Posts Tagged ‘menu items’

How to Appeal to the Typical American Wine Drinker

August 8, 2014

Despite the fact that the U.S. has become the single-largest market for wine (passing France last year), American wine drinkers aren’t easy to understand. In part, this is due to the fact that there really isn’t any such thing as the “typical” American wine drinker. We come from diverse backgrounds with very different motivations for drinking wine. How then, as the restaurant owner, do you know which is the best wine to offer on the menu?

One way is to consider how customers make their choices when it comes to wine. Constellation Brands, a global wine, spirits and beer producer and marketer put out an interesting survey that breaks Americans into six groups—each with a different motivator behind their choices in wine. The results are telling, in terms of how to appeal to the American wine populace.

American Wine Drinkers Driven by Price and Habit

According to the study, price is the top consideration for 21% of American wine drinkers. The belief in this group is that a person can get great wine without paying a lot of money for it. The only way they are going to try something new on your wine menu is if it’s within the same price range as their standby favorites. These folk like to buy cheap good wine and drink a lot of it. In fact, wine accounts for 38% of their total consumption of alcoholic beverages. The other group who is unlikely to try anything new are the everyday loyals (20%) who drink wine as a regular part of their day to day routines. They know what they like and tend to stick to it. Appealing to these two groups is a matter of providing good, cost-effective wine and favorites they already know about.

Appealing to American Wine Enthusiasts and Image Seekers

Some Americans drink wine as a status symbol, others are genuine enthusiasts who love everything about the ritual and experience of wine. Both can be profitable groups for the enterprising restaurateur. For the image seekers (18%), the important thing is that the wine they are drinking makes them look good. They enjoy trendy labels and sweeter wines. The enthusiast group (12%) is more into food and wine pairings as well as new adventures in the wine tasting world. They tend toward bolder, more robust reds. Both groups appreciate knowing the back-story of the wine they drink and tend toward options on the classier “in-the-know” side of the menu.

Appealing to the American Wine Drinking Newbie and Those that Are Just Plain Overwhelmed

People’s reactions to the world of wine typically goes one of two ways—they’re either overwhelmed or intrigued. Those that are overwhelmed (19%) typically like to drink wine, but are intimidated by the complex array of options presented when trying to buy it. This group is going to get scared away from ordering wine if they don’t see something on your menu that they recognize. The group that is new to, and intrigued by, the world of wine (12%), has a different reaction. They still tend toward sweeter wines but are looking for authenticity and trying to learn about the beverages they are drinking. Like the enthusiasts, this group is going to be interested in the stories of the wine makers themselves, and are the segment most likely to buy organic and biodynamic wines.

Understanding these different groups of American wine drinkers helps the restaurateur make smart decisions about what to include on the wine list. Some restaurants will put a little something for everyone on the drink menu; others will cater to a specific type of wine drinker. What you choose for your menu is entirely dependent on who you’re trying to attract to your establishment.

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!

Is Variable Menu Pricing the Next Big Move for Restaurants?

March 29, 2014

As restaurants continue to look for ways to cut costs and increase profit margins, the idea of introducing variable menu pricing as a form of yield management is gaining steam. The hotel and airline industries have been utilizing this form of yield management for years with great success. While it is clear how this system is beneficial from the business standpoint of more accurately managing costs, what many restaurant operators may not have considered is that the introduction of variable menu pricing could actually help drive more traffic to their restaurants as well.

Consumer Confidence Remains Fragile and Disposable Income Is Spread Thin

The economy has been steadily gaining strength from its major downturn a few years back, but consumer confidence and spending remains fragile, and nowhere near the level of decades past. In 2013, disposable personal income for the average American gained a mere 0.8 percent; an anemic rate, at best.

What’s more, that money is getting distributed over a wider range of consumer expenditures than it did in days of yore. It used to be that a restaurant operator’s biggest competition was other restaurant operators. However, these days, the bigger competition is in getting the consumer to spend that meager disposable income in the foodservice industry at all.

Variable Menu Pricing Represents a Way to Grab Traffic and Build Demand

According to a survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association (NRA), two out of every five consumers said they were not using restaurants as much as they would like to in their daily lifestyles. Interestingly, this number was highest among those with household incomes of $75,000 or more. Even more telling is the fact that 72% of consumers in another NRA study said that they’d dine out more often if menu prices were lower during off-peak times. Menu prices that vary on different days of the week, or times during the day, therefore represent a tangible method of building consumer demand, driving traffic and lowering operational costs—creating a win-win for everyone.

