Archive for June, 2014

Tips to Set Your Restaurant Business Apart from the Competition

June 25, 2014

Building a thriving consumer base of loyal traffic to your restaurant is often about how well you can set your business apart from the competition. With myriad food options that people have available to them, restaurants must find a way to distinguish themselves in some form or fashion if they hope to attain any memorability—and thus, return customers. Here are a few concepts to think about when considering how to make your restaurant business shine apart from the rest.

Get Your Restaurant Behind Something Novel or Cause-Related

By definition, standing apart from the crowd means that you are not afraid to do something that is, well, different. Having the confidence to be unique and let your individuality shine is attractive to people. Being different than every other restaurant out there can be done in a number of ways. For instance, you could get your restaurant behind a cause that is important to you or the people in your area. There are many to choose from, but a few examples include donating a portion of your proceeds to charity, locally sourcing your ingredients, only providing hormone-free meat on your menu, having a waste reduction and recycling plan in place, etc. Choosing causes that help and affect the local populace are particularly potent choices.

You can also be different by doing something novel. Novelty can come in the form of something old, re-done in a new way, or can be something entirely new that has never been done before. The bottom line to the effective use of novelty is: deliver the unexpected and offer surprises. Think about what is being done in your area and what would catch people’s attention.

Whatever you choose to do to set your restaurant apart from others in the area, make sure to let your customers know about it. Educate your staff to speak about the good or cool things you are doing, provide literature for customers to read while they wait and post regular reports about that awesome thing on your social media sites.

Little Differences in the Restaurant Can Make a Big Difference in Long-Term Loyalty

Setting your restaurant apart from the crowd doesn’t always have to be done in the form of something big, like taking on a cause or niche market. Little differences in the experience people have with your restaurant can be enough, in and of themselves, to keep people coming back again and again.

For example, you might offer unusual sauces for your french fries, like wasabi or pesto. Maybe you bread your dill pickles in a beer battered sauce, grow all of your restaurant’s tomatoes in the parking lot, or artfully arrange your plates complete with your restaurant’s logo toasted onto the inside of the bun, so that even a regular burger and fries feels a little more special than normal. Perhaps you only offer local brews, or even better, maybe you have your own little microbrewery in the back. The point is, these are little touches that are pleasantly surprising and unexpected, yet subtle. They’re not the kind of thing you’re going to put on your marketing materials. Their purposesare to be “cherries on the cake”for your customers’experience when dining in your restaurant.

Keeping a Balance in Your Restaurant Between Service and Sensationalism

Although there are some notable exceptions, novelty and uniqueness alone usually won’t keep customers returning if the food and service isn’t good. This might seem an obvious statement, but it’s crazy how much time and energy some restaurant businesses throw into marketing and getting people through the door without paying close enough attention to their customer’s experience once they’re actually there. Namely, this experience comes down to the customer’s interaction with his server. Do not underestimate the power of direct eye contact, a sincere smile, attentive service and a welcoming atmosphere to pull more weight in building loyal traffic to your restaurant than any other endeavor you could employ.

Transforming Your Good Restaurant into a Successful Business

June 18, 2014

One of the most common occupational hazards for restaurant owners is getting so caught up in the day to day minutiae of operating their restaurants that they lose sight of the big picture—which should be turning their restaurants into successful businesses. The skills that are required to run a successful business are not the same as those required to run a good restaurant, and it’s for that reason alone that many new restaurant businesses fail. They may have a great idea, but lack the business skills to transform that good restaurant idea into a great business.

Being the CEOVs. the EmployeeRestaurant Owner

One of the biggest reasons that restaurants fail to thrive is that the owner is too busy doing the tasks of an employee to make the strategic decisions required to move the business forward. While the “employee”owner is likely working right alongside his or her staff in the daily restaurant operations, the CEO owner is spending his or her time analyzing data, looking for opportunities to improve efficiency and profitability and implementing operational standards and procedures to ensure that an excellent result can be replicated, every time. What’s more, the employee owner is so intimately involved in the daily decisions and details of the restaurant that its successful operation is dependent on the owner’s presence on premises. The CEO owner strives to use the systems created to allow the restaurant to run independently of his presence without a hitch. Daily operational details are in the hands of capable employees and the owner is free to keep his eye on the big picture of growing a successful business.

Aside from the obvious benefit of being able devote more of your attention to the business aspect of your restaurant when you take the position of being a “CEO Owner,”setting up a self-sustaining system also ensures that your restaurant won’t be totally dependent on you to be there all the time. Translation—you’ll be able to have a life outside the restaurant!

Get to Work “On” the Restaurant, Not “In” It!

