Archive for September, 2013

Engaging Restaurant Customers with Photo-Sharing Apps like Pinterest and Instagram

September 30, 2013

Everyone knows the importance of utilizing social media in engaging customers, building traffic, and building loyalty with your restaurant brand. Granted, there’s a mind-boggling variety of social media platforms you could use, and a person would go crazy trying to keep up with them all.

That said, along with the big guys like Facebook and Twitter, a restaurant owner would be remiss not to take advantage of the photo-sharing applications such as Pinterest and Instagram. Such platforms represent an incredibly effective method of user engagement and reputation building, and round out a social media marketing strategy nicely.

Why Pinterest and Instagram are Smart Choices for Restaurants

The old adage that a good picture is worth a thousand words very much applies to why restaurants should be using photo-sharing platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. Pictures establish an emotional connection in a far more visceral way than any words can do. People love to see and share pictures of beautiful food, and encouraging customers to post pictures of their food and experiences with your establishment not only promotes restaurant traffic, but also creates thousands of impressions due to the shared nature of these platforms.

Obviously, casual dining may have a more conducive atmosphere for success with these platforms due to the fact that the décor and service often loom just as large as the food, but quick-service can benefit from using these outlets as well since they are particularly easy to incentivize.

Providing Incentives for People to Interact with Your Restaurant through Photos

There are several easy ways to encourage people to interact with and share photos related to your restaurant. Many businesses run contests where people get entry for a prize for sharing photos of themselves eating at their restaurant or interacting with the brand in some way. If you can get them to include your logo, all the better!

Other businesses focus on building engagement by, say, telling their customers to post a picture of their favorite homemade sandwich,  getting friends to vote on it, and then selecting a winner from the entries to get a menu-item based on their creation named after them.

The sky is the limit, really, when it comes to how you might engage your consumers with Pinterest and Instagram. People love to take pictures and they love to do something fun, so building a promotion around those two facts is a savvy tactic.

Best Practices for Restaurant use of Pinterest or Instagram

Like any social platform, getting your users to engage with you means that you first need to engage with them. That means liking their posts, commenting on content that is placed, and sharing things that are interesting to your consumers rather than being strictly promotional.

It’s also important to utilize these platforms for their market research opportunities. What kinds of pictures are people sharing naturally related to your establishment? Is it the food? Goofing off with their friends while there? Noticing what people are naturally sharing will give you good insight about what aspect of your business that people love as well as areas where you might improve.

Last but not least, pictures present an extremely effective way of capturing peoples’ attention and portraying your brand in the best light. People love to share and look at pictures, so utilizing platforms like Instagram and Pinterest to encourage engagement and interaction with your consumers makes a lot of sense.

Weighing the Merits of Recycling In the Restaurant

September 23, 2013

While more than 60 percent of the restaurants in the U.S. take at least some measures to reduce waste, the choice of implementing a recycling program in the establishment is still not an easy one. Even if there are plenty of recycling options in the city where your restaurant is, costs can still be prohibitive. Here are the major points to consider:

The Costs Associated with Restaurant Recycling Programs

While recycling pickup is now free in many cities, there are still some costs associated with getting an in-house recycling program up and running. You’ll need to consider things like buying the proper recycling bins or color-coded bags, possibly enlarging the trash corral as well as the cost of switching to recyclable or compostable disposables such as take-out containers.

Then there’s also the cost of providing regular training to employees in a high-turnover industry. If the costs outweigh the benefits, a full-fledged recycling program may not be the best choice for your establishment. That said, even doing something as simple as keeping your cardboard boxes out of the trash can have an impact on lowering the cost and frequency of waste removal, and is relatively simple and free to implement.

The Benefits of an In-House Recycling Program

When considering whether or not a recycling program is the best fit for your restaurant, the first question you need to ask yourself is how much you are paying for waste services now. Many city recycling services are free since recycling has become a profitable business, but removal of garbage is not.

Landfills cost money, so it pays to reduce the amount of garbage waste your establishment is producing. Some restaurants have saved as much as 30 percent on their monthly waste service costs simply by implementing single-stream recycling and adjusting the number of times waste is removed from the business each week.

The second question to ask yourself is what your reasons are for wanting to recycle. Do you have a commitment as a company to social responsibility, the environment, and/or the community in general? Or is your motivation strictly cost-associated?

