Restaurant Trends

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

How Your Restaurant Can Capitalize on the Pokémon Go Phenomenon

Pokemon Go Cover
Pokémon has made a strong comeback 20 years after its initial release in the form of a social media sensation, Pokémon Go. Nintendo first released Pokémon in 1996 in Japan where Satoshi Tajiri, the creator, and Ken Sugimori, the artist, were junior developers at. The game was later released in the United States in 1998 where it found great success. Now, the developmental giants at Niantic Labs, the Pokémon Company, and Nintendo have revived enthusiasts’ old love for the characters and friendly-competition with Pokémon Go. All players need is a smartphone with GPS and camera capabilities. Currently, Pokémon Go is the most profitable app on both the Google Play Store and Apple App Store, and Nintendo’s stock is going through the roof. At this time, the game is restricted to the US, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Canada, and Germany, with other locations becoming available day by day.

Pokemon GoSo how does this impact the day-to-day of the restaurant industry?

Many business owners may look at Pokémon Go as a distraction to their business. Something that will have gamers popping into their restaurant just to catch a rare Water Pokémon or Pikachu. They will roam the waiting area, pretend to look at the menu, only to leave and cause a distraction amongst the paying customers. It doesn’t have to be this way. Pokémon Go augments a user’s reality to include these collectible creatures. So why not be an asset to them? Pokémon Go can be used to your restaurant’s advantage; you just have to find what is the best method for your business.  Already there are businesses that are seeing increases in their numbers because of this game. Pokémon Go is a chance for restaurants to build community presence and increase traffic (and sales) by a fairly simple means.


Become a Pokéstop or gym.

A Pokéstop is where trainers can stock on items used to help them catch Pokémon and a gym is where you can train and battle against other players. As a business you should aim to become one of these. This is one of the ways many businesses are seeing huge spikes in foot traffic. There is a subset of the population that is actually preferring certain restaurants because of their interactivity with the game model. When you become either a Pokéstop or gym, your restaurant can then be placed on the map so players can find you. When Pokémon Go was initially released, Pokéstops and gyms were pre-determined which limited the availability in some regions. Users now have the ability to request that a location be activated. So no fear if you weren’t one of the original chosen. Likewise, those who are not fans of the game can request to be removed. Click here to turn your restaurant into a Pokéstop or gym!*

Food Truck Set up a food truck or stand.

Pokémon Go has elements similar to geo-caching, the biggest one being you physically must be in that location to play the game. If you have a town square or park that is open and already frequented by Pokémon trainers, this is a great opportunity for your business. A food truck or stand can be put in these locations to promote your restaurant. Walking around can certainly work up an appetite, hungry trainers will thank you. This can be especially useful if you have a small brick and mortar location and still want the opportunity to bring your name and products out into the community. Even something small like a coupon card that promotes your business being Pokémon-friendly could make a difference. The rewards can be great for restaurants who get out in the community and involved in this trend.

Make an experience out of it.

The more ways you advertise that your establishment is a Pokémon-friendly environment, the better. Create specials like the “Bulbasaur Bruschetta” or “Horsea Ham Sandwich on Rye” to entice hungry players that come for the creatures and stay for the food. Integrate your social media with Pokémon Go by making a rewards program that offers guests an incentive if they post a Pokémon Go pictures from your location and tag you. Enlist a coalition of businesses around you to host a Pokémon bar crawl or food walk. This way you can get a larger group on-board and have a wider range of resources to work with. Your avenue of creativity and level of involvement is completely up to you as a business.

Busy StreetUse Lure Modules to attract Pokémon and customers.

