Food & Beverage

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Hotel F&B in a Post-Pandemic Landscape

Hotel Food & Beverage in a Post-Pandemic Landscape

By Doug Radkey – 07/22/2020

Nearly all of our favorite and most popular travel destinations around the world have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in a horrendous financial loss for hotels, resorts, and the entire hospitality industry alike.

Research by the American Hotel & Lodging Institution suggests that hotel recovery to pre-COVID-19 levels could take until the year 2023—or perhaps even later with the expected ‘long-term’ loss of business travel and international leisure travellers.

Sadly, many properties have not survived and will not be opening their doors again. Some of those who rely on international travel see little benefit in resuming service while many borders remain closed. And those who are ready to reopen face a very different business environment to the one they were once accustomed to.

There are numerous strategies and alterations to consider moving forward for the operation of a hotel property post-pandemic; but one area that can help properties to regain their guests’ trust plus revenue and profits is that of the food & beverage program.

The Opportunity

For years, one could rely on a hotels restaurant and bar for a steady supply of traditional fare. Hotel food wasn’t necessarily an after-thought, but menus lacked (and in some cases continue to lack) inspiration.

However, in today’s global hotel market; both pre-covid and post-pandemic, a cities best and most innovative and creative food & beverage menu could be found in a hotels restaurant and bar.

But it is not longer just about the food. Hotels obviously have their chef(s) – but moving forward they must also consider a ‘director of mixology’ – even for smaller boutique properties.

Consider for a moment, instead of creating cocktails to match the food menu, doing it the other way around and starting with the beverages. You may be surprised by the results.

This is a secret to a successful, high-profit full-sensory on-premise (and off-premise) program.

While there is significant social and economic changes expected (post-pandemic), there will be a growing and potential multi-billion dollar opportunity for hotels to better cater to guests through their food & beverage options – if the venue can weather the current storm.

As the population regains their confidence to book a hotel stay, guests who visit for either business or leisure may be reluctant to travel to too many spots around town due an ongoing fear that it may not be 100% safe to do so.

Furthermore, many (potential) guests will find their finances dramatically affected by the economic downturn which is now inevitable throughout most of the world, and this will also lead to demand for more affordable cuisine and experiences.

Therefore, a food & beverage program with multiple revenue streams including a balance in pricing found within a trusted hotel that provides a consideration towards a full sensory experience for multiple day-parts is critically important.

Hyper-Local Programming

Hotels today must increasingly try to attract local residents partly because today’s visitors increasingly want to eat where the locals hang out and secondly – because that noted business & leisure travel is expected to be slow for the next 12-18 months.

The food & beverage programs and experiences must shape guests’ understanding of the hyper-local region by supporting local farms, vendors, & culture.

Hotels today and moving in a post-pandemic landscape must promote strong relationships & partnerships with local farmers and producers and introduce their products & flavors to guests in delicious and sometimes, surprising ways.

It is anticipated that hotel guests will expect venues to rely less on imported goods while using more locally-produced items within a 75 mile (100 km) radius due to support local initiatives, the need to embrace the local culture, current (and future) supply chain restrictions, and simply more robust, fresh flavors.

Buffet Pivots

Remember waking up at a hotel and strolling down to the lobby for the breakfast buffet? Sadly, that will be just a memory for most moving forward. It’s likely no secret that it will be a long time before buffets come back. Even with sneeze guards, hotels must (temporarily) shift to à-la-carte menus, made-to-order options, and individually packaged grab-and-go items.

The buffet concept (for breakfast and other day-parts) could also opt to switch to cafeteria-style model instead of self-serve stations (with physical distancing measures in place). Even hotel restaurants with self-serve beverage stations, breakfast bars, salad bars, and a toppings bar will likely need to eliminate these self-serve stations in order to comply with guidelines from both a government point of view and guest sentiment point of view.

These “serving stations” could be individually prepared & plated in real-time by staff from behind the counter which likely means more labor – but providing a safe experience which will win guests over – providing opportunity for further awareness, revenue & profits.

Off-Premise Revenue

Many hoteliers and hotel brands around the world have begun to shift their food & beverage operations amid the pandemic, catering to locals by launching both takeout and curbside pickup options.

With the introduction of this new revenue channel, it is anticipated that it will stick around for quite some time.

Hotel F&B programs must also offer access to more premium grab & go options and also meal-kits. Whether for a day out exploring the city (remember they may be hesitant to stop in a restaurant they don’t know), or on the way to a business meeting, hotels are uniquely positioned to meet guest needs by leveraging their full-service kitchens to supply pre-made meals, snacks, and even F&B experience kits.

Micro-Experiences

From mid-scale to luxury, some hotel brands are taking the resurgence of “at-home” dining to the next level by creating unique F&B packages for micro-groups at the hotel itself.

As an add-on at booking, guests for example can upgrade to a private dining package that includes customized tastings, cooking tutorials, wine pairings, and cocktail making – all in a private space.

For some hotel & resort properties, the often abundance of outdoor space can also provide ample opportunity for seasonal or year-round food & beverage experiences. Picture open-fire kitchens, bar pavilions, and an atmosphere complete with comfortable seating, temperature control systems, and (hopefully) impeccable views for couples, families, and small group gatherings.

Technology Stack

There are a lot of ways technology will enhance hotel operations and experiences moving forward, both in and outside the food & beverage department.

Inside the kitchen, remodels are expected to happen over the next 1-3 years to adhere to the quick-service demand, the demand for the noted new experiences, and the potential lack of qualified staff. This means more self-cooking oven stations, simplified processes, smaller footprints, and smart kitchen technology.

A high level of convenience and contactless service will also be critical on the consumer side, when it comes to on-premise (F&B) room service.

One way to ensure a frictionless experience is through the use of technology.

