Helpful Tips for Bar and Restaurant Owners

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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Popular Restaurant Trends Throughout the Years

Popular Restaurant Trends

How many times a day do you see blog articles pop up on social media titled “25 Most Embarrassing Food Clichés of (insert year here)”? And once your curiosity has gotten the best of you and you’ve clicked on these articles, you see a list teeming with negativity about food and restaurant trends from years gone by. While these articles can be entertaining, hindsight is always 20/20.

It’s safe to say that the restaurant industry has had plenty of changes occur from its inception, some of them better than others. “New” trends are difficult to come by in the restaurant industry, with many ideas being perfected over the years. But as restauranteurs, it’s necessary to look back on restaurant history to see what’s coming in the future.

The 1950’s

The 1950’s easily became the golden era for American restaurants. The Great Depression and war were a thing of the past and left the economy booming. This time of prosperity made it simple for other industries to flourish as well. Due to improvements in the nation’s highway system, the need for stops along interstates grew. With more and more travelers on the road, franchise restaurants became more in demand.

McDonald's in 1954

Photo from allday.com

Many of these franchised restaurants are still popular today. In 1954, the McDonald’s restaurant we know today was bought from the original McDonald brothers and transformed into franchise gold by Ray Kroc. McDonald’s was not the first fast food restaurant, but the assembly-line system was revolutionary for fast food restaurants to come. Kroc was able to turn this humble hot dog stand into a quick and efficient franchising opportunity. McDonald’s franchise model became a beacon of success for other restaurants, like Kentucky Fried Chicken and Dairy Queen, to follow in suit.

Highway System

Photo from nesbittrealty.com

With the highway system improvements also came advancements in the automotive industry. The 1950’s was filled with car culture; so why would restaurants be any different? While the first drive-in was opened along the Dallas-Fort Worth Highway in 1921, the 1950’s were the true heyday of drive-in diners. Serving up burgers and shakes, sometimes on skates, these diners became social hangouts for teens and families alike. The drive-in trend continued through the 1960’s and then declined with the increasing number of drive-through options in restaurants.

The 1960’s

Steak and Ale Menu

Photo from cravedfw.com

Although processed and junk food captured much of the baby boomers’ attention, it wasn’t the only trend happening in America at the time. Steak and Ale (casual dining) began offering a salad bar buffet to guests, keeping them occupied while waiting for their dinners. Soon enough, salad bars were popping up in steakhouses all over the country as a way to customize a guest’s appetizer.

Dining in the 60's

Photo from petermoruzzi.com

This decade was also defined by the meats served in restaurants. Most entrees at this time were focused around beef of some sort. Beef wellington, steak Diane, and Swedish meatballs were all popular beef dishes of 1960’s. In middle class restaurants, beef and lobster (or surf n’ turf) dinners were commonly seen on the menu.

Howard Johnson's

Photo from slate.com

At this point in history, there was an increasing emphasis on family time outside the home (vacations, a meal out, etc.). Popular restaurants of the time, Japanese steakhouse Benihana and Howard Johnson’s were often patronized by these families looking to spend quality time together and bond over dinner. In the 1960’s, dinner became more than just food and more focused on the emotions associated with it as a family.

The 1970’s

The 1970’s marked the beginning of environmentalism as the newest social cause, affecting the food and restaurant industry. Changing their tune from the 1960’s, customers wanted healthier options that were unprocessed and uncomplicated. This shift led to a rise in vegetarianism and health food stores.

At this point in time, there was a shift in gender roles. With a larger number of women in the workforce, restaurants were used as experiences with the family or a chance to get away from the preparations and cleaning up required of cooking at home. More casual-dining chains began spreading across the nation like the Cheesecake Factory and Ruby Tuesday, both opening their doors in 1972. For a quick bite, the 1970’s marked Subway’s start into franchising. Much like the fame of the McDonald’s assembly line from the 1950’s, the Subway assembly line was just as important for future restaurants in similar niches.

In finer dining, Le Cirque (New York City) opened its doors in 1974 by Sirio Maccioni and became a landmark in the city. One of the most infamous dishes to come out of Le Cirque was pasta primavera. This entrée soon became one of the most ordered items at restaurants across the country, its popularity spilling over into the 1980’s as well.

Le Cirque, New York City

Photo from insatiable-critic.com

The 1980’s

Innovation ran rampant in 1980’s restaurants. Chefs were taking creative license to create new combinations and dishes, making restaurants trendy and modern. While there were many traditionalists who argued against these new methods, it was certainly an exciting time to be in the restaurant business.

Nouvelle Cuisine

Photo from caraandco.com

Nouvelle cuisine was popular especially in finer dining establishments. Chefs worked hard to create elaborate presentations with their dishes, using the plate as a canvas. Popular New York City restaurants like Odeon and Quilted Giraffe used this style quite fervently throughout the 1980’s. Championed by chef Michel Guerard and food critics Henri Gault and Christian Millau, nouvelle cuisine allowed young chefs to be more artistic and not held to the restrictions of traditional French cooking.

Although this cooking style allowed chefs to be more creative in their practice, it ended abruptly with the stock market crash of 1987. With the largest one-day drop of the Dow Jones in history, customers expected more out of their restaurant helpings than the smaller, artistic portions of the time.

Chef Paul Prudhomme

Photo from investors.com

Another popular trend in the 1980’s was Cajun cooking. While other American chefs looked to other countries to inspire their dishes, chef Paul Prudhomme looked to his Louisiana roots. Prudhomme used classic Louisiana ingredients like blackened beef, crawfish, and shrimp to create exciting menu items such as Chicken and Andouille Gumbo and Cajun Jambalaya. The blackening technique became very popular in the 1980’s, being used in fish and other meat entrees.

The 1990’s

Fusion cooking was on the rise in the 1990’s. A trend, fusion cooking is the combination of different cultural dishes to create something new. Laying the ground work for this new trend, celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck served dishes that combined French and Asian influences for an interesting mixture. Items on Puck’s Chinois on Main menu included foie gras with pineapple and catfish with fried ginger.

Wolfgang Puck

Photo from minnpost.com

While these dishes could be highly creative and delicious (like this Thai-inspired pizza), some chefs took it a step too far and created “con-fusion” which were unexpected flavor hybrids that didn’t complement each other well. The “con-fusion” was a result of the chefs trying to jump on the bandwagon and allow their restaurant to have the next big thing, which doesn’t always coincide with a customer’s palate. It is very difficult to specifically label certain “con-fusion” recipes as a failure because taste is extremely subjective. But something tells us that a recipe for spicy Asian green beans with blue cheese isn’t going to be our new favorite food either.