One of the most reliable ways to attract Pokémon Go players to your restaurant is to purchase a Lure Module. A Lure Module will bring Pokémon to a specific Pokéstop for 30 minutes, meaning any player at the particular location can catch them during that time frame. Restaurants can use these to appeal to trainers during slow periods of the day, with the goal being to turn them into customers. One Lure Module is 100 Poké coins for $0.99, making this a fairly cheap way to attract the Pokémon Go crowd. Other businesses are going so far as to letting their customers know when they’re going to be using a Lure Module. This gives trainers a definite location and time of when the Lure Module will be used so they can be prepared. If you have a big event coming up, let know your social media followers know a Lure Module will be in place so they can come and take part in it. Using this method of advertising, you can physically bring Pokémon players into your location and have them enjoy what you have to offer as a restaurant.

Pokémon Go allows restaurants and businesses to interact with their guests like never before. As a business, you will have to make the call whether this a trend you want to take part. If you have the creativity and time to plan on how you want to use this game to attract customers, it could be worth your while. Just remember, opportunities to drive massive traffic to your establishment don’t come around that often, and you have to take advantage of them when they do.

*07/25/16 UPDATE: Pokémon Go is no longer accepting submissions for new Pokéstops or Gyms due to an overwhelming influx of submissions. Changes such as trading, breeding, and more sophisticated Lure Modules are in the works for players as the app evolves. Check back as this is subject to change!

Meet the New Outdoor Collections of Summer 2016

Whether you’re looking to furnish an entire resort or a just need to fill a patio, we’ve added a quite a few new products to our outdoor furniture lines. Our goal is to educate you as a customer as much as possible so you can make the best informed decision. You’re also getting an exclusive sneak peek of a brand new collection that’s coming soon to our sites, so you will be ahead of the game with new trends. As establishments grow and want to offer more space and different atmospheres, outdoor areas are becoming increasingly popular. As a business owner, it’s important to know the options available to you and get inspired.

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Isotop Laminated Table Tops- A Versatile Option That Lasts All Year Long

In the commercial industry, it’s important that you can trust your table tops to endure heavy wear and tear. Introducing the Isotop Collection that’s perfect for a traffic-laden restaurant or bar. Our Isotop table tops combine aesthetics and science to create a durable, strong piece that is a great asset for your restaurant or bar. These tops are precision molded from a blend of resin, wax, and wood pulp to create a high density laminate. Depending on how you want your edges to look, the Isotops come in the Plus style, a 1 ¼” edge, and Sliq Compact style, a ½” edge. These tops are made to be strong with burn and scratch resistant surfaces. With the option of indoor or outdoor and a wide variety of colors, the Isotop table tops can be customized for your need as a restaurant.

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The Athena Collection- Classic Silhouettes with Modern Accents

Float on up to Mount Olympus with the Athena Collection this summer. A textured black powder coat offers a durable yet modern look, making the Athena great for a casual sidewalk café or a dining patio. To give this collection an ethereal, airy feel, slot detailing is used for a lightweight appearance. But these chairs are as sturdy as the goddess herself, each Athena chair, bar stool, and table is heavy gauge aluminum and rust-resistant. Even your staff will love the stackable features of the chairs for simple storage. Table tops are available in round for a more intimate experience or square that can easily be pushed together. To truly create a heavenly experience for your guests, umbrella hole grommets are included for straightforward umbrella installation. Let the Athena Collection bring a neoclassic atmosphere to your patio and increase your curb appeal.

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The Atlantic Collection- Poly Slats for Easy Maintenance

Bring this collection back to your coastal paradise for a unique look Appearing more modern and streamlined than its sister collection, the New England, the Atlantic Collection offers a stark contrast between the teak coloring and aluminum frame. Don’t let the teak-inspired poly slats look like maintenance mayhem; this collection is easy to clean and simple to store. You get all of the advantages of this outdoor furniture look like real wood without the nightmare of trying to take care of it. To keep your pieces looking happy as a clam on your patio all year long, the aluminum frame is powder coated in deep black to prevent rust and resist the harsh outdoor elements of seascapes. Whatever kind of furniture (bar stools, chairs, and tables), the Atlantic Collection has it all. With the range of bar stools, chairs, and tables that are low maintenance, the Atlantic Collection offers a seating solution that’s just as perfect by the sea as it is in the city.