Younger Consumers are Primed and the Technology to Implement Variable Menu Pricing Is in Place

In today’s world, consumers under the age of 44 generally expect restaurants to utilize some form of technology in their establishments. Video menu boards and tablet table menus are already being employed in a number of restaurants around the country. It wouldn’t be a major leap to have real-time menu prices on your websites and social media forums as well.

Despite the fact that yield management is a reasonably sophisticated science, advances in technology over that last 10 years have made it quite capable of handling the demands of a variable menu pricing system. Not only is it easy to alter menu prices by time of day, week or season, it’s also easy to alter those prices according to current market rates. These variable alterations can thus be utilized to meet the demands of both the consumer and the business. Therefore, they represent an opportunity to both fine-tune your restaurant’s operational system, as well as build incremental demand with your patrons.

3 Key Steps to Operational Excellence in the Restaurant

March 13, 2014

When you consider how much time you spend correcting or minimizing the repercussions of mistakes made in your restaurant, finding a way to guarantee that processes can be run correctly 100% of the time is appealing indeed. Just think what it would do for your business in terms of profitability, reduced cost and hassle, repeat business and customer delight if your patrons could expect to get the same high quality product or service every single time they visit.

The value of operational excellence, or providing the product or service right every time, cannot be underestimated. Same-store sales increase over businesses whose operational excellence is merely average. Even better, increases in operational excellence can often be achieved with little or no capital or ongoing investment, which makes striving for it a no-brainer. Here are three key steps you can employ in your restaurant to achieve the best standard of operational excellence possible.

Design for Quality in Your Restaurant Processes from the Start

The first and most important factor in improving operational excellence is to ensure that the products and services you create delight your customers. This may seem obvious, but all too often businesses start tweaking their procedures for efficiency without taking the time to ensure that those processes first meet customer requirements. Without ensuring that what you are offering is above and beyond a customer’s expectation, you risk too many “me-too” products which do nothing to set your brand apart from the crowd and appeal to your customer base. Once you’re sure you know how to delight your customers, designing quality into your processes is the next step.

The most significant difference between ordinary restaurants and high performers is that quality is designed into their processes from the get-go. These restaurants strive for implementing processes that create 100% success, every single time. For example, if you design a recipe and its instructions for excellence, the final product should always have the same great taste, regardless of who is in the back of the house.

Strive for the Perfect Process in Your Restaurant’s Procedures

Once you’ve designed your process for excellence, it’s time to run pilot tests and refine the procedures based on the results of that data. Test the procedure against multiple equipment configurations, a full range of employees’ and customers’ demands, to ensure that the process is as close to perfect as possible. Once you’ve got a process that can be replicated perfectly every time, document the steps in detail and develop your training materials.

Replicate and Refine the Restaurant Processes that Near Perfection

If your data shows that the process can be operated properly 100% of the time and is an improvement over an existing process, it’s time to mandate implementation throughout your organization. Standardization in the quality of products and services you offer is a critical factor to the overall success of your business. Effectiveness is always ahead of efficiency. Is it truly possible to make your processes so flawless that they can produce perfect products and services every time? Maybe not. But, if you focus on quality; carefully design your procedures so that they can be replicated as perfectly as possible, and have a goal of achieving outstanding operational excellence, you will get as close to perfect as possible.

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

Why Developing Your Virgin Cocktail Menu is Good for Business

June 19, 2013

The demand for a well-crafted cocktail has seen a resurgence over the last few years and has restored some of the honor and respect that a good bartender deserves. While having a distinctive cocktail menu can do a lot to set your restaurant apart from the crowd, having a well-developed virgin cocktail menu can do as much or more for your business. Here’s why.

‘Mocktails’ are Sadly Missing from many Restaurant Menus

The biggest reason that it’s smart to develop your virgin cocktail, or ‘mocktail’, menu is quite simply because there aren’t a whole lot of restaurants doing it. When it comes to virgin drink options many customers are stuck with club soda and cranberry juice as the extent of their choices, so it’s no surprise that their eyes light up when they discover that they too can get the same delicious drink options as their alcohol-drinking counterparts. 

Virgin Cocktails Appeal to a more Diverse Crowd, Equaling more Money for You

The second obvious reason it’s a savvy move to vamp up your virgin cocktail drink menu is the fact that you can then appeal to a more diverse crowd of customers – which, in turn, means more money coming into your establishment. It’s a well known fact that people who are ordering drinks end up creating a higher tab.

