Food & Beverage

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Things Looking Up For December

Things Looking Up For December

by David Klemt

Friends toasting with Champagne outside during the winter

Food and beverage research and analytics firm Datassential’s end-of-year insights point to a positive outlook for restaurants in December.

While many consumers still have reservations about spending time in public, others are eager to return to “normal.”

Restaurants and bars are expected to play an important role in reaching normalcy this holiday season.

Let’s take a look at Datassential’s 2021 Holiday Issue statistics.

Hesitancy Waning?

Let’s get the less-promising data out of the way first. Some consumers still find the idea of in-person restaurant visits uncomfortable.

Nearly half of Boomers surveyed by Datassential (46 percent) said they’re “significantly less likely” to visit a fast-casual or fast-food restaurant in December.

And, interestingly, 42 percent of men gave the same answer for visiting traditional sit-down restaurants.

However, of all the in-person options presented to participants by Datassential, restaurants performed the best.

More than half of all respondents—men, women, Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers—plan to visit fast-casual, fast-food, and sit-down restaurants more in December than they have in recent months.

It’s most likely that anticipation for restaurant visits is driven by the desire to gather and celebrate the holidays.

Overall, 57 percent of respondents plan to visit fast-casual and fast-food restaurants more. And 47 percent expect to visit sit-down restaurants more.

That makes those two options the top answers.

Only 16 percent of respondents indicated they don’t plan on visiting any on-site foodservice venues.

Regarding bars, sports bars, lounges, and nightclubs, men are “significantly more likely” (23 percent) to visit those types of venues in December.

Holiday Opportunity

According to Datassential’s report, the opportunity for holiday bookings is out there.

More than likely, gatherings will simply be smaller than they were prior to the pandemic.

Asked about plans to gather at restaurants in December, get-togethers are expected to be “moderately sized.”

Almost half of survey respondents (44 percent) plan on gathering at restaurants in parties of seven to twelve.

Just over a quarter (29 percent) plan on get-togethers of six or fewer of people. Only 18 percent of respondents are planning large (13 to 18 people) gatherings at restaurants in December.

As far as parties of 19 or more, just nine percent of respondents plan “very large” gatherings.

Of course, individual operations’ results will vary. However, this information gives us an idea of what traffic may look like for many operators.

2021 Spending

This is where the news looks even better for restaurants, bars and nightclubs in December.

When asked about spending money on going out to eat and for drinks, just 18 percent of respondents said they planned to spend less this year than in 2020.

Very nearly half (49 percent) plan to spend the same as they did last year. However, 32 percent said they think they’ll increase their spending.

When it comes to New Year’s Eve, the numbers shift a bit. However, 50 percent of respondents plan to spend the same on NYE in 2021 as they did in 2020.

Twenty-six percent plan to spend more on NYE in 2021. Just 24 percent plan to spend less this year on NYE.

Per Datassential, Millennials are most likely to splash out for NYE this year.

So, things won’t be returning to pre-pandemic normalcy by 2021’s end. However, if Datassentials findings prove accurate, things are looking healthier for December.

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

How is Plant-based Performing?

How is Plant-based Performing On-premise?

by David Klemt

Plant-based food bowl

With plant-based food options making their way to global fast food chains, it’s clear the category is continuing to heat up.

In fact, it’s likely time to stop referring to plant-based menu items as a trend. Obviously, they’re here to stay.

But how are these items actually performing on-premise? Is the category experiencing real growth or barely noticeable?

“Proliferation”

We’re full throttle into the holiday season. People are focusing on spending time with family and friends.

And what does that mean? Gathering for meals.

So, if restaurant traffic is going to tick up, it makes sense to see if plant-based should be more prevalent on menus.

To that end, Datassential revealed data on this category two weeks ago during their “Holidays Ahead!” webinar. Of four trend-tracking designations—Inception, Adoption, Proliferation, Ubiquity—Datassential notes plant-based menu items are in the Proliferation stage on-premise.

Analyzing data from 2011 to 2021, Datassential showed that the category started growing in terms of menu placement in 2018. As of this year, plant-based items are on nearly five percent of restaurant menus.

That may not seem like impressive growth. However, there was zero-point-zero-percent growth between 2011 and 2014. In 2015 and 2016, Datassential shows that only 0.1 percent of restaurants offered plant-based menu items. That growth doubled in 2017 (0.2 percent), then doubled again in 2018 (0.4 percent).

