Restaurant Marketing

10 Ways to Improve Your Restaurant’s Menu to Increase Profitability

Improving Your Menu to Increase Profitability

 

1) Take a hard look at your prices.

Pricing products is one of the most difficult things that any business owner has to do. At it’s simplest, you try to calculate prices that will cover your costs and earn enough of a profit to make it worth staying in business. But, what if you’re leaving money on the table by pricing your items too low? Or, vice versa, what if your menu is priced too high and your losing sales volume? Either scenario could effect profitability in a major way.

Developing an optimal pricing strategy is 1/2 art and 1/2 science – entire books have been written on the subject, so it is too complex to cover in detail here. What it boils down to, however, is matching your prices to the value that your customers perceive in your items. If customers perceive that your $12.99 burger with locally raised, grass fed ground chuck represents an appropriate value, they’ll be happy to pay it – regardless of what it costs to make.

So, how can you gauge your customers’ perceptions of value and price accordingly? Start with your direct competition. Are they pricing the same burger for $8? If so, then, all other things being equal, they’re probably stealing some of your sales. On the other hand, if they’re pricing it at $15, then there may be an opportunity for you to raise your price a little and increase your profitability.

2) Eliminate the clutter

Do you have items on your menu that just don’t sell? Does your menu have so many items on it that you have to use a small, hard to read font in order to fit it all in? If you answered yes to either of these questions, consider ridding your menu of the clutter. Of course you want to keep your classics, customer favorites, and high profit items, but it may just be time to get rid of the rest. Too much on your menu will overwhelm your customers, create a large amount of inventory that you will end up throwing away, and leave you with increased labor costs, all of which reduces profitability.

To combat the clutter, consider recommendations made by O’Dell Restaurant Consulting, a company that offers restaurant consulting services. They recommend taking your sales mix report and eliminating the bottom half of the items; the ones that aren’t selling. Then, take the top half and really evaluate where in your kitchen these items are prepared, using that to organize and balance your menu. For example, have a grilled items section, sautéed selections, fried foods, etc. O’Dell suggests no more than 20 main course dishes, including sandwiches, 4-6 starters, and 2-3 salads. If you have pizza on your menu, it is suggested to make up 2/3 of your main course selections and you should only offer it in a maximum of 3 sizes. You should still accommodate special requests but have a special price for those requests. Cleaning up your menu and getting rid of the clutter will give your customers better food and better service in addition to allowing your restaurant to serve more people.

3) Try a new design.

A fresh perspective and a new look to your menu is a great way to upgrade your brand and improve profitability. Consider investing in the services of a graphic designer or a marketing professional who can use their tricks of the trade to make your menu more attractive and eye catching. Or, look into online companies who offer professional templates, like Vistaprint, to complete this task on your own. Regardless of who does it, design does make a difference. It’s all about the text font and size, the illustrations and images, colors used, and even the shape, thickness, and texture of your menu. It’s also about making sure that your final menu fits in with the concept and atmosphere of your restaurant.

4) Change up your descriptions.

The way you describe your menu items makes a difference. Keep your menu descriptions short but offer descriptive terms that highlight their taste, uniqueness, or ingredients. The tastier it sounds, the more interest there will be in ordering it. If this isn’t your forte, consider hiring a professional copywriter or marketer to assist you with this task. You can find freelance professionals who do this type of work at www.upwork.com.

5) Consider item placement and positioning.

When organizing your menu, here are a few fun facts that may be helpful to increase sales…According to SoftCafe, a developer of menu software for restaurants, customers often remember and order the first two items and the last two items in each category on your menu. On a tri-panel menu, people look at the center panel first and move their attention counter clockwise. Place your highest margin items in these areas, and you could see a substantial increase in profitability.

6) Add fresh into the mix.

Food trends have moved into organic, fresh, and healthier options. Offering “fresh” items on your menu not only sounds attractive to your customers, but can also be a selling point for your restaurant. Supporting the local economy and having healthier options for your customers is good for the environment, good for the local economy, and can make you stand out from other restaurants. In addition, customers are willing to pay a little more for ingredients that are fresh, local, and healthy with an even better taste.

7) Offer specials.

Customers will come to your restaurant not only looking for deals, but also for menu items that they can’t get anywhere else. Consider a specials menu or insert with your regular menu that you change out every so often to push high margin items. A great example of a company that utilizes this strategy is Red Lobster, which has different, short lived, specials like Shrimp Fest, Crab Fest, and Lobster Fest at various times of year.

Play up seasonal offerings during the holidays or offer certain items related to commercialized events like the Super Bowl or the premier of a popular television show in your area. Specials keep your menu interesting and they can even allow you to use up inventory that might otherwise go to waste.

8) Don’t forget photos.

