Archive for September, 2011

Restaurant News Snippets for September

September 29, 2011

Here are a couple of recent news items. It’s interesting to see the different places the industry is heading.


6 George Webb Restaurants Turn Into Gridders


George Webb is losing six of its locations – five in Milwaukee, and one in Menomonee Falls (WI). Instead of renewing their franchise licenses for the next year, they are instead taking on a new name – Gridders.


The five Milwaukee restaurants are located in the southern part of town; they are owned by Rob and Don Hensiak. The Menomonee Falls location is owned by Diane Neavins, who has entered into a licensing agreement with the Hensiaks.


The new Gridders restaurants “will try and tweak…better or at least match the quality of Webb’s.” The Hensiaks have been Webb’s franchisees for 20 years. They were unhappy with last year’s agreement, which required big changes in management, advertising and royalties, they said.


A total of eight restaurants have left the George Webb chain in the past year – including one in Appleton and one in Burlington. Vice President Ryan Stamm claims the changes were minor, and meant to improve cleanliness, food consistency, and management.


These “defections” leave the George Webb chain with 28 restaurants – although there is a new one planned for Kenosha, WI in the near future. There is no word yet on whether the other two remaining former Webb’s restaurants will join the Gridders chain.


Cosi Loses CEO


Premium convenience restaurant company Cosi, Inc. recently announced it has appointed board chairman Mark Demilio as interim CEO. This move replaces James Hyatt, who is leaving the company because of family considerations.


Hyatt will stay on as a company employee until late September in order to aid the transition process. The board of directors has created a search committee to search for a new chief executive.


“I continue to believe in the direction and future of Cosi,” said Hyatt. Hyatt is leaving the company to spend more time with his family in Atlanta. Cosi corporate offices are located in Deerfield, IL.



Why Your Restaurant [Establishment?] Needs Social Media

September 27, 2011

You don’t have to be a “Webhead” to rely on social media as a part of your life. Even the non-technically proficient among us count on social media, if not for interaction, then at least for reviews and recommendations.


Does your establishment have a social media presence? If not, it should. This isn’t just another marketing channel to let people know about your restaurant. Today’s social media has a huge impact on how people see your brand. If you want to influence your image, you need to get on the scene and play the social media game with your restaurant.


Why You Shouldn’t Fear Social Media


Social media can have a HUGE impact on your business–potentially more than paid advertising could ever have!


You already know that word-of-mouth advertising is the best kind of advertising you can get – and it’s free! Good social media provides you with word-of-mouth advertising in the online world.


When you put your restaurant on a social media site like Facebook, this makes it easy for customers to recommend it to their friends. Studies have shown that 90% of people trust recommendations from their friends (we won’t ask the other 10% who their friends are…).


Even better, customers are still 70% likely to trust a review from someone they don’t know – just as long as they feel like the reviewer is a genuine customer and not a business owner posing as one. You can increase these recommendations by building your social media presence online.


Best of all, social media presence costs very little – just a little bit of time if you do it yourself. You can also outsource how you represent your brand online, but it’s best to be at least peripherally involved in the process.


Other Ways to Promote Your Restaurant with Social Media


Ever heard of Foursquare? It provides your customers with valuable discounts – provided they let their friends know they just came in to your restaurant. This isn’t some intrusive sort of spam, either; Foursquare “check-ins” can be set to show up immediately on sites like Facebook. This can really put your brand in front of people’s eyeballs.


If you use this service, make sure you display the fact in your restaurant with a sign, or on your menu. Don’t forget Yelp and other review sites, too! There are plenty of ways an operator can make a difference with online media. All you have to do is pick two or three and start rolling!



Why Your Restaurant Must Go Mobile

September 22, 2011

If your restaurant wants to survive the next five years of business – much lest the next fifty – you’re going to have to take it mobile. Please understand I’m not advocating a “meals on wheels” approach. What I’m talking about is your customers’ increasing use of mobile devices.


Don’t for a second think that your customers only use their Androids and iPads to talk to each other on Facebook. Plenty of operators are marking their restaurants mobile-compatible; if you’re not, then you’re losing business.


Mobile Marketing Basics for Your Restaurant


At the basic level for your restaurant, you need a website that is mobile-compatible. You do have a website, don’t you? If you don’t – get one!


For a small price, you can hire a local Web design company or even a college student to create a mobile version of your website. A mobile version of your site will be stripped down to the basics, so that it loads into your customers’ mobile devices more quickly.


