Helpful Tips for Bar and Restaurant Owners

How to Profit from Your Restaurant’s Happy Hour

Happy hour can bring in big crowds and be a huge sales draw. It can also poach customers from your more lucrative lunch or dinner service and cause major damage to your bottom line — if it’s not done carefully. 

The appeal of getting a discount on a drink and a snack while unwinding from the day is undeniable. In fact, 60.5% of average weekly sales for bars & restaurants come from happy hour, according to a Nielsen study. 

Here are some tips you can use to keep your happy hour profitable, instead of putting you in the poor house.

Legal landmines

Before jumping into your happy hour plans, remember that providing drink specials for an hour or two per day is not legal everywhere. Massachusetts, North Carolina, Alaska, Maine, Indiana, Utah, Vermont, and Hawaii all ban what we think of as “happy hour” — discounted drinks for a short time per day. (Some of these states may allow drink specials for a full day, which could allow you to do an all-day happy hour.)

Even in states where drink discounts are legal, some still have specific rules. For example, Delaware requires that drink prices always be at least 6% higher than the cost of making the drink. And in Rhode Island, drink specials can’t go into effect until 6:00 pm on weekdays and are banned entirely on weekends. Plus, advertising those drink specials is banned by Rhode Island state law.

So make sure you’ve gone over your state and county rules for happy hours carefully before you get started. Once you’ve clarified the law, you can start working on increasing those profits. 

Timing is everything

If you’re going to make the most of your happy hour, it’s crucial to get the timing right. 

First, consider how long your happy hour (or hours) will last. If it’s too short, it may not seem worth it to customers to make the trek. If it’s too long, it can eat into your dinner business. 

Two hours seems to be a sweet spot. That’s plenty of time for people to get together and take advantage of food and drink discounts. Plus, if you keep it short, guests may get their first drink at a discount, but the second at full price. That’s more profit for you.

As for when you schedule happy hour, there are no hard and fast rules. The traditional 5:00pm to 7:00pm on weekdays may or may not be the best time for your restaurant. Consider when you start to fill up. If you’re located in a financial district where people don’t start to trickle out of the office until 7:00 pm, an early happy hour may not be the best fit for you. 

On the other hand, if you’re already getting a decent after-work crowd, adding an early happy hour may help to build your business during that quiet 4:00 – 6:00 pm block. 

If you’re open late, you may want to consider a “reverse” happy hour. This is when you offer late-night food and drink deals, instead of late afternoon. If you have reverse happy hour form 11:00 pm to 1:00 am, you may attract service staff from the nearby restaurants as they close down for the night. 

It could also be a good idea to offer something special on Wednesdays. Wednesday happy hour traffic is almost 24% higher than other weekdays. So an attractive deal could help you to make the most of the hump day boost.

Budget booze

Discounting your drinks only works if you’re increasing the volume of your customers. If your drinks are half price, you’ll need twice the customers to bring in the same amount of revenue. So keep that in mind when you’re planning your drink deals. 

Have a clear idea of how many more people you’ll need to attract in order to increase your sales. If your restaurant’s capacity is 200, a pricing strategy that requires 250 customers during happy hour isn’t going to work.

One way to offset some of the cost can be to offer combos. If you can pair an average-cost drink with a high-profit food item and discount them both, you’ll still be making a tidy profit.

For example, maybe you normally charge $9 for a glass of wine and $10 for a small cheese plate. The wine’s cost is 35% of the glass price, and the app is a high-profit item with a 50% food cost.

Offer the glass of wine and the appetizer as a combo at $15 instead of $19. The cost of the two items is only $8.15, meaning you’re still see a good margin. The combo will encourage people who may not otherwise have ordered an appetizer to get one, increasing your sales. 

Try to offer something unique during your happy hour, like a wine or champagne flight. If your restaurant specializes in a niche spirit like Japanese whiskey, you could offer a flight of that as well. 

Another way to increase profitability on your drinks is to offer discounts on kegged beer, wine, and champagne. And for cocktails, you can pre-batch them and hold them in kegs or carafes as well.

The benefits of pushing kegged and pre-batched cocktails are numerous. First of all, kegged wine leads to less waste, as it lasts much longer than an open bottle. Second, pouring a drink out of a keg is significantly faster than finding the right bottle, popping the cork, and pouring it. 

And of course, pre-made cocktails simply require ice, drink, and garnish. You’ll want to avoid fresh juices, as they’ll settle at the bottom of the keg. But they could be added last minute, right before serving. Keep batched cocktails simple, with only a few ingredients. 

If you’re able to streamline your drinks enough, you may be able to run the happy hour shift with less staff. This will allow you to save money on labor and increase those profits.

Finally, make sure to offer some deals on non-alcoholic options, too. Some restaurants actually offer free soft drinks to designated drivers during happy hour. Or if you have a mocktail menu, offer a discount on these drinks as well to encourage mixed groups of drinkers and non-drinkers to come by.

Give ‘em a snack

You drink specials are only half of the happy hour equation. You’ll want to offer some food options as well. 

Instead of just pulling a few high-profit items off the regular menu and offering them at a discount, get creative with the way you present your happy hour. 

If you have a best-selling entree, is there a way to incorporate it into your happy hour menu — possibly in an appetizer portion instead? High-end restaurants can benefit from this method, allowing cost-conscious diners to experience their restaurant at a price point they can afford. By reducing the size and price of an entree, you open the door to happy hour customers that you may not otherwise be able to attract. 

Keep food snackable and shareable. You want options that aren’t easily substituted for a full meal. Otherwise, you could poach your own dinner business and turn it into happy hour business instead.