When possible, try to include photos that offer your customers a visual presentation of your food. Some people are visual decision makers; they will see an item and order it because the picture intrigued them. Consider highlighting your popular menu items, a new or featured item, or even something that is a long time classic. With these photos, be sure the images are sharp ones with a professional look. But, don’t go overboard. Too many images can be overwhelming and can look chaotic. Plus, it’s okay to have white space; it gives your customer’s eyes a chance to rest. Applebee’s does a great job of using photos on their menu to entice their customers.

9) Make your menu easily accessible.

In this day and age, people want information in an instant and make their decisions based on the information available to them. Included in this is your restaurant’s menu. Your goal is to get that information to your customers as soon as possible. Yes, you can make sure that your menu is on the table when each customer is seated or that the hostess hands each patron a copy of it when they first sit down. You can even offer a menu on the wall in the waiting area for your customers to read. But, one of the best ways to offer your menu even before any customer walks in is online through a mobile friendly website, app, or on any of the social media sites. When customers can access your menu from anywhere, it may just be the deciding factor that pulls their cars into your parking lot. And when paired with the recommendations above, you’ll be sure to see the profits of your efforts.

10) Consider your customer.

Who is your customer and what would appeal to them? When your restaurant menu appeals to each customer, especially the news ones, they’ll surely return for more. For example, if your business caters to families, offer a separate kids menu. If your restaurant is located in a college town, offer pricing that appeals to the average college student. Or, if you have an upscale restaurant, offer a menu that caters to your customer in both variety on your menu and in design.

Instagram for Your Restaurant: How to #DoItTheRightWay

Social media is everywhere. Everyone has an account on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram that they use on a daily basis. These avenues not only keep us connected with others, but they also help us find people and places in an instant. And let’s face it, instant gratification is now the way of the world.

Let’s narrow this social media frenzy down to just one platform; Instagram. Instagram has gained millions on followers in the last couple of years and it is turning into the platform of choice for many. Why? We think you will agree that pictures and videos are way more interesting than reading a post. Plus, with cell phones seemingly attached to everyone’s hip these days, it’s quicker to share a picture or video than to actually write a post for your followers to read.

Now, let’s even narrow it a little bit more to focus solely on Instagram use for restaurants. Do you have an Instagram account for your restaurant? If so, are you using it in such a way that you are creating a buzz or traffic into your establishment? Whether you’re just starting out or have been using Instagram for some time now, let us share some tips we learned from Katrina Padron, founder of Padron Social Marketing, at the National Restaurant Association trade show. These tips are great ways to fine tune your account and make your restaurant stand out.

Posting pictures and/or videos

Best practices suggest that restaurants commit to posting one picture every day. In the chaos called life, we know that can pose some difficulty unless you have a designated person to do the work. If posting every day is not possible, try to at least post five times a week. To help you save time with all of these posts, you might want to consider a scheduling tool to plan out your posts. One such tool is an app called latergramme. With this app, you can sit down once a week and plan out which pictures or videos to post and when you want to post them. The app even sends you a notification when your picture or video is scheduled to post with instructions to follow on how to go live with your content.

Timing

The timing of your post is a big deal. In order to figure out what the best times are to post on Instagram, Katrina recommended checking out a great website called iconosquare.com. Iconosquare will link to your Instagram account and show you analytics as to when your account performs the best. It will also show you what photo filters work best by most likes or comments and which hashtags are performing the best, among other analytics. If you aren’t interested in hopping onto this website to get all of this great information, Katrina suggested posting between 7am and 8am in the morning or before bedtime. But, remember to always think about your target market before choosing these times.

Photo quality

No one likes looking at a photo or video that is fuzzy or blurry. It just isn’t appealing and can even hurt your eyes. Always post clear, crisp quality photos and/or videos. Offering quality shots will make your posts more interesting, hold attention longer, give clarity to mobile users, and add to your business’s professional look. More importantly, it will make your posts more memorable.

Make it interesting

In addition to posting quality photos, it’s important that they are visually interesting as well as full of good content. You can do this several ways:

  • Mix it up. Of course you want to show everyone your delicious looking menu items, like a beautifully presented dinner plate, a decadent desert, or a fresh salad with toppings galore. But, consider sharing more of your business than just food. Add additional content to help your customers learn more about you and your business to create a connection between you and the customer. This connection is often what your customers are seeking. For example, include images of the front line, the kitchen, your walk in cooler, your employees hard at work, an image of your establishment from the outside, your outdoor dining space, etc. The ideas are endless.
  • Use interesting camera angles. Try taking overhead pictures, low shots, or cross angled shots from the side. These angles are catchy and often pull the viewer in, keeping them engrossed for longer than the typical photo or video.
  • Consider the Rule of Thirds when taking photos. The Rule of Thirds is a basic rule in the photography world that divides an image visually into a grid. This grid creates nine symmetrical squares with intersections where the grid lines cross. The points of crossing are the places where it is recommended to place the main content of the image that you are trying to take. It offers a more engaging photo as well as one that has a better balance.
  • Build height with your photos. Adding height to your photos is a great way to pull customers in. Let’s say you are taking a picture of a burger. Add height to the burger by adding layers of lettuce, tomato, and cheese in between a puffy bun to make it taller. Even visualizing this, especially if you are a burger lover, creates a desire to eat one. The image of this tall scrumptious burger will entice your followers even more than the words.
  • Use vibrant colors and backgrounds with props rather than a plain white color. Take photos of food items like fruits and vegetables that naturally have a colorful palette. In addition, add props into the background of your photos like table linens, silverware, ingredients used to make the item, or a wine bottle. Items like these will add a little something extra to your photo to create that visual appeal.
  • Use a photo editing tool. These tools let you play with exposure, highlights, and cropping while offering filters that will brighten, soften, or change the color of your photo. After you choose a photo, Instagram does offer some editing within the app that you can use, but there are additional apps that offer more options with photo editing that are worth checking out. One such photo editing tool that Katrina uses is called Afterlight and it can be found in the app store for a small fee. There are so many other tools that you can purchase for free; it’s just a matter of downloading it and trying it to see which ones work best for you.

