Archive for September, 2019

How to Pair Booths and Tables in Your Restaurant

Selecting booths and tables for your restaurant can be a big decision. They need to look right together, but they also need to function well. Choosing the wrong pairing can result in an uncomfortable dining experience for the guest, and lost revenue for you!

So we’re breaking down some factors for you to consider, from size to design, to help you pair the right booths with the right tables.

Dimensions

The first thing to consider when selecting booths and tables is their respective sizes. The dimensions of your restaurant will, to some extent, dictate the size of the tables and booths that you can install. Use the following size guidelines as you determine how many and what size tables and booths you’ll need.

Length

You’ll want to make sure that your table length is approximately the same as your booth length. There are a variety of “standard” booth lengths, from a 24” single-seater all the way up to 60” for 3 or even 4 people per side. If you were to pair a 36” table with a 48” booth, you’d have a foot of extra booth space making your table look undersized. So make sure to match your booth and table length.

Depth

Since booths aren’t pulled under the table like a chair, it’s important to consider your table width and booth depth. You want to make sure that guests can reach their food, but aren’t knocking their knees together under the booth.

If you have a standard 30” table, you’ll want to leave about 72” between each booth top cap. The top cap is the piece of the booth that “caps” the back of the seat at the top. For a more narrow 24” table, 66” between each top cap will be enough. Make sure you have enough room for at least 16” between the seat back and the edge of the table. You don’t want guests to feel wedged between the booth and the table! 

Height

You will also need to consider seat height and back height. A good rule of thumb for seat height is to allow about 12” between the seat and the tabletop. So a booth with a seat 18” off the ground would go well with a 30” tall table. 

Finally, there is the back height. The back of the booth doesn’t affect functionality, but it does affect the flow of your space. If you have a small restaurant, a tall seat back can make it feel smaller and more enclosed. But if your restaurant is very large and you want it to feel cozier, tall seat backs might be a good option.

Style

Once you have a basic idea of dimensions, you can start considering the style of your tables and booths. They should work together, but they also need to fit into your restaurant as a whole. 

Booths come in a variety of sizes and designs. The most common is the single or double booth. A single is just that — one booth. The back is flat and can be placed against a wall or at the end of a row of booths. The double booth is two booth seats that share the same back. These booths are designed to work with a rectangular table, which provides a lot of options.

Booths that are designed to be against a wall will have only one “finished end” — the part of the booth that faces out to the restaurant. The other end will be unfinished since it will not be visible. Make sure to have your floor plan laid out in advance, so you know how many booths to order with finished vs. unfinished ends.

There are also ½ circle or ¾ circle booths. These can often seat more people than the single or double booth. They’ll also require a larger table since the diners will be sitting on three sides instead of two. To figure out the best table size for these round or square booths, first measure the width of the open space in the middle. You want your table to slightly overhang the bench seat. So if the open space is 44”, a 48” table would be perfect.

Banquette booths are usually long, built-in benches that go along one wall. They’ll be faced by a table and a chair on the other side. These can be a great space saver, and don’t enclose your seating the way a traditional booth does. But keep in mind that instead of only matching a table to your booth, you’ll have to match a table and chair to your booth. 

Do you want to open up your space and create a flow? Banquettes are great for this, since they effectively remove the barrier between tables. A banquette provides a lighter booth option that can be paired with a wide variety of tables. 

On the other hand, a heavy, dark booth will encourage guests to hunker down and get intimate. Don’t let your table get overpowered. A substantial booth requires a substantial table to balance it out. 

Fabric and Finishes

Your table and booth finishes will create a lot of visual interest in your space. So it’s important to get them right. 

But they don’t have to match. In fact, a matchy-matchy set of booths and tables may look a little dated. That can be great if you’re going for a retro look. A brightly colored vinyl booth with a matching laminate table would look right at home in a 50s-style diner.

For a more modern look, consider adding some contrast. A booth in a bright color, like turquoise or orange, contrasted with a rustic wood table will look current and casual. Or you could pair a light ivory booth with a rich mahogany table for an upscale look. 

You can also add multiple colors to your booth, or a splashy fabric. Keep fabric patterns on the larger side to keep them from looking too busy. 

You can even use two entirely different colored booths in different parts of your restaurant. For example, you could have a golden yellow banquette on one side of the space, and a row of deep red double booths on the other. But when the booths are eye-catching, keep the tables simple. You could choose a warm wood tone that works well with both booth colors to help tie the space together. Or pick a neutral granite tabletop that has flecks of each color in the stone variations.

For banquettes, you can get a matching set of booths and chairs to keep the look consistent. Or use the chair as an opportunity to pull in something new. A brown leather tufted banquette bench, reclaimed wood table, and vibrant red industrial chair will create a unique modern space.

