Restaurant Marketing

Back to School Promotions To Boost Your Restaurant’s Bottom Line

School zone signs are flashing, commutes are taking longer, and the yellow buses are hitting the road. It is hard not to notice that school will soon be back in session, if it hasn’t already started. You’ve probably received flyers in the mail promoting the latest back to school sales on clothes and office supplies. If you are wondering how to bring these back to school promotions into your restaurant we have some ideas for you; thoughts on how to reach out not only to students but parents and teachers as well.

Getting the Family Involved

Back to School Promotions to Boost Your Restaurant's Bottom Line;Back to school is a busy time for most families; they are getting back into the swing of things and creating their routine for the year. Why not make your restaurant part of that weekly routine? By offering families a quick take out meal option, you can cut out the stress of dining-in for families with younger children. This small step makes your restaurant an option for families on those busy days of running from school, to activities and trying to cram dinner somewhere in-between.

Another promotional idea that helps get the whole family into your establishment is running an “apps for backpacks” special. Families receive a free or discounted appetizer when they bring in a receipt proving the purchase of school supplies. Not only does this show your customers that you support education but encourages patrons to order an appetizer they might not have previously considered. Who knows maybe it will become a new family favorite they simply can’t pass up, even after the special has ended.

We have compiled a list of things that you can do to reach parents, students, and teachers, the main groups that hold the keys to increasing your business during back to school season.

 

Parents

Drinks

    1. 1.When thinking of back to school promotions it is important to focus on parents. One way to reach out to parents is by offering Parent’s Day Out lunch specials. Market it as being able to enjoy quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of family life.

2. Additionally, a great way to market to parents is with buy one get one parent meals. Perfect for any date night, this deal will encourage parents to call up their baby-sitter and spend a night out taking advantage of your restaurant’s back to school promotion.

3. Back to school season involves a lot of shopping but it also involves quite a few meetings. A good way to keep your business on parent’s radar is by sponsoring some of the back to school meeting. You can have a coupon or promotional flyer be part of their welcome packet or offer to cater in exchange for some ad space in the schools yearbook or other bulletins.

4. Once school is in full swing, if you have the space, consider setting up a student super star area. A section of your restaurant decorated specifically for patrons to take pictures of their star student. You might even want to have a signature hashtag that parents can use when bragging about their superstar on social media. This would be a great way to have customers promoting your business by word of mouth.

Students

Student Studying

1. A great way to get your promotions to students is by utilizing social media. Social media is one of the

tops ways to market to millennials. Pictures of food are one of the most searched for subjects in social media, so go ahead and take a nicely arranged snapshot of your weekly special and post it. The best part is that it is free unless you make the decision to boost your posts for a few extra dollars.

2. Another way to reach students is by offering coupons to students with perfect attendance. Many schools give out certificates each semester to students who haven’t missed a day. So why not get them in the door with a perfect attendance promotion. Consider offering half off of dessert with validation. Restaurants like Noodles & Company and Red Robin are already getting students in their doors by offering free meals for those students with perfect attendance.

3. An often forgotten about group of marketing to students is college students. Yes some students have meal plans but that doesn’t mean they don’t get tired of the food, or are looking to treat themselves every now and then. And a large percentage of college students live off campus and don’t have a meal plan. A great way to reach these students is by offering lunch combos. Perfect for grabbing between classes this special will garner the attention of any test stressed college student.

Startup Stock Photos

    1. 1. Are you concerned with how to get your name out to college students? Consider sponsoring orientation. You can provide food or simply provide cups with your logo on it. Good for one free refill. Sounds simple enough but students will keep those cups long after the free refill and be reminded of your restaurant every time they use it. Make sure that the cup is branded and decent quality. You wouldn’t want your logo to wash off in the dishwasher.

2. If you are still concerned about getting your name out there to students there is always the old standby. Flyers with coupons. It is a tried and true method. 96% of students would be more likely to make a repeat purchase from a brand that offers student discounts. A lot of times college students are trying to stick to a budget and offering them a coupon or student discount increases chances of them picking up the phone or walking through your door.

3. Do you have a design major as part of your staff? Why not utilize their skills to create a snapchat geofilter. For a few dollars you can create a fun filter just for your building. Students using the app, about 100 million people use it every month, will see your filter and possibly use it when sending pictures to their friends. It is a great way to get the word out about your business or any promotions you are running. Taco Bell was one of the first restaurants to jump on the Snapchat ban wagon and have been benefiting ever since.

Teacher’s Pet

Teacher asking her students a question at the elementary school

1. Who can forget about teachers! Back to school is an exciting yet hectic time for them as well. Consider having some promotions geared directly for them, like a free dessert with a valid teacher I.D. Most schools require teachers to have badges, simply ask them to show it and voila a free dessert. Pizza Hut offers 10-20% off your order with a valid teacher I.D.

Chipotle Teacher Deal
2. Or you can run an “Apps for Teacher” promotion. Say that instead of giving the teacher an apple give them a free appetizer. Students or parents can come in and purchase a coupon set at certain price that they can then give to their teacher to redeem for a free appetizer next time they stop in. Teachers will appreciate the change of pace from the usual apple themed gifts. Fast casual giant Chipotle has offered teachers a BOGO deal on burritos.

3. Before students return to school, teachers often have to spend a few days preparing for their arrival. Why not cater a lunch for them? That way next time they are too busy to pack a lunch they will remember your delicious food and give your restaurant a call.

Back to school is a big time of year for not only students, but parents and teachers as well, making it a great opportunity for your business to reach out to the community at large. By reaching out to these three groups through different promotions and marketing techniques, you have the potential to greatly increase sales. Ultimately, you know your business best. Choose a promotion works for you and run with it. Whether it is free apps for teachers or sponsoring a school event, don’t miss out this back to school season.

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How to Market Your Restaurant to Millennials: Getting Social

Millennials

United States millennials span the ages of 18-35 and are a force to be reckoned with. This generation, also known as Generation Y, has surpassed the baby boomers (1946-1965) and now number 75.4 million.

Even with millennial numbers increasing, they don’t have control of the market at this point. Baby boomers still hold the buying power in today’s market; almost 50% of retail sales can be traced back to this group. But, millennials’ spending power will only continue to increase as they begin to earn more.

The true difference lies in how these generations communicate with businesses and brands. Generation Y is made up of extremely vocal consumers that are inter-connected and are not afraid to let others know what kind of experience they had at a business.

The millennial generation is often described negatively by their predecessors, but millennials are socially conscious and creative individuals that are becoming an increasing power in the market. This group’s craving for their peers’ opinions can often dictate many buying decisions, including where they choose to eat or drink.

Learning how to market to this rising group should be a priority for restaurant owners. By understanding the mind of a millennial, restaurateurs can uniquely tailor their marketing communications for this generation. Some call them self-oriented or naive, but millennials are changing best practices of the restaurant industry.

