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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!


Give Your Restaurant Patio a Furniture Overhaul with the Luca and Lena Outdoor Collections

The Luca with Poly Collection in Lime Green on Patio with Table

Shake up your restaurant’s patio this year with our latest outdoor furniture lineup! Sticking to notable restaurant trends like mid-century modern shapes and the mixing of materials, these fresh new designs can upgrade your outdoor area and give it new life.

Whether you want to add a pop of color with the Luca with Poly Collection or stick to the classic dark silhouettes of the Luca or Lena Collection, East Coast Chair & Barstool has the right look for your patio.

The Luca Collection

Luca Collection

Straight lines and ladder back design give the Luca Collection bar stools and chairs their mid-century look. Don’t let these tapered legs fool you, the Luca Collection frames are made from e-coated steel and are fully welded, adding weight that’s great for patios subject to windy seasons. The frame has a black Sandtex finish that prevents rust and keeps this collection looking great for many patio seasons to come.

The Lena Collection

Lena Collection

Throw your patio design a curve ball with the Lena Collection bar stool and chair. This design features a twist on the traditional ladder back with a rounded top bracing and comfortable seat. Like the Luca Collection, the Lena’s e-coated steel frame with a black Sandtex finish presents a durable front against the weather.

The Luca with Poly Collection

Luca with Poly Collection

Combine the strength of a steel frame and poly lumber slats with the Luca with Poly Collection and add a little extra personality. This bar stool, chair, and side chair are e-coated to prevent rust and increase durability. To personalize this collection, choose from over 25 domestic poly lumber colors for the back and seat. Versatile with a splash of color, create your patio’s color scheme with the Luca with Poly Collection.

The Luca Collection Table Tops

Luca Collection Tables

Classic black never goes out of style, especially for your restaurant’s patio. The Luca Collection Table Tops have a durable e-coated steel frame that’s held together with stainless steel hardware. These table tops can blend right into your patio’s look and pair well with the Luca, Lena, and Luca with Poly furniture collections. They also feature slits that not only look great but make it easy for water to drain from the table top. Keep your customers cool by using the Luca Collection Tables’ umbrella hole and adding an umbrella.

Check out these brand-new collections on our website and in our catalog. If you have questions about the Luca or Lena Collections, please feel free to reach out to our customer care team by calling 800-986-5352.

What Other Restaurants Can Learn from “Build Your Own Meal” Concepts

There is no restaurant concept more creative than being one step away from literally putting customers behind a prep table or oven. We’re talking about “build your own meal” restaurant concepts and why they flourish. Popular examples of restaurants that use this concept include Blaze Pizza, Chipotle, Noodles and Company, and Burgatory. These restaurants put the creativity in customers hands as they select the ingredients and toppings that are going into their entrée, with endless possibilities.

See how this concept works and how you can shake up your restaurant’s processes with these tips!

Smooth Ordering

Long gone are the days of ‘can you put the tomatoes on the side?’ and ‘can I substitute kale for lettuce?’ Commonly these restaurants use an assembly line system where the meal and customer move down the line or, at sit-down establishments, customers fill out a check list of everything they want on their entrée.

This should also reduce the margin for error with a server taking down an order. It’s easier for something to be misheard and written down incorrectly at a bustling restaurant versus a customer putting a tick mark next to jalapenos.

The typical ordering process for these restaurants allows customers to order comfortably and not have to communicate their likes and dislikes to a waiter- picky eaters unite! It can also save the staff time going through each option with the customer.

What you can do in your restaurant: Streamline the order process for customers by breaking it down, step by step. Start with the base meal and work your way up with options. For example, start with the different kinds of meat they can choose for their burger. Then, work to buns, cheese, toppings, and sauces to finish their order.

Transparency

With “build your own meal” concepts, restaurants are forced to be upfront and honest about their ingredients. It’s likely you’ve been to eateries where you can see their ingredients behind a sneeze guard and they aren’t really looking as “fresh” as they say (here’s looking at you, Subway).

When customers are building their meals down the line or even from a notepad, they want to see basic options, as well as some places they can get a little creative. These ingredients need to look and sound (if written) appetizing to invite customers to have a little fun with their food.

