Restaurant Marketing

Order Up! Four Food Delivery Technology Giants You Need to Know About

Cell Phone Ordering

The newest trend in the restaurant industry? Cuisine on the couch, your customers’ couch that is.

The decline of customers stepping into retail stores has finally caught up to the restaurant industry with a surge in food delivery technology. Because, in the evenings, the hardest question customers want to answer is the slightly judgmental “are you still there?” from Netflix.

It’s all about convenience.

Yes, there is normally a delivery fee of some sort, and yes, they should tip your delivery driver, but often, customers are fine with paying a little more for convenience. Think about Amazon Prime. People pay an annual fee just to guarantee their purchases arrive on their doorstep within two days. Now that’s convenience at its finest and it’s something that more people are finding desirable in their eating establishments.

If a customer wants a meal from an across town restaurant that doesn’t deliver and can’t see the drive, wait time, and drive home as a valuable use of their hours, they are likely to pay for the convenience of that meal coming to them.

It can be intimidating to launch a delivery program, consider partnering with one of the restaurant delivery service apps that can get your meals into the hands of hungry, homebody customers. So who are the big players you need to know as a restaurant owner?

Takeout Box

Grubhub holds the bulk of the market share by being in 1,600 US cities including Philadelpia, Boston, Denver, and San Antonio. In 2013, Grubhub merged with Seamless creating a powerhouse portfolio of 80,000 takeout restaurants with the acquisition of Eat24, AllMenus, and MenuPages. The most recent reporting, according to GrubHub’s About Us page, shows Grubhub sending “nearly $4 billion in gross food sales to local takeout restaurants”. Grubhub/Seamless is noted as the delivery service of choice, used whopping 92% of the time in El Paso, Texas, and preferred in New York and Jacksonville 85% and 72% of the time, respectively. Grubhub can be ordered through both iOS and Android device apps that give customers a variety of payment options, saves your order history, and the ability to pre-order a food delivery.

UberEats, it’s like Uber, for your dinner! Even though it’s a separate app, UberEats works very similar to the Uber you’re used to. Customers can order UberEats delivery in 12+ US cities from hundreds of restaurants by using their website or app to browse, order, and track deliveries. This service is available nationally but is used most prevalently in Texas. UberEats ranks as the top delivery service in Houston, Austin, and Dallas. One of the most unique qualities about UberEats is their GPS locator. Like the ride app, customers can watch their dinner make their way to them via their delivery car. For the most part, UberEats charges a flat $5 delivery fee which can be a drop in the bucket or double your cost, depending on what you order.

Amazon Restaurants. You may have heard of a little thing called Amazon? It now offers food delivery through its Prime Now feature for 20 US cities and around 10,000+ restaurants, with its popularity peaking in its home stomping grounds of Seattle. But here’s the catch, this service is exclusive for Amazon Prime members. Integrating restaurant delivery seems like a natural fit; what can’t Amazon do? For those who read on an Amazon device, receive Prime packages every couple of days, and are fine with shelling out for a Prime subscription, using Amazon to order your favorite takeout probably makes a lot of sense. Amazon Restaurants is still in the beginning stages and is no small contender considering the experienced infrastructure and delivery network of its parent company.

DoorDash, from start-up to starting lineup. This service is available in large regions across the US including Southern California, Minneapolis, and Atlanta. DoorDash focuses on building partnerships with national chains like Jack in the Box, Wendy’s, and El Pollo Loco. DoorDash blankets most of the market share in San Jose with 78% usage with Fort Worth and Indianapolis close behind. Of course, it’s easy to know what you want from restaurants you’re used to ordering from, but what if you wanted to try something new? DoorDash make it easier to explore the unknown with its “DoorDash Delight” system. This score rates a user’s overall experience with the restaurant’s delivery program, which can help customers decide between Restaurant A or Restaurant B. Users can order through DoorDash with an iOS or Android device.

Cell Phone

Food delivery technology has come leaps and bounds from where it was 10 years ago but this technology is still highly concentrated in major cities where delivery is second nature. It’s important for restaurant owners to understand the appeal of the food delivery technologies that are out there because they say a lot about customer preferences. Using a food delivery technology, is not always going to be the largest portion of your sales but it is interesting to add that touch of convenience for your customers.

The restaurant industry is changing and evolving at a high pace, and with more pixel power than ever before, can your restaurant keep up?

How to Plan A Mother’s Day Brunch

BlackBerry Pancakes

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

Planning Ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

Menu Must Have’s

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

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

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

Go All Out

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

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

Promoting Your Brunch

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

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

 

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

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

Valentine’s Day Promo Ideas For Restaurants

One of the busiest days in the restaurant industry is fast approaching, and you don’t want to be caught off guard. Valentine’s Day is the second biggest day for dining out, second only to Mother’s Day. A quarter of Americans eat out to celebrate the holiday with their special someone. That totals about 8 billion dollars spent in restaurants across the United States. What restaurant doesn’t want a piece of that? As a restaurant owner, you want to make the very most of this opportunity.

What can you do to make your restaurant stand out among the competition? We’ve gathered together some Valentine’s Day best practices and brainstormed some fresh ideas to help you create a memorable and lucrative night.

Menu

First things first, you need to think about your menu. To make it easier for you and your staff consider offering a preset prix fixe menu, otherwise known as a fixed price menu. It will cut down on wait times for guests and give you a better understanding of what needs to be ordered for the night, helping to increase your profits by lessening waste.

Having a prix fixe menu can also be beneficial for customers. They know exactly what they are getting and at what cost. No unexpected surprises for either of you.

As part of your prix fixe menu, consider including a starter, main course, dessert, and a recommended wine pairing. If you want to go the traditional route, try to incorporate pink or red foods into your menu and a chocolate dessert.

Valentine’s Day can be a great time to incorporate some current food trends into your meals. A little bit of fun experimentation can help to set your restaurant apart from others who might be offering more traditional entrees. Perhaps offering a dessert sampler instead of a complete dessert would appeal to an audience looking for that extra special experience.

Beverages

Altering your beverage service can also be beneficial for the busy day. Make sure to have suggested wine pairings available for guests who might not be very knowledgeable. Also, make sure your staff is well educated on the different wines and specialty cocktails you are offering. Fruit flavored red and pink cocktails are a favorite, but taking a risk could pay off too.  Consider adding a chocolate martini with chili pepper for an added zest.

 

 

Atmosphere

Having the right atmosphere is crucial. Everything other detail can be perfect, but if the atmosphere is off, it’ll still feel like something just wasn’t quite right. Make sure to give your patrons the whole package. Dim your lights a little extra. Take a look at your music for the night and make sure it fits with the rest of your ambiance. Consider reusing those string lights you brought out for Christmas time to create a romantic lighting for your guests, or perhaps some candlelight to dine by.