Approximately one in four hotel guests surveyed by the American Hotel & Lodging Institute, think it’s important for hotels to have 24-hour room service. They want the option to have incredible food and beverage, no matter the time of day.

Post-pandemic, this will still hold true but the service sequence needs to change so that it includes the use of technology and contact-less service, both in the hotel restaurant(s) and in-room. The data shows that one in five guests also want the convenience of ordering with technology – via the hotels app on their phone or even through the TV in their room.

The order can then be packaged & delivered to the outside of the room, to their table in the restaurant, or by having a technology-driven “pick-up locker” in the lobby with mobile phone use to access the food delivered via the hotels kitchen or any third-party delivery partners.

And when it comes to customizing mini bars, 14 percent of guests would choose a hotel where the mini bar is personalized to snack and drink preferences based on the historic data from previous stays or allergies. While some argue the mini-bar is done due to the pandemic – we think hotels just need to personalize it and then make it a point of sanitation between stays.

Quick summary; hotel food & beverage programs must continuously react, adapt, and execute as consumer demand and sentiment fluctuates; both short-term and long-term while providing both unique one-of-a-kind experiences and brand activations.

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Bar Concepts w/ Sensory Experiences

Developing a Bar Concept w/ Sensory Experiences

By Doug Radkey – 09/23/2019

Once your idea has been researched and the market, location, technical, business, and financial viability of the idea has passed a series of reviews throughout a feasibility study, a concept development plan can then be started.

Remember, outside of being scalable, you want to build a concept that is sustainable, profitable, memorable, and consistent.

Bar concepts over the years have gone from being tame (or lame) or overplayed, like tiki bars or sports bars, to concepts that push the boundaries of what a bar can be. One of the best ways to build a customer base is to go off the beaten path to create a bold and fresh new bar concept.

A concept plan will focus on ‘chapters’ and visual storyboards that include an overall:

  • Concept Summary (a one page summarization similar to that of an Executive Summary)
  • Statement Overview (Value, Vision, Mission, Culture)
  • Architectural Design (characteristics, features, costs)
  • Bar/Kitchen Production (your equipment specs)
  • Entertainment & Guest Experience Summary
  • Menu Design Attributes (food & beverage)

Owning a bar is a dream for most that must be met with the right research, planning, and mind-set.

One’s market will, and must, define the concept. To be successful, you must be open to building a venue the market both wants and needs.

Concept development is giving your ‘idea’, both soul and character. A bar’s concept is the lifeline of its brand and longevity in the market. It makes your venue stand apart from the competition, and it’s ultimately your bar’s unique selling proposition.

Have you ever walked into a bar and been confused about its identity? The interior doesn’t match the beverage offerings, the social media experience doesn’t reflect the actual experience, and even the music doesn’t seem to match the vibe of the bar.

This is what happens when there isn’t a clear and detailed concept development plan in place, and it is a sure fire way to be just average at best.

It’s More Than Just a Drink

Most conceptual ideas start at the food & beverage level. A bar however, needs to remember that they don’t just sell food & beverage; they sell experiences through the enhancement of guest emotions.

When planning a concept, it’s imperative to have a focus on the style of menu and niche of entertainment – but a winning concept will elevate a guest’s variety of senses. Here’s how:

Visual: Use the mindset of a traditional bar meeting on-trend beverage effects. Consider the style of beverage vessels, the use of unique ice cubes or even dry ice, the garnishes used, and potentially a variety of ‘smoking’ techniques within a variety of your signature cocktails, providing a visual effect that grabs every guest’s attention.

Plus, it will be hard to find a guest who is not taking a photo and sharing it on social media – an easy promotional tool to make each of their individual networks feel as if they’re missing out (FOMO) on the best experience in town.

Auditory: Music, drinks, and food share an intimate connection. From the beginning, this should be a focus. Every day, every weeknight, and every weekend must be filled with strategic decisions around sound.

From your day-part strategies, to the sound of cocktail shakers, to live music calendars and even proper speaker placement – your venue must see why 76 percent of bar customers surveyed believe they stay longer due to the sound of the environment.

Olfactory (smell) System: Like sound, a pleasant and subtle fragrance can lead to an improved perceived quality of the environment and can enhance the mood of guests, causing them to stay longer. Our sense of smell is after all, directly linked to the part of the brain responsible for memory and emotion – two things bars need to strive for.

For example; consider a Smoked Cedar Plank Whiskey around the Christmas season. The scent of the smoked cedar will fill the bar area with a subtle Christmas tree aroma, prompting the guests attention and need to spend more money.

Gustatory (taste) System: Food & beverage pairings have never been more important, and it isn’t just for wine. Consider appetizers (snacks) within your food & beverage program that pair with miniature versions of your signature beverages (beers, wines, and even cocktails) that could be served on flight boards; elevating all flavor profiles.

Your remaining food & beverage menu should be small, balanced, and targeted around flavor profiles that your ideal guests desire.

Summary; When you combine these efforts, it’s easy to see how a successful brand can build a community around thousands of fans – within 30 days of opening.

This is something you can easily replicate if you focus your decisions on layout, design, food, beverage, training, and events around the above sensories.

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Building a Sustainable Cocktail Program

Building a Sustainable Cocktail Program

By Doug Radkey – 04/05/2019

Let’s be honest, the traditional bar setting serving cocktails is an environmental nightmare.

Let’s think about it; there is high use of energy within ice machines, refrigeration, and glass cleaning appliances. There is enormous waste in garnishes, straws, bottles, and napkins (to name a few). And finally, there are corporate wineries, distilleries, and breweries producing a large carbon footprint delivering spirits to the bar.

