Helpful Tips for Bar and Restaurant Owners

What to Consider Before Opening Your Restaurant for Breakfast

Waiter Serving Breakfast

Bacon sizzling on a grill, crisping in its own grease. The smell of pancakes wafting through the air greets customers at the door. An orange light comes to life as the coffee signals its readiness. Breakfast is served.

These are just a small sampling of the sights, sounds, and smells that await you and your customers when you open for breakfast. But, deciding if you should open your restaurant is all about crunching the hard numbers, not just fantastical sensory feelings. Are you ready to add the “most important meal of the day” to your offerings? Here are some things to consider before you open your doors earlier than ever before. They could also make or break your breakfast business.

Do you have resources to advertise? This doesn’t always boil down to budget. Do you have the time to design promotional materials or to post on social media? It’s not enough to just fling your doors open at 7 am and expect a crowd; people need to be reminded numerous times to have something sink in. The old rule was that people needed to see or hear something about seven times to have it stick with them. Now, in the social media age, it will take more than seven exposures for your target audience to carry that message with them. Put inserts in your menu, promote it on your social media, or even hang posters in your restaurant. These can attract new customers while giving current customers the opportunity to try your breakfast out.

Can you price competitively? Breakfast is often touted as an inexpensive meal because the dishes rely on a lot of commoditized items. These dishes can give you a higher profit margins with their low cost. Which is great for your bottom line, but It’s important to remember guests won’t feel the same way. Somehow, it’s more painful to shell out twelve dollars for avocado toast than twelve dollars for a lunch sandwich. A popular trend right now is to have alcoholic cocktails, like Bloody Mary’s or mimosas, on your breakfast menu. This is a good way to offer something indulgent for the customer and profitable for you. It’s okay to make a profit off your breakfast items but you don’t want to scare off customers with sticker shock, they likely won’t return, damaging your profits for the future.

Will your location support the traffic you need? A good traffic flow is crucial to having a successful breakfast set, especially if you’re not used to opening your doors that early. Having breakfast hours during the weekdays can be successful if you are situated in an office district that has early morning traffic. On the contrary, you can snag church-goers and more casual breakfast eaters in other areas if you focus on weekend hours. It’s important to analyze the traffic ebbs and flows around your location to figure out if you justify the hours open. You might even find that you gain customers by being open at hours you weren’t before.

What time of day will you serve breakfast? The answer to this might be a little harder to come up with than what you would think. Are you willing to offer breakfast dishes all day or would you rather confine it to a time frame? Consider your menu (breakfast and lunch), the space you’ll need to store and prep ingredients, kitchen flow, and staffing.

How will this affect your staff? Knowing your workforce will be an essential factor when figuring out if your restaurant can offer breakfast. You may find that some would prefer to bank on a typically busier lunch or dinner rush to for tips. Others may find that an earlier shift could be better for their family’s schedules. Besides scheduling, you’ll want to make sure that you have enough staff in general and the resources to add more if necessary. Not factoring in your staffing situation could cause tension if not addressed properly and can boil over into a bad customer experience.

What kind of format will you offer breakfast? There are so many ways to provide breakfast options in your restaurant. Will you offer a buffet-style meal, items from a fixed menu, or take-out items? It’s all about the needs of your current and potential clientele in the area. Thinking back to location, if you’re in a bustling business area that has a lot of traffic in the morning, consider light take-out options like breakfast burritos that are easy to just grab and go. Buffets and breakfast cocktails are often best served on the weekends when people really take the time to enjoy their meal.

Breakfast works the best for restaurants when prices are fair, the restaurant is staffed appropriately, and has enough traffic is coming in to justify being open. Opening earlier can be a great way to compete against other businesses in the area and provide more time to make a profit.

8 Ways to Retain Restaurant Employees and Keep Them Happy

Staffing is one of the biggest headaches in the restaurant industry. So much so, that 59% of operators named staffing as their top challenge to success. Much of this can be attributed to the high turnover rate experienced by the restaurant industry. According to Toasttab.com, the average tenure of a restaurant employee is one month and 26 days. That is a lot of turnover that is costing your business about $3500 every time someone walks out the door. You might think “Well that is just how the industry goes”. Believe it or not, there are some strategies you can implement right now to increase the tenure of your employees, boost morale, and increase profits.

Measure Tenure

If you have done your work and hired a good staff that you want to keep, the first thing you need to do is start tracking how long your employees have been with your business. Understanding how long an employee stays with you, in all positions, can help you understand what you need to do to keep people. For example, if your average server stays for 11 months, design any incentives you may have around that. Use this information to extend the tenure of your employees. You can implement additional training, recognition, or pay raises at 6, 12, and 18-month intervals to see if it can help to extend the average.

