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What is LTL delivery? FAQs from the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

Tractor trailer

Ever wonder how your recently ordered furniture will get to you? Here are some answers to frequently asked questions that we get when it comes to receiving your shipped furniture.

How is my furniture being shipped to me?

LTL delivery is a common way that many furniture suppliers use when shipping furniture to customers. Items are usually put on a wood pallet and secured using plastic straps and/or shrink wrap. LTL delivery is used when items don’t fill the entire truck but are too large or heavy for parcel. With this delivery method, you are paying only for the space that the pieces of furniture take up.

What does LTL stand for?

LTL stands for “less than truckload”.

What determines how much delivery will cost?

To calculate LTL delivery costs, items are put into classes designated by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA). There are 18 classes total. To place an item’s class depends the shipment’s density, stowability, handling, and value. The lower the class, the cheaper it is to ship the item. For example, a steel chair ships at class 250 because they have a high density. Meanwhile, aluminum furniture ships at a class 300 because it takes up more space but has less weight. Other possible costs include fuel surcharges, expedited delivery fees, and where the end destination is located.

What is lift-gate service? Is it included?

A lift-gate raises and lowers items from the back of the truck to the ground. This is not included in the shipping quote are given unless you ask for it. If a truck that delivers your items has a lift-gate and you use it but did not pay for it, you will be charged as if you had requested it.

Will the carrier call me to let me know when my order is being delivered?

For an additional fee, they can call you with a timeframe.

Can I change the shipping address once the item has shipped?

Yes, it is possible to change the shipping address by contacting the carrier. However, a reconsignment fee will be charged.

Will the driver take the items off the truck?

No, we recommend that you have some extra help with you to take items off the truck.

Will the driver take my shipment inside?

No, however, an “inside delivery” option can be added for a fee.

Can I use a forklift to take the items off the truck?

Yes, this could help you get the items off the truck because they’re on pallets. Don’t use forklift on booths or oversized tables, these items are easily damaged.

What do I do if my furniture is damaged?

Regardless of what condition your furniture arrives in, you need to accept the delivery. You will receive a delivery receipt where you can note the damages. From there, you will need to contact our service department about the damages.

For more information on how to accept a tailgate delivery, check out our video below!

5 Common Regrets When Buying Restaurant Furniture

Ladder Back Bar Stools

Besides purchasing or leasing the actual space for your restaurant, buying commercial furniture is another obvious cost that you will have to shell out for. Regardless of the physical size of your business and how many pieces you are buying, ordering furniture is no small undertaking. Whether you are a first-time purchaser or a seasoned restaurant owner of 30 years, there are five regrets you will want to avoid when outfitting your restaurant or bar.

So you didn’t measure your space…

You are buying furniture to fill your space, but not to the brim. Knowing how much space you have to work with allows you to choose the correct amounts and sizes of furniture you need. In the end, inaccurate measurements can cost you some serious cash. If you don’t have enough furniture, you won’t be maximizing your revenue opportunities. From there, if you have to order more, you will not only have to add on the cost of the additional pieces, but also the shipping and handling that comes along with it. It’s simply best to order it right the first time with the most accurate dimensions.

So you didn’t take your customers into account…

Eat'n Park

Eat’n Park Restaurant- Photo via Trip Advisor

When it comes to furnishing your restaurant, knowing your targeted demographic can help you make a decision on what styles to select. Who are your regular customers? For example, if you’re a family-oriented establishment that considers messy toddlers a large portion of your market, you should focus on tables and booths that are easy to wipe down and clean.

Likewise, if your customers are interested in a finer dining setting, look into high back, cushioned chairs in a dark color that make sitting feel exclusive.

Think like your customer when you’re buying your furniture. What would you want to sit on and dine on top of?

Morton's the Steakhouse

Morton’s The Steakhouse- Photo via WeddingWire

 

 

 

 

So you didn’t coordinate with your restaurant’s theme…

Minimalist design, a light green and white color palette, and natural-wooded accents. Would you stuff heavy, dark restaurant booths along the wall? No, because it doesn’t flow with the theme.

Themes tie all the loose décor ends together for a cumulative design scheme that just makes sense. And décor does not stop at wall hangings; it includes your furniture! Coordinating your furniture to go with your theme is vital to completing your restaurant vision.

So you didn’t think about your environment…
It can be expensive to buy restaurant furniture. So when you go about purchasing, you want to make sure durability is a top priority. Wood tables are a popular choice for many restaurants. Despite their versatile look, these table tops can crack or split because of excessive heat, cold, and dryness. Wood tops should be kept at 68°-72°F, with humidity between 40-45%, and proper air circulation to avoid damage. For seaside restaurants, choosing furniture that can endure the heavy beating of salt spray and buildup is crucial. A strong poly lumber will hold up far better than wrought iron. For all-weather outdoor furniture, invest in aluminum or synthetic wicker pieces to be on your patio.Cayman Arm Chairs

When selecting the furniture for your space, keep in mind what goes on outside your restaurant’s window and the amount of maintenance you’re ready to commit to.