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The New England Collection- Bring the Rustic Trend to Your Patio

A new collection is coming to port soon. The New England Collection plays on the rustic trend that’s been popping up all over patios this past year. Perfect for a seafood restaurant or cocktail hour on a terrace overlooking the bay, this trend is easy to integrate with your establishment. Poly lumber slats, inspired by the northeastern United States and reclaimed wood, used in conjunction with a powder coated aluminum frame to give off an urban edge. The poly slats of this collection make for easy cleaning and are reminiscent of coastal reclaimed wood, without the hassle of caring for them. The New England Collection is ideal for outdoor spaces with its durability and strength. With an array of bar stools, chairs, and tables, you’re sure to find what you need to bring the rustic with an edge theme to your restaurant or bar. This collection will be here soon, so stay on the lookout for this trendy set!

 

Now that you know a little bit more about the new outdoor collections, feel free to start your journey by going here.  If you have any questions at all about the collections, feel free to give us a call at 1-800-986-5352. What are outdoor furniture must-haves for your business? Which one of these collections speak to you and your restaurant’s theme? Leave a comment below and let us know!

How to Increase Summer Traffic in Your Restaurant or Bar

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Days get longer, the sun gets stronger, and everyone is taking vacation days. After Memorial Day Weekend comes and goes, summer is here in full force. This can mean more traffic, different clientele, and new struggles for your business. But no need to stress, there is more opportunity to summer than what meets the eye.
This transition to a new season is an easy way for you as a restaurant or bar owner to include fun activities into the calendar. Summer is a great time to differentiate your business and show off your niche!
Here are some tips to start sprinkling a little summer sunshine (and beat your competitors to the punch).

1) Know Your Audience
Market to your audience smarter, not harder. It is essential to know who you are trying to draw in. Is it all out-of-towners that flock to you during this time or is it your regular crowd shuffling in? By doing a little research, you will have a better idea of interests that attracts this group. If summer also means tourist season where you are, be ready for traffic increases. Train the staff on this shift as well, explain the importance of making sure each guest has a memorable experience (in a good way). Understand what you have to offer and who you will be offering it to.

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2) Spatial Awareness
If you are the type of establishment lucky enough to have an outdoor area, it’s time to break out the patio furniture. The end of May is a great benchmark to start having outside seating available to guests, but it all depends on your climate. Not only does it allow guests to enjoy a nice breeze, it helps with overflow seating as well! Just make sure your furniture is up to par before you stick it outside in the inevitable summer storms.

3) A Dash of Summer
Got a fierce strawberry spinach salad you’ve been dying to put on the menu? What about a frozen drink that your bartender came up with by just throwing a mix together? Take advantage of what’s now in-season to put on your menu and come up with summer specials. This is a great way to show off food or drinks that are too expensive to routinely feature. Highlighting these items will present more of an opportunity to be noticed by your patrons, and therefore, ordered. Take it one step farther and get some feedback from these specials. Finding what works may lead to a new staple for your regular menu!

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4) Turn It Up Some
While you’re taking the advice of tip #2, use your outdoor area to host live music. Whether it’s a singer-songwriter, DJ, or local band, find an entertainer that fits your genre. Bringing an artist in is a great way to publicize all the extras your establishment has to offer and it might even turn into a tradition. This type of event may also bring people to your restaurant or bar that wouldn’t typically visit. You may be introducing them to their new favorite haunt!

5) Fiesta Like There’s No Manana
There are quite a few holidays that fall within the summer months; so why not celebrate them? Between Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, or just the fact that it is summer, you’ll be able to find a celebration that you can throw a party for in your restaurant or bar. Decorate, have themed entrees or drinks, sponsor a contest- the opportunities are endless! If your budget only allows for one of these types of celebration, no worries, just make it work for your restaurant or bar! Go all out without abandoning the main focus of your establishment or bankrupting your business.