When it comes to bars; (or any other food & beverage service provider) the producers, manufacturers, delivery drivers, owners, managers, and servers ultimately share the responsibility to create an enjoyable guest experience within ones concept. As we have seen with restaurant kitchens over the past 3-5 years, there is now also a ‘movement’ towards eco-friendly and sustainable bars, something many guests are seeking as part of their desired experience.

On the surface, it may sound like an easy change, but creating cocktails in particular that are ‘sustainable’ (zero waste), is in-fact difficult to produce while maintaining the required quality, speed, and profit margins both operators and guests, look for.

So how can independent bars make a simple impact within this craft-cocktail ‘movement’? Let’s begin to have a look at some strategies (#barhacks) that one can implement starting today:

Re-Purposed Ingredients – How can you use 100% of an ingredient? Start by looking at the beverage menu. How large is it? Does it have focus? What ingredients are used in each and every drink that’s made? Which ones are used for infused flavour versus visual appeal? Which ingredients are only partially used with the remaining components discarded into compost, for example fruit scraps? Review each drink and look for ways to re-purpose ingredients and their counter-parts, within both the bar and/or kitchen.

Edible Garnishes – Obviously, cocktail garnishes are decorative ‘ornaments’ that often add character or style to a cocktail. They are often used to complement and enhance the flavours in a drink by stimulating the special nerve cells in our nose and mouth. The days of plastic straws, festive umbrellas, plastic skewers, and other non-edibles however, need to stop. Instead, use fresh fruits, flavour infused salts, edible stir sticks, edible flowers, house-made flavor-infused lollipops on candy sticks (yes), and steel skewers for olives and other edible garnishes, if so desired.

Energy Conservation – Take a close look at your glassware and how it is washed. Are you using over-sized glasses (ie. martini glasses) that are taking up too much space on the wash-rack, leading to unnecessary additional washes (which costs money and uses more detergents)? How many glasses could you fit if you changed glassware sizes?

How much ice are you using in each drink? Does the beverage really need ice or could the glass be simply pre-chilled? Take a look at your menu, glassware, fridge space, freezer space, and use of ice machine. Is there a way to reduce used energy within the bar itself to help create sustainable cocktails?

Supply Chain Management – Transparency, traceability, and accountability must be a top concern when deciding on vendors to ensure all products (both food and beverage) entering your bar or other food service business, are not only safe & sustainable for your customers, but for your community. Work with beer, wine, and spirit makers who are equally trying to make a difference. With the growth of local distilleries, breweries, wineries, and produce suppliers; supporting local and reducing the carbon footprint within a bar, is so much easier! Collaborate and work together to make a difference.

In summary, don’t start a goal of 100% zero waste or sustainability – it’s likely not going to happen overnight. Instead, set SMART realistic goals to reduce waste by 15 or 30% over the next 6 to 12 months to begin building a sustainable cocktail and/or bar venue. Once that goal is obtained – double down on that goal for the next 6 to 12 months. You and your customers will notice a positive difference!

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Make More Money This Festive Season

6 Ways Restaurants Can Make More Money this Festive Season

Originally Posted on Typsy – By Doug Radkey

Festive Season. These two words signal colder weather (in most areas), delicious comfort food, creative drinks, memorable parties, laughter with friends & family, and of course – gift giving.

These are also two words that nearly everyone seems to look forward to throughout the year, including that of restaurant owners. The reason is quite simple; consumers are often in a generous mood which equals longer stays and more spending dollars.

Restaurants, bars, and cafes have the opportunity to generate an abundance of awareness, an increase in revenue per guest, and even repeatable business in what can be defined as the often slower months following the Festive Season (yes it is possible).

Let’s jump right into some Festive strategies your concept or venue should consider this holiday season:

1. Cross-Promotions

Make sure that special events and other winter-related promotions are planned for well in advance, ideally 1-2 months prior. This season is such a large opportunity, that a true marketing plan should be developed just for the season. The festive cheer that starts the season, for example, can act as a forerunner to both Christmas and New Years Eve parties, packages, and other revenue generating opportunities such as gift card sales.

Speaking of gift cards – create a marketing program specifically around these money-makers. Restaurants are the most popular choice for consumers to purchase gift cards, with 41% of total gift card spend going to restaurants. But don’t just sell the one card. Create a promotion that includes spending an ‘x’ amount of dollars on a card before Christmas, and receive a second card with an amount of ‘x’ that can only be used in January or February. Add value, be aggressive, and get people through your doors over the next two months when sales are traditionally lagging.


2. Labor Management

Similar to that of the retail sector and depending on the size of the restaurant, additional staff may need to be hired to handle the extra covers that are waiting to come in. This is where planning ahead really comes into play. To be fair to yourself, your team, your new hires, and your guests, you need to ensure you leave yourself enough time for interviewing, talent selection, onboarding, and training before the peak of Christmas season truly hits.

Both front-of-house and back-of-house systems and their teams need to be reviewed to ensure your operations are prepared. Customer service and speed in the kitchen or bar should not be hindered by the fact it’s getting busier. You can ‘scale’ your business by being prepared; create mock schedules and see where there may be gaps to ensure a high standard of service is available when your restaurant needs to shine.

Speaking of staff, let’s not forget about their valuable time! Ensure they’re given time to spend with their friends and family too. Be flexible with your scheduling – and don’t forget to thank them for their loyalty and commitment!


3. Off-Premise Dining

With the increase in delivery and off-premise dining, the Festive Season may not show any signs of slowing that segment down this year. Is your restaurant prepared to market the catering and delivery of food and beverage to office parties and house parties?

This presents an opportunity to offer the catering of a traditional or concept-infused, Christmas focused meal or buffet style dinner — right to their door!

Create a variation of value-added packages for different sized parties and request 72 hours (or more) notice (with deposit) to have it prepped and delivered, right on time. Just don’t forget the high-quality take-out containers and plates for an easy clean-up afterward!