Ultimately, tenure reveals more than turnover does. But you can’t manage it if you don’t measure it.

Stay Interviews

Hiring interviews, and occasionally exit interviews, are a common practice, but implementing “Stay” interviews can have huge benefits. Take the time to sit down with a veteran staff member to better understand why they are happy with their job, and why they have chosen to remain an employee.  Also, give them the opportunity to talk about what you can do to sweeten the deal and keep them longer. This can help you put the finger on the pulse of what you are doing right, and some areas that could use improvement.

Memorable First Day

An employee’s first day is just like a first impression; you want it to be a good one. Do your best to demonstrate energy and enthusiasm. Be visibly passionate about the company culture, values, and mission. The easiest way to do that is by creating a great company atmosphere. An employee won’t want to stay long if all the other employees are complaining about their jobs and how much they want to leave.

Re-Recruit

Every shift should be a reminder of why your employee wants to stay with the business. Now, we all have bad days, but do your best to bring focus and energy to every shift. As a leader, you set the tone for the rest of the team. This can be accomplished by really focusing on the company atmosphere. Make sure your restaurant is a place that you and your employees are excited to return to shift after shift.

Encourage Mentoring Culture

By assigning a mentor to a new employee, you create a culture that fosters connection and allows a veteran to share insights they have acquired through experience. New employees can also become easily frustrated when not given the proper training to do their job correctly. Implementing a mentor program can help cut down on this frustration. Try to provide a mentor for every position; a dishwasher can benefit from a mentor just as much as a line cook.

Identify Stressors

Stress is inevitable. You won’t be able to fix every situation, but there are some you will be able to. Do your best to identify stressors and eliminate them if possible. Dissatisfied employees often report feeling that no one is in their corner and they receive minimal support. Talk to your staff regularly about their pain points and ask them how you can help. As an added bonus, this can often lead to improved processes.

Provide the Ladder

Employees become frustrated when they feel as if they are stuck in their job with no room for improvement. Chances are that isn’t the case, they just don’t know what they can do to advance their position. Providing a clear outline of what employees can do to progress is beneficial to them and you. It helps with retention when employees have a clear outline of how they can progress.

Thank Your Staff

It seems too simple, that saying “thank you” would turn things around with an employee. Thanking staff is easy to do but often forgotten. It is an uncomplicated way to let your staff know that you appreciate their work. This will also help to open-up lines of communication between you and your team. Listening to them can give you an insight into problems you had no idea were occurring.

The high turnover rate of the restaurant industry is not only a huge stress to operators and costs a significant amount of money. By listening to your staff, measuring tenure, and improving the atmosphere you can increase employee retention and profits.

Straws: Plastic and Pollution on Our Planet

Plastic Straws in Drinks

 

A little background…

2018 has not been kind to plastic straws. The restaurant and hospitality industries are being encouraged to change the way they use single-use plastic products like straws (“500 million straws are used and discarded every day in the U.S. alone”). In response, many corporations are coming up with alternatives and plans to change the way they use straws.

In 2015, a video was uploaded to YouTube named ‘Sea Turtle with Straw up its Nostril – “NO” TO PLASTIC STRAWS’ by Texas A&M Ph. D. candidate, Christine Figgener. This video has over 32 million views on the YouTube platform, not counting Facebook or other social media views. Although it wasn’t the first, this viral video put a face on the issue of single-use plastic items and raised awareness about the consequences that aren’t considered after a piece of plastic lands in a landfill, ocean, or beach.

Many restaurant owners are being faced with purchasing questions that they will need to answer. Single-use plastic has long been used in the restaurant and hospitality industries religiously for the past fifty years. It can seem difficult to find alternatives, but not impossible.

What’s the issue?

Plastic straws (used in homes, restaurants, etc.) are turning up in the ocean and harming wildlife while also adding themselves to heaping piles of garbage that can’t be recycled.

What are other companies doing about straws in their restaurant?

Food industry behemoths like Starbucks and McDonald’s were some of the first to make headlines in the fight to abolish straws. Starbucks is looking to ditch plastic straws for their strawless lid cup in all locations by 2020. McDonald’s is banning single-use plastic products in their U.K. and Ireland locations while also testing plastic straw alternatives in the U.S. Other players like Aramark, Hyatt Hotels, Fox Restaurant Concepts, Eataly, Shoney’s, the Four Seasons Hotel group, and even Ikea are just a few of the food/hospitality companies are in the process of or have promised to change their straw policies.