Promote, promote, promote!

Make sure you’re getting the word out about your happy hour (keeping state law in mind, of course). Talk about your discounts regularly on social media. And reach out to influencers, bloggers, or local food publications to try to get included in their roundups of best local happy hours.

Also, make sure that you check the “happy hour” box in any listing sites, like Yelp, Google My Business, and Four Square. Diners can filter restaurants out by checking the “happy hour” box when they do a search. If you don’t include it in your features list, your restaurant will be omitted from customer search results.

On your own website, make your happy hour deals easy to find. Including a dedicated happy hour page or menu will let searchers easily discover the details so they can make a decision.

And don’t forget to promote happy hour to your current customers in the restaurant as well. You could put up flyers, do chalkboard art, or add a note to guest checks with info about your great deals. Train your staff to ask guests if they’ve been to your happy hour. If they haven’t, servers can tell the guests about your specials to encourage them to give it a try.

Remember, your decreased prices mean you need more bodies to come through the door. So spend some time focusing on your happy hour deals in your marketing strategy.

Conclusion

There is more to a profitable happy hour than offering $2 PBR’s and hoping the customers follow. You need to be true to your restaurant’s personality when planning your happy hour, while also taking a close look at your cost of goods and sales potential.

To get some ideas, talk to your servers and bartenders. Are there any requests or comments that they hear from guests? If customers often say they would love to try a sampling of your aged rums, that may be a great idea for a flight — and it’s unusual enough that it could attract some happy hour business.

And once you’ve settled on your happy hour menu, keep an eye on those numbers. If sales aren’t improving, you may need to increase your marketing efforts. Or, you may need to go back to the drawing board on your menu and pricing. 

Cheers!

Protect Your Investment: Training Your Staff to Take Care of Your Restaurant Furniture

If you’ve been in the restaurant business for any length of time, you know how much wear and tear your furniture has to undergo. The constant rearranging, pulling out and scootching in of chairs, and daily spills can turn your shiny new furniture into dingy old furniture in a flash.

You can’t run around all day cleaning up messes and babying your equipment. So you have to empower your staff to be the protectors of your furniture.

Provide the right tools

If you want your staff to take care of your furniture, they need the right tools.

You know the enemy of wood furniture is moisture. So to help keep it at bay, invest in coasters. Make sure that you keep a steady supply so you’ll never run out. 

Train your staff to drop coasters at every table before drinks are even ordered as part of their standard greeting. Servers and bartenders should introduce themselves and welcome guests to the restaurant, all while setting the table or bar with coasters for the drinks to come. That way they won’t be trying to place coasters with one hand while holding a tray of drinks in the other.

Next, make sure servers are able to wipe up any spills right away by including a small towel as part of their daily uniform. It will increase your linen budget slightly to have enough towels for every server to keep one on them at all times. But by wiping up spills immediately without having to hunt for a towel, your staff will help to increase your tables’ longevity.

You also want to protect your tabletops from excess heat. If you have any dishes that are served in cast iron or stainless vessels, they can get very hot, and can scorch your table. Make sure that any metal vessels that may go straight from the oven to the table are served on a wooden plank or a small plate to protect the finish.

Finally, you’ll want to provide the right cleaners for your furniture. The common “bar towels” often leave a lot of lint behind. Instead, use microfiber cloths that will pick up dust and crumbs, leaving a clean finish. For a cleaning solution, make sure to use something gentle. If it needs to be diluted, list the ratios on a laminated sheet at the host stand or in the server station where staff can always find it.

Include maintenance in closing sidework

Taking care of their section should always be a part of a server’s closing sidework. Don’t leave the cleaning of tables and chairs for the opening team the next day, as that will leave sticky messes time to damage your furniture finishes.

Servers should give the tables and chairs a thorough wipe down with a diluted soap and water mixture, followed by another wipe with a clean damp cloth. Make sure to avoid any oil-based cleaners for vinyl booths or seats, as it can harden the vinyl. And for lacquered or varnished wood furniture, train staff to wring out their cloth well before using. It should be damp, not sopping! Avoid cleaners with alcohol, silicone, or ammonia, as they can damage the lacquer. 

Servers should also check under the tables for gum or anything sticky. It’s gross, but removing gum on a daily basis will prevent it from hardening and sticking to the bottom of the table even worse. 

They should also “crumb” any booths in their section, cleaning out the crack between the seat and the booth back. This is where crumbs and grime can collect unseen. If the space between the seat and back is too tight to fit a hand, servers can wrap the handle of a butter knife in a towel, and slide that into the crack. Run the butter knife all the way across the booth to draw any crumbs out.

Bartenders should also wipe down their bar stools, and the host stand should wipe their host station. 

After sidework is complete, it should always be checked by a manager or lead server. Make sure the person doing the checkout has a flashlight. Even with the lights turned all the way up, it can be very difficult to see under a table. A flashlight will make it easy to see any spots the server may have missed. 

Have a damage log

Communication is always one of the challenges of a restaurant. Unlike an office where employees are generally working the same hours, restaurants have staff working across different shifts and different days, with very little written communication. 

So when something is damaged, how will you know?

Create a Standard Operating Procedure to handle maintenance and repair requests. Exactly what this will look like will depend on your restaurant. But here are a few options:

  • Have a physical logbook somewhere in the restaurant where anyone, from the dishwasher to the head bartender, can write down items that are damaged or need replacing. By empowering every member of staff to add to the list, it will be less likely that items will be forgotten in a game of telephone.
  • Assign one member of staff to be the “maintenance manager”. Ideally, this would be a handy person who could do some minor repairs themselves and outsource the rest. The great thing about this method is that it keeps the minor issues off your plate. But make sure this person has a budget for both their time and for purchases, to keep costs from spiraling out of control. 
  • Ask staff to bring any repair requests to the MOD, who can then inform the GM or owner. The risk with this method is that by adding steps to the process, you increase the likelihood that someone will forget to pass on the message.

