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The New Wave of Plant-based Foods

The New Wave of Plant-based Foods

by David Klemt

 

Chef Brian Duffy holding a plate with a plant-based shrimp po' boy sandwich on it

A key takeaway from the 2023 National Restaurant Association Show is this: a new wave of plant-based foods has made landfall.

In fact, given how many booths had plant-based items on offer, more waves will be crashing ashore. Plant-based items had a presence inside every building at McCormick Place in Chicago. For those who haven’t attended to show, McCormick Place has well more than two-million square feet in exhibit space.

There were, of course, the plant-based standards to which we’ve all grown accustomed. Burger patties, breakfast sausages, “chicken” nuggets, “pepperoni” pizzas… However, we now know there’s more innovation on the way.

Years ago, F&B experts declared seafood alternatives as the “holy grail” of plant-based foods. The race has been on to “crack the code” and offer seafood alternatives that look, cook, and taste like their animal counterparts.

One brand that appears to have reached their goal? New Wave Foods. And their staunchest culinary supporter? The revered and iconic Chef Brian Duffy.

Seismic but Sensible Shift

Those who are familiar with Chef Duffy know he’s unafraid to share his views on all things culinary, service, operations, and hospitality. The same people also know that he’s demanding when it comes to ingredients, distributors, and partners.

I say that to say this: Some people are shocked Chef Duffy is championing a plant-based food. However, I don’t share that reaction. Chef Duffy has never been anti-plant-based—he has been waiting for plant-based items to rise to his high standards.

During his 2023 NRA Show demo, the acclaimed and in-demand chef made shrimp-fried rice. Of course, he replaced shrimp with a plant-based alternative produced using mung bean and seaweed. That product is New Wave Foods Shrimp.

The demo proved so engaging that Chef Duffy was asked to repeat it on the final day of the show. I, for one, am not surprised—Chef Duffy is an incredible speaker and chef.

This seismic shift—not just in Chef Duffy’s embrace of plant-based foods but also throughout the industry—is sensible when you consider something said during the demo.

Boiling it down to the basics, Chef Duffy asked why operators wouldn’t want to offer high-quality plant-based items to their guests. It’s simple: Increasingly, this is what guests want. So…give it to them.

Succeeding with Plant-based

According to a 2020 Datassential report, nearly two-thirds of operators have shrimp on their menus. Further, two-thirds of operators have at least expressed an interest in offering more plant-based alternatives.

And why wouldn’t they want to do so? It’s simple business: fulfill consumer demands and desires. If people want something and it’s feasible for a business owner to offer it, that’s good business.

However, it goes beyond just business for Chef Duffy. Taking things further, he believes that culinary professionals and operators have a responsibility to their guests.

There’s a responsibility to learn about what’s new and educate kitchen staff. A responsibility to help guests eat healthier. And absolutely a responsibility to innovate. As Chef Duffy said during his 2023 Bar & Restaurant Expo live menu read, operators can only justify charging premium prices if they’re truly innovating in the kitchen.

Diving deeper, meeting guest demands for plant-based foods fulfills a financial responsibility. If an operator has partners or investors, they need to meet their expectations. Equally as important, failing to innovate or keep up with guest demands puts the business at risk, therefore risking the livelihoods and career progression of staff.

Brands like New Wave Foods are sourcing their ingredients ethically and sustainably. Another brand, Meati, is using mushroom root sustainably. Additionally, New Wave Foods Shrimp is cholesterol-free, is free from shellfish allergens, and is kosher. Meati, a complete protein, is also cholesterol-free and is also free from nine major allergens

I also came across a whole-cut steak alternative called Chunk that tasted like beef. Interestingly, there was also a plant-based egg alternative that allows for the social-media-famous yolk poke, YoEgg.

Own the Operator Responsibility

An operator doesn’t have to be vegetarian or vegan to appreciate the plant-based movement. They don’t even have to be interested in a plant-based diet.

All an operator needs to understand this shift in consumer behavior—between 60 and 70 percent of US households are having at least one plant-based meal per week—is their responsibility to their guests and teams.

If offering plant-based options is viable for an operator (in most cases, it is), it’s good business to do so. Stubbornly refusing to offer guests what they want flies in the face of hospitality and service.

Offering plant-based options doesn’t suddenly make a concept a vegetarian or vegan brand. Chef Duffy puts one or two of his famous “dippy” eggs on his plant-based shrimp fried rice. He also cooks the dish with butter. It’s decidedly not a vegan dish.

To that point, Chef Duffy doesn’t dedicate menu sections to vegetarian or vegan diets. As he explains, doing so is a self-imposed limitation, and likely a mistake.

Targeting vegans means attempting to succeed with a very small (for now) pool of consumers. Attempting to appeal to vegetarians means targeting a larger base but still, it’s limiting.

Instead, operators can simply make it known a plant-based alternative is available for a given dish. Simple, to the point, and appeals to the greatest number of guests.

Succeeding with plant-based foods has never been easier. By the time the next plant-based wave surges, it will be even easier. Operators have very few excuses remaining for refusing to participate in the movement.

Image: New Wave Foods

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The Art of the Preparation

The Art of the Preparation

by David Klemt

Overhead view of chef slicing and chopping ingredients

Chef Brian Duffy‘s take on preparation and its overall impact on the guest experience extends to every aspect of operations.

In one sentence during his 2023 National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago cooking demo, Chef Duffy sums up the power of the proper mindset.

“The art of the preparation creates the experience,” says Chef Duffy.

