Operations

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Chain Restaurants: Present & Future

Chain Restaurants: Present & Future

Woman dining with friends in restaurant

Technomic presented the state of chain restaurants, now and next, during Restaurant Leadership Conference 2022 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Obviously, the entire hospitality industry is facing significant struggles. Rising costs, supply chain chaos, labor shortages and challenges, inflation… The past two-years-plus haven’t been easy.

However, there’s reason for operators and their leadership teams and staff to be optimistic. Additionally, independent and small-chain operators can learn from Technomic’s findings.

Challenges & Threats

Well, let’s take our medicine first, starting with the supply chain. In short, it’s bedlam.

Joe Pawlak (standing in for David Henkes) and Richard Shank of Technomic said as much during RLC 2022. Per their data, 35 percent of operators dropped at least one manufacturer between 2020 and 2021.

Whether because of rising costs, an inability to consistently deliver product, or other factors, operators had to adapt. Clearly, there’s a nasty trickle-down effect when an operator drops a supplier.

And then there’s inflation. Interestingly, Shank calls what we’re seeing currently as “existential inflation.” Relating to consumers, this means their confidence is shaken in terms of spending.

Of course, this type of consumer perception manifests in several ways. For example, some guests cut down on visits. Others will cut down on ordering, skipping appetizers and desserts. Perhaps they have one less beer, glass of wine, or cocktail.

Also, some guests “trade down.” Meaning, there are consumers who opt for casual restaurants rather than fine dining. Or, they’ll move from fast-casual to QSR.

Looking at the numbers, however, nearly 40 percent respondents to a Technomic survey say they’re visiting restaurants less. This makes sense, as 81 percent are concerned about how inflation will impact them personally.

On the operator side of inflation comes pricing. During Pawlak and Shank’s presentation, they used QSR dinner pricing as a real-world example.

According to Technomic, the tipping point for guest perception of good value is just $7. At only $10, consumers feel things are getting expensive.

As Pawlak and Shank pointed out, this is a problem. After all, the average price for dinner at a QSR is $10.08. That number may already be higher today.

Opportunities

Medicine taken, we can move to the good news.

First, Technomic predicts a strong Q3 this year. Additionally, they don’t expect double-digit year-over-year inflation.

In terms of labor, Technomic doesn’t expect costs to go down. However, they do anticipate that they’ll level off rather than rise.

Then there are the numbers. For the top 500 chains in the US in particular, 2021 was a “banner year,” according to Pawlak. On an aggregate basis, sales for the top 500 (McDonald’s is number one, for those wondering) are up 17.9 percent.

Also, every category of restaurant is performing better. The top 500 chains, for instance, are up 18 percent year-over-year. Midscale restaurants are up 38.5 percent. Casual is up 30.2 percent while fast is up 22.2 percent, QSRs are up 13.2 percent. As far as the biggest bump, fine dining is up 56.9 percent.

Looking at 2019 for obvious reasons, the industry was down 49.1 percent in sales in April 2020. However, the industry was down just about a single percentage point in February of this year compared to the same time in 2019.

So, how do we keep sales trending upward when facing inflation and other threats? Pawlak, Shank, and Technomic have some advice.

Operators, for instance, can implement the “balanced barbell” pricing strategy. In this model, high-value items drive business alongside premium offerings. In other words, don’t discount the entire menu just to entice guests to keep visiting.

Once guests get a taste for falling prices, they’ll consider the lower prices the standard. After that, any increase can be perceived as “too expensive.” Of course, discounting the whole menu also impacts guest perception of the brand negatively.

In addition, Technomic suggests offering higher net profit discount bundles, and implementing off-premise, large-party strategies.

Should Technomic’s predictions prove true, the industry may see an even stronger Q4 and start to 2023.

Image: Alex Haney 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.

Takeaway

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

Leadership Facepalm: Don’t Do This

Leadership Facepalm: Don’t Do This

by David Klemt

Close-up shot of person texting on phone in a restaurant

Here’s a hot take on the employer-employee dynamic: Don’t text staff at 3:00 in the morning demanding they come in on their day off.

In fact, let’s compress this piece of advice. Don’t text staff at 3:00 in the morning.