Social Media

Social media is an essential tool for restaurant owners to use when marketing to millennials. Restaurants that don’t use some form of technology platform to reach out and interact with customers seem out of date in today’s constantly changing society. Social media can give your business validity to those searching on the internet.

Celebrate what your business has to offer with your social media. Food is a visual commodity. Those who love to eat don’t only want flavorful bites; they want an aesthetically-pleasing experience they can share with others. Tailoring social media to your restaurant, guests, and mission can further brand your restaurant among many. For example, the “food and drink” category on Pinterest is the most pinned and browsed of all the categories and 90% of pinners are saving food and drink recipes on their mobile devices. This is a great indicator that these are items that people have interest in, so cater to it and get guests inspired by your selection.

You can promote events, menu additions, and even new staff on social media to give your business a face. Encourage your guests to check-in, tweet, post, and pin about your restaurant. Restaurants and bars that take the time to create quality content in their social media interactions can increase top of mind awareness and brand recognition. According to the State of Inbound Marketing, social media has a 100% higher lead-to-close rate than traditional outbound marketing. Use that to your advantage!

Although it is on a larger scale, Chipotle does this very well and it is a brand that millennials want to follow on social media to see what they will post next.

Chipotle

Think of your business as a lifestyle brand that you need to promote. Consumers want to learn more about you and your company’s background and be able to relate on a personal level. Whether it’s about the latest rules on food safety or what your lunch specials will be, creative content about your business and its industry makes you an authority on the topic. Millennials appreciate the diverse but relevant subject matter and your business becomes a reliable resource your niche.

Do's and Don'ts of Social Media

Social Experience

Millennials are constantly branding themselves. By sharing their organic mango and black bean salad on social media, this generation expresses more than just what they’re having for dinner. When looked at closely, these actions say this consumer supports the story behind their food and that this is the type of restaurant they frequent.  Millennials brands themselves to coincide with the identity of the business. They are proud of their decision to eat out, and they want to share their experience with others. Of course, an Instagram feed is often a very skewed perception of reality but still presents a rose-colored lens for the rest of the world to take a peek.

Because of this show-all, tell-all way of thinking, millennials are buying experiences at restaurants instead of just food. Restaurants and bars take on a form of escapism where they can get away and have a gastronomic adventure. Going out to eat is seen as an event by millennials, so always try and exceed their expectations with your restaurant practices. For example, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville has risen far above the standards of just being a restaurant chain; it’s now a lifestyle choice. This may seem like an overwhelming feat for a small business but it is possible! Rosarito’s Fish Shack (Williamsburg, New York) does a great job as a single location restaurant that brands themselves as a lifestyle. From its tasty Instagram pictures to the nautical exterior, Rosarito’s Fish Shack transports guests straight to the New England coast for a seaworthy experience.

Be proactive with your customer’s experience by training and communicating with your staff appropriately. A restaurant’s staff can make or break whether customers enjoy their stay. Take the time to show them the over-arching goal of the restaurant and your expectations of the team. How you train and communicate with your staff can be the difference between a good and bad experience for your customers. It is these little things that seem insignificant that truly add up in a consumer’s decision to visit a restaurant again.

Do's and Don'ts of Social Experience

Social Responsibility

Consumers can evoke change in the way that restaurants do business, especially consumers that are as vocal as the millennial generation. This generation is extremely cause-driven and wants to see their patronage to a restaurant have a deeper meaning.

Generation Y customers feel the need for a greater value proposition in purchases; they want to know they are making a difference in the world. As science and communication have improved, sustainable movements have been center on the world’s stage for the lifetime of millennials.

Eco-friendly activities strike a chord with this generation quicker than their predecessors. Millennials want the food and restaurant industry to share these same values.

To narrow down what works the best for your restaurant, you have to know your situation. What’s best for your theme, customer, and price point could be completely different than the restaurant next door to yours. This being said there are lots of ways to improve sustainable practices in your establishment. Use local meat sources, beef up recycling efforts, take steps to reduce food waste, find ways to reduce energy output, and visit farmer’s markets for produce.

Millennials are willing to spend more to support businesses that have these values in mind. Whether this way of thinking is selfish or not, Generation Y makes decisions that will increase self-esteem, which, in this case, works to the benefit of the environment. There are multiple ways for you to get involved in your community while also using it as an edge to market it to millennials. It’s not only social responsible for you to consider local and organic options for your restaurant, it could be lucrative as well.

Do's and Don'ts of Social Responsibility

Social Cause

The millennial generation is a melting pot of beliefs and cultural traditions. The widespread effects of social media have made them more aware of the world around them. This drives millennials to search for a greater purpose of community, which restaurants can get in on as well.

More and more restaurants and businesses are using cause marketing as a strategy instead of just an added bonus when you buy that certain product. This technique is attractive for both business owners to increase patronage and also millennial consumers that have deep interests in bettering the community around them. Cause marketing can inspire people to eat at your restaurant because you stand for something, especially if it is a cause already near and dear to that particular community.

For example, Rosa’s Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia started a movement where for a $1 you can prepay for a pizza slice for a homeless person. Rosa’s has championed single location cause marketing that has reached national recognition, with over 10,000 slices pre-purchased for others. This helped grow and aid the Philadelphia community to be more aware of others.

Another example of restaurants doing good (and through pizza) is the mission behind Malawi’s Pizza. This pizzeria’s “Pizza with a Purpose” tagline promotes the restaurant’s buy one, give one strategy. For each meal purchased here, another is given to a child in Malawi.

Pizza

Both of the restaurants are great cases for the success of what combining cause marketing and community can do. Championing a cause is a great way to actively earn free advertising but also allows customers to feel good about eating or drinking at your place of business.

Cause marketing campaigns can help your restaurant differentiate from your competition and do good deeds at the same time.

Do's and Don'ts of Social Cause

As they grow older and acquire more disposable income, millennials are becoming more of an influence in the restaurant industry. Restaurants need to know how to incorporate this demographic when making decisions. The connection that Generation Y feels for the world around them is unique, and it presents a great opportunity for restaurants to appeal to them. As these millennials become bigger consumers, it will be crucial for restaurateurs to craft their businesses to what is important to this generation.

Mobile Wallet Basics for Restaurants

Mobile Wallet Basics

Your smartphone is again evolving in usefulness.  At a point when you likely can’t imagine not having this device which serves as your phone, computer, planner, and social connection, it can now be your wallet.  In the restaurant industry, this concept poses a new adventure for owners because as with any new technology, the increased appeal to customers creates a massive adoption of the latest fad and convenience.  Your best bet is to become familiar with this concept and decide if you want to jump on the bandwagon to offer this new convenience to your customers.

What is a “mobile wallet”?

