Archive for June, 2010

Juicy Burgers: From Fast Food to Fine Dining

June 30, 2010

It seems that regardless of high unemployment rates, concerns over rising healthcare costs and soaring grocery prices, juicy burgers are as popular as ever. Although the burger originated in Hamburg, Germany the hamburger is just about as American as apple pie and few are ready to cut this family favorite out of the budget.

The desires of the consumer’s palate when it comes to burgers are similar regardless of whether they purchase their favorite beef burger at a fast food restaurant or if they satisfy their burger craving at their favorite fine dining establishment.

Price and the Premium Burger
According to a recent study conducted by Technomic, Inc. one thing consumers agree on is that they desire a good tasting, flavorful burger made of quality ingredients. For many, nearly a third of those surveyed, paying top dollar for a premium burger is worth it as long as the burger satisfies some basic requirements:

  • Quality: Nearly 75% of those in search of a premium burger said they look for quality beef like Angus or Wagyu.
  • Cut: Nearly as many consumers look for a quality cut like sirloin.

Burger Toppings Count
The Technomic study found that quality and taste of the ingredients piled on top of the burger are also important. For a full 41% of respondents, the taste and quality of the toppings ranked as the first or second most important part of the burger experience. Sticking to fresh, quality ingredients is one way to ensure flavorful toppings that satisfy the demands of the burger connoisseur.

Portion Size is an Issue
It seems that portion sizes are a recurring theme among restaurant patrons these days. This blog has touched on this issue in a couple of other posts and we see it here again with burgers.

According to the Technomic study almost half, or 47%, of respondents expressed a desire for some choice in the size of burger they purchase. Consumers are looking for mini-burger options as well as half-pounders and everything in between.

Restaurant Discounts: The Difficulty of Pricing in a Down Economy

June 28, 2010

As the economy begins to take tentative steps toward recovery, some restaurant owners are beginning to see a resurgence in customers with an appetite for their favorite dishes and less of a regard for deals or discounts. The NPD Group recently released a report that supports this trend.

According to the report, the number of diners placing a priority on deals and discounts has dropped significantly over the past twelve months. Last year approximately 29% of those dining out placed a priority on restaurant discounts. This year that number has dropped to an estimated 22%.

Reaching Restaurant Clientele through Social Media
Even so, Restaurants & Institutions 2010 New American Diner Study discovered that almost 60% of customers place a priority on price over all other considerations. So, what is the best way for a dining establishment to position itself in light of these seemingly conflicting results?

The answer seems to be multipronged and involves, at least in part, the use of social media sites which are rapidly becoming part of many consumers daily routine. In fact, another thing the Restaurants & Institutions study discovered is that 63% of respondents expect to find discounts, deals and coupons when connecting to a restaurants’ Facebook or Twitter page.

Groupon is an increasingly popular site offering subscribers discounts on things to do, see and purchase in their cities. These deals include restaurant discounts. Leveraging this site requires zero upfront costs to restaurant owners as retains a percentage of every “groupon” sold. has over four million subscribers and according to, its clients spend 60% over the value of the groupon on average. As a result, restaurant owners could potentially improve their business with very little time, effort or money spent on marketing simply by offering a restaurant discount on

Portion Choices as a Pricing Strategy
In a recent post, we discussed the issue of portion control and the 70% of diners who stated in a survey that portions are unnecessarily large. For restaurateurs who don’t want to be defined by price, controlling portion sizes may be another option. When portion sizes are reduced, prices naturally drop as well.

Charitable Giving: Restaurant Employees Get into the Act

June 26, 2010

Supporting a charity or becoming involved in charitable events isn’t always an easy decision for business owners. Balancing the financial needs of the business with the desire to give to a local or national charity can be difficult.

The People Report is an organization that monitors human resource practices within the foodservice industry. Recently, The People Report released the results of a study they conducted which discovered that restaurants who give to charity and also offer flexible schedules for employees who participate in charitable activities experience significantly lower turnover among their staff.

Reducing Rate of Employee Turnover
Restaurants can do a number of things to encourage their employees to support local charities and to help make it easy for them to participate in charitable activities.

  • Offer flexible schedules
  • Allow for time off for charitable activities
  • Invite suggestions on which charities to support

These methods show employees that their lives and interests beyond the restaurant matter and are important. And those employees who believe the company places value on them as individuals tend to develop a level of loyalty to the workplace and thereby reduce the rate of turnover.

Building Teamwork into Employees
Offering employees opportunities to volunteer in teams for a worthy cause creates a sense of camaraderie and develops teamwork naturally. These bonds make for happy employees who work well together.

The team-building experiences that occur while volunteering to support a worthy cause also establish the restaurants commitment to the community.  A study recently conducted by the Boston College Center for Corporate Community Relations discovered that 80% of employees believe it is important for a company to establish a good image in the community.

Attracting Employees in the Hospitality Industry
Cone Inc. sponsored a poll which found that 76% of Americans would accept the job offer from a company that supports charitable causes over a similar offer from a company who does not support charities. This means that supporting charities not only helps the business retain employees, but it also helps attract them.

