Having a social vision is important for any restaurant today – and many Millennial/Gen Z guests expect it. Before you launch a socially responsible marketing effort, Modern Restaurant Management recommends you analyze all aspects of your business and list any that you could adjust to make more socially responsible (such as energy use, for example). Gather input and participation from your team, then present the final ideas to them and determine your social vision together. List your goals – as in who you will help, what you will save – and create a timeline and list costs of making the changes. If you need some food for thought, current trends in socially responsible marketing include menu labeling for transparency, gaining food certifications, including superfoods on menus, incorporating reusable and biodegradable packaging, and using ingredients and portion sizes that account for various dietary needs.
Be a smooth operator
Wide discrepancies in wages for front-of-house and back-of-house staff have been a source of controversy in recent months as some restaurants have toyed with the idea of eliminating tips to level the labor playing field. If you find yourself needing to smooth relations among staff members working in different parts of your restaurant, Chef Melissa Trimmer of the foodservice site Food Fanatics recommends cross-training your staff so they can build new skills and better appreciate what other team members go through during a shift. If your budget allows, you might consider hiring an expediter in the kitchen as well. This person should have a strong sense of back-of-house operations as well as grace and diplomatic skill when serving as a buffer between the kitchen and waitstaff.
Make the most of your current point-of-sale system
So maybe you don’t have thousands of extra dollars in the budget to buy the latest POS system – but are you squeezing the most out of the one you have? Upserve recommends you create a unique SKU for every menu item and special dish, categorize your menu items (without making users navigate through too many categories), determine how your system allows you to track guest information, customize your interface to make it user-friendly, and use POS-suggested workflows instead of third-party offerings. To monitor your system round-the-clock, Upserve suggests connecting to it via mobile if possible. Then determine what reports you can pull from your system and how they can help your business, separate your staff into job categories so you can better understand performance, and give each employee a unique ID so you can track sales per individual.
Retailer or restaurant?
A growing number of retailers are blurring the lines between retailing and operating restaurants. Restaurant Business reports that Wal-Mart is getting in on the act with a new state-fair-themed restaurant in a Texas location, Macy’s plans to boost its existing and future stores with more Starbucks outlets (they’re currently in just 49 of Macy’s 700 locations), and Barnes & Noble is testing an expansion of its in-store refreshment areas and plans to offer beer, wine and higher-quality food options to lure guests who are just as interested in the food as they are in the book selection.
How social media propelled one chef’s success
The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Innovation Summit was held last month. Chef Roy Choi delivered the keynote address and spoke about his success with social media in helping expand his Kogi BBQ business in the midst of the 2008 recession. Nation’s Restaurant News reports that Choi stressed the need for honesty on social media – and said he thought it provided the quickest road to prosperity and success but had the potential to make a restaurant crash and burn if the operator was not being honest. He recommended hiring a pro with social media skills in the various platforms to represent you if you’re not comfortable handling it. Finally, he suggested finding your voice and pulling yourself out of the habit that because it’s work-related, you can’t “get weird with it.”
Give guests a taste of fall without the pumpkin
As the air gets crisp, consumers want fall flavors. But there’s more to the season than the ubiquitous (albeit delicious) pumpkin spice. Chef Jennifer Steakley of the Food Fanatics foodservice site recommends switching things up with root vegetables paired with unexpected spices like mint, turmeric, sumac or togarashi. She says fruits like apples and pears can work in savory combinations with cinnamon, and Brussels sprouts, figs and Concord grapes are in season and can add interest to fall specials too. Fruits and spices can heat up your cocktail menu as well – Food Fanatics recommends apple-flavored tequilas to spike hot drinks, as well as syrups made from cranberries, figs and maple syrup.
Growth of retail-host restaurants means growth in foodborne illness
Supermarkets with a growing array of prepared foods are giving restaurants plenty of competition – last year they generated $28 billion in sales, according to the National Restaurant Association. But they also pose a major food safety risk. Food Safety News reports that according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, foodborne illness outbreaks of Salmonella, norovirus and other culprits linked to supermarkets more than doubled between 2014 and 2015. That may help restaurants take heart that they have a leg up on competition – and also take extra care when preparing meals for guests.
FDA bans 19 ingredients in antibacterial washes
Out with antibacterial washes and in with plain old soap and water. The FDA’s recent ruling on antibacterial soaps bans 19 ingredients commonly used in the products. Triclosan and triclocarban, two of the most commonly used ingredients, were not found to be safe for long-term daily use or more effective than soap and water in preventing the spread of illness and infection. Companies have one year to remove the 19 ingredients from antibacterial washes. In the interim, it’s a good time to reinforce handwashing practices. The tried-and-true soap and water method still comes out on top.
Tech tactics for waste reduction
If you’re looking to cut back on food waste, some standout technology firms are helping restaurants monitor, analyse and reduce their waste. Foodable reports that to help get a sense of how much food you’re wasting, Winnow Solutions has a smart waste bin system that recognizes which products are being thrown away most often and in what quantities. Wise Up on Waste, a mobile app from Unilever, tracks waste generated through different meal periods and can help small operations with just one person managing waste reduction. If you need to reduce the volume of waste that needs to be hauled away, consider Sustainable Kitchen for products that can help, or the Eco-Safe Digester, which converts waste into water that can be discarded through standard sewer lines.
Give guests a feast for the eyes on Facebook
Want to add some visual drama to your restaurant’s Facebook page? Profitable Hospitality recommends adding some slow-motion video (think flowing wine or melting cheese set to music). The iPhone 6 has a slow-motion feature – other similar apps do this as well – and all you need to do is add music and upload the finished video to YouTube, Vimeo or directly to Facebook.