Doug Radkey

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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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Enhancing Your Bartenders Experience

Enhancing Your Bartenders Experience

By Doug Radkey – 09/17/2019

We Have a Problem – There’s No Team Spirit in Many Bars

Within the industry, we always talk about ‘experiences’ – and rightfully so. At the end of the day, experiences are what bars and restaurants sell to customers. All of the emphasis however, is on customer or guest experiences; but what about staff experiences?

Do your staff show up, do their job, and go home? Is there any sense of ‘family’ in your establishment? Is there laughter, or just silence, or even worse…complaining?

Time to Hit the Reset Button!

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

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

Here are some #BarHacks to help you get started:

Web Presence & Social Media

Bar enthusiasts are seeking to learn and understand the culture of a bar when deciding on their eating, drinking, patio, or party destination.

This is a great opportunity to showcase your team on your social media channels and on your website. Create a bio for your staff noting something unique about them, take a photo (or better yet, a video) of them and share this content to your ‘community’.

This will equally make your staff feel like they’re a part of a team and the business development process.

Create That Stay Interview

Many of you have likely heard the term ‘exit interview’, but what about a ‘stay interview’? Take video to the next level by interviewing your staff and developing a series of testimonials as to why they love working for your bar.

This tactic will create a sense of place and family among your team and also assist in your hiring process; positioning you to attain higher quality candidates who seek a positive working environment.

Continuous Education

A great team member is one who craves learning and one who brings the same set of values as you do to the table. Keep in mind …

“A bar is only as good as its worst bartender”

Every bartender must be of the same quality at your bar. If not, guests may become a fan of one bartender (and not the bar itself) – leading them to follow the bartender if he/she were to leave for another bar.

Take the time to invest in further training and education for your entire team.

Depending on your overall bar concept and financial model, consider developing an educational program for your team.

Think outside the box and create culinary/hospitality scholarships and/or consider sending your team to farms, breweries, wineries etc. to learn about specific products you offer and their development processes.

Continuous education will create a sense of appreciation, enticing your team to stay loyal to your establishment while benefiting not only their experience, but your customers’ experience as well.

Profit Sharing Programs

It’s safe to say, everyone enjoys working towards a common goal. Consider creating a realistic monthly revenue goal (slightly above your current average) for your bar. Now share this goal with your staff and create a SMART plan for the month on how to collectively obtain that goal.

If you surpassed that goal (congratulations), distribute a percentage (5% for example) of the monetary difference among your team.

Repeating this process each month will not only increase your revenue and profit, but will develop a team working environment, reduce turnover, and make your team feel important to the business and its success.

SMART Staff Reviews

Speaking of goals, there should be team oriented goals (profit sharing) and also personal goals developed within an overall action plan.

You should sit down with each individual teammate at least once every three months.

During this meeting and using SMART (Specific. Measureable. Attainable. Realistic. Timely) objectives, give each teammate something to work on over the next three months.

This could be increasing revenue per transaction averages, providing accurate inventory counts, reducing waste levels, or having accurate end-of-day cash out reports.

Of course, reaching objectives should be rewarded; therefore create a reward program that works for your concept and financial model.

Creative Mindset

Don’t let your staff get complacent behind the bar by having the same menu month-after-month and year-after-year.

This will lead to boredom, which will eventually lead to turnover. Allow your team to be creative by ‘creating’ food or beverage options that fit within the confines of your concept.

Consider holding an in-house contest each month to choose one featured food and one featured beverage option created by a staff member.

Highlight this on your social media and in-house marketing (effectively creating a story) while rewarding that individual with a commission on sales from that item for the remainder of the month.

If the product sells really well, consider adding that item to your everyday menu the next time you re-engineer your food & beverage menu.

In summary, execute a marketing plan approach to your staff recruitment and staff development program.

The time, resources, and effort spent on this will be well worth it in the long-run.

Just ask your staff!

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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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Your Media Strategy Ready for Launch

How to Get Your Media Strategy Ready for Launch

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

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

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

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

Hint: it doesn’t!