It’s also not uncommon for tables who are ordering drinks to get better service from the waitstaff than those who are not. Having mocktails on the menu means that customers who are underage or are simply not interested in consuming alcohol are not relegated to having only boring drink options.

Instead, they too can enjoy the treat of having the palette-pleasing variety that cocktails have to offer. This also helps them feel more included if they are among alcohol drinkers and gives them the added benefit of receiving the more attentive customer service that alcohol drinkers tend to get.

Cocktails are an Opportunity to Show off Your Quality Ingredients and Classy Taste

The final reason why it’s smart to develop both your cocktail and mocktail menus alike lies in the opportunity that cocktails are a way to show off a well-developed palette and the use of classy, high-quality ingredients. Instead of relying on your big soda houses for your carbonated options, scout out the beautifully crafted tonics and sodas that are lower in sugar and offer more unique flavor combinations. When developing your cocktail menu, stay in communication with your savory and pastry chefs so that you can utilize the fresh fruit, herbs, and spices stored in their pantries.

Finally, make sure that several of your cocktail options can then be converted into virgin versions that are equally tasty.

Developing a signature cocktail menu is an easy way to set your establishment apart from the crowd and adding virgin cocktail options to the mix distinguishes your business that much more. Doing so is a simple way to extend your hospitality to your non-drinking consumers while significantly increasing the average tab per customer in a way that feels truly special and distinctive.

Superfoods in the Restaurant

May 23, 2013

The last few years have seen a marked increase in a variety of different foods getting elevated to the status of ‘superfoods’. You’ve probably heard all the hype about how these superfoods go above and beyond in terms of the provision of essential nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy. In fact, you may have heard too much hype and are tempted to simply dismiss these foods as passing fads. Do so at your own peril! Superfoods are here to stay, and Americans are embracing them whole-heartedly.

We Live in an Increasingly Health Conscious Nation

Thanks to all of the media coverage about how Americans are some of the most obese people in the world, in combination with new insights about how to stay healthy, our nation’s people are becoming increasingly health conscious. They recognize the importance of proper nutrition and the effect that it has on our performance and well-being. More and more people want to both look good and feel good. It’s no surprise then that they are looking for healthier options on restaurant menus when they eat out as well.

What Criteria Classifies Something as a ‘Superfood’?

When you hear something called a ‘superfood’, you can expect that it means it is packed full of vital nutrients. In most cases the food either has more than the normal level of certain nutrients or it has quantities of nutrients and/or amino acids that are difficult to find elsewhere. That being said, there actually isn’t yet any set, formal criteria to consider something a superfood. As a result, there is currently a wide variety of foods housed under that umbrella and you should conduct your own research to conclude which are genuinely worthy of being additions to your regular menu options.

Superfood Hits from 2012 Restaurant Menus

Thanks to consumer pressure to provide healthier options and pending legislation about the disclosure of calorie counts on the menu, many restaurants have already added a number of superfoods to the menu. Avocado had the largest menu penetration for restaurants in 2012 – appearing on 35.6% of restaurant menus (an 8.9% increase from 2011). Olive oil followed its heels closely with an appearance on 30.1% of menus. Walnuts hit 23.6%, blueberries at 20% followed by sweet potatoes with an 18.6% appearance rate. Other foods such as kale, quinoa, beets, acai, and brown rice all also made substantial gains in appearance on restaurant menus across the nation.

Now, it’s obvious that consumer trends can change quickly in terms of the specific ingredients they want to have available to them when they eat out. While keeping up with these trends is somewhat important, it’s not necessary to try to feature each and every one on your menu.

The specific foods that are going to fall into the superfood category will shift somewhat according to the tastes and fashions of the moment. Instead of trying to follow every one, what is more important is simply the recognition that the current consumer trend for more healthful foods is a trend that is here to stay.

Innovations in Chicken Wing Processing

April 29, 2013

Whether you call them hot wings, Buffalo wings, or simply plain old chicken wings, these tasty treats are absolutely a staple of the American diet – especially in the casual dining and retail ready-to-eat sectors. Just to underscore how truly popular chicken wings are with the populace, one only has to take a look at how many chicken wings are consumed during, say, the Super Bowl.

It was estimated that during the last Super Bowl event, Americans consumed a whopping 1 billion chicken wings over the course of the weekend alone! Wings also happen to be the priciest part of the chicken, up 14% since 2011.

Improvements That Make Offering Chicken Wings on the Menu More Lucrative

The last few years have marked vast improvements for the poultry industry. Along with increased efficiency and better management practices, carcass sizes have vastly increased due to improved genetics. Predictably, chicken wing sizes have gotten bigger and meatier as well. In fact, it is estimated that more than 30% of the market is harvesting chickens over six pounds – with 18% over eight pounds.

