understand what they have to say. Engage in conversations surrounding these topics in addition to giving them constructive feedback so that they can be successful in their position.
    • Offer flexibility with scheduling. You likely have a set schedule that you need employee coverage. Consider offering split shifts or alternate schedules to appeal to this crew.
    • Give employees more varied job responsibilities. Hiring an employee for a set position that you need to fill ensures that those tasks are covered. But, how about flipping around roles or changing things up? Can you distribute tasks in a different way to offer more variety on the job? Consider these things only if it does not complicate the routine and flow of your business.
    • Embrace social causes. This is the generation that cares for others. If you support any charities or give to any causes, communicate that. Not only to your employees, but also to your customer base.
    • Discuss short and long term goals. Millennials want to do well in the jobs they are working in now. But, they are also interested in the future. Be clear about any advancement opportunities and what it will take to reach those positions.

Generation Z or “iGens”

Generation Z is also known as “iGens”, a name they have gained through alignment with Apple products. Since this group hasn’t known anything other than a world with technology, their nickname seems appropriate. Born between the mid or late 1990s or from the mid 2000s to the present day, Generation Z is often labeled with terms like high maintenance, realistic, loyal, energetic, creative, curious, global, entrepreneurial, and technologically proficient. They are also seen as highly connected because they are the generation raised early on with smart phones, touchscreens, and tablets. They create the trends and share it on all of their social media accounts while loving that they have information at their fingertips. Because of this, instant gratification is extremely important.

Tips for employing iGens

Since Generation Z is the future of your restaurant, here are some tips that you can use when employing these young workers:

  • Best practices in hiring: incorporate technology, embrace a mentoring program, be quick to respond to their needs, and listen to their ideas.   All of these practices will pull this generation in to work for you because of the importance these play in their lives.
  • Go mobile. This group likely has a phone attached to their hip for instant…anything. If they can go to your website and find out what you’re all about from their phone, they will. If they can find an application on your website from their phone, they will.   If they can pull up that application and submit it to your restaurant from their phone, they will. Anything and everything can be done from a phone so it’s important for your restaurant to have a mobile presence to appeal to this group.
  • Interviewing practices are the same for this group as with Millennials above. But another technique to try is behavioral interviewing. This type of interviewing simply involves asking applicants to tell you a story and then listen to what they have to say. For example, ask them to “tell me a story about a time you solved a problem at work.” Or, “tell me a story about a conflict you had with another employee at work. How did you solve it?” You may already be using this action based interview strategy but if not, it can really tell you a lot about what kind of employee the individual will be.
  • Training should encompass multiple strategies. One of the most important is implementing mentoring programs. Pairing each new employee with a mentor will provide access to how the business is run as well as ongoing assistance for all those questions that come up in the first few months on the job. It’s also a great tool to encourage communication and build a sense of community within the culture of your business. Another strategy to offer is providing visuals with training. Visual representations and teachings show the step by step process of how something is done. Visuals will clarify any questions with your processes and when done with a mentor, can prove to be very effective. Both of these strategies are important to include in your training program to motivate this group of driven workers.
  • Other general tips that will be help them succeed:
    • Listen to these trend setters. If you want to make an impression on this generation because they represent the bulk of your customer base, ask your employees who are members of it. They are creative and know how to get the word out. Take the time to listen to what they have to say so that you can implement their ideas and make a statement. Not only will this help with your current customer base but it may attract some new customers.
    • Use rewards. This generation is used to getting a ribbon, trophy, or some kind of reward for everything that they do. Implementing an employee reward program that offers recognition will be motivating especially when you change it often.

Generation Y and Z are filling up the workforce that currently represents restaurant employees. As owners and managers of these establishments, learning more about how to motivate and retain these individuals are key to running a successful business in today’s world. With some adaptations and changes in the way we hire, train, and employ these future leaders, we’ll be saying “when I was your age, I….” much less than our parent

The Fast Casual Storm: How You Can Compete

Panera Bread Fast Casual Restaurant.

Trends in the restaurant industry are changing thanks to the influence of fast casual restaurants. Establishments like Chipotle, Taco Del Mar, Five Guys, and Panera Bread, to name a few, are taking the industry over by storm. So, what’s the big deal? Why are these types of restaurants becoming “the” places for dining out?

What is Fast Casual?