Now, he was preparing plant-based shrimp from New Wave Foods at the time. After preparing a pan, the revered chef was readying a pound of FABI Award-winning New Wave Shrimp for Duffified Shrimp Fried Rice.

 

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A post shared by Chef Brian Duffy (@chefbriduff)

When making this dish, Chef Duffy chops roughly half the New Wave Shrimp in half. He does so to enhance the dish’s texture, and therefore the guest experience. Additionally, Chef Duffy likes to toast basmati rice before adding it to the pan with the shrimp and vegetables.

Again, Chef Duffy shared his view on the guest experience when cutting animal-alternative shrimp (the product is made with sustainable seaweed and mung bean).

Preparation

Okay, so what does slicing or chopping shrimp have to do with the guest experience? It’s the attention to what others may consider a tiny detail. In fact, some may deem important details “optional.”

Whether front-of-house, back-of-house, or back office, everyone’s mindset matters. How one views their role and how they approach their responsibilities impacts every element of a restaurant, bar, nightclub, or hotel’s success.

Choosing to halve half the shrimp because it will deliver a better experience speaks volumes. It’s a commitment to perfect the “small” details so every guest walks away wanting to return.

If an operator wants to know if they have a chef or an executive chef, this is one way to tell. Is the chef teaching their brigade? Guiding them? Implementing policies around preparation? Or are they just punching the clock, making sure the rest of the team shows up, and sending out food that’s “good enough”?

Operators can apply versions of those questions to every role in the house, including their own. Is their pride in preparing every element of service and operation? Or is the team just muddling through each shift?

There are no Small Details

Interestingly, most guests likely won’t ever be aware of every detail operators and their teams get right. However, they will feel every choice each team member makes. They may not know precisely what goes right, but they take home with them that their visit was exceptional.

Pulling the threads tighter separates operators and their brands from one another. Guests can get a bite and a drink anywhere. They reward outstanding service and experiences with their time and money.

It’s a simple equation to understand: Operators want to create an army of loyal guests, guests expect exceptional experiences. The operators who deliver on guest expectations are rewarded with loyalty.

Chef Duffy isn’t “just” slicing shrimp. He’s not “just” toasting rice. Chef’s not “just” making “the world’s most perfect dippy egg.” In reality, he’s ensuring every decision he, his teams, and his clients make enhance the guest experience exponentially.

There are no small details. There are no small decisions. The art of the preparation, as Chef Duffy says, creates the experience. Indeed, preparation also separates the mediocre from the exceptional.

Image: Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

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Raise the Bar: The 3 Ps of Hospitality

Raise the Bar: The 3 Ps of Hospitality

by David Klemt

Three hands holding up three pineapples

No, one isn’t “pineapples.”

Nightlife, bar, and cocktail experts Mia Mastroianni, Phil Wills, and Art Sutley want operators to focus on what they call “the Three Ps.”

The engaging trio shared their trio of Ps recently in Las Vegas at the 2023 Bar & Restaurant Expo.

So, what are the Three Ps of hospitality? People, Place, and Product. Operators who pull the threads tighter on each of these crucial elements will be well on their way to improving operations and the guest experience.

People

Remember all the way back to a week ago when I shared Mastroianni, Wills, and Sutley’s thoughts on service versus hospitality? Consider the first P a deeper dive into that topic.

Operators need to focus on two categories of people who help their businesses succeed: their teams and their guests.

Addressing the former, the trio feels that operators are centering a disproportionate amount of their attention on guests in comparison to staff.

“We’re not lacking for people who want to work in the business and are outperforming other industries, but we’re not focusing on staff like we focus on guests,” says Wills. “Treat everyone with respect, including through the hiring process. If you don’t engage your staff, you won’t retain them. You need to show them they can grow in your business.”

According to Sutley, 89 percent of operators say that labor costs present a “significant challenge.” It follows, then, that committing to treating staff with respect and nurturing their careers isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s smart business.

Look for people with passion, those you can motivate to go above and beyond so you’re not stuck with a team full of space-fillers who are just after a paycheck, suggests Mastroianni.

Of course, operators and their teams must also focus on providing exceptional service and experiences to guests.

“Treat ever guest like a pearl in an oyster,” advises Wills. “They’re the pearl, we’re the oyster. We need to ‘protect’ them.” Anything less, cautions Sutley, and guests won’t return.

Place

Interestingly, the trio touched on design, aesthetic, and vibe. However, that isn’t the crux of the second P.

Rather, Place is really goes back to the guest experience. The design, aesthetic, and vibe need to meet guest expectations.

“Make sure your space is what it’s supposed to be,” says Wills.

For example, if a concept presents itself as a high-end cocktail bar, the four walls need to deliver on that expectation. With the exception of a handful of high-level examples, an upscale bar won’t survive if they deliver a dive bar—not neighborhood bar, dive bar—vibe and service. (For the record, I love a dive bar. But I don’t expect to encounter TV trope-style dive bar service if I walk through the doors of a high-end cocktail bar.)

One way operators can ensure their space is what it should be is standardization. Once a concept goes from idea to brick and mortar, when the owner’s vision is realized, the team needs to deliver a matching experience. Steps of service, systems, procedures…standardization is the name of the service game.

“Standardize your opening, shift, and closing procedures and systems to maintain your place,” says Mastroianni.

Every team member—front of house, back of house, leadership—needs to know and buy into an operator’s standards.

Product

Standardization breeds consistency. And consistency is a key element of the third P, Product.

