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Your Media Strategy Ready for Launch

How to Get Your Media Strategy Ready for Launch

Originally Posted on Typsy – By Doug Radkey 10/02/2018

The development of a restaurant can be extremely daunting with its many moving parts and it’s easy to miss crucial start-up strategies within the mix of it all.

One you don’t want to overlook is your intended media launch strategy. Today, the word ‘media’ means so much more than your local newspaper outlet.

The worst thing you can do is start your marketing and promotional campaigns one week before opening or simply expect a Field of Dreams “if you build it, they will come” type of scenario to work.

Hint: it doesn’t!

A successful restaurant launch includes building plenty of buzz for the three-four months leading up to the opening. It also means developing what we call a communications strategy to deal with the variety of media outlets both before and after opening.

A strong communications strategy will prepare you for the most effective social, digital, and community-related marketing tools in relation with targeted media partnerships which will then target your specified audience across a multitude of touch-points.

Aside from the established chain restaurants, many aspiring and independent restaurateurs do not have the budget for their own in-house marketing team (or outsourcing an award-winning agency). And that’s okay. In order to be fully present within your community both before and after opening, restaurateurs just need to ensure they have the necessary marketing plans in place.

This means projecting the right voice to attract the right audience. This also means determining the tone of your content, the nature of your interaction, and the overall approach to your brands messaging.

It also means knowing how to handle any third party media attention before and after opening.

To develop an effective communications strategy – you want to focus on three key areas: your social media, your public relations, and your direct-to-consumer channels. Let’s have a look at each.


Social Media

Within both your marketing and communications plan, you firstwant to develop a social media strategy. There is no getting around this today. Use plenty of simple, cost-effective strategies in the weeks prior to opening to create the buzz you want (and need). These methods will also maximize exposure (to both the public and other media outlets) in addition to early revenue opportunities during what’s known as your ‘honeymoon period’ – the first three months of operating.

This includes developing and/or executing on:

  • Social media channels, like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, that your target audience actually uses each and every day
  • The development of strategic monthly content calendars for each social channel
  • The creation of social media contests and sales-driven promotions
  • Social media paid-advertising campaigns to further build your targeted community
  • Digital marketing partnerships where you can leverage both social media and email marketing
  • Food and beverage photography and videography strategies to enhance your visuals

It’s not easy building an online community from scratch. Your social media presence must have a strategy behind it – not a ‘spray and pray’ method of posting a food photo and hoping your target market will engage with it. It is imperative that you’re consistent, unique, and strategic. You also want to build digital partnerships that will help you successfully piggy-back on another’s already built social media community.


Public Relations

Leading up to the opening and for the first one-to-two months after – you want to build strong relations with your local media partners. Pairing this with a strong social media strategy is crucial in developing the awareness you need to get a head start in generating revenue.

You want to consider the following methods:

  • The development of your key brand messages to create consistency and reduce confusion
  • The creation, management, and distribution of press materials including a press kit, fact sheets, press releases, and owner/chef biographies
  • The development of a targeted media list – online, print, and broadcast. Know beforehand who you want and don’t want to associate throughout your local media. Don’t waste time meeting with media outlets that don’t have the same target audience as you do
  • Partnering with key influencers (bloggers) and tastemakers (farmers, breweries, wineries, and other key suppliers to your restaurant)
  • The identification and training of your start-up brand ambassadors; this includes ownership, management, and other priority personnel

At a minimum, you want to send out press releases and contact your local restaurant bloggers, podcasters, food critics, and social media influencers. Engage with your local industry dignitaries on social media and then inform them of your newly developed restaurant. Create an invite only event either before or during your soft opening to maximize on their value and to amplify your story.


Direct-to-Customer

To tie all of your social media and public relations together to create a winning communications strategy, you want to include a variety of direct-to-consumer campaigns throughout the first 30-90 days of opening.

You want to ensure your target market is seeing your brand across a variety of channels. Pending your choice of concept – you want to entice them to visit your venue approximately three times before the end of your honeymoon period.

You can achieve this by creating the emotion that your target audience is going to miss out on the hottest new restaurant in town (FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out). You can do this by creating the following:

  • A variety of menu tasting and beverage pairing events
  • Direct mail marketing campaigns to targeted hyper-local neighborhoods
  • Community marketing outreach and partnership opportunities (events, donations, and sponsorships)
  • Site sampling and street activations by personally taking food samples and marketing material to local businesses (using your developed brand ambassador strategy)
  • In-house return visit campaigns that measure the return-frequency of customers

How will you reach the maximum number of targeted customers with the least amount of spending to maximize your return-on-investment? How will you plan to be memorable and stand out from the competition as time goes on? Start early and be creative, imaginative, and bold in all of your efforts while being prepared to handle social media, public relations, and direct-to-consumer strategies.

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The Ultimate Checklist for Restaurants

The Ultimate Opening Day Checklist for Restaurants

Originally Posted on Typsy – By Doug Radkey 08/06/2018

Before opening your doors to the public, there is an enormous and often overwhelming list of both tasks and strategic milestones to first complete.

This list traditionally starts 3-6 months (sometimes even more) prior to opening day. 

In this industry, there is never a ‘one-size fits all’ approach, but there are some general guidelines to follow, that any seasoned restaurateur will likely agree with, no matter if it’s a 3 month or 6 month project.

Your opening day checklist shouldn’t just be a piece of paper either, it is ideal to hold weekly meetings throughout the start-up phase and consider using an online project management dashboard to promote effective communication within your entire start-up team.

Let’s have a look at a generic restaurant opening-day checklist with the appropriate time-frames that should be shared with all members of your opening day team.