Reservations

To help the day run smoothly, encourage guests to make reservations early. To encourage reservations, you can offer promotions, such as a free dessert, to those who book ahead. As tempting as it may be, do your best not to overbook. Consider that guests might want to take their time and linger over dinner to fully enjoy the experience. You don’t want a bad review showing up on Feb. 15th saying that guests had to wait hours, even with a reservation.

 

 

Staffing- Call In the A-team

Make sure that you have your A-team working. Your most experienced workers should be present in both the front and back of house. Valentine’s Day is not the time to try training a new host or waitress. Leave that for the 15th when the rest of your staff has earned a day off.

Valentine’s Day is all about the specialness. Going above and beyond for the people you love. The restaurant industry is no different. You want your customers to leave feeling that they had the best food, drinks, and service. Take a moment to speak to your staff about the importance of offering an extra special experience. Try to have your most experienced servers working that night. You can trust them to give the kind of service you expect, and more experienced servers tend to be better at up selling a customer.

You can also offer take home gifts for customers. A custom wine glass or even something as simple as a flower can set you up as going above and beyond in the mind of a customer.

 

 

Marketing

Make your Valentine’s Day specials and hours as easily accessible as possible. If customers can’t find the information, chances are they will move on to someone else who already has theirs readily available. Create a graphic and post it on your social media accounts and start a Facebook event. It also never hurts to print out some flyers and hang them around your restaurant or hand them out with receipts during January and February. The easier it is to access your important information, the better the chances you will have a full venue for Valentine’s day.

Thinking Outside of the Heart Shaped Box

If you are looking to try something new this year, we’ve got a few ideas for you that are a twist on the classic Valentine’s day meal that we all know.

Wine Tasting or Beer Tasting – For those who love the beverages more than the food. Local breweries and wineries are popping up all over the United States and consumers are responding positively. Join up with some wineries or breweries in your area to offer a tasting night.

Offer Valentines Meals the Weekend Before and After– Some people just can’t make it out on a weeknight to celebrate. Offer them the same meal the weekend before and after with a discount or a promotion. You can bring in even more business and will be able to offer it as an option to anyone who asks for a reservation for the 14th after you are booked up.

Galentine’s Day Brunch – Galentine’s Day is a day where women across the world celebrate their female friends. And what do gal pals love? Mimosas. Galentine’s Day is February 13th but you would probably do best on the Sunday before or after Valentine’s Day.

DIY Dinner – DIY is all the rage and that extends to the restaurant industry. Talk to your chef and see if they would be willing to offer a class to customers on how to make their own Valentine’s dinner. What could be better than having customers pay you to make their own meal?

Takeout Meals – We all have one in our lives that we know and love. An introvert, someone who works odd hours, or even moms whose only chance at a peaceful dinner is after the kids have gone to bed. You can still market to the person who wants to eat in but doesn’t want to spend hours cooking the perfect meal? That is where you come in. Offering takeout meals are a great way to continue to offer food, even after your reservations are full. Consider asking customers to order a few days in advance to give your team plenty of time to order and prepare the extra meals.

Whether you stick with the traditional candlelight dinner or do something a little different, a few ideas will remain the same. Good marketing, great food, perfect atmosphere, and a staff that goes above and beyond for the customer, will make your Valentine’s day a success.

Do you do something for Valentine’s day that your customer’s fall in love with every year? Let us know in the comments below.

Facebook Local: How Facebook’s Latest App Could Affect Your Restaurant

Social media is a constantly changing medium that can be hard to stay on top of. while you may be overwhelmed with the amount of apps there are out there, there is a new one that should definitely be on your radar. Recently Facebook launched its latest app called Local and it could have a major effect on the restaurant and hospitality industry. But don’t worry, we’ve done the research on this new app so that you don’t have to.

What is Local?

You might not yet have heard of Local, Facebook’s newest venture in the app world, but you soon will. Local is Facebook’s take on the popular Yelp and Foursquare apps and a reinvention of their Events app. They have combined permanent places and events, into a single search engine powered by Facebook’s 70 million business pages, while factoring in reviews and check-ins made by the user’s friends.

The goal is to help users pick between great bars on a block, and find out which one will best fit their needs and wants for that outing. Facebook Local’s home page shows nearby restaurants, cafes, drinks, attractions, as well as the places the people you follow are going. Through the app, users can even search for a specific type of food or event.

How Does Local Work?

With the discover feed, users can find out what’s popular with friends and see a feed specifically curated for events they’re interested in.  Once they find a restaurant or event they’d like to learn more about, they can click the page to learn all the details and even check in. Under the Guides tab users can explore their interests based upon category, ranging from Food & Drink to religion & Spirituality.

Local can connect to their personal calendar to make sure they never miss an important event. Users can adjust their location when traveling so that they can find great spot and events even if they are unfamiliar with the area. The app has something for everyone.

What it Means for Restaurants

You might be asking “Why does this matter for my restaurant?” First of all, you’ll have to have a Facebook page to be included in any of the searches made in the app. So, if you don’t have a page or you don’t update your page often, you might want to take steps to rectify that.

One of the best parts of Local is that owners don’t need to download a separate app to contribute to it. Simply post about different events to your Facebook business page through either the desktop or mobile app and it will also appear on the Local app. By taking a few minutes out of your week to update your page regularly, you could reach new customers.

This new app can help you to reach an audience that you might not have otherwise been able to contact before. Who knows, you could have a first-time customer that found you through Local become a lifelong customer after checking their phone one night when they were bored.

Currently, users can find restaurants through the app and book reservations if their Facebook page is enabled to do so. To learn how to enable reservation booking through your Facebook page, check out our step by step instructions on setting up your OpenTable Reservation Facebook App. If you aren’t sure if your Facebook page is enabled for reservations, you can check here.

In the Future

Currently, the app does not offer the ability to order food, but developers say that it could be on the horizon. Adding that feature would really create opportunities to increase takeout sales for restaurants.

Local is still a young app so there are no certainties, but with some effort and creative thinking restaurateurs can turn this tool into filled seats, new customers, and more profit.

If you have had success with Facebook’s new Local app let us know in the comments below.

Loyalty Programs: The Profit Behind the Rewards

The phrase “customer loyalty program” often brings to mind images of punch cards and freebies, but loyalty programs have evolved through the years into so much more. Technology and data mining techniques have turned the programs from cheap promotional tactics into big data goldmines that allow smart establishments to tailor their marketing to each customer.  In this article, we’re going to take a look at the different types of loyalty programs, why your restaurant needs one, and the best practices for implementing it.

How it works

In the restaurant industry, there are two basic types of loyalty programs: points based systems or tiered systems. Points-based systems reward customers for dollars spent or frequency of visits, while tiered systems benefit long-time customers by awarding them special access and exclusive opportunities.  To determine what type of system would work best at your restaurant, consider which behaviors you would like to reward.

Why You Should Implement a Loyalty Program

The numbers are in and they show that it is much more lucrative to focus on creating loyalty in your customers than gaining new customers. A study by Bain & Company reported that a 5% improvement in customer loyalty can increase lifetime profits by as much as 95%. Even more, a whopping 70% of customers who participate in loyalty programs report purchasing more.  New business is great but it costs more to acquire a new customer than retaining an existing one: in some cases, up to 6 or 7 times more.

