Archive for January, 2019

What Other Restaurants Can Learn from “Build Your Own Meal” Concepts

There is no restaurant concept more creative than being one step away from literally putting customers behind a prep table or oven. We’re talking about “build your own meal” restaurant concepts and why they flourish. Popular examples of restaurants that use this concept include Blaze Pizza, Chipotle, Noodles and Company, and Burgatory. These restaurants put the creativity in customers hands as they select the ingredients and toppings that are going into their entrée, with endless possibilities.

See how this concept works and how you can shake up your restaurant’s processes with these tips!

Smooth Ordering

Long gone are the days of ‘can you put the tomatoes on the side?’ and ‘can I substitute kale for lettuce?’ Commonly these restaurants use an assembly line system where the meal and customer move down the line or, at sit-down establishments, customers fill out a check list of everything they want on their entrée.

This should also reduce the margin for error with a server taking down an order. It’s easier for something to be misheard and written down incorrectly at a bustling restaurant versus a customer putting a tick mark next to jalapenos.

The typical ordering process for these restaurants allows customers to order comfortably and not have to communicate their likes and dislikes to a waiter- picky eaters unite! It can also save the staff time going through each option with the customer.

What you can do in your restaurant: Streamline the order process for customers by breaking it down, step by step. Start with the base meal and work your way up with options. For example, start with the different kinds of meat they can choose for their burger. Then, work to buns, cheese, toppings, and sauces to finish their order.

Transparency

With “build your own meal” concepts, restaurants are forced to be upfront and honest about their ingredients. It’s likely you’ve been to eateries where you can see their ingredients behind a sneeze guard and they aren’t really looking as “fresh” as they say (here’s looking at you, Subway).

When customers are building their meals down the line or even from a notepad, they want to see basic options, as well as some places they can get a little creative. These ingredients need to look and sound (if written) appetizing to invite customers to have a little fun with their food.

Restaurants offering truly fresh ingredients can make customers can feel good about what they’re choosing to put into their bodies. So, try partnering with local farms to get fresh produce or meat. This is not only a mutually beneficial partnership but will promote local sustainability and sourced foods as well.

What you can do in your restaurant: Label, label, label! If ingredients are gluten-free, vegetarian/vegan-friendly, or soy-based, let customers know. The more detailed you can be with your ingredients, the better.

Experience

The modern restaurant is moving toward these customized experiences, like “build your own meal”, because it integrates the customers into the theatrics. Dinner becomes much more like a production than just ordering tacos a specific way, it’s a curated food adventure. 

With the possibilities of “build your own meal” concepts, customers could come ten times to your pizza place but have a different experience every single time based on their choices.

There is just a little ego-building that goes into “build your own meal” concepts. Customers are being asked to take the reins, so it’s up to them what they create. If they create something they love or is just not quite what they were hoping, there’s a possibility they’ll be back to tweak it so it’s perfection.

Try also featuring a combination of the month. This could spark a customer’s creativity while also enticing people to stop by!

What you can do in your restaurant: When you make your list of ingredient choices, make sure to not offer flavors that will ruin a customer’s meal. For example, if a customer has decided to float their burger in a marmalade and they’re not satisfied with their meal, technically, that was their choice, but you don’t want that to impact their possibility of a return visit.

The trend of putting the customer in control works seamlessly with “build your own meal” concepts because of their smooth ordering process, transparency, and experience value. Putting the customer in charge really changes the whole dynamic of a restaurant’s traditional business model.  

Would you ever try adding “build your own meal” aspects to your menu offerings? Let us know in the comments below.

Food Photography Tips for Restaurants

How many times have you heard the phrase a picture is worth a thousand words? In today’s world of constant social media interaction, that saying is truer than ever. Photos, especially photos of food, have become a major part of all social media interactions, especially on Instagram.  Now it isn’t like you can just slap up any old photo on your profile and call it a day. The higher quality and more interesting the photos, the more likely they are to be shared and bring customers in your door. But food photography can be challenging, so we’ve put together some helpful tips to have your business putting its best foot forward.

Ideal Lighting

Lighting is probably one of the most important aspects of taking a good photo. If you are able, try to use natural light with indirect sun. This will have your food looking its best, showing off its natural colors, and avoiding harsh shadows. Placing food on a table next to the window is a great way to achieve natural but indirect light. Food placed under fluorescent lighting tends to change tones and colors.

