The success or failure of a restaurant may have little to do with superior food or service. In a recent QSR web report, commercial lease consultants Jeff Grandfield and Dale Willerton shared tips to ensure your location delivers. If you’re part of a larger commercial unit, consider your location within the location. Are you in a lonely corner or a central spot with ample foot traffic? Is there a ramp or elevator, if needed, and nearby parking? (Negotiate ample parking spaces in suitable locations prior to signing your lease.) Can people see you when they walk and drive by? Know what signage is available to you and what you can add – and at what cost. Consider the nearby tenants, their financial stability, their feedback about the landlord, and if their customers will help or harm your business. Finally, understand the broker’s loyalties – to you versus your landlord – so you can reach a fair deal.
Lease with your sale in mind
Do you have a plan for selling your restaurant? You should, even before you sign your first lease, according to Restaurant Owner. If you think about your eventual sale when you’re negotiating your lease, you can structure your agreement so it’s an asset instead of a liability. If and when you sell your restaurant, your rental rate, the number of years remaining on your lease, and the degree of difficulty of transferring the lease to someone else will be critical. Buyers usually look for a remaining lease period of seven years or more, according to Restaurant Owner, so when you negotiate, aim to set an initial base lease period that has three- or five-year renewal options. Your lease should also have clear parameters outlining how you can transfer the property to a new owner without having the landlord cause unreasonable delays.
Menu-labeling standards effective next May
This month, the Food and Drug Administration announced that May 5, 2017 is the final date by which restaurants must comply with new menu-labeling standards. By that date, foodservice operations with 20 or more locations serving the same general menu must post calorie information for standard menu items and provide additional nutritional information if requested. The labeling standards, intended to make the nutrition of restaurant foods more transparent for consumers, are part of the healthcare legislation President Obama signed into law in 2010. In the coming months, the FDA will offer webinars and workshops (to be announced at a later date) to help foodservice operations prepare for the changes.
Consumers give the combo meal deal a second glance
Quick-service combo deals are making a comeback, according to new research from NPD Group. Sales of the meal deals had been sloping downward for many months as consumers expressed preferences for customization and more choice, which could often be delivered more cheaply via á la carte dollar menus. But for the year ending in February, 110 million more combo deals were sold than in the previous year. NPD says the many customizable choices were overwhelming consumers and now quick-service restaurants are looking to get back to basics. Chains are trying to balance the desire to give consumers a good value and the ability to make some choices without cluttering the menu with too many options. Money magazine reports that Burger King, McDonald’s and Wendy’s have launched new combo deals that allow guests to select from a small, set menu that offers some variety.
The pop-up grows in popularity
Looking to test a new concept or dip a toe into a new market? A pop-up restaurant could help you do both. A growing number of restaurants nationwide are using these temporary eateries as pilot programs to test new technology or build a customer base in a new market before committing to a permanent location. They offer the additional benefit of allowing restaurants to take advantage of peak periods of the year (for more seasonal concepts) or high-rent districts where brick-and-mortar real estate is unattainable.
Independents test some new flavors
If you’d like to bring some new tastes to your restaurant this summer, note some offbeat new trends that a number of independent restaurants are testing out, according to Restaurant Business. Restaurateurs including the likes of Mario Batali are shaving salt onto butter and olive oil served with bread, even in the midst of heath advocates’ concerns about sodium. Behind the bar, restaurants are bringing rye whiskey and India pale ale together for a tangy, spicy food pairing. Finally, the popularity of tequila is making way for some other agave-based spirits like mezcal and raicilla, especially on Mexican menus looking to boost the authenticity of their drink menus.
Restaurant executives share foodborne illness prevention strategies
After a year when foodborne illness has demonstrated its power to bring down strong restaurant brands, the topic was a key focus at the recent Restaurant Franchising and Innovation Summit in Dallas. At the event, restaurant leaders shared their top safety practices for preventing foodborne illness. Tracing the supply chain quickly and accurately came out on top. In that chain, use suppliers who have approved safety protocols in place – even when it’s tempting to find unusual ingredients elsewhere. Be clear about your food safety policy, make sure your food safety mission and values are woven into it, and train your employees on an ongoing basis so they are able to talk about it with customers if asked. Finally, remember simple steps that can prevent a contamination crisis: cleaning ice machines regularly and washing hands after restroom breaks and after handling produce and other easily contaminated foods.
Know your food’s temperature danger zone
Does your kitchen staff keep your food out of the temperature danger zone? If your cooks save time in the kitchen by preparing food that won’t be served immediately, the National Restaurant Association says it’s important to get that food out of the zone between 41°F and 135°F as quickly as possible to discourage bacteria growth. The association recommends cooling food from 135° to 70° within two hours, then from 70° to 41° within the next four hours for a total cooling time of no more than six hours. If the food doesn’t reach the 70° threshold within the first two hours, it must be reheated and cooled again.
Finding the happy balance of technology and labor
Technology is shifting the labor landscape in restaurants – but it doesn’t necessarily spell unemployment for your staff. A QSR report outlined how technology can help you adjust your labor pool, increase business and keep customers happy. Delivery, for one, has become a must-have. If you employ in-house delivery drivers, you can reserve them for nearby customers and assign external couriers for longer-distance customers so your staff can maximize hourly tips. Technology can also help your staff focus more on boosting business. Online ordering means employees are taking fewer (if any) time-consuming orders by phone, for example, and can increase the volume of orders they process. Self-ordering kiosks can also help restaurants shift staff to the drive-thru, the kitchen or to restaurant maintenance to help increase your volume or enhance customers’ experience.
Chefs sound off on too much tech
There’s mounting pressure in the industry to embrace technology. But in a Foodable report, chefs and restaurant owners recommend a measured approach. Some lessons to keep in mind from Nikki Booth of Knuckle & Claw, Chris Cramer and Matthew Cape of the Larchmont and David Cape of Baldoria: How well do developers of the technology know restaurants? Before you invest in a touchscreen ordering system designed to streamline food ordering and preparation, make sure it actually delivers on those things. If your restaurant prides itself on its charm, taking an order with a paper and pen may feel more personal than tapping it into a tablet. Find ways to regularly incorporate a human touch so guests focus on their experience in your restaurant. They should not be too busy Instagramming their food to eat it while it’s hot. Some restaurants have banned phones during meals for this reason, or installed old-fashioned phone booths where guests can excuse themselves for screen time.