Per Sutley, 76 percent of operators have noticed that guests are opting for more premium drinks. That’s great news, but it’s not the whole story.

It’s great that guests are opting for more expensive drink options. After all, that can certainly help the bottom line.

“However,” cautions Mastroianni, “they won’t come back without consistency in production.”

To drive this point home, consider this story from Mastroianni. A bartender made her a drink, and it was pretty good. She ordered another one from the same bartender and watched him make it differently the second time around. Not only was this second version different, it was better. While one could view this story through a positive lens—the drink was even better the next time!—that’s not the correct takeaway.

If the bartender was committed to building cocktails consistently, the second version of that cocktail would’ve been the first one served to Mastroianni. It would be the best version, and it would always be that impressive version.

When we’re fighting the possibility that up to 70 percent of first-time guests never return, the importance of product consistency can’t be overstated.

“Really focus on the small details to affect big change and get guests through the doors and keep coming back,” says Wills.

Image: Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels

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Leverage These 3 Sports for Growth

Leverage These 3 Sports for Growth

by David Klemt

Daniel Ricciardo in McLaren F1 race car

Sports receive more than three million mentions daily on social media and in online communities, and three sports are driving conversations.

Media-monitoring and SaaS platform Meltwater‘s recent report shows growth in media mentions and community engagement. The report, “2023 Industry Snapshot: Sports,” also identifies three sports that are growing globally.

Most restaurant and bar concepts, at least throughout North America, can benefit from sports. They have televisions, at least decent audio, and the proper licenses to air sports and other programs.

At the risk of oversimplifying, that means that any bar or restaurant can be a sports bar. Before anyone begins furiously hammering out an email to send me, I’m not saying any bar or restaurant can automatically become a great sports bar because they have TVs. I’m simply saying that operators who want to leverage sports and specific sporting events are at a good starting point to do so.

With that caveat out of the way, let’s check out what Meltwater has uncovered regarding sports.

Sports Conversations

According to Meltwater, sports is a hot topic every day of the year. On average, there are 3.16 millions mentions of sports each day.

And that’s just on a “normal” day. Last year, that number jumped to well over 12 million mentions during the FIFA World Cup.

Meltwater identifies 2022 as a particularly strong year in terms of growth for sports conversations. That boost is expected to carry into 2023, providing savvy operators with opportunities to leverage sports.

Per Meltwater, sports social media handles, hashtags, and keywords have grown by more than 20 percent. That’s significant growth.

Now, let’s look at the sports driving much of that growth.

Football

When I say “football” in this context, I mean the sport some people call “soccer.” So, not American football, which Dave Grohl and Crown Royal pointed out is a Canadian invention during Super Bowl LVII.

For the past few decades (at least), much has been made of Americans maligning football (soccer). Well, all the tropes of that mockery may be wearing very thin.

Last year, mentions of football keywords were up 56 percent—in the US. The second-place country was Nigeria with an increase of 33 percent.

Globally, the sport’s online conversations went up by 32 percent. The day of the FIFA World Cup final? That number exploded to 630 percent. Could be smart for operators to begin planning their World Cup promotions soon.

Baseball

There are some interesting stats surrounding baseball and online conversations.

Last year, conversations of this sport grew by just three percent. And for a country that claims the sport as their national pastime, American baseball convos saw a notable dropoff: a decrease of 11 percent.

However, baseball grew by nine percent in Canada in 2022. Japan saw an increase of 36 percent, and Venezuela was up 22 percent.

Unsurprisingly, the sport’s two largest organizations dominate baseball conversations.

Leading the charge, Major League Baseball mentions grew by 16 percent in 2022 globally, and by 54 percent in Japan. Right on MLB’s heels, Nippon Professional Baseball 23 percent globally and 28 percent in the US.

For those who are curious, three teams stood out in the baseball conversation: the Los Angeles Dodgers (+59 percent), New York Yankees (+55 percent), and NY Mets (+46 percent). However, LA Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani saw truly incredible growth with an increase of 74 percent.

An important takeaway: Baseball fans in America appear quite interested in watching (or listening to) NPB. That gives operators another organization—and all their scheduled games—to leverage.

Formula 1

Ah, my favorite sport. I’m happy (for the most part) to see this motorsport growing around the world. In fact, Formula 1 keyword mentions grew 13 percent globally, and #F1 was among the hashtags used most in 2022.

On July 3, 2022, Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz, Jr. (driver #55) won the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Red Bull’s Sergio Perez (#11) took second and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton (#44) took third. And on this day the F1 conversation skyrocketed, growing by 338 percent.

The country leading the way for F1-related keyword mentions in 2022 was Japan, growing by a staggering 91 percent.

Much of the increase in interest in F1 can be traced back to Netflix and its Drive to Survive docu-series (some call it a reality-TV drama).

Looking at American interest in the sport, it helps that there are now three races on the calendar that take place in the US: the Miami Grand Prix, the US Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX, and the Las Vegas Grand Prix. That’s three opportunities (Miami has already happened) for American operators to take advantage of this sport’s growing popularity.

Last year, former Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel ($5), Red Bull driver Max Verstappen (current champion and #1), and Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc (#16) saw the most growth in terms of individual drivers.

I can only hope that my other favorite motorsport, MotoGP, starts to become more popular throughout North America.

Takeaways

Some operators may find that sports don’t work for their concept, such as a high-end cocktail bar or fine-dining restaurant. Those are two venue types that tend to eschew televisions as they don’t work with their vibe and aesthetic.

