Restaurant Marketing

How to Market Your Restaurant’s Space for Events

Turning your restaurant into an event venue for a night can seem daunting. But there are huge benefits to snagging regular large parties and full-venue buyouts.

First, the food will all be pre-ordered for the evening, so you can plan ahead to minimize waste. Second, you’ll have the chance to pack the house on what could otherwise be a slow day. A big party on a Tuesday night? Yes, please!

And finally, there are those beautiful rental fees. Event professionals understand that to reserve all or part of your venue for their party, they’ll have to pay a rental fee. It’s the price they have to pay for disrupting your normal flow of business. And that’s all profit. 

But it can be hard to get your restaurant’s name out there as a great option for an event. If you’re not being proactive, it’s unlikely that events business will just fall in your lap.

So here are the steps you should be taking to market your restaurant’s space for events.

Design a professional event deck 

The first thing you’ll need is an event deck. An event deck is simply a brochure that explains the features and benefits of your space. 

These days, they can be either digital or printed. It can be nice to have a glossy, physical brochure to hand out to event coordinators. But digital can also be a good option so you can save on printing costs and make easy changes. In a perfect world, you’d have both digital and printed versions.

For starters, you’ll need great pictures. Splurge for a photographer here. A professional photographer will be able to make your space shine. When they come, you want the space to look event-ready — table and chairs set just how they would be for a nice event. And the space should be empty of customers. The event planners and their clients need to be able to imagine their party in the room. That’s harder to do when there are people and dirty plates in the picture. 

You’re trying to paint the most complete picture possible. So include images of the dining room, bar, any lounge areas, decks or patios — all of the customer-facing spaces.

Next, you need to put together your content. This is where you’ll give all the important specs of the space. These should include:

  • Square footage
  • Max capacity seated
  • Max capacity standing
  • Any audio/visual equipment you have
  • Furniture details. How many tables and chairs do you have in-house? Do you have any satellite bars or buffet tables? This will help the event planners to figure out what they’ll need to rent.
  • Service styles. Do you have limits for how many guests can get a seated, plated dinner vs. family-style or buffet service? Do you offer passed appetizers?
  • Include a list of preferred vendors, if you have one. This could be DJs, florists, rental companies, and tent-providers (for outdoor spaces). 

Once you have your photos back and your specs compiled, it’s time to put your deck together. If you or someone on staff are skilled with a program like Adobe InDesign, you may be able to do it yourself. But you may get a better result if you hire a graphic designer. Remember, if you spend $500 between a photographer and graphic designer, you could make it all back with one event rental fee.

Reach out to local event companies

The next step is to reach out to the local event companies to make sure they’re aware of your restaurant. 

The event companies are the gatekeepers to all the local event business. If there’s a conference, trade show, seminar, or festival coming to town, the organizers will reach out to an event company to plan welcome parties or VIP dinners. 

So it’s vital to have these folks on your side. Invite them to tour the space. Make sure the owner, general manager, or onsite event coordinator is the one doing the tour. You want to be able to answer their questions in real-time, instead of asking someone else. 

After the tour, treat them like VIPs. Provide samples of some of the best appetizers and snacks that you would provide for events, and make sure to give them a glass of wine or a cocktail. If you get on the event planner’s good side, your job is halfway done.

Skip the middle man

Not all events will go through event planning companies. Some will come directly from the end client. So it’s always a good idea to do a little outreach on your end as well. 

To start, establish your max capacity for an event. There’s no point in reaching out to companies of 400 people if you can only fit 150. So use your capacity to weed out companies that are too large. 

Then, start looking for lists of “best small companies” in your areas. The companies that are on “best places to work” lists are often generous with their celebrations. Start calling these companies, and try to reach the person who handles events. Many small companies won’t have a designated “event coordinator”, so the job will fall to someone in HR or a competent administrator. 

You’re not trying to be pushy. Just let them know that you have a great space not far from their office and you think it might be a good fit for their next company party. Invite them out for a tour and some snacks. 

This is an especially good method around September/October. The holiday party is looming, but the planner may not have thought much about it yet. How fortuitous if the perfect venue just happens to reach out at the perfect time?

