Archive for April, 2018

Squeezing In: Side Chairs vs. Arm Chairs

From menus to décor, restaurant owners make decisions with their customer base in mind. And restaurant patio furniture is no different.

Before you look at any catalog or website, you need to decide what your table turnover goal is. It all depends on your concept! This is important to keep in mind when choosing any sort of seating for your restaurant space.

Why do restaurants choose side chairs on their patio? Side chairs can be better for cramped spaces by providing guests a little extra room to slide in and out from the table. Side chairs and bar stools can be great for outdoor space where you want to give them as much range of motion to get up, move, and mingle. Side chairs are ideal for restaurants with the primary goal of fitting as many customers in seats as possible.

Why do restaurants choose arm chairs on their patio? For your more kick back and relax type of establishments, arm chairs have a great laidback vibe. The way the arms are positioned make customers want to mimic the shape, giving a more carefree feel. Arm chairs give the person sitting a sense of personal space, rather than being exposed like that of a side chair. Sometimes these arms can go through a little more wear and tear because they get bumped against the table or leaned on by customers.

Side Chair vs Arm Chair Infographic

As a veteran in the commercial furniture game, we see more side chairs purchased for outdoor spaces than arm chairs. Why? Side chairs tend to be very versatile for all body types because they’re not as constricting without the arms. Many restaurants end up mixing both styles on their patio to provide visual variety across the board. An easy way to do this is to have side chairs the length of the table and then bookend the heads with arm chairs.

Choosing between side chairs and arm chairs may seem like a minor call in the grand scheme of outdoor restaurant furniture, but it’s really something you should think through as a restaurant owner to best serve your business and customers.

Between side chairs, arm chairs, or a mix of both, what would you choose to furnish your patio with? Tell us below!

Order Up! Four Food Delivery Technology Giants You Need to Know About

Cell Phone Ordering

The newest trend in the restaurant industry? Cuisine on the couch, your customers’ couch that is.

The decline of customers stepping into retail stores has finally caught up to the restaurant industry with a surge in food delivery technology. Because, in the evenings, the hardest question customers want to answer is the slightly judgmental “are you still there?” from Netflix.

It’s all about convenience.

Yes, there is normally a delivery fee of some sort, and yes, they should tip your delivery driver, but often, customers are fine with paying a little more for convenience. Think about Amazon Prime. People pay an annual fee just to guarantee their purchases arrive on their doorstep within two days. Now that’s convenience at its finest and it’s something that more people are finding desirable in their eating establishments.

If a customer wants a meal from an across town restaurant that doesn’t deliver and can’t see the drive, wait time, and drive home as a valuable use of their hours, they are likely to pay for the convenience of that meal coming to them.

It can be intimidating to launch a delivery program, consider partnering with one of the restaurant delivery service apps that can get your meals into the hands of hungry, homebody customers. So who are the big players you need to know as a restaurant owner?

Takeout Box

Grubhub holds the bulk of the market share by being in 1,600 US cities including Philadelpia, Boston, Denver, and San Antonio. In 2013, Grubhub merged with Seamless creating a powerhouse portfolio of 80,000 takeout restaurants with the acquisition of Eat24, AllMenus, and MenuPages. The most recent reporting, according to GrubHub’s About Us page, shows Grubhub sending “nearly $4 billion in gross food sales to local takeout restaurants”. Grubhub/Seamless is noted as the delivery service of choice, used whopping 92% of the time in El Paso, Texas, and preferred in New York and Jacksonville 85% and 72% of the time, respectively. Grubhub can be ordered through both iOS and Android device apps that give customers a variety of payment options, saves your order history, and the ability to pre-order a food delivery.

UberEats, it’s like Uber, for your dinner! Even though it’s a separate app, UberEats works very similar to the Uber you’re used to. Customers can order UberEats delivery in 12+ US cities from hundreds of restaurants by using their website or app to browse, order, and track deliveries. This service is available nationally but is used most prevalently in Texas. UberEats ranks as the top delivery service in Houston, Austin, and Dallas. One of the most unique qualities about UberEats is their GPS locator. Like the ride app, customers can watch their dinner make their way to them via their delivery car. For the most part, UberEats charges a flat $5 delivery fee which can be a drop in the bucket or double your cost, depending on what you order.

Amazon Restaurants. You may have heard of a little thing called Amazon? It now offers food delivery through its Prime Now feature for 20 US cities and around 10,000+ restaurants, with its popularity peaking in its home stomping grounds of Seattle. But here’s the catch, this service is exclusive for Amazon Prime members. Integrating restaurant delivery seems like a natural fit; what can’t Amazon do? For those who read on an Amazon device, receive Prime packages every couple of days, and are fine with shelling out for a Prime subscription, using Amazon to order your favorite takeout probably makes a lot of sense. Amazon Restaurants is still in the beginning stages and is no small contender considering the experienced infrastructure and delivery network of its parent company.