So you didn’t think about your restaurant’s strategy…

Are you a sit-down eatery where customers are encouraged to stop and stay awhile? Or are you focused on punctual and speedy service to turn and burn your tables? Whether you’re on either end of the spectrum or somewhere between, your restaurant furniture should reflect this mission. For those slow down bistros, furniture should be geared towards coziness like padded seats and comfy booths. For quicker-paced restaurants, the focus can be on more streamlined, metal pieces with clean lines that communicate a no-nonsense feeling. Your restaurant’s strategy can make a statement through your furniture, so definitely take that into consideration when you order.
Opening or upgrading your restaurant can be a lot of pressure. The best way to avoid regrets when buying your furniture is to take into consideration your space, customers, theme, environment, and strategy. It’s your restaurant, so the creativity is up to you!

Have a regret that we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below!

5 Restaurant Trade Shows You Won’t Want to Miss in 2017

Trade Show Set UpIndustry trade shows are crucial for top players in the restaurant business. Owners, managers, and decision-makers can network, sample new food methods, test top of the line technology, and discover upcoming trends within the industry. Trade shows bring together the moving parts of the restaurant community with the common goal of bettering businesses.

Whether you’re just breaking into the industry or you’ve owned your restaurant for 30 years, these five trade shows are a great place to reignite your inspiration and make connections to further your restaurant.

International Restaurant & Foodservice Show- New York, NY

March 5-7, 2017

Calling all food lovers! Celebrate the City that Never Sleeps with the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show. Enjoy the newest food trends at the “Taste NY & Craft Beverage Showcase” pavilion or spectate the “27th Annual U.S. Pastry Competition” for a deliciously good time. One of the largest trade shows on the eastern seaboard, this trade show is a must-see for restaurant owners. Located in the Javits Center, you’ll find 550+ exhibitors to interact and network with. Previously this trade show boasted 20,000 attendees and is limited to restaurant and foodservice professionals. Industry insiders can buy a 3-day pass to enjoy vendors, live demonstrations, and educational opportunities. Gain a fresh perspective on your business and get inspired with specialty events and pavilions. If you’re looking to bump elbows with some of the most experienced individuals in the restaurant industry, make sure to check out this trade show!

Nightclub and Bar Trade Show- Las Vegas, NV

March 27-29, 2017

Bringing the neon and glamour of the Vegas strip, the Nightclub and Bar Trade Show sparkles at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Work hard and play harder at this trade show with an estimated 39,000 attendees and more than 600 exhibitors. The NCB show caters to everyone from single owner operations all the way to multi-location tycoons. And don’t be fooled by the name, restaurants and hotels alike frequent this show with its Vegas-like atmosphere. This show is not open to the public, giving attendees a more exclusive and efficient interaction with suppliers. It also offers additional conferences and networking parties to further the education and connections of attendees. Show-goers can choose from a series of ticket packages to customize the experience. Whether you are an owner, buyer, or industry newcomer, this trade show is a great place for networking and experiencing the nightclub industry at its truest form.

Craft Brewers Conference and Brew Expo America- Washington, DC

April 11-14, 2017

If brewing is your game, the Craft Brewers Conference and Brew Expo America is the show for you. Taking place in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, this trade show brings in 11,500 attendees and 700 exhibitors. This show takes a large part in providing education, services, and technology for the ever-expanding brewing industry. Because it is an industry trade show, the conference and show is not open to the public. For industry-insiders, different ticket packages are available depending on which events you wish to attend. To stay updated in this industry, seminars are offered at this show with titles like “Starting a Quality Lab in a Craft Brewery”, “What I Wish I Knew Before Opening a Brewery”, and “101 Ways to Blow Up a Bottle/Can and How to Not Do It”. From brewing masters to industry newbies, this trade show brings together the brewing community to new heights.

National Restaurant Association Show- Chicago, IL

May 20-23, 2017

If you’re looking to have plenty of vendors and options in one space, the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago is definitely one to check out. One of the largest trade shows in the restaurant industry, the NRA show spans four days and requires at least two of these days to walk the entire show floor. Simply put, this trade show is enormous. Located in McCormick Place, this trade show rakes in 44,000 attendees and 1,300 exhibitors. While this show presents a great opportunity for start-up businesses to be launched into the restaurant industry, this is a popular show for larger chains and veterans to hit up because of the vastness of the offerings available. Needless to say, this is a great show to make connections from all over the country. This show is not open to the public, but is accessible for anyone involved with the food service or hospitality industries.

Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show- Orlando, FL

September 10-12, 2017

Whether you’re in the beginning stages of managing a restaurant or have 15 locations, the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show is a must-attend show this fall. Located in the Orange County Convention Center, this trade show boasts around 8,000 attendees and approximately 400 exhibitors. Don’t let size full you, this trade show is highly attended by large resorts and corporate chains. Exclusive to the restaurant and food service professional industries, the general public is not permitted to attend this show. The FRLS excels in food demonstrations and culinary experiences. This trade show offers over 40 education sessions, informational forums, and a variety of exhibits to keep your Floridian stay filled to the brim.

IFRS in NYC

Photo via International Restaurant & Foodservice Show

Ready to attend an industry trade show? Make sure to check out these tips before you go to get the most out of your trade show experience.

Are any of these trade shows on your short list to attend this upcoming year? Let us know in the comments below!

Happy Holidays From ECCB

 

Happy Holidays from all of us here at East Coast Chair & Barstool. We are excited to see what the new year holds not only for us, but for our customers as well.

Layout and Design Tips for Large Space Restaurants

So you’ve secured a space for your new restaurant and are so excited for what lies ahead. The realtor hands over the keys and you place them into the lock and turn. You feel the doors give and excitedly push them open to behold your new space in all its glory. It’s beautiful, it’s magnificent, it’s… really big.

You begin to get nervous. The space didn’t look so big the first time you looked at it when it had furniture. It’s a lot of space. What if you bit off more than you can chew? You don’t want customers to walk in the door and think the place looks empty. Don’t worry. With a few changes, you can make your large space a comfy eatery filled with customers in no time.

Planning

Making sure you make the most of your space starts at the beginning. When you start designing your layout you need to ask yourself a few questions. The first question is how much space you want to allocate for the kitchen and dining areas.  The Evans Group, an award winning design firm based out of Orlando, Florida recommends saving at least 1/3 of the space for the kitchen and 2/3 for the dining area. Since you have a good amount of room to work with, if you want to play around with those numbers, go for it. A 40% kitchen and 60% dining room is still a good split but allows for extra staff space.

Now that you know how much space is needed for the kitchen consider where you want to place it. More and more restaurants with ample amounts of space are placing their kitchen in the center of the dining area for all to see. An open layout allows customers to view exactly what is going on in the kitchen, satisfying their curiosity and hygiene concerns. Doing so also helps to make your large space seem more intimate and cozy. With a significant portion of the room being used for the kitchen and the tables being placed around it the layout feels closer to something a diner might experience at home.

If an open kitchen doesn’t fit your taste that is fine too. Once you have an idea of where your kitchen is going, the next question you need to consider is how many rooms you need. To make it feel more intimate consider dividing part of your space into a private dining area. You can market to local businesses looking for a meeting space or offer a quieter dining experience to groups celebrating a special occasion. Who doesn’t like the opportunity for more profit as well as a way to break up the room?

Private dining areas also lend themselves well to customization. Because it is a separate area, the room can change to have a completely different vibe than the rest of the restaurant. This opens your restaurant up to catering to different markets you might not have been able to reach before.

Not ready to commit to building a private dining area? To test it out owners can purchase temporary dividers to create an intimate space even in a large room. Once the event is over the barriers can be removed and -voilá- the room is back to its original size.

Furniture

Now that a rough layout is starting to take shape it is time to consider your furniture. Since there is a lot of space to work with you can have fun with bulkier pieces if you like. Chairs and bar stools with arms are great at providing a way to add comfort for your guest and to take up a little more space to make the area visually appealing.
Sticking to tables and chairs is also a great way to fill your restaurant. While booths may seem bigger, they are actually space savers in the way they allow more people to fit around a table. Table and chair sets also offer a flexibility that booths don’t. If you need to move things around to accommodate larger groups you’ll have no problems.

When considering what table tops to purchase, take a look at round tables if you are looking to use up more area. Not only do they take up a large amount of space but are more conducive for conversation. Additionally, they are less formal and more homey-style to give your large room additional comfort.

Something to keep in mind when selecting furniture is how much square feet you want to allot per customer. According to the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers (NAFEM), the chart below shows the average allotted square feet per customer by service type.

Type of OperationSpace Allowance Per Seat (SQ. FT.)
School Lunchroom/Cafeteria9-12
Banquet Room10-11
Table Service11-14
College or Business and Industry Cafeteria12-15
Table Service at a Hotel, Club, or Restaurant15-18
Commercial Cafeteria16-18
Counter Service Restaurant 18-20

Between tables and chairs, you’ll need a passage area of 18”. However, you might want to consider wider aisles of at least 36” to accommodate wheelchairs in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Handicap accessible restaurant furniture needs to make up at least 5% of your furniture, according to their regulations.

When planning your furniture layout also consider your restaurant’s needs. Fine dining restaurants need enough room for meal carts; while family-style restaurants may use bussing carts to clear tables. Both need enough space to easily move around the dining room.

