Archive for September, 2014

3 Ways to Ensure Better Restaurant POS Security

September 26, 2014

The hospitality industry has held the dubious honor of having the highest number of data breaches among all industry segments in 2011 and 2012, and fell only marginally behind the retail industry in 2013. Point-of-sale (POS) systems have proven to be particularly easy targets for criminals to mine customer data. It is critical that restaurant owners take preventative measures to avoid these breaches in data security. Here are three ways to minimize the risk that your POS system will fall prey to thieving minds.

Enact Strong Password Policies and Restrict Remote Access

The simplest of POS security measures start with smart password policies and the restriction of remote access to the system. One of the biggest problems with hospitality data breaches in 2013 was actually stolen vendor credentials—typically because the vendor was using the same password for all of the organizations it managed. For this reason, it’s wise to limit remote access by third-party vendors to your restaurant’s POS system. Make sure that you have changed all passwords used for remote POS access away from the factory default and pick passwords that would be impossible to guess. Do NOT use the names of your POS vendor, dictionary words or anything else that a computer program or smart hacker could easily stumble onto. If a third-party is handling your passwords, ensure that their password policies are equally as strong, and more importantly, that they use a unique password for every customer.

Be Smart About Maintaining Restaurant Customer Privacy

When it comes to customer privacy, it’s vital that the POS terminal truncates card numbers and is only showing the last four digits on receipts. Do not store PIN numbers at all, anywhere. Store customer account and personal information in separate places and keep both under tight lock and key. Don’t ever send customer information over email or any other unsecured gateway. Last, but not least, never store CVV card validation numbers anywhere.

Ensure Best Online Security Practices for Your Restaurant

First and foremost, do not allow your POS system to be used for anything else other than POS-related activities. Do not surf the web, check your email or social media, play games or do anything else on the POS system. This goes for both you and all of your staff. Every place that a POS system visits online increases its risk of data breach. Don’t risk it.

For that matter, you’ll also want to ensure that all online access to your reporting or POS management system is encrypted with an SSL certificate. Without an SSL certificate, any computer between you and the server you’re sending the information to can see the data being sent. With an SSL certificate, the data is unreadable to everything except for the server for which it is intended.

Data breaches and restaurant customer security should be taken seriously. Data theft is one of the most prevalent crimes we face in our day and age. These measures will go a long way toward ensuring that your restaurant’s POS system is as secure as it can possibly be, and along with it, your customers’ information and your restaurant’s reputation for handling that information.

5 Savvy Ways to Drive More Restaurant Sales

September 19, 2014

Driving restaurant sales is an art-form that takes practice and creativity to perfect. Nonetheless, there are a number of things that you can do to greatly improve your chances of success. Here are five time-proven ways to build more sales in your restaurant business.

#1. Make Selling More Fun for Staff

Your staff are the hands that make the sales happen. Getting them enthused about boosting sales is key to the success of your plan. Set goals for shift sales and share them with your staff. Try instituting fun and fair shift sales contests for servers and kitchen teams alike.

#2. Utilize Suggestive Selling Techniques

Recognize and reinforce suggestive selling efforts often during a shift and let servers know how they did goal-wise before you release them. Instruct your servers in the psychological aspects of sales, such as how someone will often choose one of two options you present (ex: this high end beer, or that) or how they will often take your suggestion of making their order larger or adding something extra if you simply smile and nod slowly while you ask them if they want it. There is a ton of information on how to be more effective at sales through simple changes in body language, or the words you use, and it’s worthwhile to the restaurateur to train their employees in the art thoroughly.

#3. Encourage Slow Day Restaurant Traffic

Look for ways to bring people in on slower days to help boost sales. For example, if you have a frequent diner program, you could offer double points for orders placed on a slow day or a free piece of pie for orders over $40. Get creative about how to entice people into your establishment.

