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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.


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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Building an Effective Beverage Program

7 Strategies for Building a More Effective Beverage Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Preparing for Wage Increases

Preparing Your Restaurant or Bar for Wage Increases

Originally Posted on FoodableTV – By Doug Radkey 03/09/2018

If you haven’t done so already, preparing your restaurant or bar for a regulated wage increase should be near the top of your to-do list, no matter your region. There has been plenty of government level discussions and a ‘movement’ if you will, defining a need to offer better living wages for citizens across North America (and abroad), with a focus on the hospitality industry.

The day is coming if it already hasn’t happened in your area.

Should your venue have already been offering what’s called a ‘living wage’? Arguably yes, but the market for years has demanded ‘good food for cheap’ (for the most part) which has dictated the need for restaurateurs in particular, to pay out the lowest wage possible to its hard-working staff.

However, the times are rapidly changing. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Not surprisingly, however, many restaurateurs, potentially ones like yourself, have become concerned about the complications a dramatically large increase in their costs will have on their operations.

The biggest challenge most restaurant owners face when considering a large wage increase is how they’re going to adjust their concept and overall business models, sales, and marketing strategies to effectively respond to the increase.

Smaller independent restaurants are placed into a concerning financial position that could have dramatic implications. But, it doesn’t have to be so grim for small operators with a well-thought-out plan about what processes need to be in place.

1. Review of Concept

Restaurateurs are ultimately responsible for achieving long-term viability. The key elements to a successful concept are scalability, sustainability, profitability, consistency, and delivering memorable experiences.  To achieve this, one must weigh their overall value against their expenses.

The first step to preparing for a wage increase is to measure your value proposition. How can you add further value to your guests to ultimately increase your revenue? What are one to two ways you can increase value within each of the above five listed elements within your unique venue?

Create a SMART action plan to implement over the next 1-3 months.

2. Review of Systems

Successful restaurants are also built on systems. As an employer, these systems need to be reviewed on an ongoing basis. What FOH and BOH systems can be scaled, improved upon, or simply cut-out, to maximize efficiencies without diminishing guest experiences, profitability, sustainability, and consistency?

This is the time to review your restaurant’s service sequences, training programs, food & beverage preparation, line of equipment, food & beverage suppliers, menu development, communication systems, inventory management systems, use of technology, and many others.

A complete 360 degree assessment of your operations is the most ideal approach.

Doing so will position your venue to potentially reduce weekly hours while offering an improved competitive wage that will be more utilized to its maximum potential.

3. Utilize Available Data

Improving a restaurants staff scheduling process within itself is an easy way to control costs, positioning a restaurateur to maximize its sales per labor hour and other labor performance indicators. Restaurant labor costs are a prime expense that needs to be properly controlled to eventually turn a profit.

An increase in labor benchmarks means your other prime costs including food and rent costs, need to be reduced below what’s been known as ‘industry standards’. This means that your food costs should be between 25-30% (instead of 30-35%) while your rent should be 5-8% (instead of 10-12%).

Aligning these benchmarks to profitable levels will position your venue for a sustatainable future; even with a wage increase – there is nothing to stop a venue from obtaining what’s often referred to as an impossible 10-20% net-profit over a period of time.

Utilize data on labor, hourly sales, and the month-over-month operating results from your point-of-sale system, to forecast expenses (creating a revised budget) with an increase in your new minimum wage over the next twelve months.

Physically visualizing this data and its results will determine the route you will need to take to pivot and align the remainder of your cost categories.

4. Menu Engineering Strategies

Once your systems are deemed to be operating at their full potential, it may be time to review your menu engineering strategies. To assist in a wage increase, for example, it is ideal to consider adding ‘value added’ menu items, simplifying food preparation methods, and looking to eliminate any complex menu items.

Your last resort should be to increase menu prices. Look at all other aspects first, including size of menu, preparation time, prime food costs, the number of ingredients used, and the repurposing of those raw ingredients throughout the menu, where possible.

Looking for ways to reduce and control food & beverage costs (controlling – not cutting), while developing a menu your target audience wants & needs, may position your restaurant to have more available funds to use towards an increase in labor costs.

