East Coast Chair and Barstool Blog

Guest Blog: Negotiating the Best Lease for Your Restaurant or Bar

Full room shot of an empty bar.

Do you want to save money and improve the value of your restaurant?

If you’re leasing or renewing a lease, or at the beginning stages of opening a restaurant, bar, brewpub or other retail establishment, this article can help you.

I have had eight page leases and two hundred page leases in my career. It is imperative that you negotiate the best deal you can. When you decide to sell, what you decide today will play a part in what you sell for in the future. I have had underperforming restaurants and bars to sell over the years and because they had  below market rent  or a favorable lease we were able to leverage the value in the lease. Also, I’ve seen wonderful restaurants that are reasonably priced and profitable to sell, but have a lease that has unfavorable terms, rent is too high, not enough term on the lease, landlords reputation is difficult, the building is in disrepair… get the idea?

Restaurant Leases can be very lengthy and confusing, making them hard to fully comprehend and negotiate favorable terms for. Leases can be short and vague, or extensive and complex. You need to be aware of what you are agreeing to. The best way to do that is to review the terms carefully. Have the right people in your corner. Make sure they are licensed, understand commercial transactions and reputable. Your Broker can help you navigate the road blocks in your lease, and their knowledge of the market will help you get the best possible deal. Always have a seasoned real estate lawyer that focuses on commercial leases to review the lease prior to signing.

There is so much information to understand and be aware of that I picked a few main topics to discuss.

The LOI

Prior to a formal lease being signed, the Landlord or Real Estate Broker will draft a non-binding Letter of Intent (or LOI) stating the basic terms of the lease.

  • WHAT: The Letter of Intent is a non-binding document, that sets the ground rules for the lease negotiation. The LOI simply creates a term sheet for the lease, so all parties involved are on the same page.
  • WHY: The LOI creates the framework for negotiation before a binding contract is signed. When the Tenant, Broker, Landlord, and Lawyers involved review the LOI, all parties are on the same page prior to drafting the lease. It saves time for all parties by setting up the ground work.

 

How long should you commit to the lease?

The length of your lease term can vary, and you should be aware of the renewal options, as well as when to exercise them.

  • Base lease terms generally last 5 to 10 years.
  • Typically, the lease should have renewal options (5 to 10 years, matching the original lease term).
  • The lease dictates when you need to give notice to the Landlord to properly exercise your options. This could be anywhere from 6 months to 2 years before the expiration of the lease. Make sure you pay attention to when this time period is in your lease.

 

Personal Guarantee Strategies

“I’m not signing a guarantee, why should I?” This puts you personally on the hook, financially, and defines obligation, risk, and liability. Some landlords make this a deal breaker but it doesn’t have to be. If you do not want to sign one consider some of the following strategies to eliminate or reduce liability.

  • In lieu of a Personal Guarantee, sometimes you can negotiate a higher security deposit, a letter of credit, or a co-signer.
  • Try to limit the Personal Guarantee to a specific time frame (2 years), or ask for Liquidated Damages.
  • Negotiate to limit the Guarantee to the amount of rent, brokerage fees, and build-out costs.

 

How much rent can I afford to pay? What’s the secret sauce here.

The economics of the lease are critical for your success.

  • To figure out, roughly, how much rent you should pay for a space, take your projected sales for the location and multiply it by the percentage of industry norms. This will give you your Occupancy Cost.
  • 5% to 8% are average rental costs, 9% and above are high costs.

 

What is Percentage Rent?

Is additional money that is paid to the landlord only if you hit certain benchmarks. In Percentage Rent, the base rent can be lower. If you exceed the Break Point in sales, the Landlord will receive additional rent based on that percentage.

  • It is calculated as an annual percentage based on gross sales that exceed a certain threshold. This is called the Break Point.
  • Once you hit the Break Point in sales, you pay the difference between your Actual Sales and the Break Point, multiplied by the percentage agreed upon in your lease.

