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QSRs cannot take loyalty for granted as it often extends only as far as the next incentive or reward.

That advice comes from Attracting New Customers and Creating Greater Loyalty is What’s on the Menu for Quick Serve Restaurants, a study from The Media Division of Publishers Clearing House. The organization surveyed more than 2,600 registered members of its online community on the ways customer behavior is heavily influenced based by how QSRs implement incentive-based programs to reward them for their patronage.

For QSRs, the ability to attract and retain customers has become as much about providing the right level and type of incentive as it is delivering a quality product. 

Key findings from the report include:

  • 40 percent of respondents prefer restaurant apps to provide coupons and savings
  • 20 percent of respondents would be willing to choose another QSR competitor if they offered a rewards program
  • 10 percent of respondents desire contests and sweepstakes in their favorite restaurant app

 Programs such as restaurant apps have become essential tools in keeping customers coming through the door as they provide the vehicle to deliver continuous promotions and cost savings – an approach favored by more than half of all respondents. 

“QSRs are in a constant battle for customer acquisition and retention. It’s a viscous cycle that never ends because as soon as one brand stops offering an incentive, there is another one to fill its place,” says Steve Bagdasarian, GM of PCH’s Media division. “QSRs need to focus their efforts on attracting new customers and then making it more attractive for them to stay than to try out the competition.”

As hard as QSRs are trying to build customer loyalty and boost retention, the competition is trying just as hard to lure them away. Data from the report highlighted that receiving a coupon would be incentive enough to try a new QSR for nearly half of all respondents. Another 20 percent would be willing to choose a competitor if they offered a rewards program. 

Data shows customers are willing to try new brands when they receive a compelling offer and it’s a constant game of one-upmanship among QSRs to bring the most attractive incentives to market. For QSRs, the ability to attract and retain customers has become as much about providing the right level and type of incentive as it is delivering a quality product. 

To learn more check out the infographic below or click here for the report.

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It comes as no surpise that mobile has completely disrupted the food and restaurant industry. In fact, according to App Annie’s latest data, in 2018 consumers sourced food and drinks through apps 150 percent more often than in 2016. Furthermore, worldwide downloads of the top five food delivery apps have grown 65 percent in 2018 vs. 2016, with UberEATS and Zomato taking the lead.

App Annie's State of Mobile report delves into global mobile trends in the quick-service restaurant (QSR) industry, fast food and food delivery in addition to other industries. A snapshot of the trends highlighted in the report, include:

  • Globally, consumers sourced food & drinks through apps 130 percent more often in 2018 than 2016.

  • Of the markets analyzed, India saw the strongest growth at 900 percent. But food delivery apps were also in high demand for western markets like Canada and the US, up 255 percent and 175 percent respectively.

QSR Loyalty Programs: In the US, McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A leveraged promotional text to market flash deals for consumers — a strategic App Store Optimization (ASO) tactic that, unlike most — such as description, logo and keyword bank updates — does not require a full version update.

Mobile Apps Drove Innovation in QSR Promotions

  • McDonald’s UK overhauled its app experience, including the launch of McDelivery in partnership with UberEATS, and invested heavily in World Cup 2018 promotions to drive adoption. The efforts paid off and the app shot to #10 by smartphone MAU in July 2018, up 10 ranks year-over-year.
  • Burger King leveraged location-based offers within 600-feet of a McDonald’s to unlock a Whopper for 1 cent through its app in December 2018. Mobile offers a treasure trove of data on consumer preferences and can be leveraged for strategic personalized and relevant promotions such as this. These efforts paid off — Burger King hit #1 for daily iPhone downloads of Food and Drink apps in the US on Dec 4, and retained that rank for 9 straight days. Not to mention, the app hit #2 on Dec 5 for overall downloads. This was a significant jump in performance relative to November 2018.

To learn more about App Annie's State of Mobile report, click here

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Morningstar believes restaurant operators must take the time to reinvent themselves with respect to changes in consumer eating habits, the advent of new front- and back-of- house technologies, the blurring of lines between on-premise and off-premise sales and supply chain innovations. With counterparts from Pitchbook, they took a closer look at how restaurant and restaurant technology transactions are changing and how that may continue to evolve in the years to come in a Commercial Observer report that has an “evolve or die” theme.