Some restaurants who have implemented loyalty programs have also seen a reduction in attrition and an increase in referrals.

The kind of loyalty that influences the frequency of a customer’s visits occurs when customers relate to a dining establishment. Take a look at the demographic that you would like to focus on and make sure that your business positioning and processes align with those of that demographic. Creating a customer persona could be helpful during this process. Customer personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers.

For example, in a college town, your customer persona is probably an early 20-something looking for a meal at the most affordable price point. If you are located in a more family friendly area the persona might look more like someone in their mid-30’s who is willing to spend a little bit more for a higher quality meal.

Return on Investment

Having a loyalty program can also do wonders for collecting customer data. By tracking the items purchased, the frequency of visits, and dollars spent, you can determine the best areas to invest your money. Managers or owners can even take the gathered analytics to analyze the popularity of a dish and determine what other items could be purchased to pair with it and increase sales. For example, if one of your all-time best sellers is a poultry dish, you might want to consider ordering a new chardonnay known to pair nicely with chicken.  You’re customers receive a better all-around experience and you see an increase in profits.

These same analytics can be used to analyze customer behaviors, which can then be organized into data to develop promotions that are designed specifically to appeal to a certain group of customers.  The ultimate goal is to create motivational offers to influence a customer, increasing the frequency of return visits as well as per-visit spending.

Loyalty Program Best Practices

  • Provide an Immediate Incentive
    • That instant reward for signing up might be just enough to convince any customers that are on the fence about joining to take the plunge.
  • Make it Easy to Join
    • Don’t force your target audience to have to scour your website to find your sign-up page. Have it in a highly visible spot as well as talking to your staff about encouraging customers to sign-up in the restaurant. Signing up should take no longer than a few minutes.
  • Take only the information you absolutely need
    • Customers don’t want to spend their time filling out long surveys just to sign up for your program. Try to limit your questions to essentials like name, birthday, and email address.
  • Personalize offerings to members
    • Loyalty programs often fail because their offerings are too general. By creating specialized incentives based on what the customer has previously purchased you are more likely to see them walking through your door.

What Not to Do

  • Limited Time Offers
    • Limited time offers can be a great way to get customers in the door and increase traffic, but these strategies are not enough to create loyal customers. Spending money on these promotions may see an uptick in new customers but these are the same customers who are not likely to return until you run another promotion.
  • Don’t Have Customers Wondering if the Rewards Will Work
    • Make sure your employees are well versed in redeeming your loyalty system. It can lead to frustration on both sides if customers are trying to use a loyalty program reward and aren’t able to because of faulty programming or a poor system. Your relationship with the customer is the most important thing.
  • Don’t Forget to Use the Data
    • Customers will expect relevant offers in exchange for the personal information they are providing. It is crucial to make use of the information provided to tailor your message as much as possible.

Loyalty programs may seem like they are geared more towards benefiting the customer but in the end, it is a mutually beneficial relationship. The value of the data gathered, and brand loyalty that is inspired far outweigh the costs of a few perks. By implementing and utilizing a loyalty program your restaurant could see a significant increase in profits.

 

 

 

How to Plan and Host a Beer Festival

Beer festivals are a great way to introduce craft beer to your area. If you are a brewer, it can be a win-win situation, one where organizers of the event profit from the event itself while local brewers benefit from improved business visibility. Beer festivals are also a way to help people feel comfortable trying types of beers they normally wouldn’t. An attendee could try a beer, have it become their new favorite, and go home and encourage all of their friends to try it. Word of mouth is a powerful driver of customers for businesses. 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. While it can be a fun, and profitable event, it is quite an undertaking to plan your own beer festival. To help you onto the road to success we have compiled a guide to starting a beer festival in your area.

Planning

Several logistics are important to consider in the beginning stages of planning your event. The very first being the date. You need to leave yourself plenty of time to plan and organize your event so that it doesn’t seem thrown together. Allow yourself at least 6-8 weeks to plan your event.

The other thing you will want to consider in the very early stages is what will make your event special. What is your focus that will set you apart from the pack? If your focus is going to be on beers with a citrus twist summer might be a better time to hold your event than in the fall when people are craving pumpkin beverages. The Brewmasters Craft Beer Festival in Galveston, Texas is a three day event that focuses on their “Taste It First” series, which debuts a massive line-up of beers that are about to hit the market.

ProTip: Be aware of local events or holidays when trying to select a date. You don’t want to compete with other events for the attention of your target audience.

Location

A crucial part of researching locations is considering the support of the community surrounding the venue. If you are fighting the community with every step you take, the chances of running a successful festival are minimal. For example, a dry town might not be the best place to host your first beer festival.

You also want to choose a spot with plenty of parking options. Nothing is worse than having to fight other drivers over a few precious parking spots when you are trying to get to an event you’ve been looking forward to. It might be beneficial to partner with a local transportation company to get festival goers to and from the event. As a bonus, this helps deter drunk driving after the event.

Something else you want to have plenty of is bathrooms. Especially at a beer festival, you are going to need plenty of bathrooms to keep lines down. If you are looking at a venue with limited bathroom options, consider looking into portable bathroom rentals.

ProTip: Try to look at locations with a decent amount of foot traffic. Interested passersby can be a contributor to ticket sales.

Timing

The season and weather is another aspect to take into consideration. Weather can have a big effect on the types of beer you are going to serve, and in turn the types of beer attendees are looking to consume. Not many people are going to want a heavy, dark beer in the dog days of summer.

Permits

The types of permits you’ll need to sell alcohol are going to vary at both the local and state levels, but your first call should be to you state’s Alcohol Beverage Control. They can set you on the right path to acquiring all the permits needed for your event. Give yourself plenty of time to apply for these permits, it can be a time consuming process and nobody wants to go to a beer festival where there is no beer.

Insurance

Right off the bat, you are going to want to acquire general liability and liquor liability insurance. These are the basic levels of insurance that you will need in case someone is injured or chooses to drive drunk after attending your festival. Certain insurance companies specialize in event insurance and could be a good place to start your search; K&K Insurance is one of those companies.

Once the basic insurance requirements are met there are some additional coverages you should consider. Coverages such as:

  • Damage to rented premises- the standard limit is usually $300,000
  • Medical expenses- Standard limit is around $5,000 but you can sometimes negotiate the limit
  • Auto- This protects you from any vehicle accidents involved in your event
  • Excess liability/umbrella- If you would like to have additional coverage on your general insurance

Ticketing

Now that you have some of the really big decisions made, you can start focusing on the details of hosting a beer festival. It is important to decide what types of tickets you’ll have. Are they paper? Wristbands? Will you sell them electronically?

Beerfests.com is a site that helps breweries hosting a beer event to sell tickets online. The way they can do that at no cost to the festival, is by charging a small processing fee to the consumer purchasing the ticket. They offer services such as custom event websites, ticket scanners, mobile ticketing, and analytics and reporting on tickets that were sold.