If you cannot negotiate the percentage rent out try the following:

  • Make sure what the Landlord considers Gross Sales is defined in your lease.
  • When your rent goes up, the Break Point should increase.

 

Common Area Maintenance (CAM)

If your space is in a Shopping Center, Strip Mall, Retail development there is a good chance you will be obligated for Common Area Maintenance (or CAM).

CAM: What Is It, And How To Save Money

The CAM clauses are often the least understood part of a lease, and can be the most expensive part. This is where your Lawyer will come in handy. CAM charges are additional fees tenants pay to offset the common area costs shared by the Tenants. CAM fees cover a variety of net charges, including Fixed & Variable Fees. Be sure to be aware of all the fees included in your lease.

  • Fixed Fees include items such as Real Estate Tax, which may vary somewhat, but are generally similar year to year.
  • Variable Fees are items such as snow removal, pest control, landscaping, and elevator maintenance.

What you need to know:

  • Landlords typically want CAM terms to be broad. Ensure that the CAM terms in your lease specify the details of what you are responsible for and what the Landlord is responsible for.

Make Sure YOU Examine the Landlord’s records to make sure the CAM expenses are properly charged from the Landlord.

  • You want to be able to cap the charges or negotiate a fixed fee for CAM charges. For example, a cumulative 5% cap setting a ceiling on annual increases to CAM fees.

What to watch out for:

Administrative & maintenance fees, lighting, roofing, capital improvements, electrical wiring, HVAC.

 

Look out for Use Clauses and Exclusive Clauses.

  • Use Clauses restrict what you can do and can prescribe specific use. For example, they can restrict menu items. Make sure you’re fully aware of the restrictions put upon your restaurant during the lease terms.
  • Exclusive Clauses prevent the Landlord from leasing to a similar business as yours within a set of terms. For example, another of the Landlord’s Tenants may not be able to have over 20 taps in their bar because you have exclusive rights to 20+ taps in one bar.

 

Should you Sublease or get an Assignment of the lease?

Subleasing is the leasing of part or all of the property held by a Tenant as opposed to the Landlord. The original Tenant still retains partial interest. Assignment means the current Tenant signs over the lease to a new Tenant or the Landlord, and transfers all interest.

  • Before considering either of these options, you should find out if the lease allows subletting/assignment.
  • Know ahead of time what the liabilities are for subleasing/assignment.
  • Have a copy of the Master Lease (the original lease you signed) and all addendums.
  • If you assign your lease the landlord may still want you to stay on the lease

 

Construction Improvements

Have your Contractor & Architect walk through the space prior to signing the LOI and lease. They need to be aware of the terms of the build-out as defined in your lease to best advise you on the build-out costs and timelines. This is a key component in your lease and can greatly impact you.

 

What you don’t know could cost you

  • When leasing a Second-Generation space, the HVAC is a key feature to pay attention to. Make sure you ask the Landlord: How old is the HVAC? What is its expected life? Are you as the tenant responsible for upkeep, replacement, or repair? What is the tonnage?

 

Everyone wants a Patio

The Tenant is generally responsible for the maintenance of a patio. You should not be paying separate rent on a patio space. However, make sure your liquor license covers the additional square footage of your patio.

 

Liquor License tips

  • First item of business is to make sure there is one available that is transferable. Know how much it costs.
  • You need to get a timeline on how long it will take to transfer. Our office averages 6-8 weeks.
  • Will the landlord allow a license? Make sure you pay attention to the Use and Exclusive clauses that exist.
  • Pay careful attention to the Rent Commencement. If you got a too good to be true deal there might be an issue with the transferability of the license.  To save a few thousand dollars and have to open without the license can be  detrimental to the long term success.

 

I can’t begin to cover everything you need to know. There is still Build Out, Rent & Lease Commencement, Signage, Zoning, Permits, Defaults, Tenant Improvement Allowance, Free Rent. I can’t stress enough to make sure you have experienced professionals in your corner.