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

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

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

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

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

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


Social Media

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

This includes developing and/or executing on:

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

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


Public Relations

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

You want to consider the following methods:

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

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


Direct-to-Customer

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

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

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

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

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

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Have Restaurants Forgotten The Fundamentals

Have Restaurants Forgotten The Fundamentals

Originally Posted on FoodableTV – By Doug Radkey 08/08/2018

With technology continuously advancing in the restaurant industry, it can be easy to get absorbed and caught up in the next big thing. Technology platforms can help you save time, financial resources, and improve ‘customer service’ levels, just to name a few.

But sometimes when you get so caught up in technology, you can forget some of the fundamentals that will never be replaced by technology, but still play a large role in the success of today’s restaurants.

The key is the right balance of technology that will assist you in meeting both short-term and long-term goals.

This article is not about how to not use technology (it’s a great asset,) but don’t let it fail you, your staff, or your customers. Let’s strip back the technology for a moment and remind ourselves as an owner, operator, manager, or front-line employee – some of the tactics that we must never forget or stop learning.

First Impressions

Curb appeal and first impressions must meet and exceed your guests’ expectations. When stripping back technology, restaurateurs must understand that first impressions are essentially a means of effective communication that positions a restaurant to develop positive customer emotions and “touch points.”

As always, one must thoroughly think about the consistent message and experience that’s intended to be delivered.

Key Performance Indicators

Technology provides an operator with a great amount of data, but restaurateurs still need to learn and understand this data and know how to use it to their advantage. Understanding key performance indicators such as staff turnover percentages, prime costs, percentage of repeat guests, and proper menu engineering statistics (to name a few) – are all essential to making the right business decisions that will eventually impact your bottom line.

Concept Characteristics

Outside of having the right location, the right concept, and the right chef or mixologist – a restaurant needs to inherit five key concept characteristics that technology cannot simply implement on its own.

Restaurateurs need to develop scalability, sustainability, profitability, and consistency – while providing a memorable experience. Finding a successful, individual approach for managing each of these characteristics is the key to success in any economic situation. All five of these characteristics are important and must work in unison to be successful.

The 3 Elements of Marketing

In terms of restaurant & bar marketing, it comes down to three things– driving awareness, increasing revenue per customer, and generating repeat business.

Technology can help execute marketing strategies, but operators still need to know their target market and their hyper-local competition to understand which strategies will drive the best return on investment.

An ‘old school’ approach to developing a marketing plan will still deliver success in today’s technology driven world.

Continuous Education

It doesn’t matter which role one plays in the restaurant, everyone must continue to learn. Owners, managers, and front-line staff should have the mindset and a personal development plan in place to continuously learn the industry.  It’s important to stay up to date with customer service strategies, product details (visiting suppliers), and how the supply chain works within the restaurant. In addition; reading books and listening to podcasts for example are a great learning tool everyone can take part in.

Customer Service

It’s no secret, we’re all witnessing a shift in how technology affects customer service and ordering sequences.

As the technology continues to evolve, restaurateurs must not forget that engaging guests on a personal level will always build on those positive customer emotions. These “touch points” are required to make not only a positive first impression, but a lasting memorable impression.

This is especially important if you’re considering adding third party delivery to your revenue & service mix. How will you protect your brand and enhance customer service after the food has left your venue and is in the hands of their delivery drivers?

Make sure there is a plan in place that engages customers on a personal level.

Focus on Systems

Having the correct systems in place will create consistency, develop operating capital, enhance team morale, and build business value– while also positioning a restaurant’s concept for future growth opportunities (being scalable & sustainable).

This includes proper communication between front-of-house and back-of-house, day-to-day checklists, quality control methods, and human resource management, among others.

Again, there is technology that can assist operators with their systems, but they can’t develop the process of implementing the right systems for specific concepts. That is up to you to know which ones are needed to maximize each moment of the day.

Collaboration

Lastly, a sense of community is a driving force in this industry. We can build online communities (social followings,) but the best way to develop a sense of community is through collaborating with local farms, breweries, chefs, charities, and even the competition. Understanding this fundamental strategy will amplify your messaging throughout the community, improve a restaurants perception, increase staff morale, and generate revenue opportunities– while developing a destination, not just a restaurant.

