Restaurant Trends

6 Ingredients that Will Be on Every Menu in 2020

The year is drawing to a close. That means it’s prediction time! What will be the must-have menu ingredients in the first year of the new decade? 

Some trends from 2019 are still riding their wave (hello, CBD!). But there are some food items that are going to have their own moment in the coming year.

One consistent theme in 2020? Health and sustainability. Next year’s trends are big on reducing the ecological impact of the food and restaurant industry, while also providing maximum nutritional benefit to the consumer. 

Read on for the ingredients that you’re about to see everywhere in the new year!

1. Plants, plants, plants

With people more concerned than ever about the environment, health, and animal rights, plant-based diets are a natural outcome. 

2019 brought us the rise of meat substitutes like the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat. These ingredients have shown many restaurateurs that there’s a big market for meat-free dishes. Those alternatives will continue to be popular, with fast-food chains like Burger King hopping on the bandwagon with their Impossible Whopper. 

But 2020 will bring a new focus on hearty, healthy veggies, instead of just meat substitutes. People want to eat real, nourishing food. So it’s time for veggies to be the star of the show. And remember, many of these diners aren’t full-time vegans. They’re Flexitarians who are trying to limit their intake of animal products. 

How you can stay on-trend? Make sure your plant-based offerings aren’t an afterthought. Don’t just sub out the chicken for some tofu. Instead, source high-quality produce that can be the star of the show. Provide a few well-thought-out vegan entrees to earn a reputation as a place where all diets are welcome.

2. Wild mushrooms

Wild mushrooms have a little mystery that restaurant-goers find irresistible. They have to be found and foraged, instead of grown. And the expertise required to identify the safe species from the poisonous is literally a matter of life and death. 

These adaptable fungi will be found in entrees, appetizers, and even some drinks in the coming year. Their meatiness makes them a great substitute for animal protein. And their glutamate levels add richness and umami without increased sodium. 

Chanterelle, trumpet, Lion’s Mane, reishi, and maitake mushrooms are just some of the species that we’ll be seeing on menus in 2020. 

3. Alternative Greens

It’s time to switch up our salads. There are fresh, interesting greens coming to a restaurant menu near you. Consumers are ready to ditch the romaine and iceberg in favor of leafy alternatives. With recent concerns about the safety of these overdone lettuces all over the news, the shift is a timely one. 

One of these interesting greens is celtuce. While it sounds like a hybrid of lettuce and celery, it’s actually a naturally occurring veggie, native to China. The leaves and stem are both edible, with a slightly nutty flavor. The stem can retain its crunch, even after cooking. It makes a great substitute for celery or cucumbers. 

Another great option is Little Gem. This small lettuce tastes like a cross between romaine and butter lettuce. It has thick, juicy leaves that are more substantial than romaine. It’s perfect for salads or sandwiches. 

Also, keep an eye out for kale sprouts. This kale/brussel sprouts hybrid make a great side dish when sauteed with garlic and oil. 

4. Sustainable Seafood

Sustainable seafood has been a hot button issue for quite a while. Concerns about overfishing and bycatch have increased interest in sustainable fishing practices and species. 

Sustainability can include both farming and fishing methods. People have traditionally been wary of farmed fish. The process can contaminate surrounding waterways. Plus, fish can escape their pens, causing damage to the food chain and ecosystem. But there are reputable fish farms out there focused on production in an eco-friendly way. For example, recirculating tanks re-use water and prevent pollution and escape. 

Wild fishing methods have varying degrees of sustainability. Dredges and large nets can damage the seafloor environment and catch other species on accident. But longlines and trolling lines catch fish individually, reducing the number of unwanted species that get caught and allowing for their release. 

Expect to see an increase in smaller seafood species like turbot, uni, and abalone in the coming year. These smaller species take less time to reach maturity, meaning it’s easier to fish them in a sustainable way. They can also be better for consumers. By eating lower on the food chain, you reduce the amount of harmful mercury that you’d get in a larger species like tuna. 

Consumers are aware of the fragility of the oceans and want to feel like they’re contributing to the solution, rather than the problem. So an increase in sustainable species and cultivation methods will be a draw in 2020. 

For more information about sustainable seafood, visit Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. This website is a wonderful resource for fish types and catching methods that help restaurants and consumers to make eco-friendly choices.

5. Functional Beverages

It’s not enough for drinks to taste good. We want them to work for us, too. Drinks with a purpose will be all the rage in 2020. Kombucha and other fermented drinks are said to promote a healthy gut biome. Turmeric lattes may be able to help reduce inflammation. Collagen powder added to coffee or smoothies may improve the health of hair, skin, and nails. 

Moon milk is also gaining popularity. This drink contains delicious spices like cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, and nutmeg. But it’s the ashwagandha — a member of the nightshade family — that is said to help with everything from arthritis to anxiety. 

Spirulina, CBD, chlorophyll, bee pollen — all of these health aides will see a spike on restaurant menus in the coming year. The actual efficacy of these ingredients is still up for debate in scientific circles. But as far as customers are concerned, the possible benefits of these functional beverages are worth the extra cost. 

6. Low- and No-ABV Drinks

Technically this is an ingredient that will be missing from menus in 2020. And that ingredient is alcohol.