Something else to consider is whether you want to sell tickets at the door of your event. The number of attendees can drastically affect the amount of beer that breweries need to bring and by selling tickets the day of the event you can greatly fluctuate those numbers. Consider discussing your plans with the participating breweries to determine the best process for your event. By making brewers a part of the conversation you can benefit from their knowledge or previous experiences.

Keeping the lines of communication open between you and your brewers is important, especially when it comes to determining your ticket pricing. You have two options, to charge a flat fee on your tickets or to charge by the drink. Some breweries might prefer that festival goers pay by the drink but when this happens it can offer slow the vendor down creating large lines. To solve that problem consider using a voucher system, with vouchers being purchased in an area away from the beer lines.

 

ProTip: When estimating the amount of beer that you’ll need at the festival, use this equation:

# of minutes the event is open X pour size X [2 to 10] pours per minute*

=

# of ounces of beer each brewery should bring

Equation courtesy of https://www.brewersassociation.org/

Advertising

A crucial part of hosting any event is making sure that you get the word out. In today’s day and age, it has never been easier to promote an event utilizing social media.  You can get a lot of information to potential attendees, for free. But if you are willing to pay a few dollars, many social media platforms have ads that can target a certain age group, with certain interests, in a very specific location. Email is another great option if you have access to a qualified list of potential attendees.

Another great way to use technology to promote your event is by partnering with a drinking app. By doing this you know that the user is already interested in alcoholic beverages and might be open to trying more. There are several different apps that track beer consumption, but a popular one is brewtrackr.

While technology can aid in the promotion process, it is by no means the only way to go. Don’t forget about other traditional forms of media. Flyers, posters, newspapers and other forms of print distribution have a way of finding themselves in the hands of interested parties.

You could also donate tickets to a local radio station. Doing so could earn you thousands in free advertising dollars. A different beneficial arrangement could be asking the station if they would be willing to advertise and promote your festival for a month in exchange for a booth at your festival. You can save on marketing money while also reaching new audiences in your area. They might even be willing to be your musical entertainment for the night. Two birds, one stone!

Supplies

Naturally, for any festival you are going to need a lot of supplies to make the whole day go smoothly. In an effort to help you not forget anything we have compiled a checklist to help get you through the day.

Beer festival suppliesKegerators

Dump buckets

Tapping equipment

Drinking water stations

Signage/Decorations

Entrance gauntlet/line formation

Rinsing stations

Beer sampler glasses (these are often taken home as a souvenir)

Pitchers

Tables

Chairs

Tents

Brewer’s badges

Walkie-talkies: a must if the event is in a place where you aren’t confident of cell coverage

Merchandise that you want to sell

Ice:  when trying to determine the amount of ice needed 30 – 50 pounds of ice per beer type for each 4 hour session is recommended by the Brewers Association

ProTip: Just in case you do forget something, have a staff member with a valid license who can run out and get items.

Day of Festival

Everyone wants to make their event the best that it can be. A great way to add to the atmosphere is by bringing in live music to play while your patrons are sampling. Many bands are willing to play in exchange for beer and food (just make sure that all members are of legal drinking age.)

Food is another critical part of any gathering, especially one that involves alcohol. By adding food options to your lineup, you not only attract more attendees but encourage responsible drinking practices. Some localities might even require you to sell food at your event. A great way to do that is by asking food trucks in your area to set up at your venue. This creates a win-win situation not only for you as the organizer, but also for the food truck operators. You get to offer food and they get a venue where they know there will be a crowd searching for a delicious bite to pair with their beer.

If children are able to attend your event, which many localities don’t allow, be sure to have an area designated to them. Just because they can’t drink doesn’t mean they can’t also have a good time. By setting up a small play area you create a safe space for the kids to enjoy while their parents savor their adult beverages. By including the whole family you are sure to open yourself up to a wider range of potential attendees.

Staffing is a crucial aspect of your day of game plan. You need to have staff scanning tickets and checking id’s. Consider having a few staffers designated to answering any questions attendees might have.

ProTip: Remember that beer is the main focus of the event.  Don’t get so wrapped up in entertainment that you lose focus of the beer.

Post Event

Now that your beer festival is finally completed you can take a break and relax right? Well, there are a few loose ends you might want to tie up before you hang up your clipboard. Take one final look at your bills. Make sure that you were charged correctly and everyone was paid on time. Nobody wants that hanging over their head.

Once you get your bills out of the way, take the time to file all proper tax paper work. I know not many people jump out of bed in the morning excited to file tax paperwork, but your future self will thank you for the foresight.

Finally, consider sending out a few thank you notes. It may seem like an old tradition, but that personal touch can leave a lasting impression on breweries, vendors, and staffers or volunteers. If you would like to make your festival a reoccurring event, a small gesture like writing a thank you note can go a long way.

Hosting a beer festival may seem like a lot of work, and it’s. But the improved business visibility and community engagement are worth the prep and planning in the long run. By making sure that you give yourself plenty of time, gather your permits, advertise, and stay focused, you will be well on your way to becoming the next great American beer festival.

5 Restaurant Trade Shows You Won’t Want to Miss in 2017

Trade Show Set UpIndustry trade shows are crucial for top players in the restaurant business. Owners, managers, and decision-makers can network, sample new food methods, test top of the line technology, and discover upcoming trends within the industry. Trade shows bring together the moving parts of the restaurant community with the common goal of bettering businesses.

Whether you’re just breaking into the industry or you’ve owned your restaurant for 30 years, these five trade shows are a great place to reignite your inspiration and make connections to further your restaurant.

International Restaurant & Foodservice Show- New York, NY

March 5-7, 2017

Calling all food lovers! Celebrate the City that Never Sleeps with the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show. Enjoy the newest food trends at the “Taste NY & Craft Beverage Showcase” pavilion or spectate the “27th Annual U.S. Pastry Competition” for a deliciously good time. One of the largest trade shows on the eastern seaboard, this trade show is a must-see for restaurant owners. Located in the Javits Center, you’ll find 550+ exhibitors to interact and network with. Previously this trade show boasted 20,000 attendees and is limited to restaurant and foodservice professionals. Industry insiders can buy a 3-day pass to enjoy vendors, live demonstrations, and educational opportunities. Gain a fresh perspective on your business and get inspired with specialty events and pavilions. If you’re looking to bump elbows with some of the most experienced individuals in the restaurant industry, make sure to check out this trade show!

Nightclub and Bar Trade Show- Las Vegas, NV

March 27-29, 2017

Bringing the neon and glamour of the Vegas strip, the Nightclub and Bar Trade Show sparkles at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Work hard and play harder at this trade show with an estimated 39,000 attendees and more than 600 exhibitors. The NCB show caters to everyone from single owner operations all the way to multi-location tycoons. And don’t be fooled by the name, restaurants and hotels alike frequent this show with its Vegas-like atmosphere. This show is not open to the public, giving attendees a more exclusive and efficient interaction with suppliers. It also offers additional conferences and networking parties to further the education and connections of attendees. Show-goers can choose from a series of ticket packages to customize the experience. Whether you are an owner, buyer, or industry newcomer, this trade show is a great place for networking and experiencing the nightclub industry at its truest form.