Really, I shouldn’t have to explain the myriad reasons that doing so isn’t acceptable. However, a post on Reddit shows that this topic needs addressing.

Are You Serious?

Yes, I’m using a Reddit post as an example of what not to do. And yes, I’m going to assume the post is legitimate for the purposes of education.

Owners, operators, and members of leadership teams need to lead. Micromanaging, assuming staff is at their beck and call, and domineering behavior only lead to high turnover.

A high staff churn rate is costly, and not just financially. Yes, it costs thousands of dollars to replace a single member of staff. However, immediate financial costs shouldn’t be the only concern.

Churning through staff also damages a restaurant, bar, hotel, or owner’s reputation. Should they become known as a bad employer—word gets around quickly in this industry—and eventually an operator won’t be able to hire rock star talent.

Over time, they’ll only draw in workers that chase away their guests. After that, the operator will be closing the doors.

“You Need to Be a Team Player”

Interestingly, the Reddit post that’s inspiring this article isn’t brand new. The post in question is about six months old.

But these days, with the shift in the employee-employer dynamic that’s taking place, stories of “epic” or “savage” quitting garner attention.

Again, there are myriad reasons people are drawn to these stories. Rather than read through those, let’s take a look at this quitting story.

A bartender took to Reddit (again, I’m assuming this is a fact) to share texts from his (former) manager. The timestamp on the first text? 2:59 in the morning.

“I need you to come in from 11a-10p today,” starts the text. The reason? Only one bartender is on the schedule for an event that day.

In response, the bartender says, “No thank you,” stating it’s their day off. And then the manager makes a demand using a term that gets thrown around far too much when some people in a position of authority don’t get the response they want (in my opinion).

The bartender is told they need to be a “team player,” and that “it isn’t all about you.” On a positive note, the manager does then say “please” and asks the bartender to come in.

Putting their cards on the table, the bartender says they’ve had a few drinks and don’t want to work an eleven-hour shift with a hangover. Personally, I don’t think the manager was due that explanation but okay.

This doesn’t sit well with the manager, who now attempts to police the bartender’s personal time. According to the texts, the bartender needs “to stay ready for work.” This is apparently because “getting too drunk is not a good look if you can’t stay prepared.”

“Fed Up with You”

After a few more texts back and forth, the manager fast-tracks this situation’s escalation. The bartender is told that they’re going to talk about the bartender’s “attitude” when they “come in Sunday.”

Well, it’s highly unlikely that conversation ever took place. According to screengrabs of the texts, the bartender replies, “No we’re not.” They then proceed to remind the manager that “dozens” of places are hiring bartenders. They’re happy to go work for one of those businesses.

Unsurprisingly, the manager attempts to backpedal. They say that the bartender is making a rash decision “because you’re drunk” and will regret it the next day. That approach doesn’t work.

Now, there’s one sentence that suggests to me, if this situation is real, that the owner needs to address this manager. Or, if this manager is the owner of the business, that they need to work on developing leadership skills.

That line? “I’m fed up with you.”

Sure, they could mean they’re fed up with them in this instance. However, the line follows the bartender saying that their are several other places they can find work instead.

My interpretation is that at a minimum, these two have a problem with one another. Worst case, this manager isn’t doing the owner (or themselves) any favors with their “leadership” style.

Just…Don’t Do This

Please, please, please, don’t text or call staff at 3:00 in the morning. There are perhaps a tiny handful of reasons to ignore this advice. As I see it, those reasons all involve emergencies.

And no, being short-staffed for an event the following morning is not an emergency worthy of texting or calling an employee to cover a shift so late at night/early in the morning.

There are several leadership and scheduling solutions that can prevent this type of situation. In this particular instance, since the bartender was “fed up with” this manager, they were going to quit sooner or later.

Which brings me to my first point: Operators need to know what their leaders are doing. How are they treating staff? How does the staff perceive the leadership teams?

Secondly, how do the operator and other leaders perceive one another? Is everything running smoothly or is one “leader” not really leading?

And finally, scheduling technology. These days, there’s really no excuse for many kinds of scheduling problems. Several scheduling apps integrate well with popular restaurant, bar, and hotel POS systems.

For example, HotSchedules gives staff the ability to give away, swap, and pick up shifts. Another example is OpenSimSim, which provides an open shift invite feature. Staff can also set their profiles to auto-accept shifts as they become available.

