Bar technology

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Date Night Desires and Dealbreakers

Date Night Desires and Dealbreakers

by David Klemt

Reserved seats at a bar

Focusing on date night, guest experience and retention tech platform SevenRooms is sharing their latest data-driven report.

Their “Date Night Diner Report” is another successful collaboration with YouGov. Previous reports from this partnership include:

One of the reasons we at KRG Hospitality appreciate and recommend SevenRooms is their dedication to data. The platform’s commitment to sharing the data they collect to the benefit of operators is impressive.

“A resurgence of the American date night is here, and these date night diners are flipping the script on what that experience should look and feel like,” says Allison Page, co-founder and chief product officer at SevenRooms.

So, operators who want to succeed with date night should review this new report. In fact, all operators would be wise to read this report. After all, it addresses reservations, waitlists, walk-ins, and much more.

Released today, this brand-new report can be downloaded here. Read the press release here.

Date Night Details

A lot has changed over the past two-plus years. What hasn’t changed are the two most popular date nights in the US: Friday and Saturday.

Both Friday and Saturday night are preferred by 26 percent of the 763 survey respondents who go on dates. In total, SevenRooms and YouGov surveyed 1,153 individuals.

Generally speaking, these dates are return visits. People who go on dates tend to make reservations at restaurants they’ve dined at previously.

However, 46 percent of such guests are open to reserving a table at a restaurant they haven’t visited before. And speaking of those tables reservations, 53 percent are for two people.

Looking at two major populations, tables for two are the most popular reservations. In New York, they account for 50 percent of reservations. That number increases to 56 percent in Los Angeles.

Interestingly, however, is this bit of date: 53 percent of Americans don’t make reservations for date night. Rather, they’re walk-in guests, meaning they’ll likely become waitlist guests.

Date Night Desires

So, now operators know that the majority of today’s date-night reservations are for two. That doesn’t mean setting aside two-tops and side-by-side seats at the bar is enough for success.

No, there are also guest expectations to consider. SevenRooms identifies the following as the top date-night desires:

  1. A complimentary cocktail or dessert. (33 percent)
  2. Ability to earn extra rewards (24 percent), highlighting the value of loyalty programs.
  3. Incentives that encourage repeat date-night visits. (23 percent)

Furthermore, personalization continues to be a key factor in the dining decision. One-third of guests consider the ability to personalize their dining experience more important than factors such as menu variety or receiving their order quickly.

Date Night Dealbreakers

Of course, if there are desires there are also dealbreakers.

According to SevenRooms, the following are the dealbreakers operators must avoid:

  1. People on a date receiving their meals at different times. In this case, more than ten to 15 minutes apart. (45 percent)
  2. The restaurant being so loud the guests on their date can’t hold a conversation. (43 percent)
  3. A restaurant not having the menu items the guests were looking forward to ordering. (31 percent)
  4. Being sat too close to another table. (31 percent)
  5. Sitting next to a table speaking “too loudly.” (26 percent)
  6. The restaurant being so crowded that a guest can’t find their date. (24 percent)

How important is it to avoid these dealbreakers? Well, the survey respondents say they won’t return to a restaurant if they experience any of them.

To read the full report, click here. And to learn more about SevenRooms, listen to Bar Hacks episode 24, featuring SevenRooms CEO Joel Montaniel.

Image: Dmitri Nesteruk on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

iPourIt Releases Fourth Annual Pour Report

iPourIt Releases Fourth Annual Pour Report

by David Klemt

Black and white beer taps

Self-serve beverage platform iPourIt’s informative fourth annual Pour Report identifies their top beer and wine pours from 2021.

iPourIt is a pioneer in the self-serve space, enhancing the guest experience and boosting revenue. However, their annual reports are another key reason operators should consider this platform.

Unlike other industry platforms, iPourIt doesn’t limit their resources to clients. Nor do they place resources like their annual Pour Report behind a pay wall. So, this is a transparent company that clearly views their relationships with clients as partnerships.

You can check out their resources for yourself by following this link. To download a copy of the 2021 Annual Pour Report, click here.

Below you’ll find key datapoints from the latest iPourIt report. I encourage you to download and review the report in its entirety.

Key Demographic Information

When it comes to men and women using iPourIt self-serve systems, men are respsonsible for 64 percent of total ounces poured.

On average, men served themselves 6.4 ounces per pour and spent $14.21 on iPourIt per visit. For men, the top pours were IPA, Lager, Cider, Hefeweizen, and Sour.

Conversely, women served themselves nearly 11 million ounces via iPourIt systems. That’s 36 percent of total ounces poured.

On average, women served themselves 5.3 ounces per pour and spent $11.95 per visit. For women, the top pours were Cider, IPA, Sour, Lager, and Hefeweizen.