5. Review Promotional Plans

The math is simple, an increase in sales and margins will position a business to pay its staff higher wages. Often the problem doesn’t lie within traditional lunch and dinner hours. To fill seats during traditional non-peak hours, restaurateurs need to consider menus that target day-parts and added-value; while understanding their ideal customer profile.

The moment a restaurant stops marketing is the moment it starts failing. Once a restaurateur truly understands their locations slow periods and peak periods, in addition to the target market and guest spending habits, a strategic plan can be developed and executed to maximize each moment of each day; by ensuring your restaurant has a monthly and quarterly marketing and sales plan created.

In summary, once that moment is gone, you don’t get it back. Therefore, what could an extra $100 to $200 per day in sales during typical ‘slow periods,’ do for you and your new labor costs, in one full year?

6. Look After Your Employees

Employees are your number one asset. If we (most restaurants) weren’t already paying just a minimum wage to employees, this discussion wouldn’t be needed. It’s time restaurant owners look to take the initiative and implement a better living wage for their employees.

Build culture and value by developing sustainable hiring programs, consistent training systems, scalable pay grades, profitable working environments, and memorable customer experience strategies to develop a brand your entire community (customers and employees), will want to support over that of your competition.

It’s understandable that small independent restaurants are vulnerable to a minimum wage increase, but there are ways a restaurant can prepare itself for, and take the initiative on their own, to increase wages and pay their staff a more comfortable living wage.

Change starts now!

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4 Ways to Prevent Restaurant Burnout

4 Ways to Prevent Restaurant Burnout

Originally Posted on FoodableTV by Doug Radkey 02/21/18

We know restaurant owners, chefs, and managers, more often than not, wear too many hats, leading to upwards of 60 to 80+ hours of work per week.

No matter how much improvement we’ve collectively made in recent times to keep operations manageable, flexible, and “fun,” there still seems to be the long hours, the working on holidays and weekends, and the minimal margins.

Let’s not forget about the labor restraints, the rising operating costs, and the demand of the overall market to deliver quality food, drink, and experiences; all at often the lowest price point possible.

It takes sacrifice and required systemized thinking, creativity, social skills, stress management, and a lot of passion to win in this industry — which leads to an enormous amount of personal pressure.  

This job-related pressure and the extra hours at work will, no doubt, create higher than normal amounts of stress; leading to personal exhaustion, poor decision making, mental health issues, and sometimes even family related conflict.

If this sounds like you, you need to find a way to simply work smarter, not harder. If you currently have the mindset that by working more hours will result in more work being done, you are wrong and need to make a restaurant lifestyle change, today!

This mindset is, in fact, the starting point of what we call: burnout.

Burnout within the restaurant (and hospitality) industry is real and happens more frequently than it should. Preventing burnout and building a work-life balance for everyone—including owners, chefs, managers, and support staff— is, in fact, possible, contrary to popular belief.

Here’s how:

1. Hiring the Right Team

The first step is to build a team based on values, vision, mission, and culture. Creating and executing on these statements will build the foundation within your concept to create consistency, accountability, and room for growth.

The right team, however, is only as good as the training program installed at the venue.

A profitable training program will provide common elements such as the use of checklists, incentives, and easy to understand procedures. This will then, in turn, create a system of standards— one that reflects your vision, value, mission and culture statement— immediately positioning you as a leader, to properly delegate tasks and empower your team to achieve the required daily objectives (therefore making life easier for everyone).

2. Creating Operational Systems

The more any restaurant depends on the owner’s day-in and day-out involvement in the operational details of the establishment, the greater the risk of failure and burnout.

Starting and operating a successful restaurant also relies heavily on having the right systems in place, allowing the venue and its hired team to work as one cohesive unit.

Having the correct systems in place will create consistency, develop operating capital by reducing costs, enhance your team morale, and build business value while positioning your concept for future growth opportunities.

These systems include HR management, inventory management, communication systems, financial control systems, positional and shift related checklists, quality control systems, and more.

The benefits that you will quickly achieve through the implementation of these systems are much greater than what you will need to invest in setting them up.