If the motivating factor is a commitment to doing something good, any incurred costs in the effort may not matter. Composting and recycling can actually help bring you more clientele, and letting your customers know that you are helping the environment pays off in improved customer approval and loyalty. The community wants services that are environmentally aware and will take notice of businesses that are working with that consciousness in mind.

Creative Waste Management in the Restaurant

While you may or may not have a zero-waste goal in which everything that leaves your restaurant is either recyclable or compostable, there are a number of ways to creatively manage the waste your establishment produces. Along with switching out all disposables such as carry-out containers for their compostable counterparts, it’s a great idea to alert customers to your efforts and encourage them to help wherever possible – say, by bringing in their own travel cups or using your ceramic options instead of that disposable drink container.

Separation of food waste also starts right when the table gets cleared, and training your employees to sort things properly can be as simple as providing color-coded bags and instructional wall posters. The diligence of each location’s manager is also important in the overall success of the program.

Regardless of whether your recycling efforts start small or go full-scale, the cost-reduction and feel-good benefits of working toward waste reduction will pay off for both your business and the community at large.

How to Bring a Green Thumb into the Restaurant or Bar

September 17, 2013

While having a full-fledged garden in the restaurant often isn’t feasible, there is a ton of ways to have fresh herbs and produce available on a smaller scale. As the locavore movement gains steam, more and more people are enticed by the offering of fresh, local grub. Even the bartending scene has seen an increased demand for fresh herbs and spices and mixologists country-wide are looking for new ways to get creative with fresh produce. Here are some ideas to help implement the taste of freshly picked goods into your restaurant.

Start with Small Scale Restaurant Gardening

From vertical walls to rooftop gardens, from window boxes to table-side planters, it’s relatively easy to find a little growing space somewhere right in-house. There are several urban greenworks groups available who are more than willing to offer some insight and startup assistance to get you going if you need help. The biggest challenges you will face will be keeping the garden looking good if it’s going to be visible to customers, and getting someone on board who has the desire and ability to maintain the project.

Selecting the Right Goods to Grow in Your Restaurant Garden

Odds are you don’t have a ton of extra time to devote to your new garden space, so make sure to pick plants that are easy to grow and require minimal care. Fresh herbs such as mint, cilantro, and basil are particularly well suited for such requirements. Steer clear of finickier produce such as cucumbers, peppers, and melons which can be more prone to pests and diseases.

Also, pick plants that naturally grow in the season and climate you’re in. If you’re in a cold climate, focusing on growing your in-house produce only during the growing season is just fine. If one of your bartenders particularly loves to invent signature cocktails, let them pick the fresh herbs they want to have at hand and take responsibility for their care. The fact that many herbs are aromatic can create an additionally pleasant experience for your customers as well.

What If In-House Gardening Simply isn’t Feasible in My Restaurant?

If growing a few key ingredients on your own simply isn’t a feasible plan but you’re still interested in having fresh produce available, there’s still a few options open to you. You could, of course, simply hit up the local farmers’ markets every few days and select the fresh herbs and produce you’d like to have on hand. Even better, you could partner with an individual farmer and set up an arrangement where they will custom grow whatever you’d like to have in your restaurant. This is often mutually beneficial because you don’t have to deal with the mess of trying to garden yourself and the farmer is often happy to have a bit of steady income to rely on.

Plus, doing it this way gives you the added benefit of having the farmer’s expertise – so you can get those fresh tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers from someone who has the setup and knowledge to deal with their more specific growing requirements.

Whether you would like to see a full range of fresh produce on the menu or simply want to have a few sprigs of mint or cilantro to add to your drinks, growing some greens in-house can be a fun and easy way of adding fresh, unique, and local flavor to your establishment.

Confident and Effective Restaurant Management

September 11, 2013

Effective managerial skills are critical to the overall functionality of your workforce. Managers set the pace and the example for the rest of the staff, and employees very much take their cue from their managers about how to treat their jobs. Managers who are insecure, poor communicators, or who get locked in power struggles end up losing the respect of the employees, which, in turn, affects the quality of the service that they provide.

If you want to ensure that your staff stays motivated and treats their jobs with respect, it’s essential that the skills of the people in management positions are up to par. Fortunately, there are a few easy tips that anyone can keep in mind which will help nip mediocre management in the bud.

Effective Restaurant Management Starts with Confidence

Confidence is more crucial to effective management in the restaurant industry (or anywhere) than a person might think. People who are confident in themselves and their abilities come across as composed, secure, and trustworthy. Managers who exude confidence give their employees a sense of security that they are a person who knows what they are doing and are to be trusted in their directives.