What do restaurant owners need to consider?

Consider where your restaurant is. Cities like Malibu and Seattle have already passed ordinances banning plastic straws, forcing restaurant owners to offer an alternative.

Don’t forget to look at your menu. Could you save money by reducing straw distribution? Could you serve your mixed drinks without cocktail straws? Are there alternatives you could use instead? Read on…

 

Plastic and Paper Straws

 

What can I do in my restaurant?

If you’re thinking about making the switch from plastic straws to an alternative, here are some options to consider. There are pro’s and con’s to each alternative so it’s important to choose what is right for your business model and menu.

Sippy-type cup (aka no straws)

Getting rid of straws all together in larger companies seems to be the way of larger corporations (like McDonald’s and Starbucks). While this may seem like a grand and great gesture, it’s also a major point of contention for people with disabilities. Many people with disabilities rely on straws to avoid aspirating liquid into their lungs. Another issue with the strawless lid is the additional plastic that goes into their production. Although no straw is needed in this redesigned lid, the new recyclable lids actually have 0.32 or 0.56 more grams of plastic product than the current lid and straw combo. While this lid is recyclable, it’s still likely to end up in a landfill or in the ocean.

Paper straws

The biggest complaint? The straws get soggy and collapse after a couple sips. The key to finding a good paper straw is to have one made with higher quality materials. Straws from companies like Indiana-based Aardvark focus on materials like special paper with a cleaner carbon footprint and a food-grade safe adhesive to maintain a quality straw. Paper straws are pricier but reduce the plastic consumption. This will hopefully be a better alternative in the future as the technology becomes more widespread.

Metal straws

Not a bad solution, in fact it may be a great one for dining-in situations as they are a little expensive. By using metal, this alternative basically becomes part of your silverware set. If you plan on using this type of straw, opt for those with a bend in them, an important characteristic for customers with mobility issues. The drawback? You may want to also invest in another alternative such as compostable or paper straws for your take-out orders.

Pasta straws

They may be firmer than paper straws and less bendy than plastic straws, but pasta straws don’t have all the answers. These can get soggy and don’t work for customers who have a gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease.

Compostable straws

These straws have a very similar consistency to plastic straws but are compostable, meaning if they reach a landfill, they will break down. It’s important to note that these straws can be 70% more expensive traditional plastic ones, causing business owners to cringe at this alternative.

Available upon request

For independent restaurants where the decision-making lies with you or your general manager, having straws be available on request can lessen the straws given out. Most people use straws because they are handed one, making them just another step in the dining process. If customers have the need or desire to have a straw, having them available only upon request will cut down on those who just use a straw for convenience. And in the same move, you are still providing an option for those who have mobility issues. Having straws available upon request could also help you save money since you’ll be cutting back on how many you order by not giving them out as freely.

Is your restaurant making moves to sustainably serve your customers? If you are in a straw-banned area, how has it affected your business? Tell us below.

For more information on anti-single-use plastic campaigns, please visit The Last Plastic Straw for more details on what your restaurant can do.

Pairing Beer and Pizza: What You Need to Know

Some things just go together. Foods like PB&J, wine and cheese, and burgers and fries are matches made in heaven. There’s possibly no better pairing than that of pizza and beer. You might be tempted to say “all beers go well with pizza” and you wouldn’t be totally wrong, but some variations are better suited to different pizzas. They can help to enhance the flavors and take your dining experience to the next level.

Craft beer is still taking the country by storm. New breweries are popping up every day with exciting and refreshing new beers. Now is a great opportunity to thoughtfully set up your pizza menu to promote sales of pizza and beer.

I spoke to Cody Kelly, a brewer at Timber Creek Tap & Table on pairing beer and pizza. “Typically, meats go with darker beers and seafood with light. But malt really brings out the flavor in the bread of a pizza,” Kelly said.

With this in mind, we delved deep into the world of pizza and beer to find some perfect pairings.

Cheese Pizza and ESB (Extra Special Bitter)

A plain cheese pizza is a staple at large gatherings and in the homes of picky eaters. Pairing this with an ESB is a great combination. The bitterness helps to cut away the grease and leaves you with a nice cheesy flavor. The beers nuttiness is a natural fit with the slice’s saltiness. The caramel tones in the beer also pair well with a salty taste.

Pepperoni and Black IPA

A black IPA has spicy hops that bring out the pepper flavor in pepperoni, cut through on the greasiness, and prepare your tastebuds for the next bite. A nice dark roast is also able to draw out the smokiness in the pepperoni for an enhanced taste.