Craft Brewers Conference and Brew Expo America- Washington, DC

April 11-14, 2017

If brewing is your game, the Craft Brewers Conference and Brew Expo America is the show for you. Taking place in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, this trade show brings in 11,500 attendees and 700 exhibitors. This show takes a large part in providing education, services, and technology for the ever-expanding brewing industry. Because it is an industry trade show, the conference and show is not open to the public. For industry-insiders, different ticket packages are available depending on which events you wish to attend. To stay updated in this industry, seminars are offered at this show with titles like “Starting a Quality Lab in a Craft Brewery”, “What I Wish I Knew Before Opening a Brewery”, and “101 Ways to Blow Up a Bottle/Can and How to Not Do It”. From brewing masters to industry newbies, this trade show brings together the brewing community to new heights.

National Restaurant Association Show- Chicago, IL

May 20-23, 2017

If you’re looking to have plenty of vendors and options in one space, the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago is definitely one to check out. One of the largest trade shows in the restaurant industry, the NRA show spans four days and requires at least two of these days to walk the entire show floor. Simply put, this trade show is enormous. Located in McCormick Place, this trade show rakes in 44,000 attendees and 1,300 exhibitors. While this show presents a great opportunity for start-up businesses to be launched into the restaurant industry, this is a popular show for larger chains and veterans to hit up because of the vastness of the offerings available. Needless to say, this is a great show to make connections from all over the country. This show is not open to the public, but is accessible for anyone involved with the food service or hospitality industries.

Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show- Orlando, FL

September 10-12, 2017

Whether you’re in the beginning stages of managing a restaurant or have 15 locations, the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show is a must-attend show this fall. Located in the Orange County Convention Center, this trade show boasts around 8,000 attendees and approximately 400 exhibitors. Don’t let size full you, this trade show is highly attended by large resorts and corporate chains. Exclusive to the restaurant and food service professional industries, the general public is not permitted to attend this show. The FRLS excels in food demonstrations and culinary experiences. This trade show offers over 40 education sessions, informational forums, and a variety of exhibits to keep your Floridian stay filled to the brim.

IFRS in NYC

Photo via International Restaurant & Foodservice Show

Ready to attend an industry trade show? Make sure to check out these tips before you go to get the most out of your trade show experience.

Are any of these trade shows on your short list to attend this upcoming year? Let us know in the comments below!

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How Your Restaurant Can Capitalize on the Holiday Season

holiday-season-banner

With all the hustle and bustle of finding gifts and making sure everything is just right, the holiday season is busy for everyone. With your competitors trimming the tree and decking the halls, you’ll want to make sure your restaurant stands out. It’s the time in a year when people are looking to spend some serious money and there are a few things you can do to take advantage of every opportunity to attract them with fresh ideas and bring business to your restaurant. Of course you will do your best to provide memorable experiences for each one of them and strive to get new guests to walk through your doors. But how to do that?

These are a few tips to help you entice customers to venture out of the comfort of their homes this holiday season and bring their holiday spirit into your restaurant.

Thanksgiving

were-openStay Open
Every year more and more people are deciding to dine out for Thanksgiving. The National Restaurant Association predicts that more than 15 million people will eat out for Thanksgiving this year. Consumers don’t want to deal with the hassle of cooking all that food and the massive aftermath of dishes and leftovers. This is where your restaurant can save the day by providing them with a stress free, delicious meal. If you decide staying open on Thanksgiving Day is for you, offer a traditional turkey dinner for the families looking for a home cooked meal without all the trouble.

Takeout Options

If staying closed on Thanksgiving is a priority, but you still want to take advantage of the holiday sales, try offering precooked sides that patrons can pick up a day or two before Thanksgiving. Customers will appreciate not having to cook more than necessary, and you will appreciate their business. They might even decide to make your side a new holiday tradition, and who doesn’t love repeat business? Offering takeout options is a way you can have your pumpkin pie, and eat it too.

chef-counter-bowlsHost a Food Drive

Another option would be to run a food drive. Have a designated area in your waiting area where patrons can donate canned goods for the local food shelter. To bring in even more customers consider offering a discount on food with a nonperishable food donation. Customers will take note of your good deeds and might consider becoming a regular at a business that cares for the community.


Host a Tips from the Chef Night

Another option owners might want to consider is hosting an event before Thanksgiving. Take reservations and on a specific night, serve your guests a Thanksgiving meal. Then once things have calmed down a little and the meals are served, have your Chef visit tables and be available for questions on how to cook that perfect turkey. Most people are intimidated at the thought of cooking a whole turkey themselves so they will appreciate the advice and personal attention. This offers customers not only tips from a professional, but a night out on the town.  Plus such great customer service will have them returning even after the holiday season is over.

 

Christmas

5285326369_3620ae8f34_oDécor

Decorating for the holiday season can really add to the atmosphere in your establishment. White twinkle lights are a simple touch that can bring some magic and wonder to an everyday setup. In addition to traditional decorations take advantage of some of the benefits of alternative designs. The Christmas tree made from champagne glasses decorated with lights, or different colored liquids in them will be an original and attractive decoration in your restaurant. It is also a conversation starter among guests.

Have your decorations ready to go from harvest into a holiday theme. Purchase your decorations ahead of time and then pick a slower day, perhaps during the week, to bring holiday cheer to your restaurant.

Having a cheerful holiday atmosphere could be a deciding factor in whether a business chooses your location to host their holiday party. If would be a shame to miss out on such an opportunity due to decorations.

Also be sure to promote your holiday wonderland on social media. People love to visit locations that have gotten into the holiday spirit and are sure to share their experience. More sharing equals more customers!

7875663010_c31969d2a5_kCatering

If you are looking to add catering to your lineup, now is the time. Many offices are holding holiday parties between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day and are looking for places to accommodate their needs. To meet their needs try to have veggie and vegan meal options available. This is an area that can often be overlooked but can be the difference between getting their business and being passed over.

It is also easier to train new staff for catering. Often people are looking for extra work during the holidays, seasonal workers can help manage the new part of your business through the busy holidays. It also can be helpful to your kitchen staff if you have a special holiday menu. If they have a general idea of what they will be cooking they can better prepare to accommodate the larger groups.

 

Offer Coupons

Do you have regulars who frequent your establishment? Let them know how much you appreciate their business by sending them a holiday card with a coupon inside. For example, a free dessert would be nice way to entice them in the doors and convince them to purchase an entree.

But be cautious, it is important to make sure the card stays a card and does not become an advertisement, as you don’t want to lose the meaning behind the gesture. By placing a coupon in the card it lets your guests know that you appreciate them and encourages return business. While a paper card is heart-warming, many restaurants with email programs can utilize a digital coupon and save on postage.