Pre-ordered packages such as this will generate cash-flow, control potential waste, and control staff costs.


4. Food Menu

Is your restaurant in a position to offer a traditionally plated meal or other harvest/winter flavors? How about a unique variation or infusion based on your restaurant’s concept and kitchen structure?

Don’t be afraid to think outside-the-box and get creative. For example, if you’re a Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) near a parade route, create an easy-to-eat holiday inspired option for ‘on-the-go’.

Develop a holiday-themed menu with your entire team (kitchen and bar team) with your target market and concept kept close in mind. Make it a fun exercise for everyone. As always, keep the specialized menu small and inviting to reduce inventory, prep-time, additional staff requirements, and potential waste.

You also want to keep in mind that a lot of the guests visiting may have never stepped foot in your establishment before because they’re just tagging along with a large party. Think of allergens and include dishes that vegans, vegetarians, and guests with other primary food sensitivities would still enjoy.


5. Beverage Menu

Having the right drinks on your menu is just as important as the food. The Christmas season is the best time of year to sell both pre-and-after-dinner drinks if you’re a dine-in restaurant.

You have to have the mindset that every drop counts!

While pre-and-after dinner drinks are big sellers, you can make a larger impact by offering ‘session drinks’ – drinks with a lower level of alcohol – or just zero-proof drinks all-together.

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.

Show off your bar teams talent by creating ‘theatre’ in your beverages in addition to a balance in alcohol levels which should be promoted with the right mix of marketing.

When crafting your beverage menu, keep sustainability, speed, price, and perception of value in mind – for both non-alcohol and alcohol driven drinks.


6. Christmas & New Year’s Parties

You have the square footage, you have the approved capacity, and you have the kitchen/bar. These are the needed ingredients required to host an exclusive or intimate type event at any venue. Whether you have the capacity for 20 or 200 plus guests, there is an opportunity to generate awareness, revenue, and repeat customers by becoming known within your community for being the ‘best host in town’.

To make event management work for your restaurant, it must create a unique and memorable guest experience, which is no different than traditional dining strategies. Whether you’re hosting your own New Year’s Eve party or renting out your space before Christmas for a variety of private events – ensure there are defined (but value driven) food & beverage packages and a financial deposit made to protect your bottom line.

You also want to ensure there is a communication strategy in place to let other guests know if your venue is closed for a private event. Maximize each event by being organized, well staffed, and engaged. Take it a step further by providing guests at the event – an opportunity to revisit in January or February with a measurable gift (a coupon for a free appetizer or $10 gift card, for example).


By truly knowing and understanding your target market, your concept, and the neighboring business environment, the Festive Season is an excellent time to showcase your brand and your creativity – ultimately generating awareness, revenue, and repeat business opportunities, ultimately setting the tone for the following year!

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Should Restaurants Ditch 3rd Party Delivery?

Should Restaurants Ditch 3rd Party Delivery

By Doug Radkey – 11/12/18

Should restaurants ditch third party delivery apps and create their own in-house off-premise strategy? I recently took part in a few online conversations surrounding third party delivery apps – from both the consumer and the restaurant operator point-of-view.

If you follow along – I am not a fan of these services (at all). I’ve never used them nor suggested a brand to use them.

While I embrace technology in the restaurant space (and off-premise dining options) – I feel the business model surrounding these apps (in particular UberEats and Skip the Dishes during these most recent discussions) are lacking in both customer service and transparency while further killing overall restaurant profits (like operators today need anymore of that).

Let’s look at a recent transaction. I recently saw a screenshot from a consumer using a third party delivery application. After a delivery fee, a busy area fee, a peak delivery time fee, and the 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 that we see in restaurants, and operators today are struggling to adapt to this ever-changing restaurant landscape. I feel it came at them much too fast and many have jumped on board because they felt they had to.

But I have a question – why are we not doing a better job to get guests to spend that $30.36 they were willing to spend – in the restaurant or at least through our own off-premise dining program?

With a little effort – it can happen!

Here is what we know. Delivery and off-premise dining 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.

Based on the conversations this past weekend it seemed liked the only party benefiting from the use of these apps – was the third party. However, if you ask them, they’re apparently not making ‘huge profits’ either.

Here are a few notable quotes from the public chat that took place on Facebook – again from both consumer & operators:

I’ve deleted the app – every time I’ve ordered, something goes wrong and a lot of times it’s the drivers fault not paying attention” – Consumer

If you’re doing takeout, pick it up from your local business. Other than that you’re rolling the dice” – Operator

“Their chat-bot told me ‘we are deeply disappointed that we have failed to provide you with optimum service during your orders and for this reason we have decided that it is best to remove ourselves from this relationship’” – Consumer

Best thing to do is get out and support your local restaurants, leave these rip off merchants congeal back in the gutter where they belong” – Operator

I had no idea these apps take such a percentage from the restaurant on top of the delivery fee. I will no longer order through an app. I thought I was supporting my favorite restaurant, but apparently I wasn’t” – Consumer

Not much of anything positive.

Here’s the thing; recent stats are showing staggering numbers such as 60% of consumers ordering delivery in the past 30 days. Based on trend reports, this is ‘unfortunately’ only going to climb – even though I personally wish more people would visit restaurants, engage in the experience, get out of their home, and socialize with others away from their smart-phone.

But out of those that do order delivery through these third parties, 30% are experiencing poor customer experiences – with either the app or the restaurant – or both.

That is significantly higher than the number of complaints one would receive at the restaurant level without a third party being involved.

Here’s the next problem; according to a study by Steritech, consumers are placing over 80% of the problems on the restaurant through the use of these apps (even if most problems are not their fault).

Due to the third party app, a gap in communication immediately happens between the consumer and the restaurant. This leads to the restaurant not being able to often resolve the problem in a timely manner before that consumer blasts them for something on social media.