DoorDash, from start-up to starting lineup. This service is available in large regions across the US including Southern California, Minneapolis, and Atlanta. DoorDash focuses on building partnerships with national chains like Jack in the Box, Wendy’s, and El Pollo Loco. DoorDash blankets most of the market share in San Jose with 78% usage with Fort Worth and Indianapolis close behind. Of course, it’s easy to know what you want from restaurants you’re used to ordering from, but what if you wanted to try something new? DoorDash make it easier to explore the unknown with its “DoorDash Delight” system. This score rates a user’s overall experience with the restaurant’s delivery program, which can help customers decide between Restaurant A or Restaurant B. Users can order through DoorDash with an iOS or Android device.

Cell Phone

Food delivery technology has come leaps and bounds from where it was 10 years ago but this technology is still highly concentrated in major cities where delivery is second nature. It’s important for restaurant owners to understand the appeal of the food delivery technologies that are out there because they say a lot about customer preferences. Using a food delivery technology, is not always going to be the largest portion of your sales but it is interesting to add that touch of convenience for your customers.

The restaurant industry is changing and evolving at a high pace, and with more pixel power than ever before, can your restaurant keep up?

What is a Patio Umbrella?

FAQ's From the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

When you own a business, restaurant, or hotel, purchasing strong outdoor furniture is key. Buying well-made restaurant furniture can save you from buying replacements after every outdoor season. And buying a patio umbrella is no different.

A patio umbrella is an umbrella made to be used heavily in commercial environments with higher grade materials. These umbrellas are made to be more durable and resilient to wind, rain, sun damage, or salt spray.

A big difference between commercial patio umbrellas and their residential counterparts is the materials that are used. If you analyze what an umbrella is made of, you’ll have a better understanding if it will give you peace of mind (or not) as a part of your business’s patio.

To give your customers a shaded space on your patio year after year, buying lasting umbrellas for your patio is an important investment. This is not a scenario where it’s safe to grab the first umbrella you see at your hardware store. We’ve put together criteria to remember when it comes to purchasing commercial-grade patio umbrellas. How does your umbrella stack up?

Patio Umbrellas in Sidewalk Cafe

Sturdy frame- A patio umbrella frame should be made of wood, aluminum, or fiberglass. A traditional plastic is not going to have the same strength as these frames. Wood frames, commonly teak, are often chosen for their classic look but require the most care to retain their original integrity. Aluminum frames offer a lightweight structure that are low maintenance and affordable, which could be a good option for you if you’re buying a high volume. Fiberglass frames rely on strong glass fibers embedded in resin to create a pliable material that thrives in windy areas. Fiberglass frames can be pricier but can hold their worth in the long run when it comes to durability.

Canopy fabric quality- Think about it this way. The only thing between your customers and the sun’s rays is the umbrella’s canopy. The fabric quality of your patio umbrella’s canopy, like the frame, should be made with tougher materials for extended use. Canopies should be made from heavy gauge vinyl or marine-grade fabrics like Sunbrella, polyester, or olefin. Materials like these can help better prevent color fading and the breakdown of the fabric.

Strong foundation- The wrong base or stand for your patio umbrella can be a liability for your patio. Not only will your umbrella have trouble providing shade, but a weak base can send your umbrella flying. Take note of your patio umbrella’s recommended base weight to accurately choose your base’s material. Consider bases that are steel-plated or aluminum options that use a gravel filler to add weight.

The details- Be sure to inspect functional parts that help the umbrella tilt, move, and open. These parts need to be made from a hardy material like a powder coated steel to prevent rusting or breaking off, making it impossible to use the functions of the umbrella safely.

If you have any questions about choosing the right umbrella for your patio or pairing a base, please call our customer care team at 800-986-5352 for further assistance.

What is a patio umbrella?

How to Make Your Restaurant More Gluten-Free Friendly

If there is one trend that has come to the forefront of the restaurant industry in the past few years it is that consumers are more aware of the health effects of food on their bodies. They what to know where their food is being sourced from, if it is organic, and how is it being prepared. There is a whole market of people that struggle to find places to eat out that coincide with their food restrictions. Those who for health reasons or personal reasons have chosen to go gluten-free.

There are two types of gluten sensitivities. Those caused by Celiac disease and those caused by non-celiac gluten sensitivity. These people don’t experience the same kind of injury and irritation to the small intestine as those with celiac disease, but gluten intolerance can still cause physical and mental problems. Celiac disease itself presents with four different types of varying severity.