Design and Build

Even prior to signing your lease, you should have a grasp of who your design and construction or renovation team will be. Don’t waste your time afterwards sourcing and negotiating – the clock is now ticking.

For many independent operators, this is often 120-180 days away from your projected opening day. This is also where having your feasibility study, concept development plan, and business plan will help speed up the process, positioning you to make strategic – business driven decisions.

During this period you should expect the following:

  • Completed schematic designs (engineer and architect related drawings)
  • Submission of drawings to local municipality for approvals
  • The hiring of your project/construction manager or foreman
  • Receive quotes for exhaust hood systems and any other customized concept specifics that may need additional lead time outside of 2.5-3 months.

The project manager should then put in place what is known as a ‘gantt chart’ indicating construction or renovation milestones. From there, the construction of your restaurant dictates the remainder of the schedule for concept and operational specifics. You should work backwards from that projected completion date, often 90 days, and by ideally adding 2-3 weeks for potential delays.

3 – 4 Months Out:

  • Apply for liquor license – if required
  • Finalize graphic designs and other branding initiatives
  • Secure both web and social domains
  • Order bar and kitchen equipment – order earlier for customized equipment
  • Order furniture for restaurant (tables, chairs, umbrellas etc.)
  • Order any additional millwork related pieces for your concept – earlier for customized ones
  • Develop vision, mission, value, and culture statements for your concept
  • Develop staff positions, specified roles, job descriptions, and wage structures
  • Prepare your operational strategies (marketing plans, training programs, onboard packages, staff policies, operational templates/checklists etc.)
  • Decide and finalize choice of operational vendors; cleaners, pest control, grease trap cleaners, exhaust hood cleaners, security, telecommunications etc.

60 Days Out:

  • Install exterior signage and execute first portion of marketing plan including social media launch
  • Create start-up menu and prepare your food and beverage supply chain management
  • Setup payroll structure with bookkeeper and all staff paperwork filing processes
  • Interview and onboard any key management (chef and/or general manager)
  • Decide and order small-wares for both the kitchen and bar area
  • Decide and order staff uniforms with any logo artwork or embroidery
  • Decide and order point-of-sale systems in addition to any sound, video, and digital menu boards
  • Cost out menu and prepare both menu covers, design, and engineering strategies
  • Review current construction status and milestones – adjust remainder of schedule as needed
  • Install (and test) all kitchen & bar equipment and organize all ordered small-wares
  • Interview and onboard remainder of your team leading up to 30 days to opening

30 Days Out:

  • Install point-of-sale system and merchant services for both testing and training
  • Finalize recipe booklet & menu cards with photos for both kitchen and bar area
  • Setup line and employee stations; walk-through menu, steps required, and adjust
  • Begin 1-2 weeks of training for all new hires focusing on operations, equipment, and service sequence
  • Order and organize all food and beverage for training, soft openings, and opening day
  • Execute 30 day marketing and media launch strategies to begin second phase of building buzz
  • Create staff schedules for the next two weeks of soft openings plus first week of opening
  • Construction should be nearing completion minus final touch-ups and inspections
  • Setup a preventative maintenance program for all equipment and create emergency contact list

14 Days Out:

  • Host a photo/video shoot for food, beverage, and interior for marketing purposes.
  • Host first week of soft openings – using a strategic list of invite only guests
  • Make tweaks to operations and service sequence by observing timing, traffic flow, and guest emotions

7 Days Out:

  • Execute final portion of start-up marketing, media, and promotions plan.
  • Host second (and often final) week of soft openings – using a strategic list of invite only guests
  • Finalize tweaks to operations and service sequence by observing timing, traffic flow, and guest emotions

Opening Day:

D-day has arrived. Are you ready? By now all the previous groundwork you’ve done should mean that you’re prepared to open your doors to the public. Just a few more things before you celebrate:

  • Ensure venue, both interior and exterior, is impeccably clean with no signs of construction
  • By completing both training and a two week soft opening – your team should be confident and well prepared for the first round of guests
  • Be calm, you got this! 

As you can see, there is so much that goes into an opening and one should not attempt to go about it alone. Starting a restaurant, whether ‘from scratch’ or by over-taking an already built establishment (and re-branding), is incredibly challenging.

But by being prepared with the appropriate plans and checklists, you’ll be opening your restaurant with success! 

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Perfect Pitch to Investors

How to Deliver the Perfect Pitch to Investors

Originally Posted on Typsy – By Doug Radkey 07/13/2018

Sometimes, in order to reach our dreams, we need a little help. Starting (or growing) a scalable and sustainable restaurant or hospitality business is not cheap. Many aspiring restaurateurs need a business partner or investment group to help reach their financial targets.

Here’s what we know: The average start-up restaurant, (in US dollars) can range from $295,000 to $660,000+ depending on a variety of factors, including of course the size of establishment, whether it’s a ‘from-scratch’ project, and the choice of overall concept.

No matter how you look at it, that’s a lot of money.

So how can you get financial help? You can’t just walk up to someone and ask for $100,000 for example. You need to get out in both the financial and hospitality community and network to build up both solid and referable business relationships. You then need to prepare yourself and your concept for investors.

But how do you do that successfully for your hospitality business? Here’s how: 

Be Prepared 

Let’s hope you’ve completed a feasibility study, concept development plan, and business plan (hint: if you haven’t – get started, you won’t get far without these plans). Once those plans are finalized and tweaked, you want to begin preparing yourself for investors by ‘working backwards’ from your completed business plan.