Comments

When you post a picture or video on Instagram, you have the opportunity to make a comment with your post. You may think to yourself, “What am I going to say?” A great idea starter when this happens comes from a one page form called A Case of the Blahs, also found on the Padron Social Marketing website. It includes 50 prompts to get your mind moving so that you can post a comment that achieves likes and interaction with your customers. Katrina recommends that you offer a comment with each picture or video that you post as a way of interacting with your followers and customers. And, don’t forget to add the hashtag, our next topic to discuss.

Hashtags

Hashtags are words or phrases preceded by the number or pound sign that offer a way to categorize content. This categorization makes it easier for people to search for information and join conversations on a certain topic. They have gained extreme popularity in the last few years on all social media platforms and you see them all over the internet. On Instagram, it is recommended for businesses to only post up to 3 hashtags per post and to use ones that are unique to your business. Consider hashtags that are important to your community and use them as a way to interact with other people and businesses in your area. Also, find hashtags that are popular on Instagram to add to your posts. You can find popular hashtags by clicking on the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of your Instagram app on your mobile device and search for whatever topic or image your photo/video offers. Hashtags are a new concept and can be hard to understand but when used correctly, can bring more attention to your posts.

Instagram-MenuAdditional Recommendations

In addition to the information above, here are some additional recommendations you may want to consider:

  • Instagram offers information just for businesses like how to get started, finding customers, sharing brand photos, using hashtags in addition to an Instagram for Business blog. Check out Instagram for Businesses online to gather information that will allow you to take full advantage of this platform for your bar or restaurant.
  • Consider making the content on your business Instagram account different from the content on your other social media accounts. If the same content is on every feed, people will tune out. Use each platform for a different reason or to cater to different groups of customers.
  • Instagram doesn’t just have to be all about photos and videos of food from your restaurant. Aaron Allen & Associates, a global restaurant consulting company, offers a blog article called 10 Great Ways to Use Instagram for Restaurant Marketing. They suggest using it as a tool for contests, interactive menus, odd and interesting photo opportunities, behind the scenes looks, or community and culture awareness.    For additional ideas, check out other restaurant’s Instagram accounts to spark your creativity.

Instagram is a great tool for businesses, especially for restaurants looking for a way to market themselves in the social media world. When used correctly, it’s a popular avenue to tell your story and create a buzz that brings your customers in to enjoy your menu.

Things That Make Em’ Go Mmmm! The Art of Creating “Craveability”

Craveability

 

Did you know that 76% of consumers crave a food first, and then select a restaurant based on that craving? As restaurant owners, this is a very valuable statistic because it means an opportunity to position your establishment at the front of consumers’ minds and drive them through your doors.  So, with such a high percentage of people making decisions on where to eat based on a craving, how can you make your menu items more craveable?  We’ve put together a short list of the essential factors that will have customer’s mouths watering at the very thought of your dishes.

What exactly is Craveability?

Craveability is an adjective that means having qualities that produce an intense desire for more. It usually relates to food and is often associated with items that are filled with salt, sugar, and fats. As of late, these specific ingredients have been the blame for food addictions and the ever increasing overweight population, encouraging restaurant owners to offer healthier options. We’re happy to report that there are healthier ingredients and foods, along with other non-food related ways, that restaurants can use to create the craveability that brings customers into their establishment.

Smell can create craveability.Aroma

Have you ever been captivated by the aroma of fresh baked bread when you walked into a bakery? Or taken aback by the smell of pizza in the oven at your favorite pizza parlor? It can stop you in your tracks. It excites you and taps into your emotional cues making you want that bread or pizza even more than you did when you pulled up in your car. Offering menu items that have a distinct aroma, or ingredients that stimulate our sense of smell, can really leave a lasting impression with patrons and keep them coming back for more.