Not a pleasant situation.

This is because they’re sending their complaints directly to the third party app (the platform that ultimately placed the order for them) – which I suppose makes sense from a consumer point-of-view. This however leads to over 25% saying they would not order from the restaurant ever again – not entirely fair considering the restaurant may never have even known about this unhappy experience.

Furthermore:

  • 14% say food quality was not as expected (likely due to travel time or packaging)
  • 19% say the order took too long
  • 19% say the food wasn’t the correct temperature when it arrived (timing or packaging issue)
  • 29% say the order was incorrect or missing something

All of this could be avoided! When partnering with these mainstream third party apps – you’re also:

  • Losing a direct communication channel
  • Losing positive brand perception
  • Losing much needed profits to sustain yourself
  • Losing consumer data for future marketing
  • Losing foot traffic in your dine-in real estate

Most importantly – you’re losing control once that food leaves your four walls.

Why on earth are we doing this to ourselves for such limited margins?

If you are operating a restaurant and are currently using these apps – though you will never have full control of the situation, there are a number of options available to you to leverage more control.

That said I encourage you to consider your own in-house off-premise program. These options below should be considered whether you’re partnering with a third party or if you’re offering your own in-house platform:

  • Offering a limited delivery only menu option with higher margins (consumers are obviously willing to spend more)
  • Offering limited day-part delivery times (example; not at 6pm on a Saturday when the kitchen is slammed)
  • Using specialized take-out packaging for certain menu items to protect the quality of your unique food options
  • Using tamper-proof packaging so delivery drivers cannot alter the order (happens often)
  • Having a quality control program (or expeditor) reviewing meals before it leaves the restaurant
  • Sending printed customer care promises (how to reach the restaurant directly) delivered with the meal

There are much better options out there for digital take-out, delivery, catering, and off-premise dining that will allow you to keep control of all of the above while maximizing profits including the introduction of your own off-premise strategy – which will often keep costs to under 10% – no joke!

Then, use these ‘savings’ to increase your own marketing & advertising efforts. It surely won’t be 25-30% like what these third party delivery apps are currently taking from independent operators (which you were willing to give up anyway); keeping more money in your pocket.

This type of in-house strategy will also differentiate your brand from the competition that is also increasing each day on these main-stream app platforms.

How will you stand out and make your brand memorable? How will you position your brand for a sustainable future? How will you protect your brand, its profits, and utilize the available customer data?

Don’t partner with them just because it seems like the easy thing to do or ‘because everyone is using them.’

The notion that you must be on them to survive is 100% inaccurate. If you need to use them for ‘marketing’ – you need to learn more about marketing.

Take a stand and learn about your options first.

I am yet to hear a positive story on how these main-stream third party delivery apps have actually helped their business grow in the long-term. In my professional opinion, restaurants should ditch third party delivery apps.

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Developing an Epic Patio

Developing an Epic Patio Program

By Doug Radkey – Summer 2018

Patio. Season. Two words nearly every Canadian seems to enjoy and two words nearly everyone looks forward to after a long cold winter, including that of local restaurant & bar owners.

If your property is lucky enough to have this additional space and seating, it’s critical to take advantage of this revenue generating opportunity.

But can having a patio be looked at as a double-edged sword? While it opens up more seats and potential revenue (during a time when many restaurateurs are seeking smaller foot prints), can a patio also cause labour, logistics, and other operational challenges?

The quick answer is absolutely!

With something as complex as a successful patio season however, there needs to be an action plan, first and foremost to combat those challenges. This is a plan that is developed prior to the nice weather arriving and a plan that is well organized with strategic goals and a series of risk assessments.

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

As with any seasonal, strategic, or marketing related program, it’s crucial to use a SMART mindset towards your planning; one that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

Furthermore, the development of an action plan is a fantastic opportunity to utilize your staff to help brainstorm menu items, themes, and other special events to ensure your venue and patio becomes the desired destination that it deserves to be!

So how can owners, operators, and managers take advantage of this opportunity and maximize on its potential while limiting day-to-day challenges?

An epic patio program will highlight the following critical segments.

Labour Management

Let’s start with the biggest elephant in the room. Depending on the size of restaurant and patio, additional staff may be needed to handle the extra covers that are sitting outside.

The first question you need to honestly and realistically answer is, will your traffic increase or will it be merely the same traffic, just sitting outside versus inside?

 In summary, will you be putting in the continuous efforts to increase traffic?

This is where planning ahead really comes into play. This is where strategic goals, historic data, an the understanding of your target market & hyper-local competition, and where knowing if your intended marketing plan will position you to have either a distressed or profitable patio program.

With an hourly breakdown of foot traffic (historic and potential) and an understanding of your day-parts, you can begin to determine your staff requirements.

To be fair to yourself, your team, your new hires, and your guests, you need to ensure you leave yourself enough time for interviewing, talent selection, on-boarding, and training before the peak of patio season truly hits.

Culture Reset

As you’re reading this, you may be saying phrases such as ‘good luck finding more staff’ or ‘I can’t even keep the staff I have now, how am I going to staff an increase in traffic this summer”?

Fair statements if you lack the elements of culture. I think we’ve all heard by now that there is a “shortage of qualified hospitality staff”. If you’re experiencing this first hand and had those phrases or ones similar go through your mind – it may be time to hit the reset button on the culture within your venue.

An entire article could be written on this subject alone, but in summary – let’s just put a stop to the excuses right now. You can overcome these challenges with the right mindset towards culture and towards providing an emphasis on your core values, team experiences, a positive work environment, employee engagement, hiring practices, and providing above average pay scales.

It can be that easy – or that hard. It depends on you and your leadership team. The way out of this ‘shortage’ starts with you and your brand.