In 2019, the category quadrupled to inclusion on 1.6 percent of restaurant menus. Last year, that growth more than doubled to 3.5 percent.

According to Datassential, 28 percent of consumers like or love plant-based menu items. Interestingly, the research agency finds that all types of consumers like plant-based items, not just vegetarians or vegans.

The Datassential breakdown of plant-based menu proliferation by restaurant category is as follows:

  • Fast Casual: 11.5%
  • Casual Dining: 5.4%
  • Midscale: 3.9%
  • Quick Service: 3.4%
  • Fine Dining: 1.8%

Chains are more likely, at this time, to feature plant-based menu items.

Upscale Options

Wanting to include plant-based options and knowing where to start are two different things.

As it happens, Datassential featured a timely real-world menu to that should inspire operators this season.

Watercourse Foods in Denver, Colorado, offers mains and sides that will resonate with holiday diners:

  • Seitan Roast (wheat, soy, blend of herbs) which stands in for roast turkey.
  • Pot Pie consisting of carrots, celery, onions and mushroom.
  • Root Vegetable Stuffing made with root veggies (obviously), savory herbs, and housemade bread.
  • Mac and Cheese featuring shells tossed in cheese fondue and topped with shiitake “bacon” bits and breadcrumbs.

As you’ll notice, you don’t need to limit your menu to products from Beyond or Impossible. Obviously, you can leverage their brand recognition but you can also utilize your current plant-based inventory to create housemade menu items.

If you’re ready to embrace plants at your restaurant or bar, activate your kitchen team. With a bit of creativity you can take advantage on the rise in popularity of everything plant-based.

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Thanksgiving Eve by the Numbers

Thanksgiving Eve by the Numbers

by David Klemt

Two shot glasses garnished with salt rim and lemon wedges

Tonight, guests will be looking to celebrate a bar holiday that’s traditionally lucrative for operators: Thanksgiving Eve, a.k.a. Drinksgiving.

It’s difficult to imagine that any operator or hospitality worker is unaware of Thanksgiving Eve’s status.

Sure, some mark the start of end-of-year celebrations with Halloween or Thanksgiving. However, I feel Thanksgiving Eve truly ushers in the holiday season.

I’d also argue that while retailers have Black Friday and Cyber Monday, operators have the night before Thanksgiving. Yes, New Year’s Eve is also huge, but Thanksgiving Eve is considered the busiest night of the year for bars.

Interestingly, this is a holiday that benefits bars across the nation. In fact, it’s not exclusive to destination cities.

After all, the reason it’s so big, traditionally, is that people are traveling back to their hometowns. And while Thanksgiving is for their families, Thanksgiving Eve is for catching up with childhood and high school friends.

Obviously, there are fantastic bars located in cities outside of their destination counterparts. Hot take, I know.

So, does Thanksgiving Eve deserve its hype ?

The Evidence

Unfortunately, data from 2020 isn’t readily available, for obvious reasons.

However, we do have some data, largely thanks to restaurant management and POS platform Upserve.

One of the simplest ways to analyze Thanksgiving Eve’s impact is to compare it to the previous Wednesday.

Per Upserve, guest counts rose 23 percent in 2018 when compared to the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving Eve.

Looking at data from more than 10,000 restaurants and bars, Upserve found that guest count totaled 496,883 on November 14, 2018. One week later, that number rose to 643,637.

As Upserve content marketing coordinator Stephanie Resendes says in her Thanksgiving Eve article, “More people = more money.”

Of the 10,000-plus Upserve clients whose data was analyzed, net sales were $17.250 million on the Wednesday preceding Thanksgiving Eve 2018. That number jumped to $22.296 million.

So, looking just at a relatively small sample size from 2018, Thanksgiving Eve’s impact doesn’t seem overblown.

The Drinks

According to Upserve, beer was the year-over-year winner through 2018. It saw the most growth by far on Thanksgiving Eve 2018 when compared to the Wednesday prior and the same period in 2017.

Spirits and wine, at least for Thanksgiving Eve 2018, were nearly tied for second place.

Now, looking at the data for Thanksgiving Eve 2019, spirits saw the most growth overall. Resendes shared that shot sales increased 173 percent on Thanksgiving Eve 2019 when compared to the Wednesday prior.