SmokerPreparation

The way you prepare your food can be a great way to trigger a customer’s craving. Customers might walk through your doors for the flavor of your grilled or fried foods, but run through your doors for something that is slow-roasted, wood fired, or braised. Many of today’s diners are more educated in the different ways to prepare food thanks to shows like Top Chef, Chopped, and The Chew.  It isn’t uncommon for hardcore foodies to visit a restaurant simply because the food is prepared differently than what they are used to.  Experiment with new cooking techniques, flavors, textures, and plating options until you hit on that highly craveable combination.

pumpkin pieSeasonality

Every season offers up some type of highly craveable food. It’s safe to say that during the summer, we all want ice cream. During the fall, thoughts of pumpkin pie makes our mouth water. In winter, the idea of a big hearty bowl of chili or soup really warms us up. And in spring, the taste of fruits and produce are so refreshing.  Offering specialty items on your menu that are popular during different seasons is a great way to bring customers through your doors.

mac and cheeseNostalgia

Just think about a food that you ate when you were a kid. When you think of it, you are probably also thinking about people, things, and/or experiences that take you back those “good ‘ol days”, which is why these types of foods are known as “comfort foods”.  Every time you eat a nostalgic food, you are taken back to that time, and you crave it more because it is associated with a good memory.

As a restaurant owner, playing on nostalgia by serving comfort foods can give you a built in advantage because consumers already demand them.  But, you have to be careful because these foods hold special places in patrons hearts, so you will have a high satisfaction bar to clear.

Hibachi GrillExperience

You can drive craveability by creating an experience for your customers when they walk in the door. Whether it’s by creating a novel environment or re-imagining the traditional dining process, the experience your customers crave can bring them in. Consider the experiences you are offered at popular restaurants like The Melting Pot, Rainforest Café, or the Hibachi station at a Japanese Restaurant. Dipping various treats in chocolate fondue with your spouse on an intimate date is an experience. Having lunch within an indoor rainforest while thunder crashes around you and animals belt out sounds is an experience. Interacting with the chef at a Japanese restaurant while he flips a shrimp up in the air and catches it in his hat is an experience.

Now we’re not suggesting that you go out and buy a sound machine or start practicing your juggling skills – you can opt for something much more subtle than that.  The point is that opportunities to create a remarkable experience for your customers abound, and building a lasting memory is one of the best ways to get customers back in your door.

lambAppearance

The appearance of your food has a huge impact on craveability. Presenting foods that offer vibrant colors and a variety of textures can trigger cravings.  Don’t be afraid to experiment with fruits, vegetables and side dishes that add a colorful flair to the dish, but only when it makes sense to pair it with the main item.

Staging your food properly can also have a significant effect.  Remember that craveability is as much about psychology as it is flavor.  Think of yourself as an interior decorator, and the plate is your space.  If the colors clash, or if all of the elements run together, then the effect will be as unappealing as a poorly decorated room.  On the other hand, a great looking plate can actually enhance the taste of the food and leave your customers wanting more.

crab-legsLimited Availability

If you are the only restaurant in town that makes a unique menu item, people are sure to seek you out. Likewise, if you only offer a menu item once a month and it’s one that creates a buzz, people will fill your seats.

Plan your menu around these limited offerings throughout the year by adding different dishes that pair with holidays or events, like a specific fish offering during lent or a platter of popular appetizers for the Super Bowl game. You’ll find that the limited availability of menu items may very well boost cravings which will in turn boost your sales.

pizzaCategory

Ever wonder why there is a pizza restaurant on just about every corner in the US?  Or, why every ice cream shop seems to have a line around the building?  It’s because these are inherently craveable foods which, whether through decades of marketing, the nostalgia factor, or some other reason, customers tend to seek out on a regular basis.  Foods in some categories just tend to be more craveable than others, and that craveability creates built in demand that can drive customers into your restaurant.

While you don’t have to turn your bar and grille into a pizza and ice cream shop, it might not be a bad idea to experiment with new menu items that fall into one of the most craveable categories (pizza, pasta, desserts).  Even if it is just a highly craveable appetizer or dessert that brings customer’s through your door, it will give you the opportunity to sell them on some of your traditional menu items.

chipotle-adTell Your Story

Last but certainly not least, people crave a great story. How did you get started in your business? Why do you source all of your products locally? Why are you in this business? In today’s world, people are looking for a connection and are willing to support a good story before they support a cold purchase. The buzzwords “quality”, “freshness”, and “value” that a lot of restaurants chime into are everywhere, but your story isn’t.  Take Chipotle, for example, which has built one of the fastest growing restaurant chains in the world around the story of “Food with Integrity”, which means using responsibly farmed products.  Without a great story, the company would be another burrito chain in a sea of competitors; however, they’ve been able to use their story to create a unique position in the market that separates them from other chains and adds to their overall craveability.

Everyone has cravings. More often than not, these cravings are driving people to seek out foods that satisfy the taste or the experience that makes them want more. Restaurants can benefit from these cravings if their menu has that one special item that customers need to have. Utilizing these tips to drive craveability into your restaurant is worth the effort to keep your customers fulfilled while your chefs are cooking, your wait staff is hopping, and your doors are constantly revolving.