Fusion Cooking

Photo from guyeatsfood.com

Many chefs are not a fan of the term “fusion cooking”, claiming negative connotations from the 1990’s. Even though it is still a popular cooking style in the modern world, the term fusion cooking is not normally used.

The 2000’s

At the turn of the century, America became much more conscientious about their foods. Consumers were more concerned about where their food came from, how it was processed, and what was in it. This kind of curiosity led to many consumer-driven changes that effected food suppliers, distributors, and restaurants.

Super Size Me documentary

Photo from netflixlife.com

One of the most revolutionary food documentaries to ever hit the small screen was Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, which premiered in 2004 to a shocked America. It was common knowledge at this point that fast food was not the ideal meal for a healthy diet, but this documentary took just how unhealthy fast food could be and made it a living nightmare. After this documentary, many fast food chains began to evaluate their menu offerings.

Fresh food

Many consumers demanded more health-conscious options from all of their eateries. Even big-box retailers like Walmart were starting to offer organic options to their customers. So why wouldn’t restaurants as well? More restaurants began creating and marking healthier choices on their menus while others provided more detailed information about where the food came from. This kind of communication with the customer makes them feel more in charge and able to make more educated decisions based on the information that is provided to them.

Because consumers were aimed to obtain healthier foods (for the most part) they frequented businesses like Subway, Jamba Juice, and casual dining establishments like Applebee’s and Olive Garden. Some of the most popular foods of this decade included sushi, bacon, super fruits (blueberries, acai berries), and cupcakes. Many restaurants assimilated these flavors as a part of their core offerings.

The 2010’s

While we are 60% of the way through the 2010’s, there are still prominent restaurant trends that will have sticking power throughout the remainder of this decade.

Chipotle Assembly Line

Photo from qz.com

Restaurants that offer assembly line-like service allow for customers to choose how they want their food prepared are huge right now. The customer is able to tailor their experience from station to station to have their food made exactly the way they want it. This customization ability can be seen in restaurants like Chipotle, Blaze Pizza, and even Starbucks.

Coffee craze

Speaking of Starbucks, the 2010’s are drink-crazed. Whether it is coffeehouses or microbreweries, the interest in mixology has skyrocketed. Many restaurants are not limited to regular or decaf coffee offerings anymore. Similarly, restaurants are also producing their own type of craft beer or wine. There is a certain fascination with making these concoctions because it is all about creativity, and is great for expanding your profit margins.

In urban areas where rent is astronomical and constantly changing, the newest restaurant trend isn’t to become a physical building; it’s to have a food truck. This trend has roots starting in Los Angeles with Kogi BBQ truck and chef Roy Choi. With the help of Twitter and the combination of Korean and Mexican cuisine, the Kogi BBQ truck became a success that inspired restauranteurs to take an alternative route for restaurant ownership.

If you’re looking to create something new in your restaurant, it is always helpful to look to the past for inspiration to create your future. These popular trends from the 1950’s all the way to today have their time and place in history. The restaurant industry has a cyclical nature; trends are bound to find their way around again. While the subject matter of the trends may not be your restaurant’s cup of tea, at the very least, you can get a theme night out of it!

What are some trends (modern or older) your restaurant has tried? Let us know in the comments below!

Why We Love the Rustic Industrial Trend (And You Should, Too!)

Rustic TrendWant a look for your restaurant’s interior that has an organic, elegant style with an effortless je ne sais quoi? A timeless style that’s easy to pair with other décor items? Then the rustic industrial trend is the right theme for you.

Seen in home design, wedding themes, and splashed across Pinterest, the rustic industrial trend is still going strong in late 2016. But what inspired the Mason jar fervor?

As a culture, we are obsessed with authenticity. We crave a sense of legitimacy and timelessness. We love seeing genuine, honest to goodness labor turned into beauty. Showcasing cracks, daily wear and tear, and distressed accents embody this trend.

So what does this mean for your restaurant and the industry?

Within the last 10 years, restaurant-goers have seen a rise in sustainability and local allocation of food in the businesses that they frequent, playing upon authenticity and individualism to set themselves apart from the competition. Customers are more likely to trust these singular operations that are original in the way they do things. This trust is key to differentiate your restaurant. If you can get customers to believe in your mission and purpose, it will set you apart from your competition.
The desire for authenticity has birthed the rustic industrial trend. The interior originality of the restaurant is just as important as the food selection to consumers.

One characteristic that ties restaurant interiors into this look is showing evidence of craftsmanship. The raw aesthetic of these restaurants remind us of the physical labor that went into creating them with their visible markings. Some common features of rustic industrial interiors include natural materials, high ceilings, and unfinished wood for accents. It’s these nitty-gritty details that can transform your space into the charming eatery of your dreams.

We’ve made a list of our awesome customers that rock the rustic industrial trend.

11th and Bay

11th and Bay (Columbus, GA)

Built in an old cotton warehouse, 11th and Bay fits right into the rustic industrial theme. This restaurant pulls rustic inspiration with the exposed white brick, distressed rafters, pendant lights, reclaimed wood seats, and sliding barn door. The cool metal of the bar stools and chairs add an engineered look to this otherwise very warm-toned atmosphere. This balance looks great together and prevents the room from looking too antiquated. The interior of 11th and Bay reflects the business’ passion for southern hospitality and quality ingredients.

The Feed + Co.

The FEED Co. Table and Tavern (Chattanooga, TN)

A feed warehouse in the early 1900’s, the Chattanooga Craftworks building is now home to The FEED Co. Table and Tavern. The rustic industrial style was a no-brainer in a building with this kind of history. This restaurant is split into a table area and a tavern area based on where the warehouse was sectioned off. Exposed brick, factory swing doors, and wood floors use the building’s origin and make it work with the theme. To tie the individual rooms in together, the reclaimed tables and seats add a unifying element.  Harmonizing with the manufacturing atmosphere of the building, chairs, bar stools, and fixtures add a metallic contrast and create the balance between rustic and modern.

Hell n' Blazes

Hell’n Blazes Brewing Company (Melbourne, FL)

The building that now houses Hell’n Blazes Brewing Company has come a long way since its hardware store roots. The brewery still proudly displays its history with the adorned ceiling, hardwood floors, stone accents around the bar area, and other rustic décor. Visible duct work and drop lighting also add metallic tones, matching the chairs and bar stools. Hell’n Blazes holds onto the original feel of the building while introducing industrial design elements, an ideal setting for their combination of craft beer and historic structure.

Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen

Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen (Newark, DE)

Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen uses the rustic industrial theme to set the atmosphere and complement its combination of craft beer and live music. A casual setting for Newark restaurant-goers, this restaurant and bar is decorated with a unique machinery collection assembled on the wall, chalkboard details, and use of deep wood tones, contrasting with the exposed lightbulb fixtures. This type of lighting casts a soft glow on customers, reflecting off the metal chairs and bar stools. Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen brings together the rustic and industrial styles with the help of décor and furniture.