3. Utilizing Available Resources

It is also important to stay on top of your game by continuously learning. There are multiple ways to accomplish this, such as working with industry mentors, attending trade shows, reading leadership and industry-driven books, and/or listening to podcasts (just to name a few).

Owners, managers, and yes, even front-line staff should have the mindset and a personal development plan in place, to continuously learn the industry. Continuously learning will reduce your daily involvement, improve on team experiences, and drive the results your restaurant needs.

Without diminishing restaurant fundamentals, is there also a way to implement technology within your restaurant, allowing you to work more efficiently? What are some cost-effective resources available to you and your team to enhance operational systems? It’s time to look for these investment opportunities.

4. Finding YOU Time

It is critical that you find yourself some ‘you time’. With the right team, systems, and resources in place, it is not only beneficial for you but for your entire team, as well. Look for ways to have a 30-minute workout in the morning, afternoon, or evening after work.

You also want to ensure you’re taking time off each week for yourself, your friends, and your family. Lastly, schedule a vacation, and take it.

No excuses!

Stop trying to do everything yourself. Learn to trust your team, delegate tasks based on their varied skill sets, and simply avoid burnout.

If you recognize any of the symptoms of burnout, it’s time to make a change in your restaurant’s lifestyle.

Find your balance and build a culture that places a premium on life. It may look like more ‘work’ up front, and there are many more solutions to suggest, but investing in a people-first mentality, will provide the results you need to begin leading a successful operation.

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Preparing Restaurant for Solo Diners

Preparing Your Restaurant For Solo Diners

Originally Posted on FoodableTV by Doug Radkey – 11/30/17

The dining scene has surely changed over the years. One of the many noticeable differences is the acceptance of the “solo diner.” Single (or solo) diners are no longer strictly targeting the quick-service restaurant or getting take-out to fulfill their desire and need to eat.

Many of these individuals, which are no longer just business travelers, are now looking for unique dining experiences at casual or even fine dining style restaurants.

For years, many solo diners preferred ordering in because they felt awkward to eat alone at restaurants, while restaurateurs preferred to fill their tables with two or more guests. Eating out alone, however, can now be a memorable social experience and many restaurateurs are starting to take notice and adjust their operations accordingly.  

From single demographics and business travelers to even married individuals who are simply looking for some ‘alone time,’ restaurants are provided with an opportunity to generate a niche driven revenue stream from this segment, if they’re properly prepared.

If the latest forecasts from Euromonitor are indeed true, “there will be more than 330 million people in the ‘developed world’ who will be living alone by the year 2020. That’s a 20 percent increase in less than a decade.”

Equally, data from Open Table shows “the majority of solo dining reservations are booked for dinner (43 percent) followed by lunch (30 percent). Solo diners also book the majority of their tables Monday to Friday (78 percent), saving the weekends for dining with others.”

Catering to solo diners takes some adjustment, an open mind, and specific training. Let’s have a look at a variety of ways restaurants can begin to take advantage of this growing opportunity.

1. Welcoming the Guest

One of the easiest ways in which a restaurant can make a solo diner feel unwelcome is at the time of entering the restaurant. When someone walks in solo, staff should never ask ‘are you dining alone?’ or ‘table for one?’ especially at a volume that other guests may overhear.

You want to seat them where they can see what is going on. The guest may be lonely and want someone to talk to. Be friendly, but don’t neglect other guests. With nobody to talk to, time seems long (though smart phones help), so it’s ideal to serve them as efficiently as possible, without rushing their service. Invest in Wi-Fi and provide solo diners with a password as soon as they sit down. This could be the servers’ most critical guest of their shift.

2. Seating Strategies

When planning a new restaurant layout or adjusting your current one, keep in mind solo diners. Consider table optimization or the use of communal tables and high-tops for these guests. At the same time, you want to consider their view as a high percentage of guests would rather choose to sit near points of interest, such as a window, featured wall (near fireplaces or wine racks, for example) and not just near the exit, kitchen door, or washroom for example, as many restaurants have done in the past.