Now that you have some tips to expand your summer plans, the key takeaway is to entertain your clients. Take this chance to have old customers remember why they consistently pick your establishment and invite new ones into an exciting environment to make memories. Variety is the spice of life; the same goes for your summer business when the seasons change.
Does your restaurant or bar have any summer traditions or any advice for starting them? Let us know in the comments below, we love to hear feedback from our readers! Check us out on Pinterest for more inspiration.

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Trends within the Food and Restaurant Industry for 2016

2016 Trends in the restaurant industry

 

At the beginning of each year, it’s exciting to think about what it will bring. For those in the restaurant industry, staying current with predicted trends isn’t only about excitement, but also the need to stay relevant and competitive in a cutthroat industry. Two popular companies that provide the latest trends in the industry each year are Technomic, a food research and consulting firm, and the National Restaurant Association, a national food service trade association. Both have published their lists for what they expect the food and menu trends to be for 2016. Here is a summarized version of both reports, in addition to a few up and coming trends based on our conversations with restaurant owners nationwide.

Snacks versus full blown meals

Diners are moving toward snacks and small plates instead of full dinners

In today’s fast paced world, grabbing a snack is much more efficient than sitting down for a full blown meal. It seems as if everyone is always on the go, being pulled into many different directions throughout the day at work and at home. In fact, according to Technomic in their study on snacking, 51% of today’s consumers say they snack at least twice a day with a third of consumers saying that they snack more frequently than they did just two years ago. 45% even reported that they replace one or two meals a day with a snack. In addition to this increase in snacking, consumers are changing their idea of what they consider a snack.  The report found that innovative, healthy and easily portable snacks, in variety, are what consumers want. MCDonald’s snack wrap, Uno Chicago Grill’s house made guacamole and chips, Houlihan’s pot roast sliders, and P. F. Chang’s steamed shrimp dumplings are all great examples of this.

Technomic suggests offering snacks driven by savory flavors with high protein, or ones that are sweet and spicy.  With snacking on the rise, offering these items could be a great way to drive traffic into your restaurant and increase your sales.

High quality fast food

Customers are switching to high quality fast food like bowls with fresh ingredients over cheeseburgers and fried foods

With the popularity of fast-casual restaurants making a huge impact on the restaurant industry, customers have now been exposed to higher quality ingredients like locally sourced produce and hormone-free meats that they can get quickly at a reasonable price. Places like Panera Bread, Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill, Firehouse Subs, and Chick-fil-A are all examples of restaurants already offering these quality ingredients to the public with a short time from order to table.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, American adults are choosing healthier foods. People are making better use of the Nutrition Facts Panel found on most food packages and serving up meals at home versus eating out to achieve this. If your restaurant can respond to these new healthier desires by offering more nutritious foods, your customers may be enjoying dinner in your dining area instead of their own.

Shrinking menus

Small menus are easier to maintain and keep food costs and waste down.

Instead of having a wide variety of menu items to choose from, the trend is moving toward offering a smaller menu with items. According to Technomic, 7.1% of the top 500 restaurant chains have dropped the number of items on their menu. 9% of those drops are in entrees, 8% in appetizers, and 7.5% in desserts. Take Chik-fil-A for example. The company released this statement when they recently removed their famous coleslaw from the menu; “We know many of our customers love our coleslaw, yet we have also heard from them they are looking for new tastes and healthier ways to eat in our restaurants. To provide this variety means we will occasionally have to remove items from our menu.”

Here is why a smaller menu is worth the cuts: less is more. Having less items on your menu gives your customers better quality dishes, faster service, and hotter food. Customers are then happier because restaurants can do a better job with their most popular items. It’s almost like offering your own list of specialty items that customers come to your restaurant and only your restaurant to eat. In addition, restaurants are able to cut costs by cutting food bills and creating less food waste.

Even though trends are moving towards the shrinking menu, it’s not recommended that your take your four page menu and cut it down to one. You surely don’t want to shock your customers with drastic changes. Try making a slow transition by first taking items that aren’t so popular off of your menu. Work your way down, over time, to only offering a few appetizers and salads, a handful of main entries that you are good at and popular with your customer base, and a few desserts to top it off. Small changes, a little at a time, are all you need to fit in with this trend, if it is what will work best for your particular restaurant.