Termed “mobile wallet” or “digital wallet”, your smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch becomes the digital equivalent to that bulky wallet you carry around in your purse or back pocket.  Instead of pulling out a credit card to make a purchase, you just pull out your smartphone and pay with it.  This concept offers consumers two main benefits: convenience and security.  These benefits, as explained in a great article called Contactless Payments are Here. Are You Ready? by Brant Schelhaas from Vantiv Integrated Payments, are detailed as follows:

  • Convenience
    • No longer digging through a purse or bulky wallet to find cash or a credit card. Just grab your smartphone for payment.  Smartphones are more readily accessible these days than a card.
  • Security
    • More secure due to the fact that the technology uses encryption to help securely transmit data. Encryption is the process of encoding messages or information in such a way that only authorized parties can read it.
    • The customer never has to hand over a physical card therefore less likely to leave their card behind
    • Many contactless payment methods offer advanced identification technologies, like fingerprint readers
    • Payment networks that process contactless payments have the ability to detect attempts to use the same transaction information more than once
    • Contactless payments do not require the cardholder’s name to be passed between the card and the terminal
    • Many contactless payments do not use the customer’s actual account number when processing a payment

In addition to these customer benefits, Brant Schelhaas discusses the benefits to business owners.

  • Due to the benefits that are offered to customers, there has been and will continue to be a large increase in customer use. For those businesses that accept this new technology that customers are embracing, they will have a competitive edge over those who do not.
  • Contactless payments process faster than traditional payment methods. This means shorter lines and better customer service especially through peak times.
  • Contactless payments make business owners less vulnerable since they do not transmit the customer’s card information to the POS system.
  • Other benefits not listed in the article include:
    • Less wear and tear on your equipment due to no contact
    • Paper receipts are not required (unless requested) so there is less expense for you
    • More focus on selling versus handling cash or a card which can lead to more unplanned purchases
    • Less cash flow through your business

How do mobile wallets work?

A wallet begins with the download of a smartphone app that holds and stores debit, credit, and even loyalty card information for purchases in-store and through any virtual avenue.  Some smartphones already come with a wallet for your convenience but other apps can be downloaded if you prefer to not use the one on your phone. Below is a chart listing and offering basic information about some, but not all, of the best mobile wallets for 2016 ranked from bestcompany.com, an online company who reports real, unbiased reviews based only on consumer ratings, opinions, and experiences.  We have included the top seven of nineteen wallets listed in the article for your review in addition to some other apps on the list that are quite popular and frequently used:

Samsung Pay
  • Payment using a compatible Samsung Galaxy device
  • Swipe up to launch the app, secure with your fingerprint, and hover over the card reader to pay
  • Ability to add membership and loyalty cards
  • High-quality security
Apple Pay
  • Payment using an iPhone, Apple Watch, or iPad
  • Setup is easy with Wallet, preloaded on several apple devices
  • High-quality security with Touch ID
  • If your device is lost or stolen, use Find My iPhone or iCloud to stop the ability to use your phone for purchases
Android Pay
  • Payment using Android devices
  • Ability to add membership and loyalty cards
  • Setup is easy as it comes preloaded on some Android devices
  • High-quality security
  • If your device is lost or stolen, use Android Device Manager to instantly lock your device and secure it with a new password
Moven
  • Available on iOS and Android devices
  • Moven provides a digital bank account paired with an app to help you track your finances in real time and manage your spending
  • Can pair with your current Moven bank account and cards or you can link to your current bank account and cards
Level Up
  • Payment using iPhone, Android or Windows Phone
  • Get an instant digital receipt
  • Offers rewards for use so you can save money when you try new places and upon return
  • Engineered for security
PayPal
  • Pioneer of mobile payments
  • Send and receive payments using your desktop or iOS, Android, or Blackberry device
  • Compatible with lots of apps to make fast payments
  • Send a request for money with an e-mail or phone number
  • High-quality security
  • Free sign up, link bank info, debit and credit cards

 

Other popular apps that are frequently used:

Google Wallet
  • Send and receive money using select Android and iOS devices as well as on your desktop
  • Linked to your debit card or bank account
  • Google Wallet Fraud Protection and a PIN number for protection; high-quality security
  • If your device is lost or stolen, you can instantly remove access to your account at myaccount.google.com
Capital One
  • Payment using select Android or iPhone devices
  • Full access by Capital One credit card customers in good standing.  Capital One Bank and Capital One 360 debit card customers can use the app to receive real-time notifications, digitize gift cards, and view account balances and transactions; Wallet was designed to complement their app.
  • Instant purchase notifications and receipt capture

Once the chosen app is downloaded, the next step is to input personal payment information into the app for future use.  This can easily be done by following the instructions within the app paired with having access to your debit, credit, and/or loyalty card information as well as with your bank account number and routing number.

When loaded up with your personal information, your mobile wallet is ready to use.  Yet, not all stores/restaurants accept contactless payment.  Search on-line or in the app as to find out which establishments accept these types of payments.  Or, ask ahead.  You can also look for the contactless payment symbol within the store or restaurant as shown below.

To complete a mobile wallet transaction, the transaction requires two things:  a smartphone and an industry standard point-of-sale terminal that uses Near-Field Communication (NFC), a wireless connectivity technology that enables devices to communicate.  The smartphone just needs to be placed within 2-4 inches of the terminal and payment is completed.  Most smartphones are now equipped with NFC technology yet not all stores and restaurants have the equipment for this communication.  As time passes, this will most likely change.  With the concept of mobile wallets on the rise, customers are looking for convenience and speed with payments therefore requiring stores and restaurants to conform to these new payment trends.

How can my restaurant start accepting payments with mobile wallets?

With mobile payments on the rise, restaurants are looking to take the steps needed to adopt this new technology.  Here are some steps you can take to get the ball rolling:

Review your average sales traffic, customer base, and demographic area that you serve to determine if contactless payments are right for you.

Contact your payment provider to determine if your current point of sale terminal is already NFC/contactless payment-capable. If it is, ask your provider to enable it so that you can begin accepting contactless payments.  If it is not capable, find out what you need to do and the cost involved in changing out your equipment so that you have the ability to offer contactless payments.

Once the decision is made to offer contactless payments, develop a schedule of implementation and train your employees on how to use the contactless payment equipment and systems. Demonstration is always a great way to train so a mock set up to this process is ideal.  This would also be a great time to test the process to make sure that if any changes need made, they are done before offering it live.

When you are ready to offer contactless payments, it’s time to let your customers know! Send out an e-mail blast, communicate on all of your social media platforms, and order decals for the different payment methods that you are offering to put them up in your establishment’s windows.

These steps may sound simple but the process does take time and effort on your part to adopt.  Your current payment provider will be your biggest asset in this transition so working with them to assist you during your transition is key.

Will you jump on the bandwagon?

Mobile technology has really changed our lives.  Our phones have become more of a need than a desire because of the increased usefulness that it offers to our daily lives.  Because of this, you rarely find anyone without it.  When you add the option of using your phone as a wallet, an even closer attachment to a phone will be found and the benefits that it offers will guarantee it.  As a restaurant owner, will you jump on the bandwagon and accept contactless payments in your restaurant?  It’s a serious option to consider and one that offers benefits all around.

