Author: David Klemt

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5 Books to Read this Month: December 2023

5 Books to Read this Month: December 2023

by David Klemt

Flipping through an open book

Our inspiring and informative December book selections will help you and your team transform your operations and F&B programming.

This month, we look at books covering an array of topics. There’s an alcohol-free cocktail recipe book, an exploration of some of America’s most unique hotels, and more.

To review the book recommendations from November 2023, click here.

Let’s jump in!

The Mocktail Club: Classic Recipes (and New Favorites) Without the Booze

Some people find the word “mocktail” is one of the best to label their alcohol-free drinks. Others find the word condescending. Regardless of which camp you find yourself in, The Mocktail Club should help you expand your zero-proof menu.

From Amazon:The Art of Mixology meets mocktails in this beautiful collection of 75 alcohol-free recipes for classic drinks, new flavor concoctions, and twists on old favorites, so you can experience the joy of cocktail creation without the booze!

Pre-order it today. This book is available on January 2, 2024.

Hotel Kitsch: A Pretty Cool Tour of America’s Fantasy Getaways

We love a creative independent hotel brand, unique resort, or one-of-a-kind motel. Any place with endless details to discover and appreciate that places value on offering unforgettable experiences during a guest’s stay. This book captures such hotels and motels in a series of photographs that should inspire operators to follow through with their incredible visions.

From Amazon: “From the photographers and inveterate travelers behind the social media sensation A Pretty Cool Hotel Tour, Hotel Kitsch celebrates dozens of creative, nostalgic, one-of-a-kind hotels that span the heart of the Poconos and across the United States to Mexico, Spain, and the UK. Discover, in the middle of Iowa, a jungle room with fake trees and foliage surrounding the bed as if it had taken its cue from Where the Wild Things Are. Or Jules’ Undersea Lodge in Key Largo where the rooms are reached by scuba diving. An Arctic Cave room at a hotel in Kentucky with its carved blue walls and not a window to be found. And on the California coast, the iconic Madonna Inn featuring 110 rooms, each themed and no two alike.”

Grab it today.

The Hospitality Mentality: Create Raving Fans Through Your Guest Experience

This book is so new it isn’t available until tomorrow, December 5. New book, fresh ideas to lead you into the new year.

The Hospitality Mentality is all about empowering your team to deliver impeccable service and unforgettable memories, keeping them coming back to your venue for more.

From Amazon: “Business leaders will gain inspiration to take their service standard to the next level, knowing that this is an area that cannot plateau. Readers will be motivated to go above and beyond guests’ expectations through creating hyper-personalized experiences, amplifying enthusiasm, anticipating needs, and crafting superior ‘wow’ moments that solidify memories that take satisfaction to the next level. By maximizing the benefit of guest feedback and directly addressing complaints, service providers can strengthen their relationship with their guests, ultimately leading to business/brand loyalty.”

Get the paperback today!

Reinvent: Navigating Business Transformation in a Hyperdigital Era

This business book has earned a number of accolades since its publication earlier this year:

  • Wall Street Journal bestseller
  • Silver for Best Business Book in the 2023 Globee® Awards for Business, The 21st Annual American Business Awards®
  • 2023 Best Business Book of The Year, Silver Stevie Winner

The hospitality industry, as operators are all too aware, has been making massive strides when it comes to technology the past few years. However, as Reinvent also says, you can’t just plug in a tech solution, expect it to work, and say your brand and business are transformed.

From Amazon: “From top to bottom, organizations will be compelled to change entire mindsets, attitudes, and assumptions about how they operate, how they can grow, and even the very reason for their existence. This book introduces readers to ideas, concepts, and a comprehensive framework (LIFTS) that they can use to better position themselves and their organizations to reap the greatest number of benefits that business and digital transformation can afford. It’s a journey rich with promise that explains complex concepts in an understandable common language.”

Order the hardcover today.

Bar Hacks: Developing The Fundamentals for an Epic Bar

This informative and conversational book is the perfect read for aspiring or seasoned bar, pub, lounge, or even restaurant owners, operators, and managers looking for that competitive edge in operations! If you’re looking for both fundamental and in-depth planning methods, strategies, and industry focused insight to either start or grow a scalable, sustainable, memorable, profitable, and consistent venue in today’s cut-throat industry, Bar Hacks is written just for you.

Pick up the paperback from Amazon today!

Image: Mikołaj on Unsplash

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Program for Unique Holidays: December 2023

Program for Unique Holidays: December 2023

by David Klemt

"Think about things differently" neon sign

Do you want to stand out from from other restaurants and bars in your area? Change how you think about your December holiday promotions.

Several holidays are set against every date on the calendar, and this month is no exception. These holidays range from mainstream to esoteric.

Pay attention to the “weird” or unique holidays to raise eyebrows, carve out a niche for your restaurant or bar, and attract more guests. Why do what everyone else is already doing? Why program only around the same holidays as everyone else?

Of course, you shouldn’t try to celebrate every holiday, strange or otherwise. Focus on the days that are authentic to your brand; resonate with your guests; and help you grab attention on social media.

You’ll find suggestions for promotions below. However, the idea behind our monthly holiday promotions roundup is to inspire you and your team to get creative and come up with unique programming ideas.

For our November 2023 holidays list, click here.

December 2: Global Fat Bike Day

For the unfamiliar, “fat bikes” are offroad bicycles with larger-than-normal tires. They’re fantastic for navigating sandy, snowy, muddy, and rocky terrain. Why? Because riders can run lower tire pressures to overcome obstacles smoothly.

Of course, plenty of riders also like to bop around town on fat bikes. So, whether you operate in a snowy area or you just happen to be in a market with a bunch of fat-bike riders, this would be the holiday to encourage them to group up and roll to your bar or restaurant.