Ethnic flavors

Ethnic foods like Sriracha sauce are taking the culinary world by storm

Ethnic flavors are growing in popularity since Sriracha sauce became a savory phenomenon in the restaurant industry. In fact, Technomic reports that 77% of consumers purchase ethnic foods and flavors at least once a month. Chefs across the nation are incorporating more ethnic flavors into their menu and looking for that one unique blend to take the industry by storm.  Flavors like ghost pepper from India, sambal from Southeast Asia, gochujang from Korea, and harissa, suman and dukka from North Africa are likely to make their entrance this coming year. In addition, African flavors and Middle Eastern flavors have gained popularity over this year and are likely to continue in that path. Incorporating these flavors into your current menu offerings is a great way to introduce them to your customers.

Fresh and local sourcing…to be continued

Fresh, locally sourced produce and meats continue to be a hot trend

Articles and research in the restaurant industry over this past year have talked a lot about how important it is to buy locally with minimal processing.  This trend is going to continue into this upcoming year because chefs want locally sourced meat and seafood as well as locally grown produce to make their customers happy. The National Restaurant Association says local sourcing has been gaining momentum for several years and is influencing the culinary scene on a national level. They also state that this comes from the fact that today’s customers want to know where their food comes from and are willing to pay a little bit more to have that knowledge. Paired with the fact that the United States Department of Agriculture says that adults are choosing healthier food options, it looks like local sourcing is a winner-winner, “hormone free” chicken dinner.

Wages and tipping

Tipping is a hot button political issue for 2016

There is a heated debate in the restaurant industry surrounding the idea that minimum wage needs to be raised. Places like New York City and San Francisco have already seen these changes and there’s no telling how if, or how quickly, the rest of the country will follow suit. While looking at this debate, a new topic is coming to the forefront: tips. If restaurant owners are going to be required to pay a higher hourly rate for their employees, is tipping still necessary? Employees who have always gotten tips will likely agree that tips are necessary while employers who pay the increased wages will not. While the answer to this question depends on who you ask, it’s a topic that is of great concern to all involved

A more positive approach on the topic of eliminating tipping focuses on equal compensation with each employee seen as a key player on the restaurant’s team. Danny Meyer, the founder of Shake Shack, is at the forefront of this stance. He is eliminating tipping in his restaurants and pairing it with higher wages. This does mean a rise in menu prices but the cost to customers will not change as drastically as one may think. From this, employees gain a wage structure that is fair for every employee who is a part of each customer’s restaurant experience and it provides more of a living wage, rather than dependence on tips. With 11 million workers in the restaurant industry, this structure could surely help to professionalize restaurant jobs and ensure equal compensation.

As a restaurant owner, your best bet with the minimum wage saga will be to stay current with national and state legislation in order to anticipate the changes that will need to be made if your area is affected. A great resource for information on the minimum wage debate is the United States Department of Labor.

Automation

Automated restaurants help owners keep employment costs down and quaility up.

In response to the intense debate about minimum wages and its implementation, restaurants are starting to look at technology to assist with automating orders, payment, and food preparation to save on labor costs. Some already have. Actually, if this debate fails and minimum wage isn’t raised, restaurants will still be incorporating these technologies. Why? Restaurants are finding that by doing so, it makes processes simpler and faster. Automation is a term that can have many meanings for restaurants. For some it may mean incorporating iPads for ordering and payment; for others, it may mean full blown robotics. Whatever the case, you may find more restaurants in this coming year that are incorporating some kind of automation to make their processes more effective, to control their costs, and to minimize the costs of human employees to complete tasks. For more information on this topic, check out one of our previous blog articles called Automation in the Restaurant Industry.

Hard and Soft Design

 

Soft design with curtains, cushions, and carpet is making a comeback from the hard, industrial look.