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How Your Restaurant Can Capitalize on the Pokémon Go Phenomenon

Pokemon Go Cover
Pokémon has made a strong comeback 20 years after its initial release in the form of a social media sensation, Pokémon Go. Nintendo first released Pokémon in 1996 in Japan where Satoshi Tajiri, the creator, and Ken Sugimori, the artist, were junior developers at. The game was later released in the United States in 1998 where it found great success. Now, the developmental giants at Niantic Labs, the Pokémon Company, and Nintendo have revived enthusiasts’ old love for the characters and friendly-competition with Pokémon Go. All players need is a smartphone with GPS and camera capabilities. Currently, Pokémon Go is the most profitable app on both the Google Play Store and Apple App Store, and Nintendo’s stock is going through the roof. At this time, the game is restricted to the US, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Canada, and Germany, with other locations becoming available day by day.

Pokemon GoSo how does this impact the day-to-day of the restaurant industry?

Many business owners may look at Pokémon Go as a distraction to their business. Something that will have gamers popping into their restaurant just to catch a rare Water Pokémon or Pikachu. They will roam the waiting area, pretend to look at the menu, only to leave and cause a distraction amongst the paying customers. It doesn’t have to be this way. Pokémon Go augments a user’s reality to include these collectible creatures. So why not be an asset to them? Pokémon Go can be used to your restaurant’s advantage; you just have to find what is the best method for your business.  Already there are businesses that are seeing increases in their numbers because of this game. Pokémon Go is a chance for restaurants to build community presence and increase traffic (and sales) by a fairly simple means.


Become a Pokéstop or gym.

A Pokéstop is where trainers can stock on items used to help them catch Pokémon and a gym is where you can train and battle against other players. As a business you should aim to become one of these. This is one of the ways many businesses are seeing huge spikes in foot traffic. There is a subset of the population that is actually preferring certain restaurants because of their interactivity with the game model. When you become either a Pokéstop or gym, your restaurant can then be placed on the map so players can find you. When Pokémon Go was initially released, Pokéstops and gyms were pre-determined which limited the availability in some regions. Users now have the ability to request that a location be activated. So no fear if you weren’t one of the original chosen. Likewise, those who are not fans of the game can request to be removed. Click here to turn your restaurant into a Pokéstop or gym!*

Food Truck Set up a food truck or stand.

Pokémon Go has elements similar to geo-caching, the biggest one being you physically must be in that location to play the game. If you have a town square or park that is open and already frequented by Pokémon trainers, this is a great opportunity for your business. A food truck or stand can be put in these locations to promote your restaurant. Walking around can certainly work up an appetite, hungry trainers will thank you. This can be especially useful if you have a small brick and mortar location and still want the opportunity to bring your name and products out into the community. Even something small like a coupon card that promotes your business being Pokémon-friendly could make a difference. The rewards can be great for restaurants who get out in the community and involved in this trend.

Make an experience out of it.

The more ways you advertise that your establishment is a Pokémon-friendly environment, the better. Create specials like the “Bulbasaur Bruschetta” or “Horsea Ham Sandwich on Rye” to entice hungry players that come for the creatures and stay for the food. Integrate your social media with Pokémon Go by making a rewards program that offers guests an incentive if they post a Pokémon Go pictures from your location and tag you. Enlist a coalition of businesses around you to host a Pokémon bar crawl or food walk. This way you can get a larger group on-board and have a wider range of resources to work with. Your avenue of creativity and level of involvement is completely up to you as a business.

Busy StreetUse Lure Modules to attract Pokémon and customers.

One of the most reliable ways to attract Pokémon Go players to your restaurant is to purchase a Lure Module. A Lure Module will bring Pokémon to a specific Pokéstop for 30 minutes, meaning any player at the particular location can catch them during that time frame. Restaurants can use these to appeal to trainers during slow periods of the day, with the goal being to turn them into customers. One Lure Module is 100 Poké coins for $0.99, making this a fairly cheap way to attract the Pokémon Go crowd. Other businesses are going so far as to letting their customers know when they’re going to be using a Lure Module. This gives trainers a definite location and time of when the Lure Module will be used so they can be prepared. If you have a big event coming up, let know your social media followers know a Lure Module will be in place so they can come and take part in it. Using this method of advertising, you can physically bring Pokémon players into your location and have them enjoy what you have to offer as a restaurant.

Pokémon Go allows restaurants and businesses to interact with their guests like never before. As a business, you will have to make the call whether this a trend you want to take part. If you have the creativity and time to plan on how you want to use this game to attract customers, it could be worth your while. Just remember, opportunities to drive massive traffic to your establishment don’t come around that often, and you have to take advantage of them when they do.

*07/25/16 UPDATE: Pokémon Go is no longer accepting submissions for new Pokéstops or Gyms due to an overwhelming influx of submissions. Changes such as trading, breeding, and more sophisticated Lure Modules are in the works for players as the app evolves. Check back as this is subject to change!

How to Increase Summer Traffic in Your Restaurant or Bar

patio

Days get longer, the sun gets stronger, and everyone is taking vacation days. After Memorial Day Weekend comes and goes, summer is here in full force. This can mean more traffic, different clientele, and new struggles for your business. But no need to stress, there is more opportunity to summer than what meets the eye.
This transition to a new season is an easy way for you as a restaurant or bar owner to include fun activities into the calendar. Summer is a great time to differentiate your business and show off your niche!
Here are some tips to start sprinkling a little summer sunshine (and beat your competitors to the punch).

1) Know Your Audience
Market to your audience smarter, not harder. It is essential to know who you are trying to draw in. Is it all out-of-towners that flock to you during this time or is it your regular crowd shuffling in? By doing a little research, you will have a better idea of interests that attracts this group. If summer also means tourist season where you are, be ready for traffic increases. Train the staff on this shift as well, explain the importance of making sure each guest has a memorable experience (in a good way). Understand what you have to offer and who you will be offering it to.

OutdoorSpace

2) Spatial Awareness
If you are the type of establishment lucky enough to have an outdoor area, it’s time to break out the patio furniture. The end of May is a great benchmark to start having outside seating available to guests, but it all depends on your climate. Not only does it allow guests to enjoy a nice breeze, it helps with overflow seating as well! Just make sure your furniture is up to par before you stick it outside in the inevitable summer storms.

3) A Dash of Summer
Got a fierce strawberry spinach salad you’ve been dying to put on the menu? What about a frozen drink that your bartender came up with by just throwing a mix together? Take advantage of what’s now in-season to put on your menu and come up with summer specials. This is a great way to show off food or drinks that are too expensive to routinely feature. Highlighting these items will present more of an opportunity to be noticed by your patrons, and therefore, ordered. Take it one step farther and get some feedback from these specials. Finding what works may lead to a new staple for your regular menu!

