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.

Save

Save

Save

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.

Isotop_BlogHeader

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.

Athena_BlogHeader

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.

Atlantic_BlogHeader

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.

NewEngland_BlogHeader

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!

Save

How to Increase Summer Traffic in Your Restaurant or Bar

patio

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.

OutdoorSpace

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!

Music

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.

Save

A Hard Dose of Reality at NRA 2016

NRA Show Session - Reality Gets Real with Jon Taffer & Chef Robert Irvine

In May, I had the opportunity to attend the NRA Show’s first crowdsourced session Reality Gets Real with Jon Taffer & Chef Robert Irvine, two of the industry’s most recognizable television personalities.  As a huge fan of both of their shows, and as the marketing manager for East Coast Chair & Barstool, the national furniture sponsor of Bar Rescue, Season 4, I had been looking forward to this session since it was announced by the NRA.

As I made my way into the packed Grand Ballroom at McKormick Center in Chicago, IL, I had no idea what to expect, but I was pretty sure that it would be worth the trip – and it didn’t disappoint.  What followed was an hour of candid, rock solid advice from two hospitality pros that have seen and done it all in the industry.  Without any of the showmanship and bravado of their TV personas, these two highly intelligent thought leaders gave insights into everything from evolving to stay ahead of the competition to why they are so hard on the bar and restaurant owners that appear on their respective shows.

Hats off to moderator Phil Kafarakis of the NRA, who did an excellent job of keeping the conversation moving while still allowing for plenty of give-and-take between Jon and Robert.

Below, I’ve summarized some of the key takeaways from the session.   If you would like to watch the recording (which I recommend), you can find it here.

Leadership

  • Leadership, or lack thereof, is the biggest factor in whether a restaurant succeeds or fails. Both Jon and Robert have around a 70% success rate in turning around bars and restaurants on their respective shows; they are able to achieve this level of success by turning failing owners into more effective leaders.
  • Both Jon & Robert said that the biggest failures they’ve had were caused by owners that never really accepted responsibility and refused to acknowledge that they were the reason their business wasn’t working. Both have witnessed owners undo all of the renovations and processes that they have put in place…before their shows have even aired.
  • Jon and Robert use fear as a motivator on their shows to get failing owners to take responsibility for their failure. Both say that nothing gets a failing business owner to take action quicker than appealing to the fear of losing their house and putting their family in serious financial trouble.

 

Marketing

  • A brand isn’t a logo, it’s not a color, and it’s not a marketing material. A brand is what we do.  Brands aren’t created; they’re built one guest at a time.
  • We don’t create food and beverage in this industry, we create human reaction. If a guest doesn’t react to your food, then you are going to be stuck in mediocrity.  Whoever creates the best reactions wins.
  • In Jon’s experience, if somebody comes to your bar/restaurant and has a flawless experience, the likelihood that they will come back is less than 40 percent. If they come back a second time and have a flawless experience, then the likelihood that they will come back is still under 50%.  However, if they come back a 3rd time and have a flawless experience, the likelihood that they will come back for a 4th visit is over 70%.  So, as operators in the hospitality industry, we should be marketing for at least 3 visits.
  • Millennials look at their phones about 260 times per day, so we, as marketers, need to find a way to get on that phone to communicate with them.
  • Jon believes that technology is bothersome when it gets between a server and a guest. He stated that people don’t come to your establishment for food, drink, or to watch sports, all of which they can get at home; rather, they come for the experience…and that is how you compete by giving them a world class experience.  So, don’t let technology get in the way of creating that experience.  Robert, on the other hand, believes that technology, when used effectively, enhances that experience.
  • Cell phones (technology as a whole) can be a killer of business, because they put all of the power in the hands of the consumer. It’s extremely easy now to get on your cell phone and tell a worldwide audience how your meal/server/experience was terrible.

 

Operations

  • About 70% of the restaurateurs that Jon comes into contact with on his show don’t even have data on their food costs, beverage costs, or overhead.
  • Both Jon and Robert believe that it is so important to know your costs and your weekly P&L. Robert gets daily reports on all of his restaurants’ profits & losses so that he knows what he made and what he lost.  “It’s my money, and I want to know where it’s going”.
  • Robert thinks that, as a restaurant, if you aren’t redoing your interior every 3 years, you run the risk of becoming stale and losing to the competition.
  • Robert believes that wallet-less payments will soon take over the industry. The technology is already there, the only thing lacking is consumer acceptance.  He said that servers will have a credit card that wages and end-of-the-night tips will be paid to, and the money will be made available to them immediately: “Uncle Sam will love it, and the servers will hate it”.
  • We are creatures of habit. We love to go to the same restaurants and eat the same food.  Excellence can only be achieved through consistency.  If you aren’t producing a consistently great experience, there will always be somebody newer that is.

