Archive for February, 2013

Experts Feel the Outlook for the Restaurant Industry in 2013 is Positive

February 27, 2013

Despite the fact that the restaurant industry has had to deal with numerous negative pressures and uncertainties over the course of the last several years, many experts feel that 2013 will actually usher in a record high in restaurant industry sales. The projection is that sales will reach around $660 billion this year; representing a 3.8% increase from 2012 (adjusted 0.8% for inflation.) Although growth isn’t expected to be explosive, this remains positive news for those involved in the restaurant business.

The Fact that People want to Eat Out Is a Major Contribution to Growth in the Sector

One of the biggest factors that protects the restaurant industry no matter how bad the economy gets is the fact that it offers a service that customers actively seek out. We see again and again that people continue to spend their hard earned dollars eating out, no matter what the state of the economy is.

Now, obviously people who are feeling strapped for cash may perhaps make different choices in regards to how they eat out – doing so less frequently or down-trading to establishments with cheaper menus – and restaurant owners have had to shift their practices accordingly. But this doesn’t change the fact that people want to have nice meals outside their homes. In fact, one of the biggest factors contributing to the expected growth of this upcoming year is actually the pent up desire many people have to eat out on a regular basis again.

Why Restaurants are Flourishing Again, Despite Rising Costs

This is the sixth consecutive year of economic weakness. By this point in the game, most restaurants have either rose to the challenge of finding innovative ways to cut costs and control productivity or they have had to close their doors. Those restaurateurs who have been able to stay the course and solve their operating dilemmas are now able to shift their focus from simply keeping their heads afloat to growing their sales base instead.

Grow Your Sales Base with Strategic, Focused Marketing Plans

Given the fact that success this year is so dependent on attracting and retaining new customers, it only makes sense to have a marketing plan that is extremely targeted and efficient in place. Follow your metrics closely, make a point of understanding what is working and what isn’t, and shift your technique accordingly. Social media is going to play a big part in the success of your marketing campaigns as well, so if you haven’t already developed a strong social network, spending a little extra effort in this arena can have big payoffs – especially if you get creative with your campaigns and utilize marketing gimmicks that engage users and encourage them to help you spread the word.

Pre-tax profit margins will continue to be slim, so it’s also important to keep an eye on every aspect of your operations, monitoring for areas which could use some adjustment.

All in all, things are looking up for the restaurant industry this year. The people are there, and they want to eat out. Your job is to keep up with reforms that increase productivity and efficiency while finding creative new ways to attract them to your establishment.

Essential Email Metrics for Effective Marketing Campaigns

February 20, 2013

One of the factors that make email marketing campaigns so valuable is the fact that it is one of the easiest forms of marketing to get clear, concise measurements on whether or not your campaign is working. The more concise your measurements, the more able you are to fine tune your marketing efforts, which increases the return on your investment. Here are the essential email metrics you need to pay attention to in order to determine how well your email campaign is serving its intended purpose.

How Deliverable are Your Emails? Are They Getting Bounced or Junked?

The first essential email metric to examine is your deliverability. If a good percentage of your messages are getting blocked, bounced, or worse, thrown in the spam folder, it’s time to change your tactics. There are a variety of reasons that this could be happening, and the first place to look is the email service providers that your email contacts are using. (Email service providers are companies like Google Mail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, MSN, etc.)

An easy way to check to see if there is a problem with a particular email service provider is to create ‘seed’ email address accounts at each of them. Then, the next time you send out a newsletter, include your seeds to each of the email service providers and log in after the send out to see if your message made it safely to the inbox.

If your message was blocked or bounced, it’s not a bad idea to contact that email service provider to ask why. In some instances, you can even get a ‘Certified Sender’ status directly from the email service provider which will guarantee that your messages get safely through. If your newsletter is getting thrown in the spam folder, it might have more to do with your content than the email provider. We’ll talk more about that in the spam section.

How Often Are Your Emails Getting Opened? How Many People Unsubscribe?

The next two telling metrics are your open rate and your unsubscribe rate. Now, the fact that someone opened your email doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they actually read it, but it does give you other valuable insights. How well your subject line is working is one such example, and it can be very helpful to compare open rates between different versions of the same newsletter to see which converts more customers.

The type of people who are unsubscribing from your list can provide you with valuable insight as well and it’s important to pay attention to who is removing themselves from your list. Is it your most valuable subscribers? All women? Are they all from one demographic? Try to pinpoint trends and see if you can shift your email marketing campaigns accordingly.

Help! I’m Getting Spam Complaints and My Emails Are Getting Junked!

If your emails are ending up in the spam folder more often than not, there are a variety of factors that could be coming into play. The first no-no is buying purchased email lists – this is almost a surefire way to land in the spam folder AND lose your money. Emails also get junked if they contain too many risky words like ‘buy’, ‘free’, ‘purchase’, ‘order’, etc., which trigger the spam filter. Emails that contain only one image often land in spam country, as do emails with too many exclamation points in the title.