A mobile site will also make your site five to ten times easier to navigate on a mobile device! Regular websites are notoriously hard to view on smartphone screens. There are many reasons for this, but it all boils down to the fact that the Web was created for computer screens about fifteen years before the trend-setting iPhone came onto the scene.


How to Interact with Your Customers via Mobile Apps


Everybody’s got a mobile app these days. At least, they should.


Mobile apps make it convenient and fun for your customers to make to-go orders. Ordering via app can be a lot more convenient than ordering over the phone – especially when it comes to large group to-go orders. Raise your bottom line by giving your customers the power to order over app!


Get Good with Google


Have you claimed your business’s listing with Google Places yet? If you haven’t, then you should. A claimed Google Places page will help your business show up on Google Maps. So what, you ask?


Showing up on Google’s Maps or Places pages can help you get found by customers who just happen to be in the area, looking for your type of restaurant – or sometimes for ANY restaurant. Get with Google Places and you’ll bring in business you wouldn’t bring in otherwise.

How the Food Service Industry is Helping the Future of America via School Cafeterias

September 20, 2011

Private restaurants and operators are getting involved in the public sector lately. How? By teaming up with school cafeterias and helping to shape the future of the way America eats.


Restaurants and other private food service companies are becoming more and more involved in the nation’s schools. Everyone from restaurant chains to individual chefs are getting involved childhood obesity becomes more and more of a problem.


Wellness in Schools – A New York City Program


“Food is going to look different 20 years from now,” say Nick Marsh, chief executive of Chop’t Creative Salad Co., a 14-store chain in New York. “There has to be some level of responsibility from those of us in the foodservice business.”


Marsh’s company was on the ground floor as an original sponsor for Wellness in the Schools. Wellness in the Schools has as its main objective the evolution of school food. The program aims to change students’ views of food so that they will make healthier life choices. Marsh’s Chop’t Creative provides the program with $25,000 of its funding every year.


The Obama Administration’s Chefs Move to Schools Program


Sam Kass is senior policy advisor for healthy food initiatives; he is also a White House assistant chef.  He recently spoke at the national convention of the American Culinary Association about President Obama’s Chefs Move to Schools program and the Let’s Move Campaign.


First Lady Michelle Obama began more enthusiastically backing the programs after discovering some disturbing statistics about American health. Specifically, she was spurred into action by the fact that one-third of American children are now classified as obese.


Chefs Move to Schools is designed to pair up public schools with professional chefs – 25,000 schools and 27,000 chefs have signed up for the program already! It will be the chefs’ job to help educate children about food and re-shape the way the future of our nation thinks about what it eats.


While this may seem like no easy task, Kass spoke about an even tougher goal for our chefs: Making vegetables fun for kids! Tough as that may sound, if 27,000 American chefs can’t do it, nobody can!


Indian Food Chain Restaurants to Open in the U.S.

September 1, 2011

There’s a new Indian restaurant coming to America and, unlike most, it’s not a local “mom & pop” operation. Tamarind of London aims to be the P.F. Chang’s of Indian food.


The original Tamarind, located in London, is one of the few Indian restaurants in the United Kingdom that has earned a Michelin star. This London fine dining restaurant will, in its trip overseas, transform into an upscale-casual establishment before opening at Crystal Cove Promenade in Newport Beach, CA.


Indian Restaurant Chain for the U.S.


Newport Beach won’t be Tamarind of London’s only location, however. Several more locations are currently being planned. The operators’ hopes are to make Indian food more widespread and accessible to the more mainstream dining crowd. The 4,500 square-foot restaurant will feature 144 floor seats in addition to a bar and patio.


Tamarind of London isn’t the first European chain to land on this side of the pond.  Its cousins include: The Obika Mozzarella bar from Italy; Vapiano, an Italian-style fast-casual chain from Germany; and the Wagamama pan-Asian noodle restaurant chain from the UK.


What Kind of Indian Food Will Tamarind of London Serve?


Tamarind’s focus will be on the Northwestern Moghul cooking style, which often uses tandoor ovens. The head chef of the American operation is Sachi Mehra, formerly of Tabla New York. She has recently been spending time in London with Alfred Prasad, chef of the London location, as they develop the menu for the United States.


Since the restaurant will be located on the coast of California, the restaurant will likely have a large offering of seafood dishes. The menu will also feature spices and flavors tailored to a wider American audience.


Tamarind’s of London will try to break into the more mainstream dining market with items like a curry sampler and a burger made with naan bread. The average dinner check at the upscale-casual restaurant is expected to be around $33.