Bin 36 in Chicago, IL

Previous years have brought about the concept of industrial-rustic design. Taking steel chairs and pairing them with refinished wood table tops in addition to pendant lighting, brick walls, and concrete floors has become quite a popular design theme. It still is. But, some restaurants are now pairing this hard industrial theme with softer items: softer lighting, flooring, and colors through curtains, upholstery or vinyl seats, and even on the walls. These softer elements bring about the less stark feeling that restaurant owners are trying to stay away from to offer a more inviting and comfortable atmosphere. You may have even entered a newer Burger King or Wendy’s and noticed upholstered furniture. This new design idea isn’t an established “trend” that is taking the nation over by storm, but it’s definitely a concept that is growing in popularity and will continue to over this coming year.

Restaurant owners need to know what trends are shaping the industry. Responding to these trends are important to staying relevant and competitive.  If you’re willing to conform to new and upcoming ideas while staying true to your brand, you will have a better chance of staying in forefront of the industry in this grand new year.

 

Automation in the Restaurant Industry

Restaurant Automation includes technologies for ordering, serving, and producing food.

When you hear the words “automation” and “restaurant” in the same sentence, what comes to mind? You may envision being seated at a table with the ability to order and pay for your meal right from a table kiosk. Or you may jump to the idea of a robot server holding a tray of food that is delivered to your table from the restaurant kitchen. Wherever your thoughts turn, automation is  becoming more popular in the restaurant industry and will likely continue to grow in the future

What is Restaurant Automation?

Restaurant automation, as defined in Wikipedia, means “the use of restaurant management systems to automate the major operations of a restaurant establishment.” Automation can be partial or complete, with partial meaning some human intervention in the major operations and complete meaning none at all. Automation can be seen in ordering food, preparing food, and even in serving and billing, with technologies like mobile and robotics playing key roles in its implementation.

Who is using automation in their restaurant?

Many restaurants are already taking new technologies to partially automate some of the operations within their restaurant. One major chain that has implemented new devices into their restaurants is McDonald’s, which has franchises all over the world, with many in Europe and Australia already using self-ordering kiosks on their front lines. These kiosks are currently being tested in several locations in the United States and will soon be installed in 2,000 franchises across the nation. The kiosks offer customers the ability to customize their order through a new “Create Your Taste” menu that offers options with each order, from the type of bun, cheese, and meat to the toppings and sauces to finish it off. Once submitted, the order is made at a different cooking station and then delivered to the customer at their table. Other popular restaurants that are currently using a complete tablet ordering system are Chili’s Grill & Bar and Applebee’s. The customer’s dining experience involves a friendly hostess escorting them to their table where they arrive to find a tablet to complete their order. And, while the customers wait, the tablet includes games that they can play for a small fee to keep them entertained. The goal is for customers to not only place their order, but to complete payment via the self-ordering tablet. The human server is only needed to deliver the food and refill drinks.

There are also restaurants that are already taking advantage of complete automation in their establishments. Many of these restaurants can be found overseas like Genki Sushi in Hong Kong, where ordering sushi doesn’t involve any human interaction, and Wall-E Restaurant in China, where robots are your waiters. But, you can also find fully automated restaurants in the United States. One of those restaurants is Eatsa, a quinoa restaurant in San Francisco, California. This restaurant is fully automated with no waiters, no one taking orders at a counter, and very limited staff. The restaurant only employs real people to prepare food, unseen by the customer, and one or two individuals to assist customers with ordering via an iPad and/or to keep the dining area clean. Without having all of the typical staff and experiences when a customer walks in, there is a new process to follow with ordering and paying for food. Customers walk in with the view of a digital menu paired with many iPad’s set up as kiosks for ordering. They proceed with their customized order and once the order is complete, the customer’s name comes up on a screen. When the food is cooked and ready, a number appears next to the customer’s name which corresponds to a “cubby,” on a large wall of cubbies with the same number. This means that the food is ready and available in the cubby. With two taps of the screen, the cubby opens and the customer takes his/her food. Like Eatsa says, “It’s pure magic,” and that magic is resonating well with the customers as proven through many positive reviews on Yelp. So well, in fact, that Eatsa plans to open up two more locations in the San Francisco area by early 2016.