There are three main areas that the strategic restaurant owner focuses on to ensure a successful business: operations, financial and marketing. Operations includes all the functions necessary to prep and serve your products to your customers and all of the activities that occur every day in the restaurant. The goal here is to set up systems for standards and procedures that will allow the ordinary people you hire to produce excellent results by having very good systems to follow. Without a system, it’s challenging for staff to create a consistent and predictable experience for your guests over and over again. Consistency and predictability go a long way in the eyes of the public. The benefit of setting up operational standards and procedures that can be replicated perfectly time and again can not be overstated.

The financial area includes dealing with accounting, cash management, cost control and both operational and financial reporting. Marketing and advertising includes general marketing and promotional campaigns, positioning your brand, public relations, community involvement and projecting the right image.

The Possibilities for Growing Your Restaurant Business Are Unending

Again, the point is not to be involved in the day to day operations of these operational areas; the owner’s job needs to be “strategic overlook.” Instead, focus on analyzing your data, looking for opportunities for greater efficiency and profitability and developing systems that will allow those great results to be replicated again and again. With more time to plan the success of your business, you’ll have the opportunity to explore new marketing initiatives, new lines of business, the development of multiple locations, or whatever it is that you want to do to grow your restaurant into a successful and profitable business.

How Restaurants Should Handle Negative Online Reviews

June 13, 2014

Restaurant owners have a growing love-hate relationship with the various online reviewing forums currently available to today’s consumer. A good review can do wonders for your business; a bad one can do equally as much damage. Unfortunately, as a restaurant owner, you don’t have much control over what people are going to say about your business online. The best you can do is ensure that your customers have as little reason to complain as possible, and to respond appropriately if a negative review does arise.

Have Your Restaurant Make a Public Statement in Response to the Negative Review

In the event of a negative review, your restaurant’s response to the complaint can do much to quell—or fan—the flames. Ensure that your response is timely, professional, public and addresses the customer’s complaints directly. If it is a problem that can be fixed, fix it. Do what you can to smooth things over without too much fuss. Customers who take the time to post a negative review are, in most cases, good people who have had a genuinely bad experience with your restaurant. While offering them freebies in apology can be nice, what they often want, more than anything, is to simply be heard and empathized with for their frustrating experience. What’s more, negative reviews can often alert you to problems in your restaurant’s operations of which you may not be aware.It may actually be appropriate to thank the negative reviewer for bringing the issue to your attention.

Let the Negative Review Die; Focus on Building Positive Reviews for Your Restaurant

After you have responded appropriately to the negative review, the next step is to let it die and focus on building positive reviews for your restaurant on that online forum. Letting it die means not engaging in a back and forth about who’s right with the negative reviewer, or any others who chime in. Make your initial apology, if appropriate, but try to respond thereafter with only messages that demonstrate your awareness of the issue and your commitment to excellence.

Instead of battling the negative review, again, steer towardgetting positive reviews for your restaurant on the forum. Ask your customers when they check out if they enjoyed their experience, and if so, would they be willing to share it publicly. If you need to offer incentives to get people to put their reviews online for you, do so. One caution here—don’t make the mistake of soliciting fake positive reviews in an attempt to cover the bad one. Fake reviews can be spotted a mile away and telegraph a message of insecurity and a lack of authenticity that will do more damage to your reputation than the negative review alone ever could.

Do Not Allow Your Restaurant to Be Blackmailed by the Threat of a Negative Review

While most people who post negative reviews are genuinely disgruntled about a truly frustrating experience, there is a certain small percentage of online reviewers who have started attempting to blackmail restaurants for freebies and other perks with the threat of a negative online review. While this situation usually happens in the restaurant itself with a would-be paying customer, it’s also begun to happen with non-customers online who pose threats of negative reviews in hopes of getting similar deals. If you suspect that the person is a malicious reviewer simply trying to blackmail you for goods, document the situation to the best of your ability.Next, contact the online forum where the reviewer is threatening to post with the details of your case. Big organizations like TripAdvisor and Yelp are aware of this growing issue and are willing to work with businesses to remove blackmail reviews if proper proof can be provided.

Getting a negative review for your restaurant isn’t the end of the world, but should be handled with care and consideration in order to ameliorate the damaging effects as much as possible. Blackmail aside, the best you can do with a negative review is to acknowledge the complaint, do what you can to fix it and focus on your commitment to excellence moving forward.

Restaurants Are Well Positioned to Take Advantage of Record Tourist Year

June 9, 2014

A record number of international tourists (71.8 million) are expected to visit the U.S. this year, spending over $100 billion on tourism-related goods and services. A good chunk of that money will be spent in restaurants on meals, and restaurant owners and managers who have taken measures to ensure that they are easily found by those tourists will be the beneficiaries of the influx.