#4. Build Your Restaurant’s Social Capital

One of the best ways to drive restaurant sales is to be better at local store marketing than the competition. Make a point of visiting every single school, business, charity and organization within a three mile radius of your restaurant at least once a month. Focus on building positive relationships with the people in your trading area and look for ways to either bring them into your restaurant or cater to them directly. Have your managers adopt specific local businesses and come up with marketing plans to drive more sales to each one. A hyper-local community focus is an incredibly effective sales and traffic building technique. Factor in these visits as part of your weekly marketing plans and efforts.

#5. Offer a Consistently High Quality Experience Every Time

All of the previous efforts will go to waste if you’re not ensuring that your restaurant is able to provide a consistent, high-quality experience to your guests every time they visit. Cleanliness, food, quality of service and even how your employees do their suggestive selling needs to be consistent, and of high-quality, in order to ensure that sales continue to grow. Managers should seek out strangers and do table visits every shift, touching every table with hospitality and ensuring that guests are enjoying their experiences.

In sum, utilize sales data to set goals, project upcoming sales and beat sales targets at every shift. Look for creative ways to network with, and tap into, your local community, and brush up on your suggestive selling techniques to make those sales soar.

3 Best Practices for Restaurant Menu Expansion

September 15, 2014

When it comes to expanding a restaurant’s menu, there are several important considerations to be taken into account. You need to know when to follow trends and when to ignore them, which new items will make the most bang for your buck and which will allow your restaurant to blossom into an ever more successful venture. Poorly thought out choices can have long-term business consequences. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when expanding your restaurant’s menu.

Be Discerning About the Menu Trends You Follow

Menu trends come and go on a regular basis, and not all are going to be a good fit for your brand. Choosing which are and which are not is a matter of assessing how well the trend fits with your overall brand image and appeals to your target demographic. If it fits with your overall brand strategy and is feasible to implement, go for it. Just remember that there’s no shame in letting a few of those trends pass on by, or in even trying to set a few trends yourself. Authenticity and individuality wins big in any business, but especially so in the restaurant industry. If you do decide to follow the trend, design what you offer around a quality experience for your guests, not the cost of implementation. There’s no sense in trying to do something specific if it’s not done right.

Allow Your Restaurant Menu to Evolve

While you don’t need to change your menu every time a new trend comes around, it is important to have flexibility and diversity built into what you offer. For example, there needs to be enough diversity in your menu that you’re not relying on just a few items to get you by in case of food shortages and price spikes.

Furthermore, your menu needs to be allowed to evolve. It could be that certain items or practices that worked ten years ago are no longer serving your restaurant business well today. Look for ways to be visionary with your brand image and discard those elements that no longer serve that purpose. If changes are made, strong leadership and communication skills are needed to ensure that team members, guests and franchisees are brought up to date and are on board with the new plan.

Listen to Your People. Look at Your Menu Data

It would be remiss to make menu changes without talking to your people and looking at your numbers. Your employees are your most reliable resource when it comes to decisions about menu expansion. They are on the ground with the guests daily, observing and serving their needs. The numbers will tell you what is most profitable to your business; your employees will tell you how your guests feel about what you offer, what impresses them the most and what they’d like to see more of. Some restaurants even go so far as to involve the guests’ decisions about new menu items directly. However you do it, utilize the people and information you have at hand to make the best determination for menu expansions.

Expanding your restaurant’s menu can be an exciting and profitable venture. If done well, the opportunity is there to attract new customers, increase sales and drive your brand’s overall expansion into the profitable restaurant business it is meant to be.

3 Marketing Best Practices for Restaurant Expansion

September 10, 2014

When trying to expand your restaurant’s brand, marketing plays a key factor in your overall success. Having a proven brand marketing strategy that is both replicable and scalable and is built on a solid business infrastructure is critical—especially if you’re trying to franchise. Here’s an overview of best practices when it comes to marketing and restaurant brand expansion.

Have a Proven Brand and Solid Restaurant Business Infrastructure

Having a proven brand that is built on a solid business infrastructure is the first step to ensuring brand marketing success. It’s difficult to market a brand with different franchise partners if there isn’t a cohesive overview of how the brand will represent itself and how the marketing side of the business will be done. Be sure that all partners are clear about the reputation of the brand image that is trying to be upheld. Also consider that there are a lot of new resources that are needed when entering new markets. For instance, you’ll need to hire franchise and field marketing managers, whose job it will be to maintain the unity and standard between locations.