Distinguishing Rustic Features

The rustic industrial trend is a combination of varying materials and textures. If you are building or designing your restaurant with this trend in mind, here are some materials to consider using. To meet in the middle of rustic and industrial, you need pieces from both ends of the spectrum. Remember to soften hard metal elements with wood tones and vice versa, the blending of supplies makes this trend truly unique.

  • Exposed beams, brick, and stone
  • Unfinished, raw wood
  • Galvanized metal
  • Unrefined edges on furniture
  • Limited color palette of neutral, warm, and subtle tones
  • Concrete or wood floors
  • High ceilings (reminiscent of a barn or warehouse setting)
  • Open floor plan
  • Visible, bare light fixtures
  • Items repurposed to serve a function such as a pallet furniture, barrel sink

Ready to try the rustic industrial look in your restaurant or bar? Here are some of our must-have items to get your upgrade started.

Reclaimed Reclaimed Wood

Each reclaimed table top is made of solid oak wood salvaged from Pennsylvania or Ohio barns by our Amish craftsmen and come with a story of their own. Unique knots and grain patterns are combined to create an individual look every time with these tops. Repurposing items to use them as something else is what the rustic industrial trend is all about.

Urban Distressed

Urban Distressed Wood

The urban distressed table tops are a great option if you want the reclaimed wood look, but at a lower price point. These tops are handed sanded and distressed to add the rustic charm that’s perfect for your restaurant. Available in a provincial and dark walnut finishes to accommodate whatever color wood tone you would like.

Simon

The Simon

Our Simon bar stool and chair is the ideal complement to the wood of the tables. The Simon contemporary silhouette makes it the perfect match with its clean, smooth lines. To mimic the other wood tones, there is an option available to add a vinyl, urban distressed, or reclaimed wood seat. Or leave it metal for a completely modern feel.

Viktor

The Viktor

Complement your rustic restaurant or bar with the industrial Viktor bar stool or chair. The supportive, laid back structure of the Viktor adds a comfortable alternative to a wooden chair. Choose from rust, brushed transparent, or matte black to pair with your tables. This stylish choice will be a favorite with your tables and warm tones.

Gladiator 101

The GLADIATOR Collection

One of our most popular collections, the GLADIATOR line is sure to please in your rustic restaurant or bar. Contrast against your warm tones with the 101 GLADIATOR style in a clear coat finish. This type of finish accentuates the crafted weld markings. Be sure to add a reclaimed seat to your chairs and bar stools for the perfect mix of rustic and industrial.

Let us know in the comments below if your restaurant uses a rustic design or if you’re ready to take the leap and give this trend a try.

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook, we love sharing our customer showcases!

How to Make Your Restaurant Successful on Yelp

Find Us on YelpFaced with large amounts of competition, businesses are constantly fighting for their customers’ attention. Word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful driving force in today’s society and has the ability to sway decisions like what to buy and where to eat. This type of marketing may seem difficult to harness, but with programs like Yelp, businesses have a way to engage with customers and help mold their opinions.

Yelp is a great way for small businesses to compete with larger chains by showcasing what they have to offer. In Q2 of 2016, Yelp had a monthly average of 23 million unique visitors who went through Yelp’s mobile app and another 69 million unique visitors who visited Yelp via the web. A Nielsen study reports that 78 % of users rely on Yelp to find restaurants (out of all categories), capturing the highest percentage of the categories. Needless to say, Yelp is a well-used resource for restaurant-goers whose importance is often under-estimated by restaurant owners.

How It Works

Imagine you’re on vacation and it’s your first time at a destination. Up and down your hotel’s strip, there is dinner option after dinner option. As a consumer, the choices are overwhelming. How do you even begin to choose? You could just waltz into the first place you come to and take your chances.  Or, you could leverage the experience of thousands of Yelpers that have visited before you and have left reviews of just about every restaurant in town.  Without the uncertainty and risk of visiting an untested spot, you and your family can get down to the business of enjoying your vacation.

According to their website, Yelp’s purpose is to “connect people with great local businesses”. Their automated software program scours the top reviews that are written by users (“Yelpers”) based on quality and helpfulness, and it ranks businesses according to a proprietary algorithm. So how does your restaurant get the highest ranking? Typically, a larger number of reviews lead to a higher ranking in Yelp search and many other search engines.  The strategy then with Yelp is to get your restaurant as many good reviews as possible.  In this article, we are going to show you how to get started.


Yelp Ads
Claim Your Business

Claiming your business is the starting point for all businesses on Yelp. To be proactive with a Yelp strategy, you must claim your business to have control of that page. After you claim your page, you can then personalize it to help distinguish it among other pages. The goal of this page is to drive traffic to your own site. Optimizing this page will help your restaurant appear, not only in yelp searches, but also in search engine queries like Google.

It is interesting to note that according to a Boston Consulting Group study, businesses that simply claimed their Yelp profile generated incremental revenues of $8,000 annually just from being on Yelp.  Wouldn’t it be nice if your business could bring in an additional $8,000 per year by spending a small amount of time setting up you page and managing your reviews?  By the way, according to the same study, those who claimed their profile AND advertised on Yelp through PPC campaigns (more on that later) generated additional revenue of $23,000.

Rack Up the Reviews

Although it is the core function of Yelp, many businesses may wonder how customers will know to leave a review. Be cautious of how you approach this topic.  Yelp prefers “organic” review, which means reviews that have not been solicited or, worse, paid for.  It’s understandable if you think about it.  Most businesses only ask for reviews from their happiest customers, not those who have had a bad experience.  That might be great for the restaurant, but it damages the overall credibility of the review system. Yelp wants your restaurant to earn great reviews through exemplary business practices, not through solicitation and/or reward.

Even though Yelp discourages direct solicitation, they do leave the door open for more subtle ways of generating reviews.  The first, and most obvious, is to make sure that your customers know you actually have a Yelp account. You may have a customer that comes to your restaurant every single day for their morning coffee, but if they don’t know you’re on Yelp, how will the world know that you have nurtured and cared for this customer, so much so they visit your business every day? Make customers aware that you use Yelp by using this form to receive a window cling for your business. Also, remind customers to visit your Yelp page with a link in your email signature and/or a badge on your website.

