Like it or not, your restaurant may have more of a captive audience in its restroom than in its dining room – so pay attention to the brand message you communicate there. Your restroom sends a message about your restaurant’s personality and attention to detail. If it’s a mess, customers will assume your kitchen is even worse, notes global restaurant consultantcy Aaron Allen & Associates. But beyond cleanliness, your restroom should carry over the atmosphere customers experience when they’re in your dining room – with its design, surface colors and materials, artwork, music and even messaging.
Keep competitors at a distance
Thriving in the restaurant business is challenging enough without a competitor moving in a few doors down. How can you avoid it? Do some due diligence before you sign your lease to prevent an unwelcome neighbor from moving in. A Restaurant Hospitality report recommends you and your landlord negotiate an exclusive use provision that spells out the scope of your exclusive right – e.g., if you operate a sports bar, you may want to restrict competitors who show sports competitions on television within a set distance from your business. Then, determine what happens in the event of a breach of that agreement – including rent decreases, freedom to cancel the lease, and actions by the landlord to settle the problem with the violating tenant.
Infuse your menu with superfoods
Between 2011 and 2015, there was a 202 percent increase globally in the number of new food and drink products launched that include the terms “superfood,” “superfruit” or “supergrain,” according to research from Mintel. Last year alone saw the launch of 36 percent more of these “super” products intended to boost health, with the U.S. leading other nations. Consumers are demanding more of these products in their diets. But Restaurant Hospitality claims restaurants have been slow to embrace this trend on their menus, with the exception of the Cheesecake Factory, which has a menu section dedicated to superfoods. Has your menu embraced superfoods?
How much for a slow-raised chicken?
For years, the chicken industry has tried to find new ways to grow its poultry fast, often sacrificing the health of the chicken in the process. Now, as more consumers are pushing for hormone-free chicken raised in good conditions, the Wall Street Journal reports that some businesses that buy chickens are looking for breeders to slow down the growth process. Whole Foods and other foodservice brands have shown a willingness to pay more for the result. Now, the challenge for breeders is to calculate the best market price on a “slow-raised chicken” – prepare to reword your menus in the months to come.
Deliver the goods
A new report from Nation’s Restaurant News finds that delivery traffic grew 9 percent between 2012 and 2015 – more than on-site, carryout and drive-thru traffic combined. Last year, restaurant delivery represented 1.7 billion annual visits and $13.6 billion in sales. The benefits are hard to ignore – an average check for a delivery order, according to the report, is 63 percent higher than a check for guests dining in the restaurant. A large portion of these orders (46 percent) come from families with kids.
Go to college to find your customers – and competition
College students are most likely to spend their discretional money on food as opposed to clothing or electronics, according to Datassential’s new survey of 1,000 college students. These students report a preference for fast, fresh, made-to-order, healthy foods they can customize. SmartBrief reports that in order to keep students’ dining dollars on campus and stay current with restaurant trends, they are investing in fast-casual concepts and food trucks that to provide an enticing alternative to eating out. Restaurants in the vicinity of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have actually complained in recent months because the quality of the on-campus dining options keep students from looking for off-campus alternatives.
A truce in the quick-service vs. fast-casual war?
Competition between quick-service and fast-casual segments is not what you think it is, according to the Washington Post. The newspaper reports that marketing firm xAd analyzed 30 million visits to 12 of the largest quick-service brands between January and March of this year. While popular opinion has said the explosive growth of the fast-casual industry has hurt quick-service brands, xAd found that was not true. Their research indicated that these segments are siloed – restaurants are more likely to compete with other restaurants within their own segment. So if one quick-service brand has a dip in business, chances are their customers have headed down the street to another quick-service restaurant instead of crossing over into the fast-casual category.
Produce imports most frequently refused for safety concerns
When checking imported foods for health safety violations, the FDA refuses more shipments of produce (26.6 percent) than any other food category including seafood (20.5 percent), according to a report by the USDA’s Economic Research Service. To protect against the spread of illness spread by produce, the National Restaurant Association recommends ordering fresh produce regularly and monitoring each delivery carefully. Check the condition of the container and truck, look for dirt or signs of pests, and ensure fresh-cut produce has not expired and is delivered at the proper temperature. Keep raw, whole produce and cut vegetables on ice (changed regularly) in a self-draining container. Cut melons, tomatoes and leafy greens must be stores at 41°F or cooler. Store produce away from raw meat, poultry and seafood – and don’t let it come into contact with surfaces where those items are prepared.
Deconstruct your digital domain
More than 89 percent of restaurant guests research restaurants online before they visit, according to G/O Digital Marketing. So you don’t just need a website, you need a good one. The National Restaurant Association recommends you treat each page as a piece of real estate, spacing elements so they get the right exposure, don’t compete with each other and are easy to navigate. Be concise and make every word count. Use colors and typography that communicate your restaurant’s vibe. Include crisp photos and professional-quality video. Develop a ranked set of goals for your website – e.g., to get visitors to sign up for your newsletter, connect with you on a social media, place more takeout orders, etc. – and organize your site to make it easy for visitors to help you achieve those goals.
Mobile ordering on the move
Mobile ordering is making its mark on the quick-service and fast-casual industries. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, 41 percent of delivery orders are made via the Internet or an app, up 75 percent since 2012. Business Insider says delivery-driven restaurants, like pizza chains, are especially affected by changes in mobile ordering as many top pizza brands derive more than half of their sales from mobile channels. But brands that don’t sell pizza are reaping the benefits of mobile ordering too. In the first quarter of this year, 24 percent of Starbucks orders were placed via the store’s app, which links ordering, payment and the rewards program – and will soon include a prepaid Visa card that helps customers earn rewards points.