Restaurant Trends

Don’t Drop the Ball on Your Restaurant’s New Year’s Eve Events

Confetti

The beginning of a new year is an exciting time! People use it as a clean slate and a way to start over. Have your customers end their year and turn over a new leaf in your restaurant with New Year’s Eve promotions that will let them have the time of their life (*cues up Dirty Dancing theme*).

Choose Your Atmosphere

People Dancing on New Years Eve

When you think of New Year’s Eve, sounds of champagne bottles popping and glasses clinking may come to your mind in a more adult setting. But the beauty of a New Year’s Eve party is that it can be geared toward whatever audience you want! While it obviously works well in bars, there are other establishments that can still get in on the holiday festivities. Are most of your customers families with younger children? Have a New Year’s Eve early dinner with kids’ activities and crafts so everyone can be entertained. Even breakfast joints can get in on the celebration by hosting a New Year’s Day brunch and catch the crowd the morning after, bonus points if you have a build your own Bloody Mary bar.

Choose Your Theme

New Year's Eve Hat and Champagne

A theme is very important for creating hype and interest. It’s easy for customers to justify popping a bottle of champagne and watching the ball drop from the comfort of their homes, but a good theme can entice them to see the value in the experience (around 9% of Americans go out for New Year’s). Pick one that you think would be the most fun and memorable for your guests to enjoy. Some popular themes over the years include reality TV, roaring 20’s, beach, New Orleans, and 90’s throwback. Although a theme isn’t necessary (even just New Year’s Eve could be your theme!), it can really lend itself when you’re decorating your space and creating a memorable menu.

Choose Your Promotion Method

Tickets

The key to get people to show up? Make sure they know about it! With so many other holiday gatherings happening, all around a few weeks span, it’s important to promote your New Year’s Eve party around the beginning of December.

Try some of these methods to advertise your party and keep it marked on their social calendar.

  • Flyers in your restaurant, on community boards, and on customer receipts
  • Email blasts
  • Mentioned by staff
  • Menu inserts
  • Text alerts
  • Social media advertisement (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)

If you’ve had prior New Year’s events, be sure to send out notices to past attendees that they are not going to want to miss this year!

After you have their attention, consider selling ticket packages to the event. This can help lay out what guests can expect from the event and people are more likely to follow through if they have already paid the money upfront to attend an event. For example, packages could include appetizers, dinner, drink tokens, or even a champagne toast. Having these preset packages can help you order food/drinks appropriately for your crowd and prevent overcapacity. You could even incentivize your staff with who can sell the most tickets for a prize to keep them engaged and customers informed!

Choose Your Entertainment

Live Music Performance

Music or some sort of entertainment is a must for your New Year’s Eve party! Having entertainment completely transforms the whole feel for the evening. Whether it’s a DJ, live band, magician, or any kind of performer, give your attendees some sort of show they can enjoy while they wait for midnight. You can factor this into the cost of a ticket to your event.

But don’t forget to make a countdown announcement or put the ball drop on a few minutes before midnight so guests can officially ring in the new year as it happens.

Choose Your Staff

Bartenders at Bar

It may seem obvious that since your doors are open, you’ll need to schedule your staff. Customer service needs to be at its highest since your restaurant has transitioned to more of an event center than its normal eatery operations.

Bartenders should pay careful attention to how much guests are being served, since overserving is a big issue with the holiday. In fact, DUI arrests are at their highest between Thanksgiving and the end of New Year’s weekend. Having the right staff members on hand to make sure guests have a good and safe experience is crucial to helping everyone have a great time.

Planning a New Year’s Eve party for your restaurant may seem overwhelming but it’s a great way to bring your customers (and maybe some new faces) in for the holiday. A successful New Year’s event, especially those that are ticketed, can be a lucrative start to what may be a slower month in business.

Does your restaurant host an event for New Year’s Eve? What do you found that has worked for your business in the past? Tell us below!

What is a Gastropub?

The restaurant industry is filled with invention and creativity, the same can be said for the terminology. All too often, ‘restaurant words’ are thrown around, but their true meaning isn’t known. The term ‘gastropub’ fits right into that category.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines gastropub as a “pub, bar, or tavern that offers meals of high quality”, while the word broken down is a combination of the terms ‘gastronomy’ and ‘public house’. Gastropubs are a fusion of a casual dining atmosphere with elevated cooking techniques.

Gastropubs originated in London with The Eagle in 1991 and have risen in popularity across the pond in the U.S. over the past ten years.

A restaurant’s menu is a great indicator of whether it fits into the gastropub model or not. Looking at a gastropub’s menu, all the base items will likely consist of usual pub fare but garnished with specialty sauces or cheeses. Think bison burgers topped in smoked gouda cheese or fries with truffle mushrooms on them. It’s all about having a familiar food base for customers and then ramping it up with house made extras you won’t find anywhere else.