Some solo diners may prefer quiet and privacy, but many are now open to enjoying a meal at a communal table with other solo diners or even learning a few things from the bartender or chef, while sitting at the bar. Either way, know your concept, know your demographics, know your square footage, and adjust accordingly to maximize on your Restaurant Revenue Management (RRM).

3. Elevating the Bar

If the restaurant has a bar, consider this as a potential seating arrangement for solo diners. Pending the concept, bars are becoming less and less just for beer, cocktails, or shots. With the correct setting and chair style; the solo diner, who should be able to order everything off of the restaurant menu right at the bar, will be able to enjoy a meal, converse with the bartender, people watch, and enjoy a memorable experience without looking across at an empty chair. A nice place setting at the bar can in fact, be more enjoyable for solo diners and be more profitable for the restaurant, than that of a traditional table, with a correctly engineered menu.  

4. Create a Tasting Menu

How often do we see fantastic pairings and unique menus, for couples or larger groups? There are rarely any meal deals for solo diners at casual or fine dining restaurants. These individuals should not be treated any differently than a table for two, and in fact, solo diners may spend nearly as much as a table for two. Ensure there are appetizers, entrees, and desserts that are geared toward solo diners and/or create tasting menus with the solo diner in mind while pairing the food accordingly with offered beverages.

5. Serving Single Guests

Customer service training is extremely important, for any guest, but arguably more so, for the solo diner. Though solo diners are rarely ‘alone’ anymore thanks to smart-phones, service staff must still make it a point to serve them efficiently. Service staff must not assume that solo diners will not appreciate an up-sell, another drink, or that the guest is a simple ‘one and done’ visit. Service staff must still make it a point to give the diner time and not rush them to flip the table for a larger party. Make it a point as an owner, operator, or manager, that each staff member understands the importance of a solo diner.

Restaurants can no longer assume that solo diners mean less revenue. The numbers don’t lie; the frequency of these visits is only going to increase. With the right method of planning and adjustments to seating, bar design, menu engineering, marketing, and customer service training, solo diners may indeed, improve your restaurants bottom line!

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Hosting Events Can Generate Revenue

How Hosting Events at Your Restaurant Can Generate an Additional Revenue Stream

Originally Posted on FoodableTV by Doug Radkey – 11/19/17

You have the square footage, you have the approved capacity, and you have the kitchen. These are the three key ingredients required to host an exclusive or intimate type event at any venue. Whether you have the capacity for 20 or 200 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’.

Hosting events are a great way to fill a restaurant on any chosen day or night. From hosting business networking events and office meetings to fundraising events, menu tastings, media launch parties, and ‘paint’ or ‘trivia’ type nights – restaurants have the ability to plan out the most “perfect  event.”

Restaurateurs must start to realize that hosting events are a great secondary source of revenue. By strategically planning your own events well ahead of time will position your restaurant to obtain pre-event cash-flow and allow you the opportunity to maximize on labour management, inventory management, and revenue per available seat on what may be a typically slower day.

Here are some strategies to craft a memorable and profitable restaurant event while becoming the talk-of-the-town through the use of social media!

Create a Strategy Plan

As always when developing any strategy or marketing related plan, know your target market in terms of socio-demographics. This will help in determining the type of event that your guests will resonate with. A strategy plan will also create objectives, milestones, and layout personnel related responsibilities in addition to outlining costs and potential return on investment. Planning ahead, approximately two to three months, will further allow you and your team the time to create professional marketing material and properly prepare for each event, creating the perception that you are well organized.

Type of Event

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. Restaurants that provide food and beverage tasting events, DIY paint nights, community fundraisers, dinner and comedy shows, and of course live music are currently leading the way in generating brand awareness and revenue opportunities. Meet with your front-of-house and back-of-house teams, think outside the box, and come up with creative events.

That said— the most ideal self-hosted event for a restaurant is a food and beverage tasting event. Holding one or two per month is an excellent way to showcase your kitchen and bar while offering a limited time only experience. Consider hosting a four-course wine-maker’s dinner or a beer and cheese pairing night or a ‘one night only’ seasonally plated dinner event where you collaborate with local farmers and artisans. The ideas are truly endless.

