Helpful Tips for Bar and Restaurant Owners

How to Prepare Your Restaurant for a PR Crisis

PR Plan

Running a restaurant is a big responsibility. You have employees, vendors, and customers all counting on you to succeed. This pressure is magnified even more so when there’s an unexpected crisis thrown into the mix.

Whether it’s a health hazard or an earthquake, your restaurant needs to be prepared to deal with the fallout and snap into crisis mode. These crises happen without a moment’s notice and can be catastrophic if not dealt with correctly. So how does your restaurant begin to prepare for the unexpected?

Avoid Being the “Ostrich”:

When a crisis does strike, your restaurant needs to be fast-acting to acknowledge the issue and take the appropriate steps to work towards a solution.

The very last thing you want your organization to be facing at the height of a disaster is a media outrage because you didn’t make any sort of statement. There is no playing the ostrich here; you cannot stick your head in the sand and pretend your problems will go away. You need to be clear, succinct, and precise with your plan internally and to the public. This can be done with a crisis management agenda.

Creating this plan can help you remain calm in times of crises which, in turn, can lead to better decision-making. Every restaurant should have an agenda for managing critical situations, the size of which will depend on the size of your operation and the issue at hand.

How to Compile a Crisis Management Agenda:

  • Brainstorm the risks faced by your restaurant such as food safety, insurance liabilities, and potential disasters (before they occur).
  • Create a checklist or plan of what should happen when an emergency happens.
  • Designate a task force of individuals who will carry out the step-by-step plan.
  • Delegate tasks and information to be disseminated internally and externally of the restaurant.
  • Identify key organizations that need to be notified such as fire, police, and ambulance services.
  • Make a list of audiences that need to be informed: reporters, legal entities, insurance companies. Don’t forget how you plan to address employees and the public.

PlanThis agenda should be shared with upper level management and designated employees that are appointed in the agenda. For an effective strategy, this information can easily be spread with Google Docs. Using Google Docs can lessen paper usage and, in case of a fire, will ensure you plan stays intact.

Having a crisis management procedure in place can lessen panic and give you a roadmap for navigating the seas of this crisis.

Keep Your Emotions in Check:

It’s without a doubt that going through a crisis that puts your livelihood in jeopardy is a stressful time. It’s also a crucial time to remain level-headed throughout the crisis. By acknowledging the issues your restaurant is facing and following your crisis management agenda, you can use your team to direct your efforts appropriately, even if you’re still in shock while the situation unfolds.

Not keeping your emotions in check can cause more issues if you act on them. Instead of acting brashly, use your emotions to convey sincerity and genuine concern. Maintaining a calm and professional demeanor can not only begin to fix customer perception but also inspire a more civil view for employees.

Emotions

For example, Applebee’s had a tumultuous public relations nightmare in 2013. Long story short, Applebee’s fired a staff member for posting a negative comment that a customer had written (due to a privacy violation) and then praised another staff member through a post that also had the customer’s name. Applebee’s posted on Facebook stating the reason they had fired the first staff member, which invited many comments from followers. In the middle of the night, the Applebee’s social media team posted an update on the post, which got lost in the 17,000 comments currently on the post. The social media team began tagging the people who had commented and copy/pasting the update their comments, leading to more heckling and an additional 16,000 comments. The social media team could have waited until a reasonable hour and posted a new update, not a comment, instead of adding fuel to the fire.

Moral of the story? Think before you act impulsively.

Say Sorry and Mean It:

Apologizing is not an easy step for any business, but it is a necessary evil in trying to repair the public’s trust. While making an apology, focus on being sincere. After all, what is an apology without feeling the deepest regret about the actions that occurred? With an honest-to-goodness apology to the affected parties, a business is taking ownership of the situation and can give it credibility.

micIn making this heartfelt apology, you will also want to take timing into account. If a crisis occurs, a restaurant’s timely apology is important in keeping customers on their side. Even if your team is working behind the scenes to better the situation, it is imperative that these actions are communicated and not done in silence. The longer an apology takes, the less customers will take it seriously.

Go further for your customers and add a side of great customer service to your apology. From late 2015 to early 2016, about 40 Chipotle customers were sickened from E. coli contaminants; a tough blow to a restaurant chain that prided themselves on fresh food free of genetically-modified organisms. Making an apology statement turned advertisement in major newspapers nationwide, Chipotle founder, Steve Ells, addressed the outbreaks, apologized, and made promises of more thorough food safety standards. To bring people back into its restaurants, Chipotle launched their brief rewards program, direct mail offers, and mobile promotions to earn free burritos.

