About 63% of consumers read menu boards to learn about restaurant specials but only 30% of operators use them to feature their promotions. That’s according to a QSR article about Datassential’s Menu Board Keynote Report, which indicated that most operators aren’t using their signage as effectively as they could. Just 16% of operators use digital signs, for example, though they allow operators to introduce new menu items, vary descriptions, rotate promotional offers, and save money on over the long term on the cost of traditional printed menus. Even if low-tech, chalkboard signage is a better fit for your business, make sure it’s placed where people can easily read it and absorb the information you want to promote.
Outsource your loyalty program
Consumers expect their favorite businesses to have loyalty programs that reward their patronage and encourage them to return. Restaurants want to provide them – but many small- to medium-size operators don’t have the capacity to run one in-house. If that’s your situation, Restaurant Hospitality recommends you consider companies that operate card-linked offer (CLO) programs. Customers sign up when they pay with their debit or credit card; then rewards are automatically loaded into a rewards account every time the customer swipes the card to pay a restaurant check. The CLO company handles all advertising, program management and support so you can stay focused on providing great food and service. Just try to anticipate how your program will evolve so you don’t annoy customers with changes (as Starbucks has lately).
Opportunity for full-service independents as economy rebounds
Commerce is on the rise and developers are looking for standout independent operators to bring unique flair to new shopping developments in varied markets across the country. In an FSR report, industry experts said in recent months, developers nationwide have been showing a keen interest in newer concepts and independent restaurants when conceiving of a space. These locations can boost your sales – just protect yourself. Ensure you have neighbors with the same quality standards you have, multiple traffic drivers targeting consumers in your desired demographic, and lease protections in case the developer doesn’t follow through on promises.
Ruling prevents restaurants from forcing staff to share tips
Just when you thought you’d heard every side of the tipping debate, an appeals court in California upheld a 2011 decision to prevent restaurants from making servers and bartenders share their tips with back-of-house employees, according to the Los Angeles Times. The ruling also applies to six other states – Alaska, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington – where service employees earn the state’s full minimum wage, not the lower tipped minimum wage, plus gratuities.
Delivery growth hits double digits
Now is the time to align with a delivery service if you haven’t done so already. According to a report by the NPD Group, the demand for food delivery has increased 33% since 2012 and offsite foodservice
should continue to outpace in-restaurant dining in the next decade. It helps that new delivery companies are jumping into the market by the week in an effort to bring consumers their meals faster and more cheaply. The delivery business isn’t limited to restaurants, either – Whole Foods, for its part, has invested in Instacart and made it their exclusive partner for perishable food delivery.
Taco Bell creates a choice menu
The restaurant that offers a Dorito-shell taco may not automatically spring to mind when you contemplate the healthiest quick-service food options available, but Taco Bell has managed to craft a menu that satisfies the healthy eater and junk food junkie alike. Its online and mobile apps allow customers the ability to easily make choices about what they eat. A customer can click “vegetarian” to view vegetarian and vegan options, “make it fresco” to cut calories, or do neither and pile on the cheese and bacon. Business Insider says the chain’s ability to provide a wide range of options to a broad customer profile has helped it keep less healthy options on the menu and also freed it from competing with chains like Chipotle about nutrition.
New sodium labeling rules take effect
A Manhattan judge has ruled that beginning in March, all New York City restaurants with more than 15 locations around the country must post salt-shaker labels next to any menu items that exceed 2,300 mg of sodium. The National Restaurant Association, which had sued in December to prevent the mandate from being enforced, said the ruling undoes the uniformity it had sought in advocating for a national federal menu-labeling standard.
Something fishy is on the menu
It can be hard to know if the seafood you think you’re buying is what you get. Fraud is commonplace – mislabeling, species substitution and short weighting to artificially add bulk to fish can cost you thousands of dollars. The National Restaurant Association says you can avoid fraud by using the FDA seafood list to see common terms used, asking established restaurants who their suppliers are and visiting their plants unannounced, considering working with suppliers who belong to the Better Seafood Board, buying fish with the skin on, being skeptical of extra-low prices, and training staff to check the product’s weight and temperature against labels, invoices and purchase orders.
Mobile payments are here to stay
More and more, consumers are using mobile payment systems when they dine out. In the National Restaurant Association’s 2016 Restaurant Industry Forecast, 20% of consumers with smartphones use a mobile app once a month or more to pay for food, 6% do so at least once a week, and 39% say they would use mobile payments in restaurants if possible. Restaurants are responding accordingly. Among quick-service operators, 43% say they offer mobile payment options and 26% say they plan to add it within a year. Among fast-casual operators, 31% say they offer it and 25% say they plan to provide it within a year.
Perfect your order-ahead technology
Providing technology that lets your customers order their food ahead of time can spike your sales – if their food is actually ready and hot when they pick it up. To ensure your order-ahead technology is foolproof, the National Restaurant Association recommends your app or website takes customers through a simple and intuitive process to place an order, stores customers’ favorite dishes or locations to enable one-click (or at least quick) ordering, and provides accurate wait times. At your restaurant, signage should clearly direct customers to the right pick-up location. To minimize delays and inefficiencies, your staff should have a designated food preparation area for order-ahead business and verify all orders before they leave the restaurant.