Pre-Event Management

Within your strategy plan, you want to outline pre-event, day-of event, and post-event management strategies. With pre-event management, you want to give your event the appropriate lead time required to generate buzz and awareness.

This is your opportunity to:

  • Create an engaging social media strategy. According to KissMetrics, 77 percent of event managers rely on social media as a primary engagement strategy before events.
  • Create ways to collaborate with local partners, vendors, and community influencers to amplify the events awareness and to generate value-based add-ons for the event itself.
  • Create a cash-flow opportunity by requiring a reservation through pre-payment. By knowing your target market, completing an event cost analysis, and pending the style of event, ticket prices can often vary from $50 to $150 per person.

Day-Of Management

When the day of the event arrives you must be prepared. A completed strategy plan will outline responsibilities, food and beverage preparation, staff requirements, and sequence of service.

To maximize on the opportunity, it is also critical to:

  • Have a social media strategy in place for the day-of by promoting opportunities within the four walls of the restaurant for guests to check-in, use hash-tags, and encourage photo and video usage.
  • Have a repeat customer strategy in place by offering a measurable incentive to return for all of the events guests. There is a chance that it’s the first visit to the restaurant by some of the guests, therefore it’s critical to maximize on the moment and ensure they return for another meal within the next 30 to 60 days.
  • Have an appointed ‘guest experience’ manager walk the floor, take photos to create additional content, and interact with guests to ensure they’re having a good time.

Post-Event Management

This is where many restaurant events fail. When the event is over, the effort must not end. There must be a plan in place to continue the momentum that’s been created. Restaurants should further look to:

  • Review the guest generated content online (photos, videos, hash-tags, reviews, etc…) and look for ways to share and engage with that content over the next couple of weeks.
  • With the measurable incentive program in place, how many of those event guests returned for a traditional (non-event) meal within the next 30 to 60 days?
  • Review the overall success of the event. Did it meet the objectives in terms of revenue, costs, and return on investment? Were there any pre-event or day-of event processes that could have been better? Could this event become a monthly, quarterly, or annual type event?

By becoming known within the community for hosting events, you provide guests with new experiences each time they visit and they then look forward to the next event while sharing their experiences with their friends, family, and co-workers. Outside of that, they may look to host their own event (birthday party, retirement dinner, etc…) at your venue providing you, as an owner or operator, with the opportunity to piggyback on their own marketing efforts.

As you can see, hosting events should not be overlooked; they are a great way to also amplify your brand messaging and create long-term brand ambassadors.

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Preparing Your Restaurant for Thanksgiving

Preparing Your Restaurant for Thanksgiving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Marketing 101

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

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

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

How can your restaurant leverage this solution?

2. Menu Development

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

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

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

3. Revenue Options

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

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

4. Cross-Promotions

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

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

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

5. Giving Back

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

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

6. Saying Thanks

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

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

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

by krghospitality krghospitality No Comments

Often Overlooked Benefits of Restaurant Lighting

Often Overlooked Benefits of Restaurant Lighting

Originally Posted on FoodableTV by Doug Radkey – 10/19/2017

There are so many critical elements that go into the design of a restaurant, so much so that it can easily become overwhelming. It’s a moment during the start-up or renovation period, where specifics that play a large impact on customer experience, can simply be overlooked. One of the key elements that are often overlooked — is the importance of restaurant lighting.

To create positive emotions and to deliver on your promise for memorable customer experiences, a concept must think through its initial design while utilizing processes, maximizing communication, and creating surprises through a multitude of ‘touch points.’ Arguably one of the most important touch points in the overall design — is again that of restaurant lighting.

Lighting within a restaurant (or bar), affects many elements within both operations and guest experience, including food and drink presentation, atmosphere, and length of stay. Lights come in many creative materials, shapes, sizes, and brightness; therefore the largest challenge is finding the right balance for each location and concept.

When planning a restaurant space, one has to consider the ‘job’ of each light source. Is it meant to highlight wall features, to enhance a back-bar, to highlight walkways, washrooms, and exits, or is it to create the right mood over a table? Or perhaps it is for security, liability, and theft prevention?

When considering the job of each light source, it’s imperative to remember to keep customers and operations top of mind first and not the architecture itself.