Unfortunately, the world can change at the drop of a hat: people make snap judgments, tectonic plates collide, and food is not handled with proper care. But that doesn’t mean your restaurant can’t be prepared to combat these crises when they happen. Having a plan, keeping your emotions in check, and truly apologizing are crucial elements in preparing your restaurant for a future crisis. Remember the best offense is a good defense.

A Guide to Bar and Restaurant Insurance

There are a lot of exciting and interesting parts of the restaurant industry. While insurance probably doesn’t make your top 3 most exciting topics, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t important. Can you imagine if your business went up in flames and you didn’t have any sort of insurance to cover the losses? You could spend the rest of your days paying for a business that didn’t even exist anymore.  Certain insurances are required just to be able to open your restaurant while others are supplemental and might just be a good idea to have. We spoke with Steve Scuilli Vice President of Exchange Underwriters Inc., a man with 25+ years of experience in the insurance industry, to get you an expert opinion on what you need to know about insuring your restaurant.

Who Needs Restaurant Insurance?

Basically, all businesses in the restaurant and food industry need some sort of restaurant insurance. Bars, cafés, diners, delis, fast food restaurants, lounges, pubs, breweries, and pizza places all require some sort of insurance specifically designed for the food industry.

Do you remember Chi-Chi’s, the Mexican restaurant that is now infamous for having the largest outbreak of Hepatitis A in U.S. restaurant history? The restaurant was already suffering from bankruptcy when the cases came to light. Due to the outbreak, hundreds of people were sickened, one needed a liver transplant and four people sadly died.  Green onions from Mexico that were used to make salsa were the cause of the outbreak. The fault was with the suppliers but Chi-Chi’s was not financially stable enough and did not have enough liability insurance to meet all the claims that came out after the outbreak. Perhaps if they had enough insurance they would still be around today.

While every business in the food industry needs some form of insurance the types can vary based upon the business itself. For example, an ice cream shop and a bar with both need general liability insurance but the ice cream shop will probably not need liquor liability insurance. Some policies will be state requirements, some are just a good idea, and some form of life insurance might be required by the lending agency for the owner(s) of the business. It is important to check on your state’s requirements and to speak with your bank on what they might require.

ProTip: When deciding on calling an agency determine what is a priority for you; a low cost, a close location, or superior service. Knowing this before you start the process can help streamline your choice.

How Insurance Cost is Determined

One of the first steps when starting to look into your insurance options is to call an agency and speak with an agent. They will then proceed to ask you a series of questions or have you fill out a questionnaire about your business. Your answers to these questions are what determine the cost of the policies you are trying to acquire.

They then take these answers to an underwriter who uses them to determine your risk of exposure. Your risk of exposure is an event or state of being that can subject you to loss because of some hazard or contingency. The risk of exposure for a business often ranks the prevalence of a risk according to their probability of it occurring multiplied by the amount of money that could be lost because of the occurrence. There are different types of potential loss for each industry but for the restaurant and bar business they look at similar factors. Some of the factors the insurance companies look at include:

  • Class of business- Different classes of business have different exposure to problems such as crime, a liquor liability suit, and workers compensation.
  • Hours of operation- establishments with longer hours are at a greater risk for loss because the longer you are open the more opportunities for something to go wrong.
  • Clientele and location- Both the character of your clientele and the safety of your location can affect the exposure risk.
  • Entertainment- Any form of entertainment automatically increases the chance of loss. Establishments bring in entertainment to attract a larger crowd than they would have otherwise, which increases both sales and risk.
  • Promotions-Promotions are also meant to bring in more patrons than normal. People tend to eat and drink more during promotions which can increase the risk of exposure such as customers being overserved or damaging the building.
  • Years in operation-The failure rate for bars and restaurants can be relatively high so the longer the establishment has been in operation, the more experience the owner(s) are likely to have and the better the quote could be.
  • Owners experience in business-The more experience the better. Experienced owners are usually more responsible and know how to train their employees to minimize risk.
  • Security-Security personnel are important to have, especially in a busy bar environment.
  • Alcohol server training- it is important that bar and restaurant employees are educated on how to responsibly serve alcohol and recognize those that are intoxicated. Many companies offer a discount to restauranteurs who have their employees utilize those programs.
  • Adult entertainment-These establishments run a much higher risk of exposure than many others, fights and damage being some of the more prevalent risks.