Sometimes it is nice to just step back and review the bigger picture and remind ourselves not only why we’re in the restaurant business, but to revisit the basic fundamentals for restaurant success.

Once that is truly understood and the proper ground work is in place, technology can be implemented to enhance and support operations to save time, financial resources, and improve those needed ‘customer service’ levels.

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The Ultimate Checklist for Restaurants

The Ultimate Opening Day Checklist for Restaurants

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

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

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

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

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

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

Design and Build

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

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

During this period you should expect the following:

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

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

3 – 4 Months Out:

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

60 Days Out:

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

30 Days Out:

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

14 Days Out:

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

7 Days Out:

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

Opening Day:

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

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

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

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

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Bar Design 101

Bar Design 101

By Doug Radkey – 07/26/2018

There is truly a science to the design and layout of a winning bar. Outside of implementing a timeless interior, a bar needs to consider many factors including but not limited to; efficiency, hyper-local competition, and overall guest experiences – within its design elements.

Completing a bars ‘concept plan’ should be one of the first steps any aspiring bar owner should take. A concept plan will outline vision, value, mission, and culture statements plus its initial architectural, entertainment, and menu development characteristics (wishlist).

Once you’ve defined your concept, you can begin adding more heart and soul to the design and overall guest experience strategies; the back-bone to a memorable bar. Every component of the bars interior design, entertainment plan, and menu development process should enhance the guests’ overall senses (also known as emotions).

Here are items you can work on for your vision, prior to delivering a presentation to any designer, consultant, and/or architect.

Energizing the Space

Consider ways to not only maximize the space, but energize the space. What experiences can you deliver? Use this time to consider adding space for sound engineering, live music and/or DJ’s, interactive games, mix of televisions, and the right mix of socializing and networking opportunities.

Social Space

In today’s market-space, it is imperative that all newly designed bars (and restaurants) take into account social media, guest photos, and guest videos. Keeping the energized space in mind, how can you add space with the right lighting for taking group photos (with your branding in the background) in addition to taking videos and photos of cocktails and/or food.

Bar-Back

The next focus needs to be on bar efficiency. Consider the size of establishment, guest capacity, and your point-of-sale requirements. Then add multiple bartender stations while choosing the correct equipment, bottle display, overhead glass racks (less breakage), and under-bar space plus the number of speed rails, ice stations, garnish stations, cutting boards, and sinks within a one pivot movement for each bartender. This will then determine the size of ‘bar’ required, which will assist in developing your budget (and beverage menu).

Kitchen Space

A winning bar will also have a memorable food program. Offering premium food and focused, high-quality beer, wine, & spirits is a recipe for maximum revenue potential in today’s market space. Ensure there is space for grills, flat-tops, deep fryers, burners, and a convection oven (or combi-oven) plus space for prep areas, freezers, and refrigeration to provide a quick (and profitable) food program.

Seating and Lighting

This will entirely depend on the chosen concept. Your choice of lighting and seating will determine length of stay, the amount of money a guest will spend, and how they will interact with guests in their party plus other guests at your bar. Every seat and light fixture must have a purpose. This is just as important as laying out the actual back-bar itself and should be discussed with designers, architects, and consultants.

Branding

Consistency through all design elements (interior, exterior, menus, website, social media, and other marketing collateral) is the final consideration piece. Look for ways to incorporate subtle additions of logo colors and branding throughout the venue. Where ever the guests will take the most pictures and videos, make sure there is a way that people will know they’re at your bar!

There are numerous other variables and details required, but starting with this will make you look like a pro when you meet with a designer by having a concept plan completed and a true vision of how you want your bar to be laid out. A professional designer should be able to then take your vision, tweak it to professional standards, and implement it into drawings that will ensure it meets local codes and your overall budget!

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Perfect Pitch to Investors

How to Deliver the Perfect Pitch to Investors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Prepared 

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

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

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

Perfect Your Pitch Decks 

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

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

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

Refine Your Executive Summary 

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

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

Know Your Elevator Pitch 

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

This is where you want to hit them with:

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

Be Strategic

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

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

Show them your benchmarks for:

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

Know Your Limits

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

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

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

Leave an Impression

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

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

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

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