Many people are noticing a shift in the way people think about a night out. Rather than using any restaurant meal as an excuse to imbibe, many people are focusing more on the social aspect of their meal and avoiding the alcohol altogether. This “sober curious” movement has encouraged customers to try not reaching for that glass of wine every time they get together with their friends.

The result has been an increase in low ABV cocktails and mocktails on drink menus. These drinks still feature premium ingredients like fruit purees and herbs. They can still feel indulgent without the alcohol. 

There’s even a non-alcoholic spirit on the market called Seedlip. The varieties of this distilled non-liquor have herbal, citrus, and floral notes to mimic some of the most popular spirits normally used in cocktails. They add depth of flavor without the common impaired judgment of alcohol. 

Happy New Year!

Get in on next year’s trends by looking for interesting and sustainable alternatives to some of your current ingredients. Can you swap out hand caught yellowfin tuna for its overfished bluefin cousin? Source some Little Gem lettuce to replace that boring romaine? Replace a meat-focused entree with some cleverly cooked veggies?

Food trends for 2020 are all about doing good — good for your body and good for the planet. It’s amazing how often those two things coincide.

A Year in Review – 12 Restaurant Furniture Trends from 2019

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Just like in residential design, restaurant design sees dramatic changes in trends from year to year. While 2018 was a year of minimalism and Scandi-modern aesthetics, 2019 was all about warmth and coziness. These spaces encouraged people to settle in and stay awhile with their loved ones. It’s about maximizing the real-life experience — in an Instagram-worthy way. 

With that in mind, we’re looking back at the biggest restaurant furniture trends from 2019 to see what changed and what stayed the same.

1. Upholstered everything

While upholstered furniture may be a bit harder to keep clean than solid surfaces, it’s been having a moment in 2019. Fabric creates a cozier, warmer atmosphere, encouraging guests to sit back and indulge. 

Upholstery has been added to chairs, bar stools, and restaurant booths. Drapes and wall-hangings also saw an increase over the past year. These textiles made restaurant interiors feel more snug and high-end. And as an added bonus, all this extra fabric has helped with sound dampening, limiting echos and dining room noise.

2. Flexible seating

Modern restaurants often like to keep their options open. They want to be available for private parties, large-scale events, and possible changes in service style. That can be difficult to do when your restaurant seating is all un-movable booths.

In 2019, flexible seating options were on the rise. Combinations of standard and high-top tables, banquette seating, and communal tables let restaurant spaces function in many different ways. And portable tables and chairs mean the furniture can be rearranged as necessary.

3. Reclaimed wood

Reclaimed wood has been popular through most of the teens, and 2019 was no exception. This warm, organic material is as popular as ever. It’s eco-friendly and creates a rustic, one-of-a-kind furniture piece. It’s also strong and sturdy, able to stand up to years of use and abuse.

What was new in 2019 was the way reclaimed wood was incorporated into overall restaurant design. Instead of an uber-industrial space full of reclaimed wood, brick, and metal fixtures, fresh modern spaces were warmed up with this lovely material. 

4. Communal dining

The modern communal dining trend started as a reaction to the current societal dependence on our devices. Restaurants wanted to encourage people to have more conversations and spend less time on their phones.

The trend was still strong in 2019. Communal dining tables create a social atmosphere in your restaurant and fit more people into less space. Some restaurants choose to seat multiple small parties at their large tables. Others reserve their largest tables for large parties, so they can be sat together.

5. Deep, rich colors

A byproduct of the minimalist and Scandinavian-modern trends of previous years was a focus on white and other light colors. But in 2019, rich, warm colors made a comeback. Deep blues, greens, and reds made dining rooms feel snug and intimate. Plus, they made a great backdrop for the inevitable Instagram photos.

This trend appeared in seating upholstery, painted furniture, wallpaper, and window treatments. But these rich colors didn’t necessarily mean dark spaces. Saturated hues were combined with big windows and lots of indoor plants to keep things airy instead of oppressive.

6. Dark wood

Keeping with the reclaimed wood and rich color trends, dark wood was big in 2019. Walnut was particularly popular, with its natural variations in color. It’s a versatile material, able to fit in with other wood species and a variety of metal finishes. 

To stay modern, dark wood was often paired with bright colors and patterns for an unexpected contrast. 

7. Sustainability

Sustainability and eco-friendliness in both restaurant decor and operations is still going strong. This is hopefully less of a trend and more of a shift in mindset that will last for years to come.  

Furniture made of reclaimed and recycled materials is more popular than ever. Warm, eco-friendly woods like bamboo that grow quickly and produce very little waste are popular choices for restaurant furniture. Other choices include rattan and wicker. And for man-made products, restaurants are using furniture made from recycled materials. Poly lumber furniture, for example, is made of primarily recycled material.

This shift is being felt outside of furniture as well. LED lighting, composting programs, and waste reduction are all becoming standard at restaurants across the country.

8. Smaller furniture

With the meteoric rise in popularity of takeout and delivery services, restaurants have begun to shrink in size. It’s no longer about fitting as many customers into the dining room as possible. Instead, it’s about how many overall customers you can reach, both in-store and at home. 

This means that dining rooms are getting smaller. But it also means smaller furniture has been necessary in order to fit as many people as possible into a tighter footprint. 