Key highlights from the report include: ​

  • Expect additional restaurant closures and decelerating industry growth. We expect restaurant unit counts to decrease by 0.6 percent over the next five years in U.S. with casual dining and smaller quick-service restaurant (QSR) chains being the hardest hit. This will result in average industry sales growth slowing from four percent from 2012-2017 to 3.4 percent from 2017-2022.
  • We see growth opportunities for chains that continue to adjust to evolving consumer preferences. The blueprint to remaining relevant will differ for each company, but we believe the most successful restaurant concepts will be those that identify what consumer need they are satisfying — often boiling down to convenience versus experience — and then structuring their menu, operations, and technologies to best address these needs. Examples include Starbucks and McDonald's among public operators, and CAVA, sweetgreen, Blaze Pizza, and honeygrow among private restaurant chains.
  • Starbucks' recovery will be volatile, but there is still a long-term investment case to be made. We believe the company is positioned for a comeback through restaurant layout changes such as emphasizing mobile orders or store experience, as well as new menu innovations focusing on health/wellness and authenticity.
  • Delivery and to-go orders will become even more meaningful to restaurants in the years to come. Finding the right partner is key — especially with restaurant delivery aggregators likely to consolidate in the years to come. Recent examples of successful partnerships include McDonald's partnership with UberEats and Yum Brand's relationship with GrubHub.
  • Early technology adopters will start to see sustained guest traffic improvements…in 2019. There have been several developments on the restaurant technology front the past several years, including new point-of-sale systems, mobile ordering/delivery capabilities, mobile-enhanced loyalty programs, back-of-house solutions (including labor staffing and inventory management), and automation for food preparation processes. We anticipate more pronounced contribution in 2019 for those restaurant operators who understand their specific value proposition and have invested in appropriate front- and back-of-house technologies.

Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine asked Morningstar experts RJ Hottovy and Nizar Tarhuni to elaborate on the findings.

Did any findings did surprise you? 

Even after following this space or more than a decade, I was surprised by a number of our findings from the report. To me, the biggest surprises came from three different categories: (1) health/wellness; (2) labor; an (3) technology solutions.

We see two type of restaurants in the future: 'convenience' and 'experience.'

With respect to health/wellness, we've long thought that authenticity was more important than healthy eating, just because it's so difficult to make healthy food taste good and that many consumers often pass on healthy fare when dining out. This has been historically difficult to quantify, so we were surprised when the leaders in transactions per square foot growth the past five years also had the highest correlation to the keyword 'authenticity' when we screened our sample group against a number of purchase criteria keywords using Google Trends.

Labor was also interesting discussion with many operators, as many said their sales take a hit when they cut labor while others are clearly using technology to reduce the number of employees per store. Ultimately, this got us thinking that there are multiple paths to success for restaurant operators, with "convenience" focused restaurants able to use technology while "experience" locations needing extra labor to satisfy consumers.

Lastly, we were surprised by how many technology solutions are available to restaurant operators today, and by how little operators understand what they do. We're clearly in a restaurant tech boom and even the staunchest operators are starting to embrace technology, but there is a lot of confusion about what technologies are essential for future restaurant operations and which will just incur unnecessary fees. 

Why the theme “evolve or die?”

In many ways, today's restaurant industry reminds us of the retail space about a decade ago, where many operators are going to have to make some changes to their operations to accommodate changes in consumer preferences and new sources of competition. We don't expect all restaurant chains to survive, especially those who are reluctant to make changes to their business operations. However, like the retail industry, we believe there will be some success stories that come from the concepts that adjust to these structural changes.

What role does technology play in this evolution?

Since 2014, VC investors have deployed $11.2 billion across 944 deals in the restaurant tech space.

We're in the early stages of a restaurant technology boom, with new solutions across almost every restaurant function (delivery, mobile payments, reservations, point-of-sale systems, labor staffing, inventory management, etc.). However, how restaurants deploy technology ultimately depends on what need they're serving.

We see two type of restaurants in the future: "convenience" and "experience". Convenience locations should use technology to maximize transaction throughput and delivery options, while experience locations should use technology to improve the guest experience by reducing wait times.

Some chains like Starbucks could conceivably have both types of locations, with convenience locations emphasizing mobile payments and experience locations getting creative with new drink, food, and layouts.

How does increasing use of delivery affect the restaurant forecast?

Delivery is one of the more controversial aspects in today's restaurant industry. On one hand, it does present a sizeable growth opportunity for many chains. On the other hand, there are several risks such as food quality, delivery speed, customer data ownership.

We don't believe delivery will be a fad, but we believe that certain concepts (those with national exposure and the technology/operating procedures to accommodate deliveries) will benefit longer-term. It will also be interesting to see if more restaurant chains bring the delivery function in house to avoid the steep commissions that delivery companies charge.

Why or why not are restaurants a good investment? 

We believe restaurant investors could be in for a choppy trading the next few years. Not only are restaurants facing new sources of competition and need to make changes to their business models, but their dividend/buyback programs look less attractive in a period of rising interest rates (where investors can rotate into Treasuries for low-risk yield).  

Restaurant investors could be in for a choppy trading the next few years.

While we expect continued M&A activity in the coming years, we believe investors must be selective with their investments and focus on those companies that are investing in new technology and operational solutions.

While these endeavors may be costly and weigh on results over the near-term, we believe they are necessary to compete over a longer horizon.

What can restaurants learn from the retail landscape?