SnagaStool Helps Bars Boost Traffic with Online Bar Stool Reservations

SnagaStoolWould you like to fill up your bar stools during off-peak periods?  Or guarantee a packed house during the big game?  A start-up company out of Boston is offering a service they say is similar to OpenTable but for bar stools.

“It started when the Bruins were in the playoffs.  I offered to pay someone to sit in their seat at the bar, because it was so crowded,” explains CEO and Co-founder Jamie Manning. “When I get to a bar, I like to sit right at the bar facing the big screens, rather than at a table or standing behind someone.”

Knowing the frustrations of being a guy who just wants to find an empty bar stool at the bar, Manning came up with the idea of using an app to reserve a stool before arriving at the bar.

“People are willing to pay for that privilege,” says Manning. “Bars can determine how many and which stools to assign as SnagaStool stools based on supply and demand principles, and then use our service to increase their profits.”

SnagaStool shares the premium snag profits with the bar in a 50/50 split and is currently working out other “bundle” packaging opportunities to entice more bars to accept stool reservations.

“We are still in our pilot program,” explains Manning. “We want to work with our bar partners to come up with the best type of service for their patrons and to increase their profits.”

In addition to stool reservations, they are experimenting with offering pre-sale “tickets” during premium time slots (e.g., championship games), bundling a stool with meal packages (i.e., reserve your stool…and burger, too!), as well as allowing the bar to offer special promotions (e.g., half off appetizer) during the off-peak times.

“I worked in the bartending industry for years and designed the service to improve the interaction between bartender and customer,” says Manning.

Bars simply put the SnagaStool tent on the stools that can be reserved or are waiting for their reservation to show up.  Then, people who have a stool reservation just check in with the bartender by showing the confirmation on their mobile device, and the bartender shows them their stools!

Bars in Massachusetts and Florida are already participating, and SnagaStool is signing up new bar partners to join in on this service.  If you’re a bar interested in running promotions to your customer base using SnagaStool, visit them online at SnagaStool.com.

 

What’s New in Restaurant Website Design

Restaurant Website

When was the last time you turned a critical eye toward your restaurant website? Is it attracting the customers you want? If you haven’t refreshed your site in the past few years, consider these helpful tips:

  • Put the most important information front and center. Think of what’s important, and place it in a prominent position. Usually, customers are looking for hours, maps, directions, menus, reviews, specials, and coupons. All of this information should stand out or be easy to find on your site—if it’s not on your home page, it should be no more than one click away.
  • Your website must be mobile-friendly. With nearly half of all websites being viewed by tablets, smart phones, and other devices, your website must seamlessly condense into a site that is easy to navigate while still offering information from your regular site.
  • Update your design. Your website’s design should match the dining experience. If you own an upscale, intimate restaurant, your site’s design should complement it. Colors should be muted, the font used should be inviting, and the overall look should be chic. If your restaurant is a neighborhood staple that’s kid friendly, then your website can use larger graphics, brighter colors, and a friendly look.
  • Your website must be social-media friendly. Be sure that anyone who finds your website can be transported to your Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, and Pinterest pages with just a click. It’s an easy way for someone to share their great experience at your restaurant. These icons should be at both the top right or left of each page—and place them at the bottom of each page, too. (But don’t make the mistake of replacing your website with a Facebook page; you need both!)
  • Show off your food! Whether you prepare organic items with a monthly chef’s table, or dole out down-home BBQ, you want to make your customers’ mouths water. Hire a professional photographer who has experience taking shots of food and display them on a graphics rotater on your site.
  • Consider developing an app. A restaurant app can deliver information quickly and concisely. Since many people have smart phones, an app can be used to build your brand through an experience that gives potential and current customers what they need—immediately. Offer coupons and specials that are only available with the app, and soon you’ll have a new way of connecting with your diners!  Click for other ways to incorporate technology into your restaurant.
  • And, of course, make sure that your website is optimized for SEO (search engine optimization) so that potential diners can easily find you through an Internet search. Content, design, and SEO will deliver local and regional customers right to your doorstep.  Click for more tips on how to get found fast online.

 

How to Set up an OpenTable Reservation Facebook App

These days, it’s all about your customer’s convenience. They want to be able to reach you, find your menu, see your location, take a picture of what they’re eating and drinking, and then post a review for everyone to see.

That can all be done through social media, because last year Facebook and OpenTable, a restaurant reservation website, paired up to introduce a reservations system on a restaurant’s Facebook page using their mobile device’s Facebook App. It’s perfect, because according to Facebook, more than 654 million users access Facebook every day from a mobile device. Facebook also says that it has 1.07 billion monthly active users who look at Facebook using their mobile device. Even if the Facebook user doesn’t have the OoenTable app on their phone, they can still see it under the tab and use it to reserve a table at your restaurant.