While natural light is best for photos, it isn’t always realistic in restaurants where ambiance and mood lighting are important, and probably dimmer than what you would like. If your restaurant doesn’t have access to natural lighting, you can purchase some equipment to get you closer to achieving great lighting. The Wescott 43” Apollo Orb is a relatively inexpensive option that will get the job done.

Tip: Many commercial table tops will be reflective. Watch out for this when lighting your photos, you don’t want it to distract from the food.

The Perfect Angles

Different angles capture the distinctive components of varying types of food. For example, a plate of grilled chicken and sides might be best shot from above. This will showcase the entire plate and let customers know exactly what they are getting. Items that stack, like burgers and pancakes, are better shot at a 45-degree angle. This showcases the layers and all the goodness in-between. Having photos that vary the angle also help to create variety and interest when you post them to your social accounts or use them in your menu.

Tip: Try to work in triangles. Items shot in groups of three, creating triangles helps to create structure and simplicity.

Staging Your Food

Staging your photos allows you to put your very best foot forward. That being said, staging should complement your food rather than overwhelm it. There are a few things that you can do to present your food in the best possible way. First thing is to make sure that the area you are taking the photo in is clean. Nothing is worse than having great looking food surrounded by crumbs or other unsightly things. It can really ruin the vibe of the photo and distract from the focal point.

The second thing is to switch up your props and backgrounds. Keeping it the same all the time is going to make your photos become boring after a while. If you find yourself in a slump, you can go to the nearest hardware store for some materials with different textures that you can place your plates on.

Finally, take a moment to make sure your food is looking its best is crucial. Adding a little garnish can go a long way. If you find your food looking a little lackluster, you can brush a bit of oil or water to make things look fresh. Don’t overdo it though.

Tip: For inspiration on staging, find a few Instagram accounts that you love and try to emulate their work.

Benefits of Action Shots

Actions shots are a great way to diversify photos and add some interest. A creative way to get these is with a few behind the scenes photos. Your chef stirring up a batch of soup or about to slice some ingredients for your signature dish is an engaging way to let your customers see what goes on in the back and get them craving your food.

Tip: Action shots are also great for adding a human element. It helps to tell your story so don’t be afraid to include hands in some of your food photos.

Editing

The amount of editing you do is entirely up to you. If you choose to edit your photos, there are plenty of free or low-cost editing apps that you can utilize. Depending on the amount of time you spend taking photos and editing, you might want to consider installing Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. These programs have long been recognized as the top editing software.

Tip: Try not to over edit your photos. To much editing will look fake and potentially tacky.

Branding

Just like everything else in your restaurant, your photos should work within your overall brand design. If your restaurant is a bright breakfast spot it wouldn’t make sense for all of your photos to be dark and dreary. However if you are a romantic little bistro with mood lighting, darker photos might feel just right. Before posting any photo be sure to ask yourself if it is sending the message that you want.

Terms & Concepts

If you are an inexperienced photographer or a pro who needs a refresher here are some photography terms and concepts to keep in mind when shooting. While following some of these concepts might elevate your photos, that doesn’t mean you have to stick to them. Use your own creativity and see what you come up with!

Depth of Field: The distance between the nearest and furthest objects where objects appear acceptably sharp in an image and in focus. By adjusting your depth of field, you can really make it clear to the viewer what you want to be the focal point of the picture. 

Rule of Thirds: A guideline that proposes an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts and that compositional elements should be placed along the lines for a more balanced photo.

Bokeh: The out of focus blurred parts in a background.

Exposure: How light or dark an image is.

Aperture: The size of the opening in the lens. The larger the opening the more light allowed into the lens.

Photos are a universal language that doesn’t need a translator. They are an effective way to communicate to customers and entice them to come to your restaurant. Food photography might seem intimidating, but by ensuring that you have good lighting, interesting content, and some creative thinking, you’ll be well on your way to showcasing your food and your restaurant in the best way possible.

Do you have any food photography tips for us? Let us know in the comments!

What is a Tufted Booth?

 

What is a Freight Forwarder

When looking at restaurant booths, there are a lot of options to choose from. If you decide to create a custom booth design the options can seem endless and overwhelming. One of the options that you might notice is the selection for a tufted booth, but what exactly is a tufted booth?