Investors receive numerous proposals per month or year. They may not have the time to read through all of your plans, initially. You want to narrow it down to 10-12 impactful slides followed by 1-2 pages of your ‘executive summary’, and then a 60 second elevator-type pitch.

When crafting a proposal to investors, the return on their investment will always be their first and most critical concern, so keep that in mind. 

Perfect Your Pitch Decks 

Combining your three plans (feasibility + concept + business), what are the most important and impactful pieces of information that an investor would look for?

This is a great opportunity, within 10-12 slides, to include:

  • Your overall market size
  • Gaps in the market
  • Competitive advantages
  • Start-up costs
  • Architectural notes
  • Menu development
  • Key performance indicators 
  • Other financial highlights

Refine Your Executive Summary 

Now, take your pitch decks and narrow that key information down to 1-2 pages of the most important and impactful information. If you can’t capture their interest in your executive summary, you need to keep re-drafting it until it screams ‘WOW’.

Often times, this is the first document they will want to read, before getting into pitch decks or even your business plan. 

Know Your Elevator Pitch 

Sixty seconds. How can you grab the attention of an investor in one minute or less? Show your passion through the pitch while answering the three most critical questions the investor will want to hear, even before they ask you.

This is where you want to hit them with:

  • How they will make their money back
  • What problem or market gap you are filling
  • What your overall business concept is

Be Strategic

Investors want to know where their money is going, how it is going to be used, and how they’re going to get it back. Being strategic also means to expect the unexpected, and be prepared for it. You also want to identify your strengths, opportunities, and challenges. 

If you’ve completed your plans correctly, you should know your numbers. Be prepared to answer key financial questions (for example KPI’s) – which should all be backed
up with both facts and strategic (SMART) objectives.

Show them your benchmarks for:

  • Revenue per customer throughout different times of the day 
  • Break-even strategies
  • Detailed labor reports, inc. revenue per labor hour
  • Detailed food and beverage costs
  • Marketing and advertising budgets
  • Revenue per square foot
  • Revenue per available seat

Know Your Limits

Don’t be surprised that investors will have an interest in your business, (after all it is their money and reputation that’s on the line) so be prepared to answer some challenging questions: 

  1. Are you willing to negotiate any control of the restaurant to investors?
  2. When will the restaurant begin to turn a profit? What are the monthly cash-flow projections?
  3. What are the projected profits of the restaurant over the next 1-3 years; and is it realistic?
  4. What is your role in the project and who will be surrounding you for support?
  5. What are the chances the restaurant concept will fail? What is the exit strategy

Before you pitch your heart out, have a long, hard, think about these and know where you stand. It’s better that you know your boundaries rather than step into a deal that you’re not happy with. 

Leave an Impression

Lastly, be confident and memorable – show your passion, your level of experience, as well as your true understanding of your business concept. Utilize additional resources such as photos, drawings, videos, market research, testimonials, and even food or beverage samples to help enhance your presentation.

If you’re turned away by an investor (or bank), don’t let it get you down. Learn from the experience, make any adjustments from their feedback, and try again.

Asking for money isn’t easy – but being prepared, strategic, and memorable – will help you get closer to winning that next investor pitch.  

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Avoid the Dead Ends of Delivery

How Restaurants Can Avoid the Dead Ends of Delivery

Originally Posted on RestoBiz – By Doug Radkey 07/09/2018

I recently saw a screenshot from a consumer using a third party delivery application. After a delivery fee, a busy area fee (what?) and delivery fee taxes, a meal that was listed as $8.89 on the menu ended up costing them $30.36. Of that, the restaurant earned a mediocre $6.67 of that order. It’s not exactly a traditional breakdown of revenue, and restaurant operators are struggling to adapt to the ever-changing restaurant landscape.

Delivery has disrupted the restaurant industry more in the last five years than anything else. Digital ordering paired with the outsourcing of delivery has impacted restaurant traffic, revenue, profit and overall restaurant operations like no other piece of industry-wide technology.

The Here and Now

No longer just for the pizza or Chinese food segments, consumers can now dine at home or work with the same quality food found at their local fine dining restaurants. With consumers so accustomed to shopping online, it was no surprise to see non-traditional restaurants take advantage of the opportunity when it presented itself. But while the numerous positives seemed self-evident — a new revenue stream, more access to customers, more seats available for visiting customers — the negatives quickly became apparent as deliveries got underway across the world.

Third-party applications like UberEats, DoorDash and Foodora, represented on the backs of the small army of cars or bicycle couriers that sport the companies’ large, cubic bags, have largely made the delivery revolution possible. That revolution is far from free; restaurant operators can typically expect to give away 25 to 30 percent of the revenue generated by delivery to the third-party services that enable it, a cost that often ends up eroding the restaurateur’s bottom line.

By the Numbers

Restaurants typically spend an average of 30 to 35 percent in food costs, 25 to 30 percent in labour costs, 10 to 12 percent for leasing, plus minimal space for numerous other ancillary costs. At the end of the day, it leaves an average profit margin of approximately four percent. It’s already cut-throat, but with the added 25 to 30 percent for delivery, it’s simply brutal.

Consumers are driving the shift to third-party delivery, demanding convenience and high-quality, atypically-delivered food. Restaurant operators are in a bind: sign up for a third-party delivery service and relinquish a quarter to a third of their delivery-derived revenue, or miss the boat entirely. It’s not an easy decision.

Best Practices

It seems like most opt to take the plunge, which opens the door for a host of new issues. At one step of remove, restaurants’ relationships with their customers change. Operational headaches that are otherwise immediately addressed in the dining room are left in wonder. Even if a dish is perfectly cooked, it might be delivered cold, or outside the estimated timeframe, or jostled around until it falls apart. If it persists, it’s only a matter of time before it affects the restaurant’s reputation.