Underwriters take all these factors and then evaluate the exposure factor each presents and then rate your businesses risk accordingly. All of these factors come with their own set of issues that will be factored into your final quote, which is how much you will need to pay to carry your policies.

Pro Tip: A big name agency might be able to offer discounts but a local agency could have the benefit of being more familiar with the laws in your state. If they are close it might be more convenient to reach them if something should happen.

Types of Insurance

General Liability- This is a type of umbrella policy, this is also the most common insurance. It covers lawsuits from non-employees that sue over injuries and some property damage.

Property Insurance- reimburses you for property loss related to fire, burglary, and some types of storms that may not be covered by your general liability insurance. Includes: building, furniture, tap systems, and glassware but may not cover floods or earthquakes.

Liquor Liability- many states require this with your liquor license and some variables may change from state to state. This protects against a liability claim as a consequence of someone getting drunk to the extent that injuries or property damages are the result.

Workers Compensation Insurance- This insurance covers medical expenses and lawsuits from employees injured on the job. This is also usually required by state law.

Automobile policy- If your business uses any type of vehicle as transportation you are going to want this policy. This covers the vehicle the same way any other car insurance would but can cover items such as food trucks, and catering vans.

Umbrella Insurance-This insurance pays for lawsuits that exceed the limits of small insurance policies. You can’t have an umbrella policy without a general liability policy. An Umbrella policy is based on what you have to lose.

Life Insurance- This is not required by law but some lenders may require it in case something should happen to the store owner their family will not be left trying to pay off any debts that may have been incurred.

Loss of Business-This insurance can cover loss of sales through a specific cause. Something like a power outage that causes a business to lose its inventory would be covered. Some of the income can be recouped but a lot of times with the cost of premiums owners can break even so you should speak to your agent about whether this plan would be beneficial for your business or not.

ProTip: Cameras are a great way to prove or fight an insurance claim. If you can afford it try to install them in your business. It is hard to dispute evidence that has been filmed. They are also great for helping to spot employee theft.

When it comes to selecting policies, after you get the ones required by the state and your lending agency, you are the one that knows your business and financial situation the best. An agency can work to guide you with different instances they have come across but ultimately it is your decision if you want any extra insurance.

When asked if there was one piece of advice he could give to customers Scuilli said that owners should take a hard look at their business and determine where their greatest risk of exposure is and be sure to cover those areas. The second was to know what you can handle financially speaking. It doesn’t make sense to sign up for insurance that you won’t be able to afford to pay on.

While selecting insurance isn’t one of the sexier aspects to being a business owner it is vitally important. Insurance can protect you and your business from a myriad of problems. Insurance may seem like a lot of money for little to no return, but it is always better to be prepared when it comes to your business.

Drink Trends You Need To Know About for 2017

 

When it comes time to order a drink, some bar-goers stick with their tried and true favorite cocktails, while others are more interested in following the trends and expanding their horizons when they walk into the bar. These trendsetters seek out the latest and greatest in hopes of informing others of the most recent concoctions or getting that perfect Instagram picture to share with their friends. In the interest of luring these trendsetters into your bar and staying relevant in a competitive industry, we take a look at the trends rising to the forefront of the cocktail industry.

1. Vodka is Back-Vodka Cocktails

For a while, Vodka was frowned upon but is now making its way back into serious cocktails on bar menus this year. Bartenders are embracing this drink as a flexible and approachable ingredient choice. Vodka goes with more than tonic and bartenders are using their creativity to create a wider selection of Vodka based drinks.

Part of this resurgence can be credited to more interesting vodkas being produced. Vodka with complexity is making its way into the market and mixologists are responding. Brands such as Belvedere Unfiltered, St. George Green Chile and Citrus, and Absolut Elyx challenge the idea that vodka is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless liqueur.

2. Banana is the New Black-Banana Cocktails

Since 2016, Banana has been making its way into cocktails menus across the country in many forms. Whether it is as a liqueur, spirit, or actual fruit puree, don’t be surprised to see it in your drink. Bananas are available year-round and lend themselves well to being used in cocktails. In light of the recent tiki renaissance that has been happening over the past few years bananas have been gaining ground in bars everywhere including Chicago’s Lost Lake.