You may come up with something different. But whatever you choose, make sure that everyone in the restaurant knows the procedure. 

Your servers who clean their sections will be the first to notice a wobbly table or damaged chair. So they need to know exactly what to do to get it fixed. You don’t want to be in a situation where every server is aware of a problem, but no one has informed management.

Have a deep clean/repair day

On occasion, you may notice that the daily cleanings could stand to be supplemented by a deeper scrub. At times like these, it could make sense to have a full restaurant deep clean. This is a great opportunity to get the whole place spic and span. 

The bartenders can pull everything out of the bar and make sure every shelf and wall is sparkling. The servers can do a thorough clean of furniture, restaurant walls, windows, and other surfaces. And the kitchen staff can work on the baked-on grease and grime that inevitably collects in commercial kitchens. 

This is also a great time to do minor repairs. For example, wood chair legs are vulnerable to being kicked and damaged, creating gouges in the finish. Those gouges can be filled with wood filler and stained with a stain pen to match the surrounding area. This is a great fix for chair legs since they won’t be examined up close. 

You will probably have to close the restaurant for a day to do this, and you’ll have to pay your staff an hourly wage. But if it’s only once or twice per year, it could be worth the extra expense.

Conclusion

Your restaurant furniture was a big financial investment, so take steps to protect it! By adding the care of restaurant furniture into servers’ daily sidework, it will become a quick and routine part of their shift. 

And a clean, attractive environment does more than just impress customers. It also fosters a sense of pride in your staff, helping with employee happiness and retention. Now that’s a win-win.

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. 

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!

How to Transition Your Menu for Fall

The weather is just beginning to cool, and already people are yearning for cozy sweaters, pumpkin spice lattes, and that crisp nip in the air. While we still have a few weeks before the weather turns, it’s time to start thinking about revamping your menu for the fall. 

The general theme? Heartier dishes. When people are cold, their bodies have to burn more calories to keep their temperature up. As a result, many people feel hungrier during the fall and winter than spring and summer. 

Plus, without trips to the beach on the horizon, people tend to be a little more lax with their meal choices. 

So bid a fond farewell to perfect peaches and crispy asparagus, and say hello to gourds and squash, fall apples, and the wonderful world of root vegetables. 

Appetizers

Let go of the cool, light apps like spring rolls, gazpacho, and hummus. Instead, set the stage with a warm, cozy starter. Gulf oysters are in season year ‘round, so a grilled oyster app is a good option. Or gooey baked brie with a warm baguette. If you do want to keep a cold starter on the menu, try to stick to seasonal fall ingredients. Eggplant is available all year, so baba ganoush might be a hearty dip to consider.

And the soups! Who doesn’t love a warm bowl of soup or chowder on a cool day, served with a warm slice of crusty, homemade bread? French onion with savory beef broth, thick baked potato soup, and classic minestrone all make wonderful starters. Just keep portions small, or no one will want to order entrees. 

Salads

Just because the summer salad season is coming to a close, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for salads on your menu throughout the colder months. Just bring a heartier approach. 

Swap out the watery greens for more fibrous options, like kale or spinach. These greens will hold up well to heavier toppings and dressings. 

Instead of only raw veggies, add some warming roasted root vegetables to your salads. Roasted beets, butternut squash, and sweet potato will add a filling bulk. You can also beef up your fall salads with hearty grains like farro, quinoa, and couscous. Pearl couscous does particularly well in salads, because of the larger grains. 

For sweetness, look for fruits that are in season in the cooler months, like Asian pears. Certain apple varieties like Braeburn, Fuji or Pink Lady are also at their peak in the fall. Dried cranberries are another popular fall fruit that will provide little pops of sugar. And they all go well with some crunchy fall nuts, like walnuts, pecans and pine nuts.

Sides

With so many delicious root vegetables in season, fall sides are abundant. Half of a roasted acorn squash drizzled with maple butter is hard to beat. Pan-roasted Brussels sprouts with crispy, salty pancetta are another favorite. Or you can sauté fall greens like Swiss chard or spinach for a light side option.

Any roasted root vegetable will create a good base for a fall side, from basic potatoes and carrots to parsnips, turnips, beets, and squash. 

But fall sides aren’t limited to veggies. A gooey pasta side-dish will stick to the ribs as well. Bring a fall flavor into the mix by making a pumpkin sauce. Or update gnocchi for the season by substituting sweet potatoes for regular potatoes. 

Entrees

Any protein can be turned into a fall dish with the right preparation and accouterments. 

When cooking, think long slow-roasting and braising for the richness of flavor that we’re craving in cooler weather. Duck confit, roast chicken, lamb shanks braised in red wine — all great fall options. 

Pork stuffed with apple and walnuts is a classic fall combination that you can play with. Mushrooms are most plentiful in the fall, and they are a great addition to pan sauces for steak and pork. 

For seafood, cioppino (a warm and hearty seafood stew) is a lighter option that guests may appreciate. Cod, salmon, grouper, and flounder are all fish that are widely available in the fall as well. Fish is a great addition to your menu all year, as it can easily be tweaked to fit the season with the right sides and herbs.

Warming spices and flavors

Pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg aren’t the only fall flavors out there. Mint, parsley, and rosemary are all fall herbs that you can work with on your menu.