Meat Lovers and Scotch Ale

A scotch ale with a caramel taste is the perfect companion to a meat lovers pizza; it can handle the impact of multiple meats in one bite while attracting the sweeter flavors of the sauce and dough. This helps to balance the spicier notes commonly found in pepperoni and sausage. If you can find one with a wisp of smoke it will complement the taste of the meats for a perfect dining experience.

Hawaiian and Blonde Ale

People tend to have very strong opinions about Hawaiian pizza. If you are pro-pineapple, consider pairing your pizza with a nice American blonde ale. The beer’s simple malt sweetness connects with the sweetness in the ham and pineapple but helps to tone down the fruit’s acidity.

Barbecue and Rauchbier

Rauchbier is known for having a smokey flavor, and where there’s barbeque there is smoke. The beers campfire wisps bring some grill flavor to the super sweet barbecue sauce. With a clean lager after-taste the rauchbier refreshes the palate.

Veggie and IPA

The IPA’s of today tend to be very green/veggie oriented, so what better to pair with a garden-inspired pizza. Find an IPA with hops that lean green such as oniony or grassy. The vegetal hops will give crispness to the onions and peppers on the pizza.

Chicago Deep Dish and Zwickelbier

With deep dish pizza, you need a great crust that can support all that food. By selecting a Zwickelbier, which is a less full-flavored variant of a kellerbier, the flavor will highlight the taste of the crust so that it doesn’t get lost in all the toppings.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza and Fruity IPA

It may sound a little crazy, but the fruity notes will help to wash down the spice and goes well with the acidity of the buffalo sauce and blue cheese. It also has a solid malt backbone to pair with the bread.

White Pizza and Light Ale

When speaking of white pizza, Kelly recommended lighter ales. As the name suggests, this beer is lighter in color and lower in alcohol. It is often consumed with meals and will complement the freshness of a white pizza. The malt will help to emphasize the toasted taste of the crust.

 

Whether you are delving into a classic cheese pizza or experimenting with something a little more complex, there is a beer out there to compliment it. Darker beers are great with meat and veggies toppings, while white pizza’s and seafood pies go well with lighter beers. Selecting the right beer to pair with your pizza is a great way to turn a casual night’s dinner into a dining experience.

Let us know your favorite beer and pizza combo in the comments below!

 

 

How to Update Your Menu to Better Serve Your Customers

When to Change Your Restaurant Menu

You probably got into the restaurant industry because you love food, right? You’ve come up with a great concept and menu, there are customers in your seats, and you’ve developed some regulars. But how do you keep customers coming back for more?

The restaurant and food industries are an ever-changing landscape of ideas, food, and flavors rushing together, with fads that last a day and methods that are used for centuries. Change is imminent in these industries because consumers get bored and are ready to move on to the latest and greatest concept. Restaurants that are complacent with their food offerings are doomed to lose the public’s interest.

Customers look for new, fresh, and exciting items to order when they come to your restaurant. And unless you’re a famous mom and pop diner that has had the same menu items since 1953, it doesn’t matter how great your food is. Changing your menu will help entertain regular customers and attract new ones, which will put your restaurant in a sweet spot for innovation.

To keep your profits and restaurant in the green, doing a menu analysis is worth the time and manpower. Think of it like a professional sports team; you have your all-stars, rookies, regular starters, and the players who just aren’t quite cutting it. Look at these so-so players before you trade them for something that will perform better. Is there any way you could rearrange them to help them perform like changing their price point, the season you’re in, etc.? If the answer is no, make room on your menu for an item than can do the job and keep you profitable. Take the opportunity to analyze the following about items on your menu:

  • What’s doing well on your menu?
  • What hasn’t been popular?
  • Is a dish costing you too much?
  • Are you making enough on a dish?
  • Are these ingredients too seasonal to keep the item profitable all year round?

Answering these questions can help you really put each of your menu items under a microscope and analyze their performance in your restaurant. It is important to pull your general manager and purchaser in on the breakdown to help you through the process of what stays and goes. Don’t forget to also consider what your waitstaff thinks since they will be the ones “selling” your menu to customers. By being on the front lines, your waitstaff are also helpful in gauging customer reaction and how often they convert to the new items.

Cafe Menu

Keep in mind, these menu analyses should be conducted once a year (at minimum) for price and twice a year for seasonal items. Revisiting old and new items will keep your restaurant on top of what the hot items really are and what’s working when you introduce seasonal items.

Go Crafty.

Changing your menu does not mean going back to square one, and it’s important to keep fan favorites around. If your restaurant is best known for its burgers, don’t replace them with poke bowls. But, what you could do is add a barrage of new toppings for your burgers. Add pineapple, mac and cheese, or a specialty sauce. Get creative! This will keep your burgers interesting and lessen the chance customers will grow tired of stagnant fare.