7shifts and Schedulefly can also help fill shifts. And like HotSchedules and OpenSimSim, leaders can message groups and individuals, and vice versa.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway here is this: The maxim, “People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers,” is accurate. Leaders need to respect their team members and their personal time.

Image: Alex Ware on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

This is How You Win When Leasing

This is How You Win When Leasing

by David Klemt

Vintage sale or lease sign in Minnesota

At this year’s Bar & Restaurant Expo, the Invictus Hospitality team tackled a crucial step of any project: The lease.

Invictus (IH), friends of KRG Hospitality, know a thing or two when it comes to leasing a space. Principal Homan Taghdiri is a tenacious negotiator.

Case in point, an Invictus project in Orlando that opened during the pandemic. The space was owned by the city, which can certainly complicate matters. Taghdiri sunk his teeth in and refused to let go—for seven months. That’s crocodile or Komodo dragon patience.

The result? Favorable terms and massive cost savings.

Taghdiri presented “Understanding the Leasing Game & How to Get Ahead” at Bar & Restaurant Expo 2022. You know this show by its former name, Nightclub & Bar.

Knowing that when Taghdiri smells blood in the leasing water he’ll clamp down and death roll until he gets his way, I attended his session.

Before we dive in, know this: If we disagreed with the IH approach to leases, we wouldn’t share their tips. The information below would cost, as Taghdiri points out, about $2,000 coming from an attorney.

Of course, neither KRG Hospitality nor Invictus Hospitality is providing legal or financial advice in this article. I’m just passing along information, as IH was doing during their session.

Leasing Dos and Don’ts

If you take nothing else from this article and Taghdiri’s session, make it this tip: Do negotiate your lease.

“You have to negotiate your lease,” says Taghdiri. “It is a must.”

Not you should. Not you can. You must negotiate your lease. Neither of us can emphasize this enough.

In fact, it’s your right to do so. Which brings us to our first leasing don’t. Do not believe anyone who says you can’t negotiate a lease.

“Anyone who tells you that you can’t negotiate your lease is lying to you,” says Taghdiri.

And if they’re not lying, they just don’t know what they’re talking about. Either way, don’t listen to them. Walk or run away.

Also, do your due diligence. Knowing what you’re getting into before signing is on you. Taghdiri recommends you ask the following before signing anything:

  • What generation is the space? Is it brand-new? It’s first generation. Did the first tenant leave? It’s second-generation, and so on.
  • Is the space totally empty?
  • Does it have space allocated for gas, electric, etc.?

Ideally, you’ll find a second-, third- of fourth-generation bar or restaurant space. Why? They can provide massive cost savings to you.

Do fight for the terms that are important to you. These include amount of the lease, the length of the lease, and any incentives.

However, don’t over-negotiate your lease. Do put yourself in the landlord’s position. They’ve invested significant capital developing the space and they need an ROI. Pick your most important terms and negotiate them. You risk a landlord walking away from a deal if you negotiate every single item and make things difficult.

Lease Types

So, you’ve found your perfect space. Do you know which type of lease you want? Not certain which is right for you?

No problem, because Taghdiri broke them down during his session.

  • Standard. This is the easiest to explain because it doesn’t exist. A particular landlord may have “standard” lease, but their isn’t one that spans the industry.
  • Full service gross is the easiest of the actual leases. Everything is negotiated and clear in the lease, and you simply pay the agreed-upon amount.
  • Triple net is the opposite of the FSG lease. You pay your base rent. Then, your landlord passes on operational costs to you, which you also pay.
  • Percentage Rent. Basically, this is a hybrid lease. You pay base rent plus a percentage of sales. For example, you may pay natural breakpoint on top of base rent. This type of lease can be beneficial to newer businesses. However, some landlords do not like percentage rent leases.
  • Modified gross is, basically, any lease that isn’t an FSG. This is the most common lease, and it’s most easily explained as a modified FSG.

First-time operators or owners entering an unproven market will likely want to first focus on modified gross or percentage rent leases. However, FSGs are certainly attractive.

Length of Lease

Landing on a lease amount that you can live with is only part of the battle. Far too many people overlook the length of their lease, focusing too hard on the amount.