I think one of the most important lessons restaurants can learn from retailers is knowing what they are and what they aren't. The most successful traditional retail stories the past several years have focused on specialization and experience, two items that are difficult for Amazon to replicate.

I see the restaurant chains that offer the most convenience or the best experience winning out and surviving the structural changes we're predicting the next several years.

What roles do companies such as Amazon play in the future of restaurants?

It will be interesting to see how Amazon's role in the restaurant space will evolve in the years to come. On one hand they're looking to be partner for restaurants through its Amazon Restaurants delivery service and a supplier through Amazon Business. However, Amazon Go stores could be potentially disruptive to restaurants, so I wouldn't be surprised to see some restaurants pushback a bit and embrace other companies for delivery and supply functions.

We expect to see restaurants accelerate their technology adoption.

“To gain a competitive edge in today’s restaurant ecosystem, owners and operators must incorporate new technologies to manage front-end guest services, staffing, kitchen operations and general business management,” added Dylan Cox, senior analyst at PitchBook.

“Over the past decade, we have seen a rapid increase in the development of restaurant technologies and venture capitalists have taken notice. Since 2014, VC investors have deployed $11.2 billion across 944 deals in the restaurant tech space.

Additionally, companies like Toast, a restaurant management platform, have achieved unicorn status by helping restaurants manage sales and front-end guest services. We expect to see restaurants accelerate their technology adoption and for investors to continue pumping capital into restaurant tech categories such as ordering/delivery, payments, marketing/CRM and kitchen operations.” 

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This first-of-2019 edition of Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine's Research Roundup features news on the most popular delivery items last year from Bite Squad, the importance of sensory experience from Mood Media, pricing trends from Plate IQ and more.

2018 Was Best Year for Restaurants Since 2015

December closed the year strong for the restaurant industry. December’s same-store sales growth of 2.0 percent was the best monthly performance in over three years, according to TDn2K. The fourth quarter of 2018 was also encouraging for the industry. Not only was the quarter’s same-store sales growth of 1.4 percent the best in over three years, but the industry was able to achieve those results on top of the only quarter with positive sales growth in 2017. From an annual perspective, 2018 saw the industry return to a positive same-store sales growth of 0.7 percent, after two years of declining sales.

As upbeat as these sales results sound, the industry continues to suffer from declining guest counts. Same-store traffic growth was -0.9 percent in December. Traffic growth closed the year at -1.6 percent for the fourth quarter. It continues to be through an acceleration in average spending per guest that the industry can produce positive sales growth amid the persistently falling guest counts. Average guest checks grew by 3.1 percent during the fourth quarter year over year.

Restaurant sales were strong across most of the country during December, another positive sign for the industry. From the 197 DMAs tracked by Black Box Intelligence, 84 percent were able to post positive same-store sales growth. To put this number in perspective, as strong a year as the industry has had, the percentage of markets with positive sales growth never topped 76 percent during the first eleven months of the year.

Furthermore, from a wider, regional perspective, the strength of the industry’s sales growth also becomes apparent. All ten regions of the country except for Florida had strong positive same-store sales growth of 1.0 or better during December. In the case of Florida, sales growth was essentially flat.

According to TDn2K research, one of the keys to restaurant success in the marketplace is delivering superior service. However, this is increasingly difficult to accomplish given the rising staffing difficulties facing the industry. It is not surprising to hear most operators say most of their restaurants are understaffed and it is harder today to find enough qualified employees.

Not only is the restaurant continuing to add a significant number of jobs (restaurant employment has grown by over 1.8 percent year over year during the last two months), but the number of vacancies that need to be filled because of turnover are still rising.

Among the solutions companies are employing to aid in their retention are adjustments to their compensation offerings, improving engagement for their managers and providing training and development opportunities throughout their employee ranks.

2018 Year End Results

 

December

Q4

2018

Comp sales

2.0 percent

1.4 percent

0.7 percent

Comp traffic

-0.9 percent

-1.6 percent

-1.9 percent

Guest check

3.0 percent

3.1 percent

2.6 percent

The restaurant industry had plenty to celebrate during the holiday season. December’s same-store sales growth of +2.0 percent was the highest since August of 2015. December became the seventh consecutive month of positive growth, which highlights the industry’s strength throughout the year. By comparison, the industry was only able to post positive sales growth during two months in all of 2017. These insights come from TDn2K’s Black Box Intelligence™ data, based on weekly sales from over 31,000 locations representing 170+ brands and nearly $72 billion in annual sales.

“Perhaps the most encouraging news for the industry came in the form of the unusually strong fourth quarter results,” said Victor Fernandez, vice president of insights and knowledge for TDn2K. “Same-store sales growth during the fourth quarter was +1.4 percent, which was the highest in over three years. Moreover, the industry was able to post these results on top of the only quarter with positive sales growth last year. The industry’s recovery from a longer-term perspective also continued to show some upward momentum. Same-store sales during the fourth quarter increased by slightly over 1.4 percent compared with the same period in 2016. Two-year sales growth had been negative for the past eight consecutive quarters.

