Taking on Restaurant Chains: 5 Tips for One-Unit Eateries

Tips to help your eateries and one unit restaurants survive the threat of chain restaurantsSome days it feels like everywhere you turn there’s a shiny new chain restaurant opening up around the corner.

With fast casual on the rise and plenty of big business muscle behind these restaurant chains, keeping up can be an overwhelming prospect for today’s one-unit eateries. Continue reading Taking on Restaurant Chains: 5 Tips for One-Unit Eateries

Robots and Restaurants? Innovation is on the Rise

Robots are one of the many forms of food technology that are expected to transform the food industry. Innovation is key to staying alive and well in any industry — and the restaurant world is hardly exempt.

While we haven’t yet reached Jetson’s territory in terms of pressing a button and having meatloaf and mashed potatoes appear in front of us via pneumatic tube, it may be closer than we think. Continue reading Robots and Restaurants? Innovation is on the Rise

Iced Tea Drinks Taking Off on Restaurant Menus

Learn why any time is a good time for tea to be included in your restaurant menusThere are few drinks more refreshing on a steamy summer day than a chilled glass of freshly brewed iced tea.

In fact, iced tea is so popular at this time of year that June has officially been designated as National Iced Tea Month. And while iced tea dates all the way back to the Civil War era, its popularity has skyrocketed since then — both in its original incarnation and in the form of many different tasty variations. Continue reading Iced Tea Drinks Taking Off on Restaurant Menus

Repeat Diners: Five Ways to Keep Them Coming Back For More

5 ways to ensure that your diners become repeat dinersRepeat diners are a critical part of success in the contemporary business world, making up 71, 68, 64, 63 and 51 percent of sales at quick service, fast-casual, casual-dining, family-dining, and fine-dining establishments respectively, according to research from the National Restaurant Association (NRA). Continue reading Repeat Diners: Five Ways to Keep Them Coming Back For More

Starting a Barbecue Restaurant? Read This First

Opening a Barbecue Restaurant? there are important tips to help you get off to a fiery start.Historians place George Washington himself at a cookout all the way back in 1769 when he wrote in his journal, “Went into Alexandria to a barbecue and stayed all night.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt, meanwhile, once memorably served hot dogs to the King and Queen of England. Continue reading Starting a Barbecue Restaurant? Read This First

Three Ways to Diversify Your Restaurant Revenue Stream

revenueDiversification of revenue streams is a common business world practice.

Unfortunately, many restaurants are slow on the uptake when it comes to applying this concept to their own operations. In today’s competitive restaurant landscape, however, finding ways to diversify your revenue stream can mean the difference between momentum and stagnation. Continue reading Three Ways to Diversify Your Restaurant Revenue Stream

Top Six Restaurant Training Tips

Restaurant tips to help with training your staff

Running a restaurant is a juggling act with many moving parts. Perhaps the most important component in keeping everything moving along smoothly? Your staff.

As anyone who’s ever successfully managed a restaurant knows, good staff doesn’t magically happen; it takes a combination of vision, execution and Continue reading Top Six Restaurant Training Tips

Tablet-Based Menus: Fad or the Future?

tabletsThe use of tablet computers for menus, wine lists and ordering topped the list of 2015’s technology trends, according to the National Restaurant Association’s annual culinary forecast. In fact, tablets were cited by nearly 30 percent of the 1,200-plus industry insiders — besting also-rans including apps for diners; apps for chefs and restaurateurs; and mobile/wireless payment options. But are tablet-based menus, also known as e-menus, all they’re cracked up to be? Are they really positioned to result in the obsolescence not only of paper menus, but wait staff, too? Let’s take a closer look.

The Benefits of Tablet-Based Menu Services

While paper menus have long been an intrinsic part of the consumer experience as well as a tool for restaurants to boost sales, fans of e-menus propose that that evolution to tablets promises unilateral advantages. The core functionality of tablet-based menus allows customers to place orders which are electronically sent to and displayed on a console in the kitchen. However, e-menus also offer a number of additional advanced features for diners, including following:

• The ability to visualize the food thanks to appetizing pictures and detailed descriptions
• Order customization
• Multi-language functionality so guests can review the menu and place their order in their preferred language
• Enhanced opportunities for interaction, including access to nutritional information and calorie counts
• Less waiting time
• Reduced confusion and human error — both tableside and in the kitchen

But the perks of table-based menus don’t just apply to consumers. Restaurants are also positioned for everything from higher sales to enhanced diner engagement thanks to features including:

• Improved branding opportunities
• The ability to use tantalizing visuals to entice diners to order more
• Focused promotional campaigns
• Faster ordering and bill settling
• Reduction of labor expenses
• Enhanced guest loyalty programs
• Predictive analysis related to everything from how many guest to expect on any given day and what they might be most likely to order
• Post-meal survey capabilities to ensure best experiences and make immediate correction and/or rectification, as necessary

These perks of tablet-based menus are backed up by a recent survey conducted by leading technology supplier Long Range Systems, LLC (LRS) concluding that today’s diners “want more information and more control over their dining experience.” Claiming a top spot on the rundown of diner wants? The ability to look over menu items and even order while waiting for a table. Concludes LRS CEO Skip Cass, “It’s clear that diners are looking for a guest experience that respects their time and keeps them constantly informed on everything from the length of their wait to the calorie count of menu items. They’re also becoming much more accustomed to the advantages of digital technology – and in many cases are seeking out restaurants that are putting that technology to practical use.”