Dine-in traffic is reduced, as well. Restaurants risk demolishing their more profitable dine-in revenue by encouraging customers to stay at home and order. This is where the high-levels of profit from beverages, upselling and overall menu engineering strategies are lost. Restaurants must focus on the guest experience more so now than ever before, to draw in guests and encourage the guest to spend that noted $30.36 in-house.

In-House Delivery Solutions

Many immediately throw this idea out the window. The first thing you should do is consider an in-house delivery platform, with the use of a cost-effective digital ordering platform that is tied into your point-of-sale system.

Consider completing a cost comparison analysis based on your projected delivery orders while also considering insurance, staffing, and other startup delivery platform costs.

You may be surprised by the outcome. Numerous studies have suggested that in-house delivery platforms will operate at over 50 percent less than that of employing the services of a third party. If you’re willing to put in the effort to develop and execute a winning strategy, you will undoubtedly keep your brand messaging consistent while producing higher profit margins, controlling the delivery costs, keeping consumer data in-house, and maintaining your quality control efforts.

Going Third Party

While 25 to 30 percent is the norm, negotiation is still on the table, and it may be easier than you think. What could a reduction of 3 to 5 percent of commissions for example, mean to your bottom line over the course of a year? If, let’s say, UberEats isn’t willing to negotiate with you, then consider speaking to Foodora, or vice versa. Take control of the conversation.

Your delivery window is your control, as well. Limit it to off-peak hours of operations only, and encourage dine-in or pick-up only traffic through the use of effective experiences plus marketing and advertising during your peak-times to control kitchen operations, overall quality and, most importantly, your profit margins.

Similarly, it’s vital you limit what you deliver. Some items command a solid price point and still look good upon delivery, despite the bumps in the road. That elaborately prepared entree that your kitchen puts together with tweezers? Probably not so much. If a dish can barely survive the trip from the pass to a table intact, best not ask someone on a bike to rush it across town.

The Road Ahead

Delivery is only going to keep growing, and operators have the opportunity to take advantage of the new trend. But done haphazardly, they risk losing their hard-earned dollars, delivery by delivery.

Restaurateurs need to understand the risks and options available to them, and integrate the radically different profit margins into their day-to-day business.

Do your research and understand your brand, know your target market, and put the effort into analyzing the variety of options that are available to you.

The long-term viability of your restaurant may just depend on it.

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Building an Effective Beverage Program

7 Strategies for Building a More Effective Beverage Program

Originally Posted on FoodableTV – By Doug Radkey 06/14/2018

Every drop counts! Beverages arguably play a larger role in the industry today than they ever did before! 

You could try and make everyone happy by offering dozens of options at your restaurant, cafe, or bar, but we all know that’s likely not going to happen. An establishment needs to carefully consider their beverage menu, whether alcohol-focused or not, and offer one that is balanced, targeted, and one that fits their concept.

Many operators continue to face a challenge, however, when it comes to developing an effective beverage strategy. As with its food counter-part, consumers are more educated today about beer, cocktails, wine, coffees, sodas, and even a variety of waters. They understand retail prices and flavor profiles because they’ve become (or think they’ve become) a barista, mixologist, and/or wine & beer connoisseur at home. When they’re dining out or visiting a bar now, they crave something that’s ‘differentiated.’ 

How can restaurants, cafes, and bars take advantage of this segment and develop a memorable, consistent, and profitable beverage strategy that creates differentiation? Here are some tips to review when creating or re-engineering your next beverage menu. 

1. Day-Part Strategy. First, let’s look at your hours of operation and overall concept. Taking advantage of different day-parts is critical to maximizing each delicate moment of the day. Look at your mornings, lunch periods, afternoons, dinner hours, and late night day-parts. One segment that is taking off, for example, is the hybrid of ‘coffee by day – cocktails by night’. Both of these beverage categories now require a high level of skill, if executed properly (we’re not talking basic drip coffee here). Can your restaurant, bar, or even cafe, introduce a beverage strategy that targets specific time-frames of the entire day? 

2. Session Drinks. The drinking ‘culture’ associated with alcohol, in particular, has definitely changed over the past decade thanks to strict driving laws, the cost of ‘going out’, and the sophistication of consumers. Society today wants to maintain some measure of sobriety when they’re out in public. Therefore the days of ‘strong’ cocktails or binge drinking at the bar are diminishing. For your next menu, consider low-levels of alcohol in highly creative cocktail platforms in addition to flavourful beers that have less than 3% abv. In summary, a “session drink” is a beverage low in alcohol which can be consumed in ‘larger’ quantities without making someone excessively intoxicated. 

3. Beverage Science. What are the age brackets, income levels, and the number of men vs. women you’re targeting at your establishment? How long are your guests intending to stay? This all plays a part in their choice of beverage offerings. Still focusing on alcohol, let’s have a quick lesson. 

Alcohol is a depressant or a “sedative-hypnotic drug” because it depresses our central nervous system. Every organ in the human body can be affected by alcohol. In an average person, the liver breaks down roughly one standard drink of alcohol per hour. Excess alcohol then moves throughout the body making the body ‘impaired’. At low doses, however, alcohol can act as a simple stimulant, where people may feel happy, or become talkative. 

This mindset and thought processes have to be considered in the development of a beverage strategy, especially one involving alcohol. Consider the volume of alcohol, the sugar levels in the mixers (juices and soda), the potential pairings with food (yes, even if you’re a sports bar concept) and how it will affect your target customers during their stay. 