One thing was clear from attending this session: Jon and Robert create successful restaurants by taking a top down approach.  If you are a struggling business owner, you don’t have to be on television to change your fortunes; you can learn a lot by watching this session and questioning your leadership, processes, and attitude toward change.  Don’t expect your employees to do it for you: any major changes are going to have to start with you.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

How Restaurant Owners Can Get the Most Out of Attending a Trade Show

Its trade show season and our crew at East Coast Chair & Barstool is gearing up for traveling to shows around the country. We’ve already exhibited in Columbus, Ohio for the North America Pizza & Ice cream Show back in January and we still have three more shows to attend this year. We invite you to visit us at one of the following locations to meet up and check out our furniture: Las Vegas, Nevada for the Nightclub & Bar Convention & Trade Show from March 7th through 9th, Chicago, Illinois for the National Restaurant Association Show from May 21st through 24th, and Orlando, Florida for the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show from September 27th through 29th. In addition to inviting you to visit our booth at one of these trade shows, we’d like to offer you some information about how to get the most out of your attendance.

Restaurant trade shows offer a place for owners and vendors in the industry to gather in one place. Vendors set up booth spaces to showcase their products, market their company, and network to restaurant owner attendees from across the country. Attendees are greeted with cooking demos, working product displays, new technologies, and food samples galore, in addition to special discounts that are only offered for trade show attendance. Owners have the opportunity to ask detailed questions about products, experience hands on opportunities to try new products and technologies, and gain knowledge through educational sessions that offer industry best practices, trends, and other relevant information. New ideas are often born at a trade show and owners return to work with a new motivation to improve business practices similar to when their doors first opened.

So how can you, as a restaurant owner, get the most out of attending a trade show? Take a look at this list of steps that we have compiled after years of attending and exhibiting at shows.

Before the show

  • Register for the trade show in advance to ensure your admittance as well as to take advantage of discount registration if it is available.
  • Book a hotel room close to the trade show location and do it well in advance. We recommend that you book a room at the hotel that is affiliated with the show to ensure the ultimate convenience for you. It may cost a little more but will allow you more time to take advantage of what the show has to offer.
  • Research the vendors that will be at the show by viewing and even printing out a map. Make a list of the vendors that you need to see in addition to others that spark your interest. This information can typically be found on the trade show website or through links in the e-mail you will receive once you register for the show.
  • Read materials regarding the educational sessions that will be offered at the trade show and plan to take advantage of them. Some shows include attendance at these sessions with your trade show admission, others do not.
  • Decide what products or services that you are looking for or would like to check out.
  • If you and your managers or employees are attending the show with you, plan to divide and conquer so that you can take full advantage of the time you have available.
  • Check to see if the trade show has an app that you can download on your phone that gives you first-hand information about the show.
  • Set appointments ahead of time with companies you know that you want to visit.
  • Pack extra clothes and shoes for the trip in case you decide to change up what you wear to the show and so you don’t have to worry about laundry. Branded shirts are often worn by attendees to showcase their restaurant while exploring the show.
  • Make sure to take a stack of business cards to hand out to everyone you meet.
  • Take an extra bag in case you pick up larger materials that don’t fit into your suitcase.

During the show

  • Dress comfortably with supportive shoes for all the walking up and down the isles you will be doing.
  • Arrive when the show begins to beat the larger crowds.
  • Don’t forget to wear that shirt you packed with your company logo to showcase your business!
  • If you make any purchases at the show, have a specified place to keep your receipts so they you don’t lose them.
  • Booth staff will often try to engage with you as you are walking by. It’s a great way to approach new customers! But, if you are not interested in the products or services they are offering, it’s okay to say “no thank you” and keep walking. Booth staff understand this will happen and they likely want to spend more time with interested attendees anyway.
  • If you visit a booth that you would like more information from, ask them to e-mail you more information.   Most of the time you will find that vendors have a device that can scan your name badge in order for your name to be added to the company’s e-mail list.
  • Take photos at the show that you can share on your company’s social media platforms. Let your customers know that you’re working to advance your business with new products and services.
  • Set up dinner meetings with fellow attendees or vendors after the show to network and compare notes.
  • Review the materials that you received from vendors each day so that you aren’t bombarded with doing that task upon your return home from the show.
  • Plan to leave the show about a half an hour early to avoid long lines for buses or cabs
  • Set aside some time to do something fun! Trade shows can be overwhelming and often taxing on your mind and body. While on a business trip, it’s important for you to unwind, relax, and have fun.

After the show

  • If you haven’t reviewed your materials nightly, pull out your bags of business cards, catalogs, and flyers. Categorize them by priority and make sure to check the trade show specials when you are doing this. You surely do not want to miss out on a trade show discount that is only offered for a limited time.
  • Follow up with vendors that you met with or are very interested in ordering from
  • Plan a meeting with your managers and staff to discuss your experience at the show and to communicate your future plans with these new resources and information

Trade shows have become a must for restaurant owners in today’s competitive restaurant industry. Keeping up to date on the trends and knowing what products and services are available are key to staying relevant among the hundreds of thousands of other restaurants trying to stand out. Following these steps before, during, and after a trade show will help you stay focused on the event to make sure you’re getting the most out of attending.

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.

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!