Restaurants offering truly fresh ingredients can make customers can feel good about what they’re choosing to put into their bodies. So, try partnering with local farms to get fresh produce or meat. This is not only a mutually beneficial partnership but will promote local sustainability and sourced foods as well.

What you can do in your restaurant: Label, label, label! If ingredients are gluten-free, vegetarian/vegan-friendly, or soy-based, let customers know. The more detailed you can be with your ingredients, the better.

Experience

The modern restaurant is moving toward these customized experiences, like “build your own meal”, because it integrates the customers into the theatrics. Dinner becomes much more like a production than just ordering tacos a specific way, it’s a curated food adventure. 

With the possibilities of “build your own meal” concepts, customers could come ten times to your pizza place but have a different experience every single time based on their choices.

There is just a little ego-building that goes into “build your own meal” concepts. Customers are being asked to take the reins, so it’s up to them what they create. If they create something they love or is just not quite what they were hoping, there’s a possibility they’ll be back to tweak it so it’s perfection.

Try also featuring a combination of the month. This could spark a customer’s creativity while also enticing people to stop by!

What you can do in your restaurant: When you make your list of ingredient choices, make sure to not offer flavors that will ruin a customer’s meal. For example, if a customer has decided to float their burger in a marmalade and they’re not satisfied with their meal, technically, that was their choice, but you don’t want that to impact their possibility of a return visit.

The trend of putting the customer in control works seamlessly with “build your own meal” concepts because of their smooth ordering process, transparency, and experience value. Putting the customer in charge really changes the whole dynamic of a restaurant’s traditional business model.  

Would you ever try adding “build your own meal” aspects to your menu offerings? Let us know in the comments below.

6 Resolutions You Need to Keep for Your Restaurant

The start of a new year can bring excitement and an extra boost of motivation to get your restaurant on track for a successful year. Resolutions aren’t just for your personal life, they are great for setting goals for your business as well. Now is the perfect time to refocus your intentions and evaluate your restaurant’s performance up to this point. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in business five years or fifty years, this self-reflection can reignite your excitement for your business.  

Here are some resolution ideas that can help set your restaurant on the path to success for the year:

Improve food inventory management.

Fruits and Veggies on Table

Work together with your food purchaser to know exactly how often certain foods are ordered and how quickly they’re being used up. You’ll also want to meet with your cooks and waitstaff about how ingredients and products are being used. After conducting a food waste audit, create a system that will let you use your orders to the fullest, with as little waste as possible.

According to the “Restaurant Food Waste Action Guide” created by ReFED (a collaboration of private, nonprofit, and public-sector leaders to reduce food waste in the United States), the tracking of thrown away food could cut food costs by two to six percent. Not only can this reduce food waste for the planet, it will also save you from buying unnecessary products that end up going to waste.

Get (more) involved in your community.

Food Specials on Counter

Plan out events for the year that will drive customers to your restaurant for an extra meal and even add some new faces to your regular crowd.

Is there a big local rivalry game coming up? Offer specials customized to that event and put together a theme night. Want to partner with other businesses? Spearhead hosting a festival so that other businesses can show off their wares and you’ve got the food covered.

Give back more.

Volunteers

Have you been approached for a charitable fundraising event but not sure how to accomplish it? Set up guidelines and a fundraising packet to give to interested organizations. This way both parties know what they can expect, and the process is streamlined, making it easy to collaborate.

Not only will customers appreciate your business supporting causes they care about, you might even gain new customers that wouldn’t have come in otherwise.

Know when to delegate.

Daily Schedule Report

You don’t need to be the jack of all trades to have a successful restaurant, but you do need to know how to manage your time effectively to best serve your business. This requires knowing when you should take on a task and when you need to delegate it to others.

Take the time to be serious about setting your calendar and the server schedule. This will help you be more realistic about the free time you have and where you’ll need to pull another manager or staff member to pick up the slack.

Hiring with intent.

Staff Helping Customers

Increase the thought behind when you hire someone. Yes, you are always hiring with specific tasks in mind, but are you just finding any warm body to do them? It’s important to find hard-workers that are self-starting and motivated.

Take the time to analyze your current staff as well. Compare how long they’ve been there to see what is working. If you’re having trouble with hiring, look at how the benefits/perks you’re offering stack up against similar restaurants in your area.