3. A Fresh Buzz-Coffee Cocktails

You may already be seeing this morning favorite making its way into the craft beer industry, and cocktails are not far behind. Soon you will see vodkas and whiskeys being bottled with cold-brew coffee as part of the mix. This is not the first time coffee and alcohol have been paired together. Who can forget classics like Irish coffee, or Kahlua and coffee but modern coffee cocktails go beyond adding a bit of booze to a cup of coffee and calling it a drink.

This combination of coffee shop and bar makes perfect sense. In many restaurants, bartenders are also in charge of making espresso drinks, and it is a good use for coffee that isn’t served during the day. Both the coffee and bar businesses are high-profit, but they’re only high profit for a short period of the day. So expect to see more and more of these dual purpose drinks being served from behind the same doors.

4. Tequila Mockingbird-The Tequila Resurgence

Americans are consuming more tequila than ever before.  In fact, tequila ranks right behind whiskey as the most popular distilled spirit in the United States. The trend is being driven by the production of higher-end tequilas such as Fortaleza, Casa Noble, and Astral. As a result, more cocktails that are tequila-based are making their way onto bar menus around the country.

The prevalence in tequila will leave its mark on the cocktail industry with a new resurgence of other agave based drinks such as Mezcal, a drink made from the Espadin agave plant that produces a unique smoky flavor that differentiates it from tequila.

5. Farm to Shaker-Fresh Ingredients

Over the past few years the country has turned its focus towards fresher and healthier ingredients in their meals, a trend which is beginning to catch on with cocktails as well. The days of sweet and sour mix being used for speed, efficiency, and flavor control are on their way out. Today’s bartenders and bar managers are embracing the idea of fresh, healthy ingredients being used to take their cocktails to the next level.

In certain areas of the country where it is summer year round, expect to see cocktails with local flavors highlighting the citrus, fruit, veggies, and herbs, readily available and indigenous to the area.

6. Storytelling

More and more drinkers are focusing on the experience of drinking and less on just getting a buzz. Consumers increasingly want a story behind their cocktails and bartenders are responding by using regional spirits brewed using ancient recipes, or by creating cocktails to match the drinker’s own recent experiences.

People are fascinated by drinks and the bartenders who serve them. In 2014 Jack Daniels released a series of videos on Youtube highlighting the craziest tales bartenders around the country had to share. By doing this they were giving consumers the stories and history they wanted while making them synonymous with their whiskey.

7. Interpretive Drinking-Performance Cocktails

The best bartenders have always understood the usefulness of theater, without going over the top (we’re looking at you Tom Cruise). So in 2017 be prepared to see more and more theater in the glass, as mixologists seek out more unique and interesting ingredients.  Ingredients like the Butterfly Pea flower, a flower that is ph sensitive and will change the color of a drink when mixed with citrus. Another flower to be on the lookout for is the Szechuan Button, an edible flower that delivers an electric hit to the consumer when chewed on. The flower is electrifying and hits you on a molecular level causing you to experience mouth tingling.

8. Have You Seen This Cocktail-Nameless Cocktails

One of the strangest yet most intriguing trends of 2017 is cocktails being based on emotions. Some bars, like Trick Dog in San Francisco, are forgoing names for their cocktails in favor of moods, scents, color, and even astrological signs. Order a red drink to stimulate confidence or black for discipline. Bars that are using scents such as smoked pine or cut grass, are doing so to evoke nostalgic feelings of certain times of the year or places with fond memories to keep them customers coming back for more. It might not be a trend for all bars but expect to see it popping up more and more throughout the year.

9. The Up and Comers- New Centers for Creativity

Sure, Manhattan will always be one of leaders in cocktail trends. But don’t count out emerging cities like Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Charleston, San Diego, and Houston. These cities have cheaper rents and thirsty young people are flocking to them. With the influx of young adults, be looking for new bars and new cocktails to make their way to the forefront of the industry.

10. Frosé All Day-Frozen Drinks Will Go High End

Frozen drinks have always been a fun way of changing up drinks but recently bartenders have been upping the frozen drinks game, translating into expertly prepared frozen cocktails. It started with frosé, which is exactly what it sounds like, a frozen Rosé drink. But now the frozen drink industry has taken off in a way it never has before. Upscale drinks are being turned into refreshing frozen libations with the use of tools like liquid nitrogen, turbo icemakers, and the always dependable slushy machine.