Setting Up an OpenTable Tab is Easy
Here’s a step-by-step guide to setting up your OpenTable Reservation tab on your Facebook page.

  1. First, you must be using OpenTable. If you aren’t, go here to set it up. Once you are set up, you’ll receive an OpenTable account number.
  2. Your restaurant must have a Facebook Business page, and you must be the administrator of that page. (If you don’t have a Facebook Business page, go to this link to learn how to set up one.)
  3. Follow the instructions for a restaurant with a single location or instructions for a restaurant with multiple locations. These documents will show you how to add reservations to your wall posts and then how to add the reservation application to your Facebook Business page. You will now have a new tab that will say “Book a Table” in both a desktop website and a mobile website. This is what it looks like on an iPhone:

OpenTable

 

Notice that the phone screen will show reservation times you already have listed in your OpenTable account, and that your customers can choose the date, time, and party size, just like on the OpenTable website. When they press a button with the proper time on it, their contact information that is already stored in Facebook will appear, which will allow you to contact them to confirm the reservation.

Promoting Your New Facebook Online Reservation System
Now that you have the OpenTable tab set up, you should start promoting it. Add some text to your website and write a blog about how this new tab works. On your Facebook page, tell your fans how easy it is to make reservations now—right from their mobile device! You may want to pay to have that post boosted so that it reaches all of your fans, and you can also direct Facebook to find potential customers within a 10-mile or more radius and within a certain age range. In your restaurant, set out cards or other marketing materials that will let your customers know that they now have a convenient option for online reservations.

This is one of the easiest changes that you can make—it shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes. If you don’t already use OpenTable, you may want to consider it. Integrating a reservation system with the Facebook app will help drive customers to your restaurant!

Easy Tips To Create Fabulous Cinco de Mayo Promotions

If you’re looking for a fun and effective marketing promotion that’s sure to attract customers, maybe it’s time to create a new tradition using a popular holiday that’s become a springtime favorite around the country—Cinco De Mayo, the fifth of May.

 

Invite Your Customers to a Cinco de Mayo Party

Cinco de Mayo Promotions for Bars and RestaurantsThis Mexican holiday, celebrated mostly in the United States, has been popular in the southwest for a long time, but has been slowly spreading across the rest of the country for the past few decades. Even if your restaurant doesn’t normally serve Mexican food, you can still create a fun day (or weekend event) that will pack the customers into your place! Here’s what you can for Cinco de Mayo:

Food specials. There are many different kinds of Mexican cuisine that you can make: enchiladas, tacos, burritos, and fajitas. While it may not be your restaurant’s usual fare, maybe pick one or two dishes that you can make quickly and easily to tie in with your Cinco de Mayo promotion. Consider free food promotions, too. Create a mini taco station or nacho station with some fixings like cheese, beans, and ground beef, or hand out complimentary chips and salsa. If you have an outdoor area, consider setting up some food tents that carry different Mexican specialties, and include some drink pairings, too.  Be sure to have folding tables on hand in advance to set up your event stations.

Drink specials. Of course, Mexican-themed beers and other alcoholic beverages, like margaritas, should be on tap. Dos Equis, sangria, and tequila are all good choices. Give everyone a special price on these drinks on May 5—maybe tie in the number “5” into the prices ($5 margaritas, 3 beers for $5).

Music and dance. Featuring live bands and DJs is a Cinco de Mayo tradition. A mariachi band or tejano music will add to the atmosphere. Many bands enjoy getting a restaurant’s patrons involved by teaching them some short songs and dances, handing out maracas, and asking everyone to sign and dance along.

Family events. This year, Cinco de Mayo is on a Monday, which means that many places will be running weekend events to celebrate. During the day, attract families with the promise of face painting, small sombreros, maracas, and children’s Mexican dances.

 

Larger-scale Cinco De Mayo Celebrations

If there are other restaurants or bars in the area that are also running Cinco de Mayo specials, you may want to run a block party with an outdoor stage, different bands and singers, and games and prizes.

Remember to promote your Cinco de Mayo event on your website, and also by using social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Offer Facebook coupons or “check-in” specials so that your customers’ friends know just where they’re going to be on Cinco de Mayo. The fifth of May is a great way to bring in new customers before the summer season starts!

From Restaurateur to Caterer: How to Add Catering to Your Restaurant Business

Start a Catering BusinessOne of the most common ways that restaurants increase their profits is by introducing catering to their overall business strategy. When people try and gush over your food at a catered event, they’ll be more likely to come to your restaurant for a meal, and your lines of business will benefit from one another. You already have a location, kitchen, menu, staff, and customers, so adding a catering business can be a positive change for your bottom line. Be sure to follow these tips if you’re considering this kind of venture:

Determine your level of service. Positioning yourself as a full-service caterer or as a pick-up caterer will establish the kind of business that you want to promote. Many wedding caterers distinguish themselves from similar businesses by setting up and decorating guests’ tables, providing waiters and bar tenders, and cleaning up after the event. Find out what other caterers provide to their clients, review their pricing, and then use that information to determine if your catering business fills a definite need in your area.