Digital World.

It’s easier now than it ever has been to let your customers know what to expect when they eat at your restaurants. According to OpenTable, “86 percent of diners regularly check out menus online before dining out”, which could make or break their decision. Use Facebook or your website to post your regular menu and hype new specials, allowing new and old customers alike to stay in the know about what they can expect when they make a trip.

Make it Special.

Another way you can switch up your menu without recreating the wheel is to add a specials list. This can be where your seasonal and new items are housed while leaving the rest of your menu as it is. By only changing up a handful of appetizers, entrees, and desserts, you can have a consistent purchasing strategy and only worry about oddball ingredients with what’s going on the special portion of your menu. It can also allow you a section to play with trends, without going all in.

Drink Seasons.

Changing up your menu should not be limited to only food items. A cocktail list is a great space to enhance your profits with seasonal or trendy items. Like with food, you don’t have to completely order new ingredients for these drinks, just add a splash of seasonal flavor. Add peppermint during the holidays, pumpkin or apple in the fall, or even more tropical fruits like pineapple or mango in the summer. People are more likely to shell out for the added expense of a seasonal drink over a dish to get in the “spirit of the season”, making the right seasonal cocktail lineup a must. If you don’t already have a revolving door of drinks, drink menus should be updated at least quarterly to give guests something new to try.

Varying your menu based can help bring in new customers but still maintain regulars. Online promotion, special lists, and rotating drink menus, along with regular menu analysis, can help your restaurant stay vibrant and profitable for years to come.

Four Questions to Ask Yourself When Furnishing a Coffee Shop

Coffee Shop Counter and Menu

What do you want your customers to see when they walk into your coffee shop? Plush couch seating where they can enjoy a latte, while watching morning rain hit your front windows? A no-nonsense interior that is serves the utilitarian purpose of getting them in, out, and off to their work day?

Furniture may not be the first thing that comes to your mind when opening a coffee shop but it’s a necessary step that can set the tone for your business! Creating the atmosphere of one of your customers’ first stop of the day is surely an important task.

1. What kind of seating should I have?

The great thing about coffee shop seating is that it can be an eclectic mixture of seating: some bar stools here, chairs there, a loveseat by the window, the options are endless! So, if you’re focusing on which type of furniture you should get, consider the lifestyles of your target audience. Are you located on a bustling city corner where suits stroll in to grab their morning cup, or are you in a college town where students come to study and socialize Central Perk-style? If you have a portion of your menu dedicated to food, try out some booths, tables, and chairs. Or, go with a more bookish approach that oozes academia with couches, coffee tables, and a few bar stools at the counter.

2. How can I get extra storage space?

Use your space wisely! Get furniture that can pull double duty and have built-in storage areas that are hidden from your customers. For example, having a hostess station that is equipped with storage shelves underneath the surface can save your staff trips to your back area and make refilling stirrers, napkins, and sugar more convenient. If you’re investing in booth seating, select models that have removable seats for some extra space. With lusher seating like love seats or couches, you can find coordinating ottomans that can be used for silverware or menu storage. The right furniture can help cure your lack of closet space and shelves in your coffee shop.

3. Are these tables durable enough?

There’s no use crying over spilt coffee but there’s more to be said for the coffee cup. Many coffee shop owners forget to think about the effect their glassware will have on their table tops. Certain woods and finishes can be prone to scratching – especially since many ceramic coffee cups have a glazed bottom. Choose laminate, melamine, or Werzalit tops that are more resistant to scratches and the daily wear and tear of commercial environments. It also doesn’t hurt to select tables that are easy to wipe down and clean.

4. Should I have outdoor seating?

Outdoor seating can be a great advertisement for your business, and even better, you don’t need much of it. Just having a couple sets of tables and chairs by your entrance can call out to passersby’s that didn’t know they needed a cup of joe until now. Have your dollar stretch farther by choosing lightweight aluminum outdoor furniture that is easily stored for cooler temperatures.

Coffee Shop

Now that you’ve asked yourself these questions, you’re ready to pick out your coffee shop furniture! For more information about choosing the best furniture possible for your coffee shop, give our customer care specialists a call at 800-986-5352.

Should I Have Round or Square Tables in My Restaurant?

Round vs Square Tables

The shape of a table is just the shape of the table, right? Wrong! The differences in round and square table tops represent a change in the flow of your restaurant and how easy it is to rearrange and accommodate various party sizes.