Here are other ways that restaurant lighting can have a large impact on revenue, profit, and customer satisfaction by again, considering the ‘job’ of each source.

Sense of Security

Ensure that the restaurant and bar space is well lit (this is both inside and outside the venue). Strategic placement and brightness of lights will undoubtedly reduce theft opportunities, reduce damage to property, reduce injury and liability, and keep both employees and customers safe (especially at night).

Differentiated Space

Different lighting sources within a venue can assist in creating multiple spaces. Similar to guest positioning, lights can assist in highlighting the multiple “levels of comfort” that guests will connect with and want to be seated near, allowing the restaurant to maximize each individual seating area, effectively managing customer satisfaction and revenue opportunities.

Seat Optimization  

Lighting has another effect on Restaurant Revenue Management, as well. If a restaurant wants customers in and out quickly (QSR model), they should consider brighter lights paired with fast paced music, as it often makes guests feel hurried. A balance between warm and bright lights is ideal for casual restaurants where dimmed (softer) lights is therefore more ideal for restaurants that are looking for longer guest duration.

Kitchen & Bar Performance

Don’t forget about a restaurants team and the productive areas within the restaurant space. Ensure the correct light placement and correct choice of bulbs is decided upon for inside the kitchen and bar production area. Consider where food and beverage preparation and final presentation will be completed for a final quality check before being delivered to the guest.

Food & Beverage Presentation

Increase restaurant and bar profits with the correct back-lighting, up-lighting, and track lighting along liquor, beer, and wine displays. Take it up a notch and differentiate positioning of premium product with a different set of lights. Furthermore, food and drink can look unappealing if placed under the wrong lighting element— therefore bars and full service restaurants should use dimmers to control brightness (softness of light) and to ensure there are no shadows along the plate or glass while at a table.

Energy Conservation

When deciding on lights, consider the upfront cost and the ongoing energy cost and look for long-term operational savings, adding profits to a restaurants bottom line. Restaurants use a lot of lights so dimmers (or control systems) for example, are great for a variety of concepts to reduce costs and create more efficient layouts.

Curb Appeal

A restaurant cannot forget about its exterior lighting. Outside of the obvious security reasons, a well designed exterior with strategic lighting can in fact, invite people inside versus them choosing a neighboring restaurant. Lighting along entranceways, signage, landscape, and the up-lighting of architectural highlights, is most ideal. Lastly, outdoor lighting for a restaurants patio needs to be creatively decided upon and equally not overlooked to create not only the right outdoor atmosphere, but curb appeal, as well.

Poor restaurant lighting can lead to a cold and clinical feeling or a dark and unsafe feeling among guests. Lighting can also have a psychological effect on guests, as their minds may play tricks on them when it comes to flavors and scents for both food and drink. 

by krghospitality krghospitality No Comments

Creating Restaurant Brand Ambassadors

Creating Restaurant Brand Ambassadors

Originally Posted on FoodableTV by Doug Radkey – 10/14/2017

Ask nearly every restaurant owner what their number one, long-term marketing ‘program’ or tactic is, and most will say effective word of mouth. This can be great until it starts to fizzle down or another new restaurant opens up down the street resulting in the competition becoming the new talk of the town.

Instead of shooting into the wind and hoping ‘word of mouth’ with deliver desirable long-term results, restaurateurs need to embrace a program that is an extension of word-of-mouth marketing, by developing what is called ‘brand ambassadors.’

A brand ambassador will positively represent and promote a restaurant’s venue. They will embrace the company values, vision, mission, and culture. They will strengthen a restaurant’s identity within the community by providing additional visibility and overall awareness.

Yes, word of mouth happens organically over time because of excellent food, drink, service, and experiences, don’t get me wrong. But what if there was a way to double-down and create multiple micro-communities and multiple levels of ambassadors to promote a restaurant’s brand?

That’s where an ambassador program comes in.

Here’s how:

Owners & Operators

A winning brand ambassador program begins with guests and staff. However, as with any program, there needs to be a leader. As a restaurant owner or operator, there are many ways to be included within a brand ambassador program and be looked up to as the leader of the program.