Now, smaller tables are only possible in restaurants that are giving up the small plate trend. Five or six dishes won’t fit on a tiny table. Opinions are mixed as to whether small plates are played out or here to stay. But for the restaurants that stick with them, they have to keep tables of a decent size — or risk dropped plates and upset customers.

For space-saving seating, banquettes also saw a boost in popularity. These fixed, one-sided booths take up less space than chairs that need space to move in and out from the table.

9. Round booths

Related to both the upholstery and rich color trends, round booth seating had a moment in 2019. These booths were often covered in a rich fabric, like an emerald green or navy blue. They had low backs to provide a semi-private enclosure for the dinner party, while still letting customers see and be seen. 

This is a classic booth style, harkening back to restaurants of the 1930s and 1940s. While mid-century modern is still popular, the decades on either side (1930s, 40s, 70s, and 80s) also caught on in 2019.

10. Restaurant living rooms

Restaurant owners understand that not everyone who comes in wants to sit at a table for a formal meal. Some would like to gather around a high-top with friends, while others may like to lounge on a sofa sipping a cocktail. The key is to make your restaurant multi-use. Provide a variety of experiences, instead of just one.

Restaurant living rooms were on the rise in 2019, with more space reserved for couches and lounge furniture. Encouraging guests to settle in and linger over drinks makes them feel welcome. It’s all part of that coziness trend that was a major part of 2019.

11. Mixed styles

Eclectic was big in 2019. It wasn’t necessary (or cool) to have everything be too “matchy-matchy.” 

Instead, restaurant designers combined plush banquettes with modern chairs. Or they put 1960s-style lucite bar stools up against a traditional dark wood bar. Sleek modern tables were placed between rustic wood booths. Some chose to keep the style cohesive but attracted the eye with a mix of different vibrant colors.

Mixing furniture and decor styles created visual interest and unusual spaces. And it’s all about being unique. 

12. Multi-use pieces

With restaurant sizes shrinking, furniture pieces have to do double-duty. A bench isn’t just a bench — it’s a storage unit. That side table isn’t just to display flowers — it doubles as a part of the buffet for special events. The modular outdoor couches on the patio can be rearranged depending on the size of the event.

Even server stations and the host stand can serve multiple purposes. With more and more restaurants abandoning the stationary POS system for handheld devices, server stations are no longer restricted from movement. 

Conclusion

As the restaurant business changes, spaces have to evolve with them. Modern updates like an increased focus on technology and reliance on takeout and delivery are changing the purpose of some traditional restaurant spaces — and therefore the way they are designed. 

At East Coast Chair & Barstool, we can help you stay on-trend with our wide variety of restaurant furniture solutions. We stock Amish-built tables made from beautiful reclaimed barn wood, large communal tables for parties of every size, comfy lounge furniture, and more!

We’re looking forward to seeing what the big trends are for 2020!

8 Beer Trends that are Turning into Staples

For a while in the American beer community, it seemed like you had two main choices — light, thin lagers, or heavy, hoppy, bitter IPAs. Everything else was so niche you practically had to go to the brewery to get it.

But these days, that’s no longer the case. Craft beer has exploded over the past 20 years. About 7,500 craft breweries are currently in operation in the U.S., churning out fresh takes on classic beer varieties and coming up with completely new concoctions by the thousands.

All this innovation means beer styles that were a little “out there” a few years ago are now becoming necessities to their fans.

Here is a list of 8 beer trends that are turning into staples — and that you may want to put on your shelves!

1. Coffee Beers

The first examples of these breakfasty beers came out of the coffee-obsessed 1990s. Craft breweries Redhook, Dogfish Head, and New Glarus were pioneers, introducing the masses to the magical coffee stout. Founders’ Breakfast Stout followed, which has since developed a huge following. 

For a while, it seemed that only dark beers like stouts and porters would be kissed by coffee. But now, it’s been added to just about all styles — kolsch, saison, pale ale, lager, and many, many more. 

Coffee pairs well with other flavors like cinnamon, chocolate, vanilla, and fruit, making it ripe for experimentation. What used to be a niche offering is now common on tap walls and in bar refrigerators nationwide.

 2. Sour Beers

It may seem odd to call sour beer a “trend,” since the very first beers were sours. And even in modern times, Belgian sours have been part of the European brewery tradition since at least the 1830s. 

But in the U.S., sour beers weren’t imported until the 1970s. And it would be a few more decades before American breweries would try their hand at this finicky brewing method. 

Unlike most other beer styles, sour beers include some bacteria and wild yeast strains that give them their characteristic pucker and funk. On the bacteria side, lactobacillus turns sugar into lactic acid, and pediococcus adds acidity. Then brettanomyces, the wild yeast, adds earthiness. In some brewing methods, unfermented beer is actually left in the open air, where it can snatch wild microorganisms out of the air. This irregularity can make for interesting, if unpredictable, beer.

Sours experienced a quick explosion in popularity, from 45,000 cases of sour beer sold in 2015 to 245,000 cases in 2016. Growth has continued since then, although at a more reasonable rate. 

3. Autumn/Winter Beers

There was a time when we didn’t think about beer in terms of seasons. Beer was the same in January as it was in July. 