Another benefit of sending cards is that customers might talk about your card with friends, and word of mouth is the best advertising you can get (especially in the social network age.)

Coupons are also a great way to prepare for the lull that happens after the holiday season. When your staff takes the customer their receipt consider slipping in a few coupons that are good in January through February to encourage continued patronage during those slower months. Not only will they appreciate the gesture but also feel encouraged to return.

Give a Gift

Having gift cards available are a must for the holiday season. Many people are not sure what to purchase for that long lost cousin, or the co-worker they got in the office’s secret Santa. You can be there to offer them this viable option. It also works out great for a restaurant owner. About 72% of people spend more than the value of their gift card when they dine at a restaurant. Try to offer holiday themed cards to catch the eye of your customers.

Offering gift cards is also a great way to get first time visitors in the door and make them lifelong patrons.

Organize a Charity Dinner

5398146515_024b48dfaa_bSpread the holiday spirit by organizing a charity dinner in your restaurant. The holiday season is a time of giving and donations. During this season people are thinking more about others than usual. That’s why it is a great time to organize a charity event. Choose a cause that is close to your heart or your communities and inform people about the event through traditional media and social media. The media will be happy to promote such an event, especially during this time of year. Create a flyer, and use it as part of your restaurant holiday promotion.

Participate in a charity event by offering a certain percentage of the proceeds that night to go to charity. Invite members from the organization you have selected to add a personal touch. They’ll also help to promote your business and the event. You will be helping those in need and building a caring reputation for your restaurant, creating a win-win situation.

The holiday season offers many opportunities for promoting your business and thanking your customers for the wonderful year you’ve had. Don’t miss out because of a lack of planning. It is best to start advertising for these promotions 4-6 weeks in advance. By implementing unique promotions you can help your restaurant stand out from all the other deals going on during the season.

I wish you happy holidays and a bustling restaurant!

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Popular Restaurant Trends Throughout the Years

Popular Restaurant Trends

How many times a day do you see blog articles pop up on social media titled “25 Most Embarrassing Food Clichés of (insert year here)”? And once your curiosity has gotten the best of you and you’ve clicked on these articles, you see a list teeming with negativity about food and restaurant trends from years gone by. While these articles can be entertaining, hindsight is always 20/20.

It’s safe to say that the restaurant industry has had plenty of changes occur from its inception, some of them better than others. “New” trends are difficult to come by in the restaurant industry, with many ideas being perfected over the years. But as restauranteurs, it’s necessary to look back on restaurant history to see what’s coming in the future.

The 1950’s

The 1950’s easily became the golden era for American restaurants. The Great Depression and war were a thing of the past and left the economy booming. This time of prosperity made it simple for other industries to flourish as well. Due to improvements in the nation’s highway system, the need for stops along interstates grew. With more and more travelers on the road, franchise restaurants became more in demand.

McDonald's in 1954

Photo from allday.com

Many of these franchised restaurants are still popular today. In 1954, the McDonald’s restaurant we know today was bought from the original McDonald brothers and transformed into franchise gold by Ray Kroc. McDonald’s was not the first fast food restaurant, but the assembly-line system was revolutionary for fast food restaurants to come. Kroc was able to turn this humble hot dog stand into a quick and efficient franchising opportunity. McDonald’s franchise model became a beacon of success for other restaurants, like Kentucky Fried Chicken and Dairy Queen, to follow in suit.

Highway System

Photo from nesbittrealty.com

With the highway system improvements also came advancements in the automotive industry. The 1950’s was filled with car culture; so why would restaurants be any different? While the first drive-in was opened along the Dallas-Fort Worth Highway in 1921, the 1950’s were the true heyday of drive-in diners. Serving up burgers and shakes, sometimes on skates, these diners became social hangouts for teens and families alike. The drive-in trend continued through the 1960’s and then declined with the increasing number of drive-through options in restaurants.

The 1960’s

Steak and Ale Menu

Photo from cravedfw.com

Although processed and junk food captured much of the baby boomers’ attention, it wasn’t the only trend happening in America at the time. Steak and Ale (casual dining) began offering a salad bar buffet to guests, keeping them occupied while waiting for their dinners. Soon enough, salad bars were popping up in steakhouses all over the country as a way to customize a guest’s appetizer.

Dining in the 60's

Photo from petermoruzzi.com

This decade was also defined by the meats served in restaurants. Most entrees at this time were focused around beef of some sort. Beef wellington, steak Diane, and Swedish meatballs were all popular beef dishes of 1960’s. In middle class restaurants, beef and lobster (or surf n’ turf) dinners were commonly seen on the menu.

Howard Johnson's

Photo from slate.com

At this point in history, there was an increasing emphasis on family time outside the home (vacations, a meal out, etc.). Popular restaurants of the time, Japanese steakhouse Benihana and Howard Johnson’s were often patronized by these families looking to spend quality time together and bond over dinner. In the 1960’s, dinner became more than just food and more focused on the emotions associated with it as a family.

The 1970’s

The 1970’s marked the beginning of environmentalism as the newest social cause, affecting the food and restaurant industry. Changing their tune from the 1960’s, customers wanted healthier options that were unprocessed and uncomplicated. This shift led to a rise in vegetarianism and health food stores.

At this point in time, there was a shift in gender roles. With a larger number of women in the workforce, restaurants were used as experiences with the family or a chance to get away from the preparations and cleaning up required of cooking at home. More casual-dining chains began spreading across the nation like the Cheesecake Factory and Ruby Tuesday, both opening their doors in 1972. For a quick bite, the 1970’s marked Subway’s start into franchising. Much like the fame of the McDonald’s assembly line from the 1950’s, the Subway assembly line was just as important for future restaurants in similar niches.

In finer dining, Le Cirque (New York City) opened its doors in 1974 by Sirio Maccioni and became a landmark in the city. One of the most infamous dishes to come out of Le Cirque was pasta primavera. This entrée soon became one of the most ordered items at restaurants across the country, its popularity spilling over into the 1980’s as well.

Le Cirque, New York City

Photo from insatiable-critic.com

The 1980’s

Innovation ran rampant in 1980’s restaurants. Chefs were taking creative license to create new combinations and dishes, making restaurants trendy and modern. While there were many traditionalists who argued against these new methods, it was certainly an exciting time to be in the restaurant business.

Nouvelle Cuisine

Photo from caraandco.com

Nouvelle cuisine was popular especially in finer dining establishments. Chefs worked hard to create elaborate presentations with their dishes, using the plate as a canvas. Popular New York City restaurants like Odeon and Quilted Giraffe used this style quite fervently throughout the 1980’s. Championed by chef Michel Guerard and food critics Henri Gault and Christian Millau, nouvelle cuisine allowed young chefs to be more artistic and not held to the restrictions of traditional French cooking.