Round tables are a flexible option because of how many people they can sit. It’s much easier for a hostess to squeeze in an extra person at a round top without defined edges and designated sides of the table. Restaurant owners should consider their fare before choosing a round table. Because of the “squeeze” factor, you don’t want to be cramming people in if your meals require multiple plates and more space. Round tables, especially larger sizes, can take up quite a bit of space, creating the perfect visual effect for a more cavernous restaurant.

Square tables have a huge benefit in their versatility in that they are easy to push together to accommodate a larger party. Suddenly, your 15 table tops can transform into nine square tops and two rectangle tops by pushing three tops together. Having this kind of flexibility can be very advantageous if the party size that comes into your restaurant varies from night to night, or even the time of day. Our most frequent recommendation to restaurant owners is to order two different size tops that have the same edge length (such as a 30” x 30” and a 30” x 48”) so it’s easy to line up sizes when combining table tops for bigger parties.

If you’re trying to compare table shapes with how many can occupy each size, here’s a handy table to help:

Table Size (Inches) Table Shape This Table Sits…
24” Round 2 people
24” Square 2 people
30” Round 3-4 people
30” Square 2-4 people
36” Round 3-4 people
36” Square 4 people
42” Round 4-5 people
42” Square 4-8 people
48” Round 4-5 people
60” Round 8 people
72” Round 10-12 people

Another important to factor to consider when choosing between round and square tables is accessibility and ADA compliance. To accommodate space for a wheelchair, tables and counters need to be between 28”-34” tall and have knee space of least 30” wide, 27” high, and 19” deep. You should keep this in mind with your table top and base selection; some disc bases that have a solid, wider footprint can prevent a wheelchair from going in.

At least five percent (or one if your count is under 20) of your tables need to be wheelchair-accessible for your customers.

Using both table shapes in your restaurant can shake up your layout, especially if you’re working with a small space. There are a couple ways you can do this to add visual interest without seeming too cluttered. Restaurants that offer a private party room can buy both shapes, utilize larger round tables in the party room since they are best fit for bigger groups, and use square tables in the dining area where you have more flexibility. You could also put bar height bases under a few round tables and create high tops, leaving the rest of the dining room as square tables.

Whatever table shape with you choose for your restaurant, be sure to keep at least 54” between round tables and 60” between square or rectangular tables to create a manageable service space to keep both guests and your servers happy.

Need help getting started? Visit our site or give our customer care specialists a call at 800-986-5352 to choose table tops and more for your restaurant.

Umbrella Buying Guide

Umbrella Buying Guide

Shopping for your restaurant umbrellas can be overwhelming. Decisions have to be made on the fabric, pole materials, how much shade you’re trying to provide, and who to purchase it from. Who knew there were so many questions that need to be answered so you can give your customers a cooler seat outside?

But your end goal is the same. As a restaurant owner, you want to find umbrellas that are durable and cost-effective.

Some restaurants make the mistake of using the freebie umbrellas they receive from beer or liquor sales reps. For the most part, it will take one very windy day to prove these umbrellas useless. A lot of care should be taken when purchasing an umbrella because the wrong umbrella can be a liability to your business.

How much do umbrellas cost?

An umbrella’s price point will correlate with its materials, meaning sometimes you can tell right away if the umbrella will be strong enough for a commercial environment. Aluminum umbrellas can run you from $200 to $600 while fiberglass umbrellas can go from $300 up into the thousands, depending on what features are included. If you are planning on using your umbrellas season after season, you need to factor quality in when calculating what umbrella is right for your business. Brand names can be a part of the umbrella’s price which is why it’s so important to analyze the umbrella’s materials. Our buying guide breaks down what you need to know about restaurant umbrellas and will give you the confidence to make the best purchase decision possible for your patio.

Types of Umbrellas

To better understand the buying process of an umbrella, you should know the types that are available and perhaps, the ones to avoid.

Free-standing/Table Umbrellas:

When you think of restaurant patio setups, you probably include an umbrella in your mental design. What you’ve most likely drummed up is a free-standing or table umbrella with canopies that are situated on top of an upright pole. Most often, these umbrellas are used in the center of a table top so that the canopy shades the table, chairs, and diners. Many commercial furniture retailers offer their outdoor table tops with the option of an umbrella hole. You’ll often see market umbrellas in commercial restaurants. Their octagon-shaped canopies and vented tops are a stable and a sizable option when it comes to pairing umbrellas with your table tops.