Commit to safety.

Fire Extinguisher on Floor

Staying current on OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requirements for your restaurant is not only smart, it’s essential and can prove to be expensive if not followed. Provide your employees a safe, happy, and healthy environment this year by following OSHA’s guidelines. Give regular trainings on fire and equipment safety, especially when new hires are added to your staff.

Knowing how to properly store and prepare food is also important for any restaurant employee to be familiar with. This can build employee confidence and protect customers from food-handling ailments.

The start of a new year is a great time to refocus what your restaurant’s mission is and make changes toward it accordingly. What resolutions are you focused on keeping for your restaurant business?

What is a Freight Forwarder?

Frequently Asked Questions Graphic

We often have customers call us from Canada, Mexico, Europe, and even the Middle East to order furniture. We only ship to the lower 48 states in the US, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of luck. By using a freight forwarder, you can still order your favorite East Coast Chair & Barstool products and get them sent anywhere.

A freight forwarder is a company that specializes in moving freight around the world on behalf of both companies and individuals. They do not transport the freight themselves, but they work with air, land, and sea shippers; think of them as the project manager in charge of getting your freight to you. A good freight forwarder will assist you with coordination, documentation, insurance, and tracking for your shipment. They will also warehouse your shipment until it is ready to leave and can consolidate multiple shipments from different suppliers into one larger shipment so that it all leaves together.

One of the main benefits of using a freight forwarder is that they build relationships with shippers and move a large volume of freight, so they can often negotiate better rates than what you could get for a single shipment.

If you need to ship your East Coast Chair & Barstool furniture to Alaska, Hawaii, or any country other than the US, you will need to hire a freight forwarder and work out the logistics before purchasing from us. The forwarder will give you a U.S. based address to ship the furniture to, which you will then give to us as the delivery address.  Please note that, after your shipment arrives at the forwarder, you assume ownership of it, and it is your (or the forwarder’s) responsibility to get it to its final destination.

Game Day Restaurant Promotions

Sports Fan at Bar

It’s finally fall and football season is here! Many restaurants take advantage of their region’s teams and factor them into a seasonal promotion. And why not? Fans hunker down for three to four hours at a time, consuming your drinks and food during the course of the game, making them a great market to tap into if you don’t already.

There are many ways your restaurant or bar can start integrating “game day specials” into your weekly plan.

Advertise ahead of time. If your regular customers aren’t aware that their favorite hangout is going to start showing their team, it’s not going to be good for business. Promote on your social media and website why your place is the best to watch the big game. This is crucial if you haven’t been a hub for spectating before. To tie in with advertising your location, try and incentive patrons to get there early. Get swag from beer or liquor companies you work with to give away to the first 25 customers in the door or have little raffles during the game.

Open a little earlier. For Sunday games, there’s always the possibility that your team could be playing in the early afternoon. Try opening your doors a couple hours beforehand to encourage people to either arrive early for the game and grab a seat. Or remain a desirable option for other customers that aren’t concerned with the game because they know they can eat and get out of there before it starts.

Bring on the booze. If you sell beer of any kind, you can offer some sort of bucket or pitcher promotion where guests purchase larger quantities of beer at a time for a deal. Again, these fans are likely to be holding up a table for longer periods of time than your average customers, so why not give them a further reason to keep buying drinks? These games are a socially acceptable reason for patrons to drink on what’s typically an “off” time for your bar.

Don’t forget the food! Just like beer, you’ll want to be able have the ingredients for your game day menu prepped and ready. If you’re looking to add a little something to your regular menu, try loaded nachos or fries. These dishes can be put together using leftover pieces from other menu items so you’re preventing food waste and giving your spirited customers another choice. Plus, a lot of this food is on the saltier/spicier side, which will leave customers feeling thirsty…

Offer to-go options. Sports fans can be a superstitious crowd. Some of them have to sit in the same chair by an east-facing window where, by coincidence, their team hasn’t lost since ’82. Turn this crowd into customers by beefing up your take-out options. You can offer take-out specific items, larger platters for viewing parties, or allow ordering the day before to relieve some of the pressure on your kitchen staff. Having these choices for people who would rather watch at home can help you take advantage of a higher portion of your customer base and you can make a sale without giving up any space!