So, let’s take a look at some crucial factors you need to consider before signing anything.

  • Base Term. Let’s say you’ve invested several million dollars into your project. It’s sort of hard to imagine paying that investment off in two years, isn’t it? So, a two-year lease probably isn’t ideal. Give yourself the time you most reasonably need to open your doors and make money. Again, don’t focus solely on the amount of the lease.
  • Option Periods. Taghdiri explains term options thusly: “Jump into the pool safely before knowing what’s in it.” The real-world example is easy enough to understand. Agree to a three-year lease but bake one or two (or more, if you want or can) five-year renewal options into the agreement. Doing so means that you can trigger the renewal prior to the term’s conclusion. In other words, the landlord won’t be able to (easily) kick you out if you want to keep leasing the space. Just be aware that your landlord will likely also want to bake new terms into the agreement along with the renewal options.
  • Early Termination Rights. When it comes to this element, Taghdiri explains that this may be limited to longer-term (ten years or more) leases. Essentially, it’s what it sounds like. You should be confident in your concept before you even get to the lease stage. However, it’s not a bad idea to have an early exit plan in mind. So, you may be able to sign up for a long-term lease but bake in an 18- or a 24-month termination clause. Just remember that if you don’t exercise this agreed-upon right within the timeframe, you’ll be responsible for the original term of the agreement.

The Million-Dollar Question

You likely have a burning question searing itself into your brain right now. It’s a common question: “How much rent should I pay?”

There are a few ways to approach a satisfactory answer. The bullshit answer is, “Whatever you can afford for the space you really want.”

That’s the first step toward blowing a budget, blowing out already razor-thin margins, and skyrocketing costs.

One way to approach the how-much question is due diligence and comparables. What are the comps in your selected area? What are people paying in the neighborhood? What’s best for your business, and is that identified in your pro forma?

That said, Taghdiri did present a general lease amount rule. Try to keep your rent at 11 percent of gross sales, or less. Ten percent is even better, obviously. Anything less than that and you’re a master negotiator.

Image: Randy Laybourne on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

5 Reasons Why You Need a Calendar Audit

5 Reasons You Need to Conduct a Calendar Audit

by Jennifer Radkey

Apple iPad and Apple Pencil with calendar on screen

Keeping a hospitality business running smoothly takes an immense amount of organization, and at times you may feel pulled in a million directions at once.

As an operator of a restaurant or bar, your daily calendar may seem like an endless stream of tasks.

You are most likely already using some sort of organizational tool: an agenda, calendar, your phone, or Post-Its all over your office walls. But when was the last time you actually analyzed your calendar?

I’m going to challenge you to sit with your calendar and take a deep-dive audit of just how you are spending your time.

Here are the five reasons you need to do a calendar audit today.

You Aren’t Making Money or Reaching Goals

As the operator of your hospitality establishment, you are responsible for your business’ success. So, dissect your calendar.

What actions are you taking on a daily or weekly basis that directly lead to making money? What percentage of your time is spent on growing your business, rather than running your business? There is a difference.

You are Burnt Out

When you are not at your best, your business will not be at its best. It’s as simple as that.

How many daily operational tasks are you taking on that could be delegated to someone else? You don’t need to be involved in every aspect of the daily operations of your business.

Take a look at your calendar and highlight any tasks you have been doing that could easily be done by someone else on your team. Then, give those tasks away.

Team Morale is Low

Go back and audit your calendar.

When was the last time you scheduled a team meeting? How about individual meetings with employees to go over their successes, growth opportunities, etc.? Is there regular time delegated to improving your workplace culture?

Carve some time out for the people who choose to spend their days working for you, and watch team morale improve.

You Feel Stuck in a Rut

Maybe your business is doing well but has plateaued. Maybe you aren’t excited to go to work anymore. Take a close look at your calendar.

What have you done in the past week or month to create excitement? For example, did you attend any industry related shows or events?

As operators, it is easy to get stuck in a daily routine that doesn’t allow time for creativity. However, it is imperative to schedule time to be inspired.

Your Work/Life Balance is Off

The hours can be long, and with so much to do, you can often feel as if your entire life is your work. Take a close look at your calendar.

Are you scheduling in family time? Time for friends? Time for physical health? Hobbies? Fun?