But then we discovered the joy of sweet pumpkin beer, stout Oktoberfest beer, malty Christmas beer…At this point, autumn and winter beers have become a class of their own. 

Blue Moon’s Harvest Pumpkin Wheat Ale was one of the first seasonal pumpkin beers when it was introduced in 1995. Other breweries followed suit over time, introducing their own seasonal sippers. Now, customers will go out of their way to find their favorite brewery’s seasonal option.

People have come to expect at least one fall seasonal on the tap wall at any place that claims to have a decent beer selection. Sample some of the local craft brewery’s options and add one to your list!

4. Session Beers

When IPAs started to gain traction, it seemed like lighter beers were the exclusive domain of the big boys like Budweiser and Miller. People who were serious about beer wanted big hops and high alcohol content.

But there was a big untapped market. Many beer drinkers wanted a beer they could drink throughout the evening — without becoming a slobbering mess — and that had flavor and nuance. 

Session beers provide major taste and lower alcohol. They can be enjoyed across a summer afternoon or through a 3+ hour football game. Popular versions include Founders’ All Day IPA and Anchor Steam. These beers go well with food, so they’re perfect additions to a restaurant’s beer menu!

5. Barrel-Aged

“Barrel-aged” refers not to a type of beer, but to a production method. As the name implies, barrel-aged beers are left to age in oak barrels where they adopt unique flavors from the wood — and the liquid that the barrel used to hold. 

Whiskey, bourbon, and red wine barrels are all used to barrel age beers. The method was first adopted in 1992 by Goose Island Brewery. Brewmaster Greg Hall needed to come up with something one-of-a-kind to commemorate the brewery’s 1,000th batch. He tried aging a stout in old Jim Beam barrels and ended up with the first bourbon barrel-aged beer.

The best beers for barrel-aging have strong flavors that won’t be overpowered by the wood. Porters, barleywines, and stouts are all good candidates. Sours can hold their own in the barrel-aging process as well — that’s two staples in one! 

6. Cider

While cider isn’t beer, it often appears on beer menus. And it’s giving other gluten-free options a run for their money. 

Cider has a long history in America. In fact, cider equipment was brought to the “New World” on the Mayflower! But beer gained a toehold in our hearts, and cider was all but forgotten. Then, in the early 2010s, a slow, quiet cider revolution began.

There are now about 500 craft cideries in the U.S. Cider brewers are experimenting with flavors like blood orange, rosé, and watermelon. And there are new dry versions as well, for those who don’t like sweet drinks. 

Part of cider’s appeal is that it’s naturally gluten-free. So it’s an easy choice for people with gluten intolerance. Cider’s star is on the rise, and many bars and restaurants are adding at least one cider variety to their drink offerings.

7. Nitro

Most beers are carbonated with carbon dioxide, which gives it that crisp, refreshing bite. But some beers are carbonated with more nitrogen than carbon dioxide. The resulting brew is smooth and velvety, with a thick head and bubbles that drop instead of rise. 

Guinness was the only nitro beer widely available in the U.S. for a long time. But now, many breweries are making their own version of this creamy beer. To provide a nitro beer on draft, you’ll need to purchase a nitrogen cylinder, regulator, and faucet. Or, you could just provide a canned version like Left Hand Milk Stout or Firestone Walker’s Nitro Merlin Milk Stout.

8. Local Everything

Most Americans live within 10 miles (on average) of a brewery or brewpub. And boy, do they like their home-grown beers. Sales of the five major American brewers (MillerCoors, Pabst, Heineken, Diageo, and Anheuser-Busch) declined 14% between 2007 and 2016 while sales of craft beers exploded. 

Why are local breweries doing so well? Well, there’s something to be said for supporting a company that’s part of your community. Local breweries often use local products when they are able, funneling money back into the area’s economy and using fewer resources to transport raw materials. In the current climate, shopping local and shrinking our carbon footprint is on a lot of people’s minds.

Craft beer sales account for 24% of the U.S. beer market. That market share continues to rise, even while overall beer sales have stayed relatively flat.

So what’s next?

Other trends to watch in the coming years? You’d have to live under a rock to not notice the proliferation of spiked seltzers over the past year or two. Also, look out for an increase in  low-cal beers, non-alcoholic beers, and “mocktails.” Health is on people’s minds more than ever before, and the result may be some major shifts in the way people indulge in their favorite libation. 

Cheers!


How to Market Your Restaurant’s Space for Events

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

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

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

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

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

Design a professional event deck 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reach out to local event companies

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

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

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

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

Skip the middle man

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

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

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

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

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

Peerspace

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

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

Social media 

You knew it was coming, right?

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

1. Reminders

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

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

2. Events in progress

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

Make sure to use event-focused hashtags, like:

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

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

3. Facebook ads

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

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

Let’s Party!

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

How to Profit from Your Restaurant’s Happy Hour

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

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

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

Legal landmines

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

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

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

Timing is everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Budget booze

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give ‘em a snack

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

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

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

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

Promote, promote, promote!

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Cheers!

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

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

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

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

What Is It?

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

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

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

Why Does it Work?

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

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

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

How Does it Work?