4. Perception of Value. Many restaurants & bars are still trying to ‘up-sell’ that extra ounce or two of spirits or upgrade to a glass of beer that’s larger than a traditional pint. Using the discussion points noted above, it may be wise to consider ‘down-selling’ to deliver that new perception of value. This is a reason why beer flights, for example, are effective (less beer, stronger profits, and visually impressive). All beverages must elevate the guests’ sense of smell, taste, and vision to create a positive emotion and perception of value. Consider this mindset first before trying to add that extra ounce of alcohol instead!

5. Reward Creativity. An effective beverage strategy, similar to that of food – also includes the development of limited time offers (LTO’s). Get your baristas and bartenders to create unique cocktails, iced teas, iced coffees, or craft sodas that are ‘Instagram Worthy’ – and then reward them for that creativity. This is also a great way to generate staff engagement, social media engagement, and to generate a new channel of potential revenue. 

6. Sustainability. When developing your next beverage menu, consider sustainability. Let’s think about it; there is a high use of energy within ice machines, refrigeration, and glass cleaning appliances. There is an enormous amount of waste in garnishes, straws, bottles, and napkins (to name a few). How can your establishment re-purpose ingredients, use more edible garnishes, conserve energy, and work with beverage suppliers to make a difference by reducing waste by 25-50% over the next six months within your venue? Make it a team challenge!

7. Price and Speed. Lastly, you want to keep your beverage menu compact and balanced with the right mix of high-quality choices and price points your target market will resonate with. You also want to ensure beverages are produced at a cost-effective speed. High-quality coffee, sodas, and cocktails, in particular, still need to be quick. How many of one specific drink can your team produce per hour? Anything over 60-90 seconds becomes a problem for venues and consumers. This comes down to production strategies and service training techniques. Make sure this is reviewed before going to print!

By now, you should see that the beverage category is a brand differentiator. When you ‘humanize’ that beverage experience, it takes it out of the realm of being a ‘commodity’. No matter your concept, there are strategic ways to maximize your beverage potential.

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Preparing Your Restaurant for Summer

Preparing Your Restaurant for Summer

Originally Posted on FoodableTV – By Doug Radkey 05/15/2017

It doesn’t matter which region you’re in — the warm summer weather provides restaurateurs the opportunity to develop seasonal flavors, all while providing them the ability to fill their seats (and patios) to drive new revenue channels.

To execute a flawless summer program, it’s important to start planning as early as possible, preferably 2-3 months prior to the start of summer. Developing a summer program this early will allow a venue to determine cash-flow needs, staffing requirements, inventory levels, and any additional training requirements to ensure a smooth operating season.

As with any seasonal or marketing related program, it’s imperative to use a SMART mindset towards your planning; one that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Secondly, it’s a fantastic opportunity to utilize your staff to brainstorm menu items, themes, and other special events. Finally, one should also use this time to review previous years’ seasonal data to set new, attainable financial goals.

The goal at the end of the day is to generate awareness, repeat business, and an increase in revenue over the course of three months. Here are nine ways to get started with summer planning, regardless of your concept type.

1. Drive energy.

The warm weather attracts tourism and gets locals looking to re-explore their outside surroundings. The restaurants or bars that provide the right mix of energy are the ones that will attract a consistent level of guests throughout the season. Look for ways to utilize live music, themed parties, and interactive games (inside or outside) on a daily or weekly basis throughout the summer. A fully pre-planned calendar of events will drive energy, create excitement, and develop repeat business!

2. Create event buzz.

To maximize an event’s reach, it’s best to use a three-tiered approach to creating event buzz. Have a plan in place to promote your seasonal events. You’ll need to one prior to the event, one during the event, and one afterwards, recapping the event. This will ensure you’re promoting the event, giving guests a means to engage with your brand. You’re also giving an opportunity for others to see what they missed out on, making them intrigued to not miss your next event!

3. Connect with your farmers market.

Consumers are looking for new flavors and innovation, as well as creative summer-like takes on traditional menu items. There is no better way to stay ahead of this need than by utilizing and building stronger relationships with local farmers market. Provide your culinary team with the means to develop unique, limited-time offers with not only seasonal produce, but a variety of barbecue-related flavours as well.

4. Put a little “theatre” in drinks.

Innovation shouldn’t stop with just the kitchen-related menu items; beverages need to be included into the mix, too. (It is hot out, after all). The “garden-to-glass” trend continues to grow and new, refreshing spirits are becoming readily available to develop unique flavorful drinks with a memorable presentation. Beer and cocktails with low-levels of alcohol should also be featured, plus creative mocktails and house-made spritzers should highlight one’s summer menu offerings.

5. Utilize video and storytelling.

These two elements are really required for any time of the year, but to promote your events, your limited-time offers, and summer drink menu, there is no better way to amplify the message than through video. Use this opportunity to showcase service staff planning an event, cooks building that signature summer burger, or bartenders pouring that refreshing beverage. Remember, with today’s smart phones, you no longer need to break-the-bank on video production!

6. Tap social circles.

Summer is a great opportunity to reach out to sporting teams, bike clubs, and other outdoor enthusiasts. Can your venue host after-parties? Can your venue host a social-media-only party or tasting event? Don’t be afraid to reach out and partner with other local businesses and organizations. Every campaign should have a social media and/or community-driven strategy behind it.

7. Convince guests to return for three visits.

Each seasonal program and its associated campaigns should have the goal of guests returning at least three times. Understanding your target market, is it realistic to see a guest return three times per week, three time per month, or once per month over the summer? Once you truly understand their lifestyle and spending habits, you can develop events and campaigns to drive summer loyalty and a personalized experience.