December 4: National Dice Day

There’s a lot we can do with dice. One of the simplest ways to celebrate this holiday is to craft a food and/or beverage menu with numbered items/specials. Guests roll the dice and they’re served whatever they roll.

December 9: National Pastry Day

Hey, it’s holiday season—people are snacking a bit more than they would normally. Pastry, whether sweet or savory, is surely tempting and can make a holiday meal memorable.

December 11: National Noodle Ring Day

Do you know what a noodle ring is? More importantly, if you’re not the chef, does your kitchen team know about noodle rings?

They’re exactly what they sound like, and from everything I can find, they’re hundreds of years old. The premise is simple: a noodle dish is placed in a mold, then it’s baked. Bang—noodle ring.

Clearly, the noodle ring is a canvas for creativity and comfort food. So, see what your kitchen can come up with for National Noodle Ring Day, particularly if noodle dishes are already on your menu.

December 16: National Chocolate Covered Anything Day

Do you have food items that would taste and look great covered in chocolate? Guess what you should do on this day…

December 19: National Emo Day

You may have heard of the When We Were Young festival that took place in Las Vegas this year in October. The first version of this emo music festival was held in California in 2017.

A lot of people enjoy nostalgia, and during the holidays they get even more nostalgic. You can either hire a DJ for an emo set, hire a local emo band or two, or put together an emo playlist if you think it would draw guests through your doors.

December 20: Games Day

Board games, card games, tabletop games, video games, arcade games, bar games… If your bar or restaurant is set up for people to play games, design a promotion around it. After all, people are gathering for the holidays. Tempt them to gather at your place.

December 21: National Coquito Day

Ah, the Coquito. I’ll risk the pitchforks and say eggnog is not the move: the Coquito is the best winter cocktail. And the best version comes from bartender Giuseppe González.

You’ll find his recipe below, and you should give him a follow and thank him for being gracious enough to share it every year in December.

December 29: Tick Tock Day

No, not TikTok. This holiday is about accomplishing outstanding goals before the end of the year.

However, operators and their teams can take a different approach to this holiday. Are there any bottles you want to finally get rid of to make space in your inventory? Some rare drams guests can finish off? Create a promotion around them.

December 31: National Champagne Day

Sure, some people may know this day as New Year’s Eve. But really, this is National Champagne Day.

Luckily, it’s not difficult to create promotions around Champers. Whether focusing on dosage, grape varietals, vintage, color, or cocktails, there’s a lot to do with Champagne, and it’s not challenging to shine a spotlight on it on this day.

Image: Ivan Bertolazzi on Pexels

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SevenRooms Unveils 3 Powerful New Tools

SevenRooms Unveils Three Powerful New Tools

by David Klemt

Booth seating inside a restaurant or bar

SevenRooms clients will have access to three new tools that will further enhance guest engagement, increase loyalty, and boost relationships with VIPs.

Each of these consumer-facing solutions is launching in time for the holiday season.

First up, 7R Priority Alerts. This tool helps operators manage their waitlists and generate revenue. We all know that even restaurants that require reservation fees end up with no-shows. Some platforms are capable of attempting to fill those available reservation slots. However, there’s not normally much control over who receives availability alerts.

Now, operators will have the power to target specific guests through automated reservation notifications. As 7R explains this tool, operators will be able to identify, label, and reward their most-valuable guests. These guests will feel like VIPs, increasing their loyalty, visits, and spends.

Then there’s Private Line. This is my favorite of the three new tools. Operators who implement this tool will be able to share an exclusive messaging line. So, a VIP such as a big spender, frequent diner, a member of the press, or an influencer can reach out to the team directly.

With Private Line, a VIP can inquire about a last-second reservation or make a special request. Again, this is the type of feature that increases loyalty and visit frequency.

Most people find new restaurants through friend, family, or coworker referrals. That got the 7R team thinking: How can restaurants reward people who refer new guests?

Enter: Word-of-Mouth Referrals, the third new tool on this list.

Pushed to guests via automated email marketing campaigns and post-visit surveys, a custom referral link is created for every diner. The guests then share that link, new guests make reservations, and the cycle continues. Operators, of course, reward guests for these referrals through any number of means, such as redeemable loyalty program points, comped F&B items, etc.

To learn more, please read the 7R press release about Priority Alerts, Private Line, and Word-of-Mouth Referrals below.


Priority Alerts, Private Line, and Word-of-Mouth Referrals redefine guest engagement and communication between restaurants and their most important guests

NEW YORK – SevenRooms, a guest experience and retention platform for the hospitality industry, today announced the launch of Priority Alerts, Private Line, and Word-of-Mouth Referrals, three new consumer-facing features that help operators connect with and reward their most loyal guests. With guests expecting more from their dining experiences than ever before, these solutions were purpose-built to solve real pain points for hospitality operators. These include alerting a specific diner about reservation availability, providing new ways for guests to get in touch and making it easier for guests to recommend their favorite restaurants to friends and family.

Priority Alerts helps operators control who they send automated reservation availability notifications to so they can prioritize their most valuable guests. In comparison to other reservation notification systems, restaurants choose who receives a Priority Alert first, not just deciding between a blast to their entire waitlist or to an exclusive subset of credit card holders. Instead, they can prioritize the guests that matter most to their business – whether that’s a VIP, loyalty member, frequent or recent diner, local, high spender, or someone else. This helps restaurants reward their most valuable guests to get them through their doors more often.

Private Line was created to give important guests an easier, faster way to get in touch with their favorite restaurants. With Private Line, restaurants can now offer their high-value guests – like VIPs, press, frequent diners and top spenders – an exclusive messaging line that can be used to instantly get in touch with their team. Whether a guest is looking for a last-minute reservation, has a special request, needs to add a friend to a booking or another ask, restaurants no longer miss out on opportunities to wow the guests that matter most. All conversations are centralized within the SevenRooms mobile app, making it easy for staff to book a table, add in requests or make other changes with just a few clicks.