Make sure the game is visible. There’s nothing worse than having a group coming to your establishment to specifically watch the game and not being able to see the screen. Be sure to have enough screens so people can view the game from different vantage points. And, because games can start anywhere from the afternoon and into the evening, make sure you can adjust your blinds when the sun is shining in.

No matter where your bar or restaurant is located, there’s always a team that your patrons can rally behind. It could be a national, college, or high school team, or even all three depending on your location! Game day promotions are a great chance to bring customers in on what might traditionally be slower days and engage them in your restaurant or bar’s atmosphere.

Cross Off Trendy Restaurant Design with a Cross-Back Chair

Carlisle Chair Finishes

Cross-back chairs aren’t just for your home! We’ve taken the super popular seating silhouette and made it commercial-grade for your restaurant, café, and coffee shop. Introducing… the Carlisle Chair!

This chair has a charming, rustic appearance enhanced with distress marks that gives them even more of a French bakery feeling. The Carlisle Chair is designed with a cross-back and curved shoulder bar to cradle guests comfortably and let them dine in a more relaxed position, which can keep them there a little longer. You can even add a little wood to match your table tops by upgrading these chairs to having a deep colored ash seat.

There are three unique finishes to choose from, so it’s easy to match your dining room décor. The distressed black finish shows its coppery markings prominently and would stand out at a sidewalk café with its darker color popping against the pavement. If you’re looking for more of a manufacturing or industrial look, the distressed gray’s cool tones and deep brown markings may be for your tasting room. Or go the opposite direction with the distressed oak’s wooded finish that has a warmer appearance; a great addition to your coffee shop.

Even though this chair’s design shares similarities to the ones you would see in home furniture stores, you won’t need to worry about it holding up in your restaurant. The Carlisle frame is 16-gauge steel that has been e-coated, making it safe to use indoors or outdoors. For extra support, the chair also features additional U-shaped bracing between each of the legs. The non-marring glides on the Carlisle Chair will keep your floors safe, wherever you decide to use it.

It’s always great to have seating in your restaurant that can move inside or outside, if need be, like the Carlisle Chair. You can also check out our Distressed Viktor Collection for seating that can be used in both locations as well.

Carlisle Chair with Wood and Metal Seat

What will restaurants look like in the future? Notes From NRA Show 2018

The future of restaurants

Every year, we have the opportunity to exhibit at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, IL.  In addition to showing off our newest furniture collections and meeting with new and former customers, we also try to bring back some helpful information for our readers that couldn’t attend.  The NRA show is the premier event in the hospitality industry with the potential to set the tone and trends for the entire industry.

This year, we went to a session called “The Future of Restaurants”.  It was a panel presentation headlined by popular futurist, strategist, and author, Daniel Burrus, whose book “The Anticipatory Organization”, we haven’t put down since getting a free copy at the door.  Burrus was followed by 3 great presentations by Sarah Lockyer, Senior Vice President or Winsight Media; John Miller, CEO of Cali Group; and John Ha, Founder and CEO of Bear Robotics.  Each presented their unique take on how the restaurant industry is being disrupted by new technologies, and what the future holds.  Below is a short summary of their talking points.

Daniel Burrus photograph

Daniel Burrus: Hard Trends vs. Soft Trends

According to Burrus, the trick to finding opportunities and succeeding in business is identifying trends and distinguishing the hard trends from the soft trends.  Hard trends are trends that WILL happen, at least with a high degree (90%+) of certainty. They are based on facts, and driven by things like demographics, technology, and government regulation.  An example of a regulatory hard trend would be the state by state legalization of marijuana leading to opportunities for commercialization.  Soft trends, on the other hand are trends that MIGHT happen. They are educated guesses, but are sensitive to disruption, and can change at any moment.  In fact, they present an opportunity for you to change them, and influence the future.  One example of a soft trend would be which companies will emerge as the de-facto mainstream consumer marijuana brands; we can make an educated guess based on size, market share, products, etc., but there are no guarantees and a disruptive brand could take over the industry at any time.

Burris argued that the safe bet is to put your money on the hard trends.  So, the relevant question here is “What are the hard trends happening in the restaurant industry that will shape the future, and what opportunities do they present”?