8. Use quality designs.

When a venue gives itself the opportune time to plan, a sense of higher quality often comes with it. Budget for and take the time to create high-quality designs for posters, ads, video, and social media posts. This will speak volumes to potential guests while providing a perception of value to not only your new summer menus, but also your events and overall venue.

9. Remember, it’s all about finesse and balance.

Absolutely, the summer provides an opportunity to think outside the box, but don’t go overboard with menu changes and special events. Know your target market, know your concept, and know your financial budgets. Develop a program that is simple but memorable, profitable, and effective, and without placing additional stress on your kitchen, bar, or service staff.

In summary, concentrate your summer plans on presentation, energy levels, storytelling, and developing a personalized guest experience. Doing so will develop a sense of community and culture, setting your venue up for success, even as the weather (and often sales) begin to cool down!

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Collaborating w/ Local Chefs & Businesses

Collaborating w/ Local Chefs & Businesses – Even the Competition

Originally Posted on FoodableTV – By Doug Radkey 05/01/2017

The word “collaboration” stems from the process of two or more people or organizations working together to achieve something that is remarkably outstanding. Giving that some thought, shouldn’t all restaurants and bars alike be working toward achieving this goal and mindset?

The problem is not everyone has learned that even collaborating with the “enemy” (competition) is not necessarily a bad thing. Restaurants have an array of opportunities to collaborate with suppliers, their community, and yes, even the competition, while working towards a common goal; more awareness, traffic, and revenue.

The below suggestions all have two key components: ticketed events and/or message amplification.

Local Farms

Assuming your restaurant is sourcing product from local farms, fisheries, and other artisans; consider taking that relationship to another level.

Guests today are looking for one-of-a-kind experiences, along with food and beverage pairings that develop a perception that it is personalized or customized – just for them.

This is leaving an opportunity for restaurateurs and their culinary and bar-focused teams to work alongside local suppliers to generate not only unique recipes but also a series of educational events where a farmer, chef, and bartender, for example, can educate guests on the product throughout the meal.

The farming partnership can also be taken to an “expert level” by having your restaurant host a dinner at the farm itself — climate and locality permitting. This takes the educational component to a new level and allows a culinary team to execute in one of the most creative environments, all while guests get to enjoy a variety of sensory-related experiences.

Local Beverages

Similar to that of the local farm collaborations, restaurants and bars have an opportunity to further enhance awareness, revenue, and experiences by partnering with local breweries, wineries, and distilleries.

Beverages today are an important aspect to the overall dining experience, and what better way to drive that message than to create pre-fixe menu nights using a chosen local beverage? This will give your culinary team the creative ability to infuse this beverage and flavor in all of the dishes, while a representative of the company walks guests through the production, tasting techniques, and flavor profiles of their product, creating a fun night and memorable experience worth sharing.

Chefs

For a one-night-only type of event, consider collaborating with another local chef at either your restaurant or theirs (or ideally alternate the next month). Use this opportunity to put a unique, one-night-only menu together that fits within the confines of your concept and put together the creative minds of both chefs.

The “aha” moment is when you both get to expand awareness to each others’ market and close network of guests by promoting this exciting event. This also drives a perception that you’re community-minded and open to creativity. And developing an event that can generate additional revenue on what could be a slower night for your concept always helps.

Charity

Cause-related marketing has always been a crowd-pleaser and is very easy for restaurants to execute, especially with venue space, food, and beverage options already in-house. Take this opportunity to communicate among your staff to generate a list of causes you and your team would prefer to support within your community.

Reach out to them and collaborate on an event that will generate awareness, guest experiences, and minimal revenue for the restaurant to cover costs, at the same time generating a generous portion of revenue for the cause or nonprofit organization.

This type of collaboration will generally grab the attention of local media and dignitaries, further amplifying your reach and awareness, and again driving the perception you’re a valuable member to the local community.

Competition

A little friendly competition has never hurt anyone (that we know of) and collaborating with other local restaurants can be very beneficial for everyone. Consider partnering with your local business resource centers to generate a one-night-only or week-long “restaurant/bar crawl.”

You can even develop your own event with other similar restaurants in your area, for example, a battle of chef creations or bartender creations. Consider a “Caesar Battle,” meaning which restaurant/bar can create the most epic Caesar drink, with a reward going to guests who visit and try each location’s creation.

The ideas are truly endless, and really fun, for everyone involved. Whichever is decided on, ensure it is driving traffic into your location. At the end of the day, it’s about the guest and egos need to step aside.

Now find ways to creatively combine two or more of the above collaborative ideas for the most unforgettable experience and revenue-generating opportunity. All of the above options and events will enhance your social media strategy, amplify your messaging throughout the community, improve your community perception, increase staff morale, and generate revenue opportunities for you and your shareholders, while developing a destination, not just a restaurant.

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Building Team Experiences

Building Team Experiences to Keep Staff Engaged

Originally Posted on FoodableTV – By Doug Radkey 04/17/2017

Within the industry, we always talk about “experiences” — and rightfully so. At the end of the day, experiences are what restaurants sell to customers. All of the emphasis, however, is on customer experiences; but what about staff experiences?

Desirable experiences don’t stop with just your customers. Your team craves experiences, too! As owners, operators, and managers; it is up to you to make your concept more than just a “job” or way for staff to “pay their bills”.

Ask yourself this. Does your team come to work excited each and every day? How do you think they speak about your restaurant with their friends and family off-duty? Is it a positive message?

