Are you among the growing number of restaurants offering small-plate options? There are many ways small-plate service can go wrong, Uncorkd says, including serving items not portioned for easy sharing, failing to notify guests of the varying size of the portions served, pacing service poorly, and serving dishes haphazardly or failing to clear them promptly. You can avoid problems by adjusting your kitchen setup to account for small-plate preparation and service, which likely differs from the setup required for entrees. Communication is also critical -- between your servers and guests (so the serving sizes meet expectations) and between your front- and back-of-house staff (so plates go out in a carefully staged succession).
Hiring a food aggregator and hanging on to profits
Restaurant aggregators like GrubHub direct a lot of consumer traffic to restaurants, but the percentage of profit they retain can keep restaurant profits razor-thin. To help make sure aggregators are worthwhile for you, FSR magazine recommends you study their pricing models. They might charge a premium for your restaurant to appear on the first search page, for example. Make sure you're paying for that placement during your slow times and not when you're typically packed. If you'd like to reach more potential guests and possibly gain some leverage on pricing, use several aggregators at once. Finally, if you offer delivery through an aggregator, make sure you're not overpaying -- managing delivery yourself or paying a separate company that offers only delivery and not a combined package could save you money.
What does your children's menu say about you?
A restaurant's children's menu can play a significant role in how often parents bring their children in for a meal. Just make sure you study your desired demographics before promoting your children's offerings so you don't put off your target customers, Restaurant Hospitality says. You may well be interested in attracting more families to your establishment (and if that's the case, there's ample opportunity to expand your menu beyond the usual mac 'n' cheese and chicken fingers). But if you're more of a destination for adults looking for a child-free evening out, consider keeping children's offerings off the menu but equipping servers to suggest child-friendly options for when families visit.
Jamba Juice pulls plug on automation
Amid rising labor costs and pressure to adopt new technologies, it seems like most operators are becoming increasingly more automated and providing less human interaction. But Restaurant Business reports that Jamba Juice is doing the reverse in discontinuing its JambaGo self-service smoothie business, which allows customers to blend their own smoothies. The company, which had licensed about 2,000 self-contained stations to outlets nationwide, said the machines were no longer a good strategic fit.
Fall menus put new spin on seasonal flavors
Warm spices, tangy apples, roasted vegetables. The flavors of fall can add complexity to your menu, especially when you take traditional foods in new directions. Restaurant Business reports that operators are using applesauce to temper bold sauces. Pumpkin flavors, long used in sweet drinks and desserts, are taking a more savory turn in seafood and pasta. Roasted vegetables like cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are getting different treatment, with cauliflower standing in for chicken in buffalo wings and Brussels sprouts shredded and tossed with salad greens. Sausages are taking spotlight as well, with chefs making them in-house and experimenting with spicy, sweet and savory flavors.
Pique your guests' interest with novelty foods
You've likely seen a parade of novelty foods from popular fast-casual brands lately -- Whopperito, anyone? Amid fears of an economic downturn, restaurants are eager to create buzz with these items. Sometimes the ideas are downright unappealing, but that isn't the point, says Technomic's Darren Tristano. These novel ideas can bring traffic in your door so you can interest guests in other items. Often they are short-lived additions not intended to stay on the menu for long. How can you get creative with your menu?
Protect your restaurant from natural disasters
Extreme weather conditions are becoming all too common in recent years, leaving the food supply vulnerable. Food Safety Magazine interviewed U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientists who said unsafe food storage, handling, preparation and ill employees cause most food safety risks. Foodservice facilities may find it impossible to cook the food they have during natural disasters due to a lack of facilities or fuel. Poor sanitation, including shortage of safe water and toilet facilities, can compound these risks. Local first responders that conduct emergency preparedness exercises may be able to offer your restaurant some training. Plans can cover topics such as how to protect food during long power outages, finding backup power and addressing flooding or sewage backups, spills and other events that could affect water quality. Visit www.redcross.org/prepare/mobile-apps for more information.
From an Instagram photo to a four-hour line out your door
New York's Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer has learned the power of Instagram. When the wife of the restaurant's owner asked for a cotton candy milkshake one day last fall, Toast reports, the restaurateur created a towering pink and blue concoction complete with candies, whipped cream, a lollipop and cotton candy. They took a photo, posted it on Instagram, and when people came in that day and asked for the cotton candy milkshake in the photo, they knew they were on to something. They created a line of a half-dozen whimsical Instagram-worthy milkshakes and the resulting online photos went viral. Despite the $15 price tag, customers are still waiting in hours-long lines for the creations.
Put the social in social media
Your restaurant's social media platform can mean the difference between profit and loss. Foodable says the best approach to a social media strategy is to focus on the "social" side of social media. Before you start gathering likes and shares, you will likely have to provide them for the people and businesses in your network. Likes, retweets and emojis boost brands in the social media world. Give your followers positive feedback on social media and you're likely to get a return on your investment. Once you post content, remember to go beyond simply promoting menu items at your restaurant. To build community, focus on telling your story. How did your restaurant get started? What are your values? How are you involved in your community? Your posts can help guests see you as much more than a restaurant.