Cantilever Umbrellas:

Don’t want a pole in the middle of your tables? A cantilever or offset umbrella may be the way to go. These umbrellas stand out of the way but cover your space with an off-center pole that positions the canopy over the area without being in the way. Versatility in smaller spaces where there isn’t always room for free-standing poles, adjustability, and their strong durability are great perks of this type of umbrella. Cantilever umbrellas can be more expensive and often require a sturdier base than other umbrella types because of its pole’s offset position.

You may also see tilting umbrellas in your search, which are umbrellas that can be angled from their upright pole. Most restaurant patios will not have customers sitting there for the time it takes for the sun to gain a new position, making it an unnecessary function.

Anatomy of an Umbrella

Parts of an Umbrella

When it comes to umbrellas, there are some details that deserve mentioning to make sure your umbrella has the durability needed by the commercial restaurant industry. Here’s what you should pay careful attention to:

Finial– This piece anchors the top of the canopy fabric to the frame with function and can add a decorative touch.

Ribs– These are the skeletal system that holds out the canopy in the open position. How the ribs are assembled, how many there are, and the material can add strength to your umbrella. If it’s a lower quality umbrella, the ribs are often the first place to go, inverting your umbrella and probably snapping. Avoid this by making sure your patio umbrella is built with strong ribs to reinforce the canopy. Fiberglass ribs are the most durable material but you can also find wood or aluminum ribs. If a rib does break, you can often find a replacement but you should check the original manufacturer’s warranty first to find out what’s covered.

Hub– Where center ribs attach to pole, the hub is a crucial part of the umbrella’s framework. This allows for the attached ribs to open and close when the hub is moved along center pole.

Canopy– The fabric that provides the shade needs to be a good quality for your patio to hold up in a commercial environment. We’ll discuss the why there is a “right” canopy fabric later, but know that the canopy is your first line of defense against the sun’s rays. Some canopies also have vents, fabric layers that allow air to flow through, circulating it similarly to a camping tent vent. Other’s will have valances, fabric that comes down from the canopy and hangs around the perimeter for extra shade.

Pole– Besides the ribs that extend the canopy, the umbrella’s support system starts with the center pole. Whether offset or upright, the pole should be made of a high-quality material to withstand weather conditions. Pay close attention to the way the pole is constructed as some come as a single piece and others can be broken down into two. Poles that are a single piece are more durable in a high wind situation.

Base– The foundation of a good commercial umbrella starts with the base. Mobile bases can be made from heavier metal or plastic (weight is added with gravel, water, or sand) and can be wheeled around by tilting the umbrella and base back. These can be a good choice if you are constantly moving around your outdoor setup. Stationary, or fixed, bases are great for windy environments because they are attached to the floor, wall, or in the ground. These obviously cannot be moved around. Stationary bases can also add extra support for larger scale umbrellas.

Depending on if you have a cantilever or table umbrella, you can more aptly choose the correct base. Cantilever umbrella bases are often heavier because they must distribute the weight of the offset umbrella. You can often find table bases that integrate with your table top and umbrella for a cohesive unit and smooth design that doesn’t add a lot of extra bulk.

**It should be noted that tilted and pulley and crank mechanisms are not advised for commercial environments. These two ways of opening bring more liability than that of a manual push up system.

How big of an umbrella do I need?

Your umbrella size all depends on the area you’re trying to shade. It may seem obvious, but you’re going to want an umbrella canopy that stretches past your table to effectively cover the table, chairs, and your guests.

 

Size of Table (Round or Square) Size of Umbrella Weight of Umbrella Base*
24″ 5′ 50
30″ 5.5′ 50
32″ 5.5′ 50
36″ 6′ – 6.5′ 50
42″ 7′ – 7.5′ 50
48″ 8′ – 9′ 50
60″ 10′ 75
72″ 11′ 75
30″ x 48″ 8′ – 9′ 50
30″ x 60″ 10′ 75
30″ x 72″ 11′ 75
Weights are recommended when using a sturdy outdoor table. Heavier weights may be required on varying environmental factors. This chart does not apply to free standing umbrellas.

Why fabric choice is important

The whole point of an umbrella is to provide your guests with some shade and comfort while enjoying nice weather, which makes picking out the right fabric even more important. Material that fades not only looks poor on your patio, but also loses UV ray resistance, rendering the original intent of the umbrella ineffective. This can open your customers up to getting burned and lead them to making a different dining decision in the future.

Umbrella canopies can come in a variety of fabrics including plastic, cotton, vinyl, polyester, olefin, and solution-dyed acrylics. But to have the most durable fabrics and protect your customers, look for names like Olefin, Suncrylic, and Sunbrella. Each of these fabrics is solution-dyed, locking the color into the fiber and stabilizing pigments to be UV-ray resistant. These respected names in the commercial furniture industry will allow your dollar to go farther by choosing a resilient fabric that not only will continue to look great, but will also continue to shade your guests.

