Archive for the ‘Specialty Items’ Category

Tabletop Devices Part 2: 3 Key Considerations Before Installing in Your Restaurant

August 27, 2014

As discussed in a previous post, there are a number of benefits to installing tabletop ordering and payment devices in your restaurant. That said, there are also some considerations that you need to take into account before you take the leap. Here are a few of the biggest concerns.

Customer Security and Integration with Current Point-of-Sale Systems

The first, most important factor in the choice about installing tabletop devices in the restaurant is whether or not you can find a provider who can integrate those devices seamlessly with the current point-of-sale (POS) system. Beyond basic ordering and payment processing functionality, the tabletop device should be designed to look as much like the original POS as possible as well. This speeds up the amount of time it takes to educate servers, who in turn must educate customers, about how to use the device. When choosing a tabletop device provider, look for reliable pay-at-the-table functions, durability, lifespan and reliability of the unit, connectivity to Wi-Fi and the ability to expand ordering capabilities.

In terms of customer security, tabletop devices can actually help ease customer concerns. It gives customers some security to swipe their own cards and confirm their tab and tip amounts themselves, complete with a receipt printed from the bottom of the device.

Getting Server and Customer Buy-In on Restaurant Tabletop Technology

One key aspect of successfully using tabletop devices in the restaurant is getting server buy-in on educating customers about them. Around 65-70% of customers will use tabletop devices to place their orders—after the host has introduced them to the technology. Staff need to know that these devices can save time and can possibly make them more money. Several restaurants using the devices have actually seen a slight increase in the average tip left on a table with an ordering device. They also need to know that these devices are not a replacement for their skills, but rather a helpful tool that they can use. Since most customers are already carrying and using their smartphones all day long anyway, educating them about using the devices is often easy. They tend to embrace and even expect this sort of technological convenience.

Consider How Much Automation You Want in Your Restaurant

Another consideration you’ll want to take into account is how much automation you want to have in your business. The point is to enhance the customer experience, not alienate them or make them feel like they’re serving themselves. Some restaurants don’t allow full menu ordering from the device, following the philosophy that if customers do everything themselves they don’t feel like they’re getting service. The choice depends on the type of establishment you run. The take home message is that using tabletop technology should enhance, and not change, the guest dining experience. Humans are still the focal point; ordering capabilities have just gotten better.

The above factors should be taken into account before installing tabletop devices in your establishment. That said, restaurant operators who have taken the leap with tabletop technology are finding it a helpful and cost effective tool that enhances guest experiences, shaves off valuable service time and puts guests in greater control of their dining experience than ever before.


Tabletop Devices Part 1: 3 Reasons You Want Them in Restaurant

August 20, 2014

Tabletop devices are popping up in restaurants all around the country. These devices allow customers to order and pay from the convenience of their tables, along with perform a variety of other sundry tasks that are meant to enhance the customer experience. According to the NRN, 52% of all adults would use an electronic payment system at the dining table in a full-service restaurant, while 44% said they would use an electronic ordering system. Interestingly enough, less that 5% of full-service restaurants are currently utilizing this technology. Regardless of the type of restaurant you run, here are a few good reasons why installing a few tabletop devices might be a smart idea.

Tabletop Devices Enhance Restaurant Guest Experiences

Tabletop devices enhance your customer’s experience in a number of ways. One of the most important is that they improve the speed and quality of service. Customers are ensured that their orders are placed exactly right, every time. Guests can place and recall orders, customize selections and add extra items to their bills at their own pace; creating a sense of ease and convenience for patrons. Many restaurants include games and music on the devices as well, available for a small fee that gets added to the tab. Some establishments are finding that the games and music alone can make the devices pay for themselves. Music works best when offered as a modern day jukebox—where guests can pay a small fee to select the song of their choice to play through the restaurant speaker system.

Tabletop Devices Nurture Customer Relationships

Aside from ordering, paying and entertainment, tabletop devices can also be used to grow your relationship with your customers. This is the perfect opportunity to highlight all of the benefits of joining your rewards program, social media network or email lists. It’s also the perfect time to have them fill out a guest survey about the information you most want to know and get valuable, real-time feedback about their experiences. This is also a chance to let customers know what’s really special about your business. Providing history, as well as ethics and cause information, helps build trust and authenticity with your audience.