Be Intimately Familiar with Your Restaurant’s Markets

Another key aspect of being able to successfully expand your restaurant’s brand into new areas is to be intimately familiar with the target market. If you don’t know this information already, hire someone who does. Understanding your markets is critical to your overall business success. Your franchisees will have individual knowledge of local markets that can provide valuable information toward your overall marketing approach. Encourage sharing of their marketing ideas and local product testing efforts among locations.

Have a Scalable Marketing Strategy, Customizable to Local Markets

When it comes to brand expansion, a final aspect of restaurant marketing best practices is ensuring that your marketing strategy is scalable and customizable to the level best suited to the new market that is being entered. Markets vary in their media efficacies and small markets can have a lower cost of media marketing, so something like TV advertising might be more affordable and make more sense there than elsewhere. Strong digital platforms can be ultra-local, with deals and promotional messages perfectly suited to the local community it serves. Again, utilize franchisee knowledge and information about their individual needs when setting up an overall restaurant expansion marketing plan.

In sum, successfully implementing a marketing strategy that helps to expand your restaurant’s overall brand comes down to having proven, replicable brand strategies that have enough flex built into their infrastructures that they can be customized to the individual needs of local markets. Understanding the markets that you are trying to cater to is critical to your overall marketing success. You’re shooting for a unified brand message with proven results that can be adapted to any new market or location. Hire professionals, brainstorm with your franchisees and analyze your data to determine the best marketing plan for your restaurant’s brand expansion efforts.

Industry Standard Best Practices in Restaurant Financing

September 3, 2014

When it comes to moving your restaurant brand forward, the ability to get financing is typically the make or break factor. Getting lenders and investors to fund your business can be somewhat of an art. It requires being able to have a clear concept of your plan, the ability to illustrate its potential profitability to others, the awareness of potential challenges that may arise as your restaurant expands, and the ability to respond to them. Here is an overview of each of these industry standard best practices in restaurant financing in greater detail.

Have a Clear Concept of Your Overall Strategic Plan

Having a clearly defined strategic plan is a key piece of your overall financing packet. Detail how capital is used, the positions and duties of the team that is required to make it work and the profits and losses that result from the effort.

Make a point of documenting both your short and long term objectives, along with any supporting materials needed to demonstrate that you know what steps are needed to make those objectives a reality. Gather all of your financial statements, your strategic plan and supporting materials together so that everything lenders need to know to make a decision is available to them in an organized, user-friendly fashion.

Illustrate that Single Unit Economics Are Intact

Being able to demonstrate how funding will work at the unit level is an important part of your overall financial plan as well. It’s a good idea to include a case study of single unit economics in your financial documents as supporting evidence. You need to be able to show that your economics are solid and your concept’s likelihood of success is high. Banks want to know what the money they lend you is going toward and what they will be able to expect in return. The more replicable you can demonstrate that your single unit results are, the more attractive your brand will be to lenders and franchisers alike.

Be Aware of Challenges to Your Niche and Long-Term Viability Issues

A final best practice we’ll cover here is the ability to articulate your awareness of potential challenges and long-term viability issues that exist. Challenges to your business could include competition, traffic trends, your ability to promote and price your products successfully, and anything that might go haywire along the way. Challenges to your ability to fulfill your lending agreement will include the potential for interest rate changes, property lease increases or expiration, store remodeling and upgrading requirements, ability to meet loan maturity dates, etc. Lenders need to know that you’re aware of these potential challenges and have a plan in place to deal with them. Think these things through and be able to talk freely about them with your lenders.

In sum, getting financing to expand your restaurant’s brand has a lot to do with coming to them with a clear plan of where you’d like to go, how you’re going to get there and why it will be profitable for them. Ensuring that you have these industry best practices in restaurant financing in place, before you approach lenders, will go a long way toward ensuring the ultimate success of your restaurant’s brand expansion.