And there’s no need to stay away from citrus on your fall menu. While we often think of citrus as a summer fruit, some varieties are actually best in the fall. Valencia oranges are in season from April to December, while Navel oranges don’t ripen until November. Lemons are in season year-round, and Mexican limes ripen between August and December. 

Spicy food may be a good addition to your fall menu. It can be too much to eat a spicy dish on a hot day, but when the weather is chilly that capsaicin can provide a welcome flush. And consider warming spice blends from around the world. Curries and Indian spices like garam masala have a little heat that will warm your guests up from the inside out.

Desserts

It’s time to retire the ice creams and sorbets and instead get baking. Fall is the perfect time for pies, cakes, and crumbles. 

Apple, sweet potato, pumpkin, pecan and buttermilk pie are all fall pie staples. Other fall flavors like cranberry, ginger, and carrot can be used in desserts like cookies and cakes. 

You can also skip the fruits and veggies and go heavy on the chocolate. Cakes, bars, and trifles with chocolate, caramel, and peanut butter are the kind of dense fare that does well in the fall.

If you do want a cold option, you could try to incorporate a fall flavor. Orange or lemon sorbets are light but include fall-appropriate citrus.

Cocktails and Coffee

While some wine drinkers are purists following strict rules about what to drink based on their food selections, many others are seasonal drinkers. These types tend to prefer chilled whites and rosés in the summer, and room temperature reds in the winter — regardless of what they’re eating. So make sure the red wine selection is up to snuff. You’ll want plenty of merlots, cabernets, and pinot noirs to keep the chill off. 

If you have the space for it, consider adding some warm drinks to your cocktail menu. Irish coffees are simple, and just require a coffee pot within easy reach of the bar. If you want to get a little more involved, you can make hot spiked cider, or mulled wine. These can be put in an air pot for easy service. 

Bourbon and whiskey are also popular when the weather gets cold. So consider adding fall-inspired whiskey drinks like a Cranberry Old-Fashioned or an Apple Cider Manhattan.

Experiment with fall spices in your drinks like nutmeg and cinnamon. There are even pumpkin-flavored liqueurs that you could use for a boozy take on the famous coffee drink. 

For non-alcoholic options, try to add some herbal teas, hot cider, and even hot chocolate to the menu. 

Descriptions

Since you’re updating the menu anyway, spend a little time thinking about your descriptions. Menu seasonality is important to a lot of people. So if you’re using lots of seasonal fall ingredients, play that up on your menu. Even better if you are able to use some local ingredients! 

People are looking for comfort and coziness when the weather gets cool. Can you bring that feeling to your menu? Emphasize rich and creamy textures. Try peppering in snuggly words like “warm” and “toasty”. Try to position your food as the perfect cap to a chilly day. 

Conclusion

Since fall is the most popular season with Americans, it’s worth it to try to capitalize on these short-term flavors!

Transitioning your menu from summer to fall is a shift, but it doesn’t have to mean you start from scratch. With the editing of some of your sides and flavor profiles, you should be able to pivot much of your menu to one more appropriate for cool weather. 

Swap out some apps and desserts, and you’ll be all set for fall!

How to Turn Upset Customers Into Friends

It’s a typical Wednesday night at your restaurant, and everything is chugging along smoothly. Ticket times are good, there’s a small wait at the host stand, and that new busser is working out really well.

Then, a server comes to you and says, “The guy at 403 is really mad.”

Oh dear.

There is no company in the world that has happy customers 100% of the time. It’s impossible. But what separates the good from the great is how they deal with unhappy guests when problems arise.

Making it right isn’t just a good PR move — it makes sense financially too. Word-of-mouth is a big factor in your sales. 81% of consumers trust their friends’ and families’ recommendations over anything else. 

Plus, it costs up to 25x more to get a new customer than to retain an existing one. So it’s important to know how to turn an unhappy customer into an advocate instead of an enemy. Here are some tips you can use to do just that!

Introduce Yourself by Name

When you first walk up to the table of an unhappy customer, all they know is that you represent the place that messed up.

So start off by humanizing yourself with a proper introduction.

“Hi, I’m Jim, the manager. I heard there was some trouble, and I wanted to see what I can do to help.”

When we know someone’s name, it makes them more of an individual and less of a cog in a machine. Instead of seeing you as a representative of the business, they’ll see you as a person who may be able to help.

It’s amazing how often managers forget this step! 

It’s also a good idea to ask the customer’s name. As Dale Carnegie famously said, “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” 

But don’t overuse it. Maybe address them by name once during your initial conversation, and once more when they’re leaving. Overusing someone’s name can come across as insincere and patronizing — the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve!

Really Listen

When an upset customer tells you their story, don’t be thinking about how you’re going to respond. Just listen. 

You may think the main issue is that their steak was cold. But the issue may actually be that they told their server about it, and she didn’t seem to care. One is a simple matter of reheating or firing a new steak, while the other is an issue of bad customer service. Those are two very different problems.

So let the customer tell their story, and really listen so you can get to the root of the issue. 

Occasionally, it happens that the meal went wrong from the very beginning. The host was rude. Then the menu was dirty. Then the drinks took forever to come out. You can’t go back and fix all these things, but you can listen with sympathy. 

Sometimes, people just need to vent. So let them get it all out before you start offering solutions.

See Things Through Their Eyes

Your POS system went down, and no one realized it for 15 minutes. Now you have missing tickets and a seriously angry mom whose hungry toddler is having a meltdown. Plus, now she’s going to be late picking up her older child from ballet practice.