Peerspace

Peerspace is an online event rental marketplace. Like Airbnb, venues can create a listing for their space, which users can book for available days.

Now, Peerspace is not restaurant-specific, so it doesn’t account for menus or drinks. The rental is strictly for the space. But if you have a side room that sits vacant often, getting it up on Peerspace may be a great way to get occasional rentals. It could be used for seminars, lectures, or meetings instead of sitting empty.

Social media 

You knew it was coming, right?

These days, every marketing plan has to include social media. There are three big areas to focus on for promoting events on social media. 

1. Reminders

Every now and then, make sure to do a post on your Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter about the fact that your space is available for private parties. Post one of those beautiful event deck photos, and include the email address that they should reach out to with questions.

Or, you could take followers on a virtual tour of the space in your Instagram or Facebook stories. Regular reminders that your space is available for events will help to position your restaurant as an event venue in the minds of your followers. 

2. Events in progress

When you have an event-in-progress, make sure to share it! Photos and short videos of your events as they happen will show your followers how fun your space can be! 

Make sure to use event-focused hashtags, like:

  • #[town]events
  • #[town]party
  • #partytime
  • #partyplanner

The idea is to get your pictures in front of other event professionals around town.

3. Facebook ads

Facebook ads let you get very specific with your targeting. You can narrow down your ad audience by age, location, gender, income level, family size, interests, and job titles. 

For event-focused Facebook ads, try targeting executive assistants, HR professionals, administrators, and event planners in your area. Use one of those professional photos and make sure your ad links directly to your online event deck. 
This kind of focused targeting will get your ad in front of the event decision-makers that you need to reach in order to book their parties.

Let’s Party!

If you spend a little time focusing on each one of these steps, you’ll be sure to see an increase in event rentals. Once the events are booked, make sure all hands are on deck to throw the best event possible. There’s no business like repeat business! You want your event clients to get on next year’s calendar before this year’s party has even ended!

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!

Peekaboo Promotions: What They Are and How to Pull One Off in Your Restaurant

When you start to look for promotion ideas for your restaurant, it can sometimes seem that you’ll need a marketing degree to pull them off. Re-targeting, segmenting audiences, and tracking pixels are the stuff of advertising firms, not independent restaurants! 

While there is certainly value in those more technical methods, there are still some good old-fashioned analog techniques that you can use to increase your sales and get more return business. 

One of those methods is the Peekaboo Promotion, aka the “No Peeking” or “Red Envelope” promotion. We’re going to break down what it is, and how you can use it to get big results for a small investment. 

What Is It?

The Peekaboo Promotion is a method of marketing to your existing customers, turning them into repeat customers. 

Here’s how it works. When your customers finish their meal, their server will hand them a sealed envelope. Inside, there will be a gift certificate or coupon for their next visit. But the coupon comes with a couple of conditions. 

  • The envelope must stay sealed until the customers complete their next meal. And it must be opened by their server. The customer can’t open the envelope at home and then bring it to the restaurant.
  • The envelope must be opened within a certain month. The idea is to bring customers back during a slow time. So it has to be opened and used during the time that you specify.
  • The envelope will only be opened at the end of the customer’s meal. So they can’t order their meal based on their coupon. They have to order without knowing what they’re going to win.

Why Does it Work?

So many promotions are aimed at finding new customers. But getting a new customer costs 5x as much as retaining an existing one. Plus, your chances of selling to an existing customer are high, at 60-70%. Compare that to only 5-20% for new customers.

So focusing on your existing customers is not only less expensive, but it’s also more effective. 

As for this specific promotion, it’s fun! There’s a small prize inside every envelope, meaning everyone is a winner. The curiosity of what is in their envelope will draw customers back to your restaurant at a time when they may have stayed home instead. One restaurant reported an increase in sales of $25,000 from this method — a 22% increase from their previous year. 

How Does it Work?

The first thing you’ll need to decide is when to run your promotion. A logical choice would be to hand out envelopes during the busy holiday season for redemption in January. But that may not make the most sense for your restaurant. For example, if you’re located in a ski town, it would make more sense to hand out your envelopes at the end of the ski season for use in the summer. The tourists won’t be in town, but the locals will, helping you to boost your sales during your quietest month.