Word-of-Mouth Referrals, the third consumer-facing feature launching with our fall release, gives restaurants the ability to motivate, track and reward loyal guests for referring new diners. According to recent data, 61 percent of diners discover new restaurants from friends, family and co-workers. Yet, without an easy way to capture this untapped demand, restaurants have historically left dollars on the table. Word-of-Mouth Referrals automatically creates personal referral links for every diner – shared through post-meal surveys and automated email campaigns – making it simple for guests to share with their networks and be rewarded with perks they’ll want to earn and use. Restaurants can tap into this high-value marketing channel for their business, rewarding loyalty and ensuring exceptional experiences for newcomers and regulars that translate into more sales and profits.

“At SevenRooms, our focus from day one has been on building innovations that help operators increase profitability, drive sales and improve the experiences of their guests. These three new features, all integrated into the SevenRooms platform, give operators new ways to connect and communicate with their guests – helping them evolve to meet the needs of guests who know what they want, how they want it, when they want it,” said Angela DeFranco, VP of Product at SevenRooms. “In an increasingly competitive landscape where consumers have more choice than ever before in where they choose to take their business, we’re dedicated to finding new ways for restaurants to connect and market more effectively to their guests with tools that not only make them more money, but help them execute on experiences that guests remember and recommend. Restaurant marketing is no longer one-size-fits-all, and we are redefining the role that technology can play in creating truly personalized guest engagement and marketing touchpoints at every stage of the guest journey.”

“The plan was to always move to SevenRooms because the technology was far superior, the potential for integration with our point of sale system was a lot stronger and owning the data was a huge deal,” said Kim McDiarmid, Partner at Liquid and Larder. “SevenRooms’ Priority Alerts has been a dream for us. Compared to our previous platform, it’s a lot more customizable and fully automated so it does the heavy lifting for us. We’re going to use it to give priority to guests who match criteria such as those who dine with us regularly, and with that, it will work even harder for us.”

For more details on SevenRooms’ newest innovations, please visit

About SevenRooms

SevenRooms is a guest experience and retention platform that helps hospitality operators create exceptional experiences that drive revenue and repeat business. Trusted by thousands of hospitality operators around the world, SevenRooms powers tens of millions of guest experiences each month across both on- and off-premises. From neighborhood restaurants and bars to international, multi-concept hospitality groups, SevenRooms is transforming the industry by empowering operators to take back control of their businesses to build direct guest relationships, deliver exceptional experiences and drive more visits and orders, more often. The full suite of products includes reservation, waitlist and table management, online ordering, mobile order & pay, review aggregation, email marketing and marketing automation. Founded in 2011 and venture-backed by Amazon, Comcast Ventures, PSG and Highgate Ventures, SevenRooms has dining, hotel F&B, nightlife and entertainment clients globally, including: Marriott International, MGM Resorts International, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Wynn Resorts, Jumeirah Group, Hard Rock Hotels & Resorts, Wolfgang Puck, Michael Mina, Bloomin’ Brands, José Andrés Group, Union Square Hospitality Group, Australian Venue Company, The Wolseley Hospitality Group, Dishoom, Live Nation and Topgolf.

Image: Carson Masterson on Unsplash

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The Indispensable Egg: Simple but Powerful

The Indispensable Egg: Simple but Powerful

by Nathen Dubé

Eggs of various color in a carton

In the realm of gastronomy, eggs are indispensable, offering a unique blend of flavor and texture that is celebrated across various cuisines.

These staples of culinary tradition embody the essence of simplicity and versatility. Farm-fresh eggs, known for their rich, vibrant yolks and robust shells, elevate this simple ingredient to new heights.

This comprehensive exploration delves into the culinary excellence of farm-fresh eggs and their broader implications in the hospitality industry, from enhancing the quality of dishes to contributing to business success.

The Culinary Excellence of Farm-Fresh Eggs

The superiority of farm-fresh eggs in cooking is undeniable. Their vibrant yolks, a result of the diverse diet of free-range hens, enrich dishes with deeper flavors and a more appealing visual presentation.

In baking, these eggs contribute to finer, more consistent textures. And in sauces and dressings, their freshness is paramount, forming the foundation of many classic culinary creations.

Crafting Artisanal Dishes with Farm-Fresh Eggs

Embracing the artisanal approach, chefs use farm-fresh eggs to create dishes that showcase their natural elegance and flavor.

From perfectly poached eggs on a bed of fresh greens to innovative egg tarts, these eggs become the centerpiece of culinary craftsmanship, attracting patrons who appreciate the art of cooking.

Seasonal Menus and Farm-Fresh Eggs

Utilizing farm-fresh eggs allows chefs to design seasonal menus that reflect the changing offerings of local farms.

The subtle variations in flavor and color of the eggs throughout the year inspire creative, seasonal dishes, demonstrating a commitment to freshness and local sourcing.

Nutritional Superiority of Farm-Fresh Eggs

Beyond their culinary appeal, farm-fresh eggs offer enhanced nutritional benefits.

Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, they cater to health-conscious consumers, adding a valuable dimension to menus and marketing strategies in the hospitality sector.

The Business Benefits of Premium Ingredients

Incorporating farm-fresh eggs into a restaurant’s offerings is a strategic business decision. It signifies a commitment to quality and can differentiate an establishment in a competitive market.

This choice also allows for storytelling opportunities, sharing the origins of the ingredients and the relationships with local producers, building trust and a sense of community with patrons.

As Chef Brian Duffy says, operators can charge premium prices, but only if they’re being innovative. Purchasing and using fresh eggs from a local farmer is a step toward innovation and justifies charging a premium.

Ethical Considerations and Consumer Awareness

The ethical sourcing of farm-fresh eggs aligns with the growing consumer awareness and demand for transparency, and humane treatment in food production.

