If your restaurant has a loyal following thanks to its signature dishes, what happens to the recipes if the chef who created them suddenly leaves? It's important to understand how to protect yourself based on the relationship between the restaurant owner and chef, according to the Washington Post. A chef who is a partner in a restaurant may take certain recipes with him, for instance, whereas a chef who is not a celebrity or a restaurant partner may have no claim to the restaurant's signature dishes. It can help to have a contract that establishes a roadmap for how you'll treat intellectual property in the event your top kitchen personnel depart. Though it won't ensure a split will go smoothly, it can set expectations for how a parting of ways will affect your menu or your competitive landscape.
Culinary events cultivate customer engagement
Want to engage your guests? Hosting a culinary event can help you exchange ideas, share your restaurant's values and create community. Restaurant Hospitality reports that Bellina Alimentari, an Atlanta restaurant that has built a strong following from its culinary events, recommends creating a compelling schedule of unique experiences -- from gelato making to cheese tasting to food photography -- that will attract a variety of guests. Keep each session intimate to enhance its value to guests and to ensure you're able to interact with everyone. Talking to guests one-on-one can help you gather feedback to fuel future events and new menu items, as well as build a more loyal following.
Health-focused chains take a hit
While consumer interest in healthy eating is on the rise, some health-focused fast casual restaurants are struggling, Restaurant Business reports. Chains including Native Foods Café, LYFE Kitchen and Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh have had to shutter a number of outlets recently due to declining sales. They’ve been reevaluating and adjusting their concepts. Their elevated prices could be partly to blame – Technomic estimates average checks to run $12.50 at Native Foods and $13.95 at LYFE – and the expense of running health-focused chains make them a higher risk. Plus, there’s increased competition from brands that aren’t health-focused but are offering healthier options.
myRA offers new options to encourage retirement savings
Just 47 percent of private industry workers at establishments with fewer than 50 employees have access to workplace retirement savings plans, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Saving for retirement can be especially challenging for restaurant workers with fluctuating wages. Restaurant Hospitality reports that myRA, a new retirement savings account developed by the U.S. Treasury, can help small business owners who aren’t able to offer retirement savings plans. The account helps employers encourage employees to save without the employer having to administer accounts or match employee contributions. They can set up direct deposit payments for participating employees or encourage them to fund portable accounts from personal bank accounts or tax refunds. Visit myRA.gov to find more information and free materials to share with your team.
Panera’s tech remodel spikes sales
Panera is offering a glimpse at where fast food may be headed. Following its launch of ordering by touchscreen and mobile app, as well as customizable menus that promote paid add-ons, sales in its remodeled restaurants are up – and prices are edging up too. Digital orders are up 22 percent, high for the industry, as the chain’s prices have increased 1 percent in September 2014, 1.3 percent in early 2015 and 2.1 percent last quarter, Buzzfeed reports. There will likely be increased hikes in the future to cover rising wage and healthcare costs, as well as food inflation, the company’s CEO said. So far, anyway, consumers are coming back.
Consumers sound off on drive-thrus
Drive-thru service could use a tune-up, according to a nationwide survey commissioned by the burger chain Frisch’s. The survey of 523 consumers aged 18 and older found that just 35 percent of users trust a restaurant worker to provide an accurate order. While 59 percent of guests like some human exchange with the drive-thru employee, 31 percent of respondents aged 18 to 24 like the limited human interaction drive-thrus provide. (When respondents were asked if they like to be prompted about adding items to their orders, results were split across the board.) Finally, even though breakfast is booming, only 17 percent of respondents like to order it via drive-thru, compared to 56 percent who like it when ordering lunch.
How to serve Generation Z
Generation Z – those 10 to 23 years old, born after the Internet was established – are rapidly becoming the consumers businesses want to attract. The group will represent 30 percent of consumers by 2020, according to Technomic’s Darren Tristano, who shared his thoughts about the demographic on Business First AM. The group is different from Millennials – they’re more adventurous and enjoy restaurant food on the go. They will likely usher in smaller restaurants designed to provide a full range of items to guests who want to eat elsewhere. They value quality and authenticity and are willing to pay more for it (though they’ll welcome a cheaper price point too). McDonald’s is poised to serve this group well, Tristano said, with their expanded drive-thru service and touchscreen technology.
Independent? Work it.
Chains may have an advantage when it comes to marketing and technology – but the independents have the upper hand with their local presence and flexibility. To capitalize on that, restaurant coach Donald Burns recommends they use local ingredients and move quickly to act on trends. Support smaller, local charities or community-based organizations (those that don’t generate religious, political or moral activism). Use social media to show your guests you want to get to know them – 80 percent of your activity should be commenting and sharing guests’ posts and 20 percent should be about your restaurant. Finally, create a tasty signature dish that incorporates your brand story (maybe a family recipe or an item from your first menu) and local ingredients – then promote it on social media.
Prevent the most common restaurant injuries
The restaurant and food service industry experienced more than 190,000 injuries in 2014, resulting in injured employees who missed more than 9,000 days of work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. FSR magazine identified the most common restaurant injuries: strains and sprains; burns; slips, trips and falls; and cuts and lacerations. You can help minimize the frequency and severity of injuries by training employees on the proper way to carry and lift items that are heavy, operate equipment used to make hot beverages, and administer first aid if needed. Providing the right tools is important too, from hot pads to protect servers carrying hot dishes to non-slip mats in areas prone to spills. Sharpen knives regularly and ensure glasses aren't used to scoop ice.
Out with the app, in with the chatbot?
Smartphone real estate is precious and consumers are choosy about the apps they allow on their screens. To compete, Nation's Restaurant News says more restaurants are embracing ordering and payment via social media -- also known as chatbot technology or conversational ordering -- via sites including Facebook, Twitter, Slack, Amazon Echo, Skype and Kik Messenger. Operators say when the social media platforms are integrated with a restaurant's point-of-sale system, ordering is as smooth as it is online. But at this point, the advantages of chatbot technology over run-of-the-mill online ordering are unclear. The technology is new and consumers, so far, are satisfied with the speed and convenience of mobile and web-based ordering.