Satisfy the Pickiest of Pallets with Imaginative Mocktails

June 24, 2010

D.C. based beverage director Scott Clime recently offered restaurateurs and mixologists some creative mocktail suggestions at Clime’s recommendations range from the simple to the sublime and all are designed to tempt toddlers and satisfy the not-yet-of-age crowd who have long tired of the Shirley Temple and Roy Rogers.

On the Good Ship Lollipop
During the Great Depression Shirley Temple cheered troubled American’s with her delightful song and dance routines and her adorable dimpled smile. The mocktail by the same name was designed to give young diners something to cheer about while eating out with their family.

Although the Shirley Temple and the Roy Rogers have both remained a childhood favorite over the years, only a small number of today’s children are familiar with these drinks’ namesakes. As Clime points out, kids today are more familiar with Miley Cyrus and other contemporary stars.

A Taste of the Tropics
Giving the old favorites an update or adding to the line of available mocktails requires nothing more than a few freshly squeezed juices, a bit of Pellegrino and some imaginative additions.

Clime suggests combining a tropical puree of banana, pineapple and mango to soda water for a taste of the tropics. Decorate the beverage with pineapple and orange slices and perhaps a maraschino cherry or two and you’re sure to delight young adults as well as young children.

All Smiles thanks to a Creative Mixologist
Clime encourages restaurateurs and mixologists to think outside the box: Consider the possibilities with a strawberry and rhubarb puree. At the Acadiana, where Clime is a beverage manager, they serve a mix of mint leaves, blackberries and strawberries “for a taste of southern summer.”

Keeping the kids happy allows the adults to better enjoy their dining experience. Any restaurant that can pull that off is likely to top the must-go-back-to list for mom and dad.

Maximizing the Dining Experience by Satisfying Diner’s Desire for Enrichment and Education

June 22, 2010

Caution seems to be the current buzzword, and moderation is the trend among today’s money-weary consumers. More and more business owners are finding they have to adapt to the changes in the modern consumer and the ways in which they calculate their decision to purchase.

Capturing the Customer’s Imagination
In the not-so-distant past before corporate greed and federal bailouts were the norm, consumers weren’t shy about purchasing items on a whim or for pure pleasure. Today’s consumer, according to a recent survey, is looking for ways to enrich their lives through their purchases. Experiential and educational values weigh heavily in the decision-making process.

For the restaurateur, this means recognizing that customers are looking for more than just good food, a nice location and fair prices. Consumers are, with increasing frequency, looking for an establishment that provides an overall enriching experience.

A server who shares information about the local ingredients used for example, or a sommelier who explains why a particular wine perfectly complements a specific dish add to the diners overall experience of the evening.

In the Mood–Restaurant Atmosphere
Another way restaurant owners can add to their customer’s dining experience is by gauging their mood. Gleaning information during the reservation process is one way to achieve this. Someone reserving a table for two in celebration of a 25th wedding anniversary is likely to be in a different mood than someone making a reservation for a bachelorette party.

Creating quiet spaces for romantic occasions and open spaces for louder, celebratory occasions enables the restaurateur to meet the needs of different customers.

Beyond the Restaurant: Technology and the Hospitality Industry
Some savvy restaurateurs are using technology to reach their customers beyond the restaurant and to continue adding to their overall experience. For some, this means monthly newsletters sent via email. For others, this means creating a website that offers information about cooking techniques and a chef’s column that explains the weekly or seasonal changes in the menu.

Food Adventures in the Streets of America

June 20, 2010

Eating out often means some sort of sit-down meal, although it might not always mean high-end dining. In fact, depending on the age of the diners eating out, it may be something as quick and unimaginative as hitting the local fast food joint, but for Jane and Michael Stern eating out is always an adventure.

Delicious, Quirky Eateries
In the 1970s, the Sterns wrote their first edition of Roadfood, a guidebook pointing diners to delicious eateries, cafes and barbecue joints. Over the years, the two have crisscrossed the United States in search of dishes that satisfy and are likely to appeal to the masses.

Many have discovered that they too can enjoy a food adventure while on the road simply by referencing the Sterns’ latest book Roadfood: The Coast-to-Coast Guide to 700 of the Best Barbecue Joints, Lobster Shacks, Ice Cream Parlors, Highway Diners and Much, Much More.

Stand Up, Sit Down, Fight, Fight, Fight
Some of the recommended eateries offer sit-down dining, but many simply offer the stand-up counters where the diner eats while standing. According to the Sterns this isn’t so bad and in some cases it may actually be ideal.

Certain menu items, like frankfurters with the works or gyros stuffed to the brim, force diners to fight to keep the spills from staining their shirts or dripping on their pants. In such cases a stand-up counter to eat at comes in pretty handy.

Roadside Diner Etiquette
Although many of the dining establishments featured in the Sterns’ guidebooks are informal affairs, there are certain rules of etiquette even among the casual, loyal diners.  For example, asking for a tofu dog at roadside burger joint is not recommended.  Nor is it considered polite to ask for condiments other than the ones placed in plain view when grabbing a bite at a roadside shack.