Next, you’ll need to figure out how many prizes and envelopes to put together. Look at the number of tables or checks you had in your giveaway month last year. If your sales are on track to be the same, you could just use that number. But if you’re experiencing growth of say, 10%, add an extra 10 to 15% more envelopes to account for the increased business.

The next step is to decide on your prizes. Include a wide variety. Your smallest (most affordable) prizes, like a free soft drink or side of fries, will be in the largest number of envelopes. Then you can add some coupons for free appetizers or desserts, a few free entrees, and maybe some merchandise. Finally, you’ll add a gift certificate or coupon for just one or two of your grand prize. This could be 100% off their bill or tickets to a local sporting event or food festival. Make sure your grand prize is something really attractive to provide an incentive for guests to come back during your slow time. 

When figuring out your prize distribution, you’ll need to think about what the cost would be if 100% of the people who receive an envelope come back to use their coupon. Keep in mind that all of these people will be generating sales for your restaurant. But you’ll want to know what the total cost of the promotion could be, from the cost of creating your coupons to the costs of the prizes. 

The Coupons and Envelopes 

When designing your physical coupons and envelopes, there are a few things to keep in mind. 

First, these don’t have to be fancy. There are companies that can print your envelopes and certificates for you, but you could also do it yourself with a local printer. 

First, make sure your envelope isn’t see-through. The whole point is that customers have to come back in and have a meal in order to find out what they won. If they can hold the envelope up to a light and read their coupon, it defeats the purpose.  You can prevent this by either using a colorful envelope or by folding the coupon inside to make sure it can’t be read. 

You’ll also need to make sure your envelope is branded to your restaurant. If you use a plain white envelope, customers could open it, check the coupon, and then re-stuff it into another white envelope. You don’t want the customer to know they’re getting a free meal before their meal, or they could order everything on the menu and you’d be on the hook for the bill!

It’s also a good idea to print the instructions on the outside of the envelope. This will help prevent the customer from opening it on accident, or forgetting when the promotion is taking place. Add a simple note reminding customers NOT to open the envelope, but to bring it back with them to the restaurant during the appropriate month. 

If you decide to print out your coupons and envelopes yourself, you can enlist the help of host and service staff to stuff them during their downtime. 

And train your staff to explain the promotion before handing over the envelope. If the customer tears into it before they understand how it works, they’ll void their coupon!

Tracking Your Success

During your promotion, you’ll want to track the outcome. If you don’t monitor the cost of your coupon redemptions along with sales accompanying an envelope, you won’t know if your promotion was a success or not.

Depending on your POS system, you may be able to set up a system allowing servers to flag checks where an envelope was present. Another simple way to keep track is to train your staff to print out a copy of each customer’s check and staple it to their coupon upon redemption. At the end of the night, they can hand it in when they do their checkout. This will let you track coupon redemptions, as well as the sales associated with those envelopes. 

At the end of the promotion, first figure out your total expenses by adding up the following: 

  • Cost of printing envelopes and coupons
  • Any labor costs involved in putting them together
  • Costs of all redeemed coupons including free drinks, appetizers, meals, and any external gifts that were purchased to include in the envelopes

Then subtract those total expenses from the total of all sales that accompanied an envelope. Now you’ll know the total net sales that were brought in by the promotion. 

Compare that to your sales from the same month in the previous year to get an idea of your success!

Conclusion

Marketers are always talking about “gamifying” the customer experience, and this is an easy way to do just that. The Peekaboo Promotion is one of simplest, most affordable ways you can boost your sales in a slow month. And yet, not many restaurants do this promotion. 

With such a low upfront cost, this is a great way to improve what is usually your slowest sales month. If it’s a success, you could bring it back year after year, or even run it twice per year. No marketing degree required!

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. 

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!

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!

Promoting Nutrition on Your Restaurant’s Menu

The average American eats out between 4 and 5 times per week. That is a lot of food consumed in restaurants. And most of that food is probably not low-cal. 

As restauranteurs, what is your obligation to provide healthier menu options? None at all, really. You’re in the business of providing delicious food and a good time, not babysitting other people’s food choices. 