Tequila led the charge for spirits, rising 156 percent. Vodka saw a 144-percent boost, rum increased 120 percent, whiskey went up 65 percent, and gin saw a lift of 47 percent. For its part, beer sales rose 65 percent.

Not content to simply look at traffic and sales numbers, Upserve also split their clients into four regions. In this way, they identified who parties hardest on Thanksgiving Eve and who needs to ramp things up.

The four regions and their net sales growth from Thanksgiving Eve 2019 compared to the Wednesday prior are below:

  • Midwest: 34 percent
  • Northeast: 34 percent
  • South: 33 percent
  • West: 22 percent

Clearly, there was still growth in the Western region. However, the Midwest and Northeast led the way, with the South just behind them.

We’ll have to wait to see how Thanksgiving Eve 2021 plays out. We’re still waiting on the numbers from 2020. However, Upserve’s data shows that Thanksgiving Eve remains crucial to restaurants and bars throughout America.

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Giving Tuesday: World Central Kitchen

Giving Tuesday: World Central Kitchen

by David Klemt

Food bank charity donations

November 30 is Giving Tuesday, “a global generosity movement” that focuses on all acts of kindness and giving, large and small.

KRG Hospitality vice president Jennifer Radkey explains Giving Tuesday in-depth in her article from last week.

In her article, Jennifer puts forth ways to involve your business and staff in acts of kindness.

She also explains that November 30 is an opportunity for operators to give back. After all, communities supported restaurants and bars during the pandemic. Now’s the time to provide support for those communities.

All acts of kindness and generosity are encouraged on Giving Tuesday. Monetary donations, volunteering time, hosting charitable organizations free of charge… There are endless ways to participate in Giving Tuesday.

“In other words, it doesn’t matter how you give,” says Jennifer. It just matters that you take part.

World Central Kitchen

At KRG Hospitality, we support World Central Kitchen. Founded in 2010 by Chef José Andrés and his wife Patricia, WCK has been fighting food insecurity for nearly 12 years.

One reason we give to WCK is exemplified in an announcement from earlier this month.

World Central Kitchen is committing to providing $1 billion over the next ten years via their Climate Disaster Fund.

Another reason we give to World Central Kitchen? The 501(c)(3) non-profit gave more than $250 million in 2020 to feed communities around the world.

However, it’s WCK’s overall approach to fighting food insecurity is what we find compelling. The charitable organization doesn’t just show up to a community, hand out food, and leave.

Rather, WCK commits to long-term, local solutions. They create food programs to improve a community’s overall health; offer culinary training and provide jobs; and work to build food security.

If you have the means, please consider following this link to make a donation to World Central Kitchen. Per Charity Navigator, WCK enjoys the highest rating for a charity: four out of four stars.

Donations can be one-time or monthly, for any amount, and in someone’s honor or memory.

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Código 1530 Tequila Closes the Loop

Código 1530 Tequila Closes the Loop

by David Klemt

Upscale tequila bar with luxury bottles on back bar

The evidence that consumers are showing increasing interest in luxury spirits continues to mount, with tequila benefiting greatly.

According to DISCUS, the luxury category of tequila continues to grow. Sales volume is up 30.7 percent annually since 2015 for luxury tequila brands.

While it’s easy to point to brand recognition, cache and perception, there may be another reason for this growth.

In a word, “responsibility.”

Sustainability is Sexy

Episode 57 of Bar Hacks features Collin De Laval. He’s the company mixologist for Código 1530 Tequila, and he’s intimately familiar with the brand.

So, De Laval knows more than every nuance of each Código 1530 expression. He also understands the ethos that drives the brand and its processes.

One of Código’s values is responsibility, which it manifests through sustainability efforts. As De Laval explains, “we try and close a lot of the waste loop, as much as we can.”

Not only does Código utilize naturally filtered water, they cut the water back out of their heads and tails. That water is then reused. The brand uses broken pieces of barrel and spent agave to char new barrels.

Further, Código is a small craft distiller. They don’t level thousands upon thousands of agave each day. Instead, they’re selective and take only what’s necessary.

“We’re treating the land a lot better in that way,” says De Laval.

These efforts are increasingly appealing to consumers. It’s not just the liquid in the bottle that matters. How that liquid got into the bottle is important to them.

