Posts Tagged ‘restaurants’

Greater Focus on Family Opens Opportunity for Restaurants

April 11, 2014

The last several years have seen a heightened appreciation in the populace for meaningful moments and experiences. We are focusing more on what we have and less on what we don’t. We want to give our energy to what is most important in our lives. For many people, that means family. In fact, for 62% of today’s consumers, it is a sign of success or accomplishment to be able to spend a lot of time with their families. This sentiment holds true across age groups, and while it’s stronger in females, it’s a significant feeling among males too. What’s this information have to do with the restaurant business? It’s an opportunity. Families are looking for ways to spend time with each other, and restaurants are perfectly suited to provide the setting.

Restaurant Marketing Campaigns Should Target a Broad Definition of Family

Restaurants have always been favorite gathering places for families. That part hasn’t changed since the restaurant industry began. What has changed is the definition of what people now consider to be family. It used to be that a “traditional” family meant a husband, a wife and maybe some kids. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, however, that type of family now makes up less than half of all American households today. The larger group is now composed of multi-generational households, single parent families, same-sex families, families in which the adult children still live at home, and households that consider themselves family, but are not actually related. The take home message for the restaurant operator is that marketing campaigns need to take this diversity into account and target these various demographics accordingly if they wish to truly tap into the opportunities that await in the arena of family business.

What Families Really Want from Restaurants

It’s important to remember that most people’s primary objective when they go out to eat together is to have an enjoyable experience with each other. The choice about where they go to do that is secondary. Ensuring that your restaurant provides a warm and welcoming atmosphere, where people can focus on and hear each other, goes a long way toward facilitating the meaningful experience families are looking for. Of course, family deals and discounts, platters geared toward large groups and perks for making a group reservation ahead of time go a long way too.

On Premise Service Isn’t the Only Opportunity for Restaurants Catering to Families

Providing your family patrons with a service and experience that they love doesn’t have to end on the premises. There’s a huge opportunity in take-out and delivery from family customers as well. Families that order out want to feed a lot of people without a lot of hassle. Deals that provide a full course meal which feeds multiple people are appealing, and it makes sense to have them on hand as part of your overall marketing strategy geared toward family groups.

It’s not uncommon for families to pick one restaurant in particular to return to as a group again and again for years. The experiences that have together over your food become treasured memories for the customers, and they often become some of the most loyal and best referring patrons you have. It only makes sense then, to take extra effort to ensure that your marketing plans include targeting this important demographic.

Seaweed in the Restaurant

January 24, 2013

When most people think of seaweed, they picture wraps of nori around a sushi roll and leave it at that. But actually, there are many types of “sea vegetables,” each with distinct and versatile uses. Chefs around the country are getting creative with these multipurpose greens (or reds, or browns as the case may be), and customers are loving it.

Seaweed has Excellent Nutritional Value

Although there are many types of seaweeds, each with distinctive taste and texture, all forms of edible seaweed are high in nutritional value with many of the same benefits as land vegetables. Most seaweed is high in essential amino acids as well as vitamins A and C. They are also one of the few vegetable sources for vitamin B-12. Seaweeds are also rich in potassium, iron, calcium, iodine, and magnesium due to the fact that these minerals are concentrated in sea water.

Seaweed has Health and Medicinal Value as Well

Seaweed has many medicinal and health benefits as well. It has long been used as a healthy substitute for salt and has recently been touted as useful for weight control.  When eaten as part of a meal, seaweed can help regulate and balance blood sugar levels because it is a soluble fiber which helps to slow the rate of digestion.

Seaweed has also shown anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects on animals, and numerous individuals have used it to reduce or eliminate the amount of medication needed to manage thyroid problems.

What are the Best Types of Seaweed to Use?

The six most commonly used seaweeds in restaurants are wakame, nori, kombu, dulse, sea beans, and Irish moss. Also known as sea mustard, wakame is the most common seaweed used in miso soup. It has a salty-sweet zest and swells up significantly when soaked in water, so a little goes a long way. It is commonly known as the ‘woman’s seaweed’ because it is loaded with osteoporosis-preventing calcium and magnesium and acts as a diuretic which helps to reduce bloating.

Nori is most commonly used to wrap sushi and seafood, but it can also be chopped up into little bits to flavor soup, casseroles, rice, and grains. Nori is one of the richest sources of protein amongst marine flora, and one sheet has as much fiber as a cup of spinach and more omega-3 fatty acids than a cup of avocado.