Although this cooking style allowed chefs to be more creative in their practice, it ended abruptly with the stock market crash of 1987. With the largest one-day drop of the Dow Jones in history, customers expected more out of their restaurant helpings than the smaller, artistic portions of the time.

Chef Paul Prudhomme

Photo from investors.com

Another popular trend in the 1980’s was Cajun cooking. While other American chefs looked to other countries to inspire their dishes, chef Paul Prudhomme looked to his Louisiana roots. Prudhomme used classic Louisiana ingredients like blackened beef, crawfish, and shrimp to create exciting menu items such as Chicken and Andouille Gumbo and Cajun Jambalaya. The blackening technique became very popular in the 1980’s, being used in fish and other meat entrees.

The 1990’s

Fusion cooking was on the rise in the 1990’s. A trend, fusion cooking is the combination of different cultural dishes to create something new. Laying the ground work for this new trend, celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck served dishes that combined French and Asian influences for an interesting mixture. Items on Puck’s Chinois on Main menu included foie gras with pineapple and catfish with fried ginger.

Wolfgang Puck

Photo from minnpost.com

While these dishes could be highly creative and delicious (like this Thai-inspired pizza), some chefs took it a step too far and created “con-fusion” which were unexpected flavor hybrids that didn’t complement each other well. The “con-fusion” was a result of the chefs trying to jump on the bandwagon and allow their restaurant to have the next big thing, which doesn’t always coincide with a customer’s palate. It is very difficult to specifically label certain “con-fusion” recipes as a failure because taste is extremely subjective. But something tells us that a recipe for spicy Asian green beans with blue cheese isn’t going to be our new favorite food either.

Fusion Cooking

Photo from guyeatsfood.com

Many chefs are not a fan of the term “fusion cooking”, claiming negative connotations from the 1990’s. Even though it is still a popular cooking style in the modern world, the term fusion cooking is not normally used.

The 2000’s

At the turn of the century, America became much more conscientious about their foods. Consumers were more concerned about where their food came from, how it was processed, and what was in it. This kind of curiosity led to many consumer-driven changes that effected food suppliers, distributors, and restaurants.

Super Size Me documentary

Photo from netflixlife.com

One of the most revolutionary food documentaries to ever hit the small screen was Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, which premiered in 2004 to a shocked America. It was common knowledge at this point that fast food was not the ideal meal for a healthy diet, but this documentary took just how unhealthy fast food could be and made it a living nightmare. After this documentary, many fast food chains began to evaluate their menu offerings.

Fresh food

Many consumers demanded more health-conscious options from all of their eateries. Even big-box retailers like Walmart were starting to offer organic options to their customers. So why wouldn’t restaurants as well? More restaurants began creating and marking healthier choices on their menus while others provided more detailed information about where the food came from. This kind of communication with the customer makes them feel more in charge and able to make more educated decisions based on the information that is provided to them.

Because consumers were aimed to obtain healthier foods (for the most part) they frequented businesses like Subway, Jamba Juice, and casual dining establishments like Applebee’s and Olive Garden. Some of the most popular foods of this decade included sushi, bacon, super fruits (blueberries, acai berries), and cupcakes. Many restaurants assimilated these flavors as a part of their core offerings.

The 2010’s

While we are 60% of the way through the 2010’s, there are still prominent restaurant trends that will have sticking power throughout the remainder of this decade.

Chipotle Assembly Line

Photo from qz.com

Restaurants that offer assembly line-like service allow for customers to choose how they want their food prepared are huge right now. The customer is able to tailor their experience from station to station to have their food made exactly the way they want it. This customization ability can be seen in restaurants like Chipotle, Blaze Pizza, and even Starbucks.

Coffee craze

Speaking of Starbucks, the 2010’s are drink-crazed. Whether it is coffeehouses or microbreweries, the interest in mixology has skyrocketed. Many restaurants are not limited to regular or decaf coffee offerings anymore. Similarly, restaurants are also producing their own type of craft beer or wine. There is a certain fascination with making these concoctions because it is all about creativity, and is great for expanding your profit margins.

In urban areas where rent is astronomical and constantly changing, the newest restaurant trend isn’t to become a physical building; it’s to have a food truck. This trend has roots starting in Los Angeles with Kogi BBQ truck and chef Roy Choi. With the help of Twitter and the combination of Korean and Mexican cuisine, the Kogi BBQ truck became a success that inspired restauranteurs to take an alternative route for restaurant ownership.

If you’re looking to create something new in your restaurant, it is always helpful to look to the past for inspiration to create your future. These popular trends from the 1950’s all the way to today have their time and place in history. The restaurant industry has a cyclical nature; trends are bound to find their way around again. While the subject matter of the trends may not be your restaurant’s cup of tea, at the very least, you can get a theme night out of it!

What are some trends (modern or older) your restaurant has tried? Let us know in the comments below!

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How to Make Your Restaurant Successful on Yelp

Find Us on YelpFaced with large amounts of competition, businesses are constantly fighting for their customers’ attention. Word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful driving force in today’s society and has the ability to sway decisions like what to buy and where to eat. This type of marketing may seem difficult to harness, but with programs like Yelp, businesses have a way to engage with customers and help mold their opinions.

Yelp is a great way for small businesses to compete with larger chains by showcasing what they have to offer. In Q2 of 2016, Yelp had a monthly average of 23 million unique visitors who went through Yelp’s mobile app and another 69 million unique visitors who visited Yelp via the web. A Nielsen study reports that 78 % of users rely on Yelp to find restaurants (out of all categories), capturing the highest percentage of the categories. Needless to say, Yelp is a well-used resource for restaurant-goers whose importance is often under-estimated by restaurant owners.

How It Works

Imagine you’re on vacation and it’s your first time at a destination. Up and down your hotel’s strip, there is dinner option after dinner option. As a consumer, the choices are overwhelming. How do you even begin to choose? You could just waltz into the first place you come to and take your chances.  Or, you could leverage the experience of thousands of Yelpers that have visited before you and have left reviews of just about every restaurant in town.  Without the uncertainty and risk of visiting an untested spot, you and your family can get down to the business of enjoying your vacation.

According to their website, Yelp’s purpose is to “connect people with great local businesses”. Their automated software program scours the top reviews that are written by users (“Yelpers”) based on quality and helpfulness, and it ranks businesses according to a proprietary algorithm. So how does your restaurant get the highest ranking? Typically, a larger number of reviews lead to a higher ranking in Yelp search and many other search engines.  The strategy then with Yelp is to get your restaurant as many good reviews as possible.  In this article, we are going to show you how to get started.


Yelp Ads
Claim Your Business

Claiming your business is the starting point for all businesses on Yelp. To be proactive with a Yelp strategy, you must claim your business to have control of that page. After you claim your page, you can then personalize it to help distinguish it among other pages. The goal of this page is to drive traffic to your own site. Optimizing this page will help your restaurant appear, not only in yelp searches, but also in search engine queries like Google.