By choosing ethically sourced eggs, hospitality businesses can build a brand image that resonates with these values, fostering customer loyalty.

Implementing Change in the Hospitality Industry

Adopting farm-fresh eggs comes with its challenges, such as higher costs and variable supply. However, these can be mitigated through creative menu planning and pricing strategies.

Educating staff about the benefits and ethos behind using these eggs enhances the dining experience for customers.

Sustainability and the Future of Food

Choosing farm-fresh eggs is a step towards a more sustainable food system. Small-scale egg farming often employs environmentally friendly practices, contributing to a sustainable future.

This commitment to sustainability is increasingly important to consumers and can be a significant aspect of a restaurant’s brand identity.


Farm-fresh eggs represent more than just a culinary choice; they are a statement about quality, sustainability, and the future of food.

For chefs and restaurateurs, they offer a means to distinguish their offerings, tell a compelling story, and build a business that is both profitable and principled.

As the hospitality industry evolves, those who embrace the full potential of ingredients like farm-fresh eggs will find themselves leading a movement that values the entire journey from farm to table. This comprehensive exploration underscores the multifaceted role of farm-fresh eggs in both culinary excellence and the broader context of the hospitality industry.

Image: Kelly Neil on Unsplash

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Indies: Which Cities Lead the Way?

Independents: Which Cities Lead the Way?

by David Klemt

Aerial view of Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan coastline

The majority of the top ten indie restaurants on the Restaurant Business Top 100 Independents ranking are in two American cities.

Those two cities are Miami Beach, Florida, and Chicago, Illinois. While Miami Beach claims two spots among the top three, Chicago has the most restaurants in the top ten. However, the top three indies are all in Florida, with number two being the Boathouse in Orlando.

So, Florida and Illinois are home to nearly the entire top ten of Restaurant Business’ Top 100 Independents. That’s impressive.

What’s even more impressive is the combined annual sales figure of the top ten: $333.4 million. Now, let’s separate Miami Beach. The three indies in the Florida city generated nearly $114 million themselves. Chicago’s four indies among the top ten generated $118 million.

Taken together, the top 100 indies generated $1.95 billion.

All told, 14 of the top 100 indies as ranked by Restaurant Business are in Chicago. Five are in Miami Beach, and five are in Miami. Before I move on, no, Miami Beach and Miami aren’t the same city; they’re entirely separate municipalities. In total, 16 restaurants on this list are in Florida.

New York boasts 15 restaurants on the list. Four are in San Francisco, and just two are in Los Angeles. However, California claims 15 restaurants in total.

However, as you’ll see below, this Restaurant Business list consists of more than just the usual big cities.

Restaurant Business Top 100 Independents: The Top Ten

Below, the top ten independent restaurants, per Restaurant Business.

  1. Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant (Miami Beach, Florida)
  2. The Boathouse (Orlando, Florida)
  3. Komodo Miami (Miami Beach, Florida)
  4. Maple & Ash Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)
  5. Mila (Miami Beach, Florida)
  6. Sierra Mar (Big Sur, California)
  7. Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse (Chicago, Illinois)
  8. Gibsons Italia (Chicago, Illinois)
  9. Alexxa’s (Las Vegas, Nevada)
  10. Alinea (Chicago, Illinois)

Alinea commands the highest average check among the top ten, at $650. The most reasonable is the Boathouse, averaging $45.

Interestinglyand perhaps logicallythese two restaurants find themselves in the inverse when it comes to annual meals served. The Boathouse serves the most: just over one million. And Alinea, among the top ten indies, serves the least: nearly 45,700.

Notably, when we move on to numbers 11 to 20, Las Vegas, Miami, and New York account for six restaurants.

However, it’s also notable that it’s not just the usual big cities with restaurants on this list. Smaller cities, such as Frankenmuth in Michigan, are home to some of America’s top-performing independent restaurants.

For some context, Frankenmuth has a population of less than 5,200 people. However, Michigan’s “Little Bavaria” draws three million tourists per year. So, it’s no surprise that Zehnder’s Restaurant generates more than $19 million in annual sales.

Restaurant Business Top 100 Independents: The Bottom Ten

Just for fun, let’s take a look at the bottom ten on the Restaurant Business list.

  1. Siena Tavern (Chicago, Illinois)
  2. Fleet Landing Restaurant & Bar (Charleston, South Carolina)
  3. Electric Lemon NY (New York, New York)
  4. Bar Siena (Chicago, Illinois)
  5. El Vez (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
  6. Mi Vida (Washington, DC)
  7. Scoma’s Restaurant (San Francisco, California)
  8. Mexican Sugar (Las Colinas, Texas)
  9. The Shed Barbecue & Blues Joint (Ocean Springs, Mississippi)
  10. Chef Adrianne’s Vineyard Restaurant and Bar (Miami, Florida)

Adding context, these ten restaurants have generated $114.6 million in annual sales. That’s roughly the same amount of annual sales as the three restaurants in Miami Beach in the top ten.

Each of the “bottom” ten has annual sales ranging from $11.2 million to $11.9 million.


We all know the following axiom: “Location, location, location.”

It’s tempting to assume this means a business must be in a major city. That’s a woeful oversimplification. Myriad considerations must be made when looking at a market, whether the population is in the hundreds or millions. Assuming a concept will drive traffic and generate millions of dollars solely because it’s in a major city is foolish.

Let’s take another look at Zehnder’s in Frankenmuth. The restaurant, number 47 on the list, generated $19.2 million in annual sales. Moreover, it’s in a town with a population under 5,200.

Number 46 generated $19.3 million and is in (on?) Waimea in Hawaii. Number 48 boasted annual sales of $19 million and is in a city with a population of almost 2.7 million: Chicago.

Clearly, tourism a key contributing factor to the success of Zehnder’s. Not population, not the demographics of the permanent residents, not big-city status.