Entryway

With so much space to experiment with, owners can use furniture to create a statement area in their entryway. Good flow is crucial to any entryway but feel free to explore your options with larger furniture, as long as you aren’t blocking doors. Nice padded chairs and couches could be a great option for buildings with room to spare. Creating a comfortable waiting area also helps in terms of customer’s overall experience; you want them happy when they arrive at their table. Uncomfortable chairs are not too conducive to happy customers.

Another way to utilize some of that space is by using an interesting hostess or POS (Point of sale) station. Other than helping your staff to stay organized, a unique piece at the front of your restaurant can really set the tone for what your customers can expect based upon your décor. A reclaimed POS station at a gastropub says one thing like we have great burgers to go with our beers, while a sleek modern hostess stand at a breakfast spot says more along the lines of our specialty bacon is to die for.

Décor

If the walls are bare, with sparse décor they will be expecting a different experience than they would in a room with décor that flows and furniture that makes the room complete. With a big open space, the view can be monotonous if you aren’t careful. A great way to add some interest is by adding strong textures.

Expansive walls make great blank canvases. A mural is one way to create visual intrigue for customers as well as a way to share a little bit more about your business and your vision. The options for subjects are endless. If you can find a local artist you can work together to create a masterpiece that says exactly what you want it to.

If a mural seems to be a little too in your face for the atmosphere you want, think about adding interesting floor patterns. It isn’t as dramatic as a mural but has a similar effect in breaking up the monotony of a big dining room. Many different types of materials can be used in flooring. Whether you want a herringbone pattern in your wood floor, or interesting color and texture in your concrete floor, adding some interest to your flooring can be a unique way to break up the room.

Lighting

When thinking about how to decorate your building it can be easy to just slap some lights on the walls and call it a day. Lights obviously have a function but are also an area where function and design can go hand in hand. By taking your lights and hanging them from the ceilings it makes the ceilings appear closer and not as tall, making the room feel smaller and more intimate. As a bonus, interesting lighting fixtures can be a great conversation starter and help to make your restaurant stand out from others that might be looking to serve the same demographic.

Conclusion

If you have a restaurant in a large space and are having problems with flow and visual balance, take a look at your layout and design. You might not have the right furniture or decor for your area, causing your dining area to look empty and uncomfortable; potentially costing you customers. Through planning, layout, and some creative experimentation, a large space can be adjusted to play to its strengths and give customers the comfortable experience they are looking for while having plenty of workflow.

How Do I Clean My Restaurant Table Tops? FAQs from the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

Cleaning table tops

Restaurant furniture is built tough. The wear and tear that commercial furniture has to endure is far greater than the six chairs and table in your dining room. Because of this heavy usage, commercial furniture also comes with a responsibility. These pieces need to be maintained and properly taken care of to last to their full lifespan. We’ve put together this short guide to help restaurant owners learn a little more about cleaning their table tops.

Laminate table tops should be cleaned with warm water and soap (or detergent) mixture each day and dried with a soft cloth. Spills should be wiped up quickly to avoid further harm to the table. A combination of mild cleaner and baking soda can be used to remove stains from the surface with a stiff nylon brush.

Resin table tops should be cleaned daily with warm water and a mild detergent. Because of the texture of the table, resin tops should not be used with tableware that has unglazed bottoms. To remove scratches, use a toothpaste and car buffer or toothbrush to even out your table top.

Wood table tops can be maintained with mild soap and water. Whether it’s reclaimed, urban distressed, or butcher block tables, harsh cleaners and chemicals should not be used on these tops. These chemicals can harm your wood grain and create a gummy film on your table tops.

IsoTop and Werzalit table tops can be used indoors or outdoors and have a very similar cleaning procedure to other table tops. Soap and water can be used to wipe these tops down between uses. If being used on a patio, IsoTops can also be hosed down with other outdoor furniture.

Poly lumber table tops are very easy to maintain with soap and water. To remove leaf stains and other environmental elements, a wet Magic Eraser can work wonders to buff out the stain. These tops can even withstand a gentle pressure wash.

Stainless steel table tops should be cleaned with soap and water and then dried off as soon as possible. These tables should not be exposed to constant moisture, which can ruin the silicone seal around the edges. Taking proper care of these tops can provide multiple years of seasonal use.

Table top maintenance should be an everyday chore for you and your staff. By taking the time to upkeep your restaurant furniture, it can save you time and money in the future.

6 Steps You Must Take To Survive a Restaurant Recession

An empty restaurant.

If you’ve watched the news or read anything about the restaurant industry lately, then you’ve probably heard about the restaurant slowdown, dare we say recession, that all of the pundits are predicting.  Whether those recession fears are overblown or not, one can’t ignore the negative commentary coming from some of the industry’s biggest corporations talking about slowing sales and lower traffic year over year.