Still, promoting more balanced nutrition may be a good move. More people are concerned about their health than ever before. Providing some healthier choices and more dietary information could make it easier for them to fit your food into a balanced diet. 

If this sounds like something you’d like to explore, here are some tips for promoting nutrition on your restaurant’s menu.

Provide Nutrition Information

Providing calorie counts for menu items has been a requirement for chain restaurants with 20 or more locations since mid-2018. But for the small chains and independent restaurants, there is no such requirement. 

Still, some restaurants may choose to add calorie counts to their menus. Research shows that when calories are listed, diners order meals with about 3% fewer calories. While that’s not a massive decrease, that reduction could show positive benefits over time. 

If you’d like to add nutrition information, you can send food items to a lab for analysis. Be prepared to spend between $200 and $800 per sample for high-tech testing! 

A much more affordable option would be to use online databases to estimate calories for your dishes. Resources like the USDA Food Composition Database or apps like My Fitness Pal can help you to easily calculate calories as well as carbs, protein, and fiber content.

In the wake of the new calorie-disclosure regulation for chain restaurants, there has been some concern expressed by doctors and therapists who treat disordered eating. People who are preoccupied with calories can take a step backward on their road to recovery if they’re unable to avoid calorie counts on menus.  It discourages them from making intuitive choices about their food intake and instead encourages a focus on the numbers — a behavior that treatment tries to curb.

A solution to this problem could be to have nutrition information available, but not immediately present. Add a note at the bottom of the menu stating “Nutrition information available upon request”. This would inform those concerned with calories and macronutrients that they can access the information without potentially derailing the recovery efforts of someone battling an eating disorder.

Highlight Healthy Options

Drawing attention to a high-profit menu item with a decorative frame is an old (but effective) menu trick. Why not try it for your healthier menu options as well?

You could use a frame, contrasting color, or extra white space to feature lighter menu options, positioning them as special and desirable choices. Use the same approach with a healthy seasonal special. Create a limited-time dish using in-season local produce. Display it on a table tent or menu insert to create buzz.

You’ll get the opportunity to be creative in the kitchen while also encouraging your customers to choose this healthy option.

Have A “Lighter” Menu Section

Rather than sprinkling your healthier offerings throughout the menu, consider gathering them all together in a “lighter” section. By dedicating menu real estate to some healthy options, you’ll position your restaurant as a place that caters to the health-conscious. 

A good example: Maudie’s Tex-Mex. Tex-Mex food is notoriously heavy, with cheese, sour cream, beans, and rice galore. So Maudie’s has a “Skinny Tex-Mex” section on their menu, where all options are below 500 calories. 

People looking for a healthy entree will know exactly where to look, and people looking for a high-cal extravaganza will know what to avoid!

Make “Healthy” the Default

There is no rule that says cheeseburgers have to come with fries. No requirement that pasta must come with a side of bread. No law decreeing that steak should be served with mashed potatoes.

By making healthy sides the default instead, diners will have to actively select the less healthy option, instead of receiving it automatically. Of course, if a customer wants fries with their burger, they can have them. But what if the burger came with a side salad instead, and the customer had to request the fries? 

The Blue Zones Project, a non-profit dedicated to making healthy choices easier, advocates making the healthy choice the convenient choice. And there’s some science to back them up on the efficacy of such a policy. A study of nearly 1,200 children aged 8 to 18 indicated that two-thirds would not object to receiving fruit and vegetable sides instead of french fries. 

Some fast food restaurants have started to move in this direction. For example, McDonald’s now offers a choice of side with their Happy Meals — apple slices, fries, or yogurt. But it’s still a choice, and some locations still default to french fries. A better move would be to serve all Happy Meals with apple slices and only provide french fries by request.

Add Symbols to Identify Safe Foods

Make your menu easy to navigate for people with certain dietary restrictions. A simple V (vegan), VG (vegetarian) or GF (gluten-free) can help people to quickly find the menu options that they can eat.

If those symbols will clutter your menu too much, consider having supplemental menus by request. A Gluten Free, Dairy Free, or Nut Free menu will be much appreciated by people with potentially dangerous allergies. And it will take some of the pressure off of your service staff who may not have memorized every ingredient in every dish.