Interestingly, the top pour for both men and women was Michelob Ultra.

Key Beer Takeaways

The 2021 Pour Report analyzes data from more than 300 iPourIt systems, over 8,800 taps, and 49 million total ounces of beer and wine poured.

In total, patrons consumed nearly 14,600 total products. Further, the data above represents 1.9 million guests served 3.1 million pints. Compellingly, that’s $26.2 million in revenue generated by iPourIt systems.

In terms of iPourIt systems and patrons, cider claimed the number two slot for the top 15 poured beer styles. Perhaps unsurprisingly, IPA claims the top spot. In fact, iPourIt systems served more than 10 million ounces of IPA.

As far as beer styles that are growing in popularity, three styles are on the rise. These climbers are Belgian, Cream Ale, and fruit beer. Conversely, Lager, Red Ale, and Witbier slipped down the list. Interestingly, Witbier slid four slots on iPourIt’s top 15 beer styles list. For the first time since iPourIt has been releasing reports, Seltzer made it onto the list, claiming the 11 spot.

Another interesting bit of data concerns consumer preferences. IPA may be the beer style seeing the most pours but domestic Lagers and light Ales are the top-selling products across iPourIt systems. The platforms interprets this as consumers trying small samples of IPA but going with Lagers and Ales for full serves.

Top Beer Pours by Category

Helpfully, iPourIt breaks down their Pour Report into several categories. So, let’s take a look at the top five from several of their lists.

As for the top products poured overall, Michelob Ultra claims the top spot. In descending order, it’s followed by Bud Light, Golden Road Mango Cart, Ace Pineapple Cider, and Modelo Especial.

For domestic pours, numbers one and two are the same as above. However, Coors Light, Miller Lite, and Pabst Blue Ribbon. The top five import products are Modelo Especial, Delirium Tremens, Rekorderlig Strawberry-Lime, Stella Artois, and Dos Equis Lager Especial.

Switching gears to craft and microbrew, Mango Cart claims the number one spot. Numbers two through five are Space Dust, 805, Kona Big Wave, and Big Storm Oak & Stone Snowbird Pilsner.

Of course, the report goes much deeper than just those four categories. There’s also the top 25 IPAs, and the top 15 Lagers, Ciders, Hefeweizens, Sours, Stouts, Blonde Ales, Pilsners, and Pale Ales.

New for the annual Pour Report are the top 15 fruit beers and Seltzers.

Key Wine Takeaways

Before we proceed, iPourIt systems aren’t limited to beer and wine. If it’s a beverage without pulp or sediment intended to be poured cold, iPourIt can handle it.

So, cold brew coffee, kombucha, sodas…these are all revenue-generating serves to pour alongside beer and wine.

Now, onto the 2021 report. The key wine takeaway focuses on sparkling wine. In short, sparking wines have proven popular with iPourIt patrons. So, the platform suggests using their systems to offer guests build-your-own Mimosas, as well as promoting self-serve as an enhancement to brunch.

Addressing the top-performing wines for iPourIt systems, the top five overall in descending order are:

  1. Boca Barrel Boca Frizzante
  2. Starborough Sauvignon Blanc
  3. Carletto Prosecco (up two spots)
  4. Stemmari Pinot Grigio
  5. Archer Roose Bubbly

Boca Frizzante is a “Prosecco-style” white wine sparkler. Archer Roose Bubbly is also a Prosecco-style white. An actual Prosecco climbed the top 10 to reach spot number three. Essentially, three Proseccos are among the top five most-poured wine products for iPourIt patrons.

Interestingly, the top five are all white wines. In fact, there are only two reds among the top ten, both of them Cabernet Sauvignons.

Image: Josh Olalde on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

5 Self-serve Beverage Brands to Know

5 Self-serve Beverage Brands to Know

by David Klemt

Neon beer mug sign

If you’re an operator who wants to leverage the popularity of self-serve beverages, these are the brands you should consider.

There are several reasons to invest in self-serve beverage solutions:

  • Reducing costs
  • Reduction in waste
  • Guest convenience
  • Guest experience
  • System customization
  • Real-time system management and reports
  • Security

Truthfully, had I been told ten years ago that guests would want to serve themselves beer, wine, and other drinks, I would have raised an eyebrow. It’s possible, sure, but I would’ve been skeptical.

Well, it turns out that I would’ve been wrong. Indeed, today’s guest seems to enjoy pouring their own drinks from self-serve systems.

From convenience to control over their experience, these platforms are proving popular with consumers. An appealing factor appears to be the ability to sample a range of beverages to discover new favorites. And, of course, they can do so without having to purchase full drinks or asking a bartender or server for a sample.

So, below are some of the brands in the self-serve beverage world that operators need to know and consider.