2016 has seen the separation of definite winners and losers in the hospitality industry.  Some restaurants like Panera, Papa John’s, and Texas Roadhouse are still killing it, while others like Yum! Brands, Ruby Tuesday’s, and Smokey Bones have taken a beating.  Some have even gone out of business.   The year 2016 has seen numerous restaurant bankruptcies from once successful concepts like Cosi, Quaker Steak & Lube, HomeTown Buffet, and Johnny Carinos.

 

What is causing the restaurant downturn?

The Natural Business Cycle

The restaurant industry has seen tremendous growth since the turn of the century.  Over the past 16 years, restaurant food and drink sales have more than doubled from $379 billion in 2000 to an estimated $782 billion in 2016, which represents an approximate 6.5% annual growth rate.  The growth is even more impressive when you realize that in 1970, restaurant sales were only $42.8 billion.  This success has prompted more and more competitors to enter the marketplace.  In fact, according to the National Restaurant Association, there are more than one million restaurant locations in the United States, or 1 restaurant for every 319 people.

While the growth trend may continue, every industry is subject to the ups and downs of the business cycle, so it is normal to have some years of negative growth.

Falling Grocery Prices

As of September 2016, the price of groceries had dropped for 9 straight months, a phenomenon that almost never happens without a general economic recession.  In some places, grocery prices have dropped as much as 5% over the past year.

When grocery prices decline, more consumers see the value in cooking at home vs. eating out; this is particularly true when restaurant menu prices don’t keep up with the decline.  In this cycle, as grocery prices have declined, restaurant menu prices have stayed steady, or even increased, prompting more people to cook at home.

Changing Demographics

According to the Wall Street Journal consumers aged 18-35 make fewer than 50 trips to restaurants each year.  Compare this to the 75-80+ times per year that the average American eats out (stats do not include pickup or fast food), and you can see that the demographics are definitely not in favor of continued growth.

Innovative Grocery Startups

New innovators in the grocery delivery space like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh are making it easier for consumers to cook restaurant quality meals at home, at a reasonable price.  For example, meals at Blue Apron cost between $8.75 and $9.99 per meal compared to an average cost of $39.40 per meal at a restaurant.

Politics

It’s hard to quantify how much consumer spending lags in an election year, however many corporate restaurant CEO’s have come out in the past few months and blamed election uncertainty for slowing same store sales growth.  Whether the election is being used as a scapegoat or not is hard to tell, but now that it is behind us, politics should be less of a factor in 2017.

Rising Costs

As if all the factors affecting growth in the industry aren’t bad enough, many restaurants also have to deal with rising labor costs in the form of wage pressure and healthcare costs under the Affordable Care Act.

 

6 Keys to Survival?

Have a hook

The days of offering “ok” food at an “ok” price and succeeding are over; there’s simply too much competition to operate a middle of the road establishment.  Sure, good food is a must, you can’t survive long without it; but, in this day and age, you’ve also got to have a hook.  In business, a hook is known as a competitive advantage: something that you do better than any of your competitors.    If your food is the best around for your genre, then that IS the hook.  However, if your food is just mediocre, then you better start looking for something else to bring customers through your door.  The hook doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive; it could be as simple as an innovative sandwich (Primanti Brothers), a large menu (Cheesecake Factory), top notch customer service (Chick-fil-A), or a focus on your local neighborhood (Applebees).

Ideally, your competitive advantage will be something that is not easily replicable by competitors.  For example, while something as simple as free Wi-Fi can give you a short term competitive advantage in an area where it is not widely available, it’s not likely to last long once your competitors catch on and start to offer the same thing.

Be proactive about your finances

One of the key takeaways from this year’s NRA Show Keynote Session between Jon Taffer and Robert Irvine was that far too many restaurant owners are totally unaware of their finances.  They let a book keeper focus on the accounting, while they focus on the food, staff, and atmosphere.  That may work ok in times of fast growth and easy money, but it can really hurt your restaurant when the going gets tough.

The problem with not knowing your finances is that you can’t see potential trouble coming until it’s too late; you are forced to react to bad situations instead of being proactive and taking action to avoid them altogether.  For example, if you don’t look at your food costs on a regular basis, then you might not realize that certain foods are rising in price, and you will be serving dishes that are no longer as profitable as they once were.

While we’re on the topic of being proactive with your finances, there are two other things that you need to do before the next recession.  First, make sure that you stock away some extra “rainy day” capital when times are good.  Second, build a relationship with your banks commercial lending officer and open a line of credit as a backup source of funding should you ever need it.  If your profitability ever falls off a cliff for a couple of months, these should provide quick access to cash if you need it.

Maximize your free advertising

What is the first budgetary item to take a hit when business is slow or your restaurant is losing money?  If you’re like most restaurant owners, then the answer is probably advertising and marketing.  It makes sense that this is where many owners choose to cut; if the choice comes down to firing staff or not running that 30 second TV spot next month, then many small business owners would choose the latter.  Nevertheless, advertising during a recession is precisely what a restaurant must do to stay at the top of consumers’ minds and try to steal market share away from competitors.  Fortunately, thanks to the internet and social media, there are ways to promote your business that cost next to nothing, at least in terms of dollars.