To attract customers that are in the decision stage, use a Check-In Offer to entice them. A Check-In Offer is a reward a customer receives when they check into a business on Yelp. This reward is redeemed by mobile device at the place of business. After a checking in from a mobile device at a restaurant, the user is later asked to write a review of where they checked in at. Be careful not to offer incentives to customers who give better reviews, which is against Yelp’s policiesCheck In Offer

While the tactics above are handy with a new restaurant or during a slow time to jazz up reviews, you should always try and go above and beyond for customers. Have the mindset of what kind of experience you want your customers to walk away with, and then double it. What sets your business apart from the competition? Is your atmosphere, food, staff, or price point? Find what makes your restaurant original and makes for a memorable experience for your guests. Inspire people to choose your restaurant, enjoy themselves, and then right a smashing review because their experience was just that good.

Take a look at this improvement calculator to see how many reviews it will take to attain a certain rating for your restaurant.

Interact with Customers

You’ve put the work into claiming your business, spruced up your Yelp page, and the reviews are pouring in. All of a sudden, your first bad review comes in: a piece of coal in your carefully cultivated glittering diamond mine of positive reviews. Your first instinct might be to ignore the review, hoping it gets lost in the sea positive reviews. Maybe no one will see it?  That is a big mistake.  You should always respond to a negative review, even if the response is private.  The last thing that you want is an already upset customer feeling like you’re ignoring them.  You’ll definitely want to reach out to that Yelper in a way that lets them know that their concerns have been heard and you will take their input into consideration when shaping future decisions.

Whether you handle bad reviews publicly or privately is up to you, but maintain consistency – don’t respond publicly to the reviews where you feel like a customer is wrong, and privately to the reviews where you know you messed up. The flow chart below outlines Yelps best practices for responding to reviews publicly or privately.

Review Flow ChartFinally, remember that your public responses will be seen by existing and potential customers so always be courteous and understanding. Practice up on your PR skills and don’t isolate customers. You don’t want jeopardize your future business with a poorly worded response.

Free Assets for Business Owners

Yelp has many free resources for business owners to use, making it effective and easy on a budget.

Yelp for Business Owners app is the most comprehensive of these resources. With the app (available in the App Store for iOS and Google Play Store for Android), businesses track engagement, leads, and clicks to their site from Yelp. The app also has the capability to track the number of check-ins to a business, calls (from clicking the phone number), and the reservations made off of Yelp. Not only do these factors help you gauge your success on Yelp, but could justify an increase of foot traffic in your restaurant. Through the app you also have the capability to respond (publicly or privately) to messages, upload photos, and report reviews or messages. For a busy, on-the-go restaurant owner, the Yelp app is extremely valuable in managing your presence on the site.

Again, you don’t want to come right out and ask for reviews. But if you want another, more discrete way to remind customers about giving you a review, place a Yelp review badge on your website. By placing a review badge on your site, your customers can see that people have a reviewed your restaurant and prompt them to check out your Yelp page. Potential customers will be more inclined to visit a restaurant with many positive reviews, which the badge helps them see at a glance. Every time your business is reviewed, the counter clicks up and/or reflects in the stars. Per Yelp’s brand guidelines, there are only two badges allowed on a business’ site that shows their association with Yelp.

Web Review Badges

It is important for business owners to stay up to date on ways to effectively use Yelp. Yelp offers free 30 minute webinars that improve upon your existing Yelp knowledge. Topics range from how to respond to reviews to becoming a 5-star brand. These webinars help clarify how your restaurant can use Yelp as a sustainable, effective strategy for the long term.

Yelp Ads

While Yelp has plenty of free resources for businesses, there are also advertising packages to enhance your profile even further.

Yelp’s advertising packages operate on a cost per click (CPC) basis and could be beneficial for your particular niche. There is no pre-determined set cost because the cost depends on the competition and relevance of your advertisement to the user’s search. Yelp Ads can help your business with targeted local advertising and a more prominent placement on search and competitor pages.

If you want to upgrade your Yelp experience by paying for advertising, the Call to Action button may be one you want to take advantage of.

Whenever potential customers have searched and found your business on Yelp, what is the next steps you want them to take? The best way to provide a specific direction for these customers is to have a Call to Action button. When set up, this button appears towards to the top of your business’ page, underneath the location and uploaded photos.
When narrowing down what your Call to Action should be, think of what your desired end goal is. The button will take customers to more information in the form of a specific page of your website or coupon.

Call to Action
In the example above, Olive or Twist’s Call to Action button promotes their happy hour and links to their specials section on their website. Make sure your button is labeled with a broad, but relevant statement. You don’t want to give away all the information on your Yelp page, because then there is no need to click. This button provides a next-steps for potential customers to take part in.

Compare the different products that Yelp Ads has to offer with this chart.

Please note that just because a business advertises on Yelp does not mean they automatically get better ratings. A business could be rated two stars and advertise, leading to more people seeing that rating. On the other hand, a business that does not pay to advertise can have a five-star rating. For more information on Yelp’s advertising policy, feel free to check out their FAQ page.

If you own a restaurant that has never used Yelp or only as a consumer, go claim your business. Doing a simple Google search will leave you with endless results on how to optimize Yelp and best practices. But the best way to use Yelp is to jump right in! There are so many free resources and options for a business getting started on Yelp. Don’t think the only way to be successful on Yelp is to shell out a portion of your advertising budget. Let your customers know that you have a Yelp presence, respond thoughtfully to their reviews, and keep providing excellent experiences to make Yelp work for your business.

Does your restaurant or business currently use Yelp as a strategy? If so, what’s your experience with having a page? If not, what are your reservations about it? Let us know!

End of Summer Sale

End of Summer Sale

The outdoor furniture on your patio area is the first glimpse of your restaurant a customer gets when casually passing by. The atmosphere that you’ve worked so hard to create in your restaurant or bar should also translate to that glimpse. It could be the deciding factor of whether a customer decides to give your establishment a try.

So if your patio leaves something to be desired, check out our End of Summer sale! We’ve put your favorite outdoor furniture items on sale at our biggest discounts yet!

If you’re looking to furnish your restaurant or bar’s outdoor area, now is the time to buy. The beginning of fall is the perfect season to upgrade the outdoor space you already have and be ready for the new year.

Enjoy products from our Atlantic, New England (pictured below), Sydney, Cayman, Shipyard, and many more collections at prices you won’t see anywhere else in the industry.

NewEngland_BlogHeader

Whether you’re improving your patio layout or buying outdoor furniture for the first time, you can’t beat these high quality pieces at clearance rates. Choose from a wide selection of table tops, bar stools, and chairs.

All sale items are only available for a limited time while in-stock.  They won’t last long, so act now to make your restaurant dreams a reality with this summer sale.