Kombu is a leafy kelp with a full-bodied, savory flavor. It is most commonly used to make dashi broth, a common stock base for many traditional Japanese dishes. It is a prized source of iodine and alginic acid which helps break down tough cellulose fiber and make foods more digestible.

Dulse or dillisk is a red algae that is often eaten dried and uncooked though it can also be added to soups, casseroles, and salads to enhance flavor. Flash frying chunks of dulse is a quick and easy way to create delicious seaweed crisps that can be used as pre-dinner appetizers.

Sea beans or sea asparagus has a bright green appearance and firm texture. It can be used raw, blanched, or boiled to add a crunchy, sea-salt flavor to food and is especially tasty in meat or fish dishes.

Last but not least, Irish moss is used as a clarifying agent for beer. If soaked, it can also act as a binding agent for sweets. In Scotland and Ireland, it’s strained to make a delicious tapioca-style dessert.

As you can see, seaweeds are an incredibly versatile and multifunctional source of food. It’s no wonder restaurantsaround the country are finding creative ways to put it to use!

Why Restaurants Need Restaurant Management Groups

January 8, 2013

Achieving success in the food service industry doesn’t happen overnight, and it can be especially challenging into today’s economic environment. Many restaurant owners are struggling to make ends meet and even those managing well enough on their own can occasionally benefit from assistance. That’s where restaurant management groups come in – to provide whatever kind of assistance is needed to help you achieve success in the restaurant industry.

Restaurant Assessment and Consulting Services

Every aspect of your business affects the bottom line, and there are always ways to improve your operation so that it is more efficient and successful.  Areas where you can receive consultation assistance and advice include everything from changes to your décor or your menu to advice about your operations, profitability, and risk management.

You can get assistance creating marketing strategies, doing market research or positioning your brand, receive extensive assessments targeting operational areas in need of improvement, or even develop strategies that lower employee turnover by making your business a better, safer place to work.

If you’re considering franchising your restaurant or simply expanding to new locations, restaurant management groups can help you with your development and implementation strategy there as well, further rounding out the extensive list of positives to working with a restaurant management group. No matter which facet of your business you’d like to address, restaurant management groups can provide you with the expert assessment and consultation services that you need.

Assistance and Advisement for Matters of the Bank and Court

The kind of assistance you can receive from restaurant management groups isn’t limited to operational assessment and consultation. In fact, it’s dealing with troubling financial or legal matters that end up bringing businesses to a management group’s door more than anything. This is the case for good reason. A restaurant management group can provide you with such services as court appointed receivers, bankruptcy advisors, examiners and trustees, borrower analytics, and due diligence lender and acquisition services as well.

Turnaround Management Specifically Designed for the Restaurant Industry

Many business owners and executives don’t seek assistance until the situation is dire, and it’s at this point that the business needs more than consultation and advice – it needs full scale turnaround management.  The most effective way to do this is to take a comprehensive, bottom-up approach, strategically identifying and eliminating the factors that are inhibiting your business’s success. This type of comprehensive turnaround management is perhaps one of the most important services a restaurant management group can offer.

Furthermore, there are many turnaround management companies out there, but few who specialize exclusively in food service operations. Because the factors that affect the food service industry are unique, it’s of utmost importance to be working with management teams who specialize in all areas of food service operation.

Whether you’re a restaurant owner who just needs a little advice or a financial executive worried about a distressing restaurant obligation, restaurant management groups are the expertise you want to source. You’d be surprised how effective implementing just the right changes to your operations can be!

What Today’s Consumer Wants to See in a Restaurant

January 1, 2013

As consumers become more conscientious about their costs, their health, and their sources of food, restaurants have to adapt accordingly or suffer the consequences. Today’s consumer expects far more from restaurants in terms of quality and value as compared to earlier eras. While a desire for lower cost remains the number one area where consumers would like to see improvements in restaurants, there are several other features today’s customer looks for in a dining establishment.

Greater Variety of Healthier Items

As understanding of how diet affects lifestyle grows, people are naturally looking for healthier ways to eat, and this includes the selections they make when eating out. As a restaurant there are several easy ways to accommodate this desire. Start by adding a section to your menu which features healthy items and provide some information about what makes it healthy (under X calories, heart smart, low-carb, etc.).  It can be difficult to know what to eat when you’re trying to change your diet, and customers really appreciate being able to choose from a ready-made list of options.