11. Guilty Pleasure Drinks

For a time, 70s, 80s, and 90s style cocktails were not an option in craft cocktail bars. They were frowned upon for their use of artificial ingredients and thought to be too sweet and unsophisticated. Bartenders are now revisiting these guilty pleasure drinks and re-imagining them with fresh, quality ingredients and transforming these decade old cocktails into delicious, yet well-executed drinks. Craft cocktail bars around the country are now showcasing adaptations on these retro drinks and you’ll probably be seeing a lot more of them in the coming year.

While a nameless cocktail might not be the right fit for your bar, you might want to consider adding a few of these trends to your bar’s menu. Staying relevant in this industry can mean the difference between a great year and being forced to close your doors. Experiment with adding a few vodka based cocktails to your lineup or maybe even a color changing mixture to gather a few ooh’s and ahh’s. If you are willing to do so you will have a better chance staying at the industry forefront in 2017.

The French Connection

French food is backFrancophiles, rejoice! The James Beard Foundation has named French cuisine a hot trend for 2017 and French restaurants are creeping back onto the scene.

French cooking, with its structured techniques and timeless traditions, has often been held as the golden standard in the culinary world. But the past 35 years have been a rocky time for French cuisine, including a New York Times article claiming French food needs to be saved.

Even though French cuisine is laden with time-consuming recipes like cassoulet and gut-busting rich roux, French cuisine has fairly simple roots. Both “cuisine du potager” (cooking from the garden) and “cuisine du marché” (cooking from the daily market) are the foundations of French cooking. Food was always seasonal, fresh, and differed from region to region, creating astoundingly different regional dishes.

From the beginning, French cuisine took on many different characteristics. French cuisine from the northern regions focused on vegetables local to the area, dairy products, and sausage. Southern regions incorporated richer ingredients like mushrooms, herbs, and game birds. Many chefs took these regional cuisine styles and created many esteemed cooking techniques. Sautéing, “sous-vide”, and “déglacer” are just some of the French cooking terms that have been outside the realm of the cuisine.

French cooking was known around the world for its finery and strategic practices that made this an art form more than just preparing food on a plate. But many chefs wanted to move away from the heavily regimented procedures and decadence of French cuisine and come up with a lighter alternative. Lower fat sauces, the integration of more garden vegetables, and using simpler presentations began in the 1960’s. From this, “nouvelle cuisine” was born. This movement was embraced for a small period of time, but met with heavy criticism from traditionalist French chefs and food critics.

By the end of the 1980’s, “nouvelle cuisine” had fallen out of vogue and many chefs returned to the more classical methods.

However, other ethnic foods such as Italian and Mexican began to take center stage. French restaurants and cuisine took a hit by being perceived as stuffy; customers were more interested in other flavors and combinations. Even many French chefs began going the safe and less expensive route, giving up their quest for Michelin stars, and focusing on the basics.

Most recently in 2014, the French government has tried to let consumers be aware of a restaurant’s quality of food with a “fait maison” logo. This logo would indicate whether a restaurant’s food is in fact “homemade” or not. In an effort to reduce costs, many restaurants in France were relying on industrial caterers or external food service providers to prepare food. While this is done by many restaurants internationally, it does take away from the integrity of French cuisine, which was once upheld has the standard for all culinary traditions. The many exceptions to the “fait maison” make it easy to circumvent as well as receiving a large negative backlash from food critics and chefs.

Even though it seems French cuisine has toppled from its pedestal of grandeur as of late, this trend is on the watch list for 2017 and is making a comeback. Many classically-trained chefs around the country are looking to restore the name of French cuisine and others are bringing their own flavor on the great classics.

French Laundry

Once housing a saloon and then steam laundry business, Thomas Keller’s French Laundry continues to make history on Washington Street in Yountville, California. French Laundry has been dazzling palettes with its tasting menus (which change daily) and wines since 1994. Even with a decline in formal French dining, Keller’s restaurant has succeeded over the years and is a testament to his expertise. Among winning the “Five Diamond Award” annually since 2005, Thomas Keller is the only American-born chef to have three star Michelin ratings for two different restaurants (French Laundry in Napa Valley and Per Se in Manhattan). French Laundry has set high expectations in French cuisine for restauranteurs, service, and patrons.