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

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

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

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

The Coupons and Envelopes 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tracking Your Success

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

How Your Restaurant Can Increase Business with a Delivery Service

Online food delivery is a big market, and it’s on track to get much bigger. This $22 billion industry is expected to reach $28.4 billion by 2023. In fact, the online ordering and delivery sector has grown 300% faster than dine-in sales since 2014!

Call it the Amazon effect, but our increasing reliance on ecommerce is spilling over into the way people choose to order food. In fact, one survey showed that 45% of people would be more likely to order from a restaurant that has a mobile ordering service. 

The increased popularity of these services has led to an explosion of options, from national to local versions. We’re going to explore some of the most popular services, how they work, and some ways to make the most out of them. 

National Delivery Services

There are a number of nationwide delivery services that have gained huge popularity in the past 5 to 10 years. 

When selecting a service, make sure to consider its convenience for your staff, costs to you, and costs to the consumer. If fees are too high for the customer at your restaurant’s price point, you may not see the boost in sales you’re hoping for. 

UberEats

With a well-established fleet of contracted drivers, Uber decided to expand into the food delivery world in 2014 with UberEats

How it Works

To use UberEats, customers place an order through the app on their smartphone or tablet. Restaurants are supplied with their own UberEats tablet, which will display the customer’s order. When the restaurant accepts the order, a driver is pinged and told when to pick it up based on the restaurant’s pre-selected prep time.

The payment is all done by the customer through the app, so no money exchanges hands when the driver arrives to pick up the food. UberEats also has a “closed bag” policy, meaning that orders are not inspected by drivers. They just pick it up and leave. So restaurants have to be very careful to get the order right.

Restaurant Costs

Restaurants have to pay a 30% fee on each sale to UberEats. If a dish costs the customer $10, $3 will go to UberEats. Some restaurants increase their costs on the platform to help cover these fees (although UberEats doesn’t encourage the practice).

Customer Costs

Customers pay a sliding scale delivery fee based on how close they are to the restaurant. Fees range from about $2 to $8. This could be great news if your restaurant is in a highly-populated area. But it could result in high fees if your restaurant is far from residential neighborhoods. UberEats can also implement surge pricing during particularly busy times. 

Customers must also pay a 15% service fee on their total orders, and a “small order fee” on orders less than $10. If you think many orders would be less than $10 total, you may want to consider a different delivery service to avoid the small order fee for your customers.

GrubHub

GrubHub was the first company to really disrupt the restaurant delivery service. They work with over 125,000 restaurants in the U.S. and London.

How it Works

Customers can place orders through the GrubHub app, or on www.grubhub.com. Restaurants can also add a GrubHub button to their websites, directing their web traffic to the online ordering platform. 

When the order comes through, the restaurant must accept it. Then a driver will be notified and will come to pick up the order and deliver it to the customer. 

Unlike most other delivery platforms that don’t work with any POS systems, GrubHub integrates with Breadcrumbs POS. If you’re already on that platform, it can provide a really simple, seamless way to manage your delivery orders.

Restaurant costs

Grubhub’s fees depend on your market and if you choose a sponsored or unsponsored listing. 

An “unsponsored listing” will not be prioritized in searches on the app. If you’re trying to get new business, this may not be the best choice for your restaurant, as you’ll be harder to find. But if your restaurant is already very popular and you anticipate people to search for it by name rather than cuisine, unsponsored may work for you. Fees range from 5-15% for this type of listing. 

A “sponsored listing” will be prioritized in search results. But you’ll still have to compete with all of the other sponsored restaurants. The fees range from 20 – 30% for a sponsored listing. 

There’s also a 10% delivery charge on top if you use GrubHub’s delivery drivers rather than your own. And there is a 3.05% + $0.30 credit card processing fee for each transaction.

Customer costs

GrubHub doesn’t charge anything directly to consumers, which is why the restaurant costs are higher.

Restaurants have some leeway on additional charges that they can asses to customers. They can set their own order minimums (usually around $10), small order fees, and delivery fees of $1 to $10. 

DoorDash

DoorDash is the leader in market share for third-party delivery. So the volume of orders that restaurants receive may be higher than on competing services.

How it Works

Customers place their orders through DoorDash.com or their app. Restaurants will receive orders either on a tablet or by email/fax. For fast food restaurants, the driver will place the order in person. Customers pay through the DoorDash app, and payments (minus fees) are provided to restaurants weekly.

Restaurant Costs

Total restaurant commissions range from 20-30%, depending on the market.

Customer Costs

Customers pay a $0.99 to $7.99 delivery fee, as well as a 7% to 15% service fee. 

Postmates

Unlike the rest of the services on this list, Postmates isn’t limited to restaurant orders. You can get just about anything via Postmates couriers, from lunch to a pair of socks to cough syrup.

How it Works

Postmates users place their orders through the app. But some orders are pre-paid, and others will be paid by the courier upon arrival with a corporate debit card. 

This method provides some flexibility. For example, if the restaurant has to make a substitution, the Postmates driver can confirm the change with the customer before finalizing payment. This way, Postmates won’t have to issue a refund to the customer. 

Restaurant costs

Postmates charges a 15 – 30% commission and discourages increasing prices to cover the fee.

Customer costs 

Customers can order from just about anywhere, whether the restaurant partners with Postmates or not. Delivery fees range from $0.99 – $3.99 for partners and $5.99 – $9.99 for non-partners.

