There comes a time when restaurants must increase prices, whether due to escalating cost of commodities, labor or other factors. Restaurant Hospitality recommends considering these actions for a smooth transition: Combine price increases with scheduled seasonal menu reprints, when consumers are less apt to complain about (or notice) changes. Select a signature item that can remain the same high price while other menu items increase in small increments – or lower the cost of certain dishes while raising the cost of others. Talk to your supplier – product cost increases may only be temporary and if not, there may be a way to work around them by using other ingredients. You can also alter the presentation or description of an item to enhance its perceived value before increasing the price.
Get social media savvy before you’re forced to
Beyoncé’s SuperBowl halftime performance has made plenty of headlines – including some for Red Lobster. When a lyric in Beyoncé’s song “Formation” mentioned Red Lobster, viewers flocked to Twitter to monitor the chain’s response. The chain was silent for hours before posting a weak response referencing its Cheddar Bey Biscuits. Its sales still spiked in the following days but the event could have been a larger coup for the restaurant. A report in MediaPost recommends that during major cultural events, it can pay for large brands to have a creative and social media savvy person on call to post content throughout the event – or in Red Lobster’s case, a witty response that could have capitalized on the moment and given the brand some positive publicity.
Grain prices take a multi-week hit
Federal forecasters have sent commodities prices lower amid a report of an oversupply of wheat, corn and soybeans in recent months. A strong dollar in the U.S. has made the crops more expensive on the global market, decreasing demand from overseas customers. Analysts say it would take a major weather event to spike prices in the near term due to increased production in the U.S. and overseas.
Florida produce declared safe from invasive fruit fly
About 400 fruits and vegetables in Florida, including avocadoes, peaches, peppers and tomatoes, are no longer threatened by the Oriental fruit fly, an invasive insect that had wreaked havoc in southern Florida last fall. Florida’s Department of Agriculture announced that it had quarantined and then eliminated the pest. At one point, the insect threatened 95% of the state’s $1.6 billion agriculture industry.
Want to serve natural wine? Do your homework
Natural is the way to go with much food and drink these days, so you may have considered adding natural wines to your menu. They may suit your clientele but tread carefully. In an NPR report about the trendy beverage, vintners say there is a steep learning curve for natural winemakers and consumers may need time to accept the quirks of the beverage. If you’re planning to try it on your menu, experts recommend providing context and education to help consumers appreciate the wine’s potential differences in color, consistency and flavor as compared to traditionally produced wines – it’s not unusual for some brands to be cloudy or yeasty, for example.
U.S. House passes bill to ease nutrition labeling requirements
The U.S. House of Representatives just passed a bill that could ease calorie labeling restrictions for American restaurant chains. If signed into law, the legislation would poke holes in the FDA’s 2014 directive for restaurants with 20 or more locations to post calorie information on their menus by December of this year. The bill passed by the House would keep the labeling restrictions in place but give restaurants more freedom to determine how and where post the information. What’s more, restaurants in violation would not be held responsible in court. Of course, the Senate must weigh in first.
Quick-service chains test risk of price-based promotions
The strategy McDonald’s and Subway used to thrive during the recession is showing some flaws. McDonald’s Dollar Menu and Subway’s $5 Footlong were popular when customers were pinching pennies but as a report in Nation’s Restaurant News indicated, inflation ultimately makes prices obsolete. Rising costs of labor and some commodities in recent years have made it difficult for restaurants to commit to the low prices they once promoted. Now the brands are trying to distance themselves from the promoted prices customers had come to expect, which has angered some. The chains have responded by introducing new price-based promotions (the McPick 2-for-$2 Menu and the $6 Footlong), which are intended to be values. Time will tell if consumers are buying them.
How food trucks do business
Food trucks have become one of the fastest-growing sectors of the U.S. restaurant market. A recent study, led jointly by representatives from UCLA and the Federal Reserve, reviewed the economy and geography of food trucks in the country’s cities. The Atlantic’s Citylab says five key findings came out of the study: Food trucks rely on Twitter to alert customers to their location, determine where the best business will be and to announce changes to their planned location. The connection between food trucks and digital technology is greater in big, dense cities where congestion can affect mobility. Returning to the same spot day after day negatively impacts profits – location diversity is key. Food trucks don’t take significant business away from brick-and-mortar restaurants (though some local governments and businesses would disagree). Finally, they boost the restaurant sector by causing households to spend more money on eating out.
National Restaurant Association expands food safety work
Food safety got a boost when the National Restaurant Association acquired the National Registry of Food Safety Professionals. A representative of the association, which currently operates the ServSafe training program, said the combined groups would bolster their work in helping restaurant employees get the tools they need to handle food and beverages safely. Food Safety Magazine has reported that food-related illnesses cost the U.S. between $152 billion and $1.4 trillion each year.
New app unleashes the food critic in everyone
Dysh, a new smartphone app, combines food criticism with the power of social media. According to the Los Angeles Times, Dysh users create a profile page that encourages them to post photos of what they’re eating, rate dishes on a 100-point scale and share comments. Much like with Facebook or Twitter, Dysh users collect followers and can see the newsfeeds of their friends’ food experiences. Food lovers who crave a certain dish can search for it and find highly rated examples of it nearby.