The answer is the convergence of many factors: rising restaurant input costs and wage pressures, the increasing number of millennials and Gen Xers entering the marketplace, the widespread use of mobile devices, the growth and development of AI and facial recognition technologies, and advancements in the field of robotics and automation.

Sarah Lockyer photo

Sarah Lockyer: A Good Place to Start

As the Senior Vice President for Winsight Media and Restaurant Business, Sarah Lockyer likely has her finger on the pulse of everything that’s happening in the restaurant industry, and the data to back it up.  So, when she started talking, we listened.  She gave an overview of the trends that are starting to gain traction in the industry now, and will continue to grow over the next 5-10 years.  The great thing about her presentation was that many of these trends are, or will be soon, accessible to all restaurants, not just chains and corporates with multi-million dollar budgets.

Ordering Kiosks – If you go to enough fast food joints, you’re bound to run across an ordering kiosk soon.  McDonalds is reportedly going to add 1000 kiosks to their stores per quarter for the next 8 or 9 quarters, so it won’t be long until they are pervasive throughout the country.  They are already widespread in Canada, Europe, Australia, and Asia.  Ordering kiosks take advantage of many hard trends: a booming, tech savvy younger generation with disposable income; rising wage pressures that are pushing operators towards automation solutions; and cheaper touchscreen technologies.  So far, 13% of people in the US have ordered from a kiosk, including 20% of those from 18 to 44.  That number will increase as kiosks pop up in more locations.

Tabletop Tech – How do you get your guests to turn over their tables quicker, spend more, volunteer their data, and sign up for your loyalty program?  The answer just might be a tabletop technology solution like those from Ziosk and eTouchMenu.  According to a study from Cornell University, customers spent $3.61 more and turned over 31% quicker at one full-service chain restaurant when tablets were present on the table.  Researchers noted that the biggest gains came when guests could order refills and pay the check on the tablet without having to wait for the server to get to them.  With stats like that, tabletop technology could be the quiet breakout trend for years to come, and one that is becoming affordable enough for even single unit operators to consider.

Takeout and Delivery – As we’ve written about before, takeout and delivery is becoming an even bigger deal for restaurants of all kinds.  No longer only the domain of pizza and Chinese food, full service restaurants are now getting in on the action with partnerships with Grubhub, Uber Eats, Door Dash, and even Amazon.  Millennials and urbanites are driving this trend, with 49% of 18-34 year olds saying that they order food more often than they did 3 years ago.  If you’re in a metropolitan area and don’t offer delivery, chances are you’re missing an opportunity to increase your sales and get your brand out there.

Virtual Restaurants – Expanding on the concept of takeout and delivery are virtual restaurants, businesses that are set up for the sole purpose of serving delivery only meals.  Often started in shared “warehouse” type spaces, virtual restaurants save all the costs of starting a true brick and mortar establishment, reducing the risk of starting a new concept.  They rely on delivery companies like those mentioned above to handle the marketing and delivery of their food, and the only staff required are the cooks. If you are a Rockstar chef without the funding to open a full-scale restaurant, then a virtual restaurant might be perfect for you.  A virtual restaurant could also be the perfect expansion plan for a restaurant with a cult-like following that doesn’t want to invest in another traditional storefront.

Dynamic pricing – Uber does it.  So do airlines, hotels, and car rental places. So, why not your restaurant? The “it” that we’re talking about is called dynamic pricing, and it means nothing more than changing your prices based on demand; a throwback to classic economic theory.  When demand is high, say on a Saturday night when your wait time is 45 minutes, you charge more.  When demand is low, like Monday afternoon, then you offer a discount to draw in price sensitive customers.  The trick is to maximize your profits by striking a balance between the price customers pay and staying at or near maximum capacity.  In reality, dynamic pricing isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Lowering prices via discounts and coupons is great in off-peak times, and there are several apps like TasteBud that make it easy to manage, but raising prices during busy times is another matter.  Only time, and a few intrepid restaurant owners who are willing to take on the experiment, will tell if the restaurant industry can sustain a truly dynamic pricing model.

