Managing social media well can catapult your restaurant’s sales. Social media dashboards can help you by allowing you to manage your presence on multiple networks from one place. But they’re not all equal. Restaurant Hospitality reports that Forrester recently tested all of the social media dashboards and recommends these three: Percolate, Sprinklr and Spredfast. Percolate, the research said, did a great job of integrating social media into a multichannel marketing plan. Sprinklr provides a wealth of social media tools and is a good fit for restaurants with multinational aspirations. Spredfast provides quick analysis of how consumers are responding to your posts.
Make your restaurant the place to connect
The new year isn’t too far away and the forecasters are already at work. The Sterling-Rice Group, a consumer insights company, recently shared some predictions for 2017 with Restaurant Business. One trend they see is a continued rise in consumers wanting to connect over food in a meaningful way – consider smartphone apps like EatWith or the launch of Umi Kitchen, which connects home cooks with consumers eager to have a good meal. To capitalize on this trend, the group says, restaurants can transform themselves into dinner party settings. Consider hosting a Sunday night dinner club and have your chef (or a guest chef) prepare a meal and interact with guests through demonstrations or storytelling.
Coming soon: Omega-3 fortified chicken
Health-conscious guests love their Omega-3 fatty acids, which boost brain and heart health. But if they’re not so fond of the oily fish that supply Omega-3s, you may soon be able to offer an alternative. A British grocery store, Waitrose, has launched chicken fortified with Omega-3 proteins. The store worked with a poultry producer and an animal nutritionist to develop an algae-based chicken feed rich in Omega-3 proteins. Waitrose says consumers have responded favorably, especially those with children who refuse to eat fish but will eat chicken. Analysts expect food producers worldwide to take note.
Too few pastry chefs to go around
It’s a good time to be a pastry chef. According to the New York Times, demand for skilled dessert makers is currently outpacing the supply of graduates from culinary schools. The rise of food as entertainment is partially responsible. The low margins of the foodservice industry have kept the pay for these cooks in the $10-to-$15 range for a number of years, but that could be changing as the opportunities available make it difficult for operators to hold on to the skilled pastry chefs they hire. At restaurant groups, hotels or even high-end grocery stores where the executive chef oversees desserts over several outlets, salaries can reach $70,000 to $80,000 a year.
Step aside, pumpkin
Though pumpkin has long been the reigning squash of the season, it’s getting a serious runner-up in butternut squash. The presence of butternut squash on menus has spiked 291 percent since 2005, according to Datassential. While it’s common to see butternut squash as the star ingredient in seasonal soups and raviolis, it’s also starting to appear on the dessert menu as a noteworthy substitute for the pumpkin in pumpkin pie.
When in doubt, ferment it
Fermented foods have been making their way through every category of the menu in the past few years. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, fermentation is bringing out the depth of flavor in everything from sauerkraut and kimchi to hot sauce and even butter on menus around the country. Consider fermenting to bring acidity or savory flavors to current items on your menu – one Los Angeles chef serves kimchi cornbread as part of his brunch menu and another chef in Charleston, S.C. created a fermented mushroom Mornay to accompany a dish of black truffle polenta and oyster mushrooms.
Industry study group assesses handwashing solutions
Handwashing practices were a main discussion topic at the National Restaurant Association’s Quality Assurance Study Group’s annual session this month. The Handwashing for Life Institute presented to the group and stressed the need for improved processes around handwashing to prevent the spread of illness. Food Safety News reports that attendees assessed the number of hand washes needed per shift to reach their restaurant’s standard of safety, and how technologies like SmartLink soap dispensers, aligned with a CloudClean data gathering and reporting system, can help by monitoring employee handwashing without requiring personal ID badges. Many industry professionals also supported the idea of using employee rewards programs to motivate staff to wash hands at regular intervals. What practices do you use to ensure frequent handwashing in your facility?
Where’s the beef?
You won’t find any in the Impossible Burger, a patty that has the look, texture and taste of a beef burger. The burger debuted in New York at Momofuku Nishi over the summer and just appeared this month on the menus of three award-winning restaurants in California, according to the Food Rush. The burger, which even bleeds like a beef patty, has been winning raves from vegetarians and carnivores alike. The product was developed by Impossible Foods, which engineers meat and dairy products from plants. Bill Gates is an investor in the company, TimeOut reports, so this beefless burger may make the traditional variety a thing of the past.
Prepare for the future of delivery
The evolution of restaurant delivery was a key topic of conversation at the National Restaurant Association’s recent Restaurant Innovation Summit. In the coming years, expect delivery-only restaurants to become more widespread – one such restaurant in Chicago that delivers organic meals in 20 minutes has doubled sales every month since its March launch. For more traditional operators, it will be increasingly important to manage delivery service closely and have a detailed contract in place to avoid problems. The National Restaurant Association is currently developing sample contract language and will make it available to members – stay tuned.
Build a loyal following
Last year alone, membership in restaurant loyalty programs spiked 107 percent, according to Toast. These programs can sustain your restaurant into the future – but unfortunately, a high percentage of them are languishing or inactive. You can help yours succeed, Toast says, by making it easy for guests to start – sign them up right at the register. Have a tiered rewards system that awards additional points (good for a limited time) to your most loyal guests and makes them aspire to reach the next level of rewards. Every time guests pay for an order, show them how much more they must spend to claim their next reward – and make those rewards align with their interests and values. Finally, make it fun by using a game to engage them in your program.