That said, each operator must choose how to best implement sports and related promotions. This includes understanding which sports, teams, and players their guests like. Then, of course, it’s also a matter of gauging interest.

With that determined, operators must also decide how to make sports work with their concept. Some things to consider are themed F&B menus, sports-related LTOs, FoH uniforms, and how far to go with promotions. That latter consideration will depend on how rabid a fan base each operator is targeting. A truly dedicated fan base encourages some bars to “officially” support a certain team.

Another important consideration? Will leveraging a particular sport or team alienate other guests due to rivalries or a lack of interest or comfort? Sometimes the cost of implementing promotions includes pushing away a percentage of guests on particular days.

Because I live in Las Vegas, I have an array of venues available to me around the clock. It’s conceivable that I could find a home bar or restaurant to watch F1 and MotoGP. Personally, the capability of comfortably watching my two favorite sports would boost my loyalty and visits. However, there may not be a large pool of people like me in this market. Would a bartender want to turn on an F1 race just for me?

There’s a lot to consider when choosing how to best leverage sports. The upsides include converting customers to loyal, repeat guests; a realistic idea of what to consider in terms of labor and inventory for specific days, weeks, months, and seasons; and boosts in traffic, revenue, and online engagement (which in turn can translate to more traffic and revenue).

Image: Photo by PRAT clement via Pexels

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Raise the Bar: Service vs. Hospitality

Raise the Bar: Service vs. Hospitality

by David Klemt

Several spray paint cans next to one another

During the 2023 Bar & Restaurant Expo in Las Vegas, Mia Mastroianni, Art Sutley, and Phil Wills addressed what separates service from hospitality.

For the sake of those who are unfamiliar, a brief summary of each member of this informative panel. Art Sutley is a nightlife and hospitality expert recognized by Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and Thrillist (among other publications).

Phil Wills and Mia Mastroianni should be recognizable to anyone who has watched Bar Rescue. Wills co-founded Spirits in Motion, a beverage consulting agency. He’s also a bartender’s bartender who’s passionate about hospitality. Mastroianni, equally as passionate about the art of hospitality, is a seriously talented bar professional and hospitality expert who doesn’t take herself too seriously.

It’s difficult to imagine a more qualified trio when it comes to discussing the differences between service and hospitality.

What is Service?

Before they all dove in, Sutley shared a simple but impactful take on the guest experience.

“It’s checking boxes,” said Sutley. “We want each guest to check every box, and a few extra.”

That description helps draw a line between service and hospitality. Per Sutley, Mastroianni, and Wills, service is a transaction and meeting expectations. Reinforcing this idea, Wills said, “Service is black and white; it’s simple.”

Operators and their leadership teams, after developing their steps of service, can literally or figuratively track the service transaction. Training staff—from onboarding to pre-shifts—on the steps of service and an operator’s non-negotiable standards ensures the guest experience transaction is delivered as expected.

Worryingly, Mastroianni expressed her concern that the quality of service appears to be dropping. If that’s true, however, that provides an opportunity.

Per Sutley, the industry is getting more difficult. There are more competitors out there, and guest expectations are becoming increasingly stringent. So, if Mastroianni is correct and more concepts are failing to deliver on the expected service transaction, operators who commit to building and training teams that deliver high-level service will stand out.

What is Hospitality?

If service is black and white, guess what hospitality is?

“Hospitality is color,” said Wills. “And we go above and beyond to relate to guests.”

Going further, Wills said that how an operator and their team chooses to “paint the picture” defines the level of hospitality they deliver.

For Mastroianni, if service is transactional, hospitality is emotional. Hospitality is how a restaurant, bar, nightclub or hotel team makes a guest feel. Drilling deeper, hospitality is how we in this industry connect with guests on a deeper level than simply transactional service.

To throw in my two cents, I like to think that even brand-new operators understand the transactional part of hospitality. It’s the people part, the guest experience element, that catches many operators and their teams out. Service without hospitality is mediocrity in motion.

Regardless of where one stands on the topic of service vs. hospitality, it’s crucial that operators become acutely aware of the experiencing they’re giving their guests. What do they see when they look at the picture they and their team paint each shift?

Image: Emiliano Vittoriosi on Unsplash

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Ocean’s Summertime Celebrations

Ocean Casino Resort Summertime Celebrations

by David Klemt

Exterior of Ocean Casino Resort at sunset

Ocean Casino Resort is celebrating an impressive milestone all summer long through creative local business partnerships.

This summer, the resort will reach its fifth anniversary. The festivities will begin May 26, a month before Ocean’s “birthday.”

However, rather than focus solely on the resort and casino, Ocean is choosing to celebrate the community it serves as well. These fifth birthday activations and initiatives are an excellent lesson for operators across all hospitality business categories.

I’m sure operators—all hospitality professionals, really—will agree that restaurants and bars are integral elements of any community’s bedrock. Increasingly, the same can be said of hotels. In fact, large hotel groups are investing in the development of smaller imprints that are tasked with the mission of serving locals and local businesses.

When a restaurant, bar, hotel, or nightclub reaches annual milestones, it’s largely due to community support. Sure, businesses in destination cities benefit greatly from tourist visits. However, for most markets, longevity is anything but assured without local backing and buy-in.

It’s clear that the importance of local support isn’t lost on Ocean. This summer’s celebrations include several local partnerships and community initiatives to pay that support back.

Local Partnerships

Last year, the Ocean leveraged the demise of the Choco Taco. So far in 2023, Ocean has supported Philly and KC during the Big Game, and gotten creative with cocktails that raised funds for the Girl Scout Troops of Southern and Central New Jersey.