John Miller

John Miller: Data with a Side of Burgers

For John Miller, Co-Founder and Chairman of Cali Group, the restaurant of the future will be a data centric, automated organization, and he wants to own that customer data, just like Google owns online data.  Miller who has said that his chain Cali Burger was a “Technology company that happens to sell cheeseburgers” is building his business around a suite of technologies that are designed to collect that data and use it to maximize sales.

Facial Recognition for PaymentPopIQ is Cali Group’s company that develops machine vision technologies for the restaurant sector.  They are currently testing an ordering kiosk that lets you pay with your face.  You walk up to the kiosk, it recognizes your face, shows you your previous orders and favorite items, and then lets you place your order and pay using a credit card on file.  The machine will reportedly even check into your Yelp reviews to see if you’ve had any problems with the restaurant that require special attention from a manager.  This will give PopIQ a tremendous amount of customer data which it can use to create personalized deals that drive traffic.  However, whether or not consumers will view this as an invasion of privacy issue is yet to be determined.

POPIQ from WINTERSTONE on Vimeo.

Social Gaming – Another of Cali Group’s portfolio companies called Funwall is investing in social gaming.  While social and mobile games have been around for some time now, Funwall combines the games with incentives like in-venue only prizes that increase foot traffic to restaurants and build loyalty.  Honing in on the trend of a growing millennial customer base, Funwall provides restaurants an opportunity to create experiences, and separate themselves from the competition.

Smart Delivery & Shared Spaces – Basically a WeWork for virtual restaurant startups, Kitchen United is a company that provides shared kitchen spaces for delivery only restaurants.  As Sarah Lockyer talked about earlier in the conference, shared spaces enable restaurant concepts to save money while still having access to state of the art equipment.  Kitchen United offers even more value by providing business intelligence, and resources that wouldn’t be available to a restaurant going it alone in their own space.  Shared spaces are also a great place to network and share ideas with fellow chefs and restaurant owners.

Robotic Automation – As labor and regulatory costs (think OSHA) continue to rise, companies are looking to cash in on the growing trend of automation in the workplace.  Cali Group is no different, and their portfolio company Miso Robotics is developing an automated burger flipping robot aptly named “Flippy”.  Flippy uses machine vision and artificial intelligence to “see” burgers on the grill, flip them, tell when they are perfectly cooked, and put them on the bun.  Right now, Flippy still requires a companion human to load the burgers onto the grill, but we can see that step being eliminated in the future.  Right now, Flippy can cook up to 300 burgers per day, more than a human counterpart, which means that it is more efficient, cheaper, and more reliable than hiring human cooks.  As robots like Flippy become more prevalent in the industry, low paying jobs will get eliminated and will open the way for higher paying jobs like maintenance technicians, engineers, and support personnel.

John Ha

John Ha: Rise of the Machines

If there’s anybody who should know about the intersection between the hospitality industry and technology, it’s John Ha.  After he left his job at Google, he purchased a Korean restaurant in California.  As he related in his talk, he found that the work was harder than he expected, and he found that nobody in the restaurant was happy with the service: employees, customers, or himself.  So, he started to think about ways to improve the customer experience by making his employees more than just order takers and food delivery people.

Penny AI Driven Restaurant Serving Robot

His answer was Penny, a robot that does the grunt work of delivering meals tableside, freeing up employees to engage with customers and create a great experience.  Penny, currently in the testing phase at Ha’s own restaurant, uses artificial intelligence to navigate “her” way through the dining room, avoiding customers and obstacles, and delivering the food to each table in his restaurant.  Ha’s company Bear Robotics is already taking pre-orders for the robot.

Ha says that since he started testing Penny, his restaurant has seen an 8% sales bump, and an 18% increase in tips for his servers.  Whether that is due to the novelty factor of seeing a robot deliver your meals or an actual increase in perceived value of service is still up in the air, although Ha says it is the latter.  One thing is for sure, the rise of the robots is quickly turning into a hard trend that will need to be anticipated and adapted to if you want your restaurant to continue to compete in the future.

 

We really enjoyed attending this session and bringing the valuable information back to our readers.  Innovation is a moving train that can’t be stopped, so it’s important to stay current and adapt to the trends that will change the industry because, as Daniel Burrus said, “If you don’t seize the opportunity, you can be sure that somebody else will”.