Special care is taken when the unique menu items are plated as well. There is a little more that goes into presenting these foods to the customer, in accordance to the gastronomy part of gastropub. Imagine salads that have fresh lemons squeezed over tops with a perimeter of dark balsamic dressing keeping the greens in. Think sandwiches layered with different toppings, topped off with a small molehill of scallions. The presentation is creative, but not stuffy.

Like a pub, spirits are still taken very seriously in gastropubs. Normally these businesses have lengthy lists of choices for their customers that cover liquors, wine, and the largest portion of that list, beers.

Gastropubs are a melting pot of the commonalities of traditional pubs combined with a higher-grade food experience, creating a unique niche of the restaurant industry.

Warm Up Your Restaurant With Distressed Thrasher Pine Table Tops

Each restaurant is unique in its own way, because of this we like to be able to offer our customers not only great furniture at even better prices, but many options as well. With that in mind, we are excited to announce a new product, the Distressed Thrasher Pine Table Tops.

The Thrasher Pine Table Tops are a great addition to any restaurant. They are built out of beautiful pine wood that is known for its uncommon knots, and great textures. It gives each table top a one-of-a-kind look that can’t be replicated. Often, owners are concerned that these grooves will make the tops more difficult to clean but because of the 10-sheen urethane premium top coat used to seal these tops, they smooth and easy to clean.

Another benefit of the pine wood is that it is resistant to shrinking and swelling caused by variances in temperature and moisture. Exposure to differing temperatures, as well as the humidity of the surrounding air can lead to changes in the wood. This leads to less warping or cracking when the weather changes.

These table tops are covered in a distressed bourbon stain that is a dark, warm shade of brown. The unique grooves of the table are highlighted due to the staining process that we use. This color has a visual warmth that pairs well with all types of lighting and many design styles.

The Thrasher Pine Tops are built by our in-house Amish craftsmen and are available in a variety of shapes and sizes.

 

To make these beautiful table tops yours head on over to our Distressed Pine Table Tops page and start shopping!

What to Consider Before Opening Your Restaurant for Breakfast

Waiter Serving Breakfast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Straws: Plastic and Pollution on Our Planet

Plastic Straws in Drinks

 

A little background…

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

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

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

What’s the issue?

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

What are other companies doing about straws in their restaurant?

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

What do restaurant owners need to consider?

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

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

 

Plastic and Paper Straws

 

What can I do in my restaurant?

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

Sippy-type cup (aka no straws)

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

Paper straws

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

Metal straws

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

Pasta straws

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

Compostable straws

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

Available upon request

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

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

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

Pairing Beer and Pizza: What You Need to Know

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

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

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

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

Cheese Pizza and ESB (Extra Special Bitter)

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

Pepperoni and Black IPA

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

Meat Lovers and Scotch Ale

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

Hawaiian and Blonde Ale

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

Barbecue and Rauchbier

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

Veggie and IPA

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

Chicago Deep Dish and Zwickelbier

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

Buffalo Chicken Pizza and Fruity IPA

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

White Pizza and Light Ale

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

 

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

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

 

 

What is the Difference Between Reclaimed and Distressed Wood Tables?

FAQ's From the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

If somebody had told you twenty years ago that, in 2018, restaurants would be lining up to serve their food on tables made from century old barnwood, you probably would have laughed and thought they were crazy.  It’s true!  Everything old is new again, and the trend toward modern rustic decors in the restaurant industry means that old reclaimed wood tables are more popular than ever.  It’s kind of ironic when you think that restaurants, in their race to create the ultimate “Insta-worthy” moment for customers armed with tiny computers that weren’t even possible in the 20th century, are turning to the past for their inspiration.

You may or may not know this, but reclaimed wood isn’t the only way to get a weathered, rustic looking table.  In fact, given the relative scarcity of reclaimed wood, and subsequent higher price, many restaurants are turning to distressed new wood to meet their needs.  In this article, we’re going to talk about both types of wood tables, including what they are, the benefits of each, and when to choose one over the other.

What is Reclaimed Wood?

Reclaimed wood is old wood that has outlived its intended use – a barn, boat, flooring, wine barrel, etc – and is repurposed for some other use.  Technically reclaimed wood doesn’t have to be old, but older wood is more highly sought after.  Wood from “old growth” trees, such as those that were abundant in the 19th and early 20th centuries has a number of advantages over modern lumber; it is denser than new wood and less prone to warping.

What Are the Benefits of Reclaimed Wood

Character – Character is a word that is often thrown around when talking about reclaimed wood: most often as a euphemism for old and time worn.  The rich colors and patinas that are the hallmark of reclaimed wood can only be had through constant weathering and aging.  Even more, the old nail holes, knots, and natural imperfections of the wood itself add to the unique character of reclaimed wood.