So, what about check average? Alinea, number ten, has the highest at $650 and generated $28.3 million in sales. However, the Spot, number 85, has an average check of $18 and generated $12.3 million.

The success of any restaurant, bar, nightlife or eatertainment concept doesn’t come down to a single element. What sets a concept apart is a deep understanding of a specific market, the surrounding markets, “sister” sites and competitors, guest desires and expectations, and so much more.

How does an operator come to understand their operation and their market? A feasibility study to start. Then comes a thorough, coherent concept plan and a complete business plan, and an obsession with data.

Operators who put in the work to attain strategic clarity have the potential to earn their way onto the Top 100 Independents list.

Image: Cameron Casey on Pexels

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Two New Review Platforms You Need to Know

Two New Review Platforms You Need to Know

by David Klemt

Person looking at restaurants on a map on their phone

Operators should be aware of two new review platforms that will help people discover their restaurant, bar, nightclub, or eatertainment venue.

At this point, we’re all aware of the mainstream review sites. Google, Yelp, OpenTable, Tripadvisor… Whether viewed as a helpful discovery tool or nuisance, each is a well-known player.

Well, there are new platforms on the scene. Importantly, each one is putting their own stamp on how people review venues and discover new experiences.

For example, I wrote about a new platform that rejects negative reviews a few weeks ago. It’s Good “believe[s] a restaurant rec from 1 trusted friend is more valuable than recs from 10,000 strangers.”

The founders, including Kevin Auerbach (former Apple), Meghan Raab (former Snap), director and photographer Mike Rosenthal, and songwriter and performer John Legend, have also eschewed the standard star rating.

So, that’s one modern-day take on the review platform. Now, two others.


By now, most people are aware that video content outperforms static photography on social media. In other words, people engage more with video.

That’s not to say that static photography is obsolete. Rather, when it comes to discovery, video appears to be king at the moment.

Enter: Atmosfy.

This platform is all about video reviews. In fact, their website reads, “A video is worth a thousand pictures.” Restaurant, bar, nightlife, and eatertainment operators should see the value in users showing off their experiences via video.

In addition, users get access to a personal map. They can bookmark places they’ve been and want to go, and share their experiences so others can discover them.

And with $12 million in seed funding from Redpoint Ventures and other venture capital firms, operators can be certain this is no flash in the pan. In fact, Atmosfy supports in excess of one million businesses in over 10,000 cities in more than 150 countries.


First, the T-rex mascot of this platform is pretty cool.

Second, Recs takes a similar approach to It’s Good. However, the founders, Jesse Berns and Sean Conrad, have put their own spin on review platforms.

Like It’s Good, Recs sees far more value in recommendations from friends than strangers. Also, there’s no star rating system, nor will users find negative reviews.


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A post shared by Recs (@getrecs)

Another interesting detail: Users aren’t able to leave anonymous reviews. This is because Recs is built for recommendations among friends. Were a user to be anonymous, they wouldn’t be discoverable to friends, and therefore they’d be leaving recommendations to…nobody.

However, the most important element of Recs (arguably) is that users either recommend a place or they don’t.

So, in theory, if a business is blowing the guest experience, they won’t even be discoverable on Recs because nobody will be recommending it. At least to a specific core of users, that business won’t exist in their world on Recs.

As far as the Recs user experience, people save venues as “recommend” or “wanna go.” Users find their friends, share their lists, and discover new places to try by checking out their friends’ lists. A simple, straightforward way for people to eat, drink, and hang out together throughout a city.


Simply put, an operator needs to know how people are discovering their business. Operators need to meet guests where they are, which means online.

So, operators need to know about new platforms. When sending a post-visit surveyit doesn’t need to be lengthy—operators should ask how guests learned about their venue. This is one way to stay up to date on social media and review sites.

A comprehensive and effective marketing strategy includes review and discovery platforms. Certainly, operators ignore discovery tools at their peril.

Image: abillion on Unsplash

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Taco Bell Leveraging Subscriptions & LTOs

Taco Bell Leveraging Subscriptions & LTOs

by David Klemt

Taco Bell Grilled Cheese Nacho Fries

Not for the first time, Taco Bell is showing the industry the power of offering fan-favorite limited-time offers and leveraging subscriptions.

These days, everything seems to be subscription-based. We stream shows and movies via subscriptions. We can have food, clothing, gadgets, collectibles, and knick-knacks delivered to us by subcription.

Car features like heated seats, remote engine start, and self-driving? Subscriptions. Want to use software we used to buy once and install? Now we’re paying monthly to use it (or up front for a “discounted” yearly fee).

So, why should people find it odd to subscribe to one of their favorite restaurants? If the value is there for a consumer it’s no different than paying a monthly fee for other products and services to which they subscribe.

Clearly, Taco Bell has an acute understanding of people’s comfort with subscriptions. For many consumers, they’re the norm, just part of their daily routine.

As evidence, I introduce Exibit A, the Taco Lover’s Pass.

What makes this subscription noteworthy is the fact that it’s only a few years old, and it’s not even a permanent subscription. As Taco Bell Rewards members know all too well, only they can cop a Taco Lover’s Pass, and it only comes available every so often.

Most times, members have just one day to grab a pass. However, people had two whole days to decide the last time it became available.

And now, Exhibit B, the Nacho Fries Lover’s Pass.

An LTO Subscription and Item

Look, tens of millions of people love tacos. So, it’s logical that the Taco Lover’s Pass is so successful.

And if the past several years have shown us anything, millions of people also love Nacho Fries. The LTO menu item first appeared in Taco Bell restaurants in 2018. A few years later, in 2021, the Taco Lover’s Pass was tested in Arizona.