To tuft a fabric means to make depressions at regular intervals by passing thread through it. Most commonly found on different types of cushions, including the back cushion of a restaurant booth.

A tufted booth is a fabric or vinyl restaurant booth that has tufting on the back created by depressions in the material. Typically, it is done in a repeating diamond pattern, which is most common. The diamond button pattern uses a combination of buttons and folds to create diamond shapes on the back of the booth.

In total there are four types of tufting: biscuit button tufting, diamond button tufting, single line button tufting, and buttonless tufting. By using these four different styles, completely different looks can be created.

Adding tufting to a restaurant booth can create some flair and visual interest, to an otherwise simplistic booth. Or it can be used as added texture to an already beautiful booth. Designers use tufting to create a particular booth design that can then help communicate to customers the feel of the restaurant. Typically, it is used to communicate a feeling of comfort and luxury.

If you’d like to see examples of all styles of booths, check out our booth gallery on our Facebook page.

 

6 Resolutions You Need to Keep for Your Restaurant

The start of a new year can bring excitement and an extra boost of motivation to get your restaurant on track for a successful year. Resolutions aren’t just for your personal life, they are great for setting goals for your business as well. Now is the perfect time to refocus your intentions and evaluate your restaurant’s performance up to this point. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in business five years or fifty years, this self-reflection can reignite your excitement for your business.  

Here are some resolution ideas that can help set your restaurant on the path to success for the year:

Improve food inventory management.

Fruits and Veggies on Table

Work together with your food purchaser to know exactly how often certain foods are ordered and how quickly they’re being used up. You’ll also want to meet with your cooks and waitstaff about how ingredients and products are being used. After conducting a food waste audit, create a system that will let you use your orders to the fullest, with as little waste as possible.

According to the “Restaurant Food Waste Action Guide” created by ReFED (a collaboration of private, nonprofit, and public-sector leaders to reduce food waste in the United States), the tracking of thrown away food could cut food costs by two to six percent. Not only can this reduce food waste for the planet, it will also save you from buying unnecessary products that end up going to waste.

Get (more) involved in your community.

Food Specials on Counter

Plan out events for the year that will drive customers to your restaurant for an extra meal and even add some new faces to your regular crowd.

Is there a big local rivalry game coming up? Offer specials customized to that event and put together a theme night. Want to partner with other businesses? Spearhead hosting a festival so that other businesses can show off their wares and you’ve got the food covered.

Give back more.

Volunteers

Have you been approached for a charitable fundraising event but not sure how to accomplish it? Set up guidelines and a fundraising packet to give to interested organizations. This way both parties know what they can expect, and the process is streamlined, making it easy to collaborate.

Not only will customers appreciate your business supporting causes they care about, you might even gain new customers that wouldn’t have come in otherwise.

Know when to delegate.

Daily Schedule Report

You don’t need to be the jack of all trades to have a successful restaurant, but you do need to know how to manage your time effectively to best serve your business. This requires knowing when you should take on a task and when you need to delegate it to others.

Take the time to be serious about setting your calendar and the server schedule. This will help you be more realistic about the free time you have and where you’ll need to pull another manager or staff member to pick up the slack.

Hiring with intent.

Staff Helping Customers

Increase the thought behind when you hire someone. Yes, you are always hiring with specific tasks in mind, but are you just finding any warm body to do them? It’s important to find hard-workers that are self-starting and motivated.

Take the time to analyze your current staff as well. Compare how long they’ve been there to see what is working. If you’re having trouble with hiring, look at how the benefits/perks you’re offering stack up against similar restaurants in your area.

Commit to safety.

Fire Extinguisher on Floor

Staying current on OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requirements for your restaurant is not only smart, it’s essential and can prove to be expensive if not followed. Provide your employees a safe, happy, and healthy environment this year by following OSHA’s guidelines. Give regular trainings on fire and equipment safety, especially when new hires are added to your staff.

Knowing how to properly store and prepare food is also important for any restaurant employee to be familiar with. This can build employee confidence and protect customers from food-handling ailments.

The start of a new year is a great time to refocus what your restaurant’s mission is and make changes toward it accordingly. What resolutions are you focused on keeping for your restaurant business?