Let’s first define what encompasses the fast casual trend. The term fast casual comes from the joining of “fast” food and “casual” dining because it offers elements of both. It is a type of restaurant that offers a higher quality fast food experience with fresh ingredients in a more modern upscale atmosphere.  Front counter service is available to place an order, pay, and retrieve food, followed by customers taking a seat in a dining area that is free of any table service. When placing an order, customers are often offered an interactive experience where they can choose exactly what they want from a visual array of additions, ala Chipotle. It’s customization at its finest! Meal prices at these establishments tend to range from $8 and $15 with payment up front and a minimal wait time.

Customers are changing.

That all sounds great but why is the growth of fast casual restaurants seemingly outpacing other restaurant concepts at an incredibly fast rate? Well, it all comes down to the fact that consumers today are different than those of past decades. In our very fast paced world of cell phones and instant access to the internet, consumers are becoming accustomed to having information and choices available at their fingertips; they want what they want and they want it right now. In other words, people want fast customization especially when they are hungry. And, who wouldn’t? Having fresh, healthy options that you choose and can eat in a matter of minutes is becoming the norm.

Competition is fierce!

With the rapid growth of fast casual restaurants, established restaurants are finding that it’s not easy to compete. McDonald’s is one such establishment who has reported a disappointing global decrease in sales as well as in guest traffic with these new customer demands. Due to these declines, even the industry leader in fast food is realizing that they need to make changes to fulfill the desires of their customers. So, what can you do as a restaurant owner do to maintain a strong business presence while co-existing with this new fast casual trend?

Where do you stand and what can you do to compete?

First, answer this. Are fast casual restaurants your competition? If fast casual restaurants aren’t directly in competition with the type of restaurant that you fall under, then you shouldn’t have much to worry about. Keep doing what you are doing and do it well.   Maintain excellent customer service, quality menu items, and a clean and friendly atmosphere. There are still diners who want to be served at a table, don’t mind waiting for table service, and might not always be in the mood for the fast casual experience.

If you are in direct competition with the growth of fast casual restaurants, you have one of two options. You can jump on the bandwagon and adopt some of the ideas from the fast casual trend to implement in your restaurant or you can stick to your niche and do it well.

Many well-known restaurants are trying to adapt. Let’s stick with McDonald’s for example. Recent press releases have communicated a change in ways for this famous chain. McDonald’s will be transitioning to cage-free eggs, sourcing antibiotic-free chicken, and hormone free beef. They have already started to serve a new salad mix consisting of a blend of romaine, baby kale, and baby spinach, in addition to simplifying their menu. If you think that adapting to the fast casual experience like McDonald’s is the best way to respond, there are things you can do to make your restaurant more appealing. Add new adventurous flavors to your menu, incorporate fresh natural ingredients, and keep it healthy. To do this, try adding new gourmet sauces to your sandwiches or as a side. You can also replace frozen or processed ingredients with local sourced vegetables and meats. In addition, offer menu items that customers can run in and pick up quickly and don’t take as long to cook.  If feasible, you could even give the interior and exterior of your restaurant a more modern upscale look offering a new arrangement that appeals to this trend.

If you implement these ideas, be sure to tell you customers about it! Use social media as an avenue to advertise to the masses. Pictures of new menu items, a new interior set up, or even added parking for quick to-go orders are all great ideas for Instagram. Twitter tweets and posts on Facebook that incorporate new hashtags or creative ways to let your customers know about the changes you made are imperative to encourage customers to test the new waters. But remember this. If you make all of these changes, be sure to stay true to your brand in the process. In other words, don’t forget the core values that you built your business on. Your goal will be to continue to keep your customer base happy while offering options that align with this new trend. Keeping these things in mind while changing the services you provide to your customers will keep your restaurant from getting lost in the hustle and bustle of this new fast casual world.

A final thought.

As time passes, trends change. Even in the restaurant industry. As you try to decide how or if your restaurant will respond to this new fast casual trend, ask yourself this one question. Will you opt to change to be “like” the best or will you just “be” the best? Your answer will guide you to success.

Top Tips for Reducing Food Waste in Your Restaurant

Food Waste in a Garbage Can - Image Courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture

There is a growing concern in our country that those in the restaurant industry need to know about: food waste. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), food waste is estimated at between 30-40% of the food supply, which is about 133 billion pounds of food per year. That is a lot of food! With this abundance of food waste, the negative impacts are becoming greater. We are seeing nutritious food that could help feed families in need being sent to landfills. As these landfills continue to fill up, methane is being generated, a known contributor to climate changes and global warming. In addition, the resources that are being used to produce, process, transport, prepare, store, and dispose of wasted food, are ones that could be used towards other uses that would have a greater benefit on our society. As these impacts add up, our country is noticing how big this problem truly is.