Annual same-store sales growth for 2018 was +0.7 percent. Though only moderate growth, this is also the best performance by the industry since 2015.

According to government numbers, as a country, Americans have spent more on food away from home than on food at home over the last few years. But an acceleration in restaurant prices compared with groceries and a growing field of competing dining options continue to translate into what seems to be the new normal in chain restaurant performance. Even when sales are up, the industry continues to suffer from declining same-store guest counts.

Even when sales are up, the industry continues to suffer from declining same-store guest counts.

Same-store traffic growth during December was -0.9 percent, while traffic growth for the fourth quarter was -1.6 percent. The latter represented a +0.4 percentage point decline from the previous quarter’s growth rate.

“Although the importance of persistently declining guest counts cannot be overlooked, there are some small signs of recovery in the latest results,” commented Fernandez. “Two-year same-store traffic growth was -3.6 percent during the fourth quarter of 2018. The average two-year growth for the first three quarters of the year was -5.8 percent.

How was the industry able to post its best sales results in years during the fourth quarter, yet traffic growth worsened compared with the previous quarter? The answer is the rate at which restaurant guests are spending per visit accelerated during the quarter. Average guest checks grew by 3.1 percent year over year in the fourth quarter. During the previous three years, average guest check growth never topped 2.5 percent.

“While many brands utilized heavy discounting and price promotions in 2017, average guest checks only grew by 1.9 percent during the year for the industry. Restaurants seem to have eased off this tactic in 2018,” continued Fernandez. “Guest check growth for this year was a significantly higher 2.6 percent pointing to price increases and/or an upward shift in product mix.”

Based on same-store sales growth, the best performing industry segments during 2018 were fast casual and casual dining. But the real story behind these segments’ performance is one of improvement after a previous year of abysmal results. These segments were the worst performers based on same-store sales growth during 2017. The fact that they had soft comparisons the previous year definitely helped boost their results in 2018.

From a consistency point of view, the real winners are the segments with the highest average checks: upscale casual and fine dining. Not only did both of these segments have strong positive growth in 2018, but they are also the only industry segments that were able to sustain positive sales growth averaged over the last three years.

The upscale casual and fine dining segments also have the best average traffic growth results since 2015, but even they cannot escape the trend of declining guest counts that plagues the rest of the industry.

“The chaos in the equity markets was not representative of the condition of the economy,” explained Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors and TDn2K economist. “Nothing made that clearer than the huge December increase in employment. Businesses are still hiring and that is causing wages to rise faster. As a result, consumer spending is holding up and should continue to do so, which is good news for the restaurant industry.”

“However, most indicators point to a moderation in growth going forward, but only from strong to a more sustainable, yet decent, pace. A recession does not appear to be likely anytime soon and if a major slowdown occurs, it probably would not come before late in the year. Though the moderate growth should support continued improvement in restaurant sales, it will also lead to lower unemployment rates and even greater pressure on wages.”

The extremely tight labor market, which undoubtedly helps on the sales side of the equation for restaurants, continues to disrupt the operations side through its effect on staffing levels. On one hand, in this environment operators are increasingly having difficulty finding enough employees to fully staff their restaurants. According to TDn2K’s latest People Report Workforce Index, 74 percent of companies reported increased difficulty finding qualified hourly employees. Perhaps most concerning, 59 percent said they are having a tougher time hiring people to manage those restaurants.

One reason the vast majority of restaurants reported they are constantly understaffed, especially in the back of the house positions, is that restaurant turnover continues to increase. Based on People Report research, during the first eleven months of 2018, median turnover increased for hourly employees and restaurant managers in both limited service brands (quick service and fast casual) and full service brands (casual dining, family dining, upscale casual and fine dining). All levels of restaurant employees have been experiencing historically high turnover rates. Given that turnover is rising proportionally more for restaurant managers than for hourly employees in both service styles (limited and full service), the expectation is for staffing headaches to carry into 2019. Management turnover, TDn2K research has revealed, is a leading indicator of hourly retention as well as restaurant sales and traffic performance. It is those brands that are successful at retaining and developing engaged managers who will be better positioned to win the market share battle in the new year.

Most Popular Delivery Items in 2018

Bite Squad announced its most popular delivery picks of 2018. Drivers in more than 375 cities saw foods of all varieties reach the doorsteps of hungry customers—and while everyone has their unique tastes, this year revealed some major trends across the board.

Wings increased an impressive 95 percent year over year, securing the top spot on the list, while traditional American favorites, such as burgers and pizza, also held steady in the top 10. A number of ethnic dishes, such as Pad Thai, sushi and fried rice, made their mark as customer favorites, and Valentine’s Day stood out as the number one holiday for couples ordering in. From Sunday tailgates to Taco Tuesdays, 2018 proved that there is a food for every occasion. 