To tie your booths and tables together, look for a single element to repeat on both. For example, you could use gold or bronze accents on both your booth and table to make them appear more cohesive.

Keep wear and tear in mind. A family-friendly restaurant may want to consider vinyl or an unupholstered booth, rather than one finished in a costly fabric.

Conclusion

Pairing booths and tables requires some planning ahead and homing in on your restaurant style. Once you’ve figured out layout and furniture size, you can start to consider design and finishes.

Remember that if you can’t find the perfect booth for your restaurant, there’s always the option to have something custom built.

How Your Restaurant Can Increase Business with a Delivery Service

Online food delivery is a big market, and it’s on track to get much bigger. This $22 billion industry is expected to reach $28.4 billion by 2023. In fact, the online ordering and delivery sector has grown 300% faster than dine-in sales since 2014!

Call it the Amazon effect, but our increasing reliance on ecommerce is spilling over into the way people choose to order food. In fact, one survey showed that 45% of people would be more likely to order from a restaurant that has a mobile ordering service. 

The increased popularity of these services has led to an explosion of options, from national to local versions. We’re going to explore some of the most popular services, how they work, and some ways to make the most out of them. 

National Delivery Services

There are a number of nationwide delivery services that have gained huge popularity in the past 5 to 10 years. 

When selecting a service, make sure to consider its convenience for your staff, costs to you, and costs to the consumer. If fees are too high for the customer at your restaurant’s price point, you may not see the boost in sales you’re hoping for. 

UberEats

With a well-established fleet of contracted drivers, Uber decided to expand into the food delivery world in 2014 with UberEats

How it Works

To use UberEats, customers place an order through the app on their smartphone or tablet. Restaurants are supplied with their own UberEats tablet, which will display the customer’s order. When the restaurant accepts the order, a driver is pinged and told when to pick it up based on the restaurant’s pre-selected prep time.

The payment is all done by the customer through the app, so no money exchanges hands when the driver arrives to pick up the food. UberEats also has a “closed bag” policy, meaning that orders are not inspected by drivers. They just pick it up and leave. So restaurants have to be very careful to get the order right.

Restaurant Costs

Restaurants have to pay a 30% fee on each sale to UberEats. If a dish costs the customer $10, $3 will go to UberEats. Some restaurants increase their costs on the platform to help cover these fees (although UberEats doesn’t encourage the practice).

Customer Costs

Customers pay a sliding scale delivery fee based on how close they are to the restaurant. Fees range from about $2 to $8. This could be great news if your restaurant is in a highly-populated area. But it could result in high fees if your restaurant is far from residential neighborhoods. UberEats can also implement surge pricing during particularly busy times. 

Customers must also pay a 15% service fee on their total orders, and a “small order fee” on orders less than $10. If you think many orders would be less than $10 total, you may want to consider a different delivery service to avoid the small order fee for your customers.

GrubHub

GrubHub was the first company to really disrupt the restaurant delivery service. They work with over 125,000 restaurants in the U.S. and London.

How it Works

Customers can place orders through the GrubHub app, or on www.grubhub.com. Restaurants can also add a GrubHub button to their websites, directing their web traffic to the online ordering platform. 

When the order comes through, the restaurant must accept it. Then a driver will be notified and will come to pick up the order and deliver it to the customer. 

Unlike most other delivery platforms that don’t work with any POS systems, GrubHub integrates with Breadcrumbs POS. If you’re already on that platform, it can provide a really simple, seamless way to manage your delivery orders.

Restaurant costs

Grubhub’s fees depend on your market and if you choose a sponsored or unsponsored listing. 

An “unsponsored listing” will not be prioritized in searches on the app. If you’re trying to get new business, this may not be the best choice for your restaurant, as you’ll be harder to find. But if your restaurant is already very popular and you anticipate people to search for it by name rather than cuisine, unsponsored may work for you. Fees range from 5-15% for this type of listing. 

A “sponsored listing” will be prioritized in search results. But you’ll still have to compete with all of the other sponsored restaurants. The fees range from 20 – 30% for a sponsored listing. 

There’s also a 10% delivery charge on top if you use GrubHub’s delivery drivers rather than your own. And there is a 3.05% + $0.30 credit card processing fee for each transaction.

Customer costs

GrubHub doesn’t charge anything directly to consumers, which is why the restaurant costs are higher.

Restaurants have some leeway on additional charges that they can asses to customers. They can set their own order minimums (usually around $10), small order fees, and delivery fees of $1 to $10. 