Put yourself in her shoes, and try to empathize. She’s not upset because she has to wait. She’s upset because the delay is causing a chain reaction that is going to affect her whole day. 

The POS system going down is obviously not your fault. But try explaining that to an 8-year-old who has been waiting by herself in ballet shoes after all the other parents have come and gone.

What would you want in that situation? Probably anything edible and portable that you could give the toddler, so he would calm down and they could get going. What you certainly wouldn’t want is to hear a bunch of excuses as to why the wait would be another 15 minutes.

Everyone is fighting their own battles, and we only see a little piece of it. So keep that in mind next time someone seems to be overreacting to a problem at your restaurant. A little empathy goes a long way!

Project Confidence

Throughout your interaction with the upset customer, you want them to feel like you have things under control. You are the person who can solve their problem and make everything right. So take control of the situation and assure them that they’re in good hands.

This means taking decisive, quick action. If something came out cold, you snap up that dish and get it to the kitchen lickety-split. If the server was rude, you go chat with them right away. 

Take control! Instead of asking what they would like you to do to fix the problem, offer solutions. If something was too salty, tell them you’d be happy to have it re-made, or you can get them a different dish right away. Don’t put the onus on the customer to come up with a fix. 

Get on Their Side

It can be tempting to see an angry customer as the enemy. Is an undercooked burger really something to fly off the handle about? This lady is being totally unreasonable!

That may be true, but it’s also the wrong attitude to take. Remember, we’re trying to see things through their eyes! 

Once you understand the problem, get on their side. Help the customer to see you as their advocate. This undercooked burger affects them, but it also affects you. While you may not appreciate being shouted at, you should appreciate an opportunity to improve. 

You don’t want to throw your kitchen or their server under the bus, but you can still create a little team of two. Try something like, “Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention! I’m going to go get a new burger started for you, and chat with the kitchen about keeping an eye on temperatures. I really appreciate you letting me know, so I can make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Now you’re a dynamic duo. You have a mutual understanding about the unpleasantness of undercooked burgers, and together, you’re solving the problem.

Always Apologize

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the goal of “making it right” that we miss a crucial step — apologizing. 

It’s a simple acknowledgement that something went wrong and the company fell short. Even if it wasn’t really your fault, apologize anyway. 

If Appropriate, Take Something Off the Bill

Some restaurant owners and managers discourage comping food. They may be afraid that customers will abuse the policy. Or they may worry that managers won’t be able to judge when a comp is appropriate.

But look at it this way — what’s worth more to you? The cost of that appetizer, or not getting reamed on Yelp? 

Losing one star on Yelp or Google can result in a 5% reduction in revenue. So it may be worth the expense to take something off the bill if that’s the best way to make someone happy. 

In general, you’ll have a good idea of when someone is genuinely unhappy, and when someone is just trying to score free stuff. If they eat the whole meal before complaining, raise a fuss but don’t allow you to bring out a replacement dish, or show you a hair on the plate (which looks suspiciously similar to the customer’s own hair), you’ll know their game.

But in a normal circumstance where the restaurant really did make a mistake, a simple comp can be enough to show a customer that you take their complaint seriously and want to make it right.

Follow Up

Once you’ve listened, taken quick action, and given them a discount if appropriate, circle around one more time.

Thank the customer again for giving you the chance to fix the problem. And if they seem happy, ask if they’d be willing to share their email address. A nice note from the owner the next day, again apologizing for the error and welcoming them back to the restaurant, will leave a great impression. That “above and beyond” attention is the kind of care that people remember.

Conclusion

Your customers are your greatest marketing tool. They tend to remember either really good or really bad experiences, and share them in person or on review sites. So it’s up to you to turn each mistake into an opportunity. 

Make sure when your restaurant’s name comes up, the story isn’t about the error, but about  how you went to extraordinary lengths to make it right. That’s the kind of service that will earn you a customer’s loyalty and friendship.

What is the Best Color for your Restaurant?

Grey.

The end.

Just kidding!

If only it were that simple! In fact, the best color for your restaurant will probably not be the best color for the restaurant down the road. Different light levels, cuisines, restaurant size, and even service styles should all be considered when choosing colors. 

It’s no secret that color has an effect on people. It can influence emotions, blood pressure, and even hunger levels! So choosing your restaurant color can be a big deal! Here is some guidance to help you decide the perfect hue for you.

Red

Red is an energetic, passionate color. It can increase heart rate and blood pressure, and is great for grabbing attention. So should you use it for your restaurant?

When you may want to use it

Red has been said to stimulate appetite, which makes it a strong choice for restaurants. And red tablecloths have been shown to make people eat more.

It can also stimulate impulse eating. So if your restaurant is the type of place that benefits from lots of small food decisions, red may be good for you. Think fast food, small plates, or dim sum.

If you don’t want to cover your walls in red, consider using it as an accent color. Napkins, wall art, or even the back bar could be good candidates for red.

When to avoid it

That increase in heart rate may encourage people to eat more, but it also encourages them to keep moving. A high-turnover restaurant could benefit from bright red, but if you want your guests to linger, keep looking.

An exception is deep, dark reds like garnet or wine. The darker hue is cozier and warmer, and encourages diners to hunker down in their booths for the evening.

Blue

Blue is a conservative color, connoting stability and safety. There’s a reason why so many corporate logos feature blue. 

It’s the most popular color in the world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best choice for your restaurant. 

When you may want to use it

A lovely clear blue can evoke the sea, which makes it a good option for seafood restaurants. For example, Legal Sea Foods on the East Coast uses blue as an accent color in wall tile and on their menus. 