Operator Benefits

In terms of P&L, your bottom line will thank you for embracing self-serve solutions.

First, the popularity of these systems increases sales. Guests can sample an array of drinks easily, choose a favorite or two, and serve themselves at their convenience. Additionally, guests tend to view self-serve systems in a positive light due to perceived value.

Second, an impressive self-serve beverage wall can be a sight to behold. There are venues with 100 self-serve taps and screens, which is an impressive sight. There are also all manner of designs not dependent on a wall. One great example is the rotating self-serve beer system at the Famous Foods Center Bar inside Resort World Las Vegas.

In other words, self-serve beverage systems help concepts stand out among competitors.

Third, self-serve systems allow operators to streamline operations and reduce costs. For example, labor costs can be reduced, as can waste.

And fourth, these solutions can lead to improvements in the guest experience. Not having to wait in line and being able to engage more with front-of-house staff aids in guest perception.

iPourIt

According to the brand itself, iPourIt installed the world’s very first beer wall. Since then, the platform has worked tirelessly to improve their solutions.

One way they’ve improved involves the security and usability of their system. As you’ll see with most self-serve brands that pour alcohol, guests are locked out of these systems without RFID access.

IPourIt offers several types of RFID solutions, from bracelets to fobs. Of course, other systems use similar tech. However, iPourIt prides themselves in offering touch-free RFID access and eschewing the need to leave cards in slots when pouring.

Another benefit is that as long as the beverage isn’t meant to be poured hot or doesn’t have pulp/sediment, iPourIt can handle it.

PourMyBeer

This company is iPourIt’s main rival. When you review how they can improve an operators’s bottom line, it’s not hard to see why.

PourMyBeer claims some impressive stats:

  • 45 percent sales increase
  • 50 percent increase in profits
  • 20 percent reduction to labor costs
  • Less than three percent waste

Like other systems, PourMyBeer can help operators leverage wall space. In addition, a single PourMyBeer screen can control four taps, so a wall doesn’t haven’t to be overloaded with screens.

Impressively, this platform also boasts the most POS integrations among the self-serve systems. Obviously, this is beneficial to the vast array of operators.

Table Tap

For operators looking for both a pioneer in the self-serve space, Table Tap may be the perfect partner. In particular, the use of “underage cards” by underage guests to access non-alcohol drinks is a nice feature. So, children up to early college-age students can get in on the fun.

Standing out from other platforms, Table Tap offers wall systems and table-mounted systems. Truly, offering a self-serve wall and a number of tables with the same tech is impressive.

In fact, if I were to install both solutions I would consider the tables a self-service take on VIP seating. And, I’d charge accordingly. Just something operators may want to consider.

Another cool feature relates to Table Tap’s software. While not the most mind-blowing functionality, guests can control an operator’s sound system via the TableTab ordering platform. Better yet, if an operator charges fees to select songs on their jukebox, TabelTab adds them to guest tabs.

To learn more about Table Tap, give episode 22 of Bar Hacks a listen.

Drink Command

“We do everything self pour, and more,” proclaims the Drink Command website.

Is an operator looking for a killer self-pour wall? Done. Table-mounted taps? Check. What about a self-serve tower, self-serve mobile kegerator, or a heavy-duty, mobile, self-serve counter? Drink Command has all three.

In other words, Drink Command makes it easy for operators to get creative and implement a range of self-pour solutions. Additionally, with mobile solutions, operators who want to expand into catering, pop-ups, and special events can do so easily.

For a list of other benefits—including foam-free beer pours, advertising interstitials, and consumption limits—click here.

Napa Technology

Makers of the TapStation, Napa Technology promises a boost to the guest experience. In part, this is because guests don’t have to wait in long lines at the bar.

Additionally, as stated prior, today’s guest enjoys using self-serve beverage systems.

Unlike other platforms, the Napa Technology TapStation doesn’t rely on wall installations. Instead, TapStation dispensers are available in two- and four-keg systems. These stations can be placed anywhere on the floor rather than a wall.

The TapStation can serve beer, wine, kombucha, and cold-brew coffee, ensuring it’s as versatile as the systems above.

Image: Brad on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Tech Shows Up in a Big Way at NRA Show

Tech Shows Up in a Big Way at 2022 National Restaurant Association Show

by David Klemt

NCR Aloha NRA Show booth

The number of tech platforms and solutions at the 2022 National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago was a sight to behold.

Once seemingly technology averse, our industry is awash in platform integrations, apps, and smart devices.

Drive-thru signs are reading license plates and collecting data. Digital menu signs are implementing facial recognition software. Automation is taking on more and more tasks.

Amazingly, the digital paint on the innovations we’re seeing isn’t even dry yet. While some developments may have taken years to come to market, it feels like they’re only one or two years “old.”

