Guest experience

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Designing with Anxiety in Mind

Designing with Anxiety in Mind

by David Klemt

Blurry image of people in a nightclub or bar

Interior design has the power to remove a person’s anxiety, improving the guest experience by making them feel more comfortable.

Lionel Ohayon, founder and CEO of ICRAVE, addressed design and anxiety at HD Expo 2022 in Las Vegas. While anxiety wasn’t the entire focus of this intimate discussion, what Ohayon had to say was powerful.

When some operators consider their space, they probably aren’t thinking about guest anxiety. Ohayon, who designs with compassion and empathy in mind, believes designers can address anxiety through the design process.

Why the respected designer think designers can accomplish this feat? He does it himself.

Innovative Design

For the benefit of those unfamiliar with Ohayon and ICRAVE, some background.

Specializing in interiors and lighting, ICRAVE is an award-winning design firm. Founded by Ohayon, the firm’s approach to design includes a focus on the experiential and the client’s brand strategy.

One may assume that ICRAVE works solely in the hospitality space. To that point, the firm’s portfolio includes some of the world’s most impressive restaurants, bars, lounges, nightclubs, hotels, and spas.

However, the company is well known for work in the healthcare, wellness, entertainment, residential, workplace, mixed-use, and airport spaces.

After two decades, ICRAVE has honed their vision, approach, and strategy. A key pillar is “experience design.” In fact, the firm believes that “the experience is the brand.”

It would be impossible to live and deliver on that core tenet without understanding a client’s business. For ICRAVE, the final product must engage all those who use the space they’ve designed and their client is operating.

Reducing Anxiety

Consider this scenario. It’s not one that we’ve all found ourselves in. However, it is a situation that those who experience anxiety live with every day.

Let’s say someone has agreed to meet friends at a nightclub. They’re not meeting somewhere outside of the club so they can enter as a group.

This person arrives, enters, and is seeking out their friends. Unfortunately for them and their anxiety, they’re the first to get there. Anxiety (and even panic) sets in. Now, the last place this guest wants to be is in this nightclub.

Obviously, this is a terrible guest experience. And now this guest may associate the venue, fairly or not, with feelings of anxiety. They may never want to return.

Throughout Ohayon’s career, he has designed for this exact situation. During his HD Expo session—which was much more an intimate conversation inside the DesignWell Pavilion—Ohayon explained that he has incorporated “perches” in a number of his designs.

A perch, in this context, is a space a person can access that makes them feel comfortable while they wait for others in their party to arrive. The way I understand it, a perch is like a “hideaway,” a space someone feeling anxiety in public can use so they don’t feel like everyone’s eyes—and judgment—are upon them.

Designing and planning for longevity requires designers and their clients to think differently. Health and wellness must be more than buzzwords—they must be authentic to a brand.

Anything less is disingenuous. Today’s consumer is perceptive when it comes to sensing the inauthentic, and they don’t like it.


Now, some operators may feel as though addressing a guest’s anxiety isn’t their problem. And we’re not always sensitive to the fact that someone is feeling anxious.

Some people may even feel defensive about their venue right now. Their space, they may be thinking, isn’t causing anyone anxiety.

At risk of putting too fine a point on it or stating the obvious, a key element of hospitality is guest comfort. If a guest’s comfort and sense of safety isn’t important to someone, they really shouldn’t be in hospitality.

To clarify, Ohayon’s comments on anxiety are first and foremost for designers. He wants designers to consider how they can incorporate elements that may help reduce a person’s anxiety.

On the client side, though, an operator can and should ask about such elements during the design process of their space. There’s no reason to be defensive—this is about mindfulness, wellness, and compassion.

Removing anxiety through design pays off during day-to-day operations. If a space can reduce a guest’s anxiety, that guest can be present and engaged. That engagement leads to a positive, memorable experience. And that type of experience evolves into repeat visits from loyal guests.

Image: Maurício Mascaro

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Forward Progress: 2022 Drink Trends

Forward Progress: 2022 Drink Trends

by David Klemt

Cocktail on bar mat behind bar

Curious about what drink trends to leverage throughout 2022 to fulfill guest desires and expectations? Datassential has answers.

Of course, nobody has a crystal ball. However, as their name suggests, Datassential has something similar: data.

A trove of their valuable data was shared during Bar & Restaurant Expo 2022. Amanda Torgerson, senior account manager at Datassential, revealed the trends operators should be aware of this year.

Datassential MegaTrends

During this informative session, Torgerson shared what Datassential has identified as three “megatrends.” In other words, two trends that are particularly noteworthy.

First up, self-service. Whether beer, wine, or cocktails, Datassential thinks today’s guest wants more control.

Self-service beverage alcohol taps offer control in multiple ways, pour size and customization among them.

In addition, guests don’t have to wait for servers or bartenders when serving themselves. And, of course, self-service cuts down on front-of-house labor costs.

Second, experiential imbibing. In this context, this doesn’t simply relate to occasion, service, location, and ambiance.

Rather, the drink itself is an experience. Experiential cocktails engage multiple senses and include:

  • color-changing cocktails (those using butterfly pea powder, for example);
  • cocktail carts (similar to tableside guacamole preparations, tableside cocktail prep and service);
  • fire and smoke: smoked, charred, and burnt cocktails;
  • drinks that invoke nostalgia and guests’ childhoods;
  • frozen drinks; and
  • beer, wine, spirit, and cocktail flights.

Finally, botanicals. As we know, scent is a crucial component of taste. Botanicals, obviously, activate one’s olfactory sense.

Additionally, botanicals can affect a drink’s appearance and taste. So, break out the Chartreuse, Lillet, and elderflower liqueurs.

And while your team is at it, consider how else scent can be used to entice guests and enhance the drinking experience.

Best of the Rest

Treating this as more of a speed round, let’s review Datassential’s trend predictions in four major categories.


When it comes to hard seltzer, Datassential has (re)confirmed what we all know: This category has staying power. And as many operators found out during the pandemic, seltzers can boost to-go and delivery sales.

Beer cocktails are also trending up, per Datassential. Mini-bottles of beer also having a moment, and can easily tie into the beer cocktail trend.

Finally, heirloom beers—those made with heirloom grains—are proving popular with consumers.


According to Torgerson, wine seltzer is poised for a moment. Relating it to the hard seltzer trend, consider this Wine Cooler 2.0, as Torgerson said.

Other key wine trends are frizzante and red sparkling wines, orange wines, and canned sake.

Then there’s fruit wines, which means any wine not made from grapes. During her session, Torgerson suggested using these in cocktails.


In addition to cocktails on tap, Datassential sees the following as cocktail trends to watch:

  • Drinks made with genever.
  • Hybrid rums, blends of light and dark rums.
  • Ranch Water (typically a highball made with tequila and lime juice, topped with Topo Chico).
  • Single-serve, premade cocktails such as RTDs. These are great for off-premise sales.
  • Boozy frozen desserts.


Focusing first on increasingly popular spirits, Datassential’s data shows that pisco, mezcal, and Japanese whisky are trending up.

In terms of wine, operators should look into regions that are perhaps “lesser known” in North America. Some examples from Torgerson’s presentation are Georgian and Hungarian wines.

And finally, what Datassential identifies as “drinking for a cause.” Such causes and beverage activations can be local or global as the world is so much more connected.

Image: ABHISHEK HAJARE on Unsplash


by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Dining Room Tech on the Rise

Dining Room Tech on the Rise

by David Klemt

Printed circuit board with gold details

After years of restaurant technology adoption moving at a glacial pace, the industry now appears to be embracing innovations at light speed.

In fact, in just two short years some in the industry think it may be time to slow down. New tech can be exciting but jumping on every “innovation” is expensive, time consuming, and inefficient.

However, slowing down doesn’t equate to hitting the pause button.

Dining room tech was a topic of discussion at the 2022 Restaurant Leadership Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. The two speakers agree that our industry needs to ease off the tech throttle a bit.

However, they also feel that tech innovations in the restaurant space will continue at a faster rate than they did pre-pandemic.

Session host Raymond Howard, a co-founder of Ziosk, interviewed Chris DeFrain and Hernan Mujica about dining room tech. DeFrain is a CPA at Lehigh Valley Restaurant Group, which operators 21 Red Robin franchises throughout Pennsylvania. Mujica is CIO for Texas Roadhouse.

Red Robin

Industry professionals and consumers alike should be familiar with Ziosk. After all, Red Robin has been a client with tech company since August, 2012.

Anyone who has visited a Red Robin has certainly interacted with a Ziosk terminal.

According to DeFrain, there are some interesting consumer behaviors taking place in Red Robin dining rooms. When it comes to tech, guests appear satisfied to place orders for appetizers and desserts via Ziosk terminals.

As DeFrain sees it, the guest would rather not wait for a server for ordering those types of food items. However, guests do seem to prefer ordering entrees from a server.

That’s a positive in DeFrain’s opinion, as he believes that ordering must remain the domain of servers. While he contends that the tech-based ordering process needs streamlining, DeFrain doesn’t appear interested in taking it out of servers’ hands completely.

This makes sense; the server as an integral element of the guest experience. How can a casual dining restaurant build guest loyalty and deliver a memorable guest experience without an engaging front-of-house team?

Of course, dining room tech should do more than accept orders, summon a server, and offer tableside payments. Today, data is king. Powerful platforms collect as much useful data as possible.

To that end, DeFrain appreciates that Ziosk provides data Red Robin leadership teams can share with staff. For example, a server can be shown how much they’re making in tips during their shift.

Finally, DeFrain says that guest usage of Ziosk terminals is improving feedback and comments.

Texas Roadhouse

In comparison to Red Robin, Texas Roadhouse took longer to sign on with Ziosk. In part, interestingly, this was due to the redesign of the terminal itself.

Turns out, Texas Roadhouse waited for a Ziosk terminal that took up less space and looked better on the chain’s tables.

Per Mujica (and any Texas Roadhouse guest), the in-person experience is core to the brand. Therefore, dining room tech must be an enhancement, not a detriment.

Like Red Robin, the chain has no interest in adopting tech that replaces FoH staff.

Another consideration regarding dining room tech should be important to all operators: The tech must be user friendly. According to Mujica, restaurant guests are happy to embrace tech innovations—if it’s easy to use.

So, operators must be careful and deliberate when choosing their tech stack. Generally speaking, native tech users (Gen Z) will likely be much quicker to learn how to use a particular technology than a Baby Boomer or even Gen X counterpart.

As such, operators must know their guests in order to adopt tech that enhances rather than alienates.

Another reason Texas Roadhouse chose Ziosk, per Mujica, comes down to mobile pay. In short, the chain didn’t like the mobile pay guest experience.

In terms of the future, Mujica predicts that handheld, tableside ordering is the future of dining room tech.


Like Mujica says, operators have now seen what tech innovations can do for them. In short, there’s no turning back.

And I agree with Mujica and DeFrain: it’s likely (and necessary) that tech development will slow a bit moving forward. Honestly, we all need room to breathe, consider the innovations available currently, and decide what works best for a particular business.

Likewise, I agree that tech can’t be allowed to alter the service model. Technology shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for staff.

Interestingly, restaurateur David Chang addressed this very subject during a 2022 RLC conversation. In his opinion, tech won’t replace restaurant roles, it will streamline them. At most, said Chang, tech will replace small, repetitive tasks, such as the physical flipping of a burger.

In closing, when deciding on the tech stack, operators should consider the following: ease of use for guests, ease of use for staff, streamlining of operations, and cost.

In this space, tech should never be embraced simply because it’s shiny and new. Not only is that costly in terms of investment, it can cost guest loyalty and visit frequency.

Image: Vishnu Mohanan on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Prepare for the New Rules of Hospitality

Prepare for the New Rules of Hospitality

by David Klemt

People toasting with a variety of cocktails

Guests are returning to bars, restaurants, and hotels, so you need to prepare now for the new rules of hospitality.

If you’re wondering what those rules are, wonder no more. We have a number of articles addressing them, some of which are here, here, and here.

Phil Wills, owner and partner of the Spirits in Motion and Bar Rescue alum, also has some thoughts. In fact, Wills shared his approach to what he identifies as the new rules of hospitality last week.


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A post shared by Phil Wills (@phil_i_am11)

During Bar & Restaurant Expo 2022, Wills presented “The New Rules of Hospitality: What a Post-pandemic Consumer Wants.”

Below, you’ll find what Wills has to say about hospitality in 2022 and beyond in three categories.


Wills kicked off his session with a simple question: How do you define “hospitality”? And yes, he put attendees on the spot, asking them for their answers.

It’s always at least a bit amusing that even the most outgoing operator gets shy in a conference setting. I’ve never seen so many people suddenly need to check their phones, shoes, or the ceiling tiles as when they’re asked to participate in a class or education session.

For Wills, the definition is “making a guest feel welcome, as though they’re in your home.”

Obviously, the answer is different for everyone. As Wills says, the key is considering how you and your brand define hospitality. If that seems easier said than done, Wills has some tips, presented in the context of a guest visit.

First, guests take in the sights, sounds, and smells of your space. They also consume your menu items, and converse with your staff, their party, and other guests.

Look at your business through the eyes of your guests. Now, this can be a difficult exercise, particularly if you spend a lot of time in your restaurant, bar or hotel.

So, ask team members to do the same and provide feedback. We take for granted what our spaces, food, and drinks look like.

To improve the guest experience, pay attention to ticket times and F&B consistency. This will reduce recovery incidents and phrases.

Finally, Wills recommends engaging with guests (if that’s what they want). However, he also suggests facilitating connections between guests.

Interestingly, Wills also says, “Regulars are old money. You want to get that new money.” Then, you want to convert that new money into old money. Rinse, repeat.


As relates to training, Wills categorizes new hires in two ways: toll takers and moneymakers.

Toll takers take a toll on your business. They cost you money, and if they don’t receive the proper training they can chase guests away.

So, you’ll need to spend time and money to convert toll takers into moneymakers.

Speaking strictly in a technical sense, training needs to provide team members with the knowledge and tools to become moneymakers. To accomplish this, Wills has three keys to making training stick:

  1. Don’t make training too easy. If training is easy, team members won’t retain what they’re taught. Challenge your staff.
  2. Vary your training. There are a number of training methods at your disposal. Use multiple methods to engage your staff. Wills suggests combining shift work, book work, and tests, at a minimum.
  3. Turn training into a competition. At this point, we’re gamifying just about anything. So, Wills recommends the platform 1Huddle to gamify your training.


Simply put, Wills says we need to find new ways to make this industry exciting to new hires.

According to the National Restaurant Association, we’re still seeing significant job losses in hospitality, foodservice, and lodging and accommodation.

In fact, we’re down 14 percent when it comes to full-service restaurant jobs. For bars and taverns, the number is 25 percent.

For Wills, offering incentives, mental health breaks, and even cash bonuses for staying in role for a number of months can draw the attention of new workers.

However, he also has another interesting idea: making people smile. On average, according to Will’s research, people smile 20 times each day. He wants to find ways to make people smile 20 times during a single visit to a restaurant or bar.

Now, Wills admits he’s still working on how to accomplish this lofty goal. I believe a key component is creating a working environment that inspires team members to smile 20 times per shift.

Image: Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Single Malts for International Whiskey Day

5 Single Malts for International Whiskey Day

by David Klemt

Bottles of Glendalough Distillery 7 Year Old Mizunara Finish on top of a barrel

In case it isn’t yet obvious, March is full of an array of wonderful cocktail and spirits holidays perfect for restaurants and bar promotions.

So, it’s pretty impressive that we can end this month with International Whiskey Day. Or, if you prefer, International Whisky Day.

Wondering which you should use, “whiskey” or “whisky”? Well, there’s a (mostly) accepted method for distinguishing the two.

As some spirits aficionados and historians explain it, if a country has the letter “E” in its name, so should the word “whiskey.” No “E”? Then it’s “whisky.”

Or, and this may be controversial, you can just use whichever you prefer. Or perhaps use the spelling that’s on your favorite label. Alternately, if executing a promotion with a sponsor, ask their preference and use it.

At any rate, we all get to celebrate uisce beatha (Irish) or uisge beatha (Scottish) on Sunday, March 27.

Below you’ll find some suggestions for bottles to showcase on International Whisk(e)y Day. Cheers!

American Whiskey

Obviously, there’s a glaring issue with trying to choose a single bottle of whiskey to represent the US. In short, there are dozens (at a minimum) of bottles from which to choose.

So, to make things easier (on me, I suppose), I’m limiting this list to single malts. Look, I had to draw a line somewhere.

Honestly, this doesn’t make things incredibly simple. You may find it surprising to learn that the US has the American Single Malt Whiskey Commission (ASMWC). Not only that, but the commission has nearly 100 members.

To promote and protect American single malt, the ASMWC defines this whiskey as:

  • made from 100-percent malted barley;
  • produced at one distillery;
  • mashed, distilled and matured in the US;
  • matured in 700-liter or smaller oak casks;
  • distilled to no more than 160 proof (80-percent ABV); and
  • bottled at 80 proof or more (40-percent ABV).

There are, thankfully, several dozen bottles to choose from to represent American single malt whiskey. For my list, I’m selecting Westward American Single Malt Whiskey Cask Strength.

Produced in Portland, OR, this double-gold winner is the 125-proof version of Westward’s original single malt whiskey. Bold, assertive, rich, and complex, this bottle embodies this American whiskey category.

Canadian Whisky

When it comes to whisky, Canada is known for its blends. Canada’s whiskey world is also known for bold but smooth rye.

However, there are distillers paying homage to their Scottish roots and traditions. These masters of their craft are working hard to put single-malt Canadian whiskies on the map.

In particular, craft distillers in Vancouver are producing single malts that deserve the world’s time and attention.

Now, when it comes to Canadian single malt, I’m a neophyte. However, I believe you and your guests will appreciate my selection.

Commodore Canadian Single Malt Whisky is crafted by Odd Society Spirits. The distillery is located in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Compellingly, Commodore is produced with malted barley grown in BC. Weighing in at 92 proof, expect pepper and tobacco on the palate, balanced with dark fruit and sweetness.

Irish Whiskey

Another country known for its blends is Ireland. Jameson, Bushmills, Red Breast, Powers… Each distillery produces world-famous, revered blends.

However, Ireland crafted several styles of whiskey over the course of many centuries. Single malts were certainly among them.

Of course, that style fell to wayside as the thousands of distilleries in Ireland shut down decades ago. Luckily, some modern-era distilleries are tapping into centuries of Irish distillation history.

Among these is Glendalough Distillery, our guest for episode 71 of the Bar Hacks podcast. Co-founder Donal O’Gallachoir reveals their latest expression, an Irish single malt finished in exceedingly rare Japanese mizunara casks.

So, for my Irish single malt selection, I choose Glendalough 7-Year-Old Mizunara Finished. You can learn more about this bottle and Glendalough listening to the podcast linked above or reading this article.

Scottish Whisky

If it’s difficult to choose just one American single malt whiskey, it’s nearly impossible to land on only a single single malt Scotch.

Do I choose the highest age statement (and an immense price tag)? Is the smart move the “most accessible” bottle? A peat monster?

What about the most traditional bottle? The most experimental? In the end, I opted for a single malt whisky that falls into the latter category.

At this point, we expect to see Oloroso sherry, port, and bourbon cask finishes. What’s a bit more unusual is a rum cask finish.

So, I’m going with the Balvenie Caribbean Cask. This 14-year-old single malt spends 14 years maturing in American oak casks. Then, it’s finished in ex-rum barrels.

The result is a unique and compelling whisky with notes of banana, cocoa, brown sugar, fresh fruit, and toffee.

Australian Whisky

When he started Starward, founder David Vitale had one mission: Craft the whisky that would come to define the entire category. No pressure.

To accomplish this mission, Vitale and company aim to capture Australia’s terroir in every bottle of every expression.

Their barley is sourced in Australian. Local malt masters (malters? maltsters?) malt said barley. The yeast comes from local Australian brewers.

And it doesn’t stop there. Any ingredient used to craft Starward Whisky must be within one day’s drive of the distillery. That distillery is located in Melbourne.

Why Melbourne? Because it’s the Foodie Capital of Australia. Why does that matter? Because Starward is also meant to be enjoyed with food.

You can learn more about Starward and David Vitale on episode 63 of Bar Hacks.

So, which bottle did I choose? Starward’s very first whisky, the single malt Starward Solera. If you and your guests want to experience Australian single malt, this is where to start.

You really can’t go wrong with any of these bottles. If you’re celebrating International Whiskey Day, life is great. Enjoy!

Image: Glendalough Distillery

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Yes, Some Tequilas Have Additives

Yes, Some Tequilas Have Additives

by David Klemt

A shot of tequila served with salt shaker and lime wedge

The subject of additives in tequila—and lack of transparency on labels—isn’t new but recent social media posts are shining a light on the topic.

In particular, there are posts circulating about tequila producers using vanilla flavoring. Doing so, it turns out, is well within the Norma Oficial Mexicana (NOM) rules.

However, revealing it on labels? With some caveats, it’s also well within the rules not to mention additives.

Understandably, people want to know what they’re putting in their bodies. Increasingly, this has grown to include alcohol.

So, there are bar owners, bar managers, bartenders, and bar guests who want to avoid serving and consuming additives whenever possible. Of course, there are also guests out there who don’t care about additives in the spirits they drink.

Interestingly, though, there’s a collective of tequila distilleries committed to producing clean spirits. They have no interest in using additives.

Chris Wirth alludes to these producers on episode 66 of the Bar Hacks podcast. He and wife Camila Soriano produce world-first clean tequila seltzer Volley.

Are There Additives in Tequila?

First, let’s be clear: Several categories of spirit permit the use of additives. Labeling transparency falls under the jurisdiction of different governing bodies.

So, it’s not like the use of additives is a scandal or exclusive to tequila. And, again, some consumers and hospitality professionals care, some don’t.

Additives become a problem when producers who use additives choose language on their labels and in marketing that suggest otherwise.

You see, tequila producers aren’t required to include additives on their labels if they don’t exceed one percent of total volume. NOM permits the use of glycerin, caramel coloring, “sugar-based” syrups, and oak extract in all tequilas except blanco.

However, there appears to be a loophole in NOM rules showing the use of additives in blancos is indeed permitted.

For those who don’t want to consume tequilas that use additives, brands that claim to be additive-free in their labeling and marketing present a problem. That’s because at best they’re just following the rules, but at worst they’re using the rules to be deceptive.

Why Does this Matter?

According to some in the industry, tequila may just kick vodka off its throne this year. In America, anyway.

Undeniably, that indicates increased consumer focus on tequila. It follows that a number of restaurant, bar, and nightclub guests will come across the topic of additives.

Some will want to know which brands are additive-free. This is where this topic should matter to operators and their bar teams: Guests don’t want to hear, “I don’t know.”

Luckily, there’s a resource out there that will help: Tequila Matchmaker. Hit that link, click the “Types” tab, and select “– Additive Free” from the dropdown.

As of this writing, you’ll find 266 bottles of additive-free tequila. Some of the brands you’ll find on this page are Código 1530, Tanteo, Fortaleza, El Tesoro, ArteNOM, Tears of Llorona, and Patrón.

Once more, this isn’t a scandal. Rather, this is an opportunity for operators to ensure they have some tequilas on their menu that are additive-free.

It’s likely the topic will come up and being prepared with a few recommendations will improve the guest experience.

Image: Francisco Galarza on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

What Consumers Expect from Delivery

What Consumers Expect from Delivery

by David Klemt

Delivery or takeout food order in brown paper bag

Consumers are developing specific behaviors and opinions regarding delivery that impact their perception of restaurants and brands.

Over the course of two years and three surveys, Deloitte has attempted to learn more about consumers and delivery.

In total, Deloitte surveyed 1,550 restaurant customers. Additionally, the multinational interviewed highly positioned executives from ten casual, fast-casual, and QSR brands.

What Consumers Want

First, it should come as no surprise that delivery is here to stay. None of Deloitte’s survey results indicate otherwise.

In fact, it appears that some consumers are showing an interest in additional delivery methods. Half of survey respondents are willing to try driverless or drone delivery.

More than half—64 percent—don’t expect to return to pre-pandemic dining habits by March of this year. Illustrating the habit of ordering takeout and delivery, 61 percent of respondents engage with restaurants that way at least once per week. That represents a 32-percent increase from June 2020 to September 2021.

When dining off-premise, 57 percent of Deloitte survey respondents prefer to place orders via an app. However, 40 percent of respondents prefer a restaurant’s own branded website or app. That shows that:

  1. A restaurant’s website matters. A significant percentage of consumers want to get information, get a feel for a restaurant, and place orders with a business directly.
  2. Direct delivery is feasible. Consumers want to know and feel as though they’re supporting a restaurant directly rather than a third-party business.

Own the Delivery Experience

Of course, quality is a concern with consumers who place delivery orders. This points to another pitfall regarding third-party delivery beyond the fees.

Unfair as it is, three out of five restaurant customer survey respondents have quality expectations. Specifically, they expect the same food experience off-premise as they receive on-premise. That means the same quality and the same freshness.

They also indicate that wait times of up to 30 minutes are acceptable. Here’s where the risk to restaurants comes into play. Consumers will fault the restaurant for late orders; cold food (or melted or room-temperature food for cold items); iced drinks becoming watered down; and other order issues even if they’re delivered by third-party services.

So, operators must look into and invest into what they can to improve the quality of delivery orders. Containers that keep hot food hot, French fries and other fried foods crisp, and cold foods cold are paramount.

Unfortunately, problems that occur after an order has left a restaurant—which are out of the business’ hands—are often attributed to the venue. Another reason, then, to consider and implement direct delivery.

Image: Yu Hosoi on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Be Different this Valentine’s Day

Be Different this Valentine’s Day

by David Klemt

Red graffiti heart with black outline on weathered, worn wall

When people are considering spending time and money on a holiday two years into a pandemic, they’re seeking unique experiences.

This is particularly true of holidays that traditionally involve an evening out at a restaurant or bar.

Sure, the tried and true will still probably work. After all, the pandemic has driven comfort and comfort foods to perform well.

However, a significant percentage of guests want to experience something new when they leave their homes. Below you’ll find two Valentine’s Day drink recipes and an example of entertaining programming.

When it comes to beverage programming, most people expect bubbles or rosé wines. And of course pink wines, Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, and other sparkling wines should be on hand.

But offering a Valentine’s Day cocktail that isn’t a French 75 can help your holiday menu stand out. One recipe leverages a spirit that may knock vodka off its throne this year. The other showcases a spirt that various industry experts have been hoping claim the number one spot for years.

Kiss from a Rosa

Tequila, particularly premium and ultra-premium expressions, is crushing it as a category. This Valentine’s Day cocktail is made with Código 1530 Rosa, an ultra-premium blanco tequila.

Rested for one month in uncharred French white oak barrels formerly filled with Napa Valley Cab, this unique tequila is characterized by a rosé hue.

Kiss from a Rosa tequila cocktail from Codigo 1530 for Valentine's Day

  • 1.5 oz. Código 1530 Rosa tequila
  • 0.5 oz. Cointreau
  • 0.5 oz. Raspberry syrup
  • 0.5 oz. Lemon juice
  • 1 Egg white
  • Pink sugar or raspberries to garnish
Build it: Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker without ice. Shake hard for roughly 30 seconds, until the ingredients form a foam. Add ice to the shaker and shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with pink sugar or raspberries on a cocktail pick.

Bacardí Old Cuban

I’ve lost track of the number of people who have predicted (hoped is probably more accurate) that rum will “finally have its year.” With tequila projected to potentially crush vodka and Irish whiskey performing so well, it’s unlikely rum will dominate 2022.

However, the category may still experience even more growth this year. Reserva Ocho is based on the Bacardí family’s reserve rum.

The eight-year-old premium rum’s dried fruit, spice, and vanilla notes play well with Prosecco. This cocktail also features a pairing that many guests wouldn’t expect to work: rum and Prosecco.

Bacardí Old Cuban rum cocktail made with Bacardí Reserva Ocho Rum

  • 2 oz. Bacardí Reserva Ocho Rum
  • 2.5 oz. Martini & Rossi Prosecco
  • 4 Mint leaves
  • 1 oz. Simple syrup
  • 1 oz. Lime juice
  • 2 dashes of Bitters

Build it: Combine all the ingredients except Prosecco in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously, then double-strain into a coupe. Top with Prosecco and garnish with a mint leaf float.

Both cocktails above can easily justify premium pricing.

Dueling Axes Las Vegas Valentine’s Day

Featured on episode 41 of Bar Hacks, Dueling Axes offers an upscale axe-throwing experience. Of course, being upscale doesn’t mean the venue is stuffy.

Rather, Dueling Axes emphasizes fun and unique experiences. Their Valentine’s Day programming is an example of balancing the familiar with the unexpected.

From February 13 through February 15, couples will be treated to two free glasses of Champagne. Groups of four or more will receive a bottle of Champagne for free.

On February 13, however, Dueling Axes is offering an attention-grabbing promotion.

Targeting Galentine’s Day guests, the venue is encouraging people to bring in photos of their exes. The staff will hang the picture on the bullseye to motivate throwers to ace their tosses.

A bit aggressive? Sure. A tad dark? Yep. Memorable? Absolutely.

The recipes and programming above illustrate that simple deviations from the expected can help your venue stand out. This Valentine’s Day, strike a balance between the expected and unique.

Image: Tengyart on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

What Does Omni-channel Mean?

What Does Omni-channel Mean in Hospitality?

by David Klemt

Restaurant diners eating burgers, fries and roasted vegetables

Buzzword or professional jargon, the term “omni-channel” seems to come up more often as our industry embraces more innovations.

As more social and digital platforms (channels) pop up, your job as marketer becomes more complex.

For a pessimistic take, your marketing efforts are like a ship. Every new marketing channel that gains traction is like a hole you have to plug. Fail to do so and you risk your marketing ship sinking.

Now for an optimistic take. Every channel you can add to your marketing is an opportunity to grow your reach. Increasing the amount of people who become familiar with your brand represents the potential to grow loyalty and sales.

If you want to meet your guests where they are—and you should—you need to have a presence where they are to engage with them.

And that’s just marketing. There are also omni-channel operational tactics you can implement. Unsurprisingly, you’ll likely realize many of those solutions are also digital.

So, what does “omni-channel” mean for operators? It means offering seamless guest experiences pre-, per- and post-visit.

Staying top of mind is also an element of an omni-channel strategy.

Traditional Channels

In terms of marketing, let’s break down the different types of channels available to operators.

A simple way to look at “traditional” marketing channels is that they don’t leverage digital mediums:

  • Newspaper and magazine ads
  • Radio and television ads
  • Direct mail
  • Billboards
  • Vehicle wraps
  • Flyers

Now, some of the above may seem outdated. However, those channels still have reach.

The key is knowing your brand and audience to know if a traditional channel will deliver an ROI. You also need to take the time to figure out where your dollars and time are best spent.

Digital Channels

So, there’s a reason I put the word traditional in quotation marks in the previous section.

There may be a time when digital channels become so ubiquitous that they’re considered traditional.

Just look at the digital channels below and consider how commonplace they’ve become:

  • Social media
  • Email marketing
  • Company websites
  • Search engine marketing
  • Newsletters
  • Text messages

It’s easy to see how one day the channels above will overtake their non-digital counterparts and become the traditional way we market.

The reasons for this are obvious. Digital campaigns are easily measurable, they allow for incredibly specific targeting, and they tend to be more engaging.

Really, the biggest cons that pertain to digital marketing channels are: being viewed as annoying/intrusive; being lost in the sea of ads people encounter every day.

On the execution side, it can still be overwhelming to engage just in social media marketing. However, there are platforms that can help make this task less daunting.

Other Channels

Like I wrote earlier, omni-channel doesn’t only pertain to marketing.

Of course, the term and practice are most often associated with marketing. However, operators have more to think about to truly become omni-channel.

The way your guests interact with your restaurant are also channels. Your front-of-house staff is a channel, technically speaking.

Now, we all know that the pandemic forced operational changes. Many of those changes are here to stay.

So, let’s look at a potential guest journey:

  • The potential guest receives a promotional offer via email.
  • They follow the link to an online reservation platform.
  • After arriving at the restaurant with their party, they check in with the host in person.
  • The server greets the party, some of whom request a physical menu. Others in the party pull out their phones and access the menu via QR code.
  • Throughout the meal, the server touches the table to ensure the visit is going well, refill drinks, take additional drink orders, etc.
  • When it’s time to pay, the party quietly does so via a touchless option and leaves.
  • A follow-up email is sent for feedback.
  • After a number of days, a text message is sent out to encourage another visit.

The marketing channels are just one element that makes the hypothetical restaurant an omni-channel operation. Providing digital, touchless menu access and payment are also omni-channel elements.

Those are just a few examples. If you take the time to review your operations; where you can reach new and repeat guests; threats such as third-party delivery; and innovations you can implement, you’ll see where you can make changes to become an omni-channel restaurant.

Image: Dan Gold on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

ThinkFoodGroup Partners with SevenRooms

ThinkFoodGroup Partners with SevenRooms

by David Klemt

Front of house staff member using SevenRooms

Reservation and guest engagement and retention platform SevenRooms and ThinkFoodGroup announce their new partnership today.

This announcement marks at least the third high-profile partnership involving SevenRooms.

One partnership from earlier this year is with online ordering platform Olo. Another is between SevenRooms and TheFork.

As is normally the case when it comes to SevenRooms partnerships, the relationship will be collaborative.

ThinkFoodGroup be onboarding the restaurants in their portfolio onto the platform. This maneuver will deliver several benefits through the full SevenRooms suite:

  • Reservation, waitlist and table management
  • Marketing automation
  • Online ordering capability
  • Rating aggregation

Additionally, ThinkFoodGroup will be joining SevenRooms in an advisory role. The platform will benefit from the expertise of Chef José Andrés and the ThinkFoodGroup team.

In short, ThinkFoodGroup will gain valuable insight into their guests throughout their entire portfolio. SevenRooms will gain valuable insights they can use to improve their platform and better serve the hospitality industry.

Interestingly, ThinkFoodGroup appears to have been using SevenRooms prior to this newly announced partnership. The platform is already in use at:

  • The Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS South Beach
  • Bazaar Meat by José Andrés at The Sahara Las Vegas
  • China Chilcano in Washington, D.C.
  • China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
  • é by José Andrés at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
  • Jaleo at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

From Joel Montaniel, CEO and founder of SevenRooms:

“With the hospitality industry returning to full-speed, it’s more important than ever for operators to prioritize technology platforms that are hyper-focused on helping restaurants thrive. We’re thrilled to welcome the ThinkFoodGroup team to our SevenRooms family, helping them build upon their incredible guest experiences across their properties. Most importantly, we look forward to learning from José and his team’s incredible expertise and unique perspective. Supporting and advocating for the hospitality industry has always been at the core of our business. There is so much work for us to do as the industry recovers, and we look forward to walking in lockstep with José and his team to build back better.”

From Chef José Andrés, CEO, co-founder and executive chairman of ThinkFoodGroup:

“Providing outstanding experiences for our guests has always been a priority. In light of the challenges brought on by COVID, we realized just how important it was to have a partner who can help us bring them to life in a seamless way. I am excited to bring SevenRooms into our restaurants globally, and for ThinkFoodGroup to also join the company as an industry advisor.”

From Sam Bakhshandehpour, President of ThinkFoodGroup:

“Pushing the limits of what’s expected in hospitality is at the core of our business. SevenRooms is completely transforming the restaurant technology platform, and we’re thrilled to partner with a like-minded company who thinks progressively and has the cutting-edge technology to challenge the status quo. Together, we will collaborate on building solutions that put operators’ success at the forefront.”

This year’s SevenRooms partnerships, announcement of a new CFO, and innovations (such as their Direct Delivery module), show the platform’s commitment to improvement and supporting the industry.

When operators are selecting the platforms to include in their tech stacks, ease of use and integration, along with growth, should be among their considerations. So, too, should be industry advocacy.

SevenRooms continues to prove that they deserve top marks for each of those crucial elements.

Image: SevenRooms

Quotes provided by SevenRooms via press release