Culinary travel is on the rise. Food-focused tourists spend freely on cuisine and 71 percent of them want to support local restaurants that feature local or regional specialties. That’s according to the World Food Travel Association’s recent study, which surveyed 2,527 leisure travelers from 10 countries, with a focus on the U.S. One finding of the study indicated that culinary tourists are just as apt to ask their hotel’s concierge for restaurant recommendations as consult online reviews. If you want to attract culinary tourists to your establishment, Restaurant Hospitality recommends you expand your marketing to Airbnb hosts as well – or even becoming a host yourself – to make your restaurant a must-visit stop for traveling foodies.
Competing with tech? Amp up your benefits
In many cities across the U.S., restaurants seeking employees often have to go up against tech companies who can usually offer higher salaries, easier hours, free food and a host of other perks. How to compete? Eater reports that to attract employees and keep them happy, Ryan Cole, co-owner of several San Francisco restaurants, now offers a customizable monthly benefits package that includes sommelier certification reimbursement, dining credits, movie tickets, commuter checks and other options. Employees can also invest in any new restaurant launched by the owners. Cole and his partners fund the program through check surcharges noted on each bill (an existing surcharge of 2 percent to cover healthcare costs was increased to 3 percent in most of their restaurants). He says the surcharges have not turned off guests and even if the restaurants make less per month than before, he feels he will save money down the line because he has built a team for the long term.
Create an ideal labor budget
Does your restaurant focus on labor cost targets or food cost targets that dictate if and when to cut staff during a shift? Do you have incentive or bonus plans tied to meeting these objectives? If so, you may be sacrificing the quality of your guests’ experience with you, according to a Restaurant Owner report. These targets, often based on industry averages and not on the day-to-day business you’re running, make it common for a restaurant to cut staff during an evening shift if, for example, it overspent earlier in the day. Instead, the report recommends you create an ideal labor budget that identifies your best benchmarks for maximizing efficiency and satisfying the greatest number of guests. This will help ensure you’re not cutting much-needed staff to meet your daily budget.
Operators concerned over economy but don’t expect recession
Restaurant operators are showing some raised concern over the economy – but it falls short of the level indicating a recession is imminent, according to the National Restaurant Association’s Chief Economist Bruce Grindy. In the association’s most recent monthly survey of operators, 12 percent indicated they expect economic conditions to improve in the next six months, 25 percent expect conditions to worsen and the remaining 63 percent expect conditions to remain the same. Past results indicate we’d need to see a negative operator outlook of 35 percent to suggest a recession is on the horizon. Note, however, that Britain’s vote to leave the European Union occurred after the survey. Results in the coming months could be telling for restaurant operators, since they are among the first to see evidence of the change in consumer sentiment that ushers in an economic shift.
When investors come knocking
The National Restaurant Association estimates that each year, 60,000 restaurants open and 50,000 close. If your restaurant is among those opening this year and would-be investors approach you about supporting the venture, consider these recommendations from restaurant group owners in U.S. News & World Report: Accommodate a range of styles – some investors who simply enjoy your brand may be good ambassadors, while others may have operational expertise you can tap. Fine-tune your business plan, check your occupancy costs (they should not exceed 8 to 10 percent) and ensure you can explain any cash-flow projections you make. Understand your projected rate of return so you know how your projected cash flow compares with the capital you need to open – that will affect how much investor support you need. Finally, since restaurants are risky investments, show how you can scale your brand to ensure your restaurant is among the ones that last.
Help your suppliers support your food safety efforts
Do your suppliers share your food safety values? QSR web recommends you take these steps to find out: When you consider using a new supplier, research their history and processes and interview their references. Ensure communication between you is transparent – share your future plans and ask for detailed information about their products and sourcing so you can share it with your guests. Test your onboarding system and provide new suppliers with training to make them aware of how you work and to help smooth their transition. Finally, use food safety and traceability software so you can quickly get to the heart of any food safety issue that arises along the supply chain.
Sustainably sourced fish even harder to find
Global fish consumption has reached unsustainable levels, according to a report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Overfishing is particularly common in the Pacific and for the first time, people are consuming more farm-raised than wild-caught fish. Eater reports that to follow sustainable practices for sourcing fish, some chefs are now finding creative ways to use “bycatch” on their menus – commercial fishing boats’ unintended catches.
Simplification sparks guest satisfaction
Less is more when it comes to menus right now. Restaurants that have limited and simplified their menus have reported an uptick in business, according to Technomic. According to a Restaurant Business report on the findings, restaurants have scaled down their menu options to make room for improvements including specialization (focusing on quality and freshness), customization (a small core offering but increased add-ons to allow guests to make the meal of their choice) and description (more space available on the menu to describe the details of the items listed).
Food delivery, Uber style
Next up for food delivery: surge pricing. Food & Wine reports that the same supply-and-demand model that makes Uber rides more expensive during a rainstorm could be coming to the food delivery industry in the near term. Michael DiBenedetto, cofounder and CEO of the food delivery search engine Bootler, said food delivery companies will need to compensate for rising driver costs. Charging consumers variable delivery costs can help companies cover those expenses. So a steaming bowl of soup could be significantly cheaper on a hot July day than it would be during a January freeze.
Striking the right technology balance
There is always a push to adopt more technology – but National Restaurant Association research indicates 61 percent of consumers aged 18 to 34 say they prefer to interact with restaurant staff over restaurant technology. Modern Restaurant Management offers up one option for tableside tech that may satisfy guests’ preferences for human interaction and your desire for tech-driven efficiency: Dickie Brennan’s Restaurants in New Orleans has implemented a mobile payment platform called RAIL. It extends their restaurants’ point-of-sale system to the table and is delivered not by a tablet anchored to the table but by a system that looks much like a typical bill folder. It arrives at the table when the guests need to pay – not before. It allows for payment by smartphone, gift card, chip-based credit card, etc., and can carry out functions like calculating the tip, splitting the bill according to your preference, and issuing email receipts.