“Now it’s like, ‘I know this brand. I know they do good stuff,'” De Laval says.

That “good stuff” doesn’t reference only the quality of the spirits but a brand’s responsibility and sustainability.

Drinking Better

“People are drinking ‘up’ now,” says De Laval. “Gone are the eras of, ‘Let me get whatever’s well.'”

He’s not talking about how a guest orders their drink. By “up” De Laval means they’re choosing top-shelf spirits.

Six years of steady growth for luxury or ultra-premium spirits supports this claim.

De Laval isn’t the only Bar Hacks guest who notices this trend. During episode 56, Pernod-Ricard Prestige sales manager Maxime Lecocq mentions the trend as well.

If luxury spirits and wines had suffered during the pandemic, that would’ve made sense. It could’ve been explained as people being cautious with their money.

Indeed, consumers were cautious. However, not in the way that many would assume. The numbers support the belief that consumers were spending more to drink higher-quality bottles.

Interestingly, drinking better doesn’t appear to refer only to quality or price. Many small, luxury craft distillers enjoy the perception as more responsible than large, industrial producers.

Drinking better now seems to mean drinking what’s better for the environment. And if what’s more responsible and sustainable happens to be ultra-premium, consumers are willing to pay for it.

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Stir Up This Authentic Mexican Cocktail

Stir Up This Authentic Mexican Cocktail

by David Klemt

Black glass Coca-Cola bottle with black background

A simple, three-ingredient cocktail can make a big impact on guests when it’s authentic and the build is part of the presentation.

A perfect example of authenticity and a wow-factor cocktail build is the Batanga.

During episode 57 of Bar Hacks, Collin De Laval recommends this deceptively simple drink.

La Batanga

When De Laval is creating, it’s important to him that he remains faithful to a particular country, region or town.

As the company mixologist for Código 1530, that means honoring tequila in an authentic way.

Not only is De Laval a “blanco drinker, through and through,” he’s also unafraid of things getting “rowdy.”

So, while he isn’t the creator of the Batanga, he is a big fan.

One reason, as he mentions on Bar Hacks, is that the drink seems like it shouldn’t work. After all, the recipe combines tequila blanco, lime juice, and Coca-Cola.

Now, one could say that this is “just” a Cuba Libre with tequila stepping in for rum. However, that’s far too dismissive; the flavor profiles are vastly different.

In fact, I’m fairly certain that nobody has raised an eyebrow at a Cuba Libre and said the ingredients shouldn’t work together.

Impactful Build

You may find yourself wondering how this simple cocktail can possibly wow guests. Really, what’s impressive about combining tequila, juice and cola, and stirring?

Well, it’s the stirring that’s the secret.

Per several sources, the Batanga’s creator had a trick up his sleeve when he came up with the recipe. And that trick was a big knife with a wood handle.

Don Javier Delgado Corona created the Batanga in 1961 at La Capilla, his bar in Tequila, Mexico. When it came time to finish his build, he stirred the drink with the aforementioned wood-handled knife.

Even better, Don Javier is reported to have explained, if that knife has been used to cut limes, salsa ingredients, or ingredients for guacamole.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that unless they’ve had a Batanga made in Mexico, not many guests have watched a bartender stir their drink with a big knife.

Of course, not just any knife will have real impact, so I recommend using the biggest knife your highball or specialty glassware will accommodate.

The Recipe and Technique

Obviously, you can decide which of your tequilas to use when adding the Batanga to your menu.

Of course, you can also build it with whatever tequila your guest requests.

However, we’re going to use Código 1530 tequila for this recipe. After all, the brand certainly speaks to authenticity.

Additionally, Código 1530 also speaks to consumer desire to drink better and seek out ultra-premium spirits. Tequila is one of the luxury spirits categories benefitting most from this consumer trend, with sales volume increasing 30.7 percent annually since 2015.

La Batanga

Recipe created by Don Javier Delgado Corona at La Capilla

  • 2 oz. Código 1530 Blanco
  • 0.5 oz. Fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • Coca-Cola to top (per De Laval, only Mexican Coke in the glass bottle will do)
  • Salt for rim

Salt rim of highball glass or other tall glassware with decent width. Add ice to glass. Combine Código 1530 Blanco and lime juice. Top with cola. Most importantly, stir with a big knife and serve to wowed guest.

