Does your restaurant’s sign bring people in the door – and for the right reasons? A recent QSRweb report indicates your signage could be more important than you think. If you’re unsure your signage sends the right message, review these findings from a report from the Economics Center at the University of Cinncinnati: Legibility is the top concern for operators and customers when it comes to signage, improvements in signage lead to sales increases for 60 percent of businesses and improve hiring for 25 percent of businesses, higher sign quality can reflect better business performance, and if you’re a small business, your signage can help you communicate your value, connection to the community and your respect for its standards.
Get the loyal treatment
Close to 55 million Americans are enrolled in some sort of loyalty program, according to Colloquy’s 2015 Loyalty Census. Loyalty membership has climbed 102 percent since 2012, aided by the popularity of smartphones and the marketing data they can provide restaurants. If you aren’t taking these steps already, QSRweb recommends all restaurants consider these strategies for building loyalty: use your brand to create an emotional bond with customers (like Chick-fil-A encourages guests to dress in cow-like costumes on its annual Cow Appreciation Day), go beyond offering discounts and promote experiences of value to your guests, reward guests for posting about you in a way that generates a lot of likes, and find ways to entertain guests while they wait – like offering games or challenges that can help them earn points they can redeem for menu items.
Seafood without guilt
It seems to happen every week: A new report comes out that casts a spotlight on the vulnerability of various fish populations due to climate change, overfishing, fraud, human rights abuses or other causes. If you pride yourself on sustainability and your guests demand it, consider serving up these fish species, which are local to the northeastern U.S. New York magazine says because the species are invasive, plentiful and/or eco-friendly, consumers can eat them (and you can serve them) with a clean conscience: lionfish, mussels (which get extra points for nutrition and sustainability in one package), clams, longfin squid, porgy, Atlantic spiny dogfish, Acadian redfish, golden tilefish, sea robin and Asian carp.
Vegetables take the spotlight
Chefs are getting creative to boost the appeal of vegetables, finding new ways to make them into satisfying main dishes, customizable sides and helping them masquerade as meat or pasta – and not just at vegetarian restaurants. The New York Times recently featured an article on the arrival of the veggie burger and Nation’s Restaurant News reports that Portobello mushrooms now capably stand in for meatballs in By Chloe in New York, Beefsteak tomatoes (topped with pickled red onions and capers) replace burgers at Washington D.C.’s Beefsteak, and spiralized vegetables, most commonly squash, are on offer as pasta substitutes on menus throughout the country. Large chains are in on it as well, with Taco Bell offering 13 menu items certified by the American Vegetarian Association and Applebee’s offering a wide variety of grilled vegetables that guests can select as side dishes.
The secret’s in the (fish) sauce
Southeast Asian influences abound on American menus right now. Fish sauce, the liquid from salted, fermented fish, is the standout, with strong appeal especially among 18-24-year-old males, according to Restaurant Business. A number of condiments are helping it gain momentum in Asian restaurants and beyond: Kimchee, which often includes fish sauce, is likely to start appearing on pizzas and sandwiches in addition to Asian soups and rice. The Vietnamese condiment nuoc cham combines fish sauce and seasonings like garlic and ginger. Garum, the Roman sauce made with fermented fish brine, oil, pepper, wine and spices, is now appearing on non-Italian menus. Finally, a newcomer, caramel fish sauce, is beginning to appear as a drizzle on vegetables, chicken and pork.
Specialty beverages on the rise
Foodservice guests are buying non-alcoholic drinks three and a half times per week on average, according to Technomic’s recent 2016 Beverage Consumer Trend Report. Consumers, according to the report, are showing preferences for creative, unique, quality beverages – and often those that satisfy a craving as opposed to a habit. For this reason, it can help to promote food and beverage pairings. About one-third of restaurant guests – 33 percent of Gen Z customers and 32 percent of millennials – said pairing foods with specialty drinks would encourage them to try them out.
Square and Upserve create new source for restaurant loans
A new partnership in the industry could give restaurants a new source of credit when they need it. Square, Inc. is collaborating with the restaurant tech startup Upserve to offer loans to restaurants, Bloomberg reports. Upserve, which has more than 7,000 restaurants in its network, processes credit card payments and provides software that helps restaurants manage data, such as the percentage of sales generated from repeat customers. The company manages more than $8 billion each year in transaction volume. Previously, Square had only offered loans to its existing mobile credit card payments customers through a lending arm. The new relationship with Upserve is helping Square broaden its potential customer base and offer a default rate of 4 percent, according to Square.
Make cleaning and sanitizing second nature
The National Restaurant Association recommends you take three steps to operationalize cleaning and sanitizing. First, create a master cleaning and sanitizing schedule for employees that considers shift timeframes, periods of high customer traffic and potential contamination areas. Second, demonstrate cleaning and sanitizing procedures for food contact surfaces so employees are familiar with the tools to use, how to clean them and how to dispose of associated waste. Finally, provide personal protective equipment, like aprons, hats or gloves that can help employees do their work safely. Train them on how and when to remove this equipment to avoid cross-contamination.
Restaurant Technology’s 2016 Industry Report reveals consumer preferences
How do your guests feel about restaurant technology? Toast shared feedback from 1,115 diners who answered a range of questions for the 2016 Restaurant Technology Industry Report. Here are the highlights: More than 78 percent of diners believe restaurant tech improves their guest experience. Nearly 68 percent say server handheld tablets improve their guest experience (though they were divided on whether tabletop tablets do the same). More than half of guests (56 percent) order from a restaurant’s website daily, weekly or monthly – even moreso (62 percent) when mobile ordering is available. Guests are divided about kiosks, with 10 percent using them every time they’re available and 55 percent using them only sometimes. Finally, most guests prefer getting their receipt via email (42 percent), as opposed to printed (29 percent) or not at all (18 percent).
To go cashless or not?
An increasing number of restaurants (including industry trendsetter Sweetgreen) are accepting payment via card or app only. Toast shared some of the pros and cons. On the positive side, going cashless can expedite transactions, increase efficiency by eliminating the need to keep a supply of cash and change available, discourage thieves, enable smooth collection of consumer spending data, and help you plan your pricing model more efficiently. On the negative side, people still expect to be able to pay with cash and some guests (especially younger consumers) don’t have a bank and can’t pay with plastic, your costs will be a bit higher because of card processing fees, gratuities could be impacted because servers prefer cash tips, and finally, it may not be legal in your state (Massachusetts finds cashless practices discriminatory and Sweetgreen had to begin accepting cash in locations within the state).