Of course, they should still communicate allergies to the kitchen so the cooks can be sure to prevent any cross-contamination! But customers with allergies will be happy to avoid the minefield of hidden ingredients that they face every time they dine out.

Support your Neighborhood

Your restaurant is part of a larger community, so consider that community’s interests when adding healthy menu options. For example, the largest percentage of Weight Watchers users are over the age of 65. So if you live in an area with a lot of retirees, you could consider adding Weight Watchers point values to your menu.

If the keto craze has caught on like wildfire in your area, you may want to consider some high-fat menu items with very limited carbs. Do you have a big Crossfit gym just down the road? Make sure you have some high-protein options on the menu!

And once you’ve updated your menu, let people know! Online message boards or physical bulletin boards at gyms and fitness centers can be great places to get the word out. 

Consider the Kids

Far too many kid’s menus look like this:

  • Chicken Fingers
  • Macaroni & Cheese
  • Spaghetti
  • The End

Nary a vegetable in sight! Kid’s menus are treated as an afterthought. And it’s a shame because this is such an easy fix! You probably have the making of a healthy and tasty kid’s menu in your restaurant kitchen right now. 

Chicken doesn’t have to be fried. Lightly breaded and baked chicken will make most kids happy. Serve it with a side of steamed carrots or broccoli. Mom and Dad will know if their little ones won’t eat the veggies, and they’ll make a substitution if necessary.

A peanut butter and banana sandwich on wheat bread provides fiber, protein, and natural carbohydrates. And it could not be easier to make. Fresh fruit, yogurt, and applesauce are simple sides that are low in fat and sodium.

Providing healthy options for the kids makes sense. The parents will feel good about feeding them at your restaurant, and you’ll be high on the list of places to visit again.

Not every restaurant needs to be a monument to health and wellness. After all, no one wants to live in a world without pizza! But keeping nutrition in mind makes good sense. You’ll increase the likelihood of the health-conscious considering your restaurant as an option. And you may be able to help some customers to live a healthier, longer life at the same time. 

If it’s good for your business and good for your patrons! 

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!


Engaging “Generation Y” to Grow Your Restaurant

Generation Y (aka millennials) are expected to outnumber baby boomers sometime this year making them the largest generation in the country. At 73 million strong, it’s vital to know how to reach these 22- to 37-year-olds.

Marketing to millennials should look more like engaging with your friends than traditional advertising. They want entertaining content, fun experiences, and authentic interactions with real people. They’re suspicious of marketing, and if it feels too much like a sales pitch, they won’t respond to it. But there are still ways to reach them! Read on for some helpful tips.

Get Social

You know that “kids these days” are always on their smartphones. But did you know that 95% of Generation Y follows at least one brand on social media? Every additional follower on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter is one more person that you can market to directly — without spending a dime.

Luckily for the restaurant industry, food-related content is incredibly popular across social media. High-quality photo and video content are what the people want! So don’t let them down. A DSLR camera is a great tool, but a newer smartphone camera can still do the trick. It never hurts to have some photo editing skills as well to make the colors really pop.

While food content is a great start, also think beyond the plate. Go behind-the-scenes and introduce your followers to the people behind the product. Take a short video of the chef talking about some of his favorite ingredients, or making one of his signature dishes. Introduce your fans to one of your bartenders. Post a photo from your last staff party. Remember, you’re treating your followers like friends. They need to know who you are if they’re going to feel personally connected to your brand.

Engage!

Keep in mind that social media is a platform for two-way communication. It’s not enough to just post a killer video and trust that the rest will happen on its own. Make sure to engage with the people who are reacting to your content. Respond to comments, thank new followers, and follow them back. And when they post their own photos from their time at your establishment, make sure to like and comment.

And don’t forget to check out the analytics! All social media platforms have reports that business pages can access. You’ll be able to learn about activity on your feed, how each post is performing, and gain insight into your audience — who they are, and when they are active on social media. This information will help you determine what content is getting results so you can tailor your posts accordingly.