Implementing the right culture statement and team-based strategy will assist in controlling your labor costs and reduce turnover, resulting in not only stronger consistency within your operations, but also a positive environment that will flow through to your customers and help amplify word-of-mouth marketing.

Here are some tips to help you get started.

Web Presence and Social Media

Restaurant consumers are seeking to learn and understand the culture of a restaurant when deciding on their eating destination. This is a great opportunity to showcase your team on your social media channels and on your website. Create a bio for your staff noting something unique about them, take a photo (or better yet, a video) of them, and share this content to your online community. This will equally make your staff feel like they’re a part of a team and the business development process.

Create a Stay Interview

Many have likely heard the term “exit interview,” but what about a “stay interview”? Take video to the next level by interviewing your staff and developing a series of testimonials as to why they love working for your restaurant. This tactic will create a sense of place and family among your team and also assist in your hiring process; positioning you to attain higher-quality candidates who seek a positive working environment.

Continuous Education

A great team member is one who craves learning and one who brings the same set of values as you do to the table. Depending on your concept and financial model, consider developing an educational program for your team. Think outside the box and create culinary/hospitality scholarships and/or consider sending your team to farms, breweries, wineries, etc., to learn about specific products you offer and their development processes. Continuous education will create a sense of appreciation, enticing your team to stay loyal to your establishment while benefiting not only their experience, but your customers experience as well.

Profit Sharing Programs

It’s safe to say that people enjoy working towards a common goal. Consider creating a realistic monthly revenue goal (slightly above your current average) for your establishment. Now share this goal with your staff and create a plan for the month on how to collectively obtain that goal. If you surpassed that goal (congratulations), distribute a percentage (5 percent, for example) of the monetary difference among your team. Repeating this process each month will not only increase your revenue and profit, but will develop a team-like working environment; reducing turnover and making your team feel important to the business and its success.

SMART Staff Reviews

Speaking of goals, there should be team-oriented goals (profit sharing) and also personal goals developed within an overall action plan. You should sit down with each individual teammate at least once every three months. During this meeting and using SMART (Specific. Measureable. Attainable. Realistic. Timely.) objectives – give each teammate something to work on over the next three months. This could be increasing revenue per transaction averages, providing accurate inventory counts, reducing waste levels, or having accurate end-of-day cash reports. Of course, reaching objectives should be rewarded, therefore create a reward program that works for your concept and financial model.

Creative Mindset

Don’t let your staff get complacent by having the same menu month-after-month and year-after-year. This will lead to boredom, which will eventually lead to turnover, especially in the kitchen. Allow your team to be creative by “creating” food or beverage options that fit within the confines of your concept. Consider holding an in-house contest each month to choose one featured food and beverage option created by a staff member. Highlight this on your social media and in-house marketing (effectively creating a story), while rewarding that individual with a commission on sales from the item during that month. If the product sells really well, consider adding that item to your everyday menu the next time you re-engineer your menu.

In summary, execute a marketing plan approach to your staff recruitment and staff development program. The time, resources, and effort spent on this will be well worth it in the long-run. Just ask your staff!

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Restaurant Supply Chain Management

Restaurant Supply Chain Management

Originally Posted on FoodableTV – By Doug Radkey 04/03/2017

Depending on the size of your restaurant model and the size of your menu, the restaurant supply chain can be simple to some and complicated to others. With raw materials, food safety regulations, delivery logistics, best-before dates, and overall packaging to coincide with your often limited storage capacities, the system can become one that sticks together or untangles on you in the blink of an eye.

When it comes to restaurants, bars, cafes, and food trucks; the producers, manufacturers, delivery drivers, owners, managers, and servers ultimately share the responsibility to create a safe and enjoyable dining experience within your concept.

It is imperative that your food service business understands the supply chain of the product it serves, in addition to having an emergency plan in the case a link of the supply chain “breaks.” This is now more important than ever at the restaurant level, with the farm-to-table and garden-to-glass movement; plus the continuous growth of craft beers, local distilleries, and of course, wineries.

Transparency, traceability, and accountability must be a top concern when deciding on vendors to ensure all products (both food and beverage) entering your restaurant or other food service business, are not only safe for your customers, but for your community.

Consider what a food-borne illness or product recall will do to your image, productivity, margins, and overall bottom line. The challenge with an illness or recall is the unpredictability of when it will happen, but the solution is to be more proactive and understanding at the restaurant level.

Initial Planning

At a more local level, this is more easily managed, whereas at a corporate or chain restaurant level, planning can become much more difficult. The most ideal situation is to deal directly with certified growers, co-ops, or distributors as much as possible who meet a high level of government standards. You need to reduce your risk by eliminating as many third parties as possible. When planning your menu(s), keep them compact and look for ways to re-purpose ingredients as much as possible. This will allow you to list out a limited number of targeted suppliers, including data on their company history, any past recalls, their storage facilities, delivery logistics, and ethical working environment.

Multiple Vendors

Freshness and seasonality play a large part in many restaurants across the nation. Outside of just delivering quality product and rotating menus, it’s important to meet with your above noted vendors, tour their facilities (if possible), and implement a back-up plan. Be proactive by developing a relationship with a primary supplier and secondary supplier for each of your core food and beverage products and ingredients to reduce the risk of not only running out of fresh inventory, but being quickly prepared in the case of a recall from your primary supplier. Lastly, when meeting with them, discuss their traceability program. If they don’t have one, simply move onto the next!

Data and Software

Data continues to define restaurants and food service businesses, and data within the supply chain is no different. Many Point-of-Sale (POS) companies have come to understand the current need for better inventory and supply chain management software, which will better track shipments, local SKUs, and improve vendor communication.