Labour Systems

Getting back to the fundamentals of a winning patio program, both ‘front-of-house’ and ‘back-of-house’ systems and teams need to be reviewed to ensure your operations are prepared. Customer service and speed in the kitchen (and bar) should not be hindered by the fact additional seating is now offered.

Plan ahead, create mock schedules, and see where there may be gaps to ensure the high standards of service inside is going to be matched with high standards of service outside.

How will this affect your labour costs? Are you going to be able to control this additional cost versus the potential revenue opportunity? What happens if the weather doesn’t cooperate one day and you’re over staffed? What is your contingency plan?

Restaurants today have the ability to cross-train and create more of a ‘one-house’ approach versus one with varied departments which positions a concept to maximize their personnel while hiring based on values versus experience.

This mindset towards actual ‘labour systems’ will ensure not only staffing your patio becomes ‘easier’, but staffing your restaurant throughout the entire year becomes much less of a ‘headache’ – something most will agree is the biggest year-over-year challenge within the industry.

Seating and Tables

To effectively control your labour, you need to equally review your seating arrangement and overall patio capacity.

Outside of making it enticing, inviting, and clean with new patio furniture, there are numerous ways you can step up your patio game. There should be more to it than just wiping down the tables, setting up the chairs, and sweeping the ground of the past winter.

Similar to that of seating strategies inside your venue, ideally you want to have a strategic setup of tables and chairs outside. Consider a restaurant revenue management (RRM) approach, which can be defined simply as selling the right seat to the right customer at the right price and for the right duration of time. A strategic setup includes understanding your target market, their ideal length of stay, and average party size in addition to overall space for comfort and traffic flow for both guests and staff.

Again, this additional seating must also align with production levels in the kitchen and bar. What would happen if you were at full capacity, both inside and outside? Have a plan in place and analyze your revenue per available seat-hour (RevPASH) to maximize each moment throughout the day.

You also want to analyze the steps taken for staff from the pass and/or bar to the patio section. Many patios are designed in a way that it is a distant walk for staff. How many steps does each staff member take to serve a guest? What is the cost of this distance over the course of a day, a week, or a season?

Are there ways to reduce this burden on your labour? The answer may be hiding in the way your patio is setup for a successful season.

Patio Driven Menus

The answer to efficient labour and revenue management as it relates to your patio program – may just lie within your menu. If you have the space, consider taking the grill outside (or any equipment you can) to launch an exciting new outdoor experience. This will push your restaurant to create unique outdoor menus, redefine your guest experience and stay a step ahead of your competition.

This will not only improve on the guest experience, but reduce wear & tear on your staff – improving ticket times, walking distance, and staff morale.

Take the Production Outside

Equipment today is extremely versatile. You can now put together mobile kitchens & bars that are cost effective and perfect for the patio – especially in a climate that sees a variety of weather patterns. With minimal square feet and utility requirements, you can now grill, fry, and/or bake a targeted food menu right on the patio.

The fun doesn’t stop there, mobile bars can ensure the drinks continue to flow on the patio and that the cocktail shaking is both seen and heard, keeping the energy level high every day of the season.

Work towards elevating your guests visual, auditory, olfactory (smell), and gustatory (taste) senses right on the patio.

Creative Menus

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have the space for any bar or kitchen equipment outside. Create a seasonal menu that’s inspired by an outdoor patio, anyway.

Develop a menu plan with your entire bar and culinary team with your venues target market and concept kept close in mind (and reward them for that creativity).

As always, keep this specialized menu small and inviting to reduce inventory, prep time, waste and any other staff requirements. Be creative this year and start thinking outside the box.

Support Local

Your guests today are likely looking for new flavours 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 your local farmers market. Provide your team with the means to develop unique, limited-time offers with not only seasonal produce, but a variety of barbecue-related flavours.

Innovation shouldn’t stop with just the food; 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 flavourful drinks with unique vessels and memorable presentations.

Lastly, beer and cocktails with low-levels of alcohol should also be featured, plus creative mocktails and house-made spritzers should highlight one’s patio menu.

Temperature Control

Unfortunately, we can’t dictate the weather. Throughout the patio months you’re going to see rain, wind, storms and even days where it may feel ‘too hot’, or evenings where it may feel ‘too cool’ to be out on a patio.

Restaurants and bars should consider these weather elements by offering more than just an umbrella or patio heaters. Look for other solutions to shade your patio, block wind and prevent heavy rain from ruining a potentially profitable day or night on the patio.

These investments will pay off by continuing the positive cash flow even when mother-nature tries to disappoint you.

Pest Control

Now that you have your labour, revenue, production, menu, and weather patterns considered, take the time to meet with your pest control vendor and discuss your plans for outside. 

They can suggest safe bug repellents and means of keeping away other animals and critters like mice, squirrels, and even birds.

Sanitation is a critical component in any restaurant and the patio cannot be overlooked. Put a preventative action plan in place to deter any bugs or animals from potentially ruining a guest’s experience.

Noise Control

With outdoor seating, you’ll likely encounter noise issues that start beyond the boundaries of your patio, including vehicle traffic, construction and other neighbourhood noises.

To reduce this burden, consider noise reduction strategies such as walls, bushes or even your own sound strategy, like a catchy playlist through your sound engineering plan.

Music (whether live or through a playlist) can deliver the right, on-brand ambiance and attract your target demographic while increasing overall profits and drowning out other noise on the patio. No matter the concept, guests enjoy their food, drink, and company more when music is playing, which ultimately makes them stay longer and, of course, spend more of their hard earned dollars on your patio.

Driving Energy Levels

The warm weather typically attracts tourism and gets locals looking to re-explore their outside surroundings. The restaurants or bars that provide the right mix of marketing (online and offline) paired with energy are the ones that will attract a consistent level of guests throughout the patio season.