The top ten most ordered foods across the country include:

1.       Wings

2.       Burger

3.       Pizza

4.       Burrito 

5.       Fried Rice

6.       Pad Thai

7.       Sushi

8.       Fajitas

9.       Cheeseburger

10.   Curry

How do local city’s stats measure up? For more information,  click here.

2019 Menu Trends

The National Restaurant Association works with the American Culinary Federation for its annual chefs’ survey of menu trends for the coming year. This year, the Culinary Institute of America- trained chefs identified concept trends, such as zero-waste cooking, hyper-local ingredients and plant-based protein. They ranked 140 items as top trends, yesterday’s news or perennial favorites, as well as by category. 

Top Trends

  1. Cannabis/CBD-infused drinks 
  2. Cannabis/CBD-infused food 
  3. Zero-waste cooking (elevated cuisine using food scraps) 
  4.  Globally inspired break- fast dishes 
  5.  Global flavors in kids’ meals 
  6. Hyper-local (e.g. restau- rant gardens, onsite beer brewing, house-made items) 
  7.  New cuts of meat (e.g. shoulder tender, oyster steak, Vegas Strip Steak, Merlot cut) 
  8. Veggie-centric/ vegetable-forward
  9. cuisine (e.g. fresh produce is star of the dish) 
  10. Chef-driven fast-casual concepts 
  11. Craft/artisan/locally produced spirits 
Pricing Trends

The data is sourced from Plate IQ, a tech/software company that automates invoices at restaurants and hospitality companies including Thomas Keller, Union Square Hospitality Group, NoHo Hospitality and more. Plate IQ examined the prices of the following items: Soy Beans, Cauliflower, Romaine Lettuce, Garbanzo Beans, Cold Brew, Vodka, and Kombucha.

Foodservice Trends for 2019

Mintel announced four trends set to impact the US restaurant industry in 2019. In the year ahead, the foodservice landscape will evolve, driven by increased awareness around social and environmental responsibility and innovation in technology-enabled customer service.

You Are Where You Eat

Where you choose to dine says more about you than just your food preferences; it’s a reflection of who you are. With more restaurants extending their reach beyond the dining table, diners are supporting restaurants with cultures and values that align with their own lifestyles.

Restaurants today are showcasing more of their personalities. American diners are literally wearing their favorite restaurants on their sleeves as operators offer branded merchandise from hoodies to sneakers. Branded collaborations featuring limited-time-only items and contests used to boost brand appeal are programs that establish customer relationships and relevancy and build brand ambassadors.

“In the year ahead, expect restaurants to take customer engagement a step further by creating a sense of community with their patrons. Knowing that diners want to align themselves with brands that fit their lifestyle, restaurants can meet diners halfway by taking a stance on social and political issues and supporting organizations that are important to them. The most successful brands will be those that are personable and form transparent relationships with diners,” said Amanda Topper, Associate Director, Foodservice Research, at Mintel.

Serving the Earth

While consumers are looking for guidance on ways to be more environmentally responsible, at the same time, operators are realizing their impact and the role they can play by stepping up to the plate to be partners and educators in environmental and social responsibilities.

As consumers aim to incorporate more environmentally responsible practices into their lives, they have begun to expect the same from the companies they buy from, including restaurants. From compostable straws to upcycled food scraps, diners depend on restaurants to draw on environmentally friendly business practices. Restaurants have an opportunity to become a guiding force that can enable consumers to feel good about the decisions they make, including where they get their lunch.

“With more restaurants adopting environmentally friendly practices, sustainability will become the new normal, and operators will need to take more innovative steps to stand out. Expect to see restaurants make changes to the way they operate in 2019, including partnerships that put the greater good above competition and circular economies that benefit the environment and the people involved in the food systems,” continued Topper.

Restaurants for Good

Rising labor costs and declining unemployment are creating challenges for restaurant operators to hire and retain top talent. Restaurants are not only focusing their attention on the well-being of their employees to reduce attrition, they are also focusing on their customers by giving back to the communities they serve.

Labor is a top concern, if not a crisis, for the foodservice industry. Technology and robots are playing an increasing role in reducing labor costs, but foodservice will undeniably rely on humans for the foreseeable future. In 2019, restaurants will find even more creative ways to attract and retain top talent, and in turn, build loyalty in their own communities by backing causes that matter most to their customers.

“Employee retention programs and community outreach initiatives will be crucial for brands in 2019. Although mental health care and sexual harassment protections seem like they should already be basic necessities, these issues are ongoing in the restaurant industry. With national awareness mounting for both, expect to see restaurants implement stricter procedures and protocols surrounding these issues in an effort to better protect and support their employees,” added Topper.

Tech in Balance

As technology continues to drive the changing face of foodservice, restaurants must strike the right balance between operational efficiency, a desire for human interaction, and excellent service to all customers.

