Archive for June, 2012

The Rewards of Offering Loyalty Rewards

June 29, 2012

From tiny cafes to nationwide chains, restaurants all over the country are increasingly recognizing the value of customer loyalty programs. New traffic is very important, but repeat customers are the heartbeat of any establishment. Regulars often bring in new customers as guests, and even work as free advertising when they tout their favorite restaurants. Restaurant owners realize that because consumers have so many different choices these days, it may take more than just great food to keep them coming back.

Whether they use rewards cards, email deals, or coupons, restaurant owners are going to great lengths to let their customers know that they value their repeat business.

Rewards Cards

One of the most popular ways to treat repeat customers is to offer a rewards card that allows customers to work toward a free item in the restaurant. Coffee shops may give a customer a free cup of coffee for every ten cups they order. A casual dining restaurant might offer a free appetizer or dessert after a customer has had a certain number of meals in that establishment.

Usually, this is a small, simple card that the server or hostess will stamp or hole-punch each time a customer visits the restaurant. (Some retail stores use similar rewards programs, offering a discount for each time that a customer spends a certain amount of money in the store.)

This type of program can be a great way to bring business back into the store without costing the restaurant very much money. While the patron sees the value of the reward as equal to what they would normally pay for it, the restaurant only pays about half that. The increased business that is created by a customer eager to fill his card can far outweigh the loss of profits from even a free entrée here and there.

However, because the reward is so delayed, many consumers forget about their rewards cards altogether, so that incentive is forgotten as well.

You’ve Got Deals

Another way that some restaurants are bringing people back to their tables is by using email to keep in touch with their customers. These restaurants will offer a quick registration card to diners, on which they will fill out their name, email address, and sometimes date of birth or other information. (This registration is by no means compulsory, so the option to receive these rewards is totally up to the customer). Once the registration is complete, customers can receive emails from the restaurant with deals, or to keep them updated on what’s new.

Many patrons appreciate this type of reward program because it doesn’t require active participation in looking for deals or remembering any special cards. Restaurants can send out e-flyers with weekly or monthly deals, so customers are constantly reminded, but the restaurant has spent virtually nothing on advertising.

They can also send out printable coupons, and some even send vouchers for free items, occasionally. However, even this technique can be flawed because some consumers do not appreciate receiving advertisements in their email, and so they view these deals as just another nuisance and classify them as junk mail or spam.

Getting Down to the Meat of the Issue

June 25, 2012

Food service establishments have long been under the direction of multiple requirements from government agencies and their own management teams. These requirements are in place to keep employees and patrons safe from injury and illness, and to protect restaurants from liability. Requirements deal with all aspects of the restaurant business – from food preparation to dining room occupancy.

One organization, the American Association of Meat Processors (AAMP), is asking for one more regulation to be put in place. The AAMP asked the Conference for Food Protection (CMP) to recommend that a ban on serving “undercooked ground beef product to consumers” should be added to the FDA Food Code.

Playing it Safe

This may seem like a no-brainer to some foodies, since there is certainly a risk associated with consuming any type of undercooked meat. Some consumers are so wary of uncooked or undercooked foods that they steer clear of some common foods like sushi and raw oysters, and even order their steaks well done.

Undercooked meats have been blamed for E. coli outbreaks on more than one occasion and any number of other pathogens can be equally dangerous to consumers. Most of these food-related illnesses can by avoided by thoroughly cooking all meats. Many consumers would feel safer knowing that all restaurants were required by law to cook their hamburger meat to 160 degrees.

Not only would some customers feel more comfortable with these types of regulations, but restaurant owners could be more confident in their kitchens’ food preparation. If it was absolutely illegal to serve anything but fully cooked hamburger meat, cooks would have to be certain to use a meat thermometer consistently. The extra time that checking the temperature would take is almost not even worth mentioning because it would only add a few seconds to the cook time of each dish for which it was required.

Again, the benefits of this regulation seem to make decision of whether or not to enact it a simple one.

Back off My Burger!

However, there are others who would whole-heartedly disagree with a regulation dealing with ground beef cooking temps. But why would anyone have a problem with making restaurants accountable for only serving safe food? In a word: burgers.

To some extreme burger aficionados, a well done hamburger is no burger at all! To these people, a regulation that forces restaurants to serve only well done burgers would constitute too much government control over personal choices. With this view, only people who want to consume undercooked meat are doing so, so the government has no business regulating how they eat their burger.

Loss of Business with Loss of Choice

Also, some restaurants could actually lose business over this type of regulation. At most fast food or casual dining establishments, patrons cannot get a burger cooked to order. In other words, all burgers are already well done. If restaurants that allow more personalization are no longer able to do so, they could very well lose some customers to the average burger joint down the street. These restaurateurs and other opponents of cooking temperature regulations would argue that consumers are already warned that consuming raw or undercooked meat can be harmful.