It also does well in coffee shops and bars, as there’s a theory that blue makes people thirsty.

When to avoid it

Blue is considered to be an appetite suppressant. The exact reason why is not clear, but one explanation is that there is very little blue food that occurs in nature, so we don’t associate it with eating. Another theory is that food tends to turn blue (moldy) when it spoils.

This is why, like Legal Sea Foods, using blue as an accent rather than a primary color may be your best bet.

Orange

Bright, peppy orange means energy and optimism. It’s a great attention-grabber, although some people can find it overwhelming. 

When you may want to use it

Orange will encourage people to keep things lively. It can work really well in a sunny cafe or coffee shop. Guests will stay and chat longer in an orange space. 

When to avoid it

Orange can feel immature and unprofessional to some, so it’s probably not a great choice for a fine-dining restaurant. But, like red, a deeper hue like pumpkin or terra cotta could work. This may be another color that would do well as an accent, instead of a feature color.

Green

Green is the color of nature. It promotes harmony, relaxation, and peace. It can reduce stress and encourage tranquility. 

When you may want to use it

Earthy, muted greens make people think of freshness. So it’s a great choice for a juice bar or restaurant with a focus on light, healthy food. 

Bright, vibrant greens can also work, but a little lime green goes a long way. So consider reserving bright green for an accent color, like fresh greenery on the tables or green tile behind the bar.

When to avoid it

Since green is associated with freshness, it’s not the best choice for a meat-heavy restaurant, like a steakhouse. Plus, green walls can reflect on your food, and no one wants to eat a green-toned steak. 

Black

Black is the color of power, strength, and sophistication. It is chic and timeless. 

When you may want to use it

Black is a great accent color. It looks incredibly smart against white, in tile or textiles. Legendary ad man David Ogilvy always said that black type on a white background was easiest to read, so  it’s a good choice for menus as well.

When to avoid it

It probably doesn’t need to be said, but an all-black room is not very inviting. However, if it was done in a variety of different textures, it could be done. Not for the faint of heart!

Purple

Purple is the color of royalty. It can bring to mind dignity, wisdom, and power. But like blue, it isn’t usually associated with hunger or food. 

When you may want to use it

Purple is a bit exotic in the realm of restaurant colors, so you could consider it if you want to stand out. It’s also associated with Mardi Gras and New Orleans, so it could be an option for a cajun restaurant. 

When to avoid it

With its similarities to blue, purple is a dangerous color to use for a restaurant. It can cast an unappealing hue on both people and food.

But a dusty mauve or amethyst color could create a nice backdrop to an otherwise neutral space. Just avoid bright purple, or your dining room could look like a circus.

Yellow

Yellow is a cheerful, uplifting color. It’s sunny and warm. However, it can also be overwhelming. It can make people uneasy and more likely to lose their tempers.

When you may want to use it

If you want to turn tables, yellow may be a good option. Like red, it grabs your attention, but discourages lingering. 

Consider yellow for fast food, cafes, and yogurt or ice cream shops — places that your guests won’t be spending several hours.

When to avoid it

If you want your guests to feel comfortable and relaxed, yellow is not the color for you. Also, make sure to look at swatches of yellow in all different light levels before committing. What can appear bright and sunny in the morning could have nasty green undertones in the afternoon!

Pink

Light pink can be a calming color, making you think of sensitivity or romance. But a shocking fuchsia or hot pink can act more like red — stimulating and energetic. 

When you may want to use it

Most people consider pink a playful color, so it’s great for a fun, laid back restaurant. A bakery or cafe could be a good candidate for pink.

When to avoid it

“Millennial pink” was incredibly trendy in the past few years, with restaurants all over the country dousing themselves in the color. While they are very lovely (and look great on Instagram), the trend is on the way back down. So to avoid looking dated, it may be a better idea to use splashes of pink instead of pink walls, pink tables, pink chairs…

Grey, Beige, or Greige

Grey and beige are solid and dependable. These earthy, natural colors are sophisticated and mature. They’re also incredibly popular in home decor, so guests will feel comfortable with the colors.

When you may want to use them

Grey, beige, and greige make people feel relaxed and unhurried. So they’re good choices if you want people to linger. 

They’re also versatile. You can dress them up or down, and change out curtains, furniture, and fixtures without having to change the wall color. Plus, they generally look good in both bright and dim light. 

When to avoid them

If you want to churn and burn, pick something flashier. Also, grey can be very cool. Warm it up with wood tones and warm accent colors to prevent it from getting too clinical.

Brown

Brown is the color of wholesome sincerity. It is grounded and safe. brown makes a great earthy backdrop to other vibrant colors like yellow and turquoise.

When you may want to use it

Brown is associated with nature and the outdoors. It can be a great compliment to green.

It’s also a warming color, associated with chocolate, coffee, and baked bread. A coffee shop, deli, or bakery would be cozy in tan or light brown.

When to avoid it

If the rest of the space is very neutral, brown may not be the best choice. Too much of a good thing, in this instance, can become very boring. 

White

White represents innocence, peace, and hope. It is often associated with cleanliness, which may be why a lot of health food restaurants are mainly white. Choosing a white can be surprisingly difficult, as many have blue, yellow, pink, or green undertones. 

When you may want to use it

If you have a small space, white can make it look larger. It can also help to brighten up a dim room. It’s a simple backdrop color that you can then decorate with pops of color and art, without it looking too busy.

White is also great with texture. For example, white subway tile or penny tile are classic choices, Grey or black grout can add some interest. And white curtains in gauze or a rustic linen can warm up a room.

When to avoid it

If your restaurant is already large, painting it white can make it look cavernous. You may be better off with a darker hue to make your space feel cozier. 