In response to this problem, the USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced the United States’ first-ever national food loss and waste goal, calling for a 50% reduction by 2030. What does this mean for restaurants? It’s time to take action to reduce food waste! Not just for the sake of the national goal of reduction, but also for your own sake of saving your business the increasing amounts of money that is being spent on food that just goes to waste. Here are some tips that you can implement is your restaurant to combat this growing concern.

Track Your Food Waste

The first step to controlling food waste is to figure out how much food you’re actually wasting.  If you’re unsure of how much food waste your restaurant produces, institute a process to track your food waste for a week. Ask all staff to document what percentage or amount of food that they throw away before it hits the trash. With this data, make a plan to minimize that waste with the considerations below.

 Join the U.S. Food Waste Challenge

The U.S. Food Waste Challenge is a program that the USDA and the EPA launched in June of 2013. This program challenges “entities across the food chain”, restaurants included, to join efforts to reduce, recover, and recycle food waste. By joining, entities demonstrate their commitment to take action to reduce food waste for free. You are just asked to document ways that your restaurant will reduce food waste in the next year and follow through on that list.   To join the Food Waste Challenge, click here.

Proper storage

When storing foods, we all know how important temperature control is. Best practices for temperature control are twofold: frequent checking and documentation of your cooler and freezer thermometers in addition to making sure they are at the required temperatures. Coolers should remain at 41 degrees Fahrenheit for proper storage and freezers should be at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet, not all foods need to be put in the cooler or freezer. For those items that do not, storage considerations should involve standard food containers and food packaging wrap. The more proper you are about storage, the longer it will last, and the less you will have to throw away.

Labeling paired with a “first in, first out” policy

Labeling is a key part to food storage. Not only because your staff needs to know what each container or box holds, but also so they know which foods to use first. Using the “first in, first out” policy means that you are storing newer products behind the older ones, therefore using the older products in the front first. Monitoring your staff is the key to this policy because even if you train them to pull down the older products first, it is likely that it will be tempting for them to grab a newer or fresher product in the back.

Portion control

The portions you serve to your customers are in direct correlation to your food waste. Plates full of food are often destined for the trash can because it’s just too much to eat. Consider offering smaller portions of your foods and make sure that the portions remain consistent.  We suggest that you have your staff measure each portion that they make and serve. Not only will this help with waste, but it will also help to reduce your food costs. In addition, consider adding half-portions of meals already on your menu at a lower price in order to avoid the excess food landing in the trash.

Smart purchasing

Since over-purchasing of perishable items is a big problem when it comes to food waste, it’s important to buy smart. Smart buying encompasses taking regular counts of your inventory, inspecting foods upon arrival with the non-acceptance of items that are spoiled, and consistency with inventory tracking. Add to this the fact that you should only buy what you need. Use your inventory tracking system to identify trends in purchasing. Once those trends are identified, you can let them lead the way to successful ordering that keeps money in your register.

Other general tips

In addition to the tips listed above, please find below some other general tips that might help you in reducing food waste.

  • If you find you have perishable items that will be soon to spoil, add menu items that include that item into your daily or weekly specials
  • Institute creative ways to re-use food like turning bread into croutons or using vegetables and meats in soups
  • Encourage employees to take home foods that you will only end up throwing away at the end of the day or night
  • Donate food that you will not use to families in need. There are federal laws that encourage food donation and offer tax deductions as well as protection from liability if a donation causes illness or injury. Many organizations exist that collect and distribute food donations to those who need it. For a listing of laws in place or organizations to donate to, click here.
  • Always offer take home containers to your customers for any foods that might still be on their plate. Offer containers that are microwave safe and re-usable to encourage an easy heat up and less waste.
  • Use refillable bottles, dishes, or containers for condiments instead of the single packs. Set these items on each table so that customers use only what they need.   If you are using the single packs, avoid putting them out where customers can grab them. They will likely grab more than what they need and throw away the unused packs in the trash.
  • Reduce the amount of bread and rolls that are offered before each meal and/or reduce the size of appetizers that you offer. These foods tend to fill customers up thus contributing to the possibility of having more food left over from the main dish.
  • Purchase a commercial vacuum sealer to keep your foods as fresh as possible for as long as possible

Regardless of the steps you decide to implement, taking action against food waste is an important part of creating a solution to this growing problem. Simple steps in the regular routine and daily processes within your restaurant will serve a huge benefit to your wallet as well as have a positive impact on society and the environment. That’s what you call a “win, win” situation.

Hungry For Talent: Strategies For Enticing New Cooks

Line cook in the kitchen.