We are lucky to live in a time in modern history where creativity and ingenuity can actually outperform advertising dollars.  So put on your thinking cap, and figure out a way to get your name out there.  If you have a great story to tell, call up your local papers and ask them to write about it.  If you are offering something special, make sure that all of your social media followers (I’m assuming you utilize social media at this point) know about it.  Take that 30 second TV spot that you were planning and plaster it on YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter.  Whatever it takes to get your name out there, do it.  A downturn is the perfect time for a little Guerilla Marketing.   Unleash your inner PT Barnum and market the hell out of your business, because it may be the thing that keeps the lights on until business picks back up.

Try to renegotiate your lease when the time is right

This one is tricky.  Landlords obviously don’t want to renegotiate a lease contract lower because they have you locked in (and may have you personally on the hook).  But, it isn’t impossible.  The one thing that landlords hate more than renegotiating lease space is vacancy.  If there isn’t a lot of competition in your area, or if the number of commercial real estate vacancies are rising, then you have some power to renegotiate, particularly if the alternative is going out of business and/or filing for bankruptcy.  Ask your landlord for a temporary rent reduction first.  If that doesn’t work, try to negotiate a reduction or partial deferral in exchange for a longer lease term.

Offer loyalty programs

One of the most important things you can do to survive a recession is to retain your current customers.  Did you know that it costs 500% more to acquire a new customer than to retain a current one?  How about that 81% of consumers surveyed said that they are more likely to continue doing business with brands that offer a loyalty program.  Knowing this, offering a loyalty program becomes almost a no-brainer.  If you can’t keep your current customers coming in the door, then it is going to cost you 5 times as much to acquire new customers.  Start a program that lets customers get something for free, or at least a percentage off, for every x number of times that they dine at your restaurant.  Sure, it’s going to impact your bottom line, so make sure that your margins are robust enough to handle the hit and make it up in increased volume.  It could be the difference between customers choosing your restaurant or the place down the street.

Stay positive

If you’ve been in management for any length of time, then you know that employees tend to mimic the attitudes of their bosses.  If you, as an owner or general manager are constantly showing worry, then employees will feed off of that attitude, which can create a negative customer experiences.  Likewise, if you let your worries make you irritable or moody, then employees will pick up that and will start to act in kind.

The hardest thing in the world to do is to keep a smile on your face when you don’t know if you’re going to make next month’s payroll, but it is necessary to keep your culture positive and keep employees motivated.  By no means are we advocating that you lie or hide the truth from them.  Let them know where the business stands, and give them all of the facts.  But, attitude is everything, and as the captain of the ship, yours is the most important in the whole organization.  Approach every downturn as an opportunity to innovate and improve your restaurant in anticipation of better times.  Get employees involved and make them feel ownership.  You might be surprised when the best idea to lower costs or retain customers comes from them.

Every business has its ups and downs, and the restaurant industry is no different.  We have enjoyed a long stretch of growth and good times, where the rising tide of demographics and changing social norms has lifted all boats.  Hopefully, that trend will continue, and this short lived down trend will end as quickly as it began.  If it doesn’t, however, following the tips above can help you to weather the storm and emerge from the other side in a better position than ever.

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Restaurant Furniture Trends by State

Restaurant trends run far and wide all over the United States. Some businesses are focused on speed and efficiency while others are more concerned with a customer’s experience. Needless to say, in some shape or form, these businesses need a type of furniture that represents their company and their brand.

Here at East Coast Chair & Barstool, we help restaurants, bars, and the hospitality industry find their perfect furniture that embodies their business and atmosphere. With such a diverse customer base, we wanted to show what has been our most popular furniture items by state in the past year.

1) GLADIATOR Ladder Back Chair and Bar Stool

A durable and simple shape to complement many types of interiors.

2) GLADIATOR Full Ladder Back Chair and Bar Stool

The full ladder back offers even more shape to the contours of your guests.

3) GLADIATOR Full Vertical Back Wooden Chair

An elegant wooden chair with slimming vertical back design.

4) Henry Chair and Bar Stool

A marriage of wood and metal that make for a distinguished look.

5) GLADIATOR Window Pane Chair and Bar Stool

The same sturdy frame of the GLADIATOR Collection with the stylish window pane back.

6) Cayman Side Chair

A distinguished outdoor chair to instantly ramp up curb appeal.

7) Shipyard Backless Bar Stool

Brushed aluminum gives this bar stool a streamlined appearance for your outdoor patio.

8) Simon Bar Stool

Bring a clean-cut, modern look to your restaurant with this bar stool.