Final notes

Clearly, there is no one color that you should always (or never) use. 

But a few things to remember — never rely on that tiny little paint chip from the hardware store when making your choice. Always get a sample and paint a big square on the wall. See how it looks at all times of day and night before making a decision. 

Also, the pros say it’s easier to start with a textile, like a curtain or a cushion color, before selecting paint colors. That way you’ll have something to coordinate your wall color with, instead of staring at the hundreds of paint color options with no guidance.

And if you really can’t decide — it may be time to call in a professional.

5 Experiences to Add to Your Restaurant and Shake Up Your Customer Traffic

Experiences are key to engaging customers. Sure, sometimes customers will want to just sit down and have a meal, have a tasting, eat dessert, or whatever your specialty is. But in other instances, they want to be entertained. By hosting different experiences throughout the year at your restaurant, you can bring excitement to their week. Offering these events can shake up your customer traffic and show your offerings in a new light. For example, going out for tacos just doesn’t have the same ring as heading to a Tex-Mex Taco Tuesday Fiesta. It’s all how you market it!

With any experience, there are a few must-do’s that come with planning a successful event at your restaurant.

  • Plan in advance! There’s a sweet spot between giving customers too much notice and not enough. Have your events scheduled at least a month in advance.
  • You have to advertise! No matter what kind of event you’re hosting for your restaurant, be sure to publicize it. Fliers, Facebook events, and staff advertising to customers are all great ways to let the public know about your big plans. If they don’t know, they can’t come! 

Let’s take a look at some ideas you can put into action at your business:

Throw a Theme Party

This is a great way to show off the versatility and skills of your kitchen! There are so many themes out there, you may want to try and incorporate one into your regular monthly (or weekly) agenda. Themes could be food-based, TV show-inspired, sport-centered, and decade-focused- the options are endless! Having a theme in place can help dictate the menu, decor, music, and overall ambiance for the event. This is a great event to use sparingly to intrigue new customers and bring regulars through the door that might have been coming anyway.

Craft an Art Class

There are many different ways you can incorporate an arts and crafts night for your establishment. From crafting wood signs to painting a masterpiece, let your customers’ creativity run wild, all at your restaurant. This kind of experience works particularly well if you are a tasting room or winery where you serve alcohol (versus patrons spending their dollars elsewhere BYOB-style). 

Not crafty yourself? No problem! Get in contact with a local crafter to supervise the project. Discuss how many they can oversee and the space you’re willing to dedicate. For this event, we recommend creating a limited number of tickets to not only pay for the crafter, but also have a “deposit” on the event. Include light appetizers and refreshments as part of the ticket, while also offering a special drink menu made for the event. Touches like this really elevates the event from an art class to a full experience, leading up to when your customer walks away with their latest craft creation. 

Create a Contest

Bring out a little healthy competition between your customers with a fun contest! Contests can be as simple as karaoke, darts, or trivia. Show off your outdoor space with contests like cornhole, canjam, darts, or any other yard games that encourage customers to pal around and imbibe in the evening’s offerings. 

Host a Yappy Hour

Dog-friendly patios may be the regular at your restaurant or bar, so why not make an event out of it! Many dog owners jump at the chance to have their dogs socializing while enjoying a night out for themselves. Host food or drink specials for the owners but don’t forget to have water and dog-friendly treats for the pups of honor. 

Before you get too far in the planning process, check your local jurisdiction and codes to make sure you can comply with the laws surrounding dogs in restaurants or food-areas

Help a Local Cause

Get old and new customers alike to rally around a cause at your restaurant. Having a fundraiser can be spectacular for business, employee morale, and most importantly, the cause! Working with a local school, team, or group promotes local partnerships and bring many new customers into your establishment. You may even gain a new crop of regulars!

If there’s not a specific event or cause you want to host at your restaurant, take a poll of your employees’ favorite causes. This can spark some ideas and even create a calendar of giving to get everyone on board. 

What kind of experiences does your restaurant have to engage customers throughout the year? Let us know here or on Facebook. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

How Restaurants Can Use Pinterest Effectively

Pinterest may not have the eye-watering user numbers as Facebook (2.4 billion/month) or Instagram (1 billion/month).

But at 250 million monthly users, there is still a robust (and growing) base of dedicated Pinners out there.

And the people who do use Pinterest are the people you want to reach! Half of millennials use Pinterest — the generation that eats out more than any other. And a full 7 in 10 moms report using it as well. When you consider that 90% of women control their household spending, it becomes clear that your customers are on Pinterest!

If you’re not familiar with the platform, here’s how it works:

Pinterest is a way to save images from across the internet in one place. Users create “boards” with whatever themes they want and then save and organize “pins” to each board. Just about any image on the internet can be saved to Pinterest. And each pin links back to the original source. For you, that could be your restaurant website or Facebook page.

So how can you, a restauranteur, use Pinterest as a helpful marketing tool?

Set up a Business Account

The first thing you’ll need is a business account. A business account (rather than a personal account) will provide analytics and allow you to use Pinterest’s advertising features.

After you’ve created your account, you can complete your business profile. Add your website, logo, and some information about your restaurant. 

You’ll also want to follow the instructions to confirm your website. By using this feature, you’ll get additional helpful analytics. It will also add your logo to any pins that come from your website. There’s a tutorial here to help link your Pinterest account to several different types of websites.

Create Boards

Once your account is set up and linked to your website, you can start posting your own content to Pinterest. 

To start, create a Board. A Board is simply a place to organize pins with a similar theme.