Music

4) Turn It Up Some
While you’re taking the advice of tip #2, use your outdoor area to host live music. Whether it’s a singer-songwriter, DJ, or local band, find an entertainer that fits your genre. Bringing an artist in is a great way to publicize all the extras your establishment has to offer and it might even turn into a tradition. This type of event may also bring people to your restaurant or bar that wouldn’t typically visit. You may be introducing them to their new favorite haunt!

5) Fiesta Like There’s No Manana
There are quite a few holidays that fall within the summer months; so why not celebrate them? Between Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, or just the fact that it is summer, you’ll be able to find a celebration that you can throw a party for in your restaurant or bar. Decorate, have themed entrees or drinks, sponsor a contest- the opportunities are endless! If your budget only allows for one of these types of celebration, no worries, just make it work for your restaurant or bar! Go all out without abandoning the main focus of your establishment or bankrupting your business.

Now that you have some tips to expand your summer plans, the key takeaway is to entertain your clients. Take this chance to have old customers remember why they consistently pick your establishment and invite new ones into an exciting environment to make memories. Variety is the spice of life; the same goes for your summer business when the seasons change.
Does your restaurant or bar have any summer traditions or any advice for starting them? Let us know in the comments below, we love to hear feedback from our readers! Check us out on Pinterest for more inspiration.

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A Hard Dose of Reality at NRA 2016

NRA Show Session - Reality Gets Real with Jon Taffer & Chef Robert Irvine

In May, I had the opportunity to attend the NRA Show’s first crowdsourced session Reality Gets Real with Jon Taffer & Chef Robert Irvine, two of the industry’s most recognizable television personalities.  As a huge fan of both of their shows, and as the marketing manager for East Coast Chair & Barstool, the national furniture sponsor of Bar Rescue, Season 4, I had been looking forward to this session since it was announced by the NRA.

As I made my way into the packed Grand Ballroom at McKormick Center in Chicago, IL, I had no idea what to expect, but I was pretty sure that it would be worth the trip – and it didn’t disappoint.  What followed was an hour of candid, rock solid advice from two hospitality pros that have seen and done it all in the industry.  Without any of the showmanship and bravado of their TV personas, these two highly intelligent thought leaders gave insights into everything from evolving to stay ahead of the competition to why they are so hard on the bar and restaurant owners that appear on their respective shows.

Hats off to moderator Phil Kafarakis of the NRA, who did an excellent job of keeping the conversation moving while still allowing for plenty of give-and-take between Jon and Robert.

Below, I’ve summarized some of the key takeaways from the session.   If you would like to watch the recording (which I recommend), you can find it here.

Leadership

  • Leadership, or lack thereof, is the biggest factor in whether a restaurant succeeds or fails. Both Jon and Robert have around a 70% success rate in turning around bars and restaurants on their respective shows; they are able to achieve this level of success by turning failing owners into more effective leaders.
  • Both Jon & Robert said that the biggest failures they’ve had were caused by owners that never really accepted responsibility and refused to acknowledge that they were the reason their business wasn’t working. Both have witnessed owners undo all of the renovations and processes that they have put in place…before their shows have even aired.
  • Jon and Robert use fear as a motivator on their shows to get failing owners to take responsibility for their failure. Both say that nothing gets a failing business owner to take action quicker than appealing to the fear of losing their house and putting their family in serious financial trouble.

 

Marketing

  • A brand isn’t a logo, it’s not a color, and it’s not a marketing material. A brand is what we do.  Brands aren’t created; they’re built one guest at a time.
  • We don’t create food and beverage in this industry, we create human reaction. If a guest doesn’t react to your food, then you are going to be stuck in mediocrity.  Whoever creates the best reactions wins.
  • In Jon’s experience, if somebody comes to your bar/restaurant and has a flawless experience, the likelihood that they will come back is less than 40 percent. If they come back a second time and have a flawless experience, then the likelihood that they will come back is still under 50%.  However, if they come back a 3rd time and have a flawless experience, the likelihood that they will come back for a 4th visit is over 70%.  So, as operators in the hospitality industry, we should be marketing for at least 3 visits.
  • Millennials look at their phones about 260 times per day, so we, as marketers, need to find a way to get on that phone to communicate with them.
  • Jon believes that technology is bothersome when it gets between a server and a guest. He stated that people don’t come to your establishment for food, drink, or to watch sports, all of which they can get at home; rather, they come for the experience…and that is how you compete by giving them a world class experience.  So, don’t let technology get in the way of creating that experience.  Robert, on the other hand, believes that technology, when used effectively, enhances that experience.
  • Cell phones (technology as a whole) can be a killer of business, because they put all of the power in the hands of the consumer. It’s extremely easy now to get on your cell phone and tell a worldwide audience how your meal/server/experience was terrible.

 

Operations

  • About 70% of the restaurateurs that Jon comes into contact with on his show don’t even have data on their food costs, beverage costs, or overhead.
  • Both Jon and Robert believe that it is so important to know your costs and your weekly P&L. Robert gets daily reports on all of his restaurants’ profits & losses so that he knows what he made and what he lost.  “It’s my money, and I want to know where it’s going”.
  • Robert thinks that, as a restaurant, if you aren’t redoing your interior every 3 years, you run the risk of becoming stale and losing to the competition.
  • Robert believes that wallet-less payments will soon take over the industry. The technology is already there, the only thing lacking is consumer acceptance.  He said that servers will have a credit card that wages and end-of-the-night tips will be paid to, and the money will be made available to them immediately: “Uncle Sam will love it, and the servers will hate it”.
  • We are creatures of habit. We love to go to the same restaurants and eat the same food.  Excellence can only be achieved through consistency.  If you aren’t producing a consistently great experience, there will always be somebody newer that is.

One thing was clear from attending this session: Jon and Robert create successful restaurants by taking a top down approach.  If you are a struggling business owner, you don’t have to be on television to change your fortunes; you can learn a lot by watching this session and questioning your leadership, processes, and attitude toward change.  Don’t expect your employees to do it for you: any major changes are going to have to start with you.

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10 Ways to Improve Your Restaurant’s Menu to Increase Profitability

Improving Your Menu to Increase Profitability

 

1) Take a hard look at your prices.

Pricing products is one of the most difficult things that any business owner has to do. At it’s simplest, you try to calculate prices that will cover your costs and earn enough of a profit to make it worth staying in business. But, what if you’re leaving money on the table by pricing your items too low? Or, vice versa, what if your menu is priced too high and your losing sales volume? Either scenario could effect profitability in a major way.

Developing an optimal pricing strategy is 1/2 art and 1/2 science – entire books have been written on the subject, so it is too complex to cover in detail here. What it boils down to, however, is matching your prices to the value that your customers perceive in your items. If customers perceive that your $12.99 burger with locally raised, grass fed ground chuck represents an appropriate value, they’ll be happy to pay it – regardless of what it costs to make.