This can be as simple as scheduling time for something you enjoy that changes up your week:

  • A 15-minute call with your mom every Monday morning.
  • Walking/biking to work twice a week.
  • Meeting up with a friend once a week for a coffee.

We often say that we will do these things. However, unless they are prioritized and written down they aren’t going to happen as much as we need them to.

Performing a calendar audit can be eye-opening and give us an entirely new perspective on how we are using our time. Doing so can help us improve time management, productivity, happiness, and goal achievement.

So, go ahead and mark some time for a calendar audit into your calendar. You will thank yourself later that you did.

Cheers to professional and personal well-being!

Image: Omar Al-Ghosson on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

A Lesson in Guest Perception

A Lesson in Guest Perception

by David Klemt

Broadway-style McDonald's sign in Chicago, Illinois

At this point, it’s becoming more of a surprise to not be told that the ice cream machine isn’t working at a McDonald’s restaurant.

Per a report from earlier this year, 25 percent of their machines are broken at any time. In fact, the brand made a joke about it in 2020.

Interestingly, with all the road trips and flights I’ve taken, I had never encountered a nonfunctional ice cream at a McDonald’s. Until last week.

Feeling nostalgic, I drove to a McDonald’s near my home for a Shamrock Shake. Growing up, my father always enjoyed the Shamrock Shake LTO. I’ve had maybe one or two in my entire life.

So, I drove over, got in line, and confidently asked for a Shamrock Shake and a Mint Oreo Shamrock McFlurry. And then I heard the words I’d never heard before:

“I’m so sorry, our machine isn’t working.”

Devastated, I did what any well-adjusted adult would do: I ordered a double cheeseburger and a 10-piece Chicken McNuggets combo. Same thing as a shake and McFlurry, right?

Guest Perception

I won’t dive too far into the minutiae of the longstanding McDonald’s ice cream machine saga. By now, we’re all familiar:

  • These machines break so often there’s a website dedicated to the problem. McBroken shows people where ice cream machines are working and where they’re broken. (If only I had used that before my ill-fated visit…)
  • The machines reportedly take four hours per day to clean.
  • There are claims that Taylor, the manufacturer of the machines, makes 25 percent of their revenue from performing repairs.
  • Outlets have reported the FTC is investigating the situatithe machine’s manufacturer, Taylor.
  • The latest news is that Kytch is suing McDonald’s for $900 million.

I’m not a McDonald’s board member, nor am I a franchisee. So, I’m not privy to any discussions swirling around the ice cream machines in use currently.

However, I do find it surprising that a brand as massive as McDonald’s would allow this issue to continue. For a brand that claims nothing is more important than delivering a high-standard of quality food, this joke is no longer funny.

What’s more, the issue is an opening for their competitors.

Leave an Opening and a Competitor will Take it

Jack in the Box has roasted McDonald’s for their ice cream machines in the past. This month, however, they’ve amped up their trolling.

Now that the Shamrock Shake has returned, Jack in the Box has pounced.

It would’ve been enough for Jack to mock McDonald’s on Twitter during Shamrock Shake season. But nope—Jack is dragging McDonald’s even harder.

Head over to McBroken and you’ll see a huge banner that reads, “DON’T GET McSHAMMED.” You’ll notice that the map is now also populated with Jack in the Box locations.

Click the aforementioned banner and you’ll find yourself on the Jack in the Box website. More specifically, it’s a page promoting their mobile app.

Taking it further, there’s currently a promotion encouraging the download: using the code “McSHAMMED” scores the user a $2 shake.

Since we’re in Shamrock Shake season, Jack is offering their new Oreo Cookie Mint Shake. And yes, it’s green.

Innovation and Problem Solving are Crucial

Look, I’m in no position to tell McDonald’s how to run their business. If they’re comfortable with negative guest perception and experiences, that’s on them.

It’s also on them if they want to show their guests and competitors a failure to innovate, solve problems, and be agile.

The ice cream machine debacle should be a lesson for all operators. Leave an opening and your competition will take it, slamming it shut behind them.

At best, maybe you’ll be able to adapt and overcome. At worst, they’ll be social media and marketing savvy, and roast you publicly. Once a brand’s perception slips, it can be incredibly difficult to get it back to where it once was.