9) GLADIATOR 825 Bucket Bar Stool

Our newest bucket seat offers ergonomic seat and back support with premium molded foam.

10) Gulf Coast Outdoor Chair

We combined poly lumber slats with an aluminum frame that’s easy to maintain on your deck.

11) Viktor Chair

Convey a contemporary feel to your brewery or coffee shop with this industrial style.

You will notice there aren’t many avant-garde furniture styles represented here. While many customers still order them, most focus on classic silhouettes that will blend into any atmosphere with ease.

The GLADIATOR Collection takes up quite a bit of space on this map. We can attribute this to the style’s customization opportunities with various seats and finishes. The GLADIATOR Collection looks great in any kind of restaurant because of their traditional structure.

What’s your state’s most popular item from us? Does your restaurant have similar characteristics to it? Let us know in the comments below.

How Your Restaurant Can Capitalize on the Holiday Season

holiday-season-banner

With all the hustle and bustle of finding gifts and making sure everything is just right, the holiday season is busy for everyone. With your competitors trimming the tree and decking the halls, you’ll want to make sure your restaurant stands out. It’s the time in a year when people are looking to spend some serious money and there are a few things you can do to take advantage of every opportunity to attract them with fresh ideas and bring business to your restaurant. Of course you will do your best to provide memorable experiences for each one of them and strive to get new guests to walk through your doors. But how to do that?

These are a few tips to help you entice customers to venture out of the comfort of their homes this holiday season and bring their holiday spirit into your restaurant.

Thanksgiving

were-openStay Open
Every year more and more people are deciding to dine out for Thanksgiving. The National Restaurant Association predicts that more than 15 million people will eat out for Thanksgiving this year. Consumers don’t want to deal with the hassle of cooking all that food and the massive aftermath of dishes and leftovers. This is where your restaurant can save the day by providing them with a stress free, delicious meal. If you decide staying open on Thanksgiving Day is for you, offer a traditional turkey dinner for the families looking for a home cooked meal without all the trouble.

Takeout Options

If staying closed on Thanksgiving is a priority, but you still want to take advantage of the holiday sales, try offering precooked sides that patrons can pick up a day or two before Thanksgiving. Customers will appreciate not having to cook more than necessary, and you will appreciate their business. They might even decide to make your side a new holiday tradition, and who doesn’t love repeat business? Offering takeout options is a way you can have your pumpkin pie, and eat it too.

chef-counter-bowlsHost a Food Drive

Another option would be to run a food drive. Have a designated area in your waiting area where patrons can donate canned goods for the local food shelter. To bring in even more customers consider offering a discount on food with a nonperishable food donation. Customers will take note of your good deeds and might consider becoming a regular at a business that cares for the community.


Host a Tips from the Chef Night

Another option owners might want to consider is hosting an event before Thanksgiving. Take reservations and on a specific night, serve your guests a Thanksgiving meal. Then once things have calmed down a little and the meals are served, have your Chef visit tables and be available for questions on how to cook that perfect turkey. Most people are intimidated at the thought of cooking a whole turkey themselves so they will appreciate the advice and personal attention. This offers customers not only tips from a professional, but a night out on the town.  Plus such great customer service will have them returning even after the holiday season is over.

 

Christmas

5285326369_3620ae8f34_oDécor

Decorating for the holiday season can really add to the atmosphere in your establishment. White twinkle lights are a simple touch that can bring some magic and wonder to an everyday setup. In addition to traditional decorations take advantage of some of the benefits of alternative designs. The Christmas tree made from champagne glasses decorated with lights, or different colored liquids in them will be an original and attractive decoration in your restaurant. It is also a conversation starter among guests.

Have your decorations ready to go from harvest into a holiday theme. Purchase your decorations ahead of time and then pick a slower day, perhaps during the week, to bring holiday cheer to your restaurant.

Having a cheerful holiday atmosphere could be a deciding factor in whether a business chooses your location to host their holiday party. If would be a shame to miss out on such an opportunity due to decorations.

Also be sure to promote your holiday wonderland on social media. People love to visit locations that have gotten into the holiday spirit and are sure to share their experience. More sharing equals more customers!

7875663010_c31969d2a5_kCatering

If you are looking to add catering to your lineup, now is the time. Many offices are holding holiday parties between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day and are looking for places to accommodate their needs. To meet their needs try to have veggie and vegan meal options available. This is an area that can often be overlooked but can be the difference between getting their business and being passed over.

It is also easier to train new staff for catering. Often people are looking for extra work during the holidays, seasonal workers can help manage the new part of your business through the busy holidays. It also can be helpful to your kitchen staff if you have a special holiday menu. If they have a general idea of what they will be cooking they can better prepare to accommodate the larger groups.

 

Offer Coupons

Do you have regulars who frequent your establishment? Let them know how much you appreciate their business by sending them a holiday card with a coupon inside. For example, a free dessert would be nice way to entice them in the doors and convince them to purchase an entree.