So, how can you gauge your customers’ perceptions of value and price accordingly? Start with your direct competition. Are they pricing the same burger for $8? If so, then, all other things being equal, they’re probably stealing some of your sales. On the other hand, if they’re pricing it at $15, then there may be an opportunity for you to raise your price a little and increase your profitability.

2) Eliminate the clutter

Do you have items on your menu that just don’t sell? Does your menu have so many items on it that you have to use a small, hard to read font in order to fit it all in? If you answered yes to either of these questions, consider ridding your menu of the clutter. Of course you want to keep your classics, customer favorites, and high profit items, but it may just be time to get rid of the rest. Too much on your menu will overwhelm your customers, create a large amount of inventory that you will end up throwing away, and leave you with increased labor costs, all of which reduces profitability.

To combat the clutter, consider recommendations made by O’Dell Restaurant Consulting, a company that offers restaurant consulting services. They recommend taking your sales mix report and eliminating the bottom half of the items; the ones that aren’t selling. Then, take the top half and really evaluate where in your kitchen these items are prepared, using that to organize and balance your menu. For example, have a grilled items section, sautéed selections, fried foods, etc. O’Dell suggests no more than 20 main course dishes, including sandwiches, 4-6 starters, and 2-3 salads. If you have pizza on your menu, it is suggested to make up 2/3 of your main course selections and you should only offer it in a maximum of 3 sizes. You should still accommodate special requests but have a special price for those requests. Cleaning up your menu and getting rid of the clutter will give your customers better food and better service in addition to allowing your restaurant to serve more people.

3) Try a new design.

A fresh perspective and a new look to your menu is a great way to upgrade your brand and improve profitability. Consider investing in the services of a graphic designer or a marketing professional who can use their tricks of the trade to make your menu more attractive and eye catching. Or, look into online companies who offer professional templates, like Vistaprint, to complete this task on your own. Regardless of who does it, design does make a difference. It’s all about the text font and size, the illustrations and images, colors used, and even the shape, thickness, and texture of your menu. It’s also about making sure that your final menu fits in with the concept and atmosphere of your restaurant.

4) Change up your descriptions.

The way you describe your menu items makes a difference. Keep your menu descriptions short but offer descriptive terms that highlight their taste, uniqueness, or ingredients. The tastier it sounds, the more interest there will be in ordering it. If this isn’t your forte, consider hiring a professional copywriter or marketer to assist you with this task. You can find freelance professionals who do this type of work at www.upwork.com.

5) Consider item placement and positioning.

When organizing your menu, here are a few fun facts that may be helpful to increase sales…According to SoftCafe, a developer of menu software for restaurants, customers often remember and order the first two items and the last two items in each category on your menu. On a tri-panel menu, people look at the center panel first and move their attention counter clockwise. Place your highest margin items in these areas, and you could see a substantial increase in profitability.

6) Add fresh into the mix.

Food trends have moved into organic, fresh, and healthier options. Offering “fresh” items on your menu not only sounds attractive to your customers, but can also be a selling point for your restaurant. Supporting the local economy and having healthier options for your customers is good for the environment, good for the local economy, and can make you stand out from other restaurants. In addition, customers are willing to pay a little more for ingredients that are fresh, local, and healthy with an even better taste.

7) Offer specials.

Customers will come to your restaurant not only looking for deals, but also for menu items that they can’t get anywhere else. Consider a specials menu or insert with your regular menu that you change out every so often to push high margin items. A great example of a company that utilizes this strategy is Red Lobster, which has different, short lived, specials like Shrimp Fest, Crab Fest, and Lobster Fest at various times of year.

Play up seasonal offerings during the holidays or offer certain items related to commercialized events like the Super Bowl or the premier of a popular television show in your area. Specials keep your menu interesting and they can even allow you to use up inventory that might otherwise go to waste.

8) Don’t forget photos.

When possible, try to include photos that offer your customers a visual presentation of your food. Some people are visual decision makers; they will see an item and order it because the picture intrigued them. Consider highlighting your popular menu items, a new or featured item, or even something that is a long time classic. With these photos, be sure the images are sharp ones with a professional look. But, don’t go overboard. Too many images can be overwhelming and can look chaotic. Plus, it’s okay to have white space; it gives your customer’s eyes a chance to rest. Applebee’s does a great job of using photos on their menu to entice their customers.

9) Make your menu easily accessible.

In this day and age, people want information in an instant and make their decisions based on the information available to them. Included in this is your restaurant’s menu. Your goal is to get that information to your customers as soon as possible. Yes, you can make sure that your menu is on the table when each customer is seated or that the hostess hands each patron a copy of it when they first sit down. You can even offer a menu on the wall in the waiting area for your customers to read. But, one of the best ways to offer your menu even before any customer walks in is online through a mobile friendly website, app, or on any of the social media sites. When customers can access your menu from anywhere, it may just be the deciding factor that pulls their cars into your parking lot. And when paired with the recommendations above, you’ll be sure to see the profits of your efforts.

10) Consider your customer.

Who is your customer and what would appeal to them? When your restaurant menu appeals to each customer, especially the news ones, they’ll surely return for more. For example, if your business caters to families, offer a separate kids menu. If your restaurant is located in a college town, offer pricing that appeals to the average college student. Or, if you have an upscale restaurant, offer a menu that caters to your customer in both variety on your menu and in design.

Instagram for Your Restaurant: How to #DoItTheRightWay

Social media is everywhere. Everyone has an account on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram that they use on a daily basis. These avenues not only keep us connected with others, but they also help us find people and places in an instant. And let’s face it, instant gratification is now the way of the world.

Let’s narrow this social media frenzy down to just one platform; Instagram. Instagram has gained millions on followers in the last couple of years and it is turning into the platform of choice for many. Why? We think you will agree that pictures and videos are way more interesting than reading a post. Plus, with cell phones seemingly attached to everyone’s hip these days, it’s quicker to share a picture or video than to actually write a post for your followers to read.

Now, let’s even narrow it a little bit more to focus solely on Instagram use for restaurants. Do you have an Instagram account for your restaurant? If so, are you using it in such a way that you are creating a buzz or traffic into your establishment? Whether you’re just starting out or have been using Instagram for some time now, let us share some tips we learned from Katrina Padron, founder of Padron Social Marketing, at the National Restaurant Association trade show. These tips are great ways to fine tune your account and make your restaurant stand out.

Posting pictures and/or videos

Best practices suggest that restaurants commit to posting one picture every day. In the chaos called life, we know that can pose some difficulty unless you have a designated person to do the work. If posting every day is not possible, try to at least post five times a week. To help you save time with all of these posts, you might want to consider a scheduling tool to plan out your posts. One such tool is an app called latergramme. With this app, you can sit down once a week and plan out which pictures or videos to post and when you want to post them. The app even sends you a notification when your picture or video is scheduled to post with instructions to follow on how to go live with your content.