Local partnerships are key to Ocean’s five-year celebration:

  • The Seed: Created Seeds of the Ocean for Ocean’s five-year anniversary.
  • Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall: Seeds of the Ocean lager will also be available at this local beer hall.
  • Rhythm & Spirits: Joining forces with Little Water Distillery to feature their gin in the Oceans 5 cocktail.
  • Little Water Distillery: Their Rusted Revolver Indigenous Gin is the star of the Oceans 5 cocktail, mentioned above. The distillery has also created the Chocolate Cake Martini, featuring Bar 32 chocolate shavings.
  • Hank Sauce: For those who prefer their celebrations spicy, Ocean and Hank Sauce have collaborated on Across the Boards. This hot sauce will accompany food items at restaurants inside Ocean.
  • Tony Boloney’s: They’ve created the High 5 pizza to celebrate Ocean’s birthday. This is another collaboration within a collaboration, as it features Seed of the Ocean lager and Across the Boards hot sauce.
  • Bar 32: What celebration is complete without something sweet? Bar 32 (a bean-to-bar chocolatier) and Ocean will be offering three commemorative chocolate bars: the Berry Pretzel Bar, Party Pretzel Bar, and Salty Peanut Butter Bar.
  • Mudgirl Studios: Ocean has commissioned several handmade, one-of-one pieces from this non-profit that will be featured not just in common areas on the property but also in some of the guest rooms.
  • Atlantic City Arts Foundation: To help celebrate its fifth birthday, Ocean has collaborated with the ACAF for a three-panel mural that will have a home at Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall.

Creative & Compelling

What I find most notable about these local partnerships is how several of them intertwine.

Not only did Ocean commission an exclusive beer, a local restaurant chain is using it for a pizza. That same restaurant chain is also using a hot sauce Ocean had created to celebrate their milestone. There are other collaborations that bring Rhythm & Spirits, Little Water Distillery, and Bar 32 together.

However, Ocean is doing more than just supporting a select group of local businesses. Mudgirl Studios employs and empowers at-risk, homeless and formerly incarcerated women. The ACAF, as one would imagine, inspires and empowers people to pursue the arts. Both support and strengthen communities throughout Atlantic City, and Ocean is giving back by supporting them.

In addition to all of that, the celebrations kick off on Memorial Day Weekend with a $300,000 sweepstakes. All in, there will be more than $5 million in promotions and giveaways in play over the course of this summer. From June 24 to July 4, Ocean is putting up one million dollars for a second sweepstakes.

Then there are Tesla giveaways, birthday fireworks, the Birthday Bar Pop-up Experience at 1927 Lounge inside Ocean Resort Casino, and Ocean’s sponsorship of the Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival.

Nola's Bar & Lounge inside Ocean Casino Resort

Look for Ocean’s birthday drinks at property bars like Nola’s Bar & Lounge

Again, it would be easy for Ocean to have simply planned a celebratory weekend, week, or month, focusing solely on themselves. Instead, they’re involving several small businesses and community organizations.

Takeaways

Do I expect restaurant and bar operators to somehow offer $5 million in giveaways to celebrate a milestone? Or even $300,000? Perhaps a Tesla?

No, of course not.

However, I do think operators should really put thought into celebrating their annual milestones. Surviving the first 12 months is a huge achievement. Making it through the first 18 months and hitting the two-year anniversary is just as challenging.

So, operators should take four to six months to plan their celebrations. Additionally, they should view these events as a way to thank the community for supporting them. And, of course, that includes being grateful for beneficial business relationships.

When considering marking these achievements, it’s wise to include local businesses. Craft brewers and distillers, local farmers and vintners, non-profit organizations… All the better if the selected partners can collaborate with one another to make the celebration and partnerships that much more impactful.

Operators should take a page out of Ocean’s celebration handbook and look for creative, thoughtful collaborations. Doing so lifts up others and pays local support forward, in turn making the entire community stronger.

It’s perfectly acceptable for an operator to be proud and celebrate milestones. But it’s even better for operators to celebrate those who help them thrive.

Images courtesy of Ocean Casino Resort

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3 Ways to Build Revenue on Mother’s Day

3 Ways Restaurants Can Build Revenue This Mother’s Day

by Austen Asadorian

Tattoo-style rose with "Mom" ribbon

With Mother’s Day quickly approaching, there’s no doubt that operators across the country are preparing for the celebratory—yet extremely busy—day.

During their preparations, it’s important that operators find and incorporate new tools and innovative marketing tactics. Doing so will not only fill seats, it will ensure they capitalize on a key opportunity to drive incredible revenue.

Below are three simple but powerful ways operators can generate revenue and loyalty on—and beyond—this Mother’s Day.

Encourage Reservations & Offer Upgrades

An easy way to make this busy day seamless for guests—and, ultimately, staff—is to encourage and allow guests to make a reservation before they arrive. Reservations give operators insight into who will be dining with them, help optimize seatings and covers, and provide a idea of how much to order to eliminate food waste if a special menu is being offered.

Using a reservation system also provides operators with the opportunity to offer diners upgrades during the booking process, even including prepayment should they want to go that route. This not only allows operators to earn additional revenue before a guest even visits, but also a convenient way to offer guests peace of mind knowing they’ve handled that “something special” for Mom way before the big day.

These upgrades don’t have to be anything crazy or extreme (although that’s always an option). In fact, according to the National Restaurant Association, consumers want special touches and discounts over everything else. So, an upgrade can be something as simple as a beautiful flower arrangement waiting on the table to a special off-menu dessert brought out at the end of the meal.