Location, location. Do you want to be an off-site only caterer, or would you like to also have an on-site area for guests? If your restaurant already has a banquet room or if you can set aside some space for a dedicated room, consider on-site catering. Bringing in groups of people who will be dining on a pre-determined menu not only gives you the opportunity to dazzle more people, but allows you to streamline your menu items and use certain ingredients for both your catering and restaurant menus. 

Create a catering menu. While drawing from the same ideas that are on your regular menu, your catering menu will likely not be identically the same as the one you use in your restaurant.

  1. First, think about the kind of catering business that you would like to have. Do you see yourself as a gourmet wedding caterer? Do you plan on serving sandwiches at corporate events? Is your niche more along the lines of home-cooked picnic food? Think about what image you want to project.
  2. Next, begin creating menu items that are similar to your restaurant meals. If you’re known for locally-sourced food, especially during the summer time, then you may be thinking of catering items that showcase fruits, vegetables, and starches or protein from your area. If you’re a coastal restaurant, that could mean a seafood-based catering menu with fresh-caught specialties.
  3. Finally, don’t forget your signature menu items. If your restaurant has a tried-and-true favorite, be sure to offer your best sellers on your catering menu, too. 

Allocate resources to maximize profits. Make sure that you review the food that you are buying for your restaurant and how that can be used for your catering, too. As we said above, your catering menu is likely to have the same flavor as your in-restaurant menu. But, you will also have to think of how much longer it will take to make large quantities of food and the additional staff you’ll need to cook and deliver the order, plus additional transportation costs if it’s required for your style of catering.

A catering business is a wonderful way to advertise your restaurant, and your restaurant is the perfect vehicle for promoting your catering. The two work hand-in-hand to increase your customer base and encourage loyalty to your business. Devise a business model that makes sense for your restaurant and let everyone know that you’re there to cater their next event!

Get Found Fast Online: The Importance of Google Knowledge Graph Carousel and Google Plus for Restaurants

As a restaurant owner, you know how important it is to attract customers through online efforts, including an attractive website, testimonials and reviews, online menus and specials, and a blog.  You work hard to build a strong online portfolio in order to drive patrons to your tables and chairs.

Now, it’s time to turn your attention to important Google products that will increase your search rankings. In return, these products provide some helpful information to both current and potential customers.

Google Changes the Search Game Again

You’ve probably typed your restaurant’s or bar’s name into Google to see where you rank, but try a slightly modified search:  enter in the words “restaurant” or “bar” and then your city. This search produces a results page that looks a bit different. Now, you’re going to see a list of establishments, plus pictures or maps, that runs across the top of the page. You can scroll through this list to see what businesses show up. When you click on one, you’ll see their business hours, contact information, the address, a price list, and even a menu and reviews. Because restaurant goers may be searching in this manner for a Google recommendation, you need to know where your restaurant falls.

Below the main search results page is a map that shows the general location that you entered with locations of restaurants in the area, and a list of search results. These results are pushed down the page because of the information at the top, forcing searchers to scroll down.  In other words, you should make sure that your business information shows at the top of the page to make it easy to find—right away.

If you’re not showing up where you’d like to, there are a few things you can do to improve your search engine optimization, or SEO.

A Google Plus Account Is Your Friend

Google Plus for RestaurantsSo make sure that this visual search works in your favor:

  • Create a Google Plus account for yourself and one for your business. Google loves ranking its own products, so a social media and networking product like Google Plus (sign up here for free) is a must have. It allows you to connect to others and categorize them in different groups, called ‘Circles’, that you create using terms like “customers,” “employees,” “suppliers,” “marketing” and more. Just like any form of social media, it’s most effective when it’s updated frequently and shared with others.
  • Make sure you have updated content and images. Your Google Plus account should have great content. That includes interior and exterior pictures of your business, pictures of your food, new and daily menus, information about your chef or staff, coupons, and specials. If you’ve read a great article or blog, share it with others in your circles. Better yet, write a great article or blog that you know others would find interesting, then link your content to your Google Plus profile or Google Plus business page. As your Circles grow, your byline will define you as an expert in your field.

A Blog Means Business

Make sure that your website has a blog! Why? A blog can be updated frequently—some restaurants update theirs three times a week—and it creates fresh content that can be searched and shared.  Google likes to see new content on your domain, and a blog can be an excellent PR tool to sharing interesting information to your social media channels, customers, and community members.  To take it another step further, link your blog to your Google Plus account through what Google calls authorship.  Quality blogging may help your restaurant get found more quickly in online searches.

Keeping your content fresh and your site updated is time consuming—but it’s a very important factor in your search results.

Win Moms & Dads Over with Family Friendly Restaurant Marketing

She cuts out of work early to pick up her youngest from daycare and heads to a soccer game for her oldest, followed by a stop at the store to pick up the middle child’s last-minute request for the perfect dinosaur toy to add to the science diorama that’s due in class tomorrow. And she hasn’t even thought about what’s for dinner. Even though there’s a cafe right beside the store she’s rushing through, this mom is willing to drive a few miles down the road to go to one of the restaurants she knows will cater to her…and her kids.

Is your restaurant going to be the one that saves her day?

 

Delighting Kids and Their Grown-Ups

Little girl eatingAttracting families with kids is smart, since they make up about half the population. According to The Restaurant Mom, a marketing consultant for kid-friendly restaurants, parents who are satisfied with their family experience at your restaurant will talk you up to their friends or social networks.  And scoring that word-of-mouth promotion is easier than you think.  Follow these tips to become the dinnertime superhero for families in your neighborhood.

  1. Be clean.  From the highchairs to the bathrooms and, of course, the restaurant tables themselves, germ-phobic moms are looking for a safe, tidy environment to serve their kids meals.
  2. Appreciate dads, too.  Are there changing tables in the men’s bathroom, or do you have a family restroom?  Consider what you can do to make it easier on a mom or a dad dining out with young kids.
  3. Seat quickly. Minimize wait times, but when there is a line at the door, find ways to keep families occupied until their table is ready.
  4. Provide kid-friendly seating. Have a supply of highchairs and booster seats, and consider a few anchored restaurant booths against a wall, where adults can corral their little ones. Some family restaurants even have a play area with children’s furniture.
  5. Talk to everyone.  Sure, you want to make Mom and Dad feel like family, but don’t forget the tots. Your waitstaff should be making eye contact and directly interacting with everyone at the table – even those whose feet don’t reach the floor.
  6. Entertain the kiddos.  Have a supply of games (Cracker Barrel has a peg game on every table) or books to keep youngsters occupied. If you pass out crayons and an activity sheet, you should change your activity sheet every other week so families who come in regularly always get a new sheet to complete.  QR codes placed on the sheet linking to branded kid-friendly content, games, or apps are often a hit, because kids love a reason to use their parent’s smartphone (and families may download your app for use when they’re not at your restaurant!)  Many pizzerias will allow kids to play with pizza dough as they wait for their pies to bake.  What’s the best entertainment you can offer kid guests?
  7. Serve kids first.  Not only should you deliver drinks and a snack immediately (e.g., dinner rolls, fruit, or crackers for each child), but you should ask the parents if they want the kids’ meals (which usually take less time to prepare) to come out first.
  8. Give a treat.  Offer a free cookie or scoop of ice cream to kids after their meal (just ask the parents first to make sure it’s OK!)
  9. Discount for good behavior.  Some restaurants actually frown on youngsters dining in their establishment, but you are smart enough to know that kids who have been seated quickly, entertained, and well fed are going to act like princes and princesses when they come into your place. Thank the parents for allowing you to serve their family meal with a surprise discount on their receipt for good behavior when the visit has been exceptionally pleasing for the family, your staff, and other restaurant patrons.

 

Creating a Children’s Menu

If you think kids just want hot dogs and chicken tenders, you’re stuck in 1989.  Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re creating a kid-approved menu.

  1. Hot dogs, chicken nuggets alone won’t cut it anymore.  Sure, those are basic staples to any kids’ menu, but today’s parents are exposing their children to a wider palette of tastes.  Many children don’t mind eating salads, shrimp, steaks, or even ethnic favorites.  Consider adding junior-sized portions of your best-selling menu items; kids will feel mature eating the same foods Mom and Dad do, and you won’t need to add more ingredients to your inventory.
  2. Healthy options aren’t an option for you.  Parents don’t want to feel guilty about feeding their kids “junk” for dinner just because they don’t have the time to prepare a home-cooked meal, so offering healthful choices is really important.  But those items have to taste yummy, too! Try incorporating healthfully-prepared entrees with sides of fruit, yogurt, or string cheese.
  3. Be allergen-free, gluten-free friendly.  If a child has a special diet, it’s really hard for his or her parent to trust restaurants to prepare a safe meal.  Build trust by making it clear on the menu that you’re willing to offer a reasonable amount of substitutions and specially-prepared meals.  Stock soy milk and gluten-free breads, and include a list of those items on your website and/or menu.
  4. Minimize portion size – even more.  Parents with two kids under the age of five often order one kids’ meal for their tots to share, according to The Restaurant Mom.  Perhaps you should offer a tier of portions to serve kids of all ages better.
  5. Add in some fun.  Some kids are picky eaters, but all kids like to play.  Find creative ways to display kids’ meals (search Pinterest for some great ideas) and experiment with exciting ingredients (O’Charley’s serves their Shirley Temples with cotton candy!)

 

Now that you’ve got a family friendly restaurant strategy in place, you can look forward to happy little smiles and the sighs of relief from your community’s parents.