Look for ways to utilize live music, themed parties, and interactive games (inside or outside) on a daily or weekly basis throughout the patio months.

A fully pre-planned calendar of events will drive high level of positive energy while creating awareness, excitement and anticipation while developing repeat business opportunities.

Marketing Plan

Now it’s time to tie all of this together. Remember, if you build it they will not come.

An epic patio season could be destroyed if it’s not coupled with an epic marketing campaign.

It is vital to inform your guests of your patio and the plans you have for it throughout the season. Each week and month throughout the season should be properly planned for to ensure the said energy level, never cools down.

Create Buzz

To maximize your patio program or event’s reach, it’s best to use a three-tiered approach to creating buzz. Have a plan in place to promote your seasonal events including patio launch party, menu launch parties, live music, comedy night on the patio, and the many others you and your team come up with.

You’ll need to create buzz not only prior to the event, but during the event and also after the event.

Give guests (and potential guests) a means to engage with your brand. You’re also giving an opportunity for others to see what they may have missed out on, also known as FOMO (the fear of missing out) making them intrigued to not miss your next scheduled event!

Story-Telling

Venues must now make their story meaningful, personal, emotional, simple, and authentic. This story-telling should flow to your patio program as well.

Despite the word “story,” it isn’t even confined to the written word. Colours, decor, vendors, staff members, plating, and glassware — even the simplest visual segments within your brand and patio ‘messaging’ — can paint a picture worth a thousand words.

Within your marketing plan, ensure you’re capitalizing on this through all of your resources and media channels, including the use of social media.

Using Video

Story-telling and video elements are really required for any time of the year, but to promote your patio, your events, your limited-time offers and summer drink menu for example, 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.

 Hint; this will also improve your culture!

Remember, with today’s smart phones, you no longer need to break-the-bank on video production!

Tap Social Circles

A successful patio program also relies heavily on the 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.

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 course of your patio season?

Once you truly understand their lifestyle and spending habits, you can develop events and campaigns to drive patio drive loyalty and a personalized experience.

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 patio menus, but also your events and overall venue.

The patio season 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 patio program on presentation, energy levels, story-telling, 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 come the next fall and winter season.

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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 Thanksgiving

Preparing Your Restaurant for Thanksgiving

Originally Posted on FoodableTV – By Doug Radkey 11/05/2017

Each individual has their own personal explanation of what Thanksgiving means to them. The general, modern celebration of Thanksgiving however, is characterized as an opportunity to enjoy quality time with friends, family, food, the occasional beverage, large parades, and yes, often the game of football.

It’s also a time to reflect, set aside political and corporate related agendas and turn a blind eye to the negative news surrounding us from around the world. Smiles, laughter, and memorable experiences are often shared over the course of the long weekend.

With so much focus around food, drink, and togetherness; what does all of this mean for restaurants on Thanksgiving?

Well, restaurants aim for a similar experience each and every day— offering food, beverage, smiles, laughter, and memorable moments with friends, co-workers, family, and loved ones.

Depending on the restaurant concept and its location, there likely lies a large opportunity to generate awareness, increase revenue, develop repeat customers, or hopefully, a combination of the three.

Here are six elements to consider for your restaurant around Thanksgiving:

1. Marketing 101

Solve a problem. For starters, a restaurant has an enormous opportunity to highlight consumer convenience by solving one of Thanksgiving’s largest ‘problems’.

What’s the one thing everyone enjoys at Thanksgiving? The answer (naturally) is eating the delicious Thanksgiving meal. What are the two things everyone dislikes at Thanksgiving? The answer is cooking the delicious meal (for many people) and of course cleaning up after the often large, messy meal.

With high quality design, consumer touch-points, and overall (pain-point) messaging, a marketing program can highlight convenience, more time for family, and yes, keeping a nice clean kitchen at home.

How can your restaurant leverage this solution?

2. Menu Development

The traditional Thanksgiving meal revolves around turkey, stuffing, yams, other vegetables, and of course, pumpkin pie. Is your restaurant in a position to offer this traditionally plated meal or other fall/harvest flavors? How about a unique variation or infusion based on your restaurant’s concept and kitchen structure?

Don’t be afraid to think outside-the-box and get creative. If you’re a sports bar, put together a football inspired Thanksgiving menu. If you’re a QSR near a parade route, create an easy-to-eat holiday inspired option for on-the-go.

Develop a menu plan with the entire kitchen team (and bar team) with the restaurant or bar’s target market and concept kept close in mind. As always, keep the specialized menu small and inviting to reduce inventory, prep-time, additional staff requirements, and potential waste.

3. Revenue Options

If you strongly believe the target market would prefer to dine at home for Thanksgiving, don’t look at it as a potential loss. This presents an opportunity to offer the catering of a traditional or concept-infused, Thanksgiving meal— right to their door!

Create a variation of value-added packages for different sized parties and request 72 hours (or more) notice to have it prepped and delivered, right on time. Just don’t forget the high quality take-out containers and plates for an easy clean-up afterwards! Pre-ordered packages such as this will generate cash-flow, control potential waste, and control staff costs.

4. Cross-Promotions

Make sure that special events and other winter related promotions are planned for well in advance. The Thanksgiving holiday weekend can act as a forerunner to both Christmas and New Years Eve parties, packages, and other revenue generating opportunities such as gift card sales.

With the right marketing and sales mix, a restaurant or bar can take advantage of pre-booking and pre-sale opportunities; keeping in mind many consumers are already in a money spending mindset, thanks to the likes of ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ which surrounds the holiday in the US.

Create a marketing plan that will drive sales now and over the next 1-2 months.