Back to School Promotions To Boost Your Restaurant’s Bottom Line

School zone signs are flashing, commutes are taking longer, and the yellow buses are hitting the road. It is hard not to notice that school will soon be back in session, if it hasn’t already started. You’ve probably received flyers in the mail promoting the latest back to school sales on clothes and office supplies. If you are wondering how to bring these back to school promotions into your restaurant we have some ideas for you; thoughts on how to reach out not only to students but parents and teachers as well.

Getting the Family Involved

Back to School Promotions to Boost Your Restaurant's Bottom Line;Back to school is a busy time for most families; they are getting back into the swing of things and creating their routine for the year. Why not make your restaurant part of that weekly routine? By offering families a quick take out meal option, you can cut out the stress of dining-in for families with younger children. This small step makes your restaurant an option for families on those busy days of running from school, to activities and trying to cram dinner somewhere in-between.

Another promotional idea that helps get the whole family into your establishment is running an “apps for backpacks” special. Families receive a free or discounted appetizer when they bring in a receipt proving the purchase of school supplies. Not only does this show your customers that you support education but encourages patrons to order an appetizer they might not have previously considered. Who knows maybe it will become a new family favorite they simply can’t pass up, even after the special has ended.

We have compiled a list of things that you can do to reach parents, students, and teachers, the main groups that hold the keys to increasing your business during back to school season.

 

Parents

Drinks

      1.When thinking of back to school promotions it is important to focus on parents. One way to reach out to parents is by offering Parent’s Day Out lunch specials. Market it as being able to enjoy quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of family life.

2. Additionally, a great way to market to parents is with buy one get one parent meals. Perfect for any date night, this deal will encourage parents to call up their baby-sitter and spend a night out taking advantage of your restaurant’s back to school promotion.

3. Back to school season involves a lot of shopping but it also involves quite a few meetings. A good way to keep your business on parent’s radar is by sponsoring some of the back to school meeting. You can have a coupon or promotional flyer be part of their welcome packet or offer to cater in exchange for some ad space in the schools yearbook or other bulletins.

4. Once school is in full swing, if you have the space, consider setting up a student super star area. A section of your restaurant decorated specifically for patrons to take pictures of their star student. You might even want to have a signature hashtag that parents can use when bragging about their superstar on social media. This would be a great way to have customers promoting your business by word of mouth.

Students

Student Studying

1. A great way to get your promotions to students is by utilizing social media. Social media is one of the

tops ways to market to millennials. Pictures of food are one of the most searched for subjects in social media, so go ahead and take a nicely arranged snapshot of your weekly special and post it. The best part is that it is free unless you make the decision to boost your posts for a few extra dollars.

2. Another way to reach students is by offering coupons to students with perfect attendance. Many schools give out certificates each semester to students who haven’t missed a day. So why not get them in the door with a perfect attendance promotion. Consider offering half off of dessert with validation. Restaurants like Noodles & Company and Red Robin are already getting students in their doors by offering free meals for those students with perfect attendance.

3. An often forgotten about group of marketing to students is college students. Yes some students have meal plans but that doesn’t mean they don’t get tired of the food, or are looking to treat themselves every now and then. And a large percentage of college students live off campus and don’t have a meal plan. A great way to reach these students is by offering lunch combos. Perfect for grabbing between classes this special will garner the attention of any test stressed college student.

Startup Stock Photos

      1. Are you concerned with how to get your name out to college students? Consider sponsoring orientation. You can provide food or simply provide cups with your logo on it. Good for one free refill. Sounds simple enough but students will keep those cups long after the free refill and be reminded of your restaurant every time they use it. Make sure that the cup is branded and decent quality. You wouldn’t want your logo to wash off in the dishwasher.

2. If you are still concerned about getting your name out there to students there is always the old standby. Flyers with coupons. It is a tried and true method. 96% of students would be more likely to make a repeat purchase from a brand that offers student discounts. A lot of times college students are trying to stick to a budget and offering them a coupon or student discount increases chances of them picking up the phone or walking through your door.

3. Do you have a design major as part of your staff? Why not utilize their skills to create a snapchat geofilter. For a few dollars you can create a fun filter just for your building. Students using the app, about 100 million people use it every month, will see your filter and possibly use it when sending pictures to their friends. It is a great way to get the word out about your business or any promotions you are running. Taco Bell was one of the first restaurants to jump on the Snapchat ban wagon and have been benefiting ever since.

Teacher’s Pet

Teacher asking her students a question at the elementary school

1. Who can forget about teachers! Back to school is an exciting yet hectic time for them as well. Consider having some promotions geared directly for them, like a free dessert with a valid teacher I.D. Most schools require teachers to have badges, simply ask them to show it and voila a free dessert. Pizza Hut offers 10-20% off your order with a valid teacher I.D.

Chipotle Teacher Deal
2. Or you can run an “Apps for Teacher” promotion. Say that instead of giving the teacher an apple give them a free appetizer. Students or parents can come in and purchase a coupon set at certain price that they can then give to their teacher to redeem for a free appetizer next time they stop in. Teachers will appreciate the change of pace from the usual apple themed gifts. Fast casual giant Chipotle has offered teachers a BOGO deal on burritos.

3. Before students return to school, teachers often have to spend a few days preparing for their arrival. Why not cater a lunch for them? That way next time they are too busy to pack a lunch they will remember your delicious food and give your restaurant a call.

Back to school is a big time of year for not only students, but parents and teachers as well, making it a great opportunity for your business to reach out to the community at large. By reaching out to these three groups through different promotions and marketing techniques, you have the potential to greatly increase sales. Ultimately, you know your business best. Choose a promotion works for you and run with it. Whether it is free apps for teachers or sponsoring a school event, don’t miss out this back to school season.

How to Market Your Restaurant to Millennials: Getting Social

Millennials

United States millennials span the ages of 18-35 and are a force to be reckoned with. This generation, also known as Generation Y, has surpassed the baby boomers (1946-1965) and now number 75.4 million.

Even with millennial numbers increasing, they don’t have control of the market at this point. Baby boomers still hold the buying power in today’s market; almost 50% of retail sales can be traced back to this group. But, millennials’ spending power will only continue to increase as they begin to earn more.

The true difference lies in how these generations communicate with businesses and brands. Generation Y is made up of extremely vocal consumers that are inter-connected and are not afraid to let others know what kind of experience they had at a business.

The millennial generation is often described negatively by their predecessors, but millennials are socially conscious and creative individuals that are becoming an increasing power in the market. This group’s craving for their peers’ opinions can often dictate many buying decisions, including where they choose to eat or drink.

Learning how to market to this rising group should be a priority for restaurant owners. By understanding the mind of a millennial, restaurateurs can uniquely tailor their marketing communications for this generation. Some call them self-oriented or naive, but millennials are changing best practices of the restaurant industry.