French Laundry

Photo via Femme Rouge

Bistronomic

Combining the words bistro, gastronomy, and economic, and all that they mean to French cuisine, chef Martial Noguier opened his first independent restaurant Bistronomic in 2011. While Chicago is becoming a food capital, Bistronomic is right there and relevant as ever with its comfortable atmosphere and Midwestern ingredients. Noguier keeps classic items on the menu with a regional twist in the maple leaf duck breast a l’orange and escargot with breadcrumbs. Making French cuisine seem approachable is quite an understaking, but Bistronomic and Noguier pulls it off.

Bistronomic

Photo via Bistronomic

Petit Trois

Shaking up the traditional white-tablecloth atmosphere of many French eateries, Petit Trois is Los Angeles’ exclusive but approachable bistro. With a “bar á la carte” menu style, Petit Trois focuses on simple French dishes such as escargots and omelettes with simple wines and cocktails. Opened by Ludo Lefebvre, Vinny Dotolo, and Jon Shook in 2014, this bistro champions no-frills French cuisine with a relaxed feel- no stuffiness here! With a no reservations policy, the 21 bar stools are up for grabs to the early bird. Petit Trois has landed at the top of many “best of” lists, including “2015 Restaurants of the Year” by Food & Wine. It is rumored a second location will be opened in the California’s San Fernando Valley.

Petit Trois

Photo via Eater LA

The Twisted Frenchman

Cities around the United States are seeing the return of French cuisine in the forms of fine dining and casual bistros. French cuisine is even making its way back into the steel city of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh. New ownership transformed what was the former Notion Restaurant on South Highland Avenue, into chef Andrew Garbarino’s The Twisted Frenchman in 2015. Up-and-coming on the restaurant scene, Garbarino has to rely more on his food than his name to bring guests in. With its food described as “modern French”, The Twisted Frenchman’s menu is peppered with game birds and quintessential French entrees. Lovingly referred to as “foie gras PB&J”, this appetizer is Garbarino’s signature and gives a contemporary take on an otherwise classic dish.

The Twisted Frenchman

Photo via TripAdvisor

Le Coucou

In the mid-20th century, there were six luxury restaurants that ruled New York City and held the standard for French dining. Since 2004, all except one (La Grenouille) have closed their doors. The white table clothed finery of these establishments lives on and served as inspiration for chef Daniel Rose’s Le Coucou, opened in 2016. Along with Stephen Starr, restaurant extraordinaire, Le Coucou is an encouraging sign of fine French cuisine reigning once more. French delicacies line the breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner menus, including the cheeky “tout le lapin” (all of the rabbit). While this is Rose’s first stateside restaurant, Le Coucou is the resurgence of fine dining for local New Yorkers and tourists to share in alike. To many of Le Coucou’s patrons, this isn’t a resurgence; this a whole new experience.

The Recipe of a Restaurant: How to Break into the Industry

Open for Business

Have you dreamed of owning your own restaurant? Maybe you’ve sketched out what the exterior would look like on a napkin, daydreamed about what you would serve, or even picked out your china?

But have you ever thought of taking this dream one step farther and putting your ideas to work?

If you’re looking to bust into the restaurant business but aren’t quite sure of what you would need to do it, we’ve compiled the largest pieces you need, into one guide. And because opening a restaurant is no easy task, we spoke with Rob Coffaro, owner of Coffaro’s Pizza in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, to get his expertise on the subject.

Coffaro's Pizza

Prep Time

Concept- First things first, you need a concept. This may be something you already have under belt, but if not, you need to cement what your vision is for your restaurant. Having a more concrete concept can help you carry the elements you want into your restaurant more clearly.

Location- Whether you’re taking over another restaurant or building from the ground up, you should have your location. Talk to your realtor about the different options for your commercial venture. This will impact how you finance your restaurant.