Potential Downsides of Tablet-Based Menus

While the notion of a restaurant industry future in which tablet-based menus are the standard mode of operations is an intriguing one, there are also some potential downsides. These include the following:

• While they may offer significant ROI, the initial investment in e-menus is steep compared to paper menus.
• If a menu is lost or ruined, there’s little risk or replacement cost. The threat of breakage or theft with a tablet is far more problematic.
• While credit card security is always improving, the issue is twofold: even if personal data isn’t at stake, customers may perceive that it is.
• With technology everywhere they turn, some customers might object to the technological requirement in an otherwise tech-free space.
• While humans are adaptable, machines are not. If a customer wants to change his/her order or make a post-order request, how is this integrated into the e-menu process?
• Implementing a tablet-based menu system also means integrating that system with preexisting technological functions, such as POS and CRM software.
• Many diners enjoy the personal element of knowing a human cares about their experience — particularly in upscale establishments where customer service is an inherent part of the dining experience.

E-Menus: For Some, But Not For All

Says NRA senior VP Hudson Riehle, “True trends – as opposed to temporary fads – show the evolution of the wider shifts of our modern society over time.” And certainly, technology — specifically the mobile movement — is here to stay, which is why most experts agree that e-menus represent an exciting and necessary time in the restaurant industry. However, many also agree that adopting tablet-based menus doesn’t not mean that all e-menu adoptions are one-size-fits-all, nor do they mandate the complete elimination of conventional wait staff for anything other than the delivery of food.
One line of thinking proposes that tablets may work best in the hands of waiters, not consumers. This delivers much of the same access to information and other time-saving benefits, while salvaging face-time otherwise lost to tablet-based menus. However, this approach can also be seen as sacrificing several of the advantages of completely adopting the technology.

Another possible solution? Give customers access to tablets for browsing and ordering food, as well as access to a waiter in case of exceptions. In other words, even if tablets represent the latest hospitality industry innovation, they’re best when supplementing — not supplanting — the capabilities of wait staff. The ultimate challenge in this case lies not in whether tablets are a replacement for conventional menu and ordering processes, but how they can be integrated alongside the human element to enhance operations while improving the customer experience.

Ultimately, while e-menus are absolutely a given in the future of the restaurant world, how they’ll be used –or whether they’ll be used at all — will vary from restaurant to restaurant. Because with profitability the imperative above all else in the competitive restaurant industry, establishments must first ask and understand one question: What is most likely to satisfy their diners and keep them coming back for more? This means considering the unique costs of adopting the tablet trend as it applies to their own unique businesses and brands while always keeping quality service, the customer experience and profitability at the forefront.

Starting a Buffet Business

1Rather than establishing an a la carte restaurant, a buffet restaurant can prove to be an attractive and profitable opportunity. After all, who would not like to feast on a wide array of sumptuous food, all for one price? The call of the eat-all-you-can banquet may very well spell your business success in the food industry. A buffet restaurant makes a profit out of economies of scale – food is prepared by bulk rather than on a per-order basis.

Here are some considerations when starting a buffet restaurant:

  • Study your market. Since you will be serving a local clientele, take the time to get to know what your customers want. Ask them about the kind of food they want, as well as what they enjoy when they dine with competing buffer restaurants.
  • Unique value proposition. With the number of established buffet restaurants, it is key to offer something that will interest your market. This can be about having a particular cuisine or specialty, having basic and big meals at a low price or offering choice cuts and high-value dishes. Some examples will be an all pizza and pasta buffet, a vegetarian buffet or a buffet that offers a wide range of dishes.
  • Decide on your brand. What will you offer your customers? Will you be a soup-to-nuts buffet or a dessert buffet? Will you serve lunch, dinner or both? Or will you specialize in breakfast or brunch buffets? What will be your standard menu items and your specialty items?
  • Take care of the business end of the buffet restaurant. This includes building strong business relationships with your vendors, ensuring that you comply with licenses and safety regulations as well as managing your staff.
  • Orchestrate things in precision. As a buffet restaurant manager, your job is very similar to an orchestra conductor, where all the elements are ideally arranged in terms of timing and volume. The food must come fresh and hot, while the potential for wasted food (i.e. food that has turned soggy or has lost its crispiness) is minimized. You need to ensure that the chafers and serving plates are replenished regularly as well.
  • Minimize food costs. Since you are offering your dishes at one price, and customers will take the challenge of getting the most out of the flat price that they pay, you need to ensure that your food costs are at a minimum without sacrificing quality. Some of the proven strategies to bring down food costs include:
    • Working with only a few vendors. Work to develop a good relationship with a few trusted vendors. As you increase the volume of your orders, you are now able to negotiate for better prices.
    • Use ingredients that are in season. You can work your menu around key fruits and vegetables that are in season, as these are cheaper.
    • Use a few premium ingredients. Premium items can be your attraction. However, you cannot use a lot of these, else you can seriously cut into your profits.
    • Be creative with your dishes. To increase the number of items you buy by bulk, you can play with your menus so that you create a bigger number of dishes with the same ingredients.
  • Implement portion control measures. Sometimes, diners get dishes but are not able to finish it. Portion control is one way of bringing down your food costs while still ensuring that your diners enjoy the choices of dishes you offer. You can:
    • Serve premium items in small dishes. Rather than putting some premium items in chafers and allowing the diners to serve themselves, serve these items in small portions in small dishes.
    • Put caps on serving portions. Staff should be on their guard to minimize the servings. Another strategy will be to use smaller serving spoons.
  • Monitor leftovers and wasted food. Leftovers are unavoidable. Those that are still safe for consumption can be served it as staff meals. Make sure that you monitor leftovers so you know the ebb and flow of the food demands. At the end of the day, you can weigh food leftover in the plates to see the level of food wastage and to determine whether you need to take out a dish from your menu.