 

Terri Sokoloff, CBI, CNE, CRB, GRI/Broker

President Specialty Bar & Restaurant Brokers

Terri Ann Sokoloff is the President of Specialty Bar & Restaurant Brokers. She brings a high level of expertise to the clients of Specialty Group, offering more than 25 years of experience in the industry. She is a licensed real estate broker, a certified real estate brokerage manager (CRB) and a certified business intermediary (CBI). In addition to being active in professional organizations such as Commercial Real Estate Women, Urban Land Institute, Women’s Leadership Initiative, PA Restaurant Association, Former Advisory Committee of PA Culinary, Terri has also authored numerous magazine, newspaper, and pricing guide articles and has appeared as an expert on a variety of regional and national media broadcasts. She has been featured as a speaker at the Nightclub & Bar National Convention on the topic of “Selling Night Club & Bars” & for the PA Restaurant Association on the topic of “Confessions of a Restaurant Broker” and “Leases: Negotiation, Clauses, Mistakes, and Tips”.

Pizza Shop Design Trends For 2018

When someone tells you to imagine a pizza place your brain might immediately jump to images of a classic pizzeria.  You know the one. It has black and white checkered floors paired with red walls, a few chairs and tables, usually in a bistro style design, and checkered tablecloths. However, the pizzerias of today, both large and small, are bucking that traditional look and opting for a more updated image.

You might be wondering why that should matter, studies show that ambiance can affect customer perceptions in a big way. Things such as how much and how fast customers eat, how much they spend, how long they stay, and their impressions of your responsiveness and reliability. To make sure you are sending the right message to customers, we’ve gathered together some of the industry’s leading trends.

Back to Roots

In the pizza business, along with many other businesses, we are seeing a shift back to their roots. Many pizzerias are doing this by installing brick ovens into their shops. More and more, customers are wanting not just food but a complete experience. Brick ovens are part of that experience that screams authenticity. Brick ovens also benefit the taste of the pizza: toppings are crisper, and they boost food flavor. They also cook the pizza faster than a conventional oven and are an energy saver.

Open Kitchen Design

Customers are more interested than ever in not only the ingredients going into their food but how it is being made. To accommodate this pizza shops are opting to go with an open kitchen plan. The open layout allows customers to see exactly what is going on during the preparation of their food. Everything from the ingredients being used to the cleanliness of the chefs is available for viewing. Your cooking method is part of your brand.

Besides the practicality, it also adds to the experience of a pizzeria. Seeing dough being tossed into the air has a real feeling of authenticity.

Decorating Using Tools

A lot of pizzerias are using what they already have to decorate their shops. Pizza peels, rollers, and cutters are making an appearance on walls and in other areas of the restaurant. For that something extra, pizzerias are having their names engraved onto wood pizza peels to display at their entrances or on hostess stands.

Tile

Tile is back in a big way. For years the material has been relegated to the bathroom, but no more. Placed behind a bar or as a backsplash in an open-air kitchen. White subway tiles are very in and create a nice clean look. Tile can also be used to create an accent wall with texture.

Murals

Mural walls are a great way to bring color into an otherwise neutral palette full of earth tones and pull focus. Colors help to create an inviting ambiance that has customers staying longer and ordering more. Murals don’t always need to be paint. Some restaurateurs have started combining metal and wood to create focal walls. They will use boards of wood to cover one wall and then hang some form of metal art on the wall. If the budget allows, logos can be cut out of metal to create a cool branding opportunity.

Your branding will help dictate which route you should go. If your brand is more playful or eclectic, a colorful mural might fit right in with your branding. If clean lines and neutral colors are your thing then a wood and metal combination might fit best in your shop.

Reclaimed Wood and Brick

Many pizzerias are favoring the brick and reclaimed wood look. It is a combo of craft/artisan and more modern.  Especially when paired with metal accents. The texture of these materials brings in the artisanal feel while the straight lines they have ended up having a modern aesthetic. “Nothing goes better with pizza than reclaimed wood,” according to Pizza Today. Utilizing brick is also a great way to incorporate street style into your restaurant.