The invention of the drive-thru window forever changed how customers define convenience. Today, restaurants are continuing to roll out technology innovations to enable time-strapped consumers to have quicker transactions, shorter wait times, and meals delivered straight to their door. Looking ahead, operators must ensure that new innovations benefit not only operational efficiency but first and foremost, customers.

“As restaurant technology continues to become more sophisticated, the way consumers order will dramatically change moving forward. Restaurants will utilize technology to heighten customer experiences and provide value through more personalized service. By implementing technology with tangible benefits for customers, such as greater customization and more intuitive recommendations, operators will be able to drive efficiency and better customer service,” concluded Topper.

NYC Hospitality Alliance Compensation Survey

The labor market, labor costs, and labor laws have been influencing significant changes in full and limited restaurant industry fundamentals, according to a compensation survey by the New York City Hospitality Alliance conducted with 486 city restaurants, which employ nearly 14,000 tipped workers. It found those servers earn a median hourly wage of $25. 

Much of the financial and regulatory pressures on restaurants have occurred while Andrew Cuomo has been governor of New York State. The pressures heavily driven by recent labor mandates in New York City include: doubling the tip wage in a mere three years, six consecutive annual minimum wage increases, a $300 increase to the minimum weekly rate for salaried employees, paid sick leave, healthcare, workers’ compensation, taxes, compliance, and other related costs. This also includes the upward pressures these increases place on wages as an expense. 

To gain insight into the labor market, between November 28th and December 27th, 2018, the New York City Hospitality Alliance conducted a survey to investigate how restaurants in the city of New York are addressing increasing labor costs. 

The operators of 574 establishments responded to the survey, which represents 324 full service restaurants and 250 limited service restaurants. 

The survey results presented in this report include powerful insights. 76.50 percent of full service restaurant respondents reduced employee hours, and 36.30 percent eliminated jobs in 2018, in response to mandated wage increases. 75 percent of limited service restaurant respondents report that they will reduce employee hours, and 53.10% will eliminate jobs in 2019 as a result of mandated wage increases that took effect on December 31, 2018. 

There’s also a concerning trend found in restaurant employment data. When the tip wage increased 50 percent in 2015, and since doubled, annual employment growth dropped from 6.67 percent to less than 1 percent as of November 2018. The State Department of Labor's data for employment at limited service restaurants show a similar downtrend. Both decreases in growth, the results of this survey, and other industry trends signal that a once growing industry; responsible for hundreds of thousands of jobs, and billions of dollars in economic impact, has become stagnant. 

To read the survey, click here.

Sensory Experiences Drive Nine Out of 10 Shoppers Back to Stores

Mood Media launched its new global study, “Elevating the Customer Experience: The Impact of Sensory Marketing,” which reveals consumer attitudes toward the in-store customer experience as well as in-store shopping behaviors. Specifically, the report found that 78 percent of shoppers globally say an enjoyable in-store atmosphere is a key factor in their decision to choose in-store over e-commerce. For the purposes of this report, an enjoyable store atmosphere is seen as the right combination of music, visuals and scent. 

A follow-up to Mood Media’s 2017 State of Brick & Mortar report, the new study was undertaken by Walnut Unlimited, the global market research agency specializing in neuroscience and behavioral psychology and economics, and surveyed more than 10,000 consumers across 10 countries..

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We discover Shake Shack’s concrete secret to turning traditional restaurant marketing upside down, generating $334,174,807+ in revenue ​this​ ​year​ ​alone​,

Let’s drill down into Shake Shack’s ​restaurant marketing plan​ to see what they did to get a 89,600% return on investment. Best of all, each strategy can be used by your restaurant to massively increase your own revenue.

How exactly does a massive burger chain’s marketing plan apply to you? Well, what’s so special about Shake Shack’s ​restaurant marketing plan​ is that according to eMarketerRETAIL.com, their marketing budget for 2017 was only ​$400,000,​ with revenue of ​$358,800,000​. That’s a 89,600% return on investment. Not bad!

It all comes down to their big marketing secret. Reported by Fast Company, Edwin Bragg, who was Shake Shack’s VP of Marketing and Communications, said that their motto is ​“The bigger we get, the smaller we need to act.”​ This means a continued focus on being local, personal, and getting involved in the community. All things that you can do too.

We can’t promise you hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, but by applying the following 6 tips from Shake Shack’s ​restaurant marketing strategy​, you can massively increase the revenue return on your marketing spend, upwards of 10,000%. If it worked for Shake Shack, it may work for you.

1. Give the Dogs a Bone

Yes, we mean food for dogs, and yes, this is an odd one. But there is method to the madness. Shake Shack have cleverly taken advantage of the fact that people are crazy about their dogs, which allows them to connect with customers on an emotional level no other fast food franchise has done.

Shake Shack has a special menu just for dogs, right alongside their human food menu. The “Pooch-ini” is ice cream and dog biscuits, and the “Bag O’ Bones” is a bag of those dog biscuits.