5. Giving Back

Based on your concept, target market, location, and/or size of establishment, maybe the above options aren’t right for you. This doesn’t mean that your restaurant cannot be involved in the festivities. Consider hosting a community benefit meal for less fortunate individuals or families, or hosting a meal for military personnel.

If that may not work, consider getting your team involved in the holiday by assisting at local food banks or shelters. This practice will not only increase employee engagement, but also develop a positive perception of your brand and increase the possibility of local media coverage. Make it a win-win for everyone involved!

6. Saying Thanks

It may sound obvious, but show what you’re thankful for. Give thanks to your customers with appropriate messaging on social media, your website, or within the specialized menu. You can step it up a notch and ask staff to provide a video snapshot on what Thanksgiving means to them and then create a video montage to share on Social Media.

Speaking of staff, let’s not forget about them! Ensure they’re given time to spend with their friends and family too. Be flexible with your scheduling and/or consider special operating hours over the course of the weekend – and don’t forget to thank them for their loyalty and commitment!

By truly knowing and understanding your target market, your concept, and the neighboring business environment, the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is an excellent time to showcase your brand and your creativity – ultimately generating awareness, revenue, and repeat business opportunities.

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Is Your Restaurant Ready for Digital Ordering

Is Your Restaurant Ready for Digital Ordering

Originally Posted on FoodableTV by Doug Radkey – 09/15/2017

Nearly every household orders food to-go from a local restaurant at least once or twice per month (some per week) and the days of traditional ‘phone orders’ or simply waiting in line, are clearly coming to an end thanks to new and continuously improving technology.

Many independent restaurants have been sitting back, watching the development of online/mobile ordering, also known as digital ordering, wondering if they need to get into this space and/or how to even get started.

The question shouldn’t be ‘should we introduce digital ordering?’— the question should be ‘when will we introduce digital ordering?’

The answer to that question should be: As soon as possible, BUT only when your operations are ready for it and you won’t be undermining any restaurant fundamentals throughout the process.

If you haven’t implemented digital ordering yet, don’t freak out!

It’s obvious you didn’t open a restaurant because you love technology. You opened one because you love food, drink, and serving a community through the development of customer experiences.

There are numerous benefits, however, to offering digital ordering methods to your guests. The good thing is that technology (or apps) currently on the market (for example, Gloria Foods) have made it extremely simple and cost effective to introduce this new feature while improving on customer experiences.

To sum it up, independent restaurateurs no longer need an IT department or professional to get started— the hard work is already done for you!

If you’re on the fence about the how, why, and when of digital ordering for your establishment, consider the following tips to see if it’s the right fit for you.

Improves Efficiencies – Digital ordering will not tie-up phone lines or require staff to stand around taking manual orders.  This will allow staff to be more productive in terms of food preparation and other customer service requirements, especially if the ordering method is tied right into the point-of-sale system. This will undoubtedly and effectively control labour costs while improving communication amongst your team and your customers.  Speaking of preparation, digital ordering methods often allow customers to ‘pre-order’ hours ahead of time, allowing the kitchen more time to prep, just like traditional table reservations would for a full-service restaurant.

Improves Quality Control – Digital ordering will also reduce human error often associated with phone or counter orders (due to background noise, customer accents, or simple misunderstanding), resulting in higher customer satisfaction rates and often quicker customer return rates.

Improves Mobile Presence – With digital ordering, you instantly have a mobile app while improving your mobile and online presence, which then improves your SEO, marketing, and overall customer satisfaction. Use this updated technology to ensure your website, social media, and online efforts work FOR you, not against you.

Improves Competitive Advantage – You’re not alone when it comes to not having online ordering methods implemented. It is likely true, many of your hyper-local competitors are ‘behind,’ as well. This means that introducing this technology will give you an immediate advantage while also positioning you to compete at a higher level with the larger mainstream brands in your area.

Improves Overall Revenue – When customers are given more time to order and can view all of the different menu options available to them, they tend to spend more money. Digital ordering increases impulse purchases through effective up-selling. Imagine what adding even just $2-$4 could mean to your bottom line!

Improves Marketing Efforts – Lastly, digital ordering collects data that is highly beneficial. Many of the applications offer ways to track previous orders, create customized profiles to predict sales, and understand which neighbourhoods are buying and which ones are not. It also provides an avenue to improve social media efforts by driving sales directly through these platforms.

Introducing digital ordering methods can, however, come with their challenges for operators and these challenges are not necessarily technology driven. Here are some to consider.

Menu Setup – It must be easy for customers to navigate your menu. If there are customizable dishes (for example, a hamburger), it must be very easy for customers to decide which toppings they want and don’t want. In addition, typical food sensitivities or allergy alerts need to be clearly visible to the customer on your digital application. The solution is to keep your menu simple.

Delivery Options – With digital ordering as an option, the expectation of delivery often presents itself to your customer. It’s not mandatory, but something to consider as an operator. Delivery can create more immediate questions than answers, though, as one needs to decide on using either a delivery app company or hiring their own set of drivers. This, then, poses insurance questions and another potential increase in costs. Delivery can be expensive and difficult to ensure food is delivered as advertised— meaning your style of to-go packaging will need to also be reviewed for quality assurance.

Venue Layouts – With an increase in digital orders or to-go orders, in general, a restaurant’s layout may need to be adjusted. This could mean less tables and larger pick-up areas. It could also mean aligning kitchen equipment differently and even creating specified digital ordering pickup parking spaces to ensure these customers are in and out, as quickly as possible.

The entire premise of digital ordering is to simplify the ordering sequence, for both the restaurant and the customer. If you cannot promise a high level of customer satisfaction, then you’re not ready.

Don’t start to offer digital ordering just because others are offering it.

It needs to be thought through and planned for long before it’s launched. In summary, customers must enjoy the digital ordering experience just as much as the food they’re ordering.

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