Whether you are considering a complete reimagining of your shop, or simply looking to add a few updated pieces like customized peels, one of these trends is bound to work for you. It will keep your shop looking fresh and your customers coming back for more.

Which one of these trends is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

Valentine’s Day Promo Ideas For Restaurants

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

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

Menu

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

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

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

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

Beverages

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

 

 

Atmosphere

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

Reservations

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

 

 

Staffing- Call In the A-team

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

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

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

 

 

Marketing

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

Thinking Outside of the Heart Shaped Box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Wood and Metal Hybrid Restaurant Furniture Works

Elliot Bar Stools

Move over Ramen burgers and Korean clam chowder, the infatuation of making two very different concepts work together in flavors and offerings is not limited to food in the restaurant industry. Commercial furniture is reflecting the mashup trend by taking differing materials and combining them to create unique pieces to accent your restaurant.

You wouldn’t bat an eye at a wood table top and metal base, but what may catch your attention is these two materials together in a chair or bar stool.

This trend has gone by many names: rustic industrial, modern rustic, vintage industrial. The list goes on and has been present in the home décor and architectural industries for some time. These materials together highlight their contrasting points while also making a great pair.

When wood is used in design, it carries a warmth and neutrality with it. It feels earthy and organic. In contrast, metal can bring a manufacturing-like or contemporary vibe. With its hard an unbending feel, it’s completely the opposite of wood that is soft and easily affected by its environment. The wood and metal hybrids are a marrying of the two that create something totally new yet familiar.

Visually these compositions meld together but they also work well structurally. In a restaurant, metal is less easily scratched and cracked, making it ideal in combating daily wear and tear over wood. When metal is used to reinforce a wood seat or back in a frame, the chair or bar stool becomes more durable.

With the popularity of the wood and metal hybrids, we have quite a few designs that are right on trend for your restaurant.

 

1) Erwin Collection

Solid oak wood and black powder coated metal come together in the Erwin Collection. The rustic look of this collection is defined further with a traditional X-style back and stylized legs.

Erwin Bar Stool and Chair

2) Elliot Collection

The Elliot Collection updates the classic ladder back design by using solid oak wood and a weathered iron for an industrial look that’s softened by the wood back and seat.

Elliot Chair and Bar Stool

3) Henry Collection

The Henry Collection keeps it simple with squared off wooden backs and seats, giving this collection an understated modern look. The distressed wood paired with the slim yet sturdy, black powder coated frame makes it an easy pairing with other restaurant furniture.

Henry Bar Stool and Chair

4) Piper Collection

The metal frame of the Piper Collection brings a breath of fresh air to restaurants with its hairpin leg design. Embracing the rustic industrial look, the sleek steel contrasts the deep tones of the oak to warm up any dining area.

Piper Bar Stool, Backless Bar Stool, and Chair

5) Gladiator Collection

From window pane to full ladder back to vertical back, we have all your classic styles covered with the Gladiator Collection. Traditional back designs make this collection extremely versatile and are right on trend with their steel frames and variety of wood seat options.

Gladiator Bar Stool and Chair with Wood Seats

6) Simon Collection

Think grit, think modern, think mechanical. All of these can describe the strong metal look of the Simon Collection. Because this collection comes with a variety of wood seat options to offset the smooth steel, Simon’s are a standout statement piece in a rustic restaurant atmosphere.

Simon Chair and Bar Stool with Wood Seats

Each of these collections use a metal frame with a wood seat and/or back. Together, these materials create a unified theme for your restaurant by pulling from warm and cool tones. Restaurants need furniture that can meet the hectic demands of the industry with durability and visual appeal. And just like a leader of the mashup movement, the cronut, these wood and metal hybrids give you the best of both worlds.

Do you use wood and metal hybrid furniture in your restaurant? What are your thoughts on this hybrid furniture trend? Tell us in the comments below.

When Is a Good Time to Order Furniture For Your Restaurant?