Tabletop Devices Are an Opportunity for Up-Sales

An obvious benefit of utilizing tabletop technology in the restaurant is the opportunity it represents to make up-sales with your customers. Aside from well-timed promo messages about that yummy dessert that just rolled out of the oven, you can also use tabletop devices to educate your customers about what is on your menu. If you were so inspired, you could go into extensive detail about the origin and nutrition of the ingredients used, the back-story about how some local favorite got created, or simply highlight which items are gluten-free or low-carb. Best of all, your menu is searchable, so guests can simply input the keywords for the information they’re looking for and menu suggestions with detailed information will come up.

Now, clearly, there are some considerations that need to be taken into account before hooking up your restaurant with all the latest tabletop technology—not the least of which is finding a provider who can integrate the devices with your point-of-sale system. That said, putting guests in greater control of their dining experience has a lot of benefits. All in all, tabletop devices stand to be a cost-effective way for restaurants to enhance the overall customer experience.

Restaurants Host Classes as a Creative Way to Develop Relationships and Encourage Loyalty

May 16, 2014

As a restaurant operator, building a relationship with your customers that encourages loyalty and traffic is paramount to your success. One easy and fun way to do that is to host classes about the thing you do best: food (or drinks!). If you’ve got someone on staff with a little charisma, these classes can become cornerstones for bringing new clientele into your restaurant. They can also help strengthen your relationship with consumers who already give their patronage.

Restaurants Teach Customers How to Make The Secret Sauce

Most restaurants have an item or two that they are particularly well known for. It’s no surprise that customers who love it would also love to know how to make it for themselves. Whether you decide to reveal how to make that specialty item that everyone drools over is up to you. Alternatively, you can simply host monthly food classes, featuring a few courses and some drinks.There’s no shortage of opportunities for how your restaurant could put together a fun and engaging food class for your customers’ enjoyment.

Food prep is another area in which to consider hosting a class. Take butchering and meat preparation, for instance. There is a certain segment of the populace (think bachelor parties, for example) that would jump at the chance to do a 2-3 hour demo on how to professionally butcher and grill an assortment of meats and fish. Especially if you included a burger meal in the restaurant afterward and the option to purchase at a discount whatever was butchered in the class. 

Restaurant Mixology Classes Teach Customers to Drink with Flair

Another easy and fun area for restaurants to share their expertise lies in the arena of drinks and cocktails. Mixology classes that teach customers how to make, say, “The Top 20 Drinks Everyone Should Know How To Make,” provides instruction on how to properly taste spirits.Or, even simply showing them how to properly set up a bar can make for fun engaging afternoons that generate a lot of both on-site and referred business.

Avenues to Market Restaurant Classes

Although hosting food classes in your restaurant could improve your sales and traffic, the main purpose is to strengthen your business relationship with your customers; building loyalty and customer engagement. As such, you’ll want to keep that in mind as you look for places to promote your class opportunity. While traditional forms of marketing, such as radio or print ads, are effective, other forms of marketing such as community billboards and local class listings can be equally so. Social media can also be particularly helpful in spreading the word and getting people excited about your new class. Everyone loves to post pictures of themselves doing something cool.

In sum, hosting classes in your restaurant can be an easy way to connect with your customers. You could put on something big, with a lot of bells and whistles, or you could do something grass-roots and casual, according to your restaurant’s particular flavor. Either way, focus on creating a fun and memorable experience that customers will leave telling their friends about!

The Forecast is Out: Menu Trends for 2014

January 8, 2014

Every year, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) surveys chefs from the American Culinary Federation to find out what menu trends they expect to see in the upcoming year – as well as what they see as yesterday’s news and perennial favorites. This year’s survey had nearly 1300 respondents rating 258 items. Here’s a review of the results:

Today’s Consumers are more Interested than ever in what They Eat and where it came From

As was the case last year, locally sourced meat, seafood, and produce remain as the top ‘hot trends’ of 2014. Environmental sustainability, healthy kids’ meals, children’s nutrition, and hyper-local sourcing followed in close pursuit. Gluten-free cuisine jumped from 9th to 5th place in this year’s annual list, and was joined by a trend towards non-wheat noodles and pasta (such as those made from buckwheat, quinoa or rice), up from 12th place last year. Farm or estate branded items and sustainable seafood rounded out the top 10 list of expected menu trends for 2014.