Smaller Portions Pay Big Dividends

June 18, 2010

Market research conducted recently by Decision Analyst found that more than 50% of American’s throughout the nation believe that at least some restaurants offer portions which are overly large. Many of those surveyed preferred smaller portions than most dining establishments offer. The indication seems to be that some customers would prefer the opportunity to choose the portion size on various menu items.

Making Healthier Choices in Menu Options
According to the research, a full 4,000 individuals, or 70% of respondents, who look for healthy menu options felt the portions offered by most restaurants were larger than necessary. This is a significant percentage, leading many restaurateurs to conclude that bigger isn’t always better.

In fact, for many the realization that the food being offered at their establishment is more than the majority of the consumer base wants is both eye-opening and freeing. Serving smaller amounts of food could lead to a dramatic reduction in food waste and may lead to stronger profits.

Are Bigger Portions Better? It’s a Guy Thing
Interestingly, nearly 70% of females stated that portion sizes tend to be too large whereas only 53% of males felt this way. Clearly, at least in some instances, the amount of food, which might satisfy female customers, may not satisfy the male clientele.

There was also a division of opinion based on age. A full 68% of those over the age of 65 agreed that serving sizes were too large, whereas only 55% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 24 felt similarly.

Where to Go From Here
Restaurateurs throughout the nation have considered the customers desire with regards to portion size and have revamped their menus to reflect that. According to the National Restaurant Association Operator Survey, 10% of fine dining, 20% of casual dining, and 27% of family dining establishments have increased the portion size choices available on their menus. As a result, according to the NRA, 66% of consumers believe that full-service dining establishments are making it easier to order the right amount of food.

Charitable Giving Supports Community, Attracts Customers

June 16, 2010

Throughout the economic downturn, restaurateurs have been forced to make difficult decisions in staffing, menu selections and charitable donations.  Determining the best way to balance the needs of employees, customers and the surrounding community with the financial demands of keeping a business solvent when times are tight is challenging to say the least.

Restaurateurs and Charitable Donations: To Give or Not to Give
For some, the answer has been to scale back on all fronts, including charitable giving. For others, charitable giving has become even more important. Those who have managed to continue supporting local and national non-profits have a few things in common:

  • Commitment: Restaurateurs who give regularly share a commitment to the community and a recognition that though business may be down, others are also feeling the pinch of the economic downturn. For some, this commitment extends to national non-profits whose donations are down.
  • Creativity: Another common trend among consistent givers is an ability to think creatively. Some restaurateurs raise significant capital auctioning meals for 10 in private homes. Others have created specialty drinks whose name or color is connected to a local or national charity and whose proceeds benefit the charity.

Return on Investment
Restaurateurs nationwide are coming up with surprising and inventive ways to support their favorite charitable organizations. And though the decision to do so typically did not start with a question of profits, many have found that working to strengthen the community has the added benefit of strengthening the restaurant.

Customers are attracted by the prospects of a fun evening out or a specialty item that benefits those in need. Gift certificate giveaways, private dinners and other donations promote the restaurant and allow the owner to highlight the facility, its food and its staff.

The Passion of Charitable Giving
The old saying that enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm seems true for charitable giving. Many restaurateurs have discovered that their passion for charitable giving is contagious as both employees and customers often promote the charity and the restaurant with abandon.

Burgers: Always in Vogue with both Blue and White Collar Types

June 1, 2010

The mention of burgers often evokes images of harried parents slogging through a jam-packed drive thru with screaming, snot-nosed kids crammed in the backseat; however as Technomic, Inc. recently reported, this all-American popular menu item is the current rage among both blue and white collar workers.

Burgers–Fancy That
The love of the burger appears to be a constant among all sectors of the population, including both blue and white collar workers. The appearance of the burger in both fast food as well as high end eating establishments is evidence of our national love of the juicy dish.

In fact, according to Technomic, Inc. more than 30% of customers are willing to pay premium prices for a burger made from good quality Angus meat and high-end cuts like sirloin. In addition, Technomic, Inc. reported that 41% of respondents stated that the quality and taste of the toppings is nearly as important as the quality of the meat.

It would appear that, regardless of tough economic times, burgers – especially premium, specialty burgers, are in demand.

Beer and Burgers — Seize the Moment
Clearly, this opportunity hasn’t been lost on Samuel Adams of the Boston Beer Company who recently teamed up with Jake Dickson of Dickson’s Farmstand Meats, to create a specialty, high-end beef cut that will pair perfectly with the finely crafted beer.

Restaurateurs might also consider taking advantage of the burger trend by considering new and creative ways to include the item on their menus. The Technomic, Inc. report suggested that approximately 50% of customers would appreciate burgers offered in various sizes including miniature and half-pound options.

Full-Service Burgers
Full-service and fine dining establishments can take the Technomic, Inc. information and use it to their advantage by offering its clientele a burger that is something special, unique and high end. Offering size selection is likely to make the meaty items too tempting to refuse.