Here to Stay

People are still talking about a “return to normal” when it comes to the Covid-19 pandemic. To some, that means going back to their 2019 habits and lifestyles.

Well, that’s not going to happen in the restaurant, bar, or lodging spaces.

Delivery? Here to stay. Contactless payment? Not going anywhere. QR and digital menus? Commonplace at this point.

And contactless pickup? NRA Show 2022 attendees exploring the North Building encountered multiple pickup platforms.

To state the obvious, delivery is expensive. Combine inflation and rising gas prices with third-party delivery platform fuel surcharges and it’s only getting pricier.

Clearly, contactless pickup is becoming a more appealing solution for operators and their customers.

On the one hand, operators who invest in smart, contactless pickup lockers can avoid the exorbitant costs they incur from third-delivery companies. And on the other hand, customers know they can save money by picking up their orders themselves. Moreover, they know they can do so safely with contactless pickup.

Operators can now choose from an array of smart locker setups to leverage customer demand for safe, convenient takeout.

Your New Marketing Partner

Remember when people were blown away by QR code menus? Well, those are already old news.

As an aside, the fine-dining and luxury categories have been over QR codes for quite some time. However, they’re probably not going to be interested in the latest menu innovation. No, they’re much more eager to return to traditional, tactile, luxurious physical menus.

Other categories, though, will likely be interested in smart digital menus. As this tech gets smarter—perhaps terrifyingly so—your menu will be a supercharged sales associate.

There are digital menus coming to market that can recognize an operators guests…and then attempt to upsell them. The more a guest visits a venue with smart signs, the more the platform learns about them and their preferences. From there, the signs can attempt to sell them on a promotion like an LTO item.

Not long ago at all we learned that texting a consumer is a powerful way to market to them. Well, now we’re going to have the opportunity to sell them in a direct, interactive way straight from our menus.

Oh, and if this isn’t impressive enough, there are digital sign platforms capable of displaying surge prices. In the blink of an eye an operator will be able to leverage this type of pricing and revenue generation.

More Powerful POS

There were no shortage of powerful POS systems at the 2022 NRA Show. If anything, there are almost too many options out there for operators to consider.

However, we don’t think this is a bad problem to have. In fact, tech stack selection is one of KRG Hospitality’s key services.

Now, I’m not saying operators need to chase the newest, shiniest POS on the market. If what an operator has is working smoothly and they’re getting the most of their POS every day, there’s no reason to invest in a completely new platform.

But along with POS developments come powerful integrations. Case in point, Lunchbox. In simple terms, Lunchbox is an online ordering, marketing, loyalty, and guest subscription platform.

Lunchbox 2022 NRA Show booth display

Recently revamped, this fun brand (one of the coolest booths at the show, if not the coolest) boasts an average increase in same-store sales of 52 percent. Additionally, Lunchbox customers (per the company) experience an average of 42 percent month-over-month revenue growth.

As impressive is the fact that this platform integrates with several top POS systems, including Toast, Oracle’s Micros, NCR’s Aloha, and Revel.

What a time, eh?

Photos taken by and property of author

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Alright, Seriously—WTF, Grubhub?

Alright, Seriously—WTF, Grubhub?

by David Klemt

Or, more to the point, stop working with “partners” who exploit our industry rather than support it.

In spectacular and entirely predictable fashion, Grubhub’s “free lunch” further reveals that third-party delivery platforms don’t care about restaurants.

Of course, they all say they support restaurant owners and operators. And, of course, they’re quick to pat themselves on their backs for being a pandemic lifeline.

But…no. Time and time again, mainly through their exorbitant and exploitative fees, they prove the opposite is true.

Restaurants and bars aren’t third-party delivery partners. Rather, these relationships are adversarial and detrimental. So much so, in fact, that some states passed laws to limit third-party delivery fees.

In Nevada, for example, Clark County Commissioners passed an emergency ordinance in August 2020 capping those fees at 15 percent. Clearly, we need to stop enriching companies that prove they don’t support the hospitality industry but cause it significant harm.

Free Lunch?

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Apparently, Grubhub really wants to prove that maxim true.

That’s one of the takeaways from their disastrous promotion. Last Tuesday, in what’s being reported as an attempt to claim the delivery throne in New York City, Grubhub offered “free” lunch to anyone who placed an order for delivery.

The requirements for this promotion? Place an order for delivery through Grubhub on May 17 between 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM and use the code “freelunch.”

Of course, customer orders weren’t entirely free. Rather, the code was good for a $15 discount. Still, a wildly attractive offer as the ensuing debacle reveals.

Unsurprisingly, the promotion made for some eye-grabbing and eye-rolling headlines. Buzzfeed News published the most attention-grabbing one: “GrubHub Was Getting 6000 Orders A Minute During Its Promo Today That Left Restaurant Workers Stressed And Customers Hangry.”

