If your guests think you have a dirty restaurant, you’re not likely to get a second chance with them. In addition to obvious problems like overflowing trash bins and bug infestations, Restaurant News recommends you pay special attention to these problem areas: Floors, ceiling fans and décor around the restaurant can accumulate dirt and dust – make sure your guests don’t see any. Silverware and glasses should be spotless. Give table tops an extra once-over, along with any condiment containers stored on each table – they can accumulate grease and grime that are more obvious to customers than they are to busy waitstaff. Finally, your customers will make assumptions about the cleanliness of your kitchen based on the cleanliness of your restroom, so keep it pristine by regularly clearing garbage and monitoring its condition.
Hone your business plan
Restaurant operators often overlook the importance of a strong business plan – especially when opening their second or third restaurant, according to FSR magazine. But in doing so, they risk losing financing from banks, investors and other sources. So remember these key components when drafting your business plan: Your executive summary is your restaurant wrapped up in a small package – use it to introduce and summarize the main idea behind your business. Provide a company description that covers the restaurant’s ownership and management structure, business concept and vision for the customer experience. Include an analysis of the industry and your competition. Explain your plans for marketing your restaurant before and after it opens. Provide a snapshot of how the business will operate day to day, including inventory and staff management. Perhaps most importantly, include a financial analysis – with projected revenue, costs, profit and loss – to describe to investors how you will spend their investment in the first year.
Commodity prices continue to favor restaurant operators
If your restaurant specializes in expensive dishes – like lobster, shrimp and beef, for example – now could be a good time to stock up on bargains. Restaurant Hospitality reports that wholesale food prices, which were already down 2.9 percent through April, are expected to remain steady or continue their decline for the remainder of the year. Commodities on a downward pricing trend include beef, poultry, pork, corn, cheese and coffee. Fresh produce, on the other hand, is one of the only commodities trending upward due to drought conditions.
To bring guests closer to food, embrace the daily grind
Want to stay at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement? Start milling your own flour. FSR magazine reports that more restaurants are grinding flour and other grains for pasta and baked goods as a way of moving beyond sourcing local foods and growing produce. Chefs say the milled grains have a richer aroma and flavor, but perhaps more importantly, they give restaurateurs a compelling story to tell their guests.
Be ready when the inspector calls
Does an impending visit from a health inspector spike your blood pressure? Restaurant Hospitality recommends you consider these do’s and don’ts to get strong inspection scores: Review previous inspection results to understand your restaurant’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to food safety. Put on your health inspector hat and perform a surprise inspection each week. Hold regular meetings with staff to educate them about evolving food safety techniques. As for the don’ts, remember these commonly occurring violations: Failure to store food properly, failure to follow sanitizing regulations and failure to maintain kitchen exhaust hood systems (a significant fire risk).
Spritz out grill flare-ups
If your restaurant grills outdoors during the summer months, the food and technology company ChefSteps has a tip for cooking meat to perfection. In a report in Eater, the company’s cofounder suggests chefs keep a spray bottle of water on hand when grilling. When fat drips down on a grill’s charcoal or embers, the resulting flare-ups can give meat an ashy or burnt taste. A quick spray onto the flare-up will protect the flavor of the food and keep flames at bay.
A new chapter for food and drink?
Barnes & Noble just announced it will start selling beer and wine in several of their stores as a means of driving more customers to the retailer. In an Inc. report about the news, Bloomberg said Barnes & Noble’s plan is evidence of brick-and-mortar retailers shifting toward offering experiences as opposed to just physical goods. Some say this trend could create more competitors for restaurants but fear not – others see opportunities for restaurants to partner with retailers to provide new experiences for customers.
Insights from the Yelp Whisperer
Stephen Maly of the New York City hospitality group In Good Company has written more than 1,000 responses to both positive and negative Yelp reviews of his company’s restaurants, Eater reports. That’s given him plenty of opportunity to hone his creativity: He has taken to responding to guest comments with celebrity quotations, like this one (following a negative review) borrowed from former President Bill Clinton: “If you live long enough, you'll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you'll be a better person.” (Of course, in addition to posting the quote, Maly also included an apology and tried to make things right with the customer.) His approach has earned him the nickname “Yelp Whisperer” and, even better, it has opened up a dialogue with customers who often write back in response to a clever quotation.
Business recovery by way of a loyalty program
If your business needs a jolt, consider what Chipotle is doing to recover sales, which have dropped significantly in recent months: Unveil a new loyalty program. Chipotle is doing just that for a limited time this summer to bring business back, track purchases and identify their most valuable customers. A guest begins to earn rewards from the program after dining at Chipotle four times in one month. The program has three tiers, with each tier rewarding guests with a free entrée and allowing them to qualify for an additional bonus at summer’s end. In the past, Chipotle leaders have said a loyalty program would not be worth the cost, according to the Chicago Tribune. But by offering the program as a time-limited promotion, they’re hoping to be able to gain valuable insight that will be the key to turning business around.
New apps help consumers connect with chefs
Some are calling it Airbnb for the restaurant industry: New apps are making it possible for chefs in an increasing number of cities around the world to provide consumers with home-cooked meals. Sometimes the meals are served in the chef’s home by reservation, sometimes in the consumer’s home, and sometimes just packaged and delivered to the consumer at an agreed-upon location. According to the Guardian, apps including EatAbout, DishNextDoor, EatWith and ChefXChange are all bringing chefs (and the food they prepare) closer to the people they are serving – and may create another category of competition for restaurants.