Use Email & Social Media to Your Advantage

Properly promoting Mother’s Day offerings to guests is extremely important because if no one knows about it, who will come?

Operators should utilize tools like email marketing to send personalized communications to their guest database promoting the venue’s Mother’s Day reservation availability or special offerings. Better yet, these tools can be used to offer loyal guests reservations before they open to the general public, further creating a special experience for those faithful diners.

In the same vein, operators should harness the power of social media, too. Operators can target paid marketing efforts on social channels like Facebook and Instagram to drive even more awareness and revenue for their restaurant by creating an event, including the details of the activities, specials, or Mother’s Day promotions, and exporting the names of top guests and email data.

Surprise Them with a Second Visit

While Mother’s Day is the focus right now, it doesn’t stop there for operators. To drive the revenue they need, it’s important to turn these celebratory diners into repeat guests.

To do so, operators should consider offering Mother’s Day diners complimentary gift cards or discounts (even via email post-visit) to bring them back. This could be for an upcoming graduation, Father’s Day (so Dad can also get the love), or even for a future birthday.

This “surprise and delight” factor is one of the easiest strategies to capitalize on holiday traffic and get diners to return to a restaurant once again as a loyal guests.

Here’s to You, Mom

Moms should be celebrated every day, but especially on Mother’s Day, and it’s important to make sure they have the best experience when dining out.

By incorporating simple tactics like offering reservations and custom upgrades or even a special surprise at the end of the meal, operators not only succeed in making the day memorable, but create a guest who will return over and over again.

About Austen Asadorian

Austen Asadorian is the Vice President of Sales at SevenRooms, where he is tasked with supporting SevenRooms’ global expansion efforts and accelerating the company’s goal of being the best-in-class solution for hospitality operators globally. Prior to joining SevenRooms, Austen was Peloton’s Director of Sales, leading the company’s go-to-market strategy for retail growth and expansion. He started his career at Hillstone Restaurant Group where he cut his teeth learning how to run efficient and profitable restaurants at scale. Austen was ultimately promoted into an executive role where he oversaw the company’s Manager in Training Program and Back of House Operations. Austen graduated from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).

Image: grumpymonstergroup via Vecteezy.com

KRG Hospitality marketing plan. Restaurant. Bar. Cafe. Lounge. Hotel. Resort.

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

SevenRooms Introduces New Tool: Pre-Shift

SevenRooms Introduces New Tool: Pre-Shift

Front of house staff member using SevenRooms

A new tool from SevenRooms will help operators and their teams make the most of pre-shift meetings to deliver exceptional service.

Aptly named, Pre-Shift provides a real-time, data-driven picture of a given shift’s reservations. Operators and their leadership team members will no longer need to hit the office, navigate to the day’s reservations, and print out guest data—assuming they have such valuable information.

Further, this new feature is accessible via the venue’s devices (tablets, phones, etc.). Pre-Shift, then, offers a real-time view of reservations and robust guest data. Well ahead of arrivals, staff will know a guest’s seating preference, relationship with the venue, reviews they’ve left, allergies, and much more.

Intriguingly, Spago has been testing Pre-Shift ahead of SevenRooms’ announcement and launch. Per Steve Scott Springer, the GM of Spago of Beverly Hills, this new tool is a game-changer for restaurants.

Less than two months ago, SevenRooms launched Email Marketing. It’s likely we can expect more new features to roll out throughout 2023.

To learn more, please review the Pre-Shift press release below.

SEVENROOMS’ PRE-SHIFT FEATURE EMPOWERS TEAMS TO STREAMLINE PRE-SERVICE OPERATIONS

New data-driven tool serves as a one-stop-shop for restaurant teams to enhance the guest experience and build guest loyalty

NEW YORK (May 3, 2023) – SevenRooms, a global guest experience and retention platform for the hospitality industry, today announced a new product feature, Pre-Shift, which provides operators with key shift details they can leverage to inform and lead pre-service meetings. Pre-Shift is built to power and simplify pre-service meetings for restaurant operators and their staff around the world.

The new feature provides operators a real-time, unified view of everything they need ahead of each shift and saves employees’ time with an out-of-the-box informational report. Instead of paper print-outs and laborious briefing forms, Pre-Shift allows teams to harness rich customer data with up-to-the-minute information on every guest joining during that shift.

With ongoing labor shortages, Pre-Shift is a crucial tool in helping operators save time on administrative tasks like pulling guest and reservation data to optimize a team’s pre-shift meeting ahead of service with all stakeholders. This allows operators and staff to instead focus on delivering exceptional, personalized experiences the moment that guest walks through the door. Operators have the ability to embrace new consumer expectations to provide an incredible guest journey from start to finish.

By incorporating this tool, staff can utilize SevenRooms’ rich guest data and Auto-Tags to educate themselves on incoming guests. The tool highlights valuable insights such as allergy information, dining preferences, previous experiences with the restaurant, and positive/negative reviews. It also provides a quick snapshot of that day’s notes on menu specials, private events or special requests, making it easy for staff to reference back to quickly throughout the course of service. Whether it’s the maître d, host, server or back of house employees, Pre-Shift enables all staff with the information they need to deliver exceptional service, build guest loyalty, and keep up with diner expectations as they continue to evolve.

Pre-Shift helps restaurants deliver personalized hospitality at scale with invisible technology. Guest and reservation data can be accessed on the fly without double clicks or additional navigation via iPhone and iPads for the utmost convenience. No other reservation management product on the market today offers such a robust overview with automated guest data incorporated into its dashboard, saving operators time as they set up for service.