Having transparency throughout the supply chain will not only position you and your concept to make solid business decisions, but it will also help protect you through deeper HACCP compliance and SKU tracking, from the day of ordering the product to the day your customer arrives to eat or drink the product.

Operation Manuals

Basic manuals will always create a sense of accountability — an effective manual will not only identify product specifications and supply chain information for each product, but will also provide solutions to quickly respond to a food safety crisis if one were to happen.

Safely managing food safety is an ongoing process that requires commitment, communication, correct processes, vigilance, and teamwork at a multitude of levels. Ensure your values meet the values of your supplier and that there is a programmed system of communication in the event of a crisis.

In most cases, the paying customer wants high-quality product at the lowest price possible. Rising food costs — and the known importance to keep these costs within a certain percentage of sales — can often lead to a link within the supply chain breaking through poor decision making and quality control.

It should be no surprise, however, that supply chain management is the means to enhancing food and beverage quality and safety, all while reducing and controlling your costs. At the end of the day, the right supply chain can actually be used as one of your best marketing tools and simply cannot become overlooked or cheated on.

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Restaurant Start-Up SOS

Restaurant Start-Up SOS

Originally Posted on FoodableTV – By Doug Radkey 03/15/2017

Outside of preparing for hidden costs and understanding strategies to save time and money during start-up, there are many other factors that can make an aspiring restaurateur scream “SOS” on or before the day one opens their doors.

One word that cannot be stressed enough during this phase is, of course, planning. Sometimes, however, even with a high level of planning in place, things can unfortunately go sideways for some — and they can happen fast.

The good news is that you can try and stay ahead of the most common problems with these five SOS-related problems and solutions!

Property Surprises

Problem Area: One of the most frequent problems that arise is found within your property choice. New restaurateurs often find out after a lease is signed that their property may not be fully compatible for a restaurant and will need further upgrades to meet standards for energy, ventilation, and revised building and/or health codes.

Solution: Have a commercial inspector walk through the property with you before signing your lease, looking at common areas for mold and leaks (water and air), in addition to the most updated building codes and food-service-related health codes needed to operate. Secondly, within your concept development plan, list out your priority pieces of equipment and their specs, including the energy consumption they will use. This step will help you understand if you will need to upgrade electrical panels or gas lines, while not forgetting about your hood system and ventilation needs. Thirdly, if you have immediate neighbors, it’s ideal to understand their concept, operating hours, and the acoustics within the walls separating the units. Will interior noise levels affect either your business or theirs? Make sure this is planned and budgeted for, if upgrades are needed.

Inevitable Delays

Problem Area: Many start-up projects see at least one — or even a variety of — delays with building permits, material suppliers, and/or contractors. These delays will slowly eat away at your cash flow, create a heightened level of stress, and of course, extend your ideal opening day.

Solution: Mentally and physically prepare for it. Learn the average time for building permits to get approved in your area, and then add 1-2 weeks to that time frame. Meet with your flooring, lighting, and wall finishing supplier, as well as your hood system, kitchen equipment, mill-worker, and furniture suppliers before construction begins. This step will position you to find out their specific lead times required to produce, organize, deliver, and/or install. This all needs to be coordinated with your contractor and then laid out in an organized project management Gantt chart which shows activities (tasks or events) displayed against time.

Quitting Chefs

Problem Area: A scenario that, believe it or not, happens more often than it should is a chef who quits before opening day or shortly there-after. This situation will leave a restaurateur scrambling and leave a question of doubt among you and your other hired team members.

Solution: Before hiring your chef (if you’re not a chef inspired owner) or even before hiring your other team members, make sure your four key statements (Value, Vision, Mission, Culture) are completed. Equally, before hiring your chef, management, and other key staff, make sure your menu concept is completed and you show them the plans for the kitchen and bar space, the size of team they will lead, the wage structure, and overall growth plans. In summary, be 100 percent transparent so there are zero surprises, which is often the main reason a restaurant loses its key start-up staff.

Strapped Cash

Problem Area: Approximately 7 out of 10 start-ups face crucial financial decisions before opening their doors, sometimes (sadly) even leading to the doors not opening at all. Outside of possible delays strapping ones cash, some owners begin losing sight of their budget because they want the best of the best for the interior design of their concept.

Solution: Going hand-in-hand with preparing for hidden costs and delays, what can you do to avoid cash-flow problems? It’s imperative that concept development plans, business plans, and start-up budgets are in place and you’ve accounted for a variety of hidden costs. To reduce a significant portion of your start-up costs, consider leasing your equipment or taking over an existing foodservice space to leave further financial room. Secondly, as an owner, it is important to balance what is most critical to your concept and balance those interior element costs. Have your start-up budget updated on a weekly basis to hold yourself — and your supporting start-up team — financially on track and accountable.

No Customers?

Problem Area: Opening day has finally arrived! The renovations are complete, everyone is excited, and the hired team is trained and ready. You open your doors and only a few customers trickle in, leading to more questions and doubt. What happened?

Solution: The adage of “if you build it, they will come” sadly doesn’t exist in the restaurant industry. With a marketing and advertising plan, a startup needs to create buzz long before opening day. You must engage with the community prior to opening day through a launch day strategy plan. As a start-up restaurateur, you need to develop a strong budget for this category and keep it locked away and off to the side from your other expenses.

One of the main reasons this problem area occurs is that the startup needs to dive into the marketing category to pay for other equally important financial categories because of hidden costs in property surprises, inevitable delays, and re-hiring of staff.

Starting a restaurant, bar, or cafe takes a level head and plenty of research, organization, and financial planning. Use these startup SOS tips to stay ahead of the game!

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