Six thousand orders per minute during a promotion with a three-hour window in a single market.

In addition, the outlet reported that one unsatisfied customer was number 3,630 in the Grubhub customer service queue. Apparently—and who can blame him—he hung up before he could speak with a Grubhub rep about his missing order.

Duh

Who could’ve seen this coming? Any of the restaurant owners, operators, or team members Grubhub “serves,” that’s who.

In fact, anyone who works in this industry with on-premise experience knew this was going to happen. So, too, any journalist who specializes in hospitality.

The fact that whoever came up with this promotion didn’t see this coming is revealing. Unless the creators of these apps and services have real-world restaurant experience, they don’t understand the business.

How can one effectively and properly serve an industry without an understanding of how it operates? Hospitality is about service. Shouldn’t the companies attempting to work within our industry work hard to serve alongside us?

Let’s be clear—this promotion was in no way designed to help struggling restaurants. It wasn’t intended to boost their traffic and revenue. Rather, it was solely created to serve Grubhub’s desire to be number one.

As we all know, we’re experiencing major staff shortages. There are also supply shortages making it difficult for operators to obtain product reliably. Grubhub made those problems exponentially worse.

Some restaurants stopped taking delivery orders. Others canceled orders. There were operators who closed in an effort to catch up with orders and prevent the situation from worsening.

According to news stories, some social media users posted that they planned to stop ordering through third-party platforms.

Negative Impact

If you’re new to KRG Hospitality, welcome. You’re likely realizing that we’re not fans of third-party delivery.

Those of you who are familiar with us have known for quite some time that we support direct delivery. That is, delivery controlled and executed by the restaurant itself.

It’s not that we’re against innovation. Rather, our dislike of these platforms, generally speaking, comes from our perception of their behavior.

In our opinion, they take control away from operators and cost them money. Again, speaking generally, they collect customer data that operators should control. Their fees are ridiculous in most cases. And when it comes to the customer experience, their inconsistencies and shortcomings reflect poorly on the operators far too often.

Studies show that customers who have issues with third-party deliveries often place the blame on the restaurant. Food the wrong temperature? Order arrive late? Packages in less-than-ideal condition? While those issues and others can be the fault of the driver, the restaurant often takes the brunt of a customer’s dissatisfaction.

Of course, there’s also the financial impact of third-party delivery on restaurants. A SevenRooms report from last year reveals how these platforms harm operators and their bottom lines.

The Solution

Look, we know operators have a ton on their plates. But protecting and boosting the bottom line is a non-negotiable element of this business.

Yes, it’ll take some time, effort, and money to set up direct delivery. However, it’s the best solution.

Direct delivery means the operator collects and control valuable data. Likewise, the operator can ensure consistency. Through direct delivery, the operator shapes and controls the experience.

Control. Inherently, third-party delivery takes some control away from operators. That’s not a good thing, and neither is their financial impact.

Look into setting up direct delivery, take control, and protect your revenue ASAP. Friend of KRG “Rev” Ciancio and SevenRooms CEO Joel Montaniel each address delivery on the Bar Hacks podcast. Listen to episode 13 with Rev and episode 24 with Joel to learn more about delivery.

We need to stop rewarding companies that exploit our industry and take advantage of our owners, operators, and hard-working staff members.

Direct delivery is the answer. Take steps to implement it today.

Image: Rosie Kerr on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

What’s Next in the F&B Design Space?

What’s Next in the F&B Design Space?

by David Klemt

Interior of world's first crypto bar

Design driven by a story and narrative, technological innovation, and people’s desire to socialize are what’s next in hospitality design.

The influences above are factoring into the current approach to design in the F&B space. Be it a hotel or restaurant, the F&B landscape is going to look different for several reasons.

Five leading industry experts addressed this topic during HD Expo 2022‘s “F&B Trends: What’s Next?” panel.

Technology

Well, let’s start with arguably the biggest “trend” in F&B. Our industry is finally making major advancements in the area of technology.

It may not seem like it to some, but speaking generally, hospitality hasn’t always found itself on tech’s bleeding edge. That’s changing.

In fact, some industry experts feel we may be moving too quickly. For example, an interesting prediction from Restaurant Leadership Conference 2022 is a more deliberate approach to developing and implementing hospitality-specific tech.

Now, that doesn’t mean we’ll see a significant slowdown in tech innovation. Rather, innovators may take a more calculated approach to truly relieve hospitality pain points.

For example, Adam Crocini, senior vice president and global head of food and beverage brands for Hilton, points to a few innovations now common throughout the industry. Digital order, digital pay, and the ability to deliver food essentially anywhere within a hotel, resort or casino property are tech solutions driving efficiency.