DoorDash

DoorDash is the leader in market share for third-party delivery. So the volume of orders that restaurants receive may be higher than on competing services.

How it Works

Customers place their orders through DoorDash.com or their app. Restaurants will receive orders either on a tablet or by email/fax. For fast food restaurants, the driver will place the order in person. Customers pay through the DoorDash app, and payments (minus fees) are provided to restaurants weekly.

Restaurant Costs

Total restaurant commissions range from 20-30%, depending on the market.

Customer Costs

Customers pay a $0.99 to $7.99 delivery fee, as well as a 7% to 15% service fee. 

Postmates

Unlike the rest of the services on this list, Postmates isn’t limited to restaurant orders. You can get just about anything via Postmates couriers, from lunch to a pair of socks to cough syrup.

How it Works

Postmates users place their orders through the app. But some orders are pre-paid, and others will be paid by the courier upon arrival with a corporate debit card. 

This method provides some flexibility. For example, if the restaurant has to make a substitution, the Postmates driver can confirm the change with the customer before finalizing payment. This way, Postmates won’t have to issue a refund to the customer. 

Restaurant costs

Postmates charges a 15 – 30% commission and discourages increasing prices to cover the fee.

Customer costs 

Customers can order from just about anywhere, whether the restaurant partners with Postmates or not. Delivery fees range from $0.99 – $3.99 for partners and $5.99 – $9.99 for non-partners.

There is also a “variable percentage-based service fee,” but details about that fee range proved elusive. The platform also has a small cart fee for orders under $12.00.

Postmates offers a monthly subscription plan for $9.99 per month or $83.99 annually.  Subscribers don’t have to pay the delivery fee if their order is more than $20.

Niche Delivery Services

Beyond these large delivery services, there are plenty of niche programs as well. Some focus on location. For example, Favor operates all across Texas. And Vroom services parts of Connecticut and New York.

Other services focus on a specific food category.

For example, Slice is a pizza delivery service that keeps restaurant rates very low — only $1.95 per order. Restaurants can set their own order minimums and delivery fees, which will go directly to the restaurant. There are no fees set by Slice that must be paid by the customer.

Caviar is another delivery service that focuses on higher-end restaurants. Restaurants must be accepted into the platform. This could be a great option for restaurants at a higher price point.

When selecting a delivery service, make sure to look at your smaller local providers. You may find an option with more favorable rates that can integrate with your website. 

Provide Commission-Free Takeout Ordering

Most of the delivery services offer a takeout option as well. But you should also provide a commission-free takeout platform. 

See if you can integrate your POS with your website for takeout orders. Or try a service like ChowNow, which charges a flat monthly fee instead of a commission. 

Make sure the online ordering system is easy to find with a clear, prominent “Order Online” button. This will encourage customers to order directly from you when they’re planning on picking up, saving you the fees associated with delivery services.

Use Delivery as a Marketing Tool

Due to the fees that these delivery services charge, you may consider them more of a marketing tool than an actual money maker for your restaurant. Take advantage of the marketing aspect by trying to earn your delivery recipient’s repeat business.

Put a coupon into the bag before it gets sealed for pickup, offering a 10% discount for dine-in only. This will encourage customers to visit in person.

Or put a card in the bag thanking the customer for their order, and encouraging them to follow your restaurant on social media. You could also ask them to leave you a review on Yelp or Google.

Another option – include a card in the bag telling customers to sign up for your email list or for text messages. Let them know that if they sign up for your list, they’ll get exclusive access to special events and even occasional discounts. 

Conclusion

Not all of these services will be the best fit for each restaurant. You’ll have to consider your profit margins and customer base before you can decide if one of these services is a good choice for you. 

Most services aren’t tied to contracts, so you should be able to try one out without making a commitment. But with the huge anticipated growth in the online ordering sector, it’s an option that customers are beginning to expect. 

Should I Buy Metal or Wood Chairs for My Restaurant?

Selecting restaurant furniture requires a lot of considerations — cost, durability, type of restaurant, and more. How do you know which is the best option for you?

Here we’ve broken down some of the most important factors to consider when selecting chair material for your restaurant.

Is metal or wood more durable?

Wood restaurant chairs are durable — usually. Make sure that you’re buying a solid wood product, rather than particle board which won’t hold up to commercial use. 

You’ll want to look for tongue and groove construction. In this type of joinery, the chair components are interlocked with tight-fitting slots and ridges to hold it all together. It’s also a good idea to look for construction with added metal supports. This extra stability will help prevent the loosening of legs and backs over time.

But although well-made wood chairs can certainly hold up, metal restaurant chairs are still the winners when it comes to durability. You’ll want to look for a heavy-gauge steel construction with fully welded joints. A metal restaurant chair of 16 gauge steel or lower will last as long as your restaurant does.

