Ways To Make Your Restaurant More Instagram-Worthy

There is no denying that social media is a powerhouse. Every day new accounts are being created at a rate of one new social media user every 15 seconds. There are 3.03 billion active social media users, with the average number of social media accounts being 5.54. The average daily time spent on social is 116 minutes a day.

Instagram is right at the top with over 800 million monthly active users and over 95 million photos uploaded every day. That is a huge market and a fantastic tool that you can use to reach current and potential customers. Instagram can be a powerful promotional tool if used the right way. Yelp data shows that more users are looking up restaurants based upon how “Insta-worthy” they are. There are a few things that you can do to up your game, get those double taps, and use Instagram to fill your seats.

Beautiful Food

As a restaurant, your top priority is the food and the way that it tastes, but nothing says that food can’t be both delicious and photo worthy. Many restaurants are seeing success with creating a novelty food item that brings people in just for the photo opportunity. Bloggers compile lists of the most
Instagrammable food in each city. Readers then flock to these locations to get that next great picture. By offering an item that is a little over the top, you can bring in a lot of business. Hybrid foods such as the Cronut, are also very popular.

Don’t rework your entire menu just to make it Instagram worthy but consider creating a monthly special that is fun to photograph. It will get people in the door and it’s a great creative exercise for your staff.

Presentation of food is always important, but there are a few easy ways to up you game. Investing in some white plates is a great way to show off your food. It helps to accentuate the colors of the food and has a nice minimalistic feel, perfect for photographing.

Many of us can agree that greasy foods are delicious, though packaging with giant grease stains aren’t the most appetizing looking. To avoid grease ruining a Kodak moment, invest is some grease proof paper. It allows fried foods to look their best all the time.

Lighting

As any photographer will tell you, lighting is crucial to the perfect photo. Take a moment to evaluate the lighting in your restaurant to make sure it fits the image you want to create. Are you a dark and moody bar looking to reach college students or a light and airy bakery catering to families? If you are trying to go for a darker vibe, try having a few areas that are well lit enough for a good photo op. Neon signs can be great for this. They also create a signature piece to identify your location.  Photographers love spaces with good natural lighting, it makes taking the photo easier and allows your food to look its best.

Décor

You don’t need to completely redesign your restaurant just for Instagram opportunities. A few small adjustments can be made to encourage guests to take photos. A wall with a quote that embodies your brand, unique wallpapers, and furniture can all enhance the experience offered at your restaurant and promote customers sharing on their account.

You can help set the tone with what part of your décor you would like featured in photos. Do you have a fancy tiled floor? Or perhaps you spent hours obsessing over the perfect counters, feature them as a consistent backdrop on your feed and customers will follow suit.

Murals

Finding a mural and posting a picture with it is a new trend to hit Instagram. If your building has a beautiful blank wall indoor or out, consider pairing up with a local artist to create something unique to your area or restaurant. Brainstorm a signature hashtag and a location tag and you’ll have people traveling from all over to come take pictures. In some cases, people stand in lines down the block to take pictures with certain murals. If foot traffic is an issue this is a sure-fire way to increase passersby.

Hashtags

Share your Instagram account name everywhere. On your menu, on a chalkboard sidewalk sign, or on a receipt. Make sure that your customers know where to find you online. They can’t follow if they don’t know where you are posting. Create a custom hashtag that either references the name of your restaurant or a fun aspect of your brand. This will encourage any Insta-lovers to start snapping and tagging your restaurant.

Hosting a photo contest with a signature hashtag is a great way to improve engagement or get the momentum going on a new account. To encourage participation, offer customers a percentage off if they come in to eat and post.

Your Feed

Most importantly, don’t forget to include a human element to your posts. Gorgeous photos of your food are great and can create craveability ideal for generating new customers. That being said, a huge part of the industry is the people and their stories. Integrate photos of people enjoying themselves on your feed, it’ll inspire other to come and join the food party.

Just be yourself. Share photos of your customers enjoying the food or photos that illustrate the story of your business and what makes you unique. In a world of cultivated content people often crave realness.

Social media is a great marketing tool and Instagram is at the forefront of the social media game. Instagram is an excellent tool for meeting your customers where they are at. By making a few adjustments to your current design or marketing plan you can increase your customer base exponentially.

Have you seen results by using Instagram? Let us know in the comments below!

What to Consider Before Opening Your Restaurant for Breakfast

Waiter Serving Breakfast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Straws: Plastic and Pollution on Our Planet

Plastic Straws in Drinks

 

A little background…

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

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

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

What’s the issue?

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

What are other companies doing about straws in their restaurant?

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

What do restaurant owners need to consider?

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

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

 

Plastic and Paper Straws

 

What can I do in my restaurant?

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

Sippy-type cup (aka no straws)

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

Paper straws

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

Metal straws

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

Pasta straws

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

Compostable straws

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

Available upon request

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

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

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

Order Up! Four Food Delivery Technology Giants You Need to Know About

Cell Phone Ordering

The newest trend in the restaurant industry? Cuisine on the couch, your customers’ couch that is.

The decline of customers stepping into retail stores has finally caught up to the restaurant industry with a surge in food delivery technology. Because, in the evenings, the hardest question customers want to answer is the slightly judgmental “are you still there?” from Netflix.

It’s all about convenience.

Yes, there is normally a delivery fee of some sort, and yes, they should tip your delivery driver, but often, customers are fine with paying a little more for convenience. Think about Amazon Prime. People pay an annual fee just to guarantee their purchases arrive on their doorstep within two days. Now that’s convenience at its finest and it’s something that more people are finding desirable in their eating establishments.

If a customer wants a meal from an across town restaurant that doesn’t deliver and can’t see the drive, wait time, and drive home as a valuable use of their hours, they are likely to pay for the convenience of that meal coming to them.

It can be intimidating to launch a delivery program, consider partnering with one of the restaurant delivery service apps that can get your meals into the hands of hungry, homebody customers. So who are the big players you need to know as a restaurant owner?

Takeout Box

Grubhub holds the bulk of the market share by being in 1,600 US cities including Philadelpia, Boston, Denver, and San Antonio. In 2013, Grubhub merged with Seamless creating a powerhouse portfolio of 80,000 takeout restaurants with the acquisition of Eat24, AllMenus, and MenuPages. The most recent reporting, according to GrubHub’s About Us page, shows Grubhub sending “nearly $4 billion in gross food sales to local takeout restaurants”. Grubhub/Seamless is noted as the delivery service of choice, used whopping 92% of the time in El Paso, Texas, and preferred in New York and Jacksonville 85% and 72% of the time, respectively. Grubhub can be ordered through both iOS and Android device apps that give customers a variety of payment options, saves your order history, and the ability to pre-order a food delivery.

UberEats, it’s like Uber, for your dinner! Even though it’s a separate app, UberEats works very similar to the Uber you’re used to. Customers can order UberEats delivery in 12+ US cities from hundreds of restaurants by using their website or app to browse, order, and track deliveries. This service is available nationally but is used most prevalently in Texas. UberEats ranks as the top delivery service in Houston, Austin, and Dallas. One of the most unique qualities about UberEats is their GPS locator. Like the ride app, customers can watch their dinner make their way to them via their delivery car. For the most part, UberEats charges a flat $5 delivery fee which can be a drop in the bucket or double your cost, depending on what you order.

Amazon Restaurants. You may have heard of a little thing called Amazon? It now offers food delivery through its Prime Now feature for 20 US cities and around 10,000+ restaurants, with its popularity peaking in its home stomping grounds of Seattle. But here’s the catch, this service is exclusive for Amazon Prime members. Integrating restaurant delivery seems like a natural fit; what can’t Amazon do? For those who read on an Amazon device, receive Prime packages every couple of days, and are fine with shelling out for a Prime subscription, using Amazon to order your favorite takeout probably makes a lot of sense. Amazon Restaurants is still in the beginning stages and is no small contender considering the experienced infrastructure and delivery network of its parent company.

DoorDash, from start-up to starting lineup. This service is available in large regions across the US including Southern California, Minneapolis, and Atlanta. DoorDash focuses on building partnerships with national chains like Jack in the Box, Wendy’s, and El Pollo Loco. DoorDash blankets most of the market share in San Jose with 78% usage with Fort Worth and Indianapolis close behind. Of course, it’s easy to know what you want from restaurants you’re used to ordering from, but what if you wanted to try something new? DoorDash make it easier to explore the unknown with its “DoorDash Delight” system. This score rates a user’s overall experience with the restaurant’s delivery program, which can help customers decide between Restaurant A or Restaurant B. Users can order through DoorDash with an iOS or Android device.

Cell Phone

Food delivery technology has come leaps and bounds from where it was 10 years ago but this technology is still highly concentrated in major cities where delivery is second nature. It’s important for restaurant owners to understand the appeal of the food delivery technologies that are out there because they say a lot about customer preferences. Using a food delivery technology, is not always going to be the largest portion of your sales but it is interesting to add that touch of convenience for your customers.

The restaurant industry is changing and evolving at a high pace, and with more pixel power than ever before, can your restaurant keep up?

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.

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.

Loyalty Programs: The Profit Behind the Rewards

The phrase “customer loyalty program” often brings to mind images of punch cards and freebies, but loyalty programs have evolved through the years into so much more. Technology and data mining techniques have turned the programs from cheap promotional tactics into big data goldmines that allow smart establishments to tailor their marketing to each customer.  In this article, we’re going to take a look at the different types of loyalty programs, why your restaurant needs one, and the best practices for implementing it.

How it works

In the restaurant industry, there are two basic types of loyalty programs: points based systems or tiered systems. Points-based systems reward customers for dollars spent or frequency of visits, while tiered systems benefit long-time customers by awarding them special access and exclusive opportunities.  To determine what type of system would work best at your restaurant, consider which behaviors you would like to reward.

Why You Should Implement a Loyalty Program

The numbers are in and they show that it is much more lucrative to focus on creating loyalty in your customers than gaining new customers. A study by Bain & Company reported that a 5% improvement in customer loyalty can increase lifetime profits by as much as 95%. Even more, a whopping 70% of customers who participate in loyalty programs report purchasing more.  New business is great but it costs more to acquire a new customer than retaining an existing one: in some cases, up to 6 or 7 times more.

Some restaurants who have implemented loyalty programs have also seen a reduction in attrition and an increase in referrals.

The kind of loyalty that influences the frequency of a customer’s visits occurs when customers relate to a dining establishment. Take a look at the demographic that you would like to focus on and make sure that your business positioning and processes align with those of that demographic. Creating a customer persona could be helpful during this process. Customer personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers.

For example, in a college town, your customer persona is probably an early 20-something looking for a meal at the most affordable price point. If you are located in a more family friendly area the persona might look more like someone in their mid-30’s who is willing to spend a little bit more for a higher quality meal.

Return on Investment

Having a loyalty program can also do wonders for collecting customer data. By tracking the items purchased, the frequency of visits, and dollars spent, you can determine the best areas to invest your money. Managers or owners can even take the gathered analytics to analyze the popularity of a dish and determine what other items could be purchased to pair with it and increase sales. For example, if one of your all-time best sellers is a poultry dish, you might want to consider ordering a new chardonnay known to pair nicely with chicken.  You’re customers receive a better all-around experience and you see an increase in profits.

These same analytics can be used to analyze customer behaviors, which can then be organized into data to develop promotions that are designed specifically to appeal to a certain group of customers.  The ultimate goal is to create motivational offers to influence a customer, increasing the frequency of return visits as well as per-visit spending.

Loyalty Program Best Practices

  • Provide an Immediate Incentive
    • That instant reward for signing up might be just enough to convince any customers that are on the fence about joining to take the plunge.
  • Make it Easy to Join
    • Don’t force your target audience to have to scour your website to find your sign-up page. Have it in a highly visible spot as well as talking to your staff about encouraging customers to sign-up in the restaurant. Signing up should take no longer than a few minutes.
  • Take only the information you absolutely need
    • Customers don’t want to spend their time filling out long surveys just to sign up for your program. Try to limit your questions to essentials like name, birthday, and email address.
  • Personalize offerings to members
    • Loyalty programs often fail because their offerings are too general. By creating specialized incentives based on what the customer has previously purchased you are more likely to see them walking through your door.

What Not to Do

  • Limited Time Offers
    • Limited time offers can be a great way to get customers in the door and increase traffic, but these strategies are not enough to create loyal customers. Spending money on these promotions may see an uptick in new customers but these are the same customers who are not likely to return until you run another promotion.
  • Don’t Have Customers Wondering if the Rewards Will Work
    • Make sure your employees are well versed in redeeming your loyalty system. It can lead to frustration on both sides if customers are trying to use a loyalty program reward and aren’t able to because of faulty programming or a poor system. Your relationship with the customer is the most important thing.
  • Don’t Forget to Use the Data
    • Customers will expect relevant offers in exchange for the personal information they are providing. It is crucial to make use of the information provided to tailor your message as much as possible.

Loyalty programs may seem like they are geared more towards benefiting the customer but in the end, it is a mutually beneficial relationship. The value of the data gathered, and brand loyalty that is inspired far outweigh the costs of a few perks. By implementing and utilizing a loyalty program your restaurant could see a significant increase in profits.

 

 

 

What is LTL delivery? FAQs from the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

Tractor trailer

Ever wonder how your recently ordered furniture will get to you? Here are some answers to frequently asked questions that we get when it comes to receiving your shipped furniture.

How is my furniture being shipped to me?

LTL delivery is a common way that many furniture suppliers use when shipping furniture to customers. Items are usually put on a wood pallet and secured using plastic straps and/or shrink wrap. LTL delivery is used when items don’t fill the entire truck but are too large or heavy for parcel. With this delivery method, you are paying only for the space that the pieces of furniture take up.

What does LTL stand for?

LTL stands for “less than truckload”.

What determines how much delivery will cost?

To calculate LTL delivery costs, items are put into classes designated by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA). There are 18 classes total. To place an item’s class depends the shipment’s density, stowability, handling, and value. The lower the class, the cheaper it is to ship the item. For example, a steel chair ships at class 250 because they have a high density. Meanwhile, aluminum furniture ships at a class 300 because it takes up more space but has less weight. Other possible costs include fuel surcharges, expedited delivery fees, and where the end destination is located.

What is lift-gate service? Is it included?

A lift-gate raises and lowers items from the back of the truck to the ground. This is not included in the shipping quote are given unless you ask for it. If a truck that delivers your items has a lift-gate and you use it but did not pay for it, you will be charged as if you had requested it.

Will the carrier call me to let me know when my order is being delivered?

For an additional fee, they can call you with a timeframe.

Can I change the shipping address once the item has shipped?

Yes, it is possible to change the shipping address by contacting the carrier. However, a reconsignment fee will be charged.

Will the driver take the items off the truck?

No, we recommend that you have some extra help with you to take items off the truck.

Will the driver take my shipment inside?

No, however, an “inside delivery” option can be added for a fee.

Can I use a forklift to take the items off the truck?

Yes, this could help you get the items off the truck because they’re on pallets. Don’t use forklift on booths or oversized tables, these items are easily damaged.

What do I do if my furniture is damaged?

Regardless of what condition your furniture arrives in, you need to accept the delivery. You will receive a delivery receipt where you can note the damages. From there, you will need to contact our service department about the damages.

For more information on how to accept a tailgate delivery, check out our video below!

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Popular Restaurant Trends Throughout the Years

Popular Restaurant Trends

How many times a day do you see blog articles pop up on social media titled “25 Most Embarrassing Food Clichés of (insert year here)”? And once your curiosity has gotten the best of you and you’ve clicked on these articles, you see a list teeming with negativity about food and restaurant trends from years gone by. While these articles can be entertaining, hindsight is always 20/20.

It’s safe to say that the restaurant industry has had plenty of changes occur from its inception, some of them better than others. “New” trends are difficult to come by in the restaurant industry, with many ideas being perfected over the years. But as restauranteurs, it’s necessary to look back on restaurant history to see what’s coming in the future.

The 1950’s

The 1950’s easily became the golden era for American restaurants. The Great Depression and war were a thing of the past and left the economy booming. This time of prosperity made it simple for other industries to flourish as well. Due to improvements in the nation’s highway system, the need for stops along interstates grew. With more and more travelers on the road, franchise restaurants became more in demand.

McDonald's in 1954

Photo from allday.com

Many of these franchised restaurants are still popular today. In 1954, the McDonald’s restaurant we know today was bought from the original McDonald brothers and transformed into franchise gold by Ray Kroc. McDonald’s was not the first fast food restaurant, but the assembly-line system was revolutionary for fast food restaurants to come. Kroc was able to turn this humble hot dog stand into a quick and efficient franchising opportunity. McDonald’s franchise model became a beacon of success for other restaurants, like Kentucky Fried Chicken and Dairy Queen, to follow in suit.

Highway System

Photo from nesbittrealty.com

With the highway system improvements also came advancements in the automotive industry. The 1950’s was filled with car culture; so why would restaurants be any different? While the first drive-in was opened along the Dallas-Fort Worth Highway in 1921, the 1950’s were the true heyday of drive-in diners. Serving up burgers and shakes, sometimes on skates, these diners became social hangouts for teens and families alike. The drive-in trend continued through the 1960’s and then declined with the increasing number of drive-through options in restaurants.

The 1960’s

Steak and Ale Menu

Photo from cravedfw.com

Although processed and junk food captured much of the baby boomers’ attention, it wasn’t the only trend happening in America at the time. Steak and Ale (casual dining) began offering a salad bar buffet to guests, keeping them occupied while waiting for their dinners. Soon enough, salad bars were popping up in steakhouses all over the country as a way to customize a guest’s appetizer.

Dining in the 60's

Photo from petermoruzzi.com

This decade was also defined by the meats served in restaurants. Most entrees at this time were focused around beef of some sort. Beef wellington, steak Diane, and Swedish meatballs were all popular beef dishes of 1960’s. In middle class restaurants, beef and lobster (or surf n’ turf) dinners were commonly seen on the menu.

Howard Johnson's

Photo from slate.com

At this point in history, there was an increasing emphasis on family time outside the home (vacations, a meal out, etc.). Popular restaurants of the time, Japanese steakhouse Benihana and Howard Johnson’s were often patronized by these families looking to spend quality time together and bond over dinner. In the 1960’s, dinner became more than just food and more focused on the emotions associated with it as a family.

The 1970’s

The 1970’s marked the beginning of environmentalism as the newest social cause, affecting the food and restaurant industry. Changing their tune from the 1960’s, customers wanted healthier options that were unprocessed and uncomplicated. This shift led to a rise in vegetarianism and health food stores.

At this point in time, there was a shift in gender roles. With a larger number of women in the workforce, restaurants were used as experiences with the family or a chance to get away from the preparations and cleaning up required of cooking at home. More casual-dining chains began spreading across the nation like the Cheesecake Factory and Ruby Tuesday, both opening their doors in 1972. For a quick bite, the 1970’s marked Subway’s start into franchising. Much like the fame of the McDonald’s assembly line from the 1950’s, the Subway assembly line was just as important for future restaurants in similar niches.

In finer dining, Le Cirque (New York City) opened its doors in 1974 by Sirio Maccioni and became a landmark in the city. One of the most infamous dishes to come out of Le Cirque was pasta primavera. This entrée soon became one of the most ordered items at restaurants across the country, its popularity spilling over into the 1980’s as well.

Le Cirque, New York City

Photo from insatiable-critic.com

The 1980’s

Innovation ran rampant in 1980’s restaurants. Chefs were taking creative license to create new combinations and dishes, making restaurants trendy and modern. While there were many traditionalists who argued against these new methods, it was certainly an exciting time to be in the restaurant business.

Nouvelle Cuisine

Photo from caraandco.com

Nouvelle cuisine was popular especially in finer dining establishments. Chefs worked hard to create elaborate presentations with their dishes, using the plate as a canvas. Popular New York City restaurants like Odeon and Quilted Giraffe used this style quite fervently throughout the 1980’s. Championed by chef Michel Guerard and food critics Henri Gault and Christian Millau, nouvelle cuisine allowed young chefs to be more artistic and not held to the restrictions of traditional French cooking.

Although this cooking style allowed chefs to be more creative in their practice, it ended abruptly with the stock market crash of 1987. With the largest one-day drop of the Dow Jones in history, customers expected more out of their restaurant helpings than the smaller, artistic portions of the time.

Chef Paul Prudhomme

Photo from investors.com

Another popular trend in the 1980’s was Cajun cooking. While other American chefs looked to other countries to inspire their dishes, chef Paul Prudhomme looked to his Louisiana roots. Prudhomme used classic Louisiana ingredients like blackened beef, crawfish, and shrimp to create exciting menu items such as Chicken and Andouille Gumbo and Cajun Jambalaya. The blackening technique became very popular in the 1980’s, being used in fish and other meat entrees.

The 1990’s

Fusion cooking was on the rise in the 1990’s. A trend, fusion cooking is the combination of different cultural dishes to create something new. Laying the ground work for this new trend, celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck served dishes that combined French and Asian influences for an interesting mixture. Items on Puck’s Chinois on Main menu included foie gras with pineapple and catfish with fried ginger.

Wolfgang Puck

Photo from minnpost.com

While these dishes could be highly creative and delicious (like this Thai-inspired pizza), some chefs took it a step too far and created “con-fusion” which were unexpected flavor hybrids that didn’t complement each other well. The “con-fusion” was a result of the chefs trying to jump on the bandwagon and allow their restaurant to have the next big thing, which doesn’t always coincide with a customer’s palate. It is very difficult to specifically label certain “con-fusion” recipes as a failure because taste is extremely subjective. But something tells us that a recipe for spicy Asian green beans with blue cheese isn’t going to be our new favorite food either.

Fusion Cooking

Photo from guyeatsfood.com

Many chefs are not a fan of the term “fusion cooking”, claiming negative connotations from the 1990’s. Even though it is still a popular cooking style in the modern world, the term fusion cooking is not normally used.

The 2000’s

At the turn of the century, America became much more conscientious about their foods. Consumers were more concerned about where their food came from, how it was processed, and what was in it. This kind of curiosity led to many consumer-driven changes that effected food suppliers, distributors, and restaurants.

Super Size Me documentary

Photo from netflixlife.com

One of the most revolutionary food documentaries to ever hit the small screen was Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, which premiered in 2004 to a shocked America. It was common knowledge at this point that fast food was not the ideal meal for a healthy diet, but this documentary took just how unhealthy fast food could be and made it a living nightmare. After this documentary, many fast food chains began to evaluate their menu offerings.

Fresh food

Many consumers demanded more health-conscious options from all of their eateries. Even big-box retailers like Walmart were starting to offer organic options to their customers. So why wouldn’t restaurants as well? More restaurants began creating and marking healthier choices on their menus while others provided more detailed information about where the food came from. This kind of communication with the customer makes them feel more in charge and able to make more educated decisions based on the information that is provided to them.

Because consumers were aimed to obtain healthier foods (for the most part) they frequented businesses like Subway, Jamba Juice, and casual dining establishments like Applebee’s and Olive Garden. Some of the most popular foods of this decade included sushi, bacon, super fruits (blueberries, acai berries), and cupcakes. Many restaurants assimilated these flavors as a part of their core offerings.

The 2010’s

While we are 60% of the way through the 2010’s, there are still prominent restaurant trends that will have sticking power throughout the remainder of this decade.

Chipotle Assembly Line

Photo from qz.com

Restaurants that offer assembly line-like service allow for customers to choose how they want their food prepared are huge right now. The customer is able to tailor their experience from station to station to have their food made exactly the way they want it. This customization ability can be seen in restaurants like Chipotle, Blaze Pizza, and even Starbucks.

Coffee craze

Speaking of Starbucks, the 2010’s are drink-crazed. Whether it is coffeehouses or microbreweries, the interest in mixology has skyrocketed. Many restaurants are not limited to regular or decaf coffee offerings anymore. Similarly, restaurants are also producing their own type of craft beer or wine. There is a certain fascination with making these concoctions because it is all about creativity, and is great for expanding your profit margins.

In urban areas where rent is astronomical and constantly changing, the newest restaurant trend isn’t to become a physical building; it’s to have a food truck. This trend has roots starting in Los Angeles with Kogi BBQ truck and chef Roy Choi. With the help of Twitter and the combination of Korean and Mexican cuisine, the Kogi BBQ truck became a success that inspired restauranteurs to take an alternative route for restaurant ownership.

If you’re looking to create something new in your restaurant, it is always helpful to look to the past for inspiration to create your future. These popular trends from the 1950’s all the way to today have their time and place in history. The restaurant industry has a cyclical nature; trends are bound to find their way around again. While the subject matter of the trends may not be your restaurant’s cup of tea, at the very least, you can get a theme night out of it!

What are some trends (modern or older) your restaurant has tried? Let us know in the comments below!

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How to Make Your Restaurant Successful on Yelp

Find Us on YelpFaced with large amounts of competition, businesses are constantly fighting for their customers’ attention. Word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful driving force in today’s society and has the ability to sway decisions like what to buy and where to eat. This type of marketing may seem difficult to harness, but with programs like Yelp, businesses have a way to engage with customers and help mold their opinions.

Yelp is a great way for small businesses to compete with larger chains by showcasing what they have to offer. In Q2 of 2016, Yelp had a monthly average of 23 million unique visitors who went through Yelp’s mobile app and another 69 million unique visitors who visited Yelp via the web. A Nielsen study reports that 78 % of users rely on Yelp to find restaurants (out of all categories), capturing the highest percentage of the categories. Needless to say, Yelp is a well-used resource for restaurant-goers whose importance is often under-estimated by restaurant owners.

How It Works

Imagine you’re on vacation and it’s your first time at a destination. Up and down your hotel’s strip, there is dinner option after dinner option. As a consumer, the choices are overwhelming. How do you even begin to choose? You could just waltz into the first place you come to and take your chances.  Or, you could leverage the experience of thousands of Yelpers that have visited before you and have left reviews of just about every restaurant in town.  Without the uncertainty and risk of visiting an untested spot, you and your family can get down to the business of enjoying your vacation.

According to their website, Yelp’s purpose is to “connect people with great local businesses”. Their automated software program scours the top reviews that are written by users (“Yelpers”) based on quality and helpfulness, and it ranks businesses according to a proprietary algorithm. So how does your restaurant get the highest ranking? Typically, a larger number of reviews lead to a higher ranking in Yelp search and many other search engines.  The strategy then with Yelp is to get your restaurant as many good reviews as possible.  In this article, we are going to show you how to get started.


Yelp Ads
Claim Your Business

Claiming your business is the starting point for all businesses on Yelp. To be proactive with a Yelp strategy, you must claim your business to have control of that page. After you claim your page, you can then personalize it to help distinguish it among other pages. The goal of this page is to drive traffic to your own site. Optimizing this page will help your restaurant appear, not only in yelp searches, but also in search engine queries like Google.

It is interesting to note that according to a Boston Consulting Group study, businesses that simply claimed their Yelp profile generated incremental revenues of $8,000 annually just from being on Yelp.  Wouldn’t it be nice if your business could bring in an additional $8,000 per year by spending a small amount of time setting up you page and managing your reviews?  By the way, according to the same study, those who claimed their profile AND advertised on Yelp through PPC campaigns (more on that later) generated additional revenue of $23,000.

Rack Up the Reviews

Although it is the core function of Yelp, many businesses may wonder how customers will know to leave a review. Be cautious of how you approach this topic.  Yelp prefers “organic” review, which means reviews that have not been solicited or, worse, paid for.  It’s understandable if you think about it.  Most businesses only ask for reviews from their happiest customers, not those who have had a bad experience.  That might be great for the restaurant, but it damages the overall credibility of the review system. Yelp wants your restaurant to earn great reviews through exemplary business practices, not through solicitation and/or reward.

Even though Yelp discourages direct solicitation, they do leave the door open for more subtle ways of generating reviews.  The first, and most obvious, is to make sure that your customers know you actually have a Yelp account. You may have a customer that comes to your restaurant every single day for their morning coffee, but if they don’t know you’re on Yelp, how will the world know that you have nurtured and cared for this customer, so much so they visit your business every day? Make customers aware that you use Yelp by using this form to receive a window cling for your business. Also, remind customers to visit your Yelp page with a link in your email signature and/or a badge on your website.

To attract customers that are in the decision stage, use a Check-In Offer to entice them. A Check-In Offer is a reward a customer receives when they check into a business on Yelp. This reward is redeemed by mobile device at the place of business. After a checking in from a mobile device at a restaurant, the user is later asked to write a review of where they checked in at. Be careful not to offer incentives to customers who give better reviews, which is against Yelp’s policiesCheck In Offer

While the tactics above are handy with a new restaurant or during a slow time to jazz up reviews, you should always try and go above and beyond for customers. Have the mindset of what kind of experience you want your customers to walk away with, and then double it. What sets your business apart from the competition? Is your atmosphere, food, staff, or price point? Find what makes your restaurant original and makes for a memorable experience for your guests. Inspire people to choose your restaurant, enjoy themselves, and then right a smashing review because their experience was just that good.

Take a look at this improvement calculator to see how many reviews it will take to attain a certain rating for your restaurant.

Interact with Customers

You’ve put the work into claiming your business, spruced up your Yelp page, and the reviews are pouring in. All of a sudden, your first bad review comes in: a piece of coal in your carefully cultivated glittering diamond mine of positive reviews. Your first instinct might be to ignore the review, hoping it gets lost in the sea positive reviews. Maybe no one will see it?  That is a big mistake.  You should always respond to a negative review, even if the response is private.  The last thing that you want is an already upset customer feeling like you’re ignoring them.  You’ll definitely want to reach out to that Yelper in a way that lets them know that their concerns have been heard and you will take their input into consideration when shaping future decisions.

Whether you handle bad reviews publicly or privately is up to you, but maintain consistency – don’t respond publicly to the reviews where you feel like a customer is wrong, and privately to the reviews where you know you messed up. The flow chart below outlines Yelps best practices for responding to reviews publicly or privately.

Review Flow ChartFinally, remember that your public responses will be seen by existing and potential customers so always be courteous and understanding. Practice up on your PR skills and don’t isolate customers. You don’t want jeopardize your future business with a poorly worded response.

Free Assets for Business Owners

Yelp has many free resources for business owners to use, making it effective and easy on a budget.

Yelp for Business Owners app is the most comprehensive of these resources. With the app (available in the App Store for iOS and Google Play Store for Android), businesses track engagement, leads, and clicks to their site from Yelp. The app also has the capability to track the number of check-ins to a business, calls (from clicking the phone number), and the reservations made off of Yelp. Not only do these factors help you gauge your success on Yelp, but could justify an increase of foot traffic in your restaurant. Through the app you also have the capability to respond (publicly or privately) to messages, upload photos, and report reviews or messages. For a busy, on-the-go restaurant owner, the Yelp app is extremely valuable in managing your presence on the site.

Again, you don’t want to come right out and ask for reviews. But if you want another, more discrete way to remind customers about giving you a review, place a Yelp review badge on your website. By placing a review badge on your site, your customers can see that people have a reviewed your restaurant and prompt them to check out your Yelp page. Potential customers will be more inclined to visit a restaurant with many positive reviews, which the badge helps them see at a glance. Every time your business is reviewed, the counter clicks up and/or reflects in the stars. Per Yelp’s brand guidelines, there are only two badges allowed on a business’ site that shows their association with Yelp.

Web Review Badges

It is important for business owners to stay up to date on ways to effectively use Yelp. Yelp offers free 30 minute webinars that improve upon your existing Yelp knowledge. Topics range from how to respond to reviews to becoming a 5-star brand. These webinars help clarify how your restaurant can use Yelp as a sustainable, effective strategy for the long term.

Yelp Ads

While Yelp has plenty of free resources for businesses, there are also advertising packages to enhance your profile even further.

Yelp’s advertising packages operate on a cost per click (CPC) basis and could be beneficial for your particular niche. There is no pre-determined set cost because the cost depends on the competition and relevance of your advertisement to the user’s search. Yelp Ads can help your business with targeted local advertising and a more prominent placement on search and competitor pages.

If you want to upgrade your Yelp experience by paying for advertising, the Call to Action button may be one you want to take advantage of.

Whenever potential customers have searched and found your business on Yelp, what is the next steps you want them to take? The best way to provide a specific direction for these customers is to have a Call to Action button. When set up, this button appears towards to the top of your business’ page, underneath the location and uploaded photos.
When narrowing down what your Call to Action should be, think of what your desired end goal is. The button will take customers to more information in the form of a specific page of your website or coupon.

Call to Action
In the example above, Olive or Twist’s Call to Action button promotes their happy hour and links to their specials section on their website. Make sure your button is labeled with a broad, but relevant statement. You don’t want to give away all the information on your Yelp page, because then there is no need to click. This button provides a next-steps for potential customers to take part in.

Compare the different products that Yelp Ads has to offer with this chart.

Please note that just because a business advertises on Yelp does not mean they automatically get better ratings. A business could be rated two stars and advertise, leading to more people seeing that rating. On the other hand, a business that does not pay to advertise can have a five-star rating. For more information on Yelp’s advertising policy, feel free to check out their FAQ page.

If you own a restaurant that has never used Yelp or only as a consumer, go claim your business. Doing a simple Google search will leave you with endless results on how to optimize Yelp and best practices. But the best way to use Yelp is to jump right in! There are so many free resources and options for a business getting started on Yelp. Don’t think the only way to be successful on Yelp is to shell out a portion of your advertising budget. Let your customers know that you have a Yelp presence, respond thoughtfully to their reviews, and keep providing excellent experiences to make Yelp work for your business.

Does your restaurant or business currently use Yelp as a strategy? If so, what’s your experience with having a page? If not, what are your reservations about it? Let us know!

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