What is LTL delivery? FAQs from the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

Tractor trailer

Ever wonder how your recently ordered furniture will get to you? Here are some answers to frequently asked questions that we get when it comes to receiving your shipped furniture.

How is my furniture being shipped to me?

LTL delivery is a common way that many furniture suppliers use when shipping furniture to customers. Items are usually put on a wood pallet and secured using plastic straps and/or shrink wrap. LTL delivery is used when items don’t fill the entire truck but are too large or heavy for parcel. With this delivery method, you are paying only for the space that the pieces of furniture take up.

What does LTL stand for?

LTL stands for “less than truckload”.

What determines how much delivery will cost?

To calculate LTL delivery costs, items are put into classes designated by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA). There are 18 classes total. To place an item’s class depends the shipment’s density, stowability, handling, and value. The lower the class, the cheaper it is to ship the item. For example, a steel chair ships at class 250 because they have a high density. Meanwhile, aluminum furniture ships at a class 300 because it takes up more space but has less weight. Other possible costs include fuel surcharges, expedited delivery fees, and where the end destination is located.

What is lift-gate service? Is it included?

A lift-gate raises and lowers items from the back of the truck to the ground. This is not included in the shipping quote are given unless you ask for it. If a truck that delivers your items has a lift-gate and you use it but did not pay for it, you will be charged as if you had requested it.

Will the carrier call me to let me know when my order is being delivered?

For an additional fee, they can call you with a timeframe.

Can I change the shipping address once the item has shipped?

Yes, it is possible to change the shipping address by contacting the carrier. However, a reconsignment fee will be charged.

Will the driver take the items off the truck?

No, we recommend that you have some extra help with you to take items off the truck.

Will the driver take my shipment inside?

No, however, an “inside delivery” option can be added for a fee.

Can I use a forklift to take the items off the truck?

Yes, this could help you get the items off the truck because they’re on pallets. Don’t use forklift on booths or oversized tables, these items are easily damaged.

What do I do if my furniture is damaged?

Regardless of what condition your furniture arrives in, you need to accept the delivery. You will receive a delivery receipt where you can note the damages. From there, you will need to contact our service department about the damages.

For more information on how to accept a tailgate delivery, check out our video below!

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Popular Restaurant Trends Throughout the Years

Popular Restaurant Trends

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

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

The 1950’s

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

McDonald's in 1954

Photo from allday.com

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

Highway System

Photo from nesbittrealty.com

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

The 1960’s

Steak and Ale Menu

Photo from cravedfw.com

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

Dining in the 60's

Photo from petermoruzzi.com

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

Howard Johnson's

Photo from slate.com

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

The 1970’s

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

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

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

Le Cirque, New York City

Photo from insatiable-critic.com

The 1980’s

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

Nouvelle Cuisine

Photo from caraandco.com

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

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

Chef Paul Prudhomme

Photo from investors.com

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

The 1990’s

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

Wolfgang Puck

Photo from minnpost.com

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

Fusion Cooking

Photo from guyeatsfood.com

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

The 2000’s

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

Super Size Me documentary

Photo from netflixlife.com

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

Fresh food

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

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

The 2010’s

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

Chipotle Assembly Line

Photo from qz.com

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

Coffee craze

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

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

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

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

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How to Make Your Restaurant Successful on Yelp

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

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

How It Works

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

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


Yelp Ads
Claim Your Business

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

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

Rack Up the Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

Interact with Customers

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

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

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

Free Assets for Business Owners

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

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

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

Web Review Badges

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

Yelp Ads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting the Family Involved

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

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

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

 

Parents

Drinks

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

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

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

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

Students

Student Studying

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

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

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

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

Startup Stock Photos

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

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

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

Teacher’s Pet

Teacher asking her students a question at the elementary school

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

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

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

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

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How to Market Your Restaurant to Millennials: Getting Social

Millennials

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

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

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

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

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

Social Media

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

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

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

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

Chipotle

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

Do's and Don'ts of Social Media

Social Experience

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

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

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

Do's and Don'ts of Social Experience

Social Responsibility

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

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

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

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

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

Do's and Don'ts of Social Responsibility

Social Cause

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

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

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

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

Pizza

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

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

Do's and Don'ts of Social Cause

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

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.

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

Improving Your Menu to Increase Profitability

 

1) Take a hard look at your prices.

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

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

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

2) Eliminate the clutter

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

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

3) Try a new design.