As an operator, you’re an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs innovate and solve problems.

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

What Current CDC Guidelines Mean

What Current CDC Guidelines Mean for Restaurants and Bars

"What Now?" graffiti in black spray paint on wall

Less than two weeks ago, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention once again updated the agency’s Covid-19 guidance.

For many in America the updates simply led to more confusion. Others see the changes to CDC guidance as another blow to the agency’s credibility.

The reality of the situation appears to be rather easy to understand. Business owners are most likely ignoring the CDC and just following state and local requirements.

And who can blame operators and their teams for doing so? After all, the guests they serve are likely more concerned about local guidelines than CDC guidance.

States Make First Moves

At this point, it appears the CDC is following rather than leading the way. Several states moved to rescind Covid-19 mandates around two weeks before the CDC changed its guidance.

For example, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak lifted the state’s mask mandate on Thursday, February 10. Unlike in other states, the mandate was rescinded regardless of vaccination status.

Five days later, California lifted its indoor mask mandate for the vaccinated. The unvaccinated, as of February 16, are still required to mask indoors.

However, the requirement for businesses to check for proof of vaccination was also rescinded. Of course, businesses can still require masks and proof of vaccination if they so choose.

So, Now What?

The CDC and many state health officials are encouraging caution. Another surge in infections is expected.

In fact, the CDC points out that Covid-19 has not yet reached its endemic stage. Some predict the pandemic won’t become endemic until some time in 2023.

For now, the CDC is using three designations to identify different areas throughout the country: low risk, medium alert, and high alert.

Per the agency’s website, 90 percent of the US population is in a low-risk or medium-alert area. People can check their community’s current CDC designation via their new map here.

Low, Medium, High

The three CDC designations each carry specific guidance:

  • Low Risk: People should stay current with their vaccinations. If someone has symptoms, they should get tested.
  • Medium Alert: In addition to Low Risk guidance, people who at high risk of serious illness if infected should ask their healthcare providers if they should wear masks indoors and/or take other Covid-19 precautions.
  • High Alert: Wear a mask indoors, stay current with vaccinations, and get tested if symptoms are felt.

Endless CDC guidance revisions have mainly resulted in confusion and an unfortunate lack of faith in the agency. So, these recommendations really don’t mean much for operators.

Rather, business owners should make they’re in compliance with state and local requirements while taking steps to ensure workers, guests, and their community are safe.

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

SevenRooms Kicks Off 2022 with Growth

SevenRooms Kicks Off 2022 with Growth

by David Klemt

Restaurant worker using SevenRooms on tablet

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

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

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

Steady Growth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why this Matters

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

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

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

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

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

Image: SevenRooms

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

January 18 is National Day of Action

January 18 is National Day of Action to Save Restaurants

by David Klemt

Full restaurant dining room at gastrolounge Rusted Crow in Detroit, Michigan

Tomorrow, January 18, the Independent Restaurant Coalition is spearheading the National Day of Action to Save Restaurants.

The IRC is asking all hospitality professionals, vendors, guests and communities to participate.

In short, the time for asking nicely is over. On Tuesday, we must all demand that Congress actually put action to their professed support of the hospitality industry.

On Tuesday, the IRC will send out an email detailing how everyone can push for action on replenishing the RRF. So, click here to sign up for email updates from the coalition.

People can also follow them on Instagram for National Day of Action to Save Restaurants details.

A Dire Situation

According to an email sent out by the IRC (again, you should sign up), a significant number of restaurants and bars find themselves in dire situations.

Per IRC survey results:

  • more than one in four restaurants (28 percent) that didn’t receive RRF grants are facing eviction;
  • almost 50 percent are facing bankruptcy; and
  • close to 60 percent of restaurants are reporting sales drops of more than 50 percent during the surge in Omicron infections.

For context, let’s review how RRF grants helped some recipients survive:

  • Ten percent are facing eviction.
  • Twenty percent are facing bankruptcy.

Is an RRF grant a silver bullet? No, but it’s certainly valuable ammunition in the fight for the survival of independent restaurants and operators, and therefore the industry itself.

Time is Up

Actually, time ran out months ago. Congress has allowed months to go by without taking any meaningful action.