All of this is to connect with customers emotionally, and make them loyal, returning customers. By catering for customers’ dogs, there is a real “they get me, they are just like me” connection between Shake Shack and their customers. According to Big Hospitality, ​good food is only the second most important thing​ when customers pick a restaurant. The number one thing was service, so it’s little touches like this in their ​restaurant marketing plan​ that make a huge difference in keeping customers coming back for more.

RJ Metrics reports that returning customers spend ​300%​ more, so this is a great idea to create loyal customers. Offer your customers a doggie bag or special doggie treats, and follow Shake Shack’s lead.

2. Drop Local Newspapers and Magazines/Traditional Advertising

This goes against the grain of traditional marketing, but just like Shake Shack, we’re all about new solutions for better return on investment. The bottom line is, newspapers, radio, TV, and magazines are the most expensive form of advertising you can do. And finding out whether they actually work or not can be hard to do.

The main reason Shake Shack’s marketing budget is so low is that they don’t do any of that traditional, expensive advertising and marketing. They instead focus on digital strategies that are a fraction of the cost, and you can directly measure their effectiveness.

This keeps overheads low, and it makes sure their return on their marketing dollar is maximized. All things that will benefit your bottom line. We talk about two digital strategies you can do below.

3. Make Customers Famous on Your Instagram

We talked above about the doggie menu. This is a great example of Shake Shack engaging with customers without having to rely on expensive traditional media for their ​restaurant marketing plan​. It really demonstrates the power of simple pictures, and talking to customers on their level.

People who have dogs love taking photos of their dogs. They like it even more if other people look at photos of their dogs. When people give their Shake Shack treats to their lucky pups, they can’t contain the cuteness and just have to post it on Instagram.

Shake Shack’s Instagram often posts ​customers’ dogs​ chowing down on their doggie treats, usually getting more likes than their other pictures. They link to the owner’s Instagram page (or even the dog’s Instagram page!) to make them Shake Shack celebrities. This is free advertising and reinforces that emotional connection we talked about before.
 

The other thing people like taking photos of is food. Encourage your customers to post pictures of your delicious looking meals and pick a winner once a week/month for a free meal.

As Edwin Bragg told the ANA Masters of Marketers conference in Orlando, ​“A central part of our marketing success is an active dialogue with our community. Our fans help tell our story.”

This costs you nothing but your time, and it’s a great way to engage customers and keep them coming through your doors night after night. Consultancy Bain and Company found that retaining just five percent of your customer base will increase you profitability by ​75 percent​. That’s smart marketing.

4. Bring New Customers in with Email Marketing

What’s a hip, millennial-focused fast food chain using boring old email? Well, because it’s effective – very effective. CampaignMonitor.com states for every $1 spent, it generates ​$38​ in revenue. That’s a 3,700-percent return.

Let’s look at how Shake Shack lays out their emails to get maximum engagement and return on investment.

  1. The first thing you see is a delicious looking image. This triggers all sorts of excitement in the brain, but more importantly, it gets their attention better than any words can.

  2. The green headline is simple, but keeps interest.

  3. The text below is also simple, but more importantly it’s in the language that appeals to their target market. It’s personal.

  4. There is a big tappable button to take the survey about their new burger. It’s easy to tap on a mobile device and is a clear call to action for the reader.

  5. There’s also a link to their app to turn engagement into revenue. You can link to your menu or website here to achieve the same result.

Again, this strategy only costs your time, so you don’t need to spend big bucks. You can see some email templates ​here​ that will get you started on the way to making a 3,700% return on your email marketing spend.

5. Be Proudly Local

No matter if Shake Shack is in Dallas, Texas, or Istanbul, Turkey, each restaurant has unique touches for the city they are in. Chicago has life-size sliding puzzles and West Hollywood has an art installation. In Detroit, they have local beers and a location specific dessert, in this case frozen custard concretes.

Yet again, this is about creating emotional engagement with their customers. No slick corporate design, but rather slightly quirky things that reflect the community they are in.

You can do the same with some local memorabilia such as old sports photos or big news stories from the past in your community. You could even dig out that first photo you took of you outside your restaurant.

This fits Shake Shack’s central theme of connecting with your customers on an emotional level, and creating conversation. Social Media Today tells us that brands that connect on an emotional level receive ​200 percent​ more word of mouth marketing from their customers.

This is a really easy way to get massive amounts of valuable word of mouth marketing all while make your restaurant a more interesting place to be.

6. Get Involved in Your Community

Shake Shack puts a lot of effort into being, as they put it, “good neighbors”. From the Shake Shack website: “We strive to be the best employers and citizens of each neighborhood we call home. Every Shack donates five percent of sales of a specific concrete to a local charity partner.”

They also run their Shack Track and Field free community fitness programme, which you guessed it, engages their customers at a local and emotional level. They are actively participating in their community.

Why? They are not just being nice for the sake of it. Brand experts SDL found that ​58%​ of customers will share positive experiences of a company on social media. Easy, effective marketing, all while doing good in their communities.