Social Media

Social media is an essential tool for restaurant owners to use when marketing to millennials. Restaurants that don’t use some form of technology platform to reach out and interact with customers seem out of date in today’s constantly changing society. Social media can give your business validity to those searching on the internet.

Celebrate what your business has to offer with your social media. Food is a visual commodity. Those who love to eat don’t only want flavorful bites; they want an aesthetically-pleasing experience they can share with others. Tailoring social media to your restaurant, guests, and mission can further brand your restaurant among many. For example, the “food and drink” category on Pinterest is the most pinned and browsed of all the categories and 90% of pinners are saving food and drink recipes on their mobile devices. This is a great indicator that these are items that people have interest in, so cater to it and get guests inspired by your selection.

You can promote events, menu additions, and even new staff on social media to give your business a face. Encourage your guests to check-in, tweet, post, and pin about your restaurant. Restaurants and bars that take the time to create quality content in their social media interactions can increase top of mind awareness and brand recognition. According to the State of Inbound Marketing, social media has a 100% higher lead-to-close rate than traditional outbound marketing. Use that to your advantage!

Although it is on a larger scale, Chipotle does this very well and it is a brand that millennials want to follow on social media to see what they will post next.

Chipotle

Think of your business as a lifestyle brand that you need to promote. Consumers want to learn more about you and your company’s background and be able to relate on a personal level. Whether it’s about the latest rules on food safety or what your lunch specials will be, creative content about your business and its industry makes you an authority on the topic. Millennials appreciate the diverse but relevant subject matter and your business becomes a reliable resource your niche.

Do's and Don'ts of Social Media

Social Experience

Millennials are constantly branding themselves. By sharing their organic mango and black bean salad on social media, this generation expresses more than just what they’re having for dinner. When looked at closely, these actions say this consumer supports the story behind their food and that this is the type of restaurant they frequent.  Millennials brands themselves to coincide with the identity of the business. They are proud of their decision to eat out, and they want to share their experience with others. Of course, an Instagram feed is often a very skewed perception of reality but still presents a rose-colored lens for the rest of the world to take a peek.

Because of this show-all, tell-all way of thinking, millennials are buying experiences at restaurants instead of just food. Restaurants and bars take on a form of escapism where they can get away and have a gastronomic adventure. Going out to eat is seen as an event by millennials, so always try and exceed their expectations with your restaurant practices. For example, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville has risen far above the standards of just being a restaurant chain; it’s now a lifestyle choice. This may seem like an overwhelming feat for a small business but it is possible! Rosarito’s Fish Shack (Williamsburg, New York) does a great job as a single location restaurant that brands themselves as a lifestyle. From its tasty Instagram pictures to the nautical exterior, Rosarito’s Fish Shack transports guests straight to the New England coast for a seaworthy experience.

Be proactive with your customer’s experience by training and communicating with your staff appropriately. A restaurant’s staff can make or break whether customers enjoy their stay. Take the time to show them the over-arching goal of the restaurant and your expectations of the team. How you train and communicate with your staff can be the difference between a good and bad experience for your customers. It is these little things that seem insignificant that truly add up in a consumer’s decision to visit a restaurant again.

Do's and Don'ts of Social Experience

Social Responsibility

Consumers can evoke change in the way that restaurants do business, especially consumers that are as vocal as the millennial generation. This generation is extremely cause-driven and wants to see their patronage to a restaurant have a deeper meaning.

Generation Y customers feel the need for a greater value proposition in purchases; they want to know they are making a difference in the world. As science and communication have improved, sustainable movements have been center on the world’s stage for the lifetime of millennials.

Eco-friendly activities strike a chord with this generation quicker than their predecessors. Millennials want the food and restaurant industry to share these same values.

To narrow down what works the best for your restaurant, you have to know your situation. What’s best for your theme, customer, and price point could be completely different than the restaurant next door to yours. This being said there are lots of ways to improve sustainable practices in your establishment. Use local meat sources, beef up recycling efforts, take steps to reduce food waste, find ways to reduce energy output, and visit farmer’s markets for produce.

Millennials are willing to spend more to support businesses that have these values in mind. Whether this way of thinking is selfish or not, Generation Y makes decisions that will increase self-esteem, which, in this case, works to the benefit of the environment. There are multiple ways for you to get involved in your community while also using it as an edge to market it to millennials. It’s not only social responsible for you to consider local and organic options for your restaurant, it could be lucrative as well.

Do's and Don'ts of Social Responsibility

Social Cause

The millennial generation is a melting pot of beliefs and cultural traditions. The widespread effects of social media have made them more aware of the world around them. This drives millennials to search for a greater purpose of community, which restaurants can get in on as well.

More and more restaurants and businesses are using cause marketing as a strategy instead of just an added bonus when you buy that certain product. This technique is attractive for both business owners to increase patronage and also millennial consumers that have deep interests in bettering the community around them. Cause marketing can inspire people to eat at your restaurant because you stand for something, especially if it is a cause already near and dear to that particular community.

For example, Rosa’s Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia started a movement where for a $1 you can prepay for a pizza slice for a homeless person. Rosa’s has championed single location cause marketing that has reached national recognition, with over 10,000 slices pre-purchased for others. This helped grow and aid the Philadelphia community to be more aware of others.

Another example of restaurants doing good (and through pizza) is the mission behind Malawi’s Pizza. This pizzeria’s “Pizza with a Purpose” tagline promotes the restaurant’s buy one, give one strategy. For each meal purchased here, another is given to a child in Malawi.

Pizza

Both of the restaurants are great cases for the success of what combining cause marketing and community can do. Championing a cause is a great way to actively earn free advertising but also allows customers to feel good about eating or drinking at your place of business.

Cause marketing campaigns can help your restaurant differentiate from your competition and do good deeds at the same time.

Do's and Don'ts of Social Cause

As they grow older and acquire more disposable income, millennials are becoming more of an influence in the restaurant industry. Restaurants need to know how to incorporate this demographic when making decisions. The connection that Generation Y feels for the world around them is unique, and it presents a great opportunity for restaurants to appeal to them. As these millennials become bigger consumers, it will be crucial for restaurateurs to craft their businesses to what is important to this generation.

Mobile Wallet Basics for Restaurants

Mobile Wallet Basics

Your smartphone is again evolving in usefulness.  At a point when you likely can’t imagine not having this device which serves as your phone, computer, planner, and social connection, it can now be your wallet.  In the restaurant industry, this concept poses a new adventure for owners because as with any new technology, the increased appeal to customers creates a massive adoption of the latest fad and convenience.  Your best bet is to become familiar with this concept and decide if you want to jump on the bandwagon to offer this new convenience to your customers.