Another way to accommodate the healthy aspirations of your customers is to allow healthier substitutions for menu items – salad instead of fries, wheat or wholegrain bread instead of white, steamed vegetables instead of mashed potatoes – you get the idea. If you can do this without having to charge the customer for it, all the better.

Smaller Portions, Higher Quality Food and Ingredients

The next two areas that consumers would like to see restaurants improve have to do with the quality of the foods, ingredients used, and the ability to have the option for smaller portions. While the desire to have higher quality food and ingredients could be a result of the general move toward healthier eating we just discussed, it also has to do with the desire to experience a higher quality meal than what one might cook at home.

Higher quality food is generally also higher in nutrient value, which further appeals to the healthy eating crowd. Plus, customers are generally willing to pay more for a meal if they know that what they are getting is of high quality.

The ability to choose smaller portion sizes is another common area consumers would like to see restaurants improve. Fortunately, this one is fairly easy to implement (it’s no more difficult to load a plate with two scoops of pasta than it is three and charge less accordingly), and the customer responds well to having this choice available.

More Locally Sourced and Local Food Options

Featuring local food options is always well received, even more so if those options were cooked using locally sourced ingredients. Getting your produce locally is an excellent way to reduce the cost of transport and support the local community while offering fresher goods. People’s environmental conscientiousness has risen in tandem with their awareness of healthier choices, and taking a ‘local approach’ can be a powerful way to appeal to this consciousness.

While some of these changes will take some effort, others can be implemented today with little or no cost. With consumers eating out less and being more deliberate in their choices when they do, recognizing and adapting to their changing needs is critical to your restaurant’s success.

Leveraging Holidays and Special Occasions to Boost Sales

December 21, 2012

Holidays and special occasions such as graduation parties, birthdays, and weddings represent special opportunities for restaurants to significantly boost their sales. Whether you offer full-scale, private party catering or simply provide easily available digital gift cards, offering promotions that parallel with holidays and special occasions is a savvy marketing technique worthy of pursuit.

In-House Catering for Large Groups

One method many restaurants use to diversify their revenue streams and tap into the holiday cash flow is to cater to and host large groups of people in-house. This can be done either by sectioning off a portion of your establishment or by making it available off-hours for private rental.

While it’s true that space for meeting and eating is popular any time of year, it is especially sought after during the holidays. Businesses and individuals alike are looking for a place to host their holiday functions, and it would be folly not to market to those groups if it is within your capability to do so.

Cater for Private Parties, Offer Extended Holiday Delivery Hours

As more and more people entertain at home, restaurants have to shift the way that they offer service. In-home, private catering is in high demand, especially during holidays and special occasions. One method of increasing sales for private catering is to station a catering representative at the door of your establishment to greet guests, hand out menus and promotional materials, and gather business cards. Encourage guests to sign up for catering service early by offering discounts and incentives for doing so.

Extending your holiday delivery hours is another method of tapping into increased holiday sales.  Many people who may not be interested in full-scale catering might instead be interested in having food for their holiday feast delivered right to their door. Extending your delivery hours during the holidays can be a simple way to accommodate that desire.

Gift Cards Mean Business

Gift cards are an additional way to tap into holiday sales and are especially appealing to last-minute shoppers. It is estimated that approximately 5 billion dollars was loaded onto restaurant gift cards across all sectors in 2011. Since gift cards are one of the most requested holiday gifts, creating a holiday gift card incentive program is a smart way for restaurants to tap into that market.

Further illustrating the viability of using gift cards to leverage holiday sales is the fact that gift cards can now be offered digitally. This means that customers can instantly receive the gift through their mobile phones, email, or social media creating the perfect last minute gift. Digital gift cards are also nice because they can be promoted long after the window for booking holiday parties or buying the physical gift cards has closed.

All of these techniques can help diversify your income stream and leverage an increase in holiday sales. Offering carefully timed holiday promotions along with compelling incentives that encourage customers to buy or book in advance is a smart way to ensure that  your business receives a piece of the proverbial holiday pie.