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Go Big and Bold on National Zinfandel Day

Go Big and Bold on National Zinfandel Day

by David Klemt

Black photo concept of red wine glass and bottle

Cabernet Sauvignon may be King of Grapes but Zinfandel certainly isn’t the court jester when it comes to wine.

No, it’s not one of the five Noble Grapes from Bordeaux. And yes, in Italy Zinfandel’s name is Primitivo, which translates to “primitive.”

But just because this red wine is often described as rustic doesn’t mean it’s basic.

National Zinfandel Day, which takes place Wednesday, November 17, is the perfect time to introduce Zin to your guests.

Zinfandel 101

While there are a few reasons Bordeaux doesn’t consider Zinfandel to be a Noble Grape, there’s one in particular that stands out: Zinfandel is an Italian grape. Well, sort of.

Basically, Zinfandel is grown in Italy and America. Intriguingly, however, the grape originates from Croatia. It’s original name is Tribidrag.

Another interesting note: Red Zinfandel only accounts for about 15 percent of overall Zin production. You’re probably already guessing which style accounts for the lion’s share: White Zinfandel.

Now, you can promote both styles of Zinfandel—that’s a decision you have to make. But for this article, I’m talking exclusively about Red Zinfandel.

This is for three reasons. First, White Zinfandel is best as a beginner wine. It’s light, it’s usually low in alcohol, and it’s not very complex.

Second, you can sell Red Zinfandel as a worthwhile alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon, the most popular wine in the world. Third, it’s delicious, full-bodied, and the ABV is often quite high.

A great Red Zin is jammy (like a big Cab), bold (like a big Cab), and velvety (like a big Cab). So, many of the Cab Sauv drinkers among your guests will be willing to try a medium- to full-bodied Red Zin.

This “rustic” wine also pairs well with pizza and barbecue. How can that ever be a bad thing?

Bottles of Note

Orin Swift 8 Years in the Desert (15.8% ABV), $50 SRP

It’s arguable that Red Zinfandel’s rise in popularity is due to it showing up in many red wine blends. Another factor? Winemaker Dave Phinney in particular utilizing this grape in his red blends. 8 Years in the Desert round in the mouth, providing drinkers with a decadent, lush wine drinking experience.

Bedrock Old Vine Zinfandel (14.4% ABV), $22 SRP

The 2019 vintage of Bedrock’s Old Vine Zin receives top marks from experts across the board. When it comes to American Zins, wine aficionados consider this Zin to be the gold standard.

Opolo Mountain Zinfandel (15.7% ABV), $30 SRP

For those guests who want to taste a straight-up, 100-percent Zinfandel. Opolo is one of the finest producers of American Zin. The 2019 vintage is velvety smooth even with it’s big alcohol content and bold, jammy flavors.

The Prisoner Wine Company Saldo (15.5% ABV), $32 SRP

You don’t have to be a wine aficionado to be familiar with The Prisoner Wine Company. In fact, The Prisoner, undoubtedly one of those most famous red wine blends in the world, helped shine a spotlight on Red Zinfandel. Saldo is a three-wine blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Syrah.

Seghesio Old Vines Zinfandel (15.6% ABV), $36 SRP

Like Opolo, Seghesio produces big Zins that offer the drinker a balanced experience. Yes, the alcohol content is high but the mouthfeel is smooth and plush while delivering bold flavors. The mouthfeel may be soft but it’s certainly not shy on the palate.

Turley Old Vines Zinfandel (15.5% ABV), $40 SRP

So, there’s a debate over whether “Old Vine” or “Old Vines” has any official definition. In general, a grapevine matures some time between 12 and 25 years old. Some say that “Old Vine” is a designation that means more than 25 years old, at least 40 years old, or at least 50 or 60 years old. Well, it’s fair to say that Turley offers true “Old Vine” Zinfandel given that the producer’s grapevines range in age from 40-plus to nearly 130 years old.

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As Guests Learn More, Luxury Grows

As Guests Learn More, Luxury Grows

by David Klemt

Luxury concept featuring Champagne coupes on silver tray

Consumers are drinking better and the luxury categories of several spirits, wine and Champagne are benefitting.

Interestingly, this growth no longer appears to be driven solely by a desire to stand out and be seen.

Instead, according to one Bar Hacks podcast guest, consumers seem to be more carefully allocating their dollars.