What is a “mobile wallet”?

Termed “mobile wallet” or “digital wallet”, your smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch becomes the digital equivalent to that bulky wallet you carry around in your purse or back pocket.  Instead of pulling out a credit card to make a purchase, you just pull out your smartphone and pay with it.  This concept offers consumers two main benefits: convenience and security.  These benefits, as explained in a great article called Contactless Payments are Here. Are You Ready? by Brant Schelhaas from Vantiv Integrated Payments, are detailed as follows:

  • Convenience
    • No longer digging through a purse or bulky wallet to find cash or a credit card. Just grab your smartphone for payment.  Smartphones are more readily accessible these days than a card.
  • Security
    • More secure due to the fact that the technology uses encryption to help securely transmit data. Encryption is the process of encoding messages or information in such a way that only authorized parties can read it.
    • The customer never has to hand over a physical card therefore less likely to leave their card behind
    • Many contactless payment methods offer advanced identification technologies, like fingerprint readers
    • Payment networks that process contactless payments have the ability to detect attempts to use the same transaction information more than once
    • Contactless payments do not require the cardholder’s name to be passed between the card and the terminal
    • Many contactless payments do not use the customer’s actual account number when processing a payment

In addition to these customer benefits, Brant Schelhaas discusses the benefits to business owners.

  • Due to the benefits that are offered to customers, there has been and will continue to be a large increase in customer use. For those businesses that accept this new technology that customers are embracing, they will have a competitive edge over those who do not.
  • Contactless payments process faster than traditional payment methods. This means shorter lines and better customer service especially through peak times.
  • Contactless payments make business owners less vulnerable since they do not transmit the customer’s card information to the POS system.
  • Other benefits not listed in the article include:
    • Less wear and tear on your equipment due to no contact
    • Paper receipts are not required (unless requested) so there is less expense for you
    • More focus on selling versus handling cash or a card which can lead to more unplanned purchases
    • Less cash flow through your business

How do mobile wallets work?

A wallet begins with the download of a smartphone app that holds and stores debit, credit, and even loyalty card information for purchases in-store and through any virtual avenue.  Some smartphones already come with a wallet for your convenience but other apps can be downloaded if you prefer to not use the one on your phone. Below is a chart listing and offering basic information about some, but not all, of the best mobile wallets for 2016 ranked from bestcompany.com, an online company who reports real, unbiased reviews based only on consumer ratings, opinions, and experiences.  We have included the top seven of nineteen wallets listed in the article for your review in addition to some other apps on the list that are quite popular and frequently used:

Samsung Pay
  • Payment using a compatible Samsung Galaxy device
  • Swipe up to launch the app, secure with your fingerprint, and hover over the card reader to pay
  • Ability to add membership and loyalty cards
  • High-quality security
Apple Pay
  • Payment using an iPhone, Apple Watch, or iPad
  • Setup is easy with Wallet, preloaded on several apple devices
  • High-quality security with Touch ID
  • If your device is lost or stolen, use Find My iPhone or iCloud to stop the ability to use your phone for purchases
Android Pay
  • Payment using Android devices
  • Ability to add membership and loyalty cards
  • Setup is easy as it comes preloaded on some Android devices
  • High-quality security
  • If your device is lost or stolen, use Android Device Manager to instantly lock your device and secure it with a new password
Moven
  • Available on iOS and Android devices
  • Moven provides a digital bank account paired with an app to help you track your finances in real time and manage your spending
  • Can pair with your current Moven bank account and cards or you can link to your current bank account and cards
Level Up
  • Payment using iPhone, Android or Windows Phone
  • Get an instant digital receipt
  • Offers rewards for use so you can save money when you try new places and upon return
  • Engineered for security
PayPal
  • Pioneer of mobile payments
  • Send and receive payments using your desktop or iOS, Android, or Blackberry device
  • Compatible with lots of apps to make fast payments
  • Send a request for money with an e-mail or phone number
  • High-quality security
  • Free sign up, link bank info, debit and credit cards

 

Other popular apps that are frequently used:

Google Wallet
  • Send and receive money using select Android and iOS devices as well as on your desktop
  • Linked to your debit card or bank account
  • Google Wallet Fraud Protection and a PIN number for protection; high-quality security
  • If your device is lost or stolen, you can instantly remove access to your account at myaccount.google.com
Capital One
  • Payment using select Android or iPhone devices
  • Full access by Capital One credit card customers in good standing.  Capital One Bank and Capital One 360 debit card customers can use the app to receive real-time notifications, digitize gift cards, and view account balances and transactions; Wallet was designed to complement their app.
  • Instant purchase notifications and receipt capture

Once the chosen app is downloaded, the next step is to input personal payment information into the app for future use.  This can easily be done by following the instructions within the app paired with having access to your debit, credit, and/or loyalty card information as well as with your bank account number and routing number.

When loaded up with your personal information, your mobile wallet is ready to use.  Yet, not all stores/restaurants accept contactless payment.  Search on-line or in the app as to find out which establishments accept these types of payments.  Or, ask ahead.  You can also look for the contactless payment symbol within the store or restaurant as shown below.

To complete a mobile wallet transaction, the transaction requires two things:  a smartphone and an industry standard point-of-sale terminal that uses Near-Field Communication (NFC), a wireless connectivity technology that enables devices to communicate.  The smartphone just needs to be placed within 2-4 inches of the terminal and payment is completed.  Most smartphones are now equipped with NFC technology yet not all stores and restaurants have the equipment for this communication.  As time passes, this will most likely change.  With the concept of mobile wallets on the rise, customers are looking for convenience and speed with payments therefore requiring stores and restaurants to conform to these new payment trends.

How can my restaurant start accepting payments with mobile wallets?

With mobile payments on the rise, restaurants are looking to take the steps needed to adopt this new technology.  Here are some steps you can take to get the ball rolling:

Review your average sales traffic, customer base, and demographic area that you serve to determine if contactless payments are right for you.

Contact your payment provider to determine if your current point of sale terminal is already NFC/contactless payment-capable. If it is, ask your provider to enable it so that you can begin accepting contactless payments.  If it is not capable, find out what you need to do and the cost involved in changing out your equipment so that you have the ability to offer contactless payments.

Once the decision is made to offer contactless payments, develop a schedule of implementation and train your employees on how to use the contactless payment equipment and systems. Demonstration is always a great way to train so a mock set up to this process is ideal.  This would also be a great time to test the process to make sure that if any changes need made, they are done before offering it live.

When you are ready to offer contactless payments, it’s time to let your customers know! Send out an e-mail blast, communicate on all of your social media platforms, and order decals for the different payment methods that you are offering to put them up in your establishment’s windows.