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

Something even the most knowledgeable restaurant owners seem to be unsure of is when they should order furniture for their new restaurant. In the world of express shipping and Amazon Prime, consumers tend to think that they don’t need to order things very far in advance. This is not the case with commercial furniture. When asking yourself “when should I order my furniture?” The answer is: the sooner the better.

Ideally, you should begin your search at around 10 weeks before you want the furniture to arrive. It seems like a lot of time, but it will go by faster than you think.  Starting earlier gives you time to research, place the order, and receive the furniture before your opening.

The time it takes for your furniture to arrive on your doorstep is dependent upon a couple different factors. This first of which is the type of furniture you order. Items that are custom built such as reclaimed booths, or custom vinyl seats, have a production time, where other items might not.

By calling in advance, you can also check the stock of the item you have your eye on. Popular items sell out quickly. Stock fluctuates daily and can affect your expected arrival date. Even if an item says out of stock it is good to call and see when the next shipment is arriving. The earlier you call the better to either reserve your items, or get your name on the preorder list.

Transit time is another factor in your furniture’s arrival. Most large furniture items ship LTL. You’ll want to take into account the location of the place you are ordering from in relation to where you are located. Items traveling from across the United States are going to take longer than items coming from across the state.

Purchasing outdoor furniture can be a little different than purchasing indoor items. If you are looking to get outdoor furniture for the spring/summer season, February is a good time to order. You want to have your furniture before the weather breaks and customers start asking to sit on your patio. Waiting too long to call could put you in the danger zone of not being able to receive your furniture until part way through the season.

It is best to order your restaurant furniture well before your open date, about 10 weeks, to make sure that you can get the items you want, in the time frame that works for you. If you have your eye on some pieces that we offer at East Coast Chair & Barstool, you can get your order started today by calling our Customer Care Team at 800-986-5352.

2017 Fads Turned 2018 Trends

When the ball drops in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, it symbolizes a new year and a new beginning. But this doesn’t always apply to the restaurant industry; fads turn to trends and stick around from one year to another. We’ve rounded up the popular restaurant trends from 2017 that are going to be around for the ball drop and the first part of 2018.

On the Menu:

Less is more cocktails Less is more cocktails. Many restaurants are beefing up their drink list with lower proof drinks by getting more playful with ingredients and lessening the alcohol content. Not only do bartenders get to have more fun with the flavor palate of the drinks, the profit margin widens as well by using less alcohol.
House-made condiments House-made condiments. Restaurants are striving for originality, down to their sauces. Think house ranch, mayonnaise, and sriracha-infused ketchup. Chefs are getting creative and complementing dishes with flavors that round out the tastes.
Cold-brew coffee Cold brew coffee. Lose that koozie! Cold brew coffee is past the fad phase and rocketing into 2018 as a staple in many coffee shops and restaurants. This new way to brew coffee offers many facets of customization that lets the restaurant owner (and customer) get a little creative when it comes to more caffeine in the same cup.
Local beer partnerships Local beer partnerships. You can grab your favorite local brew just about anywhere. Many restaurants are partnering with local breweries and wineries to put their fares on tap right next to the big distributors. This not only promotes businesses in the area, but also increases a sense of involvement in the community.

On Operations:

New ways to order New ways to order. There are very few things in this world you can’t use your Amazon Prime account for anymore, including food delivery. And it’s not just Amazon. Food delivery services range from Amazon to the restaurants themselves to GrubHub and Postmates. These services get food to the consumer, without them every stepping foot in your restaurant.
Conscientious cooking Conscientious cooking. The world’s eyes are wide awake to the food waste problem and is reflected in the restaurant industry’s attitude towards less-waste cooking. A restaurant adhering to more sustainable practices is becoming much more common.
Inclusive menus Inclusive menus. Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options are showing up on more and more menus. Being more inclusive with dietary restrictions has been on the rise in 2017 and will continue into 2018. Adding these options to your menu can be the deciding factor for customers with food allergies and auto-immune disorders like Celiac.
Herb gardens Digitizing payment. Customers can now eat, drink, and pay all from the comfort of your restaurant booth. From kiosks to digital receipts to mobile payment, many restaurants are moving towards using paperless payment for a streamlined procedure for customers. As this technology becomes more affordable, the practice will continue to spread in 2018.

On the Design Board:

Food halls Food halls. After exploding onto the scene, food halls are becoming more and more the norm. Per Cushman & Wakefield, “the number of food halls operating in the United States is expected to exceed 200 in 2019”. This number has grown every year with many slated to open in 2018 in urban markets like Atlanta, Manhattan, and Austin.
Wood and metal hybrid furniture Wood and metal hybrid furniture. Here’s a juxtaposition we can get behind! Combining the warm tones of wood and the industrial cool of metal create quite a contrast in furniture, this trend is all over chairs, bar stools, POS stations, and tables. With hybrid furniture, it becomes so much easier to pair pieces together when there’s a little bit of both wood and metal in them. Who doesn’t want the best of both worlds in their furniture?
Introducing color  

Introducing color. Whether it’s the furniture, centerpieces, or a mural wall, restaurants are gravitating toward bright colors rather than darker browns and blacks. This kind of design gives restaurants more of a fun and fresh feel, often set on a white backdrop.

Tile is here Tile is here. 2017 brought the tile out of the bathroom and put it behind the bar. Restaurant designers are using tile on backsplashes, bar fronts, and accent walls to add texture and focus. Move over wallpaper, this is the year of tile!

Which of these trends do you see sticking around longer into 2018? Tell us in the comments below!

 

Reviews and Your Restaurant: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Why Reviews Matter

Whether you consider it to be a good or bad thing, the food retail world is controlled by the consumer, and your restaurant is just living in it. If your customer has a bad experience and chooses to tell others about it, your operation could be in trouble. Word of mouth is extremely important for the perception of your restaurant, so it’s crucial to know how to handle reviews of all kinds.

Where do customers leave reviews?

You may say ‘I’ve never seen a review of my restaurant before’. More than likely, you’ve just never seen the reviews. The most common places to look for reviews of your restaurant are Facebook, Google, and Yelp.

Facebook

Because of its user-friendliness, Facebook is popular with customers and restaurant owners alike. Your restaurant’s business page is a great platform to have pictures of the day’s specials, hours, and social interaction, all in one place. When it comes to reviews, Facebook creates a star rating that denotes the quality of the reviews left, with five stars being the best. You can also change how you want to filter reviews: most helpful, most recent, and star rating. Because of how often it is used daily for news, photos, and checking up on friends, it’s only natural that Facebook restaurant reviews are taken seriously. Potential customers can trust the words of their mutual friends and can even see if others they know have reviewed the restaurant.

Facebook Business Page

Facebook Reviews Page

Learn how to find and interact with your Facebook page reviews.

Google

If you look up your restaurant on Google’s search engine, you will see your business name off to the right side, along with categories like directions, website, and an overall star rating. This star rating is determined by an average of the reviews left. If you click into these reviews (and there are some) you will be able to see the individual reviews. Google is a super important facet of customer reviews because whether people are searching for your menu, hours, or directions, they’re most likely typing it into the Google search engine. This will bring up the sidebar with the star-rating and reviews front and center.

Google Search Reviews

Find out how to respond to Google reviews.

Yelp

One of the most common review sites, and the thorn in the side of many restaurant owners, Yelp helps future customers narrow down their choice of where to do business. It also gives customers that have visited the business an outlet to review the quality of services and their expectations of that business. Yelp has its own algorithm when it comes to displaying reviews. Like Google and Facebook, Yelp also uses a star ranking system, calculated by reviews left. Yelp tends to display a frequent Yelper’s reviews over a new user, making it more difficult to see reviews chronologically.

Yelp Business Page

Yelp Reviews Page

Learn how to use Yelp to the fullest potential with these tips for your restaurant.

What do I do if someone leaves my restaurant a good review?

Congratulations on your restaurant’s hard work! Here’s how you can make the most out of your patron’s compliments:

Respond Back– Before you do anything else with your positive review, you need to write back! Good reviews deserve just as much attention as bad reviews, plus you can promote them without having to come up with an apology statement. Thank the customer for their review and acknowledge that they went out of their way to pass along kind words.

Give Credit Where Credit It Is Due– After you pat yourself on the back, make sure to bring the review to your staff’s attention. If it is about the service, recognize your bartenders or wait staff at the next shift meeting. If it’s about the food, congratulate the cooks on a job well done. While credit should certainly be served to those that were mentioned in the review, you can commend all moving parts of your restaurant. This success is the result of teamwork in your restaurant.

Show It Off– Publish the review on your social media channels, have framed testimonials (do it yourself with Small Thanks), or even include it into your next menu design. Reviews are a great way for your restaurant to tout its successes and would be a shame to not promote them!

What do I do if someone leaves my restaurant a bad review?

Don’t panic! A bad review can become an opportunity for your restaurant if handled correctly. The process below can help streamline how you or your staff deal with negative reviews.

Study Up–  You’ll need to do a little research before answering the review with your emotions flying. First, take note of the date the review was posted and, if it gives details, who (if anyone) was involved. This can help you gain some perspective on how to respond to the review.

It’s Not Too Late to Say Sorry– Apologizing is crucial. Even if it was the weather. Even if it was a fluke in your well-oiled staff. Even if it was the way your restaurant is decorated. Say you’re sorry. That person is not leaving a review for no reason (usually) and wants their feelings validated.

Be a Problem Solver– After your apology, be sure to offer up a solution that’s related to what the customer was concerned about. If there was an issue with the food, reach out with a free meal or appetizer. If there was a problem with the staff, communicate that it will be brought up during a team meeting to prevent it from happening again. Also, if the incident has since been addressed and solved, let the reviewer know of the policy change.

When dealing with a bad review, it’s important to acknowledge the reviewer’s feelings and empathize while also offering a solution. Be sure to touch on each of these points and tailor the response to the reviewer’s experience. Canned responses quickly lose candor and don’t win you any points for originality.

As with positive reviews, be sure to bring up bad reviews with your staff. Walk through the situation with them and provide a process for how to deal with similar situations. You can even use them as motivation for your staff by putting bad reviews in their break area, especially if they are unmotivated by tips.

Why does brand management matter?

Having fresh reviews, engaging with those leaving reviews, and monitoring your social media channels may sound like it will take a lot of time and energy. But without good brand management, it’s extremely difficult to stay on top of customer reviews. In doing these daily tasks, you can quickly pick up on these channels’ review components and see what people are saying about your restaurant. It’s important to keep an eye on these as much as possible to create the highest amount of engagement, and ideally, new reviews.

When making decisions, customers are searching for recently posted reviews, as it should be the most up to date information. Unfortunately, the barrage of five-star reviews you received early last year just isn’t going to cut it. According to Search Engine Land, “69 percent of consumers believe that reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant”. In other words, a review’s usefulness depreciates in value for bringing in new business. Constant flow of reviews show that your restaurant is staying relevant and can be used for customers to make more informed decisions.

By successfully managing your brand, you can incite more reviews by guests, encouraging others to come see what the fuss is about. To help you stay on top of your restaurant, try setting up a Google Alert to easily monitor possible reviews or comments.

Reviews can stand as a welcoming beacon or caution sign; handling them properly can make all the difference. By staying on top of good and bad reviews with attentive brand management, your restaurant can create a quality experience for all guests.

Erwin: A Show Stopping Addition to Our Rustic Industrial Collection of Restaurant Seating

Irwin Cross Back Chair - Wood and Metal - Rustic Industrial Collection

Trying to choose between the warmth of wood seating and the commercial durability of metal?  If so, you no longer have to make that choice.  The newest member of our rustic-industrial seating collection, the Erwin, offers both.  Distressed oak and black powder coated steel come together for a balanced look that enables both to shine.

The Erwin is designed with a cross back that provides both support and structural strength, while adding a unique style.  The innovative leg design utilizes square extrusions to create the back legs, while the front legs and seat supports are stamped metal, offering a unique look and extra strength.  The frame is fully welded and comes with non-marring glides that won’t scratch your floors.

The Erwin comes in both chairs and barstools that look great in any setting, from tavern to coffee shop.  If you would like to learn more about how the Erwin can fit into your restaurant’s décor, please give our sales and customer care team a call at (800) 986 – 5352, and we will be happy to help you.

What types of finishes can be used on restaurant table tops? FAQ’s from the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

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

Restaurant table tops can be finished with any finish available on the market, the question becomes more which should they be finished with. We’ve broken down the ins and outs of the three most popular finishes for solid wood tables to help you figure out what is the best finish to select for your restaurant tables.

Varnish is commonly used in the residential and commercial furniture sectors. Varnish is an oil-based wood finish that has been in use for centuries, while it has been around for some time, it can be a process to use. Before application can begin, all bubbles need to be stirred out of the varnish to avoid being transferred to the table top. When applying, end users should take care not to overbrush. Too many brushstrokes can be visible on the finished product. The varnish also has a slower drying time (ideally 10-15 hours between coats) than that of lacquer, running the risk of dust settling and corrupting the finishing process. Therefore, it has become a common practice to thin the varnish before use. After dry time, varnish is an extremely durable finish for highly used furniture pieces such as bar counters and restaurant table tops. But this lengthy wait time is a drawback for mass production, leading varnish to mostly be used by DIY-er’s and custom residential projects.

Lacquer is a popular commercial finish that comes in a variety of transparent sheens on many restaurant table tops. Lacquer uses resin-based liquid solutions that quickly dry into a hard film when exposed to oxygen by way of a catalytic agent. In the restaurant industry, most lacquer formulations include a catalytic agent. When the lacquer is dried, the catalytic agent allows the finish to form a more protective and durable coating. To apply, lacquer is typically sprayed on with its quick dry time of 5 to 10 minutes making it time efficient for manufacturers. A lacquer finish can easily be repaired with a trip to the hardware store by the end user since the table top normally does not need stripped down. On our table tops, we typically finish them using a three-part application of catalyzed lacquer sealer and top coat.

Polyurethane finish is one of the most durable restaurant table top finishes because of its similar characteristics to plastic. Polyurethane finish takes on many of the positives of varnish and less of its drawbacks. This finish can be oil or acrylic based, depending on the blend, making it chemical resistant and waterproof. This finish is applied with a brush and involves waiting four to six hours between coats. After applied, the polyurethane is harder and more durable than lacquer. You can often find polyurethane finish as an upgraded option because of the detailed processes it takes to apply. While there are different formulations of polyurethane, on our products, we use a commercial-grade formula as a premium on option on all our solid wood table tops.

Finish Comparisons

Which finish should you use on your table tops?

The answer is not so cut and dry. It all depends on what your intended use is for your table tops.

  • If you’ve been collecting antique tables to give your restaurant a certain look, it’s likely they will have a varnish finish because this method has been around for many years. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance that these tables are not commercial-grade, which could present structural issues with the table itself in the future.
  • If you’re a restaurant owner in need of basic solid wood tables for a swiftly approaching open date, then a lacquer finish will do just fine. Lacquer-finished tops are easy to repair should something happen to them.
  • If you’re putting quite a bit of money down on specialty tables and want to increase their resistance to water, chemicals, and body oils, a polyurethane finish would be your best option. This modern finish is formulated to resist standing liquids caused by spills and cleaning.

There are pros and cons of all finishes, but in the end what will determine the ideal finish for your table tops is how you plan on using them.

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

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

What is Local?

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

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

How Does Local Work?

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

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

What it Means for Restaurants

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

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

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

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

In the Future

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

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

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