Bottom line: keep your emails small in size and rich with content, and don’t go overboard with the gimmicks. Using a trusted email service provider to send out messages goes a long way as well.

All in all, the metrics you get out of running email campaigns can provide you with really valuable insight about how to best make your next move. Keeping an eye on these essential statistics will give you a clear picture of your revenue and profitability, as well as a better understanding of what is truly affecting your bottom line.

Beating the Battle of Rising Food Costs

February 13, 2013

The rising cost of food and the fuel that is required to transport it has had a big impact on restaurateurs around the country. Everyone is looking for ways to buckle down and trim back without sacrificing the quality of goods and services that is offered. It’s a tricky balance. Fortunately, there are several easy things you can do to help beat the battle of rising food and fuel costs. Here are a few examples:

Use a Purchasing Consultant to Get the Best Vendor Price

With the economy being the way that it is, it only makes sense to shop around for the best deal you can get from vendors. Unfortunately, this task can be quite time consuming. You can spend hours browsing around for the right deal and the task gets more complicated because you still have to keep a hawk’s eye out for hidden price increases from your existing vendors.

Many businesses have found that it is often more cost effective simply to hire a purchasing consultant to do comparison shopping for all controllable costs – everything from your dry goods and china to the food itself. It’s often better to hire a consultant instead of designating a staff member for this task as well, because consultants usually operate on a fixed cost monthly retainer.

Reduce Fuel Surcharges by Storing more Goods

In an effort to combat their own rising costs, many vendors have started adding a fuel charge to delivery orders – usually in the ballpark of $2-$4 per delivery. Over the course of any given year, this can amount to $1000’s of extra dollars. One method of dealing with this is to simply combine your delivery orders into one shipment, so you only pay one fee.

Another method is to create a larger storage space so that you don’t have to order new shipments as often. Of course, you can also always designate a runner to pick up the orders in-house – although that option still has you paying fuel.

Further Reduce Fuel Costs and Pay Less Money to Boot

Another smart strategy that many restaurant owners have begun to employ is to get their goods from local vendors. In many instances, a local vendor will actually be able to provide lower prices – especially if you are able to pay them sooner rather than later. Many vendors operate on a 90 day payment policy. Local vendors will often jump at an offer to receive payment in say…14 days in exchange for giving you a better price on the goods. Plus, the fact that the vendors are nearby often further reduces or even eliminates fuel-related delivery fees and has the added bonus of supporting your local economy, which is good for everyone.

These are just a few of several creative strategies restaurant owners are employing to combat the battle of rising food and fuel costs. There are, of course, many more options that will help you achieve the same goal. The key is to look for creative solutions, reduce, reuse, and to keep a sharp eye on what is working and what needs improvement.

How to Appeal to the Weight-Loss Crowd with Healthy Menu Items after the New Year

February 6, 2013

While having healthy items on your menus has become increasingly important no matter what time of year it is, the New Year is a particularly good time to blast your healthy options with extra marketing campaigns. The reason for this is that weight loss continues to be the number one resolution that everyone makes when they set their aspirations to start the New Year off right.

Therefore, it makes sense to highlight your healthy eating choices more than ever while the weight loss resolution is still fresh in everyone’s mind. Here are some key strategies you can employ to catch this demographic while it’s hot.

Calorie Counting, ‘Heart Smart’ Choices, and Low Carb Menu Options

Everyone has a different technique when it comes to weight loss. While listing the amount of calories in the food you are serving is one sure-fire way to catch the attention of the weight-loss crowd, it’s definitely not the only way. Many people who would like to lose weight aren’t as concerned about the amount of calories as they are simply about making healthy choices. Therefore, offering menu items that are healthy for the heart or simply even low in carbohydrates can be equally effective in catching the attention of people who are trying to make better choices for themselves.

Offer Smaller Portions and Options to Make Healthier Choices

Another effective strategy to entice the weight loss crowd is simply to offer smaller portion sizes and the option to make healthier choices when they order. For example, allow customers the option to substitute salads instead of fries or to buy a half plate of pasta instead of a full one. These little customization options don’t cost you anything but go a long way toward building a good relationship with your consumers.

Such choices make the customer feel like you really care about meeting their expectations and values. They get to leave feeling like they were able to meet their own healthy resolutions by supporting your establishment, and are far more likely to return as a result.

Don’t Forget about Healthy Menu Options for the Kids

As obesity becomes an ever increasing problem in our country, more and more parents are concerned about the nutritional value of what they are feeding their kids. As such, it makes sense as a restaurant owner to make health and nutrition information available to parents who want to know. Adding a ‘healthy kid’s menu’ can also be a particularly powerful marketing ploy to bring health conscious parents into your restaurant, and it is well known that parents are some of the best word-of-mouth advertisers you can ask for!

All in all, appealing to the weight loss crowd doesn’t have to be particularly difficult. You’ve probably already got several menu items that fall under the healthy eating category. Your only real job is getting the word out about your healthy options now, while dropping a few pounds is still at the top of everyone’s to-do list!