Business Networking

Restaurant owners and operators can further ‘humanize the brand’ by networking within the community and showing the face behind the brand at a variety of business events that every city or community holds. Building effective hyper-local relationships is the first step to a winning program.

Community Involvement

Restaurants can build and protect their reputation by being involved in as many community based events as possible and even collaborating with other restaurant or foodservice operators within their area. An open mind and community driven mindset is essential.

Community Influencers

Restaurant owners and operators should also look to build long lasting relationships with community leaders, city officials, F&B distributors, local media, and bloggers— who are all influential within their city. These individuals can further amplify a restaurant’s positive message.

Set Goals

Once an owner or operator is on board with a true brand ambassador program, setting clear goals for both guest and staff ambassadors, is required. What do you want to see come out of this program? When setting goals, remember this one key rule a friend once said – ‘numbers lie and relationships rule’. Don’t look at the financials first; the money will flow once relationships are built.

Restaurant Guests

Happy customers are everything. They are the foundation to effective word of mouth. Outside of hoping they share their experience with their social network, there is a multitude of ways to get them further involved in the process of building true brand ambassadors.

Focus Group

Develop a group of individuals who show great interest in the restaurant (regular guests) and meet with them either once per month or quarter. Discuss upcoming community events, new menu items, or possible events to hold at the restaurant. Get them involved and give them something to talk about. For example, provide food and beverage samples of new menu items they will surely take photos of and share with their network.

Social Amplification

Similar to focus groups, consider holding ‘Facebook Only’ parties for example, where the only guests are ones that are fans of the restaurants page. This will surely amplify your messaging, product, and experience as they will be sharing photos or even live video of the event with their network.

Loyalty Programs

Every restaurant should have some form of loyalty program. There isn’t a one size fits all approach, but the general rule is that it will only work if the restaurant makes it worth something of perceived value. This comes down to knowing customer profiles and thinking of creative ways outside of just the standard ‘get one free after ten purchases’ loyalty program that everyone sees.

Restaurant Staff

When restaurant staff members are effectively on-boarded, trained, and are emotionally happy in their environment (a venue where they get a sense of achievement, respect, and wages) they are more often than not, willing to share the positive moments, effectively becoming brand ambassadors.

Provide Empowerment 

When staff members are given empowerment to make minor decisions, a lot of positive can come from it. Customer service is the number one benefit, and happy customers as we know, continue returning. A training program that focuses on customer service sequence training (role playing) will allow staff the opportunity to create relationships with guests while providing both confidence and empowerment within their respective roles.

Double the Social 

Nearly all employees will be active on some social media platform. Restaurants should look to encourage the use and even supply employees with content to share with their network. A social media training and a social media policy however, needs to be clearly articulated and signed off on to protect the brand. Furthermore, make sure staff members are included as much as possible with community events and any focus groups to amplify the social reach.

Create Stay Interviews

When staff members are happy, make a record of it. Create a ‘stay interview’ which is asking them questions such as why they love working at the restaurant so much? Create a video, share it, and post it on the restaurant’s website. This will create a positive brand perception which will improve hiring processes, reduce turnover costs, and set the stage for future brand ambassadors.

In summary, doing the unexpected, getting involved, creating engagement, highlighting staff, and listening to guests, will instantly develop the foundations for not only word of mouth, but that of a brand ambassador— delivering the desired long-term results!

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Restaurant Seating Strategies

Restaurant Seating Strategies

Originally Posted on FoodableTV by Doug Radkey 10/09/2017

There are many tactical elements to operating a restaurant business and Restaurant Revenue Management (RRM) is one of them.

RRM can be defined simply as selling the right seat, to the right customer, at the right price, and for the right duration of time.

As property and overall restaurant operating costs continue to increase, so does the desire to maximize seating and guest turnover. This goes for either a full service or quick service restaurant environment. There is, however, a science to restaurant seating strategies— the essence of RRM.

First and foremost, restaurateurs need to understand their intended guest experience and their ideal customer profile — including guest behaviours — to maximize their seating potential.  

With the right seating strategy, a restaurateur will position themselves to increase guest spending, increase turned tables, and contribute to a more positive guest experience. Consequently, this will greatly affect the operator’s revenue and profit potential.

An award winning seating strategy will include the following planning steps and thought processes.

Here are six factors to think about:

1. Room Size

The general rule of thumb for a restaurant is to allocate 60 to 70 percent of real estate to the dining area with the remaining percentage allocated for kitchen, storage, and washrooms etc. Ideally, a restaurant wants to keep approximately 20 to 25 square feet per seat, to offer the most comfort and flexibility for guests and the most adequate flow for staff including traffic aisles, server stations, and beverage bars/counters.

For example, a 5,000 square foot property will provide approximately 3,250 square feet (65 percent) for the dining and/or service area, resulting in an average of 144 optimal seats (22.5 square feet per seat).

2. Table Size

As with the above room size, there is a general rule of thumb for table size as well. Ideally, guests should be given a minimum of 300 square inches of space (per guest). For example, a 24 inch by 30 inch table will offer 720 total square inches of space or 360 total square inches per guest for up to two guests, often enough space for traditional plating, utensils, and glassware.

Table size can fluctuate based on concept, menu, plating style, and service sequence. Make the tables too small, and guests will feel uncomfortable and leave more quickly. Make the tables too large, and your property will lose valuable real estate. In this case, size does matter!

3. Table Optimization

A profitable interior design combines a variety of table sizes to meet the demand of different sized parties in addition to maximizing Sales Per Minute (SPM), an essential key performance indicator of Restaurant Revenue Management. For a restaurant to be successful, it needs to live in the moment by maximizing every day, every hour, and every seat.

Optimizing table sizes and their positioning, will improve traffic flow and turnover while reducing noise and accidents within the restaurant. Utilize point-of-sale reports to understand typical party sizes, average duration of stay, and dollars spent to ensure the restaurant is not wasting any seats or opportunities.

4. Guest Positioning

Depending on the concept, we know guests either sit themselves or wait to be seated. If one were to sit back and watch how guests were to seat themselves in a full service restaurant, a high percentage of guests would rather choose to sit near a window, featured wall (near fireplaces or wine racks, for example), or a partition wall. This is because these elements create a level of comfort.

When planning a floor layout, it is important to keep this in mind and create multiple “levels of comfort” that guests will connect with and want to be seated near, allowing the restaurant to maximize the space and not have undesirable seating areas that lead to quick visits and less spending.

5. Seating Styles

Without getting into specific details on chair styles (that’s another article), there are three key seating arrangements that are known to either keep guests in their seats and/or keep them spending more money.

Banquette tables (a bench along a wall with an opposite chair), often reduces sales per minute because it keeps guests sitting longer (which can be a great thing). This results, however, in a requirement for the restaurant to up-sell coffees, desserts, and/or other profitable items throughout the meal. This is a critical communication point to all service staff.

Booths on the other hand, are the number one option for guests and users of these booths are known to spend more in both time and dollars, as they feel highly comfortable and often feel a higher sense of privacy. Unfortunately, most restaurants cannot offer a space consisting 100 percent of booths, nor is it ideal for single diners. The right table and seating mix is required, but more booths than others, is a more desirable approach.

Traditional tables, those with two or more seats, often lead to quicker visits, unless strategically positioned near levels of comfort and appropriately spaced apart — offering a more intimate experience and ultimately leading to longer stays. It is essential this setting is truly mixed for seating of two and four (or more) to maximize potential and to reduce the risk of a single diner, for example, sitting at a table for four.

6. Guest Duration

By now, we understand that the longer a guest stays, the more they need to spend to maximize the seat and space. As a restaurateur who knows their concept and ideal customer profile, one must decide whether to focus on longer stays and higher revenues per table or to focus on volume of guests (resulting in volume food and beverage production).

What is needed to not only breakeven, but be profitable long term while having a highly productive, but not overrun kitchen and bar?

Every concept and every location will be slightly different, but once you know the average meal length, one can determine many other aspects of the restaurant such as the full potential for each day of the week which will then correlate to improving other financial management components including optimal staff schedules and food and beverage preparation.