Is metal or wood more comfortable? 

Both metal and wood are hard materials, so neither will feel like lying on a feather bed. Still, there are some comfort issues to consider. 

Both metal and wood chairs are available with upholstered seats, which can add some cushion. There are also options in both materials with curved backs, which can be easier on the spine.

Is metal or wood more versatile?

There are so many different styles of both metal and wood restaurant chairs that it’s hard to say! 

Both materials can be carved or formed into just about any shape you can think of. Styles like window pane, ladder back, and cross back can all be made in both metal and wood. Either option can be made in both modern and classic styles.

If you’re looking for bright colors, metal is the winner. Metal can be powder coated in a wide variety of colors to match your decor. But wood also comes in plenty of finishes like mahogany, walnut, oak, cherry, and beech.

To look through some of the many options, check out our metal restaurant chairs and wood restaurant chairs!

Does metal or wood require more maintenance?

Wood furniture will require cleaning and occasional polishing to keep it looking its best. And if you have painted wood furniture, it will need to be repainted from time to time, as chips are inevitable.

Conversely, metal furniture is practically maintenance-free, except for keeping it clean. 

Are metal or wood chairs more expensive?

In general, wood furniture is more expensive than metal. But you can find options in either material to fit most price points. 

Wood often has a higher-end look, so it can appear very expensive even if you get a good price!

So which one is the winner?

Both options are durable, come in a variety of styles and finishes, and require at least regular cleaning. So which is better?

While metal provides higher durability and lower maintenance, it all comes down to what makes the most sense for your space. 

Wood is a timeless material that will look beautiful in a warm, classic space. Pubs, steakhouses, quiet coffee shops, and rustic BBQ joints are all prime locations for wood chairs. “Old world” restaurants, like French and Italian, would also be a great fit.

Modern spaces like cafes, bars, and New American restaurants could be great places for metal furniture. It can bring an updated or industrial atmosphere to your restaurant. Metal furniture often has a more casual feel, but a high-end modern space could look stunning with a brightly powder-coated metal chair.

In the end, it all depends on the needs of your space! 


Go Fish: How to Introduce Seafood to Your Restaurant

There are a lot of good reasons why you should have at least one seafood option on your menu. But the most logical reason is probably this — there are a lot of people out there who are concerned about their health. 

Seafood is high in protein and Omega-3 fatty acids. And it’s low in fat and cholesterol. Including a seafood option on your menu will encourage visitors who may not be interested in a heavy beef or pork dish. It’s a flavorful and filling alternative to chicken — the most consumed protein in America. 

If you’re interested in adding some seafood to your menu, here are some tips on how to go about it.

Safety first

Seafood has some special considerations that must be taken into account when adding it to your kitchen. 

Freshness

Order your fish as fresh as possible. If you’re bringing in a special variety for a Saturday special, don’t order it for Monday delivery. Fish should be frozen or packed tightly on ice when it’s delivered to your restaurant. Make sure to store non-frozen seafood in your walk-in or refrigerator below 41°F. 

Tools

If you’re adding a shellfish that requires shucking like oysters or clams, make sure you have the proper equipment. You’ll need a clam knife or oyster knife, to start. Get the right tool for your particular mollusk. Using the wrong tool can result in injuries. 

You’ll also want a metal shucking glove. These are basically a glove of chain mail, meant to protect your cook’s hand if they slip with the knife. They are a bit cumbersome, but driving a chef to the emergency room during the dinner rush will be much more inconvenient!

You may also want a fish scaler. This tool looks like a serrated spatula, and you can use it to descale a fish. It’s probably only necessary if you plan on cooking and serving whole fish with the skin on.

Allergies

Over 2% of American adults have some kind of seafood allergy. In fact, fish and shellfish are two of the “big 8” of the allergy world, along with milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy. 

So it’s vital that your kitchen prevent cross-contamination. That means using separate knives, cutting boards, pots, and pans for all fish and shellfish dishes. And make sure kitchen staff knows to change their gloves after handling seafood. 

Before bringing seafood into your kitchen, make sure to check with your local health department for any storage or handling regulations.

Fresh vs. frozen

Contrary to what some people think, it’s possible to get excellent quality frozen seafood. In fact, if you live inland, frozen seafood will probably be a better choice for your restaurant. 

Consider the logistics of the fishing trade. The boat is out on the water for several days, pulling in fish from the line. The fish has to stay on the vessel until it comes back into port. So a fish could be three days old before it even reaches land. And then the fish has to be put on a truck or airplane, before finally making its way to your walk-in.