There is also a “variable percentage-based service fee,” but details about that fee range proved elusive. The platform also has a small cart fee for orders under $12.00.

Postmates offers a monthly subscription plan for $9.99 per month or $83.99 annually.  Subscribers don’t have to pay the delivery fee if their order is more than $20.

Niche Delivery Services

Beyond these large delivery services, there are plenty of niche programs as well. Some focus on location. For example, Favor operates all across Texas. And Vroom services parts of Connecticut and New York.

Other services focus on a specific food category.

For example, Slice is a pizza delivery service that keeps restaurant rates very low — only $1.95 per order. Restaurants can set their own order minimums and delivery fees, which will go directly to the restaurant. There are no fees set by Slice that must be paid by the customer.

Caviar is another delivery service that focuses on higher-end restaurants. Restaurants must be accepted into the platform. This could be a great option for restaurants at a higher price point.

When selecting a delivery service, make sure to look at your smaller local providers. You may find an option with more favorable rates that can integrate with your website. 

Provide Commission-Free Takeout Ordering

Most of the delivery services offer a takeout option as well. But you should also provide a commission-free takeout platform. 

See if you can integrate your POS with your website for takeout orders. Or try a service like ChowNow, which charges a flat monthly fee instead of a commission. 

Make sure the online ordering system is easy to find with a clear, prominent “Order Online” button. This will encourage customers to order directly from you when they’re planning on picking up, saving you the fees associated with delivery services.

Use Delivery as a Marketing Tool

Due to the fees that these delivery services charge, you may consider them more of a marketing tool than an actual money maker for your restaurant. Take advantage of the marketing aspect by trying to earn your delivery recipient’s repeat business.

Put a coupon into the bag before it gets sealed for pickup, offering a 10% discount for dine-in only. This will encourage customers to visit in person.

Or put a card in the bag thanking the customer for their order, and encouraging them to follow your restaurant on social media. You could also ask them to leave you a review on Yelp or Google.

Another option – include a card in the bag telling customers to sign up for your email list or for text messages. Let them know that if they sign up for your list, they’ll get exclusive access to special events and even occasional discounts. 

Conclusion

Not all of these services will be the best fit for each restaurant. You’ll have to consider your profit margins and customer base before you can decide if one of these services is a good choice for you. 

Most services aren’t tied to contracts, so you should be able to try one out without making a commitment. But with the huge anticipated growth in the online ordering sector, it’s an option that customers are beginning to expect. 

Go Fish: How to Introduce Seafood to Your Restaurant

There are a lot of good reasons why you should have at least one seafood option on your menu. But the most logical reason is probably this — there are a lot of people out there who are concerned about their health. 

Seafood is high in protein and Omega-3 fatty acids. And it’s low in fat and cholesterol. Including a seafood option on your menu will encourage visitors who may not be interested in a heavy beef or pork dish. It’s a flavorful and filling alternative to chicken — the most consumed protein in America. 

If you’re interested in adding some seafood to your menu, here are some tips on how to go about it.

Safety first

Seafood has some special considerations that must be taken into account when adding it to your kitchen. 

Freshness

Order your fish as fresh as possible. If you’re bringing in a special variety for a Saturday special, don’t order it for Monday delivery. Fish should be frozen or packed tightly on ice when it’s delivered to your restaurant. Make sure to store non-frozen seafood in your walk-in or refrigerator below 41°F. 

Tools

If you’re adding a shellfish that requires shucking like oysters or clams, make sure you have the proper equipment. You’ll need a clam knife or oyster knife, to start. Get the right tool for your particular mollusk. Using the wrong tool can result in injuries. 

You’ll also want a metal shucking glove. These are basically a glove of chain mail, meant to protect your cook’s hand if they slip with the knife. They are a bit cumbersome, but driving a chef to the emergency room during the dinner rush will be much more inconvenient!

You may also want a fish scaler. This tool looks like a serrated spatula, and you can use it to descale a fish. It’s probably only necessary if you plan on cooking and serving whole fish with the skin on.

Allergies

Over 2% of American adults have some kind of seafood allergy. In fact, fish and shellfish are two of the “big 8” of the allergy world, along with milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy. 

So it’s vital that your kitchen prevent cross-contamination. That means using separate knives, cutting boards, pots, and pans for all fish and shellfish dishes. And make sure kitchen staff knows to change their gloves after handling seafood. 

Before bringing seafood into your kitchen, make sure to check with your local health department for any storage or handling regulations.

Fresh vs. frozen

Contrary to what some people think, it’s possible to get excellent quality frozen seafood. In fact, if you live inland, frozen seafood will probably be a better choice for your restaurant. 

Consider the logistics of the fishing trade. The boat is out on the water for several days, pulling in fish from the line. The fish has to stay on the vessel until it comes back into port. So a fish could be three days old before it even reaches land. And then the fish has to be put on a truck or airplane, before finally making its way to your walk-in.

If you live on the coast, you’ll have that fish in a day or two. But if you’re in Lincoln, Nebraska, that fish could be almost a week old by the time it gets to you.

But some fishing vessels flash freeze the fish they catch straight off the line. The freezing process will arrest the aging of the fish after it’s been caught. If it’s handled well, frozen properly, and thawed slowly in a refrigerator, the flavor and texture of that frozen fish might just outshine the “fresh” version.