However, Crocini sees one segment in need of a specific solution. In the luxury segment, guests prefer in-person engagement with staff and tactile engagement with physical menus.

Ari Kastrati, chief hospitality officer for MGM Resorts International, seems to agree. Tech, says Kastrati, shouldn’t replace human connections. Rather, technology needs to enable and enhance.

The Experience

When it comes to design, much of the focus is on the impact it will have on the guest or consumer. However, the end user is hardly the starting point.

For Kastrati, a successful project begins with the development of a relationship. That relationship is between the designer, the operator, and the concept. If care isn’t taken to nurture that relationship, it will likely show in the final product.

In Crocini’s eyes, that relationship informs the development of the operator’s concept. How? Through the development of a story and narrative.

If the designer and operator can develop a story, the design can be grounded in said story. Further, every element of a design can be held up against that story to see if it “fits.” If it does, the design will deliver a holistic experience and engage the guest or consumer.

In terms of F&B, Kastrati and Crocini make similar points. Both feel knowing the guest and anticipating their needs is crucial.

Addressing design elements that impact the experience, Crocini believes design should start with lighting. A design without proper lighting, Crocini says, is like a Scorsese film without the score.

Alexis Readinger, founder of Preen, is focusing in part on unique floorplan design. In particular, Readinger likes features that encourage interaction between guests, such as communal loveseats. However, “protecting the introverts” is also important for some guests’ comfort levels.

It’s safe to say that Caroline Landry Farouki, partner at Farouki Farouki, agrees with Readinger and Crocini. Seating, says Landry Farouki, can create different levels of intimacy to engage extroverts and introverts, and lighting designers are crucial and can really tell the story.

F&B Trends

In terms of consumer trends, Kastrati points to something specific he’s seeing in Las Vegas. People are seeking out specialty restaurants and luxury retail. At least anecdotally, this confirms what many reports and experts have been saying for the past few years: Consumers are showing increased interest in luxury.

However, Kastrati’s focus in the F&B space isn’t solely on guests and consumers. Rather, he suggests that the next step is bringing people back to the workforce. As Kastrati says, there’s no hospitality without people. Kastrati believes all of us in the industry need to encourage people to pursue hospitality careers.

Switching gears, Jessica Gidari, director of design and concept development for Union Square Hospitality Group, points to an effective pivot as a possible industry trend.

At least one concept in the Union Square portfolio has pivoted from a restaurant to a cocktail bar. A menu with shareable plates leverages guest desire to socialize and share. Gidari also says doing away with some traditional two- and four-top tables and replacing them with communal seating can “rebrand” a space as a “convivial” lounge.

Landry Farouki thinks operators can count on two compelling trends in the F&B space. One is the return of the restaurant as “the bar.” As someone who lives and works in Las Vegas, I can attest to treating restaurants more as bars myself.

Another possible trend Landry Farouki predicts is “mature dining” replacing fine dining. Explaining mature dining, Landry Farouki says such a concept is chef-driven but doesn’t focus solely on the chef.

Trend predictions must be taken with a grain of salt. However, I only see upside for design that helps operators engage guests more from the start.

Image: LYCS Architecture on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

SevenRooms Kicks Off 2022 with Growth

SevenRooms Kicks Off 2022 with Growth

by David Klemt

Restaurant worker using SevenRooms on tablet

SevenRooms continues their growth by kicking off 2022 with the announcement of a new, crucial addition to the team.

Today, the hospitality technology company announces the hiring of Brent-Stig Kraus. Formerly the senior vice president of sales for ChowNow, Kraus will take on the role of chief revenue officer at SevenRooms.

As CRO, Kraus will play a crucial role in further accelerating SevenRooms’ impressive global growth. The company’s new CRO will accomplish this goal by identifying and pursuing partnership opportunities, targeting high-growth sales, and scaling sales globally.

Steady Growth

In March of last year, SevenRooms brought on Pamela Martinez as the company’s chief financial officer.

By September of 2021, the platform announced a multi-year partnership with TheFork. In particular, this was major news for operators throughout Europe and Australia. Additionally, this partnership illustrates how SevenRooms is pursuing long-term global growth.

A month later, in October of last year, the company entered into a partnership with Olo. In doing so, SevenRooms ensures clients who also use Olo can capture their off-premise customers’ information. That data then creates profiles for those customers automatically, meaning operators can learn more about and effectively market to customers who engage with them via online orders.

In December of 2021, SevenRooms and ThinkFoodGroup—the hospitality company behind Chef José Andrés’ portfolio of restaurants—announced their partnership. Interestingly, this partnership sees ThinkFoodGroup joining SevenRooms in an advisory role.