These steps may sound simple but the process does take time and effort on your part to adopt.  Your current payment provider will be your biggest asset in this transition so working with them to assist you during your transition is key.

Will you jump on the bandwagon?

Mobile technology has really changed our lives.  Our phones have become more of a need than a desire because of the increased usefulness that it offers to our daily lives.  Because of this, you rarely find anyone without it.  When you add the option of using your phone as a wallet, an even closer attachment to a phone will be found and the benefits that it offers will guarantee it.  As a restaurant owner, will you jump on the bandwagon and accept contactless payments in your restaurant?  It’s a serious option to consider and one that offers benefits all around.

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So You Want To Open a Brewery

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So you’re thinking of starting a brewery. It’ll be simple right? You love beer and you’ve been brewing it at home for a while now, so what could be that different? It turns out quite a bit. We’ve gathered information from interviews and blogs by amateurs turned professional brewers and the things they wish they knew when starting out on their journey.

The Legal Side

One of the most important parts of brewing is realizing that it is a heavily regulated industry and that a brewer needs to be very familiar with the laws regarding brewing and the sale of alcohol. There are national laws as well as local laws that you need to familiarize yourself with before taking the plunge into selling beer. You’ll need to apply for a federal brewing permit with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The application does not cost anything but can take an average of four months to process, so it is best to get started quickly, according to Derek Allen who advises several breweries for his legal firm Ward and Smith, P.A.Paper work

Local licensing is also required if you want to serve beer at your brewery; this includes getting a liquor license, which can take about 45 to 60 days if licenses are available. Some states/municipalities limit the number of liquor licenses based on the population of that area. If licenses are not available you could be waiting for an indeterminate amount of time until one becomes available. Considering selling other goods such as clothing or supplies? You’ll need to file for a retailer license as well.

It is also good to consider the corporate structure of your business. You can determine your corporate structure by taking a look at your financial situation and the number of people founding the business. We recommend speaking with your accountant and determining what structure would work best for your business. You’ll also need an operating agreement. An operating agreement says how the business is going to be run, who will control it, how to resolve disputes, and how new investors will be brought in. That way when the time comes you’ll know exactly how to handle any situation.

You’ll also want to consider the types of insurance needed. “Any manufacturer of beer should have property, casualty, and liability insurance.” Says Allen. Most banks won’t lend to you unless you have all three.

To get your federal brewer’s permit, you’ll also be required to get a brewer’s bond, which is a document ensuring you pay your federal taxes. Again it is best to apply for this as early as possible, so that you can get your business started.

Is your head spinning? Don’t worry there are plenty of entities to help you through this process. Organizations such as the Brewers Association have online resources to help those new to the industry get up and running.

Expenses

Brewery, East Coast Chair & BarstoolStarting a brewery is expensive. Michael Kane of Kane Brewing Company told Cnbc.com “Everything is three times as expensive as you think,” Brewing is a capital intensive business, meaning that excess earnings often need to be poured back into the business. “You’re never really done investing in this business,” said Kane. Start with the expense of applying for different licenses and permits. Some of these can be a $100 and some can be in the $1000’s. Then comes the equipment. One barrel which holds 31 gallons, which is about 320 12-ounce beers, can cost around $100,000. A lot of brewers recommend getting more than one barrel. And that’s just the start.

Essential equipment also includes:

  • Kettles
  • Kegs
  • Boilers
  • Bottling and canning lines
  • Conveyors
  • Cooling systems
  • Storage tanks
  • Fermentation tanks
  • Filters and beer-labeling machines
  • Piping and tubing
  • Refrigeration equipment
  • Cleaning equipment
  • Waste treatment systems
  • Tap handles

Keep in mind the government won’t approve your federal brewing permit until all of your equipment is installed and fully operational so these are expenses that will occur almost as soon as you decide to start your own brewery. Then, once you are up and running, different expenses like paying employees and providing them with benefits begin to become a factor.
If you intend to open up an eat-in area in your brewery, that comes with an entirely new set of costs such as commercial furniture and additional equipment, as well as staff to man that part of the business.

A cost that is often overlooked when creating a budget is flooring. Composite flooring that will withstand impact shock, temperature shock, and acid from the beer can cost upward of $10 per square foot. A new brewery owner is also bound to have a few surprise expenses. So it is good to leave at least a 50% cushion for unexpected costs.

Clean Freak

beer, cleaning, breweryAccording to Collin McDonell of HenHouse Brewing, brewing is 90% cleaning and 10% paperwork. Beer requires a lot of sanitary vessels for the fermentation process, which leaves behind a trail of dirty containers, tools, and instruments. Cleaning is an inevitable part of everyday brewery life.

Not cleaning your equipment can lead to a multitude of growths that can affect your beer production as well as your patrons willingness to come back. Small amounts of leftover yeast can be found on surface areas of parts that are exposed to air. Parts such as faucets, keg couplers, and drains need to be checked for growth. It can be recognized by its white or gray color. Mold can be introduced into a beer system by exposure to the air and is usually brown or black in color. Both of these growths can affect the taste of your beer, as well as the health department’s willingness to allow you to stay open.

Often many of the raw materials in brewing contain calcium which can lead to beer stone. Acids or salts present in hops that are created during the process of changing barley into malt can be combined with cold temperatures which results in a calcium deposit known as a beer stone which can affect taste. While not significantly hazardous to human health, bacteria can effect appearance, aroma and taste of the beer. If your beer has a vinegar or rotten egg smell this could be the cause. It is best to throw that batch out and clean your materials. Having a cleaning schedule for your equipment can help reduce the likeliness of having any of these issues.

Record Keeping

It is important to keep good records when brewing. Even when making huge changes to the recipe, the process often stays the same creating little change in the day to day duties of a brewer. The process can be very repetitive so it is incredibly important to have good records. This will allow you to taste a change in your beer and be able to look at your records and determine what could have facilitated that change. Without records it can be difficult to recreate a beer based only on memory.

Workload

Beer, breweryOwning a brewery isn’t only about having a place to brew and hang out with friends; that can be part of it, but it isn’t all of it. Fermentation is a 24/7 activity that isn’t particularly concerned with your weekend plans. At the heart of it a brewery is still a business. An owner needs to be just as devoted to a brewery, or possibly more devoted, than he would be to any other type of business. It is a lot of work but if it is your passion it will be worth all your effort in the end.

A common thread among brewers is the fact that owning a brewery isn’t what they thought it was going to be, but they love it and want it to be the last job they’ll ever have. Getting started can be complicated and expensive process, but there is plenty of room for growth in the industry. We hope that this has given you some insight into what it really is like to own a brewery. With a vision and a bit of elbow grease you head down the path of becoming a master brewer.