Take advantage of seafood’s versatility

Seafood is far more versatile than many of us imagine. No matter what kind of cuisine you serve, there is room for some kind of seafood dish on the menu.

A brunch-focused restaurant could add cured Nova lox to the menu, served in an omelet or with a bagel and cream cheese. If you serve New American or gastropub fare, cured fish and seafood pâté on a charcuterie board will do very well! 

Seafood is very popular in much Central and South American cuisine. Traditional dishes like ceviche, tapado (Guatemalan seafood stew), and whole grilled fish will impress diners. And seafood curries, like Thai choo chee fish or South Indian Rasam soup bring a little spice to the sea.

People love to experiment with new flavors. So try to present a seafood dish in a new and unusual way. 

If you’re concerned about sales volume, there’s no need to go over the top adding several kinds of seafood at once. A single dish will do until you establish how it’s received. Or see if you can add two different dishes based on one kind of seafood. A shrimp cocktail appetizer and a shrimp stew entree will let you buy once and cook twice.

Promote health

There are few things tastier than a delicious fish fry. Beer battered and golden brown, served with a side of fries and tartar sauce? Yes please. 

But don’t limit seafood options to the deep-fried variety. Since seafood has so many health benefits, include some lighter options. 

Including fish or shrimp as an add-on to the salad menu lets guests create a filling meal (plus it’s a great upcharge.) And grilled fish is a delicious treat that most people don’t tackle at home. If you grill and serve it whole, you’ll have a unique plate to present to your guests.

Consider sustainability

The environment is a hot button issue right now. But whatever your opinion on climate change, one thing is for sure — overfishing is a big problem. 

Fish species like bluefin tuna, Atlantic cod, and Chilean sea bass have been overfished almost to the point of extinction. And even abundant species like some salmon and albacore can be unsustainable when fished with destructive methods. 

Bottom trawls and dredges scrape the ocean floor to catch bottom-dwellers like shrimp and lobster, but they damage the seafloor habitat in the process. Large walls of gillnets catch plenty of salmon and perch, but they can also entangle vulnerable sea turtles and sharks.

Even farmed fish aren’t problem-free. Net pens concentrate pollution from the fish raised in them, which then damages the local ecosystem. And this can contribute to widespread disease through the fish colonies.

But none of this means that you shouldn’t add seafood to your menu. 

Sustainable fishing methods like trolling lines, handlines, and pole-and-lines all minimize the accidental capture of vulnerable species. Plus they don’t damage the seafloor. 

Farming methods like recirculating tanks or flow through raceways allow for fresh, clean water to reach the fish. They also allow for wastewater treatment before contaminants affect surrounding areas.

Even sushi restaurants can fill their menus with sustainable and responsible fish. Austin, Texas restaurant Lucky Robot has managed to create a sushi menu with no bluefin tuna, no eel, and no hamachi — three items that are ubiquitous on sushi menus. 

Instead of bluefin, they serve Hawaiian line-caught bigeye tuna. Eel has been replaced with a clever unagi-style BBQ catfish. And instead of hamachi, they serve Hawaiian amberjack. They’ve found that people will try new things if given the opportunity. And they’ll appreciate your conscientiousness as well.

To learn about the least at-risk seafood and the best fishing and farming methods, go to  https://www.seafoodwatch.org/. This website by the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a goldmine of education. 

Educate your staff

The menu is set, the ordering is done, and you’re ready to go! Now it’s time to talk to the front lines.

Make sure your FOH staff is well-versed in your seafood dishes. Give them some good comparisons that they can use for guests who might not be familiar with the new menu options.

For example, Arctic char is a fish that many people may not have heard of. Give your servers a couple talking points that guests can relate to. “It’s moderately firm, not flakey like cod. It tastes a bit like a cross between a trout and salmon. And it has a peachy pink color.” Now the guest has an idea of flavor, color, and texture. 

Make sure staff also knows where the fish came from. Is it farmed or wild? Fresh or frozen? People may want to know. If it’s farmed, they should know the name of the farm, as some are more reputable than others. 

Conclusion

Seafood will be a welcome addition to the menu for many of your guests. Whether they’re looking for a lighter option or just something different, seafood can be the answer. Have fun with it, and get creative!

How to Transition Your Menu for Fall

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

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

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

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

Appetizers

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

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

Salads

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

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

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

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

Sides

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

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

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

Entrees

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

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

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

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

Warming spices and flavors

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

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

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

Desserts

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

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

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

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

Cocktails and Coffee

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

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

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

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

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

Descriptions

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

The Windsor Style Throughout History

There are no styles of furniture more associated with Colonial America than the Windsor style —  specifically, Windsor chairs. 

Airy yet sturdy, Windsor furniture is characterized by its delicately turned spindle backs and sculpted wooden seats. These pieces have straight legs that splay out at an angle, usually connected by an H-shaped stretcher for stability. And the back of Windsor chairs usually reclines.

Of course, like most things that America popularized during the 1700s, the Windsor chair has its origins somewhere else. 