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

4) Change up your descriptions.

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

5) Consider item placement and positioning.

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

6) Add fresh into the mix.

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

7) Offer specials.

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

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

8) Don’t forget photos.

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

9) Make your menu easily accessible.

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

10) Consider your customer.

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

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

Craveability

 

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

What exactly is Craveability?

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

Smell can create craveability.Aroma

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

SmokerPreparation

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

pumpkin pieSeasonality

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

mac and cheeseNostalgia

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

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

Hibachi GrillExperience

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

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

lambAppearance

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

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

crab-legsLimited Availability

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

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

pizzaCategory

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

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

chipotle-adTell Your Story

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

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

Win Moms & Dads Over with Family Friendly Restaurant Marketing

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

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

 

Delighting Kids and Their Grown-Ups

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

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

 

Creating a Children’s Menu

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

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

 

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

Restaurants and Social Responsibility

restaurants and social responsibilitySocial responsibility is an important part of any company’s marketing and operations strategies, including restaurant brands.  Today’s savvy customer expects a high level of corporate ethics, which takes the community, the environment, and the greater good into consideration.  In fact, two thirds of the world’s consumers prefer shopping or dining at companies that give back to society.  This concept of doing good and giving back has become increasingly important to the Millennial generation, which every company needs to have on their radar for marketing purposes; they’ve arrived to market.

At East Coast Chair & Barstool, we have a corporate giving strategy that our owners can feel good about.  In addition to supporting opportunities that promote local B2B networking or highlight our presence in the food service and related industries, our owners strive to create a family-like work atmosphere by supporting causes that are important to the employees.  A dress down schedule promotes philanthropy among the staff, and additionally, our owners are happy to support local educational causes that benefit their children or the school-aged children of their staff members.  We believe that as our company grows, we need to show our gratitude by giving back to our community.

Restaurants are actively participating in cause marketing efforts, too.  In the weeks following Hurricane Sandy, the Boston bombings, and the tornadoes in Oklahoma, we read many stories of restaurants coming together to support their neighbors. Whether it was pouring coffee for the Red Cross volunteers or raising funds for victims, restaurants responded to the call to action.  But brands don’t have to wait for tragedy to strike.  Every brand should have a cause or charity (or a few) that they support year-round, which makes sense for that company.  A perfect example is Firehouse Subs, whose foundation supports hometown heroes: firefighters!  Their entire culture is wrapped around their cause, so it’s a natural fit that their customers and community can believe.

The best part is that establishing a corporate giving strategy really is win-win-win. A) Your customers feel great about supporting a cause when they visit you. B) The cause gets much-needed funds to continue their good work.  C) And you score a loyal fan base.  Revenues tend to rise during fundraising campaigns at stores and restaurants.  For example, Dairy Queen’s Miracle Treat Day, in which the company donates $1 for every blizzard sold during the day to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, is often one of the busiest days of the year for the participating locations.

But beware.  A PR scheme to drum up sales isn’t the best way to approach social responsibility. The consumer is also a good BS-detector.  Be sincere in your efforts, and you can win over the hearts of your employees, your customers, and your community.

There are a lot of ways to support a good cause.  Offer to host a charity event at your restaurant, sponsor a local cause, or donate food and drinks to a special event taking place in your community.  You can recruit staff members to join a team for a charity walk/bike ride, or get a group of staff volunteers together to do a community project, like starting a community garden or building a playground.  Perhaps you create an in-store fundraising night, a celebrity bartender event, or a dine-to-donate program with proceeds going to a charity of your choice.  Participating in an already-established program, like No Kid Hungry, might be an easy way to get started, and it is a great fit for all restaurants.  You might also want to do something locally with your neighborhood food cupboard, soup kitchen, or school lunch program.

Other ways consumers expect restaurants to practice social responsibility is in the way they handle their everyday business operations. If you source locally-grown ingredients and humanely-raised meats, you should add that information to your menu and website.  If you use packaging that is from recycled materials, or if you have a ‘green team’ on your staff, dedicated to reducing your restaurant’s carbon footprint, you should share that information in your advertising.  The more ways you find to promote being a responsible company, the more people will like you.  And being liked is the first step to being successful.

Engaging in socially responsible behaviors will make you proud of the company you’re leading. It might even make you feel a little warm and fuzzy inside, yourself.

How will your restaurant make a difference?