Want a menu that keeps customers and profits coming in? It may have as much to do with psychology as with your ingredient list. Foodable recently recommended these strategies based on a number of psychological studies:
- More menu choices make guests anxious, so they default to safe choices instead of trying something new. Keep your menu manageable by grouping food into categories with no more than seven options each.
- To boost sales of an item, try grouping it with other items that demonstrate its value – much like movie theaters offer a large bucket of popcorn that’s only slightly more expensive than the medium size.
- If you list a menu item as the “favorite” of customers, people who run the business, or even reviewers on social media, your guests will subconsciously want to like it too.
- Somehow, listing a menu item as “$20” instead of “20” or even “twenty dollars” reminds guests they will lose money at the end of their meal. Omit dollar signs and use that space on the menu to describe the food so guests focus on the experience of eating – not the experience of paying the bill.
The numbers are in: 2015 has been the fifth consecutive calendar year in which restaurants added at least 300,000 jobs, according to the National Restaurant Association. It’s a good sign for the health of the industry, though the shrinking labor pool may pose more of a challenge to operators in 2016. One in five operators who participated in the National Restaurant Association’s recent Restaurant Industry Tracking Survey indicated that recruiting and retaining employees is their top challenge – that’s up from just 4% last year and may continue to climb as the U.S. economy improves.
We Have No Bananas?
Walk into any supermarket and you’ll find cheap bananas from thousands of miles away. To keep costs low, banana giants like Chiquita and Dole have cultivated their fruit to eliminate variety. But according to a Washington Post report, that lack of variation makes bananas more susceptible to Panama Disease. In the mid-1900s, it wiped out the once-ubiquitous Gros Michel banana variety, which preceded the Cavendish variety that commands 99% of the market today. A new study says the disease is killing banana plants around the world and will eventually hit Latin America, dooming the Cavendish variety to extinction within decades. Banana producers will have to use that time to find new varieties for supermarket shelves – or change their methods of cultivating them.
Restaurants Reuse their Booze to Reduce Waste
The food sustainability movement is hitting the bars. NPR reports that though restaurant employees have historically discarded the alcohol, beer and wine leftover in bottles they pour by the glass, they are now finding new uses for the excess. Leftover booze, along with items like fruity mixers, fruit rinds and pulp, are making their way into menu items like marinades, sorbet, liqueurs and sangria. The report noted that better communication between kitchen and bar staff is helping to ensure all leftover ingredients find a use that eliminates waste, saves money and pleases the customer too.
Smoke ‘em if You Got ‘em
Smoky scents and flavors are among the top food and beverage trends expected in 2016, according to Technomic. Whether you’re looking to give your restaurant a cozy feel by cooking over fire or if you want to give fire-infused foods a larger place on your menu, there are tools to help. A Nation’s Restaurant News report says chefs are grilling with different woods, including apple, cherry, hickory and pear wood, to bring out a protein’s flavors – along with smoking, sous vide and rotisserie roasting. Eager to try new equipment? To lock in smoky flavors, the report recommends tools like the Josper oven, a combination grill and oven that speeds up cooking time, and the C-Vap or combi oven, which slow cook meats without losing their juices.
Japan Cracks Down on Food Export Labels
Do your food labels tell the real story? Japan is about to introduce a geographic indication label on a variety of the specialty foods it produces. Much like how a trademark works, the label will be used to prevent restaurateurs and farmers from calling their meat Kobe beef, for example, unless it comes from the Hyogo Prefecture of Japan. The regulation could soon apply to about two-dozen brands associated with specific geographic areas. In addition to Kobe beef, Yoburi melons, Aomori cassis (black currants), and Yame gyokuro green tea are expected to make the list, according to Nikkei.
How Much for the Meal of a Lifetime?
If your restaurant aspires to provide guests with once-in-a-lifetime dining experiences, take note: Restaurant Business reports that a Harris Poll sponsored by the Michelin Guide asked approximately 2,000 American adults how much they would pay for the best meal of their lives. The answer was $203 on average, with Millennials willing to pay $282, 45-to-54-year-olds willing to pay $170 and those 65 and older willing to pay $122. The top destinations for these hypothetical meals were steakhouses, followed by Italian and Mexican restaurants.
Antibiotic Use on Farms is On the Rise
Consumers are demanding meat, pork and poultry producers back off on the antibiotics they use. The biggest brands in the food industry are echoing the sentiment. But according to the Food and Drug Administration, sales of antibiotics for farm use increased in 2014, as they had in previous years. The numbers may not reflect more recent steps by food companies to eliminate antibiotics from the foods they sell. A report about the data from NPR noted that the FDA has taken steps to stop the use of these drugs to promote the growth of livestock by the end of 2017.
Chipotle Launches Food Safety Upgrades
Another day, another E. Coli outbreak linked to Chipotle. To date, illnesses have been reported in Washington, Oregon, California, Ohio, New York, Minnesota, Illinois and Maryland. While Chipotle says it has served one million customers a day without incident since the outbreaks began, the chain just announced these upgraded food safety measures that, if successful, could make the chain an industry leader in food safety. See how your restaurant compares:
- Conducting high-resolution, DNA-based testing of all fresh produce prior to shipping it to restaurants to ensure quality and safety of ingredients. This far exceeds state, federal and industry requirements.
- Testing ingredient samples at the end of their shelf life to ensure ingredients have maintained their quality.
- Reviewing test results to measure supply chain performance and pursue continuous improvements.
- Refine employee training procedures to ensure all employees understand the company’s standards for food safety.
Researchers estimate there are 15 million Americans with food allergies and more than 250 allergens have been identified to date. Eating out can be a minefield for those with allergies and the National Restaurant Association recommends a number of actions to protect your customers and business. Use color-coded, allergen-specific tools and cookware if possible. Know your menu ingredients and pre-empt substitutions by omitting common allergens. Empower your staff so they know how to keep your restaurant safe. That could include providing training for front- and back-of-house employees and having a certified manager on hand during the guest’s visit. Technology can help too: Some point-of-sale systems have an allergen key that, when pressed by a server, triggers a back-of-house protocol for handling the allergy. Allergen matrices – P.F. Chang’s uses one – can also scan your menu for allergens and provide guests with a menu that considers their needs.
That’s Uber-Fast Delivery
Uber has big plans to expand and improve its food delivery service. The ride-sharing service is launching a stand-alone UberEATS app, which Restaurant Business reports will offer food from a wide range of restaurants, expand delivery hours and offer an Instant Delivery option that promises lunches deliveries in as few as 10 minutes. The stand-alone app is currently available in Toronto but other cities shouldn’t be far behind. Earlier this year in a number of U.S. cities, Uber launched UberEATS as a feature of its main app.