Another restaurant that is using automation is Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant. Located in or near Kansas City, Kansas, the automation in this restaurant comes from service via train delivery cars rather than robots…and humans. Customers grab a table in the dining area which hosts a phone right at the table. They pick up the phone, place their order, and within a short amount of time their food and drinks are delivered by a train delivery car that follows a track which makes a stop at each table. The novelty of a train bringing food and drinks to the table has been quite appealing to customers, especially to those who have a love for trains.

What are the benefits of automating your restaurant?

Automation offers many benefits to both owners in the restaurant industry and their customers. Owners find that there is a more efficient business flow in the kitchen, better control of costs, and easier access to real time sales data. Automation allows for greater output at a lower cost and is typically used as a compliment to labor, rather than a complete replacement. Remaining employees can then focus on the restaurant’s core competencies like food preparation and customer relations.  As owners and managers face pressure to raise minimum wages, utilizing employees as effectively as possible will become even more important and early adopters of automation may gain a competitive advantage in the short term.

For customers, automation is empowering. They are able to customize their order, receive it the way they want it, and get it faster than they’ve had before. Furthermore, automation injects an element of consistency into every facet of the operation where it is utilized.  Customer’s know that when they enter their order into a kiosk, it will be relayed to the kitchen exactly how they ordered it; and, if a robot is cooking it, the final product will have little variation from one time to the next.

What are the challenges of automation?

Automation can have challenges, and those challenges are important for restaurant owners to consider when thinking about automating their business. The first is the initial cost. The technologies needed to make the automation dream come true can have a big price tag, ranging from tens of thousands to millions per location depending on the level of automation desired.  In addition to equipment, owners will also have to factor in any monthly subscription costs, employee training, and maintenance fees.  These costs can put automation out of reach of many single location “mom and pop” establishments.  However, like most new technologies, costs will likely come down with time as new vendors enter and innovate the market.

Second, while early adoption of automation can provide a short term competitive advantage, it also has the potential to commoditize aspects of your operation in the long term.  Think about it. Once kiosk, or tablet ordering becomes widespread, how will you make that part of your business stand out from competitors.  The same goes for server automation; once a robot or conveyor belt is delivering the food to your customers, what separates you from the competition if they have the same robot or conveyor belt?  Gone is the server whose friendly smiles and warm demeanor built a rapport with customers that kept them coming back.  Technology, while increasing efficiency and consistency, can also reduce the number of opportunities to separate your business from the competition.  If an area of your operations is not considered one of your restaurant’s core competencies, then automating it might make sense; but be sure to consider the long term consequences before automating any function that makes your business unique.

The bottom line.

The decision to implement any degree of automation in your restaurant will, like most business decisions, boil down to your bottom line. Will the financial benefits outweigh the costs involved? The best thing that you can do is to research and find out what automation technologies are out there, as well as the cost of its maintenance and implementation. While doing this, think about your restaurant and envision how and where you can use these devices and services in your current processes. Gathering this information will provide you with a better picture of how best to take the automation plunge.  Although we cannot predict the future, we can assume from past history in other industries that technology is only going to continue to grow, improve, and become more cost effective. With it, it is very possible that automation will one day become a common part of nearly every restaurant experience.

The Fast Casual Storm: How You Can Compete

Panera Bread Fast Casual Restaurant.

Trends in the restaurant industry are changing thanks to the influence of fast casual restaurants. Establishments like Chipotle, Taco Del Mar, Five Guys, and Panera Bread, to name a few, are taking the industry over by storm. So, what’s the big deal? Why are these types of restaurants becoming “the” places for dining out?

What is Fast Casual?