It is interesting to note that according to a Boston Consulting Group study, businesses that simply claimed their Yelp profile generated incremental revenues of $8,000 annually just from being on Yelp.  Wouldn’t it be nice if your business could bring in an additional $8,000 per year by spending a small amount of time setting up you page and managing your reviews?  By the way, according to the same study, those who claimed their profile AND advertised on Yelp through PPC campaigns (more on that later) generated additional revenue of $23,000.

Rack Up the Reviews

Although it is the core function of Yelp, many businesses may wonder how customers will know to leave a review. Be cautious of how you approach this topic.  Yelp prefers “organic” review, which means reviews that have not been solicited or, worse, paid for.  It’s understandable if you think about it.  Most businesses only ask for reviews from their happiest customers, not those who have had a bad experience.  That might be great for the restaurant, but it damages the overall credibility of the review system. Yelp wants your restaurant to earn great reviews through exemplary business practices, not through solicitation and/or reward.

Even though Yelp discourages direct solicitation, they do leave the door open for more subtle ways of generating reviews.  The first, and most obvious, is to make sure that your customers know you actually have a Yelp account. You may have a customer that comes to your restaurant every single day for their morning coffee, but if they don’t know you’re on Yelp, how will the world know that you have nurtured and cared for this customer, so much so they visit your business every day? Make customers aware that you use Yelp by using this form to receive a window cling for your business. Also, remind customers to visit your Yelp page with a link in your email signature and/or a badge on your website.

To attract customers that are in the decision stage, use a Check-In Offer to entice them. A Check-In Offer is a reward a customer receives when they check into a business on Yelp. This reward is redeemed by mobile device at the place of business. After a checking in from a mobile device at a restaurant, the user is later asked to write a review of where they checked in at. Be careful not to offer incentives to customers who give better reviews, which is against Yelp’s policiesCheck In Offer

While the tactics above are handy with a new restaurant or during a slow time to jazz up reviews, you should always try and go above and beyond for customers. Have the mindset of what kind of experience you want your customers to walk away with, and then double it. What sets your business apart from the competition? Is your atmosphere, food, staff, or price point? Find what makes your restaurant original and makes for a memorable experience for your guests. Inspire people to choose your restaurant, enjoy themselves, and then right a smashing review because their experience was just that good.

Take a look at this improvement calculator to see how many reviews it will take to attain a certain rating for your restaurant.

Interact with Customers

You’ve put the work into claiming your business, spruced up your Yelp page, and the reviews are pouring in. All of a sudden, your first bad review comes in: a piece of coal in your carefully cultivated glittering diamond mine of positive reviews. Your first instinct might be to ignore the review, hoping it gets lost in the sea positive reviews. Maybe no one will see it?  That is a big mistake.  You should always respond to a negative review, even if the response is private.  The last thing that you want is an already upset customer feeling like you’re ignoring them.  You’ll definitely want to reach out to that Yelper in a way that lets them know that their concerns have been heard and you will take their input into consideration when shaping future decisions.

Whether you handle bad reviews publicly or privately is up to you, but maintain consistency – don’t respond publicly to the reviews where you feel like a customer is wrong, and privately to the reviews where you know you messed up. The flow chart below outlines Yelps best practices for responding to reviews publicly or privately.

Review Flow ChartFinally, remember that your public responses will be seen by existing and potential customers so always be courteous and understanding. Practice up on your PR skills and don’t isolate customers. You don’t want jeopardize your future business with a poorly worded response.

Free Assets for Business Owners

Yelp has many free resources for business owners to use, making it effective and easy on a budget.

Yelp for Business Owners app is the most comprehensive of these resources. With the app (available in the App Store for iOS and Google Play Store for Android), businesses track engagement, leads, and clicks to their site from Yelp. The app also has the capability to track the number of check-ins to a business, calls (from clicking the phone number), and the reservations made off of Yelp. Not only do these factors help you gauge your success on Yelp, but could justify an increase of foot traffic in your restaurant. Through the app you also have the capability to respond (publicly or privately) to messages, upload photos, and report reviews or messages. For a busy, on-the-go restaurant owner, the Yelp app is extremely valuable in managing your presence on the site.

Again, you don’t want to come right out and ask for reviews. But if you want another, more discrete way to remind customers about giving you a review, place a Yelp review badge on your website. By placing a review badge on your site, your customers can see that people have a reviewed your restaurant and prompt them to check out your Yelp page. Potential customers will be more inclined to visit a restaurant with many positive reviews, which the badge helps them see at a glance. Every time your business is reviewed, the counter clicks up and/or reflects in the stars. Per Yelp’s brand guidelines, there are only two badges allowed on a business’ site that shows their association with Yelp.

Web Review Badges

It is important for business owners to stay up to date on ways to effectively use Yelp. Yelp offers free 30 minute webinars that improve upon your existing Yelp knowledge. Topics range from how to respond to reviews to becoming a 5-star brand. These webinars help clarify how your restaurant can use Yelp as a sustainable, effective strategy for the long term.

Yelp Ads

While Yelp has plenty of free resources for businesses, there are also advertising packages to enhance your profile even further.

Yelp’s advertising packages operate on a cost per click (CPC) basis and could be beneficial for your particular niche. There is no pre-determined set cost because the cost depends on the competition and relevance of your advertisement to the user’s search. Yelp Ads can help your business with targeted local advertising and a more prominent placement on search and competitor pages.

If you want to upgrade your Yelp experience by paying for advertising, the Call to Action button may be one you want to take advantage of.

Whenever potential customers have searched and found your business on Yelp, what is the next steps you want them to take? The best way to provide a specific direction for these customers is to have a Call to Action button. When set up, this button appears towards to the top of your business’ page, underneath the location and uploaded photos.
When narrowing down what your Call to Action should be, think of what your desired end goal is. The button will take customers to more information in the form of a specific page of your website or coupon.

Call to Action
In the example above, Olive or Twist’s Call to Action button promotes their happy hour and links to their specials section on their website. Make sure your button is labeled with a broad, but relevant statement. You don’t want to give away all the information on your Yelp page, because then there is no need to click. This button provides a next-steps for potential customers to take part in.

Compare the different products that Yelp Ads has to offer with this chart.

Please note that just because a business advertises on Yelp does not mean they automatically get better ratings. A business could be rated two stars and advertise, leading to more people seeing that rating. On the other hand, a business that does not pay to advertise can have a five-star rating. For more information on Yelp’s advertising policy, feel free to check out their FAQ page.

If you own a restaurant that has never used Yelp or only as a consumer, go claim your business. Doing a simple Google search will leave you with endless results on how to optimize Yelp and best practices. But the best way to use Yelp is to jump right in! There are so many free resources and options for a business getting started on Yelp. Don’t think the only way to be successful on Yelp is to shell out a portion of your advertising budget. Let your customers know that you have a Yelp presence, respond thoughtfully to their reviews, and keep providing excellent experiences to make Yelp work for your business.

Does your restaurant or business currently use Yelp as a strategy? If so, what’s your experience with having a page? If not, what are your reservations about it? Let us know!

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