Now granted, even the best of us don’t feel confident all the time, but if you’re in a management position, you at least need to understand how to come across as a confident person. Simple things like making eye contact for instance, or having good posture, positive facial expressions, and a professional appearance can make all the difference in the world in how people perceive you.

Excellent Communication Skills are Essential in Restaurant Managers

Along with confidence, managers also need to have excellent communication skills. They need to be able to give directives without coming across as being overbearing, wimpy, or ignorant of the situation. They need to treat people fairly, be able to communicate clearly and calmly about what is needed, and why and they need to be able to truly listen to and respond to the needs of their wait staff.

Obviously, they also need to be able to think ahead, anticipate situations before they arise, and act to correct any potential issues in a calm, clear, and rational way. Needs are expressed clearly and power struggles are dissolved as employees begin to trust in the equanimity of the manager as well as the fact that their needs are being heard and respected.

Restaurant Managers must Excel at Positive Reinforcement

The final ingredient to truly effective managerial skills is the ability to foster an atmosphere of teamwork and respect among the workforce. Along with having confidence and excellent communication skills, managers achieve this largely by positive reinforcement. They focus on their employees’ strengths and on what they are doing right. They tell their employees how valuable they are to the business and how much they appreciate all that they do for them.

Furthermore, effective managers are problem-solvers. They see every challenge as an opportunity to grow and learn and they keep an attitude that nothing is insurmountable.

Having effective management makes all the difference in how the rest of your staff perceive and respond to their jobs. Confidence, clear communication, and an upbeat, positive attitude are the key ingredients for successful managers in the restaurant world.

Boost Restaurant Employee Morale and Keep Your Team Motivated

September 4, 2013

In the service and hospitality industry, the attitude and sentiment of your employees is critical to the overall success of your restaurant. If they are unhappy and unmotivated, your turnover rates are going to be high and your diner’s experience is going to be poor.

Understanding this, it’s critical to do everything in your power to boost your employees’ morale and keep them as motivated and happy as possible. The following tips will help nurture a supportive, fun environment which keeps your staff engaged. 

Fostering an Atmosphere of Teamwork in the Restaurant

One of the most critical elements to having motivated employees is encouraging an atmosphere of teamwork in your restaurant. Workers who feel vital to the restaurant’s success stay engaged, whereas those who don’t, won’t. You can encourage involvement by soliciting ideas for improvement, brainstorming on problem solving solutions together, asking for their feedback and ideas, and genuinely listening to what they have to say. Make it a regular practice to quiz new hires on their perspectives, garner feedback from exit interviews, and hold regular meetings in which your employees are allowed to express their feelings and ideas.

Furthermore, it’s important to regularly tell your team what they are doing right rather than only what they can improve on. Focus on their skills and give regular positive reinforcement about how much you value their contribution to your workplace.

Be Consistent, Fair, and Avoid Favoritism with You Restaurant Employees

Another factor that keeps employees motivated and happy lies in your ability to set clear guidelines for what you would like to see out of them, and then be both consistent and fair in the reinforcement of those boundaries. Avoid favoritism at all costs. It only breeds resentment in the rest of your employees because it feels like their efforts are not being recognized.

Everyone needs to be subject to the same rules and dealt with in the same way if those rules are not followed. Be fair, clear, and consistent and your employees will be far more likely to act according to your expectations because they feel treated fairly and they know exactly what to expect.

Create a Supportive and Nurturing Environment in the Workplace

The final ingredient to keeping your employees’ morale high and their turnover low is to create a workplace environment that is both supportive and nurturing. It’s important to recognize that your employees often have a full plate outside of their jobs – whether it be child care, classes, or other work. Being supportive and showing consideration and understanding for these other responsibilities is often all it takes to make your staff go the extra mile for you.

Going the extra mile for them can make a big difference as well. Perhaps you notice that language classes could be helpful or that financial literacy classes could be of use. Orchestrating a class to help improve their lives, for those employees who want it, can be a great way to demonstrate how much you care.

The bottom line is that in order for people to stay engaged and motivated in their jobs, they need to feel respected, heard, and nurtured. Playing on their skills, providing lots of positive reinforcement, and being open to growth and improvement can make all the difference in the world when it comes to creating happy, motivated employees in your restaurant.