A Significant Portion of Restaurant Income Is from Tourist Dollars

Of course, international tourists aren’t the only tourist dollars restaurants should be concerned about. Approximately one out of every four industry sales dollars comes from both international and domestic tourism, underscoring the importance of local and national marketing efforts. Previous research shows that quickservice and tableservice, in particular, attract a significant portion of visitors. Up to 20% of quickservice and 30% of tableservice sales are from travelers and tourists!

Despite the significance of these numbers, many restaurant managers have not yet taken measures to ensure that they are visible to the travelers and tourists passing through their areas. Failing to take travelers into account and not taking measures to attract them is folly. In this year’s modest economy, restaurant owners would be remiss to ignore this ready source of traffic and sales.

Ensure Your Restaurant Is Listed in Local Convention and Visitors Bureaus

Getting a piece of the tourist pie is all about having your establishment listed where travelers will find it. Start by joining your local convention and visitors’ bureaus. Look for other “destination marketing” organizations in your area, and inquire about including your information with their materials. States and bigger towns often have their own membership-based organizations as well. When you get involved with these organizations, your restaurant has the opportunity to be listed on their websites and newsletters and be included with visitor information packets. Membership to these types of groups provides another avenue to promote your restaurant’s business and has the added benefit of helping to support the local economy by attracting travelers carrying an influx of cash.

Make Your Restaurant Easy for Travelers to Find Online

Along with ensuring your presence among the physical organizations in your area, you also want to ensure that your online presence is strong. Make it easy for travelers to find your location, menus, prices, and great photos of your food when they do a general search for the type of food and service you offer in your area. Do this by optimizing your website and content for search engines and mobile devices, by listing your establishment in as many directories and travel guides as you can find and by maintaining a strong social media presence and community. Consider encouraging your existing customers to direct their visitors to your business by providing a special “local fare” offer to travelers.

It is clear that tourism dollars are an important percentage of the restaurant industry’s overall income. This year stands to be particularly good in terms of tourist dollars spent in restaurants. In order to be found by travelers, you have to think like a traveler. If you were visiting a new place, how would you pick a place to eat, knowing nothing about the establishment or area? Making yourself easy to find both on and offline is the key to attracting a portion of the tourist dollars currently flowing through your area.

Twitter & Instagram Social Media Tips For Restaurateurs

June 2, 2014

Every restaurant owner is aware of the potential power of social media to help drive traffic and build strong relationships with community members. Using social media effectively, however, is a skill that must be built. Twitter and Instagram can be particularly powerful for restaurant social media campaigns. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you make the best use of these powerful mediums.

Keep Your Personal and Business Social Media Accounts Separate

There are a couple of reasons why it’s smart to separate your personal and business social media accounts. The most obvious advantage is that keeping your business accounts separate allows you to delegate the work of keeping them current to someone else. Your personal accounts should be used both to promote your restaurant’s posts, as well as to develop your own unique voice and personal relationship with your followers. Your personal feed is an opportunity for you to post other things that are of interest to you, and for your customers to get to know you on a more personal basis. It’s also important that you write your own tweets for your personal account—it doesn’t come off as authentic if it’s not really your voice.

If you have multiple restaurant locations, allow each team to manage their own social media personalities, community and campaigns. Take the time to educate your teams so that they really understand what you are trying to do with social media, and empower them to represent the restaurant’s brand in a fun and authentic way.

Last, but not least, always take the time to proofread your posts –both business and personal –before you publish them. Like everything else that you post to the Internet, what you say tends to lives forever.

Frequently Post Appealing Pictures to Instagram & Twitter

Images are a powerful form of communication. Social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest are built solely around the sharing of images; posts that contain images in Twitter and Facebook feeds generate buzz far faster and more efficiently than words alone. Therefore, it pays to ensure that you are posting high-quality, appealing images to all of your social media accounts, and doing so frequently.

What kind of images should you post? New dishes, obviously, but also new ingredients, your prep processes, any special events, etc. If you have the ability to hire a professional photographer, do it. If not, consider creating a work-trade agreement with a photographer interested in trading food for service. Don’t underestimate the power of a good picture to sell out a new dish that very evening. You’d be surprised at the traffic one good photo can generate, as well as how many people will end up checking your Instagram feed to decide what they want to eat, rather than looking at the menu itself.

Don’t Be Helter-Skelter About Your PostsPut a Social Media Plan in Place

Last, but not least, developing a plan for the management of your restaurant’s social media campaigns is paramount. Work out what you are going to post, who is going to post it and when they are going to do so. Ensure that everyone is on the same page about how to respond to customer comments and represent the brand. Find a nice balance between sharing all the fun things that happen during the day(in and out of the restaurant) without overwhelming everyone. Due to their brief and visual natures, Twitter and Instagram can be powerful sources of traffic and relationship building that restaurateurs should be sure to take advantage of. Remember that upbeat authenticity is the key to a successful social media campaign, no matter which platform you’re using.