Let’s first define what encompasses the fast casual trend. The term fast casual comes from the joining of “fast” food and “casual” dining because it offers elements of both. It is a type of restaurant that offers a higher quality fast food experience with fresh ingredients in a more modern upscale atmosphere.  Front counter service is available to place an order, pay, and retrieve food, followed by customers taking a seat in a dining area that is free of any table service. When placing an order, customers are often offered an interactive experience where they can choose exactly what they want from a visual array of additions, ala Chipotle. It’s customization at its finest! Meal prices at these establishments tend to range from $8 and $15 with payment up front and a minimal wait time.

Customers are changing.

That all sounds great but why is the growth of fast casual restaurants seemingly outpacing other restaurant concepts at an incredibly fast rate? Well, it all comes down to the fact that consumers today are different than those of past decades. In our very fast paced world of cell phones and instant access to the internet, consumers are becoming accustomed to having information and choices available at their fingertips; they want what they want and they want it right now. In other words, people want fast customization especially when they are hungry. And, who wouldn’t? Having fresh, healthy options that you choose and can eat in a matter of minutes is becoming the norm.

Competition is fierce!

With the rapid growth of fast casual restaurants, established restaurants are finding that it’s not easy to compete. McDonald’s is one such establishment who has reported a disappointing global decrease in sales as well as in guest traffic with these new customer demands. Due to these declines, even the industry leader in fast food is realizing that they need to make changes to fulfill the desires of their customers. So, what can you do as a restaurant owner do to maintain a strong business presence while co-existing with this new fast casual trend?

Where do you stand and what can you do to compete?

First, answer this. Are fast casual restaurants your competition? If fast casual restaurants aren’t directly in competition with the type of restaurant that you fall under, then you shouldn’t have much to worry about. Keep doing what you are doing and do it well.   Maintain excellent customer service, quality menu items, and a clean and friendly atmosphere. There are still diners who want to be served at a table, don’t mind waiting for table service, and might not always be in the mood for the fast casual experience.

If you are in direct competition with the growth of fast casual restaurants, you have one of two options. You can jump on the bandwagon and adopt some of the ideas from the fast casual trend to implement in your restaurant or you can stick to your niche and do it well.

Many well-known restaurants are trying to adapt. Let’s stick with McDonald’s for example. Recent press releases have communicated a change in ways for this famous chain. McDonald’s will be transitioning to cage-free eggs, sourcing antibiotic-free chicken, and hormone free beef. They have already started to serve a new salad mix consisting of a blend of romaine, baby kale, and baby spinach, in addition to simplifying their menu. If you think that adapting to the fast casual experience like McDonald’s is the best way to respond, there are things you can do to make your restaurant more appealing. Add new adventurous flavors to your menu, incorporate fresh natural ingredients, and keep it healthy. To do this, try adding new gourmet sauces to your sandwiches or as a side. You can also replace frozen or processed ingredients with local sourced vegetables and meats. In addition, offer menu items that customers can run in and pick up quickly and don’t take as long to cook.  If feasible, you could even give the interior and exterior of your restaurant a more modern upscale look offering a new arrangement that appeals to this trend.

If you implement these ideas, be sure to tell you customers about it! Use social media as an avenue to advertise to the masses. Pictures of new menu items, a new interior set up, or even added parking for quick to-go orders are all great ideas for Instagram. Twitter tweets and posts on Facebook that incorporate new hashtags or creative ways to let your customers know about the changes you made are imperative to encourage customers to test the new waters. But remember this. If you make all of these changes, be sure to stay true to your brand in the process. In other words, don’t forget the core values that you built your business on. Your goal will be to continue to keep your customer base happy while offering options that align with this new trend. Keeping these things in mind while changing the services you provide to your customers will keep your restaurant from getting lost in the hustle and bustle of this new fast casual world.

A final thought.

As time passes, trends change. Even in the restaurant industry. As you try to decide how or if your restaurant will respond to this new fast casual trend, ask yourself this one question. Will you opt to change to be “like” the best or will you just “be” the best? Your answer will guide you to success.