Creative Strategies to Entice Diners and Build Loyalty during a Recession

December 14, 2012

The recession has changed the face of the restaurant industry, and those in the business are now looking for ways to retain and build their consumer base. Consumers are still eating out, but their needs and values have changed and it’s important as a restaurant owner to recognize that shift and adapt accordingly.

What’s important now is to provide a unique and exceptional service that customers value and to focus on strategies that build their loyalty toward your business.

Gimmicks to Bring People in and Give them a Rewarding Experience

As you know, customers love to feel that they are receiving great value by patronizing your business and there are several promotional gimmicks you can use to bring them in. One way to do this is to run differing discount promotions regularly throughout the week so that people have a reason to put you on their calendar.

For example, you might offer a “buy one-get one” deal on Wednesdays, a free scoop of ice cream to kids who come in with their families during lunch hour on Sundays, or perhaps a “date night” special on Friday’s where couples get half off a nice bottle of wine when they buy a meal.

Other promotional gimmicks that work well include loyalty reward programs, small contests that people can play while they eat, and a free dinner roll or chips to start the meal, to name a few. Your success with these types of promotions is limited only by your creativity and they can be a fun and rewarding tool to create a strong customer case.

Atmosphere and Experience is Everything

When people dine out, they’re doing so because they are seeking an experience. Creating an enticing atmosphere in an establishment entails more than simply having a little mood lighting, though, of course, that helps too.

It also includes factors such as the hospitality and warmth of your staff, the quality of your food, the timeliness with which it was delivered, how the layout of your establishment facilitates or discourages privacy and conversation, as well as whether or not you offer entertainment.

Fortunately, all of those points are easy to accommodate with relatively little cost. Investment in training and retaining quality staff and adapting your business to facilitate a pleasing dining experience goes a long way toward creating and retaining loyal customers.

Target Social Trends and Appeal to Customer’s Sense of Well-Being

One of the smartest ways to set your restaurant above the crowd is to demonstrate its commitment to the health and well-being of the community it serves. This can be done by offering health conscious or organic menu items, buying produce that is sustainably or locally produced, or even by giving a small percentage of a customer’s bill to a charitable cause.

Because today’s consumers dine out with more discrimination, appealing to their sense of health and well-being is a powerful way to reach out and claim their attention. Everyone loves to feel like they are supporting a good cause, and businesses that build their reputation around these types of ethical cornerstones stand out and make people take notice while creating a fiercely loyal customer base.

With the costs of operation rising and customer’s budgets tightening, survival of your restaurant depends on your ability to creatively adapt and respond to today’s situation. Focus on innovative ways to build customer loyalty by offering a valuable service experience is the key.

Don’t Cook and Drive

January 17, 2011

Don’t cook and drive – that’s the current rule in Chicago. Have you seen the ubiquitous trucks that park on street corners and offer everything from hot tamales to hot dogs? These are common in cities like New York and Los Angeles, but they are all but illegal in Chicago, where the restrictions mean that it’s impossible to get a hot meal from a food truck and even cold foods are a difficult thing to find.

Chicago Food Trucks under Strict Guidelines

First of all, it turns out that the requirements say that Chicago chefs who own food trucks may sell food out of their trucks – as long as the food was prepared elsewhere and is sold pre-packaged inside the truck. This means that not only are the hot tamales and hot dogs out, but so are many other kinds of foods.

If you’ve ever bitten into a tuna sandwich from one of those old style food vending machines…you know what we’re talking about. No one liked ‘em then and they pretty much disappeared in part because the bread would become mushy with a number of different kinds of “wet” foods in between the slices after a while.

As if that restriction weren’t bizarre enough however, the other thing that seems to be hindering the adoption of food trucks in the Windy City is the requirement that they must be parked more than 200 feet from the closest brick-n-mortar restaurant. This effectively makes the most lucrative parts of the town’s business centers off limits to mobile restaurateurs.

Start Up Costs of Food Trucks

The big issue it seems is that the food trucks are infinitely cheaper to set up than the traditional brick-n-mortar restaurant. While it’s estimated that a traditional restaurant would cost some $1 million to put together, a food truck business can get going for as little as $150,000. That difference often means the difference between starting a business and not starting a business, especially in this economy.

A new city ordinance is currently under consideration to try to get the law changed to make the city more friendly to food trucks, but unless and until it does get passed, chefs be warned – don’t cook and drive in the Windy City.