The Windsor’s Origins

The chair’s roots trace back to the English town of Windsor, as long ago as the early 18th century. According to legend, King George II was out fox hunting when he was surprised by a downpour. He took refuge in a nearby cottage, where he found a crude chair with a spindle back. The king liked it so much that he had his royal furniture makers create his own for Windsor Castle. And thus, the trend was born. The truth of this story is debated, but it’s a good one nonetheless.

By the 1730s, Windsor chairs had come to Philadelphia, where they quickly spread to the rest of the colonies. Windsor furniture exploded into a booming industry. But as usual, American craftsmen weren’t content to simply adopt the English way of doing things. Instead, they made the chair their own.

To start, American builders removed the central “splat” that was common in the English version. This splat was a flat decorative piece of wood arranged in the center of the chair back, with spindles on either side. 

The Americans preferred a simpler look, with spindles making up the entirety of the chair back. They also made the legs narrower, and introduced the continuous arm, which was made of one solid piece of bent wood that curved along the back of the chair. 

Nails were generally unneccessary for the construction of Windsor furniture. Rather, the unseasoned wood components were all fitted together, and as they dried, the holes shrunk to create a tight fit. 

Types of Windsor Chairs

The American Windsor evolved into several basic styles, with hundreds of variations.

Bow Back

The bow back is framed by a single piece of curved wood that connects directly to the seat. Spindles of different heights follow the seat perimeter and connect to the bow at the top.

Low Back

The low back chair ends at about mid-back height, instead of extending up to head height.

Comb Back

The spindles on a comb back Windsor chair are all the same height. They connect about half-way up the spindle to a “center rail”, and at the top to a broad “handle”. This termination point gives the back the look of a hair comb

Hoop Back

The hoop back Windsor has a center rail that divides the spindles horizontally. This center rail curves past the spindles to form arms. 

Fan Back

Like the comb back, the fan back chair has spindles of a uniform height that meet a handle piece at the top. But the fan back has no center rail. Instead, there are two heavier turned stiles on the outside of the spindles to create stability. 

Writing Arm

The writing arm Windsor has a small desk piece attached to the right arm of the chair. This convenient addition made a comfortable place to write letters without requiring a large desk. Some writing arm chairs also had a small drawer beneath the desk where people could keep paper, pen, and ink stand. 

American Windsor furniture was usually made of several cheaper types of wood instead of one expensive hardwood. So they were painted to hide this mismatch. Common colors were red, yellow, blue, and especially green and black. They were sometimes decorated more extensively, with flowers, vines, and pastoral scenes. 

Windsor Chairs in History

The hoop back Windor chair in particular is practically synonymous with the American Revolution. This style shows up in paintings of the Second Continental Congress, as they were the chairs used in the Philadelphia State House in 1770s. They were made by Philadelphia furniture maker Francis Trumble, one of the era’s most prolific chair makers.

And they were popular at home too. Records show that Windsor chairs were owned by the likes of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. 

But they weren’t limited to indoor use. Some of the early American uses of Windsor chairs were in gardens and patios. 

In fact, the Washingtons were such fans that George Washington had 27 of them on the portico at Mount Vernon. And Martha Washington even had a Windsor high chair for her grandchildren, whom she raised

Thomas Jefferson also wrote the Declaration of Independence while sitting in a Windsor chair. He had a special revolving version that let him spin in his seat — the first example of a swivel chair!

The style was popular beyond just chairs. Settees for two or three people, rockers, high-backed or low-backed bar stools, and small side tables were all made in the Windsor style. Small tables would have three legs instead of three, and would be just large enough for a candle or cup of tea.

Part of what made these pieces so popular was the interchangeability of their components. Starting in the 1800s, manufacturers made spindles, legs, and seats, and shipped them to furniture makers for assembly. This partial mass-production made them affordable. 

Farmers and tradespeople could also make their own Windsor chairs, using turned spindles and legs that they could buy pre-made, and fashioning their own seats at home.

They were also a popular export particularly to Canada, Nova Scotia, and England.

The Golden Age of Windsor chairs lasted until about 1860, when they fell out of fashion during the Civil War and Restoration period. But the Colonial Revival of the 1910s brought them back into vogue. Another resurgence occurred in the 1980s, and they’re still popular today. 

Windsor Furniture Today

The general design of Windsor furniture makes them a comfortable classic. Collectors pine after Colonial Windsors in original condition. Unfortunately, many were stripped of their paint in the mid-1900s, when bare pine was in vogue. And many more were painted over, as their original finishes chipped and cracked. But a chair with its original paint could be worth $5,000 to $12,000 today! 

There are new versions as well, built both on a mass scale and hand-made by artisans. The art of the hand-made Windsor is still alive, with prices for a new custom piece ranging from $500 to thousands of dollars.

Windsor bar stools in particular are having a moment, with the current popularity of the large kitchen island. They provide a comfortable backrest, while their delicate spindles don’t hinder sightlines between kitchen and living space. 

And there are variations on the style, too. There are metal versions, brightly colored options, and sleek mid-century-inspired styles on the market as well. Check out our steel Windsor chairs and bar stools in powder-coated black or weathered iron!

Conclusion

The Windsor style has been a mainstay of American furniture since before there was an America. It’s hard to think of any other style of furniture that has been popular for so long. After enduring for nearly 300 years, it could easily be around for 300 more!