Finances- How you finance will largely depend on your situation. If you are so lucky to have been saving up in your personal savings account, these liquid funds could get you on your way. If your credit is in good standing, a credit card could be a viable solution, depending on how much you need. Another option could be a restaurant specific loan or a Small Business Administration loan. A restaurant specific loan is not bound to a specific need and has a varying interest rates and terms, depending on the size of the loan. Based on the financial institution, this loan can have many different names but serves the same purpose. An SBA backed loan can offer lower down payments and longer terms to the business owner but can be difficult to qualify for. To qualify, a business must meet size requirements, be in good financial standing, be in the for-profit industry, and meet the credit requirements of the lending institution. Instead of going the commercial route, you could also have investors help fund your restaurant. If these are friends and family, remember that while the money can be convenient, it can also be a strain on the relationship.

Business plan- After you’ve analyzed the risks and you’re ready to take on the responsibility of owning your own business, it’s time to create a business plan. This plan gives you a guiding light when things seem dark or what to do next. When documenting your business plan, be sure to include information on your concept, team standards, design, target market, market overview, financial risk, business structure, and external individuals that will be helping you run your business (like a lawyer or accountant).

Legal matters- If you plan on serving alcohol or having a BYOB policy, make sure you check your state’s liquor license laws. Some states can take longer than others for this process, so if this applies to your business definitely get a jump on it!

Slice of Advice- Be Organized

Mix in Your Ingredients

Write your menu- It’s time to test out what culinary creations will grace your menu. Use focus groups of friends, family, and other chefs to narrow down what fits your restaurant’s style and flow. Make sure to also include various substitutions to accommodate guests with food allergies or dietary restrictions. When designing your menu, you need to keep in mind the physical look of the menu, how categories will be presented, and the pattern in how it’s read.

Network- How are you going to obtain the ingredients of your daily fare. Research foodservice vendors on price, quality, and delivery time but also keep local farms or vendors in mind. A great way to build relationships in the community is to partner these homegrown businesses which could help get your foot in the door for future events.

Get social- Start creating a buzz about your establishment. Choose two or three social media platforms that you are well-versed in (or are prepared to master) and begin showing the world what makes your business unique. You have a great opportunity to show the beginnings of your restaurant, from the first time you walk through the door to opening night. Use it!

Dimensions- Space planning can give you important figures such as your capacity, how many pieces of furniture you can order, and the image of how your restaurant will look at the end. There are many requirements that restauranteurs need to implement in their layout. Whether large or small, your restaurant can be planned out before you purchase a single piece of furniture.

Filling the space- To complete your restaurant, you will need commercial furniture and restaurant equipment (think refrigerators, ovens, etc.). Be sure to purchase products that promise quality and durability. Don’t forget to also pick up dinnerware, napkins, cooking utensils, and silverware to run your business smoothly and efficiently. It’s also time to finalize your menus and send them off to print!

Safety is key- In most states; you need to have a pre-operational inspection done before your restaurant opens. During this inspection, there should be absolutely no food on the premises. The pre-operational inspection confirms that your restaurant is compliant with health laws.

Build your team- The amount of upper-level management you need will depend on your business structure and size but most restaurants have a general manager, assistant manager, shift leaders, and chefs. You will want to look for individuals that are successful in recruiting, supervising, and budgeting. When your management team is in place, you can start hiring the wait and kitchen staff. From top level management all the way to the first-time job holder, training is important for seamless, united customer service.

Slice of Advice- Hiring

Let’s Get Cooking

Get your feet wet- Have your soft opening a couple weeks before your grand opening that introduces your business to the community. This lets your future customers get to know you and get excited that you will be opening very shortly.

Call your health inspector- Directly after your soft opening, schedule an operational inspection with the health department. Staying up on these issues is important for the longevity of your business.

Make it an event- For your grand opening, make sure that you are present and available. This is the time to enjoy your handiwork and introduce yourself and your team to all those who came out to support you. You should invite some sort of press outlet, but you may want to also hire a photographer to attend. Designate a staff member or friend to be in charge of social media that night, this is an event you will want to remember.

Slice of Advice- Do the Math

Enjoy Your Final Product

So your restaurant is now a full-blown operational business. That’s awesome, but the hard work is just beginning. You need to keep up on budgeting, food safety, licenses, and your customers’ overall experience. It’s important to keep in mind that while it may be simpler to hire the accountant and just leave the finances to them or hire an assistant to focus on staying up to date on licensing, you need to be involved. Just because your restaurant is open does not mean you can stop researching and educating yourself. Let this and every ounce of customer feedback drive you to become a better restaurant and business. You need to be involved with each workings of your business to protect and nourish it every step of the way.

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!

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.