If this all sounds like a lot of work — it can be. But there are ways to make it easier. Apps like Buffer and Hootsuite let you schedule all of your social media content — pictures, copy, and hashtags — in advance. Then, the software will post to your social accounts for you based on the schedule you set.

You can plan out the whole week’s worth of content at once. Using scheduling software will ensure that social media isn’t forgotten in the hustle and bustle of running your restaurant. Just make sure that you’re checking in and interacting with your followers daily.

Remember — consistency is key. It takes time to build an online community, but with perseverance, you’ll see those follow numbers start to increase.

#experiences

More good news for the restaurant industry — millennials prefer experiences to goods. In fact, all generations are shifting away from buying “stuff” and towards participation in events.

Restaurants already have a leg up, since dining out is an easily accessible experience for many. But let’s go beyond anniversary dinners and birthday parties, shall we? How can you bring the capital e “Experience” to your restaurant and customers?

Bring in a guest chef for a special tasting. Host a beer dinner with a local brewery. Teach a cooking class, culminating in a tasty meal and a glass of wine. Have a seasonal farm-to-table dinner. The key is for it to be unique and one-time-only. You want to throw an event that will create valuable memories — and great pictures for the participants’ social media feeds.

When the time comes to get the word out about your event, your social channels will be invaluable. Make sure to do regular posts leading up to the big day.

But millennials love recommendations from people they trust. So try going a step further by enlisting the help of local micro-influencers — bloggers and social media personalities with follows from 10,000 up to 100,000 people. Find out who your local food bloggers and event curators are, and see if they’d be willing to do a post about your event.

There may be a cost associated with their post, or you may be able to exchange the post for free tickets to the event. But since these influencers have devoted fans who want to know what’s going on around town, it may be worth the cost to get their shout out.

Finally, try to get outside the four walls of your restaurant. Food festivals are an incredibly popular experience with Generation Y. They attract a huge amount of social media engagement, and they get your name and your food in front of people who may be outside your normal demographic. They can be challenging logistically, but the payoff for a successful festival can be well worth it.

Miserly Millennials

Many millennials graduated from college just as the economy was taking a huge downturn. Their careers were stalled right out of the gate, and they’re still feeling the effects over 10 years later. Add student loan debt to the tune of $1.3 trillion, and it’s no wonder Gen Y is incredibly cost-conscious.

This doesn’t mean that you have to destroy your cost of goods in order to keep prices low enough to attract these penny pinchers. But consider offerings that could attract a group that may normally not be able to afford your restaurant.

For example, a very high-end sushi restaurant offers happy hour from 5:00 to 6:30 pm on weekdays. They provide smaller portions of select menu items at reduced prices; $18 appetizers are served as small plates on the happy hour menu for only $9. This deal is routinely included in lists of the best happy hours in town.

These reduced prices give the less affluent an opportunity to try high-end food at a price they can afford while keeping the restaurant’s cost of goods under control. And remember, today’s entry-level marketing assistant is tomorrow’s VP of Marketing — with a lot more disposable income.

Cooking for a Cause

Many millennials participate in causes and social activism regularly. They sign petitions, make donations, and vote with their dollars by boycotting brands that they feel have transgressed. They want to do good.

Give them the opportunity to give back while having fun. Charity events build brand goodwill while also supporting a cause.

Get customers involved by:

  • Hosting a toy or food drive. Offer a small discount off their meal as thanks for their donation.
  • Donating a percentage of sales to a cause that’s important to you.
  • Raffling off a gift basket, prize, or a dinner for two to your restaurant. Sell tickets to customers, and donate the proceeds to a charity.

Local charities are a good choice, as they may be more transparent than huge national organizations. Plus, many people like the idea of keeping their donations in their own communities. Before selecting a charity, do some research on CharityWatch.org to verify their credentials. You can also see how much of their money goes to aid vs. administration.

Let Them Participate

Millennials like to be active participants with the brands they support. They expect companies to engage with them, ask their opinions, and respond to their feedback. So actively encourage that interaction, and watch engagement increase.

Debating between two new menu items? Let your customers vote on it. Adding a cocktail to the menu? Host a naming contest on social media, and give a prize to the winner. Ask people to share the photos they’ve taken at your restaurant, and send a gift card to whoever took your favorite.