Luxury Continues to Rise

The word “luxury” tends to conjure thoughts of expensive, high-end items.

Indeed, that’s certainly still a part of luxury. However, the concept of luxury as unattainable to most people is seemingly falling to the wayside.

Maxime Lecocq, Prestige sales manager in Las Vegas for Pernod-Ricard, shares a similar thought on episode 56 of Bar Hacks.

“The consumption style started to change during the pandemic,” says Lecocq. “So, people are more careful on what they’re drinking, where they’re spending their money.”

Intriguingly, Lecocq doesn’t mean that people were looking to spend as little as possible. Rather, they wanted higher quality for their dollars.

“Instead of having just any Scotch, they’re gonna research more,” Lecocq says. “Instead of spending, like, $25, they’re gonna be like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna spend $40 but I’m gonna be more careful about what I’m gonna drink.'”

As far as Lecocq is concerned, consumers doing more research is benefiting the luxury segment.

Why does he think that? Because it appears that research is leading consumers to spend more on luxury spirits and wine.

Numbers Support Luxury Growth

Early last month, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) shared their research into luxury spirits.

DISCUS data shows that during the period from 2015 to 2020, luxury spirits brands saw sales growth of 125 percent. Further, looking at the first half of 2021, luxury spirits volume is up 25 percent.

For the curious, DISCUS considers any brand that sells 750mL bottles at retail for $50 or more to fall within the luxury segment. So, $10 more than the example Lecocq provides during his Bar Hacks appearance.

There are six luxury categories tracked by DISCUS: American whiskey, Cognac, Irish whiskey, Japanese whisky, Single Malt Scotch, and Tequila.

On his podcast episode, Lecocq discussed three of those categories: Cognac, Single Malt Scotch, and Tequila.

Growth Categories

Per DISCUS, American whiskey has seen annual growth since 2015 of 41 percent. For Japanese whisky, that rate of growth is 42 percent.

Irish whiskey and Single Malt Scotch are also healthy annual growth. However, Irish whiskey’s annual growth is only a third of that of its Japanese counterpart at 14-plus percent.

Single Malt Scotch, in the first half of 2021, is up 5.6 percent.

According to DISCUS, Cognac’s annual growth is nearly 16 percent. Lecocq posits that this rise in interest in Cognac is down to shifting consumer perception.

Once thought of as “your grandparents’ drink,” younger consumers are now more eager to explore this type of brandy.

It’s perhaps tequila that sees the most interesting growth. Given its explosive and seemingly unwavering popularity, I thought the luxury tequila category would see growth in excess of 42 percent.

However, per DISCUS, luxury tequila brands are up 30.7 percent annually since 2015. Obviously, that’s impressive growth, and the category represents 28 million bottles sold.

That’s more than American, Irish, Japanese and Single Malt Scotch whiskeys combined.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that operators should abandon their less expensive spirits and wines. It does, however, show that consumers are willing to pay more for what they perceive to be higher quality brands.

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Extend Your Reach with a Loyalty Program

Extend Your Reach with a Loyalty Program

by David Klemt

McDonald's French fries close up in package

It’s increasingly important to stay top of mind with your guests. Now more than ever, that means finding yourself on their screens.

For likely the one-billionth time, allow me to point out something we should all know by now: We’re all on our phones and tablets all the time.

From texts and emails to app notifications and social scrolling, there’s always a reason to check screens.

So, how can operators invade people’s devices? By collecting guest data via a loyalty program.

Fluctuating Support

Not so long ago, industry experts bristled against the mention of rewards and discounts.

Guests, the thought was, had zero interest in signing up for loyalty programs. People would soon frantically seek out “unsubscribe” links after receiving one too many marketing emails.

However, people are quickly thawing, warming to the idea of loyalty programs. Once thought of as too invasive, now marketing experts believe “too intrusive” doesn’t exist.

After all, businesses need to ensure they’re highly visible. Operators must meet guests where they are. Where are they? Their devices.

Rewarding Loyalty

Your staff aren’t the only people engaging with the incentive economy.

Today, it appears that a guest liking your brand isn’t good enough to ensure their loyalty. They want rewards beyond experience, consistency, and delicious food and beverage.

With so many brands competing for your guests’ dollars, you have to stand out to keep them coming back.