Therefore, the liability for food safety should fall on the customer who makes the decision to order and consume undercooked meat.

Restaurant Traffic: Freshen it Up

June 18, 2012

When it comes to bringing new clientele into a restaurant, owners are constantly on the lookout for new ways to attract fresh faces. Naturally, repeat customers are incredibly valuable, but a restaurant can’t grow without a healthy supply of new patrons. There are some tried and true methods that should not be ignored, like distributing menu flyers and coupons.

However, the name of the restaurant game is staying fresh, up to date, and unique, and this includes a restaurant’s tactics for bringing in new clientele. Consider a few of these ideas to spice up your restaurant’s marketing techniques.

  1. Free Samples – Free samples may not seem like a new idea, but how often do you actually see a restaurant offering free samples to passersby in their area? (This works especially well for restaurants in areas with high foot traffic.) Choose a signature menu item that is easy to prepare in large quantities and is easily portable.Before busy lunch or dinner hours start, set up your samples just outside your entrance. Offer your delectable bites to people walking by, and you should see immediate results as you attract people who were already looking for somewhere to eat.

    Keep in mind that you should have plenty of the dish you are offering as a sample available, since it may be the most popular item on the menu that day!

  2. Teach – Consider having your chef do cooking demonstrations open to the public on a few nights that you would normally be closed or very slow. Attendees could cook along with the chef and make their own dinner from your menu. Advertising for the class would be done for your restaurant without bombarding consumers with your normal marketing techniques.

    Also, it gives newcomers the chance to get a feel for your restaurant and become curious about your menu and atmosphere. Not to mention, class attendees would be excited to become future patrons of a place where they can say they “know” the chef.

  3. Give Back – Host a benefit or fundraiser at your restaurant, offering a limited menu at a discount. You will bring people into your establishment that may not have noticed it otherwise, and you will have a chance to solidify your rapport with those who may have already been curious about your restaurant.

    This idea may also give you a chance to connect with some prominent community members and create a relationship with influential people. Most importantly, you will establish yourself and your restaurant as a positive influence in your community.

All of these possibilities are simple and easy to implement with almost any marketing plan. Try one or all of them, but spread them out to ease the very slight financial burden that could accompany putting these new marketing techniques into practice. (There might be no loss of profits at all if you consider hosting a cooking class, since you could charge a small fee per student.)

You may sacrifice a small amount of profits initially for some of these ideas, but the potential profits can be long-lasting and well worth the effort.

Setting Up Servers for Success

June 12, 2012

While restaurant patrons may be drawn to a particular establishment for the great food, the one thing that will almost certainly turn customers away is the experience of bad service. Not only do the slighted customers tend to avoid the offending restaurant, but those who hear negative reviews from their peers will avoid them as well. After all, word of mouth is one of the most powerful advertising tools, but it can also work to the detriment of any restaurant. To avoid this, restaurant owners and managers must take steps to ensure that all employees are sufficiently skilled and trained to represent the restaurant well.

A Wait Staff Needs Training

Because so many young job seekers tend to gravitate toward the food service industry, people occasionally believe that when it comes to serving, anyone can do it. This, of course, is not true. Those with hiring authority can sometimes be too careless in hiring new wait staff, and occasionally hire friends or family with the idea that the job is too simple for them to mess up. When hiring new wait staff, managers and owners must be patient in finding the right employee.

For instance, restaurants with ethnic-based menus should hire servers that are already familiar with pronunciation of menu items and specific preparation methods. Even if experience is not required for employment with a particular establishment, new hires should still exhibit the predisposition to learn quickly and have a good attitude for friendly service.

Whether hiring brand new servers or experienced ones, managers should still be prepared to allow for plenty of training time. New servers will need to be shown the very basics of waiting tables, even things that may seem like common sense to experienced servers. As an example, servers should greet their tables promptly, even if the server only has time to tell the patrons his or her name and say that they will return as soon as possible to get their drink orders. It is better for the server to at least acknowledge a new table if they are unable to attend to them immediately, than to make the patrons wait and wonder where their server is.

New Servers Need Learn the Menu

It is absolutely imperative that new servers are fully acquainted with the menu and with the operating style of the kitchen. Again, whether the new server has years of experience or is totally new to the industry, they should be allowed ample time for getting to know the particulars of the restaurant. Without this training, both server and restaurant are setting themselves up for failure.

Something managers and owners alike should keep in mind is that today’s job seekers in the service industry are not necessarily just looking for something to “get by,” so to speak. Cameron Mitchell, the founder of a very prominent restaurant group, claims 85% of management positions are filled by previous hourly wage employees who were promoted. Even younger employees are becoming more proactive in their quest for professional growth, and they want to know that they are contributing to the success of their company. Adequate training and selection in hiring fulfills this need and ensures that a restaurant may provide the best service possible to their customers.