There is a quiet epidemic in the restaurant industry that very few patrons are aware of – the lack of hireable line cooks. With a new generation being raised on The Food Network everyone entering the restaurant industry wants to be a celebrity chef, but nobody wants to start from the bottom as a line cook.  These shows are not an accurate representation of how much work it takes to get to the top of the restaurant industry as a chef, and especially not the hard work and luck it takes to become a celebrity chef. These shows are creating a divide between the expectations of those entering the industry and the realities of working in a kitchen.

With the uptick in the economy, the number of new restaurants is increasing nationwide but the number of cooks being produced by culinary schools isn’t keeping up with the current demand creating a shortage of employable line cooks that restaurant owners are feeling in their kitchens. With the abundance of jobs, new cooks simply leave looking for better opportunities. Chefs are saying that it is not unusual for a line cook to stay for only a few months before leaving again. Those left behind are the ones feeling the pinch of an understaffed kitchen.

The Deterrents

Many cities are experiencing the shortage of cooks. From New York City to San Francisco, ads are being placed everyday looking for skilled cooks. Part of the issue is the hours. Cooks must be willing to work weekends, nights, and holidays. All times that would normally be spent with family or friends. In the past working grueling hours was the only option for an aspiring chef. Until recently. New options such as food trucks, pop up restaurants (temporary eateries that appear during festivals) and tech companies with cafeterias, can offer better hours, higher pay, and better benefits. Having the career you love and still getting to spend time with loved ones is the dream for any person. Positions offering those opportunities are luring more and more cooks away from the restaurant industry leaving a deficit.

Location can be an issue for many restaurants as well. City life is expensive and the average cook in the United States makes $10-$12 an hour according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with those working in large cities being on the higher end of the national average. With the average rent in a city like New York being around $1,200 a month, living in the city just isn’t feasible for these line cooks on the wages they are currently receiving. More and more are migrating to smaller towns where there is still a strong need but the cost of living is more affordable. Even the commute to work being 15 minutes closer can be a determining factor when deciding upon employment. This movement is creating the deficit that city restaurants are currently trying to deal with.

What Can A Restaurant Do?

In the face of the shortage, what can a restaurant do to lure skilled line cooks back into its kitchens? The obvious answer for some businesses is to start offering higher starting rates and signing bonuses. A lot of graduates fresh from culinary school are facing large student loans they need to pay off. The tuition, supplies, and room and board for the Culinary Institute of America tops $31,000 a year. It can be a challenge to pay for student loans before the cost of living is even factored into the equation. An offer of higher pay with a bonus can be very appealing when those bills start rolling in.

“We now pay our staff probably $3 to $5 an hour more than we did when we first opened [in 2012],” Chef/owner Will Gilson from Puritan & Company Chef pot cooking on stovein Massachusetts told Fortune this year.

The signing bonuses don’t always need to be monetary though. Paying for required shoes, uniforms, or other items can be a great way to entice a new employee. Anything an aspiring chef would need or would want career wise, can be used as a bargaining tool.

Other restaurants are going right to the source. Offering programs where they will pay for part of an employee’s student loans each month after a probationary period. Some groups, such as Boston Urban Hospitality which operates three restaurants, are offering up to $1,000 a month to help with student loans after a three month probationary period. Without the strain of student loans the smaller wages can become much more livable.

With housing being an issue for many trying to work in cities, some businesses have chosen to offer assistance in finding affordable housing. Moving for a job becomes an easier decision when you know the rent will be reasonably priced and possibly close to work. The added stress of finding a place to live is taken away and allows the employee to focus on their job.
Another route for a restaurant is to offer additional training to cooks who agree to work for them. Investing in programs to teach the cooks new and creative ways of preparing food is a draw for many looking to expand upon the knowledge they already have. A way to continue education and a sense of working towards something greater is a goal for many millennials, and cooks are no exception. It also helps to keep them focused on the kitchen and keeps their eyes from wandering towards other opportunities.

If none of those work for you, try offering to critique students at a local culinary school. It is a great way to network with current students. While judging if you find a student you think would work well in your kitchens you can offer them a position before they have done too much searching elsewhere. Offering them an externship is also a viable alternative. Starting a cook in your own kitchen can be an easier way to develop the talent of the candidate to the needs of your kitchen.

With a 10% growth rate the Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts an additional 175,000 jobs for cooks in the next decade. As long as shows such as Iron Chef and Cutthroat Kitchen have prevalence, the new generation of cooks is going to have higher expectations from their employers than the generation before. Unless some changes are made in the industry to the long hours and low wages, the problem is going to persist for years to come. Now is the time for restaurant owners to start taking a look at the way they are recruiting their new cooks.