Now, there are still industry experts and operators who will tell you to avoid discounting at all costs. Offering a discount, they argue, starts you down the road of devaluing your brand.

Well, the great news is that when creating your own loyalty program, you can offer whatever you see fit. If you fall into the Never Discount camp, none of your rewards have to be discounts.

Free is Better than a Discount

So, let’s remain in the Never Discount realm. What else will encourage guests to sign up for your loyalty program—and actually engage with it?

We can use the loyalty program launched in July by a global fast-food juggernaut as a great example.

Over the summer, McDonald’s launched MyMcDonald’s Rewards. How successful was the launch? More than 12 million people opted into the program.

In exchange for signing up, agreeing to receive alerts, and handing over their data, guests received a free medium French fry.

McDonald’s selected 66 loyalty program members to receive one million MyMcDonald’s Rewards points. One lucky member also received free French fries for life.

Create Your Program

“But David,” I hear some of you arguing, “isn’t free even worse than a discount?”

The short answer is no. A discount can devalue a brand because guests get used to paying less for select items or entire visits. Over time, they perceive the lower price as the standard price. Soon, they’ll wonder when the next discount is coming. You’ll have to either further discount your food and beverage or work harder to re-engage your guests some other way.

If a rewards program is structured correctly, members will have paid for any free item they earn several times over. Most commonly, guests receive points in exchange for dollars spent. They can then exchange those points for a free menu item. This doesn’t devalue the brand, it incentivizes program members to become loyal, repeat guests.

Operators not quite ready to build their own apps can utilize text messages and emails. Of course, the former is the most intrusive (in a good way). Texts can inform members of promotions and encourage them to visit or place an order online. Emails can let members know their current balance and what incentive their close to earning.

Additionally, be generous. Don’t exclude your guests’ favorite items from the program. Why would a loyalty program member remain loyal if they can’t exchange their points for “the good stuff”?

Structure your program correctly and you’ll increase visits per guest and spends per visit. Couple your guest data collection with a platform like SevenRooms and you’ll truly supercharge your revenue.

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5 Books to Read this Month: November

5 Books to Read this Month: November

by David Klemt

Flipping through an open book

This month’s fun and informative book selections will help you develop next-level culinary, beverage and leadership skills this November.

To review October’s book recommendations, click here.

Let’s dive in!

Cook as You Are

The Great British Baking Show contestant Ruby Tandoh is a food writer with a half-dozen books to her name. Her latest will likely change how you look at food and its preparation. In particular, the “mini” version of Cook as You Are aims to be as inclusive as possible. The free download makes it easier for people who learn differently or require assistance in the kitchen to enjoy cooking. Cook as You Are features 100 original recipes created by Tandoh that don’t require hours of preparation or professional-grade kitchen equipment to execute.

The Bullhearted Brand

Expert Joseph Szala explains why operators should view branding as a strategic endeavor. Branding is more than a clever name, eye-catching logo, and slick tagline. Szala, as he explains, “lay(s) out the foundational elements and details about creating and scaling restaurant brands” in The Bullhearted Brand, drawing from years of real-world experiences.

Bourbon’s Backroads

Bourbon is one of the few spirits that America can truly claim as its own. Myths and legend abound, such as the claim that whiskey can only be called bourbon if it’s produced in Bourbon County. Karl Raitz conducted extensive research to uncover the full history of bourbon in the United States for Bourbon’s Backroads.

Gilded Age Cocktails

Author Cecilia Tichi takes readers on a cocktail journey spanning three decades. The Gilded Age, which took place between 1870 and the early 1900s, is known as the Golden Age for cocktails. Readers will be able to learn the stories of not only classic Golden Age cocktails to pass on to others, but also the stories of their creators. Gilded Age Cocktails transports us back to the pre-Prohibition Era, a time when bartenders first became famous and helped us all drink better.

Hacking the New Normal

Doug Radkey, president of KRG Hospitality, author of Bar Hacks and Hacking the New Normal, makes the case for making meaningful, impactful change in order for the hospitality industry to survive and thrive moving forward. As he explains during bonus episodes of the Bar Hacks podcast, as have multiple podcast guests like Chef Brian Duffy, the industry won’t truly recover unless we change our mindsets and the way restaurants, bars, hotels, resorts, entertainment venues, and arenas operate and treat staff.

Image: Mikołaj on Unsplash

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