Choosing a patio umbrella for your restaurant can be overwhelming but now that you know what to look for, you’re a pro! You can successfully select an umbrella that will give effective coverage from the sun to your guests while they’re enjoying themselves in your outdoor space.

Questions about choosing your umbrellas? Call our customer care representatives at 800-986-5352 for further assistance. We’d be happy to help!

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.

 

 

How to Plan A Mother’s Day Brunch

BlackBerry Pancakes

It’s one of those holidays that will just creep up on you. And then next thing you know it is here and you aren’t as prepared as you’d like to be. According to the National Restaurant Association, Mother’s Day is the busiest restaurant day of the year. At least 37% of the population has plans to dine out for Mother’s Day. To help you stand out from the all the other restaurants trying to attract customers, we’ve gathered a few simple suggestions.

Planning Ahead

Taking the steps to prepare your business for the busiest day of the year is crucial to having a successful day. With the influx of customers, you’ll need to be ready with greater food quantities, more staff, and a game plan.

More customers mean more food being consumed, so you’ll need to purchase more ingredients. One of the big benefits to offering brunch is that you can make big batches using inexpensive ingredients for pennies a piece. Ultimately, this means you can make it more affordable for customers and profitable for you.

Help reduce craziness by offering a special prix fixe menu or a buffet. Not only is it a great way to maximize profits, but also makes things simpler for your guests. It will help to create buzz while simplifying things for your kitchen staff, allowing them to be time efficient. Your servers will also thank you when it is time for patrons to pay. Mother’s Day can bring in large groups and with a prix fixe menu it won’t be as difficult to remember what everyone ordered.

With the increase in customers you’ll need to have enough staff to cover the difference. Mother’s Day needs to be all hands-on deck. If you are concerned about being short staffed, reach out to students returning home from college for the summer. If they have worked for you before they will already be trained and are almost always looking for some extra cash.

Help handle the craziness of the busiest restaurant day of the year, by taking reservations for the big day. If your restaurant doesn’t normally take reservations, Mother’s Day is a great exception to the rule. It helps immensely in the planning process. You can gauge how many staff members you’ll require and how much food you’ll need to prepare. Plus, customers will appreciate the peace of mind that comes with having a reserved table on the busiest day of the year.

To maximize profits consider using extra space that might not ordinarily be available, like a patio. In certain parts of the country, you’ll have to keep an eye on the weather but setting out a few extra tables for the day can be beneficial. That being said, don’t make the mistake of trying to cram too many tables into a space. Nobody appreciates a dining experience where they are bumping elbows with their neighbors, literally. If you have the space, definitely use it.

Menu Must Have’s

There are a few food items that you must have for a successful Mother’s Day Brunch. As far as food goes items like French Toast, eggs, frittata, and parfaits are guaranteed hits. Do you have a particular breakfast item that your restaurant is known for? If so, be sure to include it on the menu.

Crêpes can also be a big hit. But they can be temperamental so if your chef doesn’t have experience with them, Mother’s Day is not the time to test them out.

If you have your liquor license, mimosas and Bloody Mary’s are a favorite and sure to be a hit with most moms. Not all moms are interested in indulging in alcohol, so having a fun mocktail is a great way to add fun to their drink options.

Go All Out

Moms deserve to be treated every day but Mother’s Day in particular. Going that extra mile can really make the difference. Things as simple as offering a single flower to mothers at the end of the meal can be the difference between a yearly tradition and a one-time thing. Offering discounted or free food to moms is another great way to make them feel special. A free cocktail or dessert will go a long way.

If you are able to offer a takeout option for mothers or grandmothers that aren’t able to or prefer not to go out on Mother’s Day.

Promoting Your Brunch

Make your Mother’s Day specials and hours as easy to find as possible. If customers can’t find the information, chances are they will take their business elsewhere. Create a post for your social media accounts and start a Facebook event to keep your brunch top of mind. A series of posts that remind people how many days until Mother’s Day can help remind customers they need to make plans. It is a holiday that is easy to forget!

If you don’t have a huge social media following, don’t worry, you can always go old school and print out some flyers and hang them around your restaurant or hand them out with receipts during April and beginning of May.

 

With all the hustle and bustle of the busiest restaurant day of the year it is easy to forget the most important part of the day, celebrating moms! Encourage your staff to take time to wish Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms who visit your restaurant and do their best to remain pleasant even in the busy atmosphere.

Do you host a Mother’s Day brunch? Let us know your tips and tricks in the comments below!