But be cautious, it is important to make sure the card stays a card and does not become an advertisement, as you don’t want to lose the meaning behind the gesture. By placing a coupon in the card it lets your guests know that you appreciate them and encourages return business. While a paper card is heart-warming, many restaurants with email programs can utilize a digital coupon and save on postage.

Another benefit of sending cards is that customers might talk about your card with friends, and word of mouth is the best advertising you can get (especially in the social network age.)

Coupons are also a great way to prepare for the lull that happens after the holiday season. When your staff takes the customer their receipt consider slipping in a few coupons that are good in January through February to encourage continued patronage during those slower months. Not only will they appreciate the gesture but also feel encouraged to return.

Give a Gift

Having gift cards available are a must for the holiday season. Many people are not sure what to purchase for that long lost cousin, or the co-worker they got in the office’s secret Santa. You can be there to offer them this viable option. It also works out great for a restaurant owner. About 72% of people spend more than the value of their gift card when they dine at a restaurant. Try to offer holiday themed cards to catch the eye of your customers.

Offering gift cards is also a great way to get first time visitors in the door and make them lifelong patrons.

Organize a Charity Dinner

5398146515_024b48dfaa_bSpread the holiday spirit by organizing a charity dinner in your restaurant. The holiday season is a time of giving and donations. During this season people are thinking more about others than usual. That’s why it is a great time to organize a charity event. Choose a cause that is close to your heart or your communities and inform people about the event through traditional media and social media. The media will be happy to promote such an event, especially during this time of year. Create a flyer, and use it as part of your restaurant holiday promotion.

Participate in a charity event by offering a certain percentage of the proceeds that night to go to charity. Invite members from the organization you have selected to add a personal touch. They’ll also help to promote your business and the event. You will be helping those in need and building a caring reputation for your restaurant, creating a win-win situation.

The holiday season offers many opportunities for promoting your business and thanking your customers for the wonderful year you’ve had. Don’t miss out because of a lack of planning. It is best to start advertising for these promotions 4-6 weeks in advance. By implementing unique promotions you can help your restaurant stand out from all the other deals going on during the season.

I wish you happy holidays and a bustling restaurant!

What is commercial furniture? FAQs from the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

Commercial furniture in a bar

Our sales team often gets asked about the difference is between commercial and residential furniture.  After all, the thinking goes, a chair is a chair and a table is a table, regardless of whether you buy it from a retail location or a commercial dealer.  Unfortunately, that line of thinking is false for a number of reasons.

Despite the fact that some designers and furniture buyers have taken to choosing residential grade furniture for offices, there are significant benefits to choosing commercial quality furnishings for any business in the hospitality industry.

How often do you sit on the dining chairs in your home?  If you’re like most people, the answer is probably an hour or less per day.  Contrast that to restaurants, bars, and other hospitality industry establishments where the furniture is likely to be in use for up to 10-12 hours per day, every day.     Getting ten times, or even more, usage than a typical residential chair means that commercial furniture is subjected to far more stress in its lifetime.  That stress can weaken the integrity of the chair if not properly constructed.  In addition, while you and your family and friends are the only ones sitting on your dining chairs, commercial furniture is used by people of all shapes and sizes.  In fact, most commercial chairs are weight tested up to 350 pounds, and some can accommodate much more.

In most industries, there are differences between commercial and retail equipment, and each is specifically manufactured for that purpose.  For example, a trucking company would never put regular passenger tires on one of its vehicles because their thin walls are not suitable to bear the weight commercial vehicle.  Likewise, a retail customer would not want to put commercial tires on their Ford Focus because the heavy walled tires would produce a jarring, uncomfortable ride.  The same is true of furniture.

The difference between commercial and residential furniture has nothing to do with looks, although residential furniture is often considered more aesthetically pleasing.  Instead, it’s all about construction.  As we said above, commercial furniture has to withstand continuous usage and abuse at the hands of customers and staff.  Because of that, it is built with heavier materials.  Commercial manufacturers typically use 16 or 18 gauge steel is used instead of the 22 or 24 gauge found in retail furniture.  Whereas residential wood furniture is usually made from cheaper, softer woods like rubberwood, commercial grade wood furniture is made from hardwoods like European Beechwood.  Also, fabrics have to be puncture resistant, tear resistant, and stain resistant, which means vinyl vs. leather and acrylic vs cotton.   Finally, commercial furniture has to hold up when customers of all sizes use it, so it also usually has mortise and tenon joinery, and additional bracing.

Commercial furniture can cost more than residential furniture (although not always), but is actually cheaper when you consider cost per use.  As we mentioned above, commercial furniture can easily get 10 times or more usage than residential furniture, but it often costs only 2-3 times as much, making it very cost effective for restaurants, bars, resorts, and offices.

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