Increase your Visibility with Social Networking

June 8, 2012

Recent studies indicate that a significant majority of adults who are online make use of social networking websites.  Those numbers have more than doubled in the past three years, and are likely to continue to increase in the near future.  The wise restaurateur will tap into this trend to improve their bottom line and broaden their appeal.  Connecting to social media is easy and potentially profitable.


Network with Your Clientele


The use of social websites such as Facebook and Twitter has increased across all demographics.  This is particularly true among young women aged 18 to 29 and seniors aged 65+.  By connecting with this growing population, restaurants gain access to large numbers of potential guests with a minimum of effort.  Furthermore, Internet marketing is an essential part of any promotional effort and should be part of the overall plan.


The best way to engage individuals who are active in social media is to encourage them to “like” your page.  Just having a page on social websites isn’t enough, studies show.  To gain access to their consumption habits, you have to appear in their personal newsfeeds regularly.  Once the initial connection is made, it is easy to remain in sight.


How Effective Is It?


A study conducted by comScore and Facebook indicate that Facebook uses are between 40 and 150 times more likely to respond to a message that appears on their own ‘wall’ than they are to go to the company’s page.  That newsfeed is your best chance to make a successful connection with a potential customer.


Newsfeeds give you an opportunity to do more than just remind people that you exist.  You can use them to post links to blogs and newsletters, introduce new menus and promote seasonal specials.  Few other forms of media will offer you more marketing bang for your buck.


The Profits Run on New Dunkin’ Donuts Products

June 6, 2012

It can be tempting in times of economic crises to batten down the hatches and wait out the storm.  Dunkin’ Donuts’ president and CEO, Nigel Travis, decided to take a different tack.  A slate of new products were behind much of the company’s 10.9 percent sales growth in the first quarter of 2012.  These numbers continued the upward trend from the end of 2011.


Travis believes that much of the growth resulted from an increase in customer traffic and spending.  New offerings, such as breakfast and bakery sandwiches, limited time selections, and K-cups to be used at home raised revenue without affecting the sales of products traditionally purchased in store.


Increased Revenue = Increased Expansion Opportunities


With a goal of doubling the number of Dunkin’ Donuts storefronts in the next 20 years, the numbers seen in the first quarter of 2012 are encouraging.  Existing franchise holders appear eager to expand their businesses and there is plenty of interest among potential new franchisees as well.  It all paints a very positive picture for the future of this popular chain.


Innovation at Dunkin’ Donuts goes beyond the kitchen and into the marketing department as well.  The new flavor of the month, 3-Point Chocolate, was introduced during March Madness capitalizing on annual basketball fever and samples of the new cake products lead to an increase in cake sales.


The Future of Dunkin’


Dunkin’ Brands continues to dedicate itself to growth and has just signed a new agreement that will supply its distribution network.  The contract with National DCP would help to drive down product costs in sparsely populated territories in order to encourage potential franchisees to tackle new areas.  The company hopes to see 260-280 new units by then end of 2012.


Sister company Baskin Robbins also saw good growth in the first quarter of 2012.  Sales were up 7.2 percent, although some of that increase may be attributed to warmer than normal weather throughout the period.

Is Your Bar Keeping Up With the Times?

June 4, 2012

No restaurant is complete without a comprehensive drink menu.  That means going well beyond the traditional house wines and a few cocktails.  A new clientele, one that is interested in imaginative and innovative drink choices, is pushing many restaurants to expand their bar services in remarkably unforeseen directions.


What’s Hot


Smokey flavors have topped the trends in cocktails this year.  While the drinks themselves don’t have to smoke, many products, from Scotches to mescals, have taken center stage.  Well paired with red meat and barbequed cuisine, these savory drinks are very popular with the cocktail set.


Another trend revolves around ice production.  The goal is to produce perfectly formed ice which melts more slowly, resulting in a lower rate of dilution.  Custom made ice, available in unique shapes or molded around ingredients such as herbs or fruits, is in high demand.  Whether the bar makes its own ice or purchases it, all bartenders agree that the ice makes or breaks the drink.


Historic cocktails are also making a comeback and the wise bartender will make sure to have a number of recipes on hand for such demands.  Shrubs, acidulated beverages that are made from fruit juices, sugar, and other ingredients, are often used to whet the palates of eager diners.  The goal is to create a drink that is both tart and sweet at the same time so as to stimulate the senses.


What the Future Holds


No trend holds on forever and a good bartender keeps his eyes open for what will be coming next.  The culinary world has moved to a model that features food from “farm to plate” and that appears to be the direction that bars are heading as well.  Connecting with local growers for the best and freshest drink ingredients may be the best way to stay on the cocktail cutting edge.