Gluten is a substance that is present in cereal grains, especially wheat, that is responsible for the elastic texture of the dough and is a mixture of two proteins. Currently, about 3.1 million people across the U.S.A. follow a gluten-free diet.

It is an entire market of people that you can open your doors to by making some changes to your current systems.  Expectations are higher than ever, and your restaurant might be missing out on profits that you aren’t even aware of.

Changes in Your Kitchen

If you are going to offer gluten-free options on your menu, you need to have the appropriate configuration in your kitchen. Your biggest hurdle will be cutting out cross contamination. Gluten-free products cannot come in to contact with items that have touched gluten-containing foods. For example, a gluten-free pizza cannot be cooked in the same oven as a pizza prepared with gluten ingredients.

Now, this may seem like a chore but there are some easy ways to separate your foods and tools.

  • Dedicate a section of your line to only gluten-free food prep
  • Keep items separate in storage and walk-ins to avoid cross-contamination
  • Use color-coded equipment to avoid contamination

Offering gluten-free options is not as hard as it may originally seem, as long as you keep up with your systems of avoiding cross contamination.

Educate Your Staff

The second most important thing you can do, after making changes in your kitchen, is to educate your staff. Many have heard of the gluten-free “trend” but don’t really know what it is, or how it can affect their customers.  Take some time during a staff meeting to discuss your new menu options and their importance. If you know someone with a gluten intolerance, you could invite them to speak to your staff of their struggles. Knowledge is everything in getting your staff to buy into your new program.

Make sure to encourage them to not judge their customers when they discuss a gluten intolerance. 72% of people leading a gluten-free diet are classified as “PWAGs” – people without celiac disease avoiding gluten. It is important for staff not to roll their eyes or make comments if they feel that a customer might not truly need gluten-free food. Customers with dietary restrictions want to have their concerns heard just like any other customer. It is not their place to judge and ultimately having a good attitude will lead to better tips.

Adjusting Your Menu

There are several ways that your menu can become more gluten-free friendly. Offer gluten-free substitutes to some of your meals. Cornstarch can be a great substitute for flour in certain circumstances.  Order more gluten-free ingredients to have in your kitchen. That way if a customer asks if you have pasta noodles, you can accommodate them. They’ll certainly be appreciative of your forethought.

How much of your menu that you decide to make gluten-free is up to you but having several options would most likely be beneficial. You need to evaluate on a case by case basis how much your current restaurant lends itself to gluten-free options. For example, if you are a Mexican restaurant you might consider offering taco salads or ordering gluten-free wraps. It is not necessary to completely rework your menu if you don’t have the funds or your food doesn’t lend itself well to gluten-free alternatives. Even a few adjustments will help to keep your restaurant relevant and communicate to customers that you are making an effort.

 

To help customers easily identify your gluten-free foods, you can create a menu ledger. Having clearly marked symbols to inform customers of your dishes that are completely gluten-free or have substitutes available can help to make the ordering process simpler. The easier that your menu is to understand for those that are gluten-free, the more comfortable they can feel.

Offering these options will take some adjustment for you and your team. But ultimately, you’ll see the benefits of increased profits and staying competitive in the market. Bethany Jarmul was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance in 2014 and has been searching for dining out options ever since. “As someone who has a gluten intolerance, the first thing I look for in a restaurant is whether or not they provide gluten-free options. If I find a place that offers a lot of gluten-free dishes, I’m likely to make that one of my go-to spots.”

Bethany represents an entire market of customers searching for their next go-to gluten-free spot. Why not make it your restaurant?

How to Promote

You’ve made the changes to your menu, added new ingredients to your kitchen, and educated your staff. Now it is time to get the word out about your new options. Traditional methods are great options Flyers, radio, and social media, are all perfect ways to talk about the benefits of your new food.

One area, in particular, you might like to consider is in Facebook groups that are focused on the gluten-free lifestyle. These groups can have thousands of members all looking for options that make their lives a little bit easier. Simply search gluten free on the Facebook search bar and then narrow your search to groups and you should find plenty of options.

Providing gluten-free options is the fastest growing trend in the restaurant industry and with good reason. Industry powerhouses like Arby’s, Burger King, and Domino’s Pizza are offering gluten-free items. More and more Americans are choosing to go gluten-free for health reasons and the need for innovative food options is greater than ever. Establishing your restaurant as gluten-free friendly is a great way to bring in new customers and establish loyal ones for years to come. Nothing creates loyal customers like the ability to have an honest discussion about their food. It will take some organizing, but your efforts will be well worth it to keep your restaurant relevant and once the profits start rolling in.