Aside from the increased quantity of meat that these larger chicken wings produce, the increased sizes have the added benefit of allowing the use of more efficient and automated processing technology as well. The larger size of today’s modern chickens allows the wing to be cut into three sections (the tip, mid-section, and the drumette).

The ability to segment wings in this way is particularly beneficial to restaurants, who typically serve wings by the piece rather than by the pound. As a result, the segmentation process is something most restaurants are willing to pay a little extra for.

Differing Types of Innovative Processing for Chicken Wings

Segmenting the wing into its three key parts can be done through a variety of different automated processing techniques. One style is the overhead in-line wing cutting system. The wings are first stretched and cut into sections before the rest of the carcass is cut up. This system has the added benefit of creating very uniform cuts. The downside of this style is that removing the wings doesn’t leave anything for the machine to grab on to in order to chop up the rest of the carcass.

Another style of automated wing segmentation is the wing portioner. This is a small, stand-alone system that requires manual feeding and positioning of the wings into the machine. The circular saw then portions the wings into its segments. This is a very space saving option, but has the downside of needing the handler to position the wings properly in order to get the right cut.

Problems to Watch For as a Result of Wing Segmentation

There are a few issues to watch for if you opt for wings which have been segmented in this way. The first is that if the wing is not positioned properly in the machine, bone and bone marrow end up getting exposed. If the bone cap is removed, the meat ends up shrinking around the bone during cooking and can result in a health hazard to the consumer.

The other problem with bone marrow is that it contains a lot of heavy metals such as iron.  These heavy metals can cause increased rates of oxidation (even in frozen wings), thereby reducing shelf life.

The final consideration in all of this is the need to buy wings which are uniformly sized in order to avoid a potential health hazard, since different sizes demand different cooking times in order to destroy pathogens.

The end result of all of the innovations in processing and segmenting technology is quite simply to supply the public with the copious amounts of chicken wings that they demand. Restaurants should consider wing sizes as an important factor in being able to serve the public with their insatiable appetite for chicken.

Why Breakfast Options on the Menu Increase Your Bottom Line

April 19, 2013

As a savvy restaurant owner, you’re always looking for new tactics to draw traffic into your establishment. If you’re not doing so already, offering breakfast items can be a very smart and cost-effective way to do just that.

In fact, breakfast items accounted for nearly 60 percent of the restaurant industry’s traffic growth between 2005-2010 (the last time at which a breakfast study for the restaurant industry was conducted). Breakfast sales have also steadily grown by +2 percent per year over the course of the last decade, as opposed to a -2 percent decline in dinner time traffic during that same time.

What does all of this tell us? That what mom always said is the truth – breakfast IS important.

Offering Breakfast on the Menu Serves Many Needs

In a day and age when our hectic lifestyles create demanding schedules, many of us end up skipping breakfast because we don’t have the time or the energy to make something for ourselves. On the other hand, if you had someone hand you something small and portable as you ran out the door, wouldn’t you take it?

Restaurants with breakfast items on the menu offer people a quick, convenient way to jump start their day by grabbing breakfast on the go. Since breakfast orders usually consist of only one or two items, they are typically cheaper than other options on the menu which makes eating out feel more affordable.

Offering Breakfast Items Builds Customer Loyalty

It’s important to recognize how important the morning meal can be in both capturing a market share as well as building customer loyalty. It’s been shown that customers who visit an establishment for more than one day return more often, become more loyal, contribute more volume, and are far more likely to recommend your eatery to the people in their networks.

In sum, restaurants that serve breakfast end up being more memorable, and are, therefore, frequented more often. After all, who doesn’t make a mental note of a great place to swing in and grab some nourishment before they start their day?

Keep Your Breakfast Options Short and Sweet

Want to take a guess at the two most popular breakfast items? No surprise that it’s coffee and breakfast sandwiches. This is great news for you as it means that meeting the peoples’ demands for morning food can be a simple endeavor. Now granted, it’s technically specialty coffee that is all the rave, but that’s not too tough of an acquiescence to make, is it? Who doesn’t love a really great cup of brew?

When you consider all the benefits, serving at least a few breakfast options only makes sense. It is even more compelling when you consider the shift toward offering breakfast that many chains have undergone over the course of the last few years. It almost feels like a person could expect breakfast anywhere they go, which is all the more reason to get your restaurant on the boat if it isn’t there already.

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!