Timing

The timing of your post is a big deal. In order to figure out what the best times are to post on Instagram, Katrina recommended checking out a great website called iconosquare.com. Iconosquare will link to your Instagram account and show you analytics as to when your account performs the best. It will also show you what photo filters work best by most likes or comments and which hashtags are performing the best, among other analytics. If you aren’t interested in hopping onto this website to get all of this great information, Katrina suggested posting between 7am and 8am in the morning or before bedtime. But, remember to always think about your target market before choosing these times.

Photo quality

No one likes looking at a photo or video that is fuzzy or blurry. It just isn’t appealing and can even hurt your eyes. Always post clear, crisp quality photos and/or videos. Offering quality shots will make your posts more interesting, hold attention longer, give clarity to mobile users, and add to your business’s professional look. More importantly, it will make your posts more memorable.

Make it interesting

In addition to posting quality photos, it’s important that they are visually interesting as well as full of good content. You can do this several ways:

  • Mix it up. Of course you want to show everyone your delicious looking menu items, like a beautifully presented dinner plate, a decadent desert, or a fresh salad with toppings galore. But, consider sharing more of your business than just food. Add additional content to help your customers learn more about you and your business to create a connection between you and the customer. This connection is often what your customers are seeking. For example, include images of the front line, the kitchen, your walk in cooler, your employees hard at work, an image of your establishment from the outside, your outdoor dining space, etc. The ideas are endless.
  • Use interesting camera angles. Try taking overhead pictures, low shots, or cross angled shots from the side. These angles are catchy and often pull the viewer in, keeping them engrossed for longer than the typical photo or video.
  • Consider the Rule of Thirds when taking photos. The Rule of Thirds is a basic rule in the photography world that divides an image visually into a grid. This grid creates nine symmetrical squares with intersections where the grid lines cross. The points of crossing are the places where it is recommended to place the main content of the image that you are trying to take. It offers a more engaging photo as well as one that has a better balance.
  • Build height with your photos. Adding height to your photos is a great way to pull customers in. Let’s say you are taking a picture of a burger. Add height to the burger by adding layers of lettuce, tomato, and cheese in between a puffy bun to make it taller. Even visualizing this, especially if you are a burger lover, creates a desire to eat one. The image of this tall scrumptious burger will entice your followers even more than the words.
  • Use vibrant colors and backgrounds with props rather than a plain white color. Take photos of food items like fruits and vegetables that naturally have a colorful palette. In addition, add props into the background of your photos like table linens, silverware, ingredients used to make the item, or a wine bottle. Items like these will add a little something extra to your photo to create that visual appeal.
  • Use a photo editing tool. These tools let you play with exposure, highlights, and cropping while offering filters that will brighten, soften, or change the color of your photo. After you choose a photo, Instagram does offer some editing within the app that you can use, but there are additional apps that offer more options with photo editing that are worth checking out. One such photo editing tool that Katrina uses is called Afterlight and it can be found in the app store for a small fee. There are so many other tools that you can purchase for free; it’s just a matter of downloading it and trying it to see which ones work best for you.

Comments

When you post a picture or video on Instagram, you have the opportunity to make a comment with your post. You may think to yourself, “What am I going to say?” A great idea starter when this happens comes from a one page form called A Case of the Blahs, also found on the Padron Social Marketing website. It includes 50 prompts to get your mind moving so that you can post a comment that achieves likes and interaction with your customers. Katrina recommends that you offer a comment with each picture or video that you post as a way of interacting with your followers and customers. And, don’t forget to add the hashtag, our next topic to discuss.

Hashtags

Hashtags are words or phrases preceded by the number or pound sign that offer a way to categorize content. This categorization makes it easier for people to search for information and join conversations on a certain topic. They have gained extreme popularity in the last few years on all social media platforms and you see them all over the internet. On Instagram, it is recommended for businesses to only post up to 3 hashtags per post and to use ones that are unique to your business. Consider hashtags that are important to your community and use them as a way to interact with other people and businesses in your area. Also, find hashtags that are popular on Instagram to add to your posts. You can find popular hashtags by clicking on the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of your Instagram app on your mobile device and search for whatever topic or image your photo/video offers. Hashtags are a new concept and can be hard to understand but when used correctly, can bring more attention to your posts.

Instagram-MenuAdditional Recommendations

In addition to the information above, here are some additional recommendations you may want to consider:

  • Instagram offers information just for businesses like how to get started, finding customers, sharing brand photos, using hashtags in addition to an Instagram for Business blog. Check out Instagram for Businesses online to gather information that will allow you to take full advantage of this platform for your bar or restaurant.
  • Consider making the content on your business Instagram account different from the content on your other social media accounts. If the same content is on every feed, people will tune out. Use each platform for a different reason or to cater to different groups of customers.
  • Instagram doesn’t just have to be all about photos and videos of food from your restaurant. Aaron Allen & Associates, a global restaurant consulting company, offers a blog article called 10 Great Ways to Use Instagram for Restaurant Marketing. They suggest using it as a tool for contests, interactive menus, odd and interesting photo opportunities, behind the scenes looks, or community and culture awareness.    For additional ideas, check out other restaurant’s Instagram accounts to spark your creativity.

Instagram is a great tool for businesses, especially for restaurants looking for a way to market themselves in the social media world. When used correctly, it’s a popular avenue to tell your story and create a buzz that brings your customers in to enjoy your menu.

Things That Make Em’ Go Mmmm! The Art of Creating “Craveability”

Craveability

 

Did you know that 76% of consumers crave a food first, and then select a restaurant based on that craving? As restaurant owners, this is a very valuable statistic because it means an opportunity to position your establishment at the front of consumers’ minds and drive them through your doors.  So, with such a high percentage of people making decisions on where to eat based on a craving, how can you make your menu items more craveable?  We’ve put together a short list of the essential factors that will have customer’s mouths watering at the very thought of your dishes.

What exactly is Craveability?

Craveability is an adjective that means having qualities that produce an intense desire for more. It usually relates to food and is often associated with items that are filled with salt, sugar, and fats. As of late, these specific ingredients have been the blame for food addictions and the ever increasing overweight population, encouraging restaurant owners to offer healthier options. We’re happy to report that there are healthier ingredients and foods, along with other non-food related ways, that restaurants can use to create the craveability that brings customers into their establishment.

Smell can create craveability.Aroma

Have you ever been captivated by the aroma of fresh baked bread when you walked into a bakery? Or taken aback by the smell of pizza in the oven at your favorite pizza parlor? It can stop you in your tracks. It excites you and taps into your emotional cues making you want that bread or pizza even more than you did when you pulled up in your car. Offering menu items that have a distinct aroma, or ingredients that stimulate our sense of smell, can really leave a lasting impression with patrons and keep them coming back for more.

SmokerPreparation

The way you prepare your food can be a great way to trigger a customer’s craving. Customers might walk through your doors for the flavor of your grilled or fried foods, but run through your doors for something that is slow-roasted, wood fired, or braised. Many of today’s diners are more educated in the different ways to prepare food thanks to shows like Top Chef, Chopped, and The Chew.  It isn’t uncommon for hardcore foodies to visit a restaurant simply because the food is prepared differently than what they are used to.  Experiment with new cooking techniques, flavors, textures, and plating options until you hit on that highly craveable combination.

pumpkin pieSeasonality

Every season offers up some type of highly craveable food. It’s safe to say that during the summer, we all want ice cream. During the fall, thoughts of pumpkin pie makes our mouth water. In winter, the idea of a big hearty bowl of chili or soup really warms us up. And in spring, the taste of fruits and produce are so refreshing.  Offering specialty items on your menu that are popular during different seasons is a great way to bring customers through your doors.

mac and cheeseNostalgia

Just think about a food that you ate when you were a kid. When you think of it, you are probably also thinking about people, things, and/or experiences that take you back those “good ‘ol days”, which is why these types of foods are known as “comfort foods”.  Every time you eat a nostalgic food, you are taken back to that time, and you crave it more because it is associated with a good memory.

As a restaurant owner, playing on nostalgia by serving comfort foods can give you a built in advantage because consumers already demand them.  But, you have to be careful because these foods hold special places in patrons hearts, so you will have a high satisfaction bar to clear.

Hibachi GrillExperience

You can drive craveability by creating an experience for your customers when they walk in the door. Whether it’s by creating a novel environment or re-imagining the traditional dining process, the experience your customers crave can bring them in. Consider the experiences you are offered at popular restaurants like The Melting Pot, Rainforest Café, or the Hibachi station at a Japanese Restaurant. Dipping various treats in chocolate fondue with your spouse on an intimate date is an experience. Having lunch within an indoor rainforest while thunder crashes around you and animals belt out sounds is an experience. Interacting with the chef at a Japanese restaurant while he flips a shrimp up in the air and catches it in his hat is an experience.

Now we’re not suggesting that you go out and buy a sound machine or start practicing your juggling skills – you can opt for something much more subtle than that.  The point is that opportunities to create a remarkable experience for your customers abound, and building a lasting memory is one of the best ways to get customers back in your door.

lambAppearance

The appearance of your food has a huge impact on craveability. Presenting foods that offer vibrant colors and a variety of textures can trigger cravings.  Don’t be afraid to experiment with fruits, vegetables and side dishes that add a colorful flair to the dish, but only when it makes sense to pair it with the main item.

Staging your food properly can also have a significant effect.  Remember that craveability is as much about psychology as it is flavor.  Think of yourself as an interior decorator, and the plate is your space.  If the colors clash, or if all of the elements run together, then the effect will be as unappealing as a poorly decorated room.  On the other hand, a great looking plate can actually enhance the taste of the food and leave your customers wanting more.

crab-legsLimited Availability

If you are the only restaurant in town that makes a unique menu item, people are sure to seek you out. Likewise, if you only offer a menu item once a month and it’s one that creates a buzz, people will fill your seats.

Plan your menu around these limited offerings throughout the year by adding different dishes that pair with holidays or events, like a specific fish offering during lent or a platter of popular appetizers for the Super Bowl game. You’ll find that the limited availability of menu items may very well boost cravings which will in turn boost your sales.

pizzaCategory

Ever wonder why there is a pizza restaurant on just about every corner in the US?  Or, why every ice cream shop seems to have a line around the building?  It’s because these are inherently craveable foods which, whether through decades of marketing, the nostalgia factor, or some other reason, customers tend to seek out on a regular basis.  Foods in some categories just tend to be more craveable than others, and that craveability creates built in demand that can drive customers into your restaurant.

While you don’t have to turn your bar and grille into a pizza and ice cream shop, it might not be a bad idea to experiment with new menu items that fall into one of the most craveable categories (pizza, pasta, desserts).  Even if it is just a highly craveable appetizer or dessert that brings customer’s through your door, it will give you the opportunity to sell them on some of your traditional menu items.

chipotle-adTell Your Story

Last but certainly not least, people crave a great story. How did you get started in your business? Why do you source all of your products locally? Why are you in this business? In today’s world, people are looking for a connection and are willing to support a good story before they support a cold purchase. The buzzwords “quality”, “freshness”, and “value” that a lot of restaurants chime into are everywhere, but your story isn’t.  Take Chipotle, for example, which has built one of the fastest growing restaurant chains in the world around the story of “Food with Integrity”, which means using responsibly farmed products.  Without a great story, the company would be another burrito chain in a sea of competitors; however, they’ve been able to use their story to create a unique position in the market that separates them from other chains and adds to their overall craveability.

Everyone has cravings. More often than not, these cravings are driving people to seek out foods that satisfy the taste or the experience that makes them want more. Restaurants can benefit from these cravings if their menu has that one special item that customers need to have. Utilizing these tips to drive craveability into your restaurant is worth the effort to keep your customers fulfilled while your chefs are cooking, your wait staff is hopping, and your doors are constantly revolving.

SnagaStool Helps Bars Boost Traffic with Online Bar Stool Reservations

SnagaStoolWould you like to fill up your bar stools during off-peak periods?  Or guarantee a packed house during the big game?  A start-up company out of Boston is offering a service they say is similar to OpenTable but for bar stools.

“It started when the Bruins were in the playoffs.  I offered to pay someone to sit in their seat at the bar, because it was so crowded,” explains CEO and Co-founder Jamie Manning. “When I get to a bar, I like to sit right at the bar facing the big screens, rather than at a table or standing behind someone.”

Knowing the frustrations of being a guy who just wants to find an empty bar stool at the bar, Manning came up with the idea of using an app to reserve a stool before arriving at the bar.

“People are willing to pay for that privilege,” says Manning. “Bars can determine how many and which stools to assign as SnagaStool stools based on supply and demand principles, and then use our service to increase their profits.”

SnagaStool shares the premium snag profits with the bar in a 50/50 split and is currently working out other “bundle” packaging opportunities to entice more bars to accept stool reservations.

“We are still in our pilot program,” explains Manning. “We want to work with our bar partners to come up with the best type of service for their patrons and to increase their profits.”

In addition to stool reservations, they are experimenting with offering pre-sale “tickets” during premium time slots (e.g., championship games), bundling a stool with meal packages (i.e., reserve your stool…and burger, too!), as well as allowing the bar to offer special promotions (e.g., half off appetizer) during the off-peak times.

“I worked in the bartending industry for years and designed the service to improve the interaction between bartender and customer,” says Manning.

Bars simply put the SnagaStool tent on the stools that can be reserved or are waiting for their reservation to show up.  Then, people who have a stool reservation just check in with the bartender by showing the confirmation on their mobile device, and the bartender shows them their stools!

Bars in Massachusetts and Florida are already participating, and SnagaStool is signing up new bar partners to join in on this service.  If you’re a bar interested in running promotions to your customer base using SnagaStool, visit them online at SnagaStool.com.