And it’s not just filling crucial C-suite roles and entering into partnerships that benefit operators and the industry that are examples of SevenRooms’ rapid growth.

Along with hiring Martinez as CFO, the platform launched Direct Delivery in March 2021. This online ordering solution helped operators eliminate third-party fees; retain control of guest data; and fulfill guest desire to order from restaurants directly and seamlessly.

Finally, the company ended 2021 by sharing their 2022 trend predictions.

Why this Matters

Tech innovations are crucial to the long-term future of the hospitality industry. Restaurateurs, bar owners, and hoteliers, were once wary of adopting new tech.

Now, they’re investing more to streamline operations; automate reservations, online ordering, and marketing campaigns; and improving customer and staff relationships.

However, without growth a platform eventually becomes outdated. When that happens, the investment made by an operator to include it in their tech stack becomes a burden and liability.

As SevenRooms continues their growth, they prove worthy of an operator’s support and investment. We continue to support SevenRooms—without receiving any compensation for doing so—in large part because of the platform’s growth.

In addition to their available tools, we’re always eager to see what they’ll release next to make life simpler for operators.

Image: SevenRooms

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Square: 2022 Threats & Opportunities

Square: 2022 Threats & Opportunities

by David Klemt

Square terminal in restaurant kitchen

As all hospitality professionals know, the past nearly two years is imposing rapid change on the industry, necessitating rapid, strategic adaptation.

The key word in the above sentence isn’t “adaptation,” it’s “strategic.”

Of course, it’s hard to make strategic choices without as much information as possible.

To that end, we’ve reviewed Square‘s recently released “Future of Restaurants: 2022 Edition.” This is the company’s second annual Future of Restaurants report.

Square partnered with Wakefield Research, surveying 500 operators and 1,000 consumers to identify 2022 threats and opportunities.

Threat: Labor Shortage

Most operators aren’t going to want to read this prediction from Square. However, we can’t identify and adapt for opportunities if we don’t acknowledge threats.

Per Square’s report, the labor shortage may never see a correction. In other words, welcome to yet another new normal.

More than 70 percent of operators say they’re facing a labor shortage, per Square. Just over 20 percent of available positions were, at the time the survey was conducted, unfilled.

Instead, operators will likely, according to Square, need to make operational and work culture changes:

  • Improve working conditions. For example, encouraging and acting on team feedback. Another example? Modernizing scheduling.
  • Ensure workers are being mentored and not simply managed.
  • Hire, train, assign tasks, and schedule more strategically to operate with a smaller team.
  • Offering incentives that entice higher-quality candidates to work for you.

One participant quoted in the Square report claims that QR code ordering dropped their labor cost percentage by 150 percent.

Threat: Lack of Tech

As SevenRooms suggested when looking forward to 2022, technology solutions can lessen the burden of labor shortages. That leads us to another big threat: failing to embrace tech.

Some operators bristle at the word “automation.” For many, it conjures an image of robots in the kitchen and delivering food to tables.

Obviously, we’re opposed to replacing staff with any form of automation. However, we support automating tasks if that means team members are better utilized.

Why not automate inventory? Why not automate online order filling? If it improves operations and the guest experience, automation is less threatening.

According to Square’s report, 62 percent of operators think automation is appealing for managing online, delivery, and contactless orders. Ninety percent of operators say that back-of-house automation—if staff can focus on more important tasks—is a good idea.

More than 90 percent think automated inventory is an appealing solution.

It has taken a lot of time for hospitality to catch up to other industries in embracing tech. But Square reports that 36 percent of restaurants upgraded their business tech in 2021.

Of course, automation will become a threat if operators lean too heavily into it and stop paying attention to detail.

Phrased another way, be tech-savvy, not tech-reliant.

Opportunity: Omni-channel

Square see implementing an omni-channel strategy as the way forward. In fact, their general manager for Square Restaurants, Bryan Solar, said the following:

“We see the time of the dine-in only or takeout only as largely done forever.”

Going omni-channel (diversifying) in the restaurant space means making online ordering and delivery important elements within the overall business strategy. To that end, Solar posits kitchens will grow in size to better handle online orders.

Square’s survey reveals some intriguing numbers:

  • 13 percent of consumers say they’ll avoid restaurants that don’t offer online ordering.
  • Among restaurants with online ordering, those channels generate 34 percent of their revenue.
  • Over the past year, 54 percent of restaurants either added or expanded online ordering channels.
  • Online ordering is likely here to stay: 69 percent of respondents plan to offer it post-Covid-19.
  • 24 percent of operators are planning to allow guests to order alcohol from them online.

Another interesting set of numbers pertains to first- and third-party delivery. As we’ve stated several times, we much prefer operators offer first-party or direct delivery. According to Square, 49 percent of operators plan go direct delivery. More than half—62 percent—will pursue third-party delivery. That suggests that some operators will offer both.

Opportunity: Direct Ordering

When it comes to engaging online guests, operators need to control the experience. As I wrote for another publication years ago, a restaurant or bar’s website is still very important.

This statistic proves that statement true: Per Square, 68 percent of online guests want to order via a restaurant’s website or app, not a third-party.

More than likely, a significant portion of those guests want to know they’re supporting a restaurant and its staff directly. Hence the importance placed on ordering via the website or their own branded app.

So, operators would do well to ensure their websites feature an ordering widget. Or, they can opt to have an app built (or at least skinned) for their business.

Opportunity: Kiosks

According to Square’s survey results, 79 percent of consumers prefer ordering from kiosks over ordering from staff.

Most consumers and operators likely associate ordering kiosks with fast food restaurants. However, other categories can also benefit from these devices.

Close to half—45 percent—identified it as a preference when ordering at a casual-dining restaurant.

And fine dining isn’t immune to the convenience of tech. A little over 20 percent of consumers prefer to order via kiosk in the fine-dining space.

Overall, kiosks speak to the guest desires for convenience and safety. More than a third indicated that ordering via digital menu is appealing because they don’t have to touch a menu someone else has touched. And 37 percent like a digital option because they don’t have to wait for a server to bring them a physical menu.

Eleven percent of Square survey respondents will avoid a restaurant if they don’t offer digital menus.

Nearly half (45 percent) of restaurants are planning to offer QR code menus post-Covid-19. Another benefit of digital menus is dynamic pricing. As costs fluctuate, operators can increase or reduce prices easily without printing new menus.

Outlook

Representing a stark contrast from 2020 survey results, nearly 60 percent of operators say the survival of their restaurants is a concern in 2022.

That’s still a high number but vastly lower than how operators answered about 2021. Last year, 92 percent of operators surveyed said they were worried about survival.

According to Square’s report, operators are looking past surviving and making long-term plans. That’s a welcome sign that confidence is improving.

To review Square’s “Future of Restaurants: 2022 Edition” report in its entirety, click here.

Image: Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

SevenRooms Announces New Partnership

SevenRooms Announces Huge New Partnership

by David Klemt

Handshake emoji neon sign signifying partnership

SevenRooms announces today a major partnership that will change the game for operators in the UK, Australia, and across Europe.

The online reservation platform is entering a multi-year partnership with TheFork.

Fortunately, the hospitality industry, once slow to embrace new technology, is now adopting tech at a rapid pace.

This collaboration between SevenRooms and TheFork represents both a giant leap in tech innovation and support for our industry.

SevenRooms

By now, there should be no question that SevenRooms is among the most powerful tools an operator can wield.

On the surface, SevenRooms is “just” a reservation platform. In reality, the platform offers a full suite of guest engagement and retention tools; automated marketing tools; front- and back-of-house management; direct and third-party delivery management; and much more.

Additionally, the company has long been supportive of the hospitality industry. The founders didn’t just assume their reservation and engagement solutions were effective.

Rather, they spent time in the trenches. They took reservations, checked coats, and hung out with hospitality teams when their shifts were over.

During the pandemic, the platform studied the impact of third-party delivery on operators. To that end, they developed a launched a direct delivery module to help operators protect their bottom lines.

TheFork

Operating in more than 20 countries, TheFork is a TripAdvisor company.

Per TheFork, the company boasts more than 80,000 partner restaurants across the globe. Additionally, TheFork’s app has 28 million downloads and counting, and their site features over 22 million restaurant reviews.

In other words, TheFork enjoys a unique position in terms of connecting guests with restaurants.

The platform features a loyalty program; exclusive deals for guests who make reservations via TheFork; an “insider” feature that connects with guests with trendy and gourmet restaurants and entices them with a special offer; and more.

The Partnership

When one reviews how both platforms work, this partnership is a no-brainer. Going deeper, it appears the companies share similar values and commitment to the industry.

For example, SevenRooms subsidized more than $10 million in licensing fees to help operators during the pandemic. TheFork dedicated nearly $30 million to the industry within the 22 countries in which they operate.

This partnership is culminating in a two-way integration. Customers of SevenRooms will gain access to millions of diners who use TheFork to make reservations. In turn, TheFork now has access to SevenRooms’ marketing and venue management tools.

The result? Operators will be able to more easily and consistently fill their seats and attract new guests. The powerful tools that are at the disposal of SevenRooms customers will help to engage and retain those new guests, converting them to loyal regulars.

Hospitality seems to be steadily entering its Collaboration Era. Operators and platforms are seeking beneficial partnerships, all the while embracing more and more tech that enhances the guest experience and boosts the bottom line.

It will be exciting to see where we go from here.

Image: Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

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