In fact, one US Senator, Rand Paul (R-KY), blocked a vote to provide the industry with $43 billion in emergency funding. The senator killed the unanimous consent motion back in August of 2021.

As a refresher, the RRF grant application portal was closed last year on May 24. A bipartisan group introduced the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act of 2021 in June.

And like I mentioned, emergency funding was smacked off the table just two months later.

In November, Build Back Better was passed. Of course, it didn’t include the RRF Replenishment Act. So, apparently building America back better doesn’t include restaurants, bars, lounges, etc.

It’s clear that America’s politicians and lawmakers are content to not accomplish much. “Owning” one’s opponents via social media and sound bites is apparently much more important.

Sniping at one another, not doing the jobs they were elected to do, is the order of the day. Meanwhile, independent owners and operators are being left out in the cold and crushed under the weight of a web of inconsistent Covid-19-related mandates and guidelines. Their staff members are expected to act as the Covid police, risking their health and safety.

I could go on but we all know what’s happening: The people elected to represent the people are abusing the privilege by ignoring us.

The time for asking nicely for Congress to take action is over. It’s time to demand action.

Image: Stanford Smith on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Top 2021 KRG Hospitality Articles

Top 2021 KRG Hospitality Articles

by David Klemt

Page in Olympia typewriter with "2021" typed onto it

We’ve gathered the top KRG Hospitality articles from 2021 and separated them into five distinct categories: Food, Beverage, Operations, Marketing & Promotions, and Industry News

Food

Delivery and Takeout Food Trends for 2021: Canada

It should come as no surprise that interest in what food items Canadian consumers wanted to order for delivery and takeout skyrocketed last year. (link)

Delivery and Takeout Food Trends for 2021: United States

Obviously, owners, operators and management wanted to stay current on consumer food trends in the USA as well. (link)

Have a Slice of Nostalgia: The Return of Viennetta

Never underestimate the marketing, promotions, and profitability power of nostalgia. This is particularly true when people are seeking comfort. (link)

Beverage

Uncorked: 2021 Wine Trends to Watch

Understanding what wines are trending is an effective way to boost profits and overcome wine intimidation. (link)

Fever-Tree Cola: Set Aside Your Soda Gun

Outright eliminating soda guns may be a long shot. However, cocktails crafted using bottled craft ingredients can justify premium prices. (link)

These are the Drinking Trends to Watch in 2021

We may not have a crystal ball but we have the next best thing: Data. (link)

Operations

Container Kitchens: The New Footprint

Several industry experts and intelligence agencies predict smaller restaurant footprints moving forward. Container kitchens are certainly a viable method to shrink venue sizes. (link)

The Reality of Hiring Right Now

It really doesn’t need to be said but I’ll do it anyway: The labor shortage and “Great Resignation” are real. (link)

The 5 Ds of Bystander Intervention

Sure, great food and beverage are crucial to luring people in, wowing them, and converting them to repeat guests. However, so is the experience. A key element of a positive memorable experience is ensuring guests feel safe. (link)

SevenRooms Reveals Third Party Delivery Impact

The high-tech reservation platform shows what many suspected to be true: Direct delivery is better for operators than third-party delivery. (link)

Marketing & Promotions

How SevenRooms Improves Operations

Not only does SevenRooms make handling reservations easier, it also makes setting up marketing campaigns simple and effective. (link)

This Generation is Most Likely to Dine In

If you want to know who to market in-person dining to, here’s your answer. (link)

0.0 to 0.5 Beers to Know for Dry January and Beyond

Dry January (along with Damp January) is here to stay. This is a sampling of alcohol-free and low-ABV craft beers to offer Dry and Damp January guests. (link)

Industry News

I Tried the Mask Made for & by Hospitality

None of us enjoy wearing face masks. This mask is comfortable to wear and amplifies the wearer’s voice. (link)

What’s the RRF Replenishment Act?

Well, here’s one take on an answer to this question: It’s the bill to replenish the RRF that has made zero progress since June of 2021. (link)

Build Back Better…Without Restaurants or Bars?

The BBB Act was passed in November. Of course, it didn’t include the Replenish RRF or ENTREE acts. It’s much easier for politicians and lawmakers to say they care about and support our industry than actually prove it. (link)

Image: Markus Winkler on Unsplash

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