You can create as many boards as you like. For example, Chipotle has 21 different boards on Pinterest. Some examples: 

  • Grow — A board focused on gardening. This makes sense for Chipotle, since one of their core values is a focus on fresh ingredients and responsible farming.
  • Cook — Inspiring recipes that they’ve saved from other blogs and websites.
  • Build — Highlights new stores going up around the world.
  • Wear — Dedicated to Chipotle merchandise.

You could do one focused on your menu and recipes. Another could be pictures of charitable events that your staff participates in. 

You could also have a board highlighting interesting things to do in your city. Or if your restaurant is in a historic area, you could set up a board to share pictures of the neighborhood as it’s changed through the years. 

One helpful feature of Pinterest — you can add collaborators to your board. If you have a photographer or marketing person on staff, you may want to add them as collaborators so they can make their own pins.

Start Pinning

After you have your first board set up, you can start adding pins. A pin is simply an image card (along with a caption and website link) that you will save to your board. Pins can be added from other sites across the web, or you can upload images directly to Pinterest. 

Keep in mind that Pinterest is a tool of discovery. You want your images to be interesting and helpful. People look to Pinterest for inspiration and recommendations. So pins like recipes, table layouts, cooking tips, or wine pairings could all do well. 

Also, think beyond the food. Pin pictures of picturesque areas of your restaurant. Not only will this attract potential diners, but your pins may get re-pinned by interior designers or branding firms. The result will be more exposure for your restaurant.

Don’t think you have to create 100% unique content to add to Pinterest. Different social platforms have different users. So it’s okay to re-purpose some of your Instagram posts for your Pinterest audience!

After you’ve been pinning for a while, look at your analytics to see which pins get the most engagement and which drive the most traffic to your website. Repeat their success by adding more pins with similar themes.

Encourage Other Pinners

Many Pinterest fans download the “Pin It” button to their browsers. This lets them easily capture images from other websites as they’re exploring the web. 

But you should also add a Pinterest button to your own website, just like a Facebook or Twitter button. This will encourage users to share your content on their own Pinterest boards for free, user-generated promotion of your restaurant.

Just like any other social media site, one of the goals is engagement. But Pinterest users don’t do as much commenting as users on some other social sites. Re-pins and likes are more common than comments. 

So encourage re-pins of your content. Maggiano’s Little Italy did a “Pin it to Win It” promotion with huge success. Each week, they would award a $100 gift card to a Pinterest user who had re-pinned one of their images. The result was a huge increase in Pinterest engagement.

Remember, the door swings both ways. So when a user shares one of your pins, leave them a comment to say thank you. 

Also, search Pinterest for content that is relevant to your restaurant. If you serve Italian food, search for pins related to home-made pasta, popular Continental classics, or even images of the Italian countryside. Give this relevant content a like or re-pin it to one of your own boards.

By engaging with other users, you’ll encourage them to engage back.

When to Pin

Pin regularly. Spread out your pins across the week, rather than saving them up and pinning them all at once.

Some stats say that you should be pinning at least 5 times per day. While more pins will maximize your engagement, don’t get too caught up in the numbers when you’re just starting out. Commit to pinning a few times per week, and increase your frequency from there.

Research indicates that the best times to pin on Pinterest are:

  • 2 pm — 4 pm
  • 8 pm — 11 pm
  • 2 am — 4 am 

Pinterest makes it easy for you to post during these peak times. After you create your pin, you can schedule it to post anytime in the next two weeks. You can create and schedule up to 30 posts at a time through your Pinterest business account.

Request Rich Pins

Rich Pins provide a little more oomph to your posts. The purpose of Rich Pins is to add extra information to your pin without requiring the user to click through to the source site. And the information stays with the pin, even if it’s re-pinned and the caption is changed. One study suggests they can increase website traffic by 36%!  

Rich Pins are limited to four specific types: Recipe, Article, Product, and App.

Product Pins include pricing and where to buy. You could use this type of Rich Pin if you sell merchandise or pre-packaged food items online. 

Recipe Pins list ingredients, cook time, and serving sizes. You can use this pin to share a popular restaurant recipe with your followers.

Article Pins include a headline, author, and article description. Post an Article Pin to share your good press with the world.

And App Pins allow users to install an app directly from the pin, without visiting an app store. You can use this type of pin if your restaurant has its own app.

You’ll have to request Rich Pins be added to your account before you can use them on Pinterest. Make sure your website is confirmed (see Set up Your Business Account above) before you request Rich Pins. But it’s worth the extra step to gain access to this valuable tool.

Consider Paid Advertising

The low cost of social media is one of its great selling points. But if you want to boost your reach, consider using Pinterest’s Promoted Pins. 

Pinterest estimates that it provides a $4.30 gross return for every advertising dollar spent. That’s a pretty good ROI! 

And unlike Instagram or Facebook ads, where there is no way to save the ad for future use, Pinterest ads are all pinnable! So if a bride-to-be sees your Promoted Pin for catering, she can easily save it to her wedding board as a reminder to inquire about pricing!

And when someone saves your Promoted Pin, their followers can see it as well. Even after the paid promotion ends, that pin will still be on the users’ boards.

Wrapping Up

55% of Pinterest’s users say they log on to find products, vs. only 12% for Facebook and Instagram! So it’s clear that Pinterest is where the buyers are.

While the platform isn’t quite as straightforward as Facebook or Instagram as a marketing tool, users are still highly engaged and represent a large portion of restaurant customers. Adding it to your roster of social media platforms can expand your reach, earn more brand awareness, and bring bodies through the door! 

With such a powerful tool at your disposal, it’s time to start pinning!