“The magic of SevenRooms is in the way that we’re able to serve up relevant guest information to restaurants at key points of service. Our new Pre-shift view takes that magic one step further by strategically aggregating the most important guest insights before service even begins,” said Allison Page, Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer at SevenRooms. “We seamlessly take the data available for a shift and serve up key insights that the front of house should be aware of heading into service – for instance, guests with a high propensity to spend, guests who have previously left negative reviews, guests with allergies and more. Pre-Shift provides operators a real-time, unified view that takes pre-service preparation to a whole new level, ultimately providing guests with exceptional, frictionless experiences.”

“Pre-Shift is a great addition to Spago’s pre-service meeting,” said Steve Scott Springer, General Manager at Spago Beverly Hills. “When we began using the group-by server feature, it really was an ‘a-ha’ moment. This is exactly the way every restaurant wants to prep their employees ahead of a shift. We put the entire view up on a screen so our team can see and follow along. This is so much easier than what we used to do – it’s a no-brainer.”

For more information about SevenRooms and its services, please visit www.sevenrooms.com.

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: MGM Resorts International, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Wynn Resorts, Jumeirah Group, Wolfgang Puck, Michael Mina, Bloomin’ Brands, Giordano’s, LDV Hospitality, Zuma, Australian Venue Company, Altamarea Group, AELTC, The Wolseley Hospitality Group, Dishoom, Live Nation and Topgolf.  www.sevenrooms.com

Image: SevenRooms

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

5 Books to Read this Month: May 2023

5 Books to Read this Month: May 2023

by David Klemt

Flipping through an open book

Our engaging and informative May book selections will take your front and back of house to the next level, and help develop your leadership skills.

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

Let’s jump in!

Contagious You: Unlock Your Power to Influence, Lead, and Create the Impact You Want

This is one of three books KRG Hospitality’s Jennifer Radkey read in February. It’s the sequel to a book titled Contagious Culture, which we featured last month.

From Amazon: “For anyone who’s sought to create change, or felt sucked into the drama and chaos of a toxic work environment, this book will advance the notion that everyone at an organization is a leader—for good or for bad—and that leaders have tremendous power to influence those who follow their example. The quality of our leadership is based upon our intentions, energy, and presence. By emphasizing authorship, self-care, and response-ability (not responsibility) as leadership skills and therefore cultural amplifiers, Contagious You shows you how to walk the path of more effective leadership while navigating the road blocks in your way. Whether these road blocks are working with negative co-workers with secret agendas and unrealistic expectations, or just the general ‘busyness’ of life and its excessive demands, this book will take you on a journey to create more space, more courageous leadership, and stronger collaboration to influence others and create the impact you desire.”

Grab this book today: click here.

Chef’s PSA: Culinary Leadership Fundamentals

If Chef’s PSA sounds familiar, that’s probably because it’s a series of four books. We included another book in the series, How Not to be the Biggest Idiot in the Kitchen, last December in our last book roundup of 2022.

Culinary Leadership Fundamentals is intended to prepare chefs to lead a brigade. It’s one thing to know how to prepare food; it’s another to know how to be the leader in the kitchen. Of course, this book is also full of valuable information for owners and operators. After all, they should know how their chef is approaching their role.

From Amazon: “When you become a Chef for the first time you may be put in a position where you know how to cook but not how to lead and manage. This book will teach you everything you need to know to become a Chef Leader in the kitchen. From how to manage costs, build a team, market yourself and overcome adversity. This is the book every Chef needs if they want a competitive edge in running a successful kitchen.”

Pick it up today!

Southern Cooking, Global Flavors

Chef Kenny Gilbert’s journey through the culinary world is epic. By the age of seven he had shown such an interest in the art of BBQ that his father bought him his first grill, a small Weber. After high school he moved from his hometown to Cleveland to attend the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute. After graduation, Chef Gilbert entered into an apprenticeship at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, in Florida. By age 23, Chef Gilbert earned the role of Chef de Cuisine. He has also opened restaurants and led the culinary programs at restaurants and hotel properties not only throughout Florida but also Colorado, Georgia, throughout the Caribbean, France, Japan, and Spain. Oh, and there was Chef Gilbert’s Top Chef season seven appearance, plus the development of his own line of spices and rubs.

His newly released book features 100 recipes that put international spins on southern classics. Pick up Southern Cooking, Global Flavors today!

The Ice Book: Cool Cubes, Clear Spheres, and Other Chill Cocktail Crafts

We’ve addressed the need to compliment your cocktail menu with a dedicated ice program. This book, available now for pre-order, is from world-renowned cocktail and spirits writer Camper English. Not only does it include easy-to-follow instructions for you and your bar team to elevate your cocktail program, from full-proof to zero-ABV drinks. The Ice Book, then, is aptly titled—it’s everything you need to introduce a memorable drinking experience.

From Amazon: “In The Ice Book, internationally renowned cocktail icepert Camper English details how to use directional freezing to make perfectly pure ice in a home freezer, carve it up into giant diamonds and other shapes, and embed it with garnishes, including edible orchids and olives. You’ll learn how to create a frozen bowl for Negroni punch, serve a Manhattan inside an ice sphere, and infuse cubes with colors and flavors to create cranberry cobblers, a color-changing Gin and Tonic, and other awesome drinks.”

The Book of Cocktail Ratios: The Surprising Simplicity of Classic Cocktails

Long-time subscribers to KRG Hospitality’s newsletters and readers of our articles know that I love a controversial take on cocktails. Take, for instance, the origin of the Margarita. Well, the opening sentence from the description for The Book of Cocktail Ratios certainly got my attention.

From Amazon: “Did you know that a Gimlet, a Daiquiri, and a Bee’s Knees are the same cocktail? As are a Cosmopolitan, a Margarita, and a Sidecar. When hosting a party wouldn’t you enjoy saying to your guests, ‘Would you care for a Boulevardier, perhaps, or a Negroni?’ These, too, are the same cocktail, substituting one ingredient for another. Or if you’d like to be able to shake up a batch of whiskey sours for a party of eight in fewer than two minutes, then read on.

As Michael Ruhlman explains, our most popular cocktails are really ratios—proportions of one ingredient relative to the others. Organized around five of our best-known, beloved, classic families of cocktails, each category follows a simple ratio from which myriad variations can be built: The Manhattan, The Gimlet, The Margarita, The Negroni, and the most debated cocktail ever, The Martini.”

This book should provide you and your bar team with a totally different perspective when it comes to drink ratios. Pre-order your copy today!

Image: Mikołaj on Unsplash

KRG Hospitality advanced bar education

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Program for Unique Holidays: May 2023

Program for Unique Holidays: May 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 May holiday promotions.

Several holidays are set against every date on the calendar, and May 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 April 2023 holidays list, click here.

May 5: National Silence The Shame Day

Much progress has been made when it comes to reducing the stigma around mental health issues. However, there’s still much more work to do.

The focus of this holiday is just that: removing that stigma. You can use this holiday to encourage the conversation, raise awareness for issues close to you and your team, or to raise funds for a charitable mental health organization.

May 6: World Naked Gardening Day

Okay, so, unless you own a very niche restaurant, bar, or resort, please don’t celebrate this holiday naked while at work. Instead, celebrate the spirit of this holiday: reconnecting with and honoring nature.

One easy way to do this is to feature cocktails made and garnished with fresh ingredients: rosemary, citrus, juices, etc. And again, you can raise money for any number of conservation organizations dedicated to safeguarding natural resources.

May 8: National Have a Coke Day

Rum and Coke. Bourbon and Coke. Jack and Coke. Whiskey and Coke. If you’re a Coke restaurant or bar, you know what to do on this holiday. If you’re not, well… I guess you can program against it and launch National Don’t Have a Coke Day.

May 10: National Third Shift Workers Day

Depending on your hours of operation, this is an easy holiday to program around. To offer up just a few ideas: healthy meal options; restorative beverages; third-shift-specific LTOs.

May 16: National Do Something Good For Your Neighbor Day

Restaurants, bars, and hotels are the heart and soul of communities around the world. Use this day to give back to those who support you.

May 17: National Pack Rat Day

I’m sure if we all look around our homes we’ll see that maybe we have too much stuff. This is another excellent holiday to give back to our communities.

One way to do this is to host a clothing, canned food, or other resource drive. Donations can be rewarded with LTO items to encourage participation.

May 20: National be a Millionaire Day

Well, you probably can’t turn your guests into millionaires. However, you can certainly help your guests drink like one. While you can shine a spotlight on your super- and ultra-premium spirits, there’s another way: the Millionaire cocktail.

  • 2 oz. Bourbon
  • 0.75 oz. Grand Marnier
  • 0.25 oz. Absinthe or pastis
  • 0.5 oz. Grenadine
  • 0.5 oz. Egg white
  • 0.5 oz. Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • Freshly grated nutmeg to garnish

Prepare a coupe by adding ice to chill it. Dry shake all the ingredients, minus the nutmeg. Add ice and shake again until well chilled, then double-strain the prepared coupe. Garnish by grating nutmeg over the top of the glass.

Want to kick things up a notch? Offer the Billionaire cocktail:

  • 2 oz. Baker’s 107-proof bourbon
  • 1 oz. Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 0.5 oz. Grenadine
  • 0.5 oz. Simple syrup
  • 0.25 oz. Absinthe bitters
  • Lemon wheel to garnish

Prepare a cocktail glass by adding ice to chill it. Add all ingredients except lemon wheel to a shaker with ice. Shake until well chilled, then strain into the cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

May 25: Sing Out Day

I mean, if there was ever a day to promote karaoke, this is the one. Even better if you can design a competition around it to maximize engagement.

May 26: World Lindy Hop Day

Alright, I’m going to do it—I’m going to suggest you leverage TikTok and Instagram. The Lindy Hop is a dance, I can tell you right now that there’s at least a fair chance that people will be featuring this dance (or variations of it) on social media. So, time for you, your team, and guests who want to participate to learn the Lindy Hop.

May 30: National Mint Julep Day

There are a few easy ways to celebrate National Mint Julep Day. The first, of course, is to perfect your venue’s Mint Julep. The second? Offer a variety of Mint Julep riffs: chocolate, peach, tequila, mezcal, sage, basil… Come up with three or four and your LTO is all set.

A third way is to feature this year’s Kentucky Derby $1,000 Mint Julep Experience recipe, Secretariat’s Mint Julep:

Pack a Julep cup with crushed ice, making sure to make a dome over the lip of the cup. Add the whiskey and liqueur to a mixing glass and stir. Pour over the prepared cup. Garnish with one sprig of mint and one stalk of Virginia bluebells. ($1,000 price tag optional.)

Image: Ivan Bertolazzi on Pexels

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