To be like Shake Shack, reach out to your community; you could sponsor local sports teams or support school fundraisers with meal vouchers.

Talk to your customers, find out about local opportunities and help where you can. It costs basically nothing compared to traditional media. Invest your time in your community and they will repay you with full tables.

Conclusion

Six simple ​restaurant marketing ideas​. A focus on being local, personal, and getting involved in the community. It all led to $334,174,807+ in revenue this year for Shake Shack, and it’s still climbing. All from a tiny, tiny marketing budget.

By using these simple, low cost marketing strategies Shack Shack makes an 89,600 percent return on their marketing investment.

Get started right now with just one of these ideas, follow it through, and you will be copying the exact marketing strategy of America’s rockstar of restaurant marketing.

What are you waiting for, there is no time like the present – go out and see if you can beat Shake Shack’s 89,600 percent return, to shoot your restaurant revenue through the roof.

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This edition of MRM’s News Bites features the F&B Innovation Conference, Presto, Bringg, DTP Companies and Como, MomentFeed, DoorDash, TSYS, Elo, WorkJam and Starbucks.

Send news items to Barbara Castiglia at bcastiglia@modernrestaurantmanagement.com.

F&B Innovation Conference

Light up your appetite and celebrate your passion for the food & beverage industry at the 2019 Food & Beverage Innovation Conference, co-located with Nightclub & Bar Show – March 25-27 in Las Vegas. Be at the forefront of the restaurant industry’s latest collection of innovative ingredients, technology, equipment and beverage trends. Whether you’re an independent owner, chain owner, quick-service restaurant operator or chef, energize your business and find exciting ways to increase revenue through technology and quality ingredients. Go to www.ncbshow.com/fbic to learn more. 

Save $30 Off your Pass with Promo Code MRM30.

First-of-its-Kind Wearable Technology for FOH

Presto launched  Presto Wearables, a smartwatch-like device that notifies servers of guests’ needs and management when guests need a manager’s attention (e.g., an unpleasant experience) top photo; and Presto A.I., a highly specialized algorithm that analyzes data in real time and provides actionable recommendations and predictive modeling for operators to make data-driven decisions. 

“Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen seismic shifts in the restaurant industry, especially increased challenges with rising labor costs, competition and rapidly inflating consumer expectations. To remain viable and meet these challenges, restaurants must optimize their Front of House to a greater extent than ever before,” said Rajat Suri, Founder and CEO of Presto. “After successfully rolling out our PrestoPrime tabletop technology, we are harnessing the convenience of wearables and the intelligence of artificial intelligence to help restaurants differentiate themselves in an evolving, competitive landscape. We’ve played an instrumental role in changing the dining industry over the last decade and we are looking to have a greater impact in the next 10 years with products that are cutting-edge and easy-to-use.”

Since initially launching in 2008,  Presto FOH technology has been enhancing both the guest and the server experience, with 95 percent of guests saying that using the Presto tabletop system improved their dining experience and 90 percent of guests saying the Presto tabletop system would “increase their likelihood to return to the restaurant again.” Moreover, the tech is helping maximize productivity of wait staff, allowing them to cover 2X more tables, to reduce ordering error and to reduce wasted time spent walking between the table and the POS to better focus on guest experience.

Suri, also a co-founder of popular ride sharing company Lyft, got the initial inspiration for Presto in 2008 while trying to split a bill with fellow graduate students from MIT and Harvard. To understand the restaurant industry more clearly, Suri dropped out of MIT to spend a year as a waiter, testing the first prototype of the Presto with guests. Since that time, Suri and his team of developers have been quietly building out and fine-tuning their platform, ensuing it’s the most innovative and comprehensive suite of products in the market today.

Presto is now working with 10 out of the top 20 restaurant chains in the US, including Applebee’s and Outback Steakhouse.

Bringg Raises $25 Million in Financing Round

Bringg raised a new funding round from strategic partners, bringing its investment total to $55 million. The $25 million C round adds Next47, the Siemens-backed global venture firm, to its existing list of investors, including Salesforce Ventures, Aleph VC, OG Ventures (Eyal Ofer’s VC arm), Cambridge Capital, Coca-Cola, Ituran and Pereg Ventures.

Following  market traction with clients including Walmart, Panera Bread, and Arcos Dorados (McDonalds’ largest global franchisee), the new funding will help accelerate business expansion during the company’s hyper growth stage. Bringg will use the funds to further expand globally from its current reach of more than 50 countries, through sales, marketing and development efforts targeted at securing additional global enterprise customers. 

Guy Bloch, CEO at Bringg said: “This is a watershed moment for Bringg. As the business goes into hyper growth mode, our teams must expand across all departments. This new investment enables Bringg to level the playing field in the age of Amazon by enabling large retailers, grocery chains, consumer goods companies, restaurant chains and logistