How Restaurants Can Use Pinterest Effectively

Pinterest may not have the eye-watering user numbers as Facebook (2.4 billion/month) or Instagram (1 billion/month).

But at 250 million monthly users, there is still a robust (and growing) base of dedicated Pinners out there.

And the people who do use Pinterest are the people you want to reach! Half of millennials use Pinterest — the generation that eats out more than any other. And a full 7 in 10 moms report using it as well. When you consider that 90% of women control their household spending, it becomes clear that your customers are on Pinterest!

If you’re not familiar with the platform, here’s how it works:

Pinterest is a way to save images from across the internet in one place. Users create “boards” with whatever themes they want and then save and organize “pins” to each board. Just about any image on the internet can be saved to Pinterest. And each pin links back to the original source. For you, that could be your restaurant website or Facebook page.

So how can you, a restauranteur, use Pinterest as a helpful marketing tool?

Set up a Business Account

The first thing you’ll need is a business account. A business account (rather than a personal account) will provide analytics and allow you to use Pinterest’s advertising features.

After you’ve created your account, you can complete your business profile. Add your website, logo, and some information about your restaurant. 

You’ll also want to follow the instructions to confirm your website. By using this feature, you’ll get additional helpful analytics. It will also add your logo to any pins that come from your website. There’s a tutorial here to help link your Pinterest account to several different types of websites.

Create Boards

Once your account is set up and linked to your website, you can start posting your own content to Pinterest. 

To start, create a Board. A Board is simply a place to organize pins with a similar theme.

You can create as many boards as you like. For example, Chipotle has 21 different boards on Pinterest. Some examples: 

  • Grow — A board focused on gardening. This makes sense for Chipotle, since one of their core values is a focus on fresh ingredients and responsible farming.
  • Cook — Inspiring recipes that they’ve saved from other blogs and websites.
  • Build — Highlights new stores going up around the world.
  • Wear — Dedicated to Chipotle merchandise.

You could do one focused on your menu and recipes. Another could be pictures of charitable events that your staff participates in. 

You could also have a board highlighting interesting things to do in your city. Or if your restaurant is in a historic area, you could set up a board to share pictures of the neighborhood as it’s changed through the years. 

One helpful feature of Pinterest — you can add collaborators to your board. If you have a photographer or marketing person on staff, you may want to add them as collaborators so they can make their own pins.

Start Pinning

After you have your first board set up, you can start adding pins. A pin is simply an image card (along with a caption and website link) that you will save to your board. Pins can be added from other sites across the web, or you can upload images directly to Pinterest. 

Keep in mind that Pinterest is a tool of discovery. You want your images to be interesting and helpful. People look to Pinterest for inspiration and recommendations. So pins like recipes, table layouts, cooking tips, or wine pairings could all do well. 

Also, think beyond the food. Pin pictures of picturesque areas of your restaurant. Not only will this attract potential diners, but your pins may get re-pinned by interior designers or branding firms. The result will be more exposure for your restaurant.

Don’t think you have to create 100% unique content to add to Pinterest. Different social platforms have different users. So it’s okay to re-purpose some of your Instagram posts for your Pinterest audience!

After you’ve been pinning for a while, look at your analytics to see which pins get the most engagement and which drive the most traffic to your website. Repeat their success by adding more pins with similar themes.

Encourage Other Pinners

Many Pinterest fans download the “Pin It” button to their browsers. This lets them easily capture images from other websites as they’re exploring the web. 

But you should also add a Pinterest button to your own website, just like a Facebook or Twitter button. This will encourage users to share your content on their own Pinterest boards for free, user-generated promotion of your restaurant.

Just like any other social media site, one of the goals is engagement. But Pinterest users don’t do as much commenting as users on some other social sites. Re-pins and likes are more common than comments. 

So encourage re-pins of your content. Maggiano’s Little Italy did a “Pin it to Win It” promotion with huge success. Each week, they would award a $100 gift card to a Pinterest user who had re-pinned one of their images. The result was a huge increase in Pinterest engagement.

Remember, the door swings both ways. So when a user shares one of your pins, leave them a comment to say thank you. 

Also, search Pinterest for content that is relevant to your restaurant. If you serve Italian food, search for pins related to home-made pasta, popular Continental classics, or even images of the Italian countryside. Give this relevant content a like or re-pin it to one of your own boards.

By engaging with other users, you’ll encourage them to engage back.

When to Pin

Pin regularly. Spread out your pins across the week, rather than saving them up and pinning them all at once.

Some stats say that you should be pinning at least 5 times per day. While more pins will maximize your engagement, don’t get too caught up in the numbers when you’re just starting out. Commit to pinning a few times per week, and increase your frequency from there.

Research indicates that the best times to pin on Pinterest are:

  • 2 pm — 4 pm
  • 8 pm — 11 pm
  • 2 am — 4 am 

Pinterest makes it easy for you to post during these peak times. After you create your pin, you can schedule it to post anytime in the next two weeks. You can create and schedule up to 30 posts at a time through your Pinterest business account.

Request Rich Pins

Rich Pins provide a little more oomph to your posts. The purpose of Rich Pins is to add extra information to your pin without requiring the user to click through to the source site. And the information stays with the pin, even if it’s re-pinned and the caption is changed. One study suggests they can increase website traffic by 36%!  

Rich Pins are limited to four specific types: Recipe, Article, Product, and App.

Product Pins include pricing and where to buy. You could use this type of Rich Pin if you sell merchandise or pre-packaged food items online. 

Recipe Pins list ingredients, cook time, and serving sizes. You can use this pin to share a popular restaurant recipe with your followers.

Article Pins include a headline, author, and article description. Post an Article Pin to share your good press with the world.

And App Pins allow users to install an app directly from the pin, without visiting an app store. You can use this type of pin if your restaurant has its own app.

You’ll have to request Rich Pins be added to your account before you can use them on Pinterest. Make sure your website is confirmed (see Set up Your Business Account above) before you request Rich Pins. But it’s worth the extra step to gain access to this valuable tool.

Consider Paid Advertising

The low cost of social media is one of its great selling points. But if you want to boost your reach, consider using Pinterest’s Promoted Pins. 

Pinterest estimates that it provides a $4.30 gross return for every advertising dollar spent. That’s a pretty good ROI! 

And unlike Instagram or Facebook ads, where there is no way to save the ad for future use, Pinterest ads are all pinnable! So if a bride-to-be sees your Promoted Pin for catering, she can easily save it to her wedding board as a reminder to inquire about pricing!

And when someone saves your Promoted Pin, their followers can see it as well. Even after the paid promotion ends, that pin will still be on the users’ boards.

Wrapping Up

55% of Pinterest’s users say they log on to find products, vs. only 12% for Facebook and Instagram! So it’s clear that Pinterest is where the buyers are.

While the platform isn’t quite as straightforward as Facebook or Instagram as a marketing tool, users are still highly engaged and represent a large portion of restaurant customers. Adding it to your roster of social media platforms can expand your reach, earn more brand awareness, and bring bodies through the door! 

With such a powerful tool at your disposal, it’s time to start pinning!


4 Up and Coming Food Cities of 2019

Once upon a time, the established wisdom declared that great food in this country was the domain of New York City. Of course, this was never actually true. There was and is great food across the nation, from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine.

Still, sometimes a surge occurs in a particular city that makes the rest of us sit up and take notice. A place that was never known for its food is suddenly attracting attention from critics and foodies alike.

This seems to be happening more and more these days. Creative young chefs with dreams of starting their own restaurant are flocking to smaller cities where rents are reasonable and competition is less fierce.

A newly vibrant restaurant scene often accompanies a town’s revitalization. Old warehouse spaces in a defunct downtown become hip new eateries, attracting more shops, residents, and eventually, public transit.

So it’s always exciting when a new (to us) food hotspot makes waves. Here are four up-and-coming food cities that we think you’ll want to visit!

Sacramento

When the land surrounding your city grows 40% of the country’s fruit and a third of its produce, the phrase “farm-to-table” takes on a whole new meaning.

California’s Central Valley provides produce for restaurants across the nation. But Sacramento’s proximity means those carrots weren’t picked two weeks ago — they were picked two days ago.

Long overshadowed by Los Angeles to the south and San Francisco to the southwest, Sacramento is becoming a food destination of its own. The city provides a respite from the outrageous pricing in San Francisco — one of the most expensive rental markets in the country.

More affordable restaurant space for chefs equals more affordable menu prices for patrons.

One of the hallmarks of a burgeoning food scene seems to be at least one upscale food hall. And wouldn’t you know, Sacramento got their very own in November 2018. The Bank, located in a 100-year-old bank building, currently has four operating restaurants, with more to come.

Where to Eat in Sacramento

So many delicious options. Try Beast and Bounty. The “Beast” section of the menu provides a range of meat and seafood dishes, while the “Bounty” section focuses on imaginative vegetarian options.

If you like to let the chef take the lead, try The Kitchen. This award-winning restaurant only has one option — their seasonal five-course prix fixe menu. Past courses have included morel and crème fraiche tortelloni and rose beef loin poached in truffle butter.

Tampa

Across the country, the good people of Tampa, Florida are experiencing a food revolution of their own.

After an economic decline in the 70s and 80s, the city is undergoing a revitalization. Upgrades to the Tampa Riverwalk, new downtown mixed-use development, and museum improvements are all part of the area’s resurgence.

Native Floridians will tell you that there has always had a strong food culture here, thanks in part to the culinary traditions brought by Cuban, German, Italian, and Spanish immigrants.

But that has all become more visible lately. A few recent James Beard nominations and the renewal of neighborhoods like Seminole Heights has put Tampa on the food map.

A walkable neighborhood of historic homes, Seminole Heights has become a mecca for vintage shops, craft cocktails, and tasty eats. Local favorite Rooster & the Till serves upscale creative small plates. A few minutes away, Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe keeps the area funky with comfort food, eclectic art, and local live music.

Ybor City is another foodie destination. Just north of Downtown Tampa, this neighborhood is like a love letter to the history, art, and food of the region. Visit in April to experience Ybor Aficionado Days — a walking tour through Ybor’s “tapas trail” with bites at every stop.

Where to Eat in Tampa

Tampa is home to not one, but two new food halls. First to open was the Hall on Franklin. It has a seafood and raw bar, poke, dessert, coffee, and cocktails.

Newer on the scene is Heights Public Market with contemporary ramen, modern Cuban, sushi, pizza, specialty sandwiches, and more. It’s all inside the Armature Works Building — the former storage facility for Tampa’s streetcars.

Indianapolis

Outside of Chicago, the midwest doesn’t get a lot of love from the culinary set. And that’s a real shame, because cities like St. Louis, Missouri; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Madison, Wisconsin all have some amazing restaurants.

But today, we’re going to talk about Indianapolis. Once you get away from the mega-sports complexes downtown, you’ll find international flavors, new American cuisine, and cocktails from traditional to tiki.

The International Marketplace is a haven of tastes from around the world. You’ll find food from countries as varied as Ethiopia, Nigeria, Guinea, Japan, China, India, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mexico — too many to list. There are 80 different ethnic restaurants here!

Not far away is the Broad Ripple neighborhood, one of Indianapolis’ seven cultural districts. The area features unique spots like Locally Grown Gardens. Part restaurant, part farmer’s market, the stars of the show are the hog roast and sugar cream pie.  

To learn a little while you’re there, visit Chef JJ’s Back Yard. They offer classes ranging from pizza to seafood to kamado-style steak to smoking in a Big Green Egg.

And of course, there is a food hall taking over a once-defunct historical property. The Garage Food Hall in the Bottleworks District is coming to Indianapolis’ old Coca-Cola bottling plant. Expected to open in spring 2020, the area will hold more than 25 food and drink concepts.

Where to Eat in Indianapolis

Located in a renovated 1924 factory warehouse, James Beard semifinalist Bluebeard regularly tops the local “best of” lists. Menu items range from small plates of modern oysters Rockefeller to full-sized ribeyes and pork chops.

For a more laid-back meal, try Tinker Street near downtown. Korean chicken & waffles, summer rolls filled with poached shrimp and mango, and pad thai with squash noodles are all on the eclectic menu. They even serve “corn dogs” — but foie gras bratwurst and pepper jelly make them decidedly grown-up.

Las Vegas

To those of us who have only visited the City of Lights for the strip, it could be surprising to consider it a dining destination. While there is good food at the casinos, it doesn’t have the reputation of being terribly imaginative.

But an interesting thing happened when big name chefs started bringing their concepts to the area in the 1990s and 2000s.

Once their restaurants were established, the celebrity chefs went back to their homes in fashionable New York or LA. But someone had to run the kitchens in their absence. So they hired great young talent.

And when it came time for those young chefs to make their next move, some found the low cost of living and great weather enough reason to stay in Vegas.

The result is an exciting food scene to supplement some of the great food that was already here, hidden in plain site.

The hip Arts District has experienced a rebirth, full of galleries, antique shops, condos, and of course, restaurants.

Executive Chef James Trees of Esther’s Kitchen cut his teeth at the Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace before opening Esther’s in 2016. It’s now a local favorite serving “Italian soul food” like bucatini carbonara and brunch pizza with quail eggs and bacon.

In Spring Mountain, a less trendy part of town, a huge commercial Chinatown has sprung up. There are an estimated 150 restaurants here!

In fact, “Chinatown” is a bit of a misnomer — cuisine ranges from regional Chinese to sushi, udon, ramen, pho, Thai, and more. It’s a cultural melting pot with a massive following from the locals. Popular joints can have lines day and night.

Where to Eat in Las Vegas

Forte Tapas looks unassuming at first glance. Located in a strip mall, it may not be where you’d expect to find Bulgarian tapas or cocktails like a Smoked Vanilla Chai Old Fashioned. But they’re celebrating their 10-year anniversary, so clearly they’re doing something right.

Back in Chinatown, visit Lamaii for outstanding Thai food in an upscale setting. They have all the standards like Pad Thai and Pad See Aew. But try the Mun Pu Fried Rice — rice cooked in crab fat with lump crab meat.

So many delicious places to eat, and so little time to get to them all!

What do you think of our list? Are there any up-and-coming food cities that you’re excited about? Let us know below!

5 Furniture Hacks That Will Help Your Restaurant Run More Smoothly

Furniture is essential to any restaurant, but did you know you could actually use it to your advantage? The right furniture can help keep your restaurant operations running fluidly.

Customers are expecting quicker service than ever and restaurants are on the clock to deliver. Time is of the essence and speed is the pièces de résistance to make it happen. If your restaurant doesn’t have the capital to jump to the artificial intelligence of Jetson-like robots….that’s super normal.

Poor time management can snap a business model in half but by choosing the correct restaurant furnishings, you can help your staff run as efficiently as possible. We’ve narrowed down five furniture hacks that will keep your operation effective for your employees and bottom line profitable!

This furniture will streamline your hostesses and waitstaff processes, cut down cleaning times without skimping, and use your square footage effectively.  

Add a POS Station

Hostess Station in Urban Distressed Wood

Eliminate employees not being able to find pens, crayons, napkins, and even wait-time buzzers by having it all in one space: a point of sale station! Having a designated space for these things to reside can help cut out frantic scrambling for these easy to misplace items.

Even better, you can customize your POS station to fit your restaurant’s processes. Need somewhere to put rolled silverware so it’s at the ready? Opt for some wider shelves that can fit baskets the silverware can be tucked away in. Do you need to have the space to stack trays and menu? Try cabinet doors that shut and can hide away stored items.

By organizing these items, at an arm’s length away, your hostesses and wait staff can be ready for whatever the dinner rush throws at them.

Use Crumb Strips in Your Booth Section

Booths with a Crumb Strip

Vinyl color, height, and single vs. double are just a few of the factors that run through restaurant owners heads’ when they purchase commercial booths. But one important factor that is definitely not at the top of their list to consider when buying a booth is having a crumb strip.

A crumb strip in your booths will make your wait staff and bussers’ cleaning routine so much easier. This narrow strip of space between the back and seat cushions of the booth let them really get in there with a rag and, much like its name, get the crumbs out! Not only does the crumb strip make it simpler to get in between the table and booth vinyl, it can also increase the likelihood it won’t be left by your staff because it was too hard to reach. Which isn’t good for anyone… who wants to seat on a crumby booth?

Lower Wait Times with Indoor/Outdoor Furniture Seating

Distressed Viktor Chairs in Kelly Red

Sometimes it feels like the dinner crowd just won’t stop pouring in! As a restaurant owner, this is a great problem to have but it does present an issue for space. If the weather is nice, you’ll want to maximize your patio space. But that could mean prepping furniture you haven’t use in awhile, shaking off the cobwebs, and hoping the dead leaves from last fall have evaporated off your patio.

Why not invest in versatile seating that can pull double duty in both seating charts? These pieces of furniture are typically metal that are specially finished for indoor or outdoor use. Having this kind of seating on hand can be helpful to keep wait times lower, as well as increasing the amount of customers your staff can serve. Lower wait times, happier customers, bigger tips, just from having seating that can go anywhere!

Clean Up Your Outdoor Space in a Snap

Whether you’re just breaking out your restaurant’s patio furniture or you’re putting it away for the end of the season, cleaning it up is a great way to protect your investment and adding to your curb appeal. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if you could pressure-wash the outdoor space AND your furniture at the same time?

Cue poly lumber furniture!

This eco-friendly substance is a great alternative to wood with its non-porous makeup, which means it won’t retain moisture! Your staff can wipe down (or pressure-wash) poly lumber furniture without worrying about mildew, fungi, or any other growing mold. Poly lumber has many benefits for outdoor use, making it a simple solution for hard-to-take-of furniture.

Accommodate Guests (and Your Staff)

Communal Table in a Restaurant

Larger parties can be a struggle for your restaurant to accommodate, especially if your go-to defense is pushing together smaller table tops. It can be a pain for your wait staff to be constantly constructing and deconstructing the same space over and over, depending on who walks through the door.

By having a communal table or two that you can seat large parties, you can avoid losing your small tables by having to push them together. This way your staff can keep a balance between the larger parties and smaller tables, preventing them from becoming too overwhelmed.

We’re not saying you need to stand there with a stopwatch and record your employees’ every move, but it’s important to consider the success rate of how your staff’s current performance and what you should do to help. Even when your staff is on their game and working their hardest, there may be some areas that you can help make them more efficient in their jobs, just by changing your furniture.

Top Mistakes Restaurant Owners Make in Their First Year and How to Avoid Them

Restaurant Communal Table with Dinner

We’ve all heard that terrifying statistic — 90% of new restaurants fail within the first year. Fortunately for both owners and people who like to go out to eat, this “fact” is completely untrue. According to research by Dr. H.G. Parsa of Ohio State University, first-year restaurant failure rates are closer to a much less shocking 26%. (The 90% myth, by the way, is so prevalent that it was even cited in an American Express commercial in the early 2000s. AmEx was never able to substantiate their claim.)

Still, that means that one out of four new restaurants isn’t going to survive to its first anniversary. Sometimes, these closures are beyond the owners’ control. An economic downturn, staffing issues, infrastructure problems, or new government policies can all lead to failures, despite the best efforts of management.

But there are certain mistakes that restaurant owners often make when they first get started that can be major factors in the success or failure of their restaurants. Here are some common mistakes that restaurant owners make in their first year of business, and how you can avoid them.

Mistake #1 — Not appreciating the necessary time commitment

The restaurant industry is hard, both physically and mentally. It requires long hours, intense attention to detail, and a mastery of a whole slew of different disciplines from managing people to sales forecasting to marketing to cooking to sanitation…

And because money is always tight in the restaurant business, all of this has to be organized and executed by an incredibly small management team. The result is long hours away from home, family, and hobbies. In Dr. Parsa’s study, he notes that most failed restaurateurs cited family sacrifice as at least part of the reason that their restaurants shuttered.

Owning a restaurant will always be hard work. But one step you can take to try to balance your work with your home life is to delegate and outsource where you can.

The key to delegating effectively:

  • Communicate exactly what you’re looking for.
  • Provide a clear vision of success.

For example, maybe you decide to hand off social media management to a staff member or freelancer. Make sure that person knows how many posts you want per week and the type of content you like on your feed. Food photos? Videos of guests having a good time? Bartenders making drinks? Behind-the-scenes footage of the kitchen? Promotions for upcoming events? Clear content guidelines will help to automate the process and prevent frustration down the line.

Then, give the delegate a metric that is easy to track. Maybe you want to grow your social media following by 10% per month, or maybe you want a certain number of people to engage with your posts on a weekly basis. Aim for straightforward, concrete goals so the whole team will know exactly what success looks like.

Mistake #2 — Not compensating for inexperience

Opening a restaurant sounds like fun. And it can be! But there’s a reason why industry greats like Wolfgang Puck and Gordon Ramsay worked in restaurants for nearly 15 years before opening their own. There is a ton to learn before you’re ready to be the boss.

Training and managing a small army of prep cooks, chefs, servers, bartenders, and hosts is difficult enough. Add in marketing, controlling food and labor costs, licensing and permitting, facilities management, special events, and more, and it’s enough to make your head spin if you haven’t risen through the restaurant ranks.

That doesn’t mean that every restaurant with an inexperienced owner is doomed to fail. But you’ll need to hire the best general manager or director of operations that you can afford. Ten or twenty years of restaurant management experience will come at a cost, but it will be worth to have a pro on your team.

Mistake #3 — Lack of clear concept

Your concept is not just your cuisine. Your concept is what makes you unique. Why should people go to your pizza joint, instead of the pizza joint down the street? What special purpose does your restaurant serve?

Maybe you are an upscale date spot located in a renovated 1960s gas station serving ultra-thin-crust Neapolitan pizzas with high-end toppings like foie gras and shaved white truffle.

Now compare that to Chuck E. Cheese — a family-friendly pizza place with lots of games and entertainment for kids. Both serve the same basic cuisine, but their concepts are radically different.

So what is it, beyond just your type of food, that makes you special? You’ll never be all things to all people, so dig in and focus on who you’re trying to attract, and for what occasions. You want to position your restaurant as the “go-to” place for something specific — an occasion, an atmosphere, a certain theme. What do you do better than anyone else?

A clear concept will serve as a guide as you navigate choices down the line. Menu changes, community events, and promotions will all be easier to approve or deny when you have a clearly defined concept.

Mistake #4 — Allowing subpar food to persist

Your menu was carefully curated, each recipe lovingly tested and presented by your executive chef. You tried each dish, gave it your seal of approval, and are now confident in the knowledge that you can be proud of your food.

But over time, corners get cut. Maybe the line cooks are sandbagging steaks to get through the rush more easily, resulting in dried-out sirloins. Maybe the prep cooks are only letting the soup simmer for 15 minutes instead of the required 45 minutes, so the flavor isn’t as rich.

These time-saving tweaks aren’t malicious on the part of your staff, but they can drastically reduce the quality of the food. And customers will notice.

Make it a habit to eat in your restaurant regularly — but discreetly. Ask a manager to ring in food for you, but make sure they don’t tell the kitchen staff that it’s for the boss. That way, you’ll get an accurate taste of what your restaurant is serving to your guests, and you’ll be able to address any deviations from the original dish.

Mistake #5 — Not keeping track of permits

When you were first opening your restaurant, you had to get a variety of permits and licenses from all sorts of local and county departments like the health, fire, and building departments, state liquor authority, comptroller, and more.

Right around your 1-year mark, many of those permits will need to be renewed. And they’ll probably have to be renewed annually for as long as your restaurant is operating. Failure to stay on top of this tedious (but vital) administrative work can result in fines or could even get you shut down.

Make absolutely sure that you are tracking all permit and license expiration dates!

One free method is to create a special Google or Outlook calendar just for permits, and schedule all expiration dates with reminders 60 and 30 days out. When you get your 60-day reminder, you can file the proper paperwork and schedule any necessary inspections to keep your restaurant in compliance. At the 30-day mark, double check that everything has been received by the corresponding city or county department.

Another option is to use software like Renewal Tracker to manage renewal dates, reminders, costs, and supporting documentation all in one place.

And make sure all managers know where the permits are posted in the restaurant so they’re easy to find if you’re not around.

Mistake #6 — Not planning for the worst

When you created your business plan, you made assumptions (aka guesses) about expected sales and revenue. You did your research and tried to be pragmatic, but you still had no real way of knowing what those numbers would be.


Once you open your doors, you’ll find out how accurate your guesses were. It may take time — months, or even years — for your restaurant to perform the way that you hoped.

Don’t forget that you have to cover food, labor, rent, utilities, taxes, and loan payments, no matter how much money you’re bringing in. It some time to build a devoted customer base, so make sure to reserve some of your startup capital. It’s vital to have some cash on hand if things get off to a slow start.

Keep an eye on your cash reserves, and always try to keep in mind how many months you could continue to operate if you don’t see an improvement in sales. This will help you to know when you need to start looking for outside capital. Make sure you come up with a strategy well in advance of having to choose between making payroll and paying the electric bill. Remember, the best time to look for cash is when you don’t need it.

The restaurant business can be fun and rewarding, but it’s still a business. Hiring a great team, creating the best possible product, and keeping a cautious eye on your income and expenses can all help to ensure that your first year isn’t also your last.

Engaging “Generation Y” to Grow Your Restaurant

Generation Y (aka millennials) are expected to outnumber baby boomers sometime this year making them the largest generation in the country. At 73 million strong, it’s vital to know how to reach these 22- to 37-year-olds.

Marketing to millennials should look more like engaging with your friends than traditional advertising. They want entertaining content, fun experiences, and authentic interactions with real people. They’re suspicious of marketing, and if it feels too much like a sales pitch, they won’t respond to it. But there are still ways to reach them! Read on for some helpful tips.

Get Social

You know that “kids these days” are always on their smartphones. But did you know that 95% of Generation Y follows at least one brand on social media? Every additional follower on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter is one more person that you can market to directly — without spending a dime.

Luckily for the restaurant industry, food-related content is incredibly popular across social media. High-quality photo and video content are what the people want! So don’t let them down. A DSLR camera is a great tool, but a newer smartphone camera can still do the trick. It never hurts to have some photo editing skills as well to make the colors really pop.

While food content is a great start, also think beyond the plate. Go behind-the-scenes and introduce your followers to the people behind the product. Take a short video of the chef talking about some of his favorite ingredients, or making one of his signature dishes. Introduce your fans to one of your bartenders. Post a photo from your last staff party. Remember, you’re treating your followers like friends. They need to know who you are if they’re going to feel personally connected to your brand.

Engage!

Keep in mind that social media is a platform for two-way communication. It’s not enough to just post a killer video and trust that the rest will happen on its own. Make sure to engage with the people who are reacting to your content. Respond to comments, thank new followers, and follow them back. And when they post their own photos from their time at your establishment, make sure to like and comment.

And don’t forget to check out the analytics! All social media platforms have reports that business pages can access. You’ll be able to learn about activity on your feed, how each post is performing, and gain insight into your audience — who they are, and when they are active on social media. This information will help you determine what content is getting results so you can tailor your posts accordingly.

If this all sounds like a lot of work — it can be. But there are ways to make it easier. Apps like Buffer and Hootsuite let you schedule all of your social media content — pictures, copy, and hashtags — in advance. Then, the software will post to your social accounts for you based on the schedule you set.

You can plan out the whole week’s worth of content at once. Using scheduling software will ensure that social media isn’t forgotten in the hustle and bustle of running your restaurant. Just make sure that you’re checking in and interacting with your followers daily.

Remember — consistency is key. It takes time to build an online community, but with perseverance, you’ll see those follow numbers start to increase.

#experiences

More good news for the restaurant industry — millennials prefer experiences to goods. In fact, all generations are shifting away from buying “stuff” and towards participation in events.

Restaurants already have a leg up, since dining out is an easily accessible experience for many. But let’s go beyond anniversary dinners and birthday parties, shall we? How can you bring the capital e “Experience” to your restaurant and customers?

Bring in a guest chef for a special tasting. Host a beer dinner with a local brewery. Teach a cooking class, culminating in a tasty meal and a glass of wine. Have a seasonal farm-to-table dinner. The key is for it to be unique and one-time-only. You want to throw an event that will create valuable memories — and great pictures for the participants’ social media feeds.

When the time comes to get the word out about your event, your social channels will be invaluable. Make sure to do regular posts leading up to the big day.

But millennials love recommendations from people they trust. So try going a step further by enlisting the help of local micro-influencers — bloggers and social media personalities with follows from 10,000 up to 100,000 people. Find out who your local food bloggers and event curators are, and see if they’d be willing to do a post about your event.

There may be a cost associated with their post, or you may be able to exchange the post for free tickets to the event. But since these influencers have devoted fans who want to know what’s going on around town, it may be worth the cost to get their shout out.

Finally, try to get outside the four walls of your restaurant. Food festivals are an incredibly popular experience with Generation Y. They attract a huge amount of social media engagement, and they get your name and your food in front of people who may be outside your normal demographic. They can be challenging logistically, but the payoff for a successful festival can be well worth it.

Miserly Millennials

Many millennials graduated from college just as the economy was taking a huge downturn. Their careers were stalled right out of the gate, and they’re still feeling the effects over 10 years later. Add student loan debt to the tune of $1.3 trillion, and it’s no wonder Gen Y is incredibly cost-conscious.

This doesn’t mean that you have to destroy your cost of goods in order to keep prices low enough to attract these penny pinchers. But consider offerings that could attract a group that may normally not be able to afford your restaurant.

For example, a very high-end sushi restaurant offers happy hour from 5:00 to 6:30 pm on weekdays. They provide smaller portions of select menu items at reduced prices; $18 appetizers are served as small plates on the happy hour menu for only $9. This deal is routinely included in lists of the best happy hours in town.

These reduced prices give the less affluent an opportunity to try high-end food at a price they can afford while keeping the restaurant’s cost of goods under control. And remember, today’s entry-level marketing assistant is tomorrow’s VP of Marketing — with a lot more disposable income.

Cooking for a Cause

Many millennials participate in causes and social activism regularly. They sign petitions, make donations, and vote with their dollars by boycotting brands that they feel have transgressed. They want to do good.

Give them the opportunity to give back while having fun. Charity events build brand goodwill while also supporting a cause.

Get customers involved by:

  • Hosting a toy or food drive. Offer a small discount off their meal as thanks for their donation.
  • Donating a percentage of sales to a cause that’s important to you.
  • Raffling off a gift basket, prize, or a dinner for two to your restaurant. Sell tickets to customers, and donate the proceeds to a charity.

Local charities are a good choice, as they may be more transparent than huge national organizations. Plus, many people like the idea of keeping their donations in their own communities. Before selecting a charity, do some research on CharityWatch.org to verify their credentials. You can also see how much of their money goes to aid vs. administration.

Let Them Participate

Millennials like to be active participants with the brands they support. They expect companies to engage with them, ask their opinions, and respond to their feedback. So actively encourage that interaction, and watch engagement increase.

Debating between two new menu items? Let your customers vote on it. Adding a cocktail to the menu? Host a naming contest on social media, and give a prize to the winner. Ask people to share the photos they’ve taken at your restaurant, and send a gift card to whoever took your favorite.

Encouraging your followers to get involved will show that you value your customer’s input and build a deeper connection between them and your brand.

They’re Not Getting Any Younger…

With the oldest millennials approaching their late-30s, many of them are now parents. In fact, 40% of millennials have kids. So being kid-friendly can be an important selling point when they’re considering where to go out to eat. Clean high chairs, plastic cups with straws, and a kids menu will all help parents feel comfortable bringing the kiddos.

Include pictures of families and kids on your social media (with the parent’s permission, of course!) to show your followers that their little ones are not only allowed but welcome.

And with both parents sharing childcare duties more evenly than ever before, make sure there is a changing station in every restroom!
At the end of the day, marketing to Generation Y is really about building relationships. Share what excites you, ask them what they think, and give a little back. If you treat your Generation Y customers as pals instead of prospects, you’ll be well on your way to securing a group of loyal and profitable patrons.

Engaging Gen Y

East Coast Chair & Barstool Visits the Windy City

We are well into trade show season here at East Coast Chair & Barstool and we are excited to be heading to Chicago next! Trade shows allow us the opportunity to make connections with customers and feature some of our newest products. So, we are packing our bags and heading to McCormick Place once again.

In case you haven’t heard, the National Restaurant Association Show has reached their centennial year! This event is one of the biggest trade shows in the restaurant and hospitality industry. It is a great way to explore and learn everything that is happening in the industry. Discover innovations in equipment and supplies, to food technology, and even the latest furniture trends. In our experience, it is best to leave yourself at least two days to delve into all the exhibits.

This year the show will be featuring a panel discussion on the future of dining, moderated by Dawn Sweeney, President & CEO of the National Restaurant Association. Attendees can expect to come away with insight into trends and potential industry-altering changes. As a session with Allison Page, Chief Product Officer and Con-Founder of SevenRooms, and Christopher Thomas-Moore on Vice President of Global eCommerce & Digital Marketing for Domino’s Pizza on the everything from robotics and automation of technologies to ease operations in back-of-house.

We are excited to be exhibiting our brand new outdoor deep seating option, The Monaco Collection of outdoor deep seating, several new restaurant booth designs, and modern designed Emory Chair.
If you are around the Chicago area, make sure to come out May 18th-21st for the NRA show and stop by booth #6045. We’d love to meet you and discuss what we can do for your restaurant.

Upgrade Your Restaurant Seating with New Booths

Time to add new seating to your restaurant? See what one of our new booths can do for your restaurant’s layout and overall design.

East Coast Chair & Barstool booths are Amish-made in the USA with superior craftsmanship and careful attention to detail. The booths come with many choices and customization like different vinyl colors or wood options. These booths below can be made in reclaimed barn wood, urban distressed wood, or rustic pine with multiple finish options, so you can match your solid wood table tops. 

Scroll through each slideshow and check out all the new exciting booth styles for this upcoming year!

Rustic Pine Booth

  • Rustic Pine Booth - Single

We’re adding a new wood option to our rustic booth lineup! The rustic pine booth is finished with a bourbon stain to highlight the beautiful distressed marks of the wood, creating a different look and texture than the reclaimed and urban distressed wood options.

Depending how much privacy you want for your restaurant, you can choose from single and double rustic pine booths with heights from 43” to 54”. And like the other rustic booth options, you can also choose whether you want a vinyl back or just leave it wood to match.

Tufted Booth

  • Tufted Booth - Single

Transform your restaurant’s interior with the elegant comfort of the Tufted Booth. This booth has distinct appearance because of its strategically placed buttons and folds (find out more about this diamond tufting technique here).

The Tufted Booth also has a unique color selection of soft Naugahyde vinyl to really make your booth special for your restaurant. The Tufted Booth is available in 36” to 48” heights and 48” to 72” lengths in both single and double styles.

Tavern Booth

  • Tavern Booth - Single

Mixing materials is what the Tavern Booth is all about. This booth is mainly constructed from either reclaimed, urban distressed, or rustic pine wood but also has a fully welded clear coat frame underneath. Even more than just the wood choices, the Tavern leaves a lot of room for customization for your restaurant or bar.

When purchased in the single style, this booth comes with a handcrafted unfinished back that allows restaurant patrons to get a closer look at the distressed wood. You can also add a coat rack to the any of the height options (43” to 54”).

Orchard Booth

  • Orchard Booth - Single

We put a twist on our classic vinyl booth by adding wood caps, making a contrast with these two materials to create the Orchard Booth. These caps can be made with any of our rustic wood options and finishes, making it simple to match your table tops. The Orchard Booth can also be made with a crumb strip for easy cleaning. But this booth isn’t complete until you select your vinyl color! This booth has a little more vinyl than our traditional rustic booths, with a vinyl seat, back, and back of the booth for a whole new look. The Orchard Booth can be made from a standard 43” height up to 54” to accommodate how you want these booths to look.

Trestle Booth

  • Trestle Booth - Single

Bring the farmhouse style to your dining space with the Trestle Booth. The Trestle Booth is all about being customized for your restaurant’s needs in any of our rustic wood options. This striking wood booth can be finished with a wood or vinyl back and comes with a vinyl seat. Like its namesake frame, the Trestle Booth is a great addition to your restaurant because its legs are high enough off the ground that your staff can easily clean the floor underneath it.  

Choose the right Trestle Booth for your restaurant by selecting your height (between 43” and 54”) and length (from 48” and 72”).

You can learn more about these booths by stopping by our upcoming tradeshows, visiting our website, or calling our dedicated customer care team at 800-986-5352.

Food Photography Tips for Restaurants

How many times have you heard the phrase a picture is worth a thousand words? In today’s world of constant social media interaction, that saying is truer than ever. Photos, especially photos of food, have become a major part of all social media interactions, especially on Instagram.  Now it isn’t like you can just slap up any old photo on your profile and call it a day. The higher quality and more interesting the photos, the more likely they are to be shared and bring customers in your door. But food photography can be challenging, so we’ve put together some helpful tips to have your business putting its best foot forward.

Ideal Lighting

Lighting is probably one of the most important aspects of taking a good photo. If you are able, try to use natural light with indirect sun. This will have your food looking its best, showing off its natural colors, and avoiding harsh shadows. Placing food on a table next to the window is a great way to achieve natural but indirect light. Food placed under fluorescent lighting tends to change tones and colors.

While natural light is best for photos, it isn’t always realistic in restaurants where ambiance and mood lighting are important, and probably dimmer than what you would like. If your restaurant doesn’t have access to natural lighting, you can purchase some equipment to get you closer to achieving great lighting. The Wescott 43” Apollo Orb is a relatively inexpensive option that will get the job done.

Tip: Many commercial table tops will be reflective. Watch out for this when lighting your photos, you don’t want it to distract from the food.

The Perfect Angles

Different angles capture the distinctive components of varying types of food. For example, a plate of grilled chicken and sides might be best shot from above. This will showcase the entire plate and let customers know exactly what they are getting. Items that stack, like burgers and pancakes, are better shot at a 45-degree angle. This showcases the layers and all the goodness in-between. Having photos that vary the angle also help to create variety and interest when you post them to your social accounts or use them in your menu.

Tip: Try to work in triangles. Items shot in groups of three, creating triangles helps to create structure and simplicity.

Staging Your Food

Staging your photos allows you to put your very best foot forward. That being said, staging should complement your food rather than overwhelm it. There are a few things that you can do to present your food in the best possible way. First thing is to make sure that the area you are taking the photo in is clean. Nothing is worse than having great looking food surrounded by crumbs or other unsightly things. It can really ruin the vibe of the photo and distract from the focal point.

The second thing is to switch up your props and backgrounds. Keeping it the same all the time is going to make your photos become boring after a while. If you find yourself in a slump, you can go to the nearest hardware store for some materials with different textures that you can place your plates on.

Finally, take a moment to make sure your food is looking its best is crucial. Adding a little garnish can go a long way. If you find your food looking a little lackluster, you can brush a bit of oil or water to make things look fresh. Don’t overdo it though.

Tip: For inspiration on staging, find a few Instagram accounts that you love and try to emulate their work.

Benefits of Action Shots

Actions shots are a great way to diversify photos and add some interest. A creative way to get these is with a few behind the scenes photos. Your chef stirring up a batch of soup or about to slice some ingredients for your signature dish is an engaging way to let your customers see what goes on in the back and get them craving your food.

Tip: Action shots are also great for adding a human element. It helps to tell your story so don’t be afraid to include hands in some of your food photos.

Editing

The amount of editing you do is entirely up to you. If you choose to edit your photos, there are plenty of free or low-cost editing apps that you can utilize. Depending on the amount of time you spend taking photos and editing, you might want to consider installing Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. These programs have long been recognized as the top editing software.

Tip: Try not to over edit your photos. To much editing will look fake and potentially tacky.

Branding

Just like everything else in your restaurant, your photos should work within your overall brand design. If your restaurant is a bright breakfast spot it wouldn’t make sense for all of your photos to be dark and dreary. However if you are a romantic little bistro with mood lighting, darker photos might feel just right. Before posting any photo be sure to ask yourself if it is sending the message that you want.

Terms & Concepts

If you are an inexperienced photographer or a pro who needs a refresher here are some photography terms and concepts to keep in mind when shooting. While following some of these concepts might elevate your photos, that doesn’t mean you have to stick to them. Use your own creativity and see what you come up with!

Depth of Field: The distance between the nearest and furthest objects where objects appear acceptably sharp in an image and in focus. By adjusting your depth of field, you can really make it clear to the viewer what you want to be the focal point of the picture.

Rule of Thirds: A guideline that proposes an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts and that compositional elements should be placed along the lines for a more balanced photo.

Bokeh: The out of focus blurred parts in a background.

Exposure: How light or dark an image is.

Aperture: The size of the opening in the lens. The larger the opening the more light allowed into the lens.

Photos are a universal language that doesn’t need a translator. They are an effective way to communicate to customers and entice them to come to your restaurant. Food photography might seem intimidating, but by ensuring that you have good lighting, interesting content, and some creative thinking, you’ll be well on your way to showcasing your food and your restaurant in the best way possible.

Do you have any food photography tips for us? Let us know in the comments!

What is a Tufted Booth?

 

What is a Freight Forwarder

When looking at restaurant booths, there are a lot of options to choose from. If you decide to create a custom booth design the options can seem endless and overwhelming. One of the options that you might notice is the selection for a tufted booth, but what exactly is a tufted booth?

To tuft a fabric means to make depressions at regular intervals by passing thread through it. Most commonly found on different types of cushions, including the back cushion of a restaurant booth.

A tufted booth is a fabric or vinyl restaurant booth that has tufting on the back created by depressions in the material. Typically, it is done in a repeating diamond pattern, which is most common. The diamond button pattern uses a combination of buttons and folds to create diamond shapes on the back of the booth.

In total there are four types of tufting: biscuit button tufting, diamond button tufting, single line button tufting, and buttonless tufting. By using these four different styles, completely different looks can be created.

Adding tufting to a restaurant booth can create some flair and visual interest, to an otherwise simplistic booth. Or it can be used as added texture to an already beautiful booth. Designers use tufting to create a particular booth design that can then help communicate to customers the feel of the restaurant. Typically, it is used to communicate a feeling of comfort and luxury.

If you’d like to see examples of all styles of booths, check out our booth gallery on our Facebook page.

 

East Coast Chair & Barstool 2018 Customer Showcases

It has been another great year at East Coast Chair & Barstool. So we’d like to take a moment to take a look back at some of our favorite customer showcases from 2018. Click through the slideshow to see all the wonderful ways our customers have used our furniture to bring their visions to life.

 

 

  • Simons with reclaimed wood seats can be found at Draft Republic in San Diego, CA.
 

 

A big thank you to our customers for making us a part of their year and for sharing photos of their beautiful businesses. If you’d like to submit a photo, you can do so by emailing or messaging us on Facebook.