As opposed to temporary fads, these menu trends reflect larger shifts in our modern society which have been evolving for years. As health and environmental consciousness increases, it’s no surprise that consumers want products that reflect those values. A number of restaurants have already remodeled their menus to reflect these changes, including several large chain restaurants. Gluten-free items, for instance, are now nearly so commonplace on restaurant menus that consumers are more surprised not to see them there.

Being transparent about where restaurants are getting their food has led to several successful marketing campaigns riding on messages of integrity. The bottom line is that these trends are here to stay, and it pays to pay attention to them.

The Menu Trends that made the Biggest Gains or Losses for the 2014 Forecast

The menu trends that made the largest jumps in this year’s survey (but didn’t quite make it on the top 10 list) were nose-to-tail/root-to-stalk cooking, pickling, ramen, dark greens, and Southeast Asian cuisine. The ones with the biggest fall in the ladder of “what’s hot” were Greek yogurt, sweet potato fries, new cuts of meat, and organic coffee.

The 2014 Forecast for Alcoholic Beverage Menus

In terms of alcohol trends, the top five forecasted for 2014 were: micro-distilled and artisan spirits – locally produced beer, wine, or spirits, onsite barrel-aged drinks, “culinary cocktails” which use savory ingredients typically found in the kitchen rather than behind the bar, and regional signature cocktails. Cocktails, in particular, represent a particularly easy way to dress up the beverage menu – especially when sourced from local favorites!

In sum, the top 10 menu forecast for 2014 seems to be putting a greater focus on health and environmental sustainability than ever before. When asked what they thought the menu trends are going to look like ten years from now, the chefs put environmental sustainability at the top of the list, following closely by local sourcing and a focus on health and nutrition for kids and adults alike. Given this sentiment, it’s wise to incorporate elements of these trends into your menus now.

Bring a Little Saffron into The Restaurant

November 29, 2013

Saffron is one of those spices that many restaurants don’t mess with – mainly because it’s expensive! That said, if you serve dishes which include paellas, couscous, pilaf, risotto, or any kind of seafood such as shrimp or mussels, you’d do well to consider adding some saffron to the chef’s pantry. This distinctive herb has a unique, floral, and honey-like taste, with a slightly bitter after note. It can make all the difference when used with the above foods, as well as with a number of others. Here’s a bit of information and a few tips on using this ancient spice.

There’s a Reason Saffron Costs what it Does

Saffron can sell for up to $2000 a pound. While some of that cost may be due to the history of the spice, more of it has to do with how saffron is procured in the first place. You see, the spice we use as saffron is actually the dried stigma of the saffron flower. The thing is, it must be harvested by hand, removing each of the three stigmas from the crocus one at a time.

Furthermore, this painstaking work must be done at dawn before the flower opens. Worse, it takes 75,000 flowers to produce a single pound of saffron! Iran currently produces 90 percent of the world’s saffron and has a strict grading scale of color, taste, and fragrance to determine quality. The dried stigmas are red when you buy them, but it turns foods a rich golden color (which is why it’s also used for a dye).

Tips to Make the Best Use of the Saffron You Buy for Your Restaurant

With a spice this expensive, you’re going to want to use it sparingly. That said, there’s a few simple tips you can employ to get the most bang for your buck. First of all, buy the dried stigmas threads rather than the powdered form of saffron. While the powdered form is more potent and easier to measure, it also loses its flavor quickly. The best way to get every little bit of flavor from saffron is to crush up the threads and soak them in hot (not boiling) water, wine, or stock broth for about 15 minutes. You can then add this liquid to your recipes. Make sure to store dried saffron in airtight containers away from light to prevent it from breaking down.

Examples of How You Might Use Saffron in Your Restaurant

Saffron is most famously used in a French fish stew called bouillabaisse but there are a number of ways to utilize the spice in simpler dishes. Rice, for one, goes great with a pinch of saffron and some butter-sautéed onions. Try steaming some mussels with a bit of wine, garlic, and a touch of saffron for a unique, mouth-melting flavor. Smoked paprika, slivered garlic, and saffron mixed in olive oil serve as a delectable sauce for dipping bread and cooking shrimp.

Saffron is a strong spice, so a little goes a long way. Including it in your chef’s pantry is a simple way to add elegance and a rich, distinctive flavor to your menu offerings. Just remember not to use wooden spoons when cooking with saffron because they tend to absorb the color and flavor of this precious spice! For more ideas on how to make your restaurant pop, contact