If you live on the coast, you’ll have that fish in a day or two. But if you’re in Lincoln, Nebraska, that fish could be almost a week old by the time it gets to you.

But some fishing vessels flash freeze the fish they catch straight off the line. The freezing process will arrest the aging of the fish after it’s been caught. If it’s handled well, frozen properly, and thawed slowly in a refrigerator, the flavor and texture of that frozen fish might just outshine the “fresh” version.

Take advantage of seafood’s versatility

Seafood is far more versatile than many of us imagine. No matter what kind of cuisine you serve, there is room for some kind of seafood dish on the menu.

A brunch-focused restaurant could add cured Nova lox to the menu, served in an omelet or with a bagel and cream cheese. If you serve New American or gastropub fare, cured fish and seafood pâté on a charcuterie board will do very well! 

Seafood is very popular in much Central and South American cuisine. Traditional dishes like ceviche, tapado (Guatemalan seafood stew), and whole grilled fish will impress diners. And seafood curries, like Thai choo chee fish or South Indian Rasam soup bring a little spice to the sea.

People love to experiment with new flavors. So try to present a seafood dish in a new and unusual way. 

If you’re concerned about sales volume, there’s no need to go over the top adding several kinds of seafood at once. A single dish will do until you establish how it’s received. Or see if you can add two different dishes based on one kind of seafood. A shrimp cocktail appetizer and a shrimp stew entree will let you buy once and cook twice.

Promote health

There are few things tastier than a delicious fish fry. Beer battered and golden brown, served with a side of fries and tartar sauce? Yes please. 

But don’t limit seafood options to the deep-fried variety. Since seafood has so many health benefits, include some lighter options. 

Including fish or shrimp as an add-on to the salad menu lets guests create a filling meal (plus it’s a great upcharge.) And grilled fish is a delicious treat that most people don’t tackle at home. If you grill and serve it whole, you’ll have a unique plate to present to your guests.

Consider sustainability

The environment is a hot button issue right now. But whatever your opinion on climate change, one thing is for sure — overfishing is a big problem. 

Fish species like bluefin tuna, Atlantic cod, and Chilean sea bass have been overfished almost to the point of extinction. And even abundant species like some salmon and albacore can be unsustainable when fished with destructive methods. 

Bottom trawls and dredges scrape the ocean floor to catch bottom-dwellers like shrimp and lobster, but they damage the seafloor habitat in the process. Large walls of gillnets catch plenty of salmon and perch, but they can also entangle vulnerable sea turtles and sharks.

Even farmed fish aren’t problem-free. Net pens concentrate pollution from the fish raised in them, which then damages the local ecosystem. And this can contribute to widespread disease through the fish colonies.

But none of this means that you shouldn’t add seafood to your menu. 

Sustainable fishing methods like trolling lines, handlines, and pole-and-lines all minimize the accidental capture of vulnerable species. Plus they don’t damage the seafloor. 

Farming methods like recirculating tanks or flow through raceways allow for fresh, clean water to reach the fish. They also allow for wastewater treatment before contaminants affect surrounding areas.

Even sushi restaurants can fill their menus with sustainable and responsible fish. Austin, Texas restaurant Lucky Robot has managed to create a sushi menu with no bluefin tuna, no eel, and no hamachi — three items that are ubiquitous on sushi menus. 

Instead of bluefin, they serve Hawaiian line-caught bigeye tuna. Eel has been replaced with a clever unagi-style BBQ catfish. And instead of hamachi, they serve Hawaiian amberjack. They’ve found that people will try new things if given the opportunity. And they’ll appreciate your conscientiousness as well.

To learn about the least at-risk seafood and the best fishing and farming methods, go to  https://www.seafoodwatch.org/. This website by the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a goldmine of education. 

Educate your staff

The menu is set, the ordering is done, and you’re ready to go! Now it’s time to talk to the front lines.

Make sure your FOH staff is well-versed in your seafood dishes. Give them some good comparisons that they can use for guests who might not be familiar with the new menu options.

For example, Arctic char is a fish that many people may not have heard of. Give your servers a couple talking points that guests can relate to. “It’s moderately firm, not flakey like cod. It tastes a bit like a cross between a trout and salmon. And it has a peachy pink color.” Now the guest has an idea of flavor, color, and texture. 

Make sure staff also knows where the fish came from. Is it farmed or wild? Fresh or frozen? People may want to know. If it’s farmed, they should know the name of the farm, as some are more reputable than others. 

Conclusion

Seafood will be a welcome addition to the menu for many of your guests. Whether they’re looking for a lighter option or just something different, seafood can be the answer. Have fun with it, and get creative!