Don’t Hate, “DONATE” with a Plan! Tips for Charitable Fundraising at Your Restaurant!

Fundraising cards lik Peel-A-Deal are a great, easy option for restaurants to help charities.

It’s that time of year again…back to school and back to a more rigid routine. What does this mean for restaurant owners? Likely, request after request for donations to support schools, groups, and organizations as they begin their campaigns to raise funds. Unfortunately, you can’t support them all. If you did, you may no longer be in business. But for the ones that you do support, why not establish fundraising opportunities that you offer and master so that the experience is easier for everyone?

Check out this list of ideas that you can use for your restaurant. If these ideas aren’t for you, maybe they can at least get your mind rolling with some other fundraising ideas that your restaurant can offer.

  • Donate coupons or gift cards to teachers at your local schools. The teachers can then present these coupons or cards to students who have good attendance, show academic improvement, and good citizenship in school. You can do this monthly, every other month, or several times a year.
  • Sell group fundraising cards like Peel-A-Deal to organizations at a discount. You get the money up front and the organization does the rest. The only thing you need to do is order the cards, decide what coupon offers will be included on the cards and how much you are going to charge the organization per card. It’s common that the organization purchases the card for half of what you charge them, typically $5 for a $10 card.
  • Host nights where a date is set with the organization and a certain percentage of the sales that evening are donated to their cause. You can even narrow it down to dining visits within a specific time frame as well as to a specific menu item. But, be careful not to narrow it down too much or the amount of funds you raise will be limited. Hoss’s Family Steak & Sea House is a restaurant who offers this type of program with their dine-in fundraisers.
  • Offer a t-shirt fundraiser where a certain percentage of each t-shirt sold by the organization goes to their cause. The t-shirt, sporting both your restaurant logo and the organization logo, can be custom made for purchase with an agreed upon design. Every time that shirt is worn, it advertises your restaurant. You can even accomplish this idea using trendy bracelets or hats.
  • Offer to cater an organization’s charitable event instead of making a monetary donation. This will allow attendees of the event to get a taste of your food while you offer your support. You will not only help the organization by saving them time and money in food preparation, but you’ll gain some new customers along the way.
  • If your restaurant is in a high traffic location, offer space in your parking lot for a car wash (if accessible), a car trunk garage sale, or a flea market where funds raised go toward the group involved. You will likely get visitors strolling in to your restaurant for a bite to eat.

 

Benefits to Fundraising/Donations

There are so many benefits to fundraising within your community, benefits that will likely outweigh the cost to you.

  • First and foremost, contributing provides you with a sense of pride knowing that you offered support to your community. It just feels good to give and nothing can beat that feeling.
  • Tax deductions are available for charitable contributions to nonprofit organizations. There are specific guidelines with these tax deductions so make sure that you have documentation of each transaction, like a check or receipt. These items are necessary for your accountant.
  • Sponsoring or donating gets your name out in the community. If your logo is on a group fundraising card or t-shirt, it will be seen and recognized. People are likely to support your business knowing that you are invested in the well-being of the community.
  • It’s a great marketing tool! Let your customers know that you support the community on your website and on social media platforms. Posts, pictures, and hash tags are all great ways to get noticed.

 

Recommendations

So let’s say you decide to move forward with one of the fundraising ideas that are suggested above. Or, you currently have a fundraising program that isn’t working the way you want it to. We want to help! Here are some recommendations that will help you with implementing or changing your program to make the whole process much simpler

  • Have a clear set of rules about giving to make it easier for you to identify who you will support. For example, maybe you’d like to only offer support to schools within your local community and groups directly related to that school. Therefore, if someone comes to you looking for donations from another school, you can graciously decline based on those clear rules.
  • Create a budget for donations. Once you hit that limit, you’ve met your quota and that’s that.
  • Create a policy where donation requests need to be in writing and at least one month before the event. Or, look into technology that helps with donation management like the Automated Item Request System or AIRS. This type of system makes the process so much faster and easier for you.
  • Don’t beat around the bush. If you can’t or don’t want to donate, give a direct no. Leading people to believe that you are interested in helping will only make them want it more. If you are direct and give a no by following the above rules, you will have more success with repeat solicitors.

There are no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it; funds and donations are always going to be needed. Whether you choose to support them or not, schools, clubs, and organizations will be strolling in to ask for your financial support. With a well thought out plan and established limits on the opportunities that you offer, your fundraising process can be extremely manageable and benefit everyone in the process.

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.