Encouraging your followers to get involved will show that you value your customer’s input and build a deeper connection between them and your brand.

They’re Not Getting Any Younger…

With the oldest millennials approaching their late-30s, many of them are now parents. In fact, 40% of millennials have kids. So being kid-friendly can be an important selling point when they’re considering where to go out to eat. Clean high chairs, plastic cups with straws, and a kids menu will all help parents feel comfortable bringing the kiddos.

Include pictures of families and kids on your social media (with the parent’s permission, of course!) to show your followers that their little ones are not only allowed but welcome.

And with both parents sharing childcare duties more evenly than ever before, make sure there is a changing station in every restroom!
At the end of the day, marketing to Generation Y is really about building relationships. Share what excites you, ask them what they think, and give a little back. If you treat your Generation Y customers as pals instead of prospects, you’ll be well on your way to securing a group of loyal and profitable patrons.

Engaging Gen Y

March Tradeshows 2019, We’ll See You There!

The start of a new year means it’s the start of tradeshow season at East Coast Chair & Barstool. It’s always exciting to get out in the field and meet old customers and connect with new customers face to face. 

We will be exhibiting at the New England Food Show in Boston and at the Nightclub & Bar Show in Las Vegas this March. Tradeshows are a great way for your business to experience the latest technology, business practices, and network with vendors to find exciting new products. For us, tradeshows are a great time to showcase our newest furniture.

Both are can’t miss tradeshows for the restaurant industry but here’s a little more information about each show, so you can choose which is the best for you to attend.

New England Food Show (March 3-5, 2019)

New England Food Show - East Coast Chair & Barstool Tradeshows

Location: Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (Boston, Massachusetts)

We are headed back to Boston for our second time exhibiting at the New England Food Show (NEFS). This show is a great fit for any restaurateur looking to find new ways to get customers in the door, food trends, and ways of interacting with customers that will inspire loyalty.

Keynote speakers for this year’s NEFS include Aman Narang (president and co-founder of Toast), Anne Burrell (chef and Food Network personality), and Jim Koch (founder and brewer of Samuel Adams).

In addition to the exhibitors (stop and say hi to us in booth #543!), the show floor has culinary demonstrations (Center Stage), tech talks (Tech Theater), innovations to improve business efficiency (Tech Pavilion), complimentary social media consultations (Social Media Hub), and beverage pairing (Beverage Alcohol Pavilion).

There are various educational seminars being offered in the show’s ‘Ed-Quarters’ including sessions like “Appealing to the (Digital) Senses: How Video Moves Us Along the Path to Purchase”, “Own the Experience, Own the Results! The 4 Pillars of Success to Drive Guest Frequency”, and “Consumers Want Transparency, Not Greenwashing: How to Give It to Them”.

Nightclub & Bar Show (March 25-27, 2019)

Nightclub & Bar Show - East Coast Chair & Barstool Tradeshows

Location: Las Vegas Convention Center (Las Vegas, Nevada)

Calling all bar and nightclub owners, the Nightclub & Bar Show (NCB) is right around the corner in Las Vegas. This will be our sixth time exhibiting at this tradeshow since 2013 and we’re excited to go back! There’s no better location for the NCB show to take place than in the epicenter of nightlife that is Las Vegas. Enjoy learning about mixology, bartending systems, and tricks of the trade.

Listen to heads of industry like Jon Taffer of Bar Rescue and Jim Meehan, James Beard Award winner and bartender, speak about promoting your bar or restaurant in revolutionary ways. You can divulge new information with sessions like “The Food Delivery Challenge – Making Profits with Third Party Fees”, “How to Herd Cats: 7 Secrets to Get the Restaurant or Bar You Want”, “Service in America Sucks”, and “The Magic of Building a Beverage Program”.

You can also attend hands-on workshops, demonstrations, and trainings to teach your staff the latest skills and techniques. But definitely don’t miss East Coast Chair & Barstool in both #610!

At both of these shows, you’ll get to check out the additions to our product line up, like new rustic booths, distressed pine table tops, and even seating styles that can be used indoor or outdoor at your restaurant. No matter which coast you are on, come out and meet us at NEFS or NCB!