History – Every restaurant has tables, but not every restaurant can say that their tables came from a salvaged barn erected in a field in Ohio in the late 1800’s.  Reclaimed wood is not only prized for its utility, but also for its story.  Even if you don’t know the exact origin of the wood in your table, the fact that it served a completely different purpose for the first half of its life is a worthy story in and of itself.

Uniqueness – No two reclaimed tables are exactly alike because no two reclaimed boards are exactly alike.  Think about that for a moment…in today’s day and age of mass production, it’s still possible to own something that is uniquely yours.  Each reclaimed piece in your restaurant will share the same benefits and characteristics, but no two will look the same.  Even if your table is one hundred percent red oak from the same barn, each board will have weathered slightly different, and will have its own unique coloration, textures, and natural imperfections.

Resilience – What happens to wood in a barn?  It gets banged up, scratched, and dented.  Now quick, what happens to wood tables in a restaurant?  They get banged up, scratched, and dented.  The beauty of reclaimed wood lies in its imperfections.  Unlike a brand new, perfectly stained wood table, reclaimed wood looks ok if it gets a little beat up.  Now that’s not to say that we would encourage damaging your table on purpose, but it is nice to know that one little scratch or dent won’t completely mar the look, it will just add more character.

Environmentally Friendly – One of the biggest benefits of using reclaimed wood is that it reduces the number of new trees that are cut down to be used as building materials.  It also reduces the harmful emissions that are created by logging equipment and the trucks used to transport the lumber to factories for processing.  In addition, it keeps a perfectly reusable resource out of the landfill and gives the old wood a new life.

What is Distressed Wood?

Distressed wood is new wood that has been artificially distressed and/or weathered to make it appear old.  Distressing techniques often include putting nail holes in the boards, creating circular saw marks to replicate vintage logging techniques, or adding a patina to the wood so that it looks like it has aged over decades of use.

What Are the Benefits of Distressed Wood

Consistency – If you need a consistent look throughout your restaurant, then distressed wood is the answer.  While it isn’t mass produced, distressed wood boards tend to look similar in that the same distressing process is applied to all of them.  They may have marks in different spots, but the overall color and pattern of wear is usually the same.

Price – Reclaimed wood is more expensive than distressed wood because it is labor intensive, and due to supply and demand pressures.  As the demand for reclaimed wood has blown up in the past 5 years, the price has risen; there are only so many old barns available to reclaim.   If you are looking for a rustic look without paying for reclaimed wood, then look at distressed wood.

Colors – Distressed wood can be stained to whatever color you want while keeping the characteristics of the wood, whereas reclaimed wood looks best in its natural color.

Reclaimed vs Distressed Wood Table Tops

Should I Choose Reclaimed or Distressed Wood for My Restaurant Tables?

The answer to this is, as always, it depends.  If you are looking for an authentic rustic look with a story behind it, then reclaimed wood is definitely the way to go.  If, on the other hand, you’re budget conscious and just want consistently great tables that look vintage, then you can’t go wrong with a distressed wood table.  Either way, your customers will start taking out their phones to snap away as soon as they enter the place.

If you need help figuring out what type of table would work best for your restaurant, give our customer care team a call at (800) 986-5352 and we’ll be happy to assist you.

Introducing the Toledo Backless Bar Stool

Toledo Backless Bar Stool

Design is cyclical, and this draftsman-esque bar stool has made its way back around. You’ve probably even seen a similar backless style pushed up against a kitchen island in the current issue of your favorite home magazine. While Toledo stools all over are bringing vintage metal work back into kitchens and dining rooms, it’s also finding its place in restaurant design. Using a 16-gauge steel frame and industrial-era finish, the Toledo Backless Bar Stool can bring the same mid-century look to your restaurant with commercial-grade strength.

Toledo Backless Bar Stool Finishes

This bar stool has a stylized metal seat, a 360° swivel, and an ornate foot metal foot ring that completes the vintage feel. The Toledo Bar Stool sits fixed at commercial bar height; it has a height adjustment lever that is purely intended to complete the vintage look and is not functional.

Backless bar stool designs are great for smaller bar areas because they take up less space by being backless. The ornate foot ring at the bottom of the Toledo gives it a larger footprint, letting your customers still have wiggle room.

The Toledo Backless Bar Stool has a niche look that you get to customize! First, choose between an antique gray and rustic brown finish, then, choose your seat. You can either leave the seat as the standard metal or upgrade to a vinyl, urban distressed wood, or reclaimed wood seat. With so many options to choose from, you can be sure that the Toledo bar stool will match your bar space or table tops.

See the Toledo Backless Bar Stool and other restaurant furniture with the industrial look here.

How to Update Your Menu to Better Serve Your Customers

When to Change Your Restaurant Menu

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cafe Menu

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

Go Crafty.

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

Digital World.

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

Make it Special.

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

Drink Seasons.

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

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

Should I Have Round or Square Tables in My Restaurant?

Round vs Square Tables

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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