Why wouldn’t we eventually see a Nacho Fries Lover’s Pass, given the hype that follows every reintroduction of this popular item? Taco Bell has mastered the art of the LTO and the subscription. More specifically, they’ve mastered the recurring subscription. Remember, their passes aren’t permanent offerings.

Further, the iconic QSR also understands the power of the “drop.” At this point, it seems as though Taco Bell has noticed the rabid stir a limited-edition shoe or clothing drop can create for the fashion industry, studied it, and adapted it to foodservice.

With that said, the last Taco Lover’s Pass was accompanied by a menu item drop: the Toasted Breakfast Taco. If you think the Nacho Fries Lover’s Pass also ushered in an LTO, you’re correct.

The first-ever Nacho Fries Lover’s Pass comes along with the limited-time-only offer of Grilled Cheese Nacho Fries.

Take the Nacho Fries, slather them in a sauce of melted mozzarella, monterey pepper jack, and cheddar cheeses, add Taco Bell nacho cheese and chipotle sauce, and toss on some marinated steak. There you go—Grilled Cheese Nacho Fries. They’re just $4.99 while supplies last, and there’s a spicy version made with jalapeños.

It’s no surprise that Taco Bell BrandVue’s most-loved Mexican restaurant brand, and number eight on their overall list of most-loved restaurant brands.


Loyalty and rewards programs, subscription services, hyped LTO menu drops… These aren’t the exclusive domain of global chain restaurants.

Independent operators can absolutely leverage LTOs and subscriptions. Moreover, indies can do so with as much—if not more—specificity. Independent and regional chain operators tend to be far more nimble than their large chain counterparts.

After all, it’s much easier to implement change in one or a handful of restaurants than it is hundreds or thousands of locations. In theory, single-unit operators also know their loyal guests on a more intimate level. Where that’s the case, they should know what levers to pull to generate interest and encourage repeat visits.

It’s no small task to create a subscription program, let alone a free-to-use-but-engaging, branded rewards program. And that’s to say nothing of coming up with menu item so powerful that taking it away for months at a time is a feasible, profitable thing to do. Although, if you’ve shrunk your menu and eliminated a decent food or drink performer, you may have somewhere to start.

With time and thoughtful consideration, independent and regional operators can absolutely nail rewards, subscriptions, and LTOs.

Image: Taco Bell

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2023 State of the Menu: Datassential

2023 State of the Menu: Datassential

by David Klemt

Korean fried chicken wings

The annual 2023 State of the Menu by Datassential includes an interesting metric to gauge restaurant recovery: menu size by segment.

Hosts Jack Li, Mike Kostyo, and Claire Conaghan discuss a handful of topics during this webinar. Host Li touches on food-forward cities at the beginning of this presentaiton. Kostyo shares some of the most innovative menu items out there right now. And Conaghan dives deep into menu trends.

Industry professionals interested in watching this webinar on demand can register to do so here.

There are a handful of metrics people are using to measure post-pandemic restaurant recovery. Labor is, of course, receiving a lot of attention. People are also tracking traffic, average check size, revenue, and profits.

One metric Datassential is keeping tabs on is menu size per restaurant segment. Additionally, they’re tracking each segment’s top-growing food and beverage items.

Notably, however, in tracking menu size, Conaghan focuses solely on food and non-alcohol beverage items, omitting catering and alcohol.

Chains vs. Independents

Starting things off, Conaghan addresses the overall menu size trend. That is, menus are noticeably smaller in comparison to pre-pandemic sizes.

Interestingly, chain restaurants don’t appear to be in any rush to move away from this trend. In fact, Conaghan notes that chains appear to be further reducing the size of their menus. This has been the trend over the past 12 months.

According to Conaghan, fine dining also seems to be happy to shrink their menus. Menu size shrunk the most among restaurants in this segment. In comparison, quick-service menu sizes decreased the least.

However, independent restaurant operators appear to be going in the opposite direction from their chain counterparts. In contrast, indies have been growing the size of their menus the past 12 months.

Menu Size by Segment

Fast Casual

Per Conaghan, the only segment to reach pre-pandemic menu size is fast casual. In fact, this category of restaurant is often exceeding pre-pandemic items-per-menu size.

This increase in menu size is attributable to operators “leaning into” core cuisine items. For example, sandwiches, Mexican entrees, and pizza.

However, the fastest-growing food item on fast-casual menus is the chicken wing. According to Conaghan, it’s easy for operators to innovate with chicken wings.

A restaurant doesn’t have chicken wings? All they have to do is add them, starting with simple preparations. If a restaurant does have chicken wings on the menu already, innovation is as simple as adding new flavors.

As far as the fastest-growing drink for fast-casual restaurants, it’s dessert beverages.

QSR, Casual Dining, and Midscale

These three segments are “very, very close” to reaching pre-pandemic menu sizes.

As midscale operators are likely very aware, this segment tends to have the largest menus. I wouldn’t be surprised, therefore, if a number of midscale concepts review their items per menu, their costs, and decide they can perform well with slightly smaller menus moving forward.

Unsurprisingly, chicken wings are the food item growing most quickly on QSR food menus. Oh, and barbecue chicken wings are the fastest-growing food item among casual dining restaurants.

Perhaps a bit more eyebrow-raising is the fastest-growing beverage type for QSRs: energy drinks. Boba and flavored iced teas are growing fastest on casual-dining drink menus.

For midscale restaurants, dessert samplers are the fastest-growing food items. Think “dessert charcuterie” when trying to picture a dessert platter. Another way to think about the dessert sampler is a static dessert cart with small bites of each dessert on the menu.

Fine Dining

Again, this segment is the furthest from pre-pandemic menu size. And, again, operators in this category seem happy with this trend.

An interesting note Conaghan makes about this segment is what many operators are using to fill out their menus: desserts. This is, she says, an area where fine dining can differentiate itself from other concepts.

Per Conaghan, bao, applesauce, and summer squash are growing the fastest on fine-dining food menus.

Now, I may have slipped into a fever dream during this portion of the Datassential webinar. Because unless I’m mistaken, the Shirley Temple has been identified as the fastest-growing beverage in the fine-dining space.


Okay, so this segment of the 2023 State of the Menu webinar isn’t really a recovery metric.

However, it’s interesting, and something Jack Li says about chain restaurant pricing made me chuckle.

Most Expensive vs. Least Expensive

First, some straightforward data.

The following list identifies the five most-expensive ZIP codes for chain restaurant menu pricing. Anyone who wants the full list of 15 most-expensive ZIP codes can watch the webinar.

  • 10036 (New York, NY)
  • 96707 (Kapolei, HI)
  • 98902 (Yakima, WA)
  • 96815 (Honolulu, HI)
  • 99503 (Anchorage, AK)

It’s understandable to think this would consist entirely of New York City, Los Angeles, or San Francisco ZIPs. But when we consider what it costs operators to import food to Hawaii and Alaska. Additionally, Washington and New York are among the states with the highest minimum wage. Operators need to recover those costs somehow.

And now the five least-expensive ZIP codes:

  • 78526 (Brownsville, TX)
  • 75224 (Dallas, TX)
  • 76106 (Fort Worth, TX)
  • 31907 (Columbus, GA)
  • 31701 (Albany, GA)

Pricing Logic

Now, on to what Li says during the webinar that makes me laugh.

Nationwide, the average price of a McDonald’s Big Mac in the US is $5.26. (A caveat: This webinar took place in October. This price may have increased or decreased by now.)

However, the lowest price for a Big Mac is $3.49 at a location in Wilburton, Oklahoma.

So, what’s the highest price, and where can one find these pricey Big Macs? Three McDonald’s locations sell the burger for $8.29. That’s nearly two-and-a-half times the lowest-priced Big Mac.

Summarizing pricing variations among chain restaurants succinctly, Li made me laugh with the following: “Store pricing often just doesn’t make sense.”

Going further, Li says Datassential shows that the more franchised a restaurant chain is, the more variances in pricing will occur.

The full webinar can be viewed here.

Image: Leonardo Luz on Pexels

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Datassential Ranks Food-forward Cities

Datassential Ranks America’s Most Food-forward Cities

by David Klemt

San Francisco skyline and bay at night

Let’s take a look at food and beverage intel platform Datassential’s ranking of the 158 most food-forward cities in America as 2023 comes to a close.

We are, in part, reviewing this list because of Wallethub’s “Best Foodie Cities in America” report. You can find our thoughts on that ranking here.

To summarize, however, Wallethub prioritizes “wallet-friendliness,” or “the best and cheapest” cities for foodies. In contrast, Datassential’s ranking is a scientific attempt to quantify the “food-forward” status of a given city.

“It’s the diversity of cuisines, the prevalence of emerging foods and flavor trends and residents’ appetite for varied menus, that make a city food forward,” writes Samantha Des Jardins, content marketing manager at Datassential.

We at KRG Hospitality are big fans of Datassential and find the company to be a credible source of industry insight. Earlier this year they tackled video versus static photography, and the flavors and menu items they predicted would be big in 2023.

To review Datassential’s ranking and download the full list for yourself, click here.

The Top 25 Food-forward Cities

Alright, I know why you’re here. Below, you’ll find the highest-ranked cities on the Datassential list.

(Note: Due to the scoring, some cities are tied in terms of overall points. Where this is the case, it has been noted.)

  1. San Francisco, California
  2. Los Angeles, California
  3. Miami, Florida
  4. Washington, DC
  5. San Diego, California
  6. New York, New York
  7. Houston, Texas
  8. Monterey, California
  9. Las Vegas, Nevada
  10. Austin, Texas
  11. Sacramento, California
  12. West Palm Beach, Florida
  13. Atlanta, Georgia
  14. Dallas, Texas (tie with Atlanta)
  15. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  16. Phoenix, Arizona
  17. Portland, Oregon
  18. Palm Springs, California
  19. Seattle, Washington
  20. Orlando, Florida
  21. Denver, Colorado (tie with Orlando)
  22. Honolulu, Hawaii (tie with Orlando and Denver)
  23. Salt Lake City, Utah
  24. Tampa, Florida
  25. Fresno, California (tie with Tampa)

So, the top tenthe entire top 25, reallyare most likely not much of a surprise. When I talk about cities as the “usual suspects” for rankings like these, I’m talking about New York, LA, San Francisco, Miami, etc.

However, not every usual suspect is among the top 25. Notably, Chicago just fails to make the cut, earning number 26 on this list. In fact, five “big cities” are absent from Datassential’s top ten: Dallas, Phoenix, San Antonio, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

Another interesting detail? Whereas Orlando holds the number-one spot on Wallethub’s list, it’s number 20 on Datassential’s ranking.

Of their respective top tens, the two lists have just five cities in common: Miami, San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas, and Austin.


Since the two lists are vastly different when we contextualize what they quantify, it should come as no surprise that Datassential and Wallethub’s methodologies are likewise dissimilar.

Whereas Wallethub scored affordability, and diversity, accessibility, and quality, Datassential weighed different metrics.

For their “Most Food-forward Cities in US,” Datassential scored the following:

  • Race to 90;
  • Ethnic restaurant diversity; and
  • Trend-forwardness.

During Datassential’s annual State of the Menu webinar, Jack Li, executive chairman, board of directors explained each of these metrics.

Race to 90

The number different cuisine types required in a particular metro area before reaching 90 percent of restaurants.

For the curious, Miami is the most-diverse city by this metric.

Ethnic Restaurant Diversity

Datassential asks the following question to measure this metric: What is the proportion of ethnic restaurants compared to all restaurants in a metro area?


Based on a dataset developed by Datassential which tracks a number of points, from food and drink items to flavors, keywords, and beyond.

The company continuously polls consumers by ZIP code to measure consumer knowledge of upcoming trends, then aggregates the ZIP codes to measure a metro area.

The Bottom Eleven

Why am I listing the bottom eleven rather than bottom ten? There’s a tie for number 149 among these 158 cities.

There are nearly 800 cities in the US with populations of 50,000 or more. Therefore, it’s reasonable to argue that even the bottom of this list boast respectable food scenes.

  1. Youngstown, Ohio
  2. Rockford, Illinois
  3. Peoria, Illinois
  4. Johnstown, Pennsylvania
  5. Billings, Montana
  6. Traverse City, Michigan
  7. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  8. La Crosse, Wisconsin
  9. Green Bay, Wisconsin
  10. Fargo, North Dakota
  11. Wausau, Wisconsin

In case you’re wondering, Datassential and Wallethub’s lists don’t share any bottom ten (or eleven) cities.

So, there you have it: San Francisco earns the top spot among Datassential’s food-forward cities. And Wausau earns number 158, which is still notable.

Image: Daiwei Lu on Unsplash

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Wallethub Ranks Best Foodie Cities in US

Wallethub Ranks America’s Best Foodie Cities

by David Klemt

Eola Lake Park in Orlando, Florida

Comparing 182 cities across more than two dozen “food-friendliness” indicators, Wallethub has revealed their rankings for America’s best foodie cities in 2023.

Why 182 cities? Wallethub started with 150 of America’s most-populous cities. Then, they added “at least two” of the most-populous cities in each state.

Regarding the ranking itself, Wallethub compared the cities against two key measures: affordability, and diversity, accessibility, and quality. Those two measures consist of 28 key indicators, including:

  • cost of groceries;
  • restaurant meal cost;
  • sales tax;
  • food tax;
  • restaurants per capita;
  • ratio of full-service to fast-food restaurants; and
  • restaurant diversity.

Using a 100-point grading system, affordability was worth up to 30 points. Simple math shows diversity, accessibility, and quality indicators were worth up to 70 points.

Further, Wallethub valued indicators anywhere from half-weight (international grocery stores per capita) to triple weight (restaurants per capita).

Now, it’s important to contextualize Wallethub’s use of the word “foodie city” here. For their ranking, the company is identifying “the best and cheapest” cities for consumers for whom eating is an experience, hobby, and/or lifestyle.

“These wallet-friendly cities cater to diners who prefer to cook at home, explore the local flavors or both,” reads their post, which can be reviewed in its entirety here.

The Top 25

So, per Wallethub, the cities below are the top 25 among the 182 “best foodie cities in America in 2023.”

  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. Portland, Orgeon
  3. Sacramento, California
  4. Miami, Florida
  5. San Francisco, California
  6. Tampa, Florida
  7. San Diego, California
  8. Las Vegas, Nevada
  9. Austin, Texas
  10. Seattle, Washington
  11. Denver, Colorado
  12. Atlanta, Georgia
  13. Los Angeles, California
  14. Chicago, Illinois
  15. Richmond, Virginia
  16. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  17. Washington, DC
  18. St. Louis, Missouri
  19. Houston, Texas
  20. New York, New York
  21. Oakland, California
  22. Phoenix, Arizona
  23. Santa Ana, California
  24. Grand Rapids, Michigan
  25. Cincinnati, Ohio

Interestingly, you’ll find the “usual” foodie scene suspects on this list. However, a mere handful of those cities are ranked in the top ten: Miami, San Francisco, and Las Vegas.

Chicago (14), Los Angeles (13), and New York (20) don’t make the three or five. In fact, they’re out of the top ten entirely here.

If affordability is a major factor here, it raises an eyebrow that Miami is among the top five foodie cities. After all, sources show the cost of living in the city is 20 percent higher than the national average. The cost of living in San Francisco is nearly 80 percent higher.

At any rate, Orlando, per Wallethub’s methodology, is the number-one foodie city in America.

Compelling Comparisons

With the top 25 foodie cities out of the way, let’s check out a few other interesting comparisons.

Cost of Groceries

Lowest-cost cities, in descending order:

  1. Brownsville, Texas
  2. Corpus Christi, Texas
  3. Laredo, Texas
  4. Fayetteville, North Carolina
  5. Austin, Texas

The cities with the highest cost of groceries are Honolulu and Pearl City in Hawaii.

Restaurants per Capita

The cities with the most restaurants per capita, again in descending order:

  1. Miami, Florida
  2. Orlando, Florida
  3. Las Vegas, Nevada
  4. San Francisco, California
  5. Los Angeles, California

It’s important to note each of the cities on this list is, per Wallethub, tied for first place.

The city with the fewest restaurants per capita is Pearl City, Hawaii.

Ratio, FSR to Fast Food Restaurants

On this list, the five cities with the highest ratio of full-service restaurants to their fast-food counterparts (yes, in descending order):

  1. Cape Coral, Florida
  2. Santa Rosa, California
  3. Portland, Maine
  4. Burlington and South Burlington, Vermont

That leaves the city with the lowest ration, which is Jackson, Mississippi.

The Bottom Ten

Now that we know which cities Wallethub identifies the best foodie cities in the US, let’s take a look at the bottom of their list.

  1. Augusta, Georgia
  2. Fontana, California
  3. Jackson, Mississippi
  4. Moreno Valley, California
  5. Mobile, Alabama
  6. Montgomery, Alabama
  7. West Valley City, Utah
  8. Nampa, Idaho
  9. Shreveport, Louisiana
  10. Pearl City, Hawaii

Personally, I find the data regarding restaurants per capita and the FSR to fast-food ratio the most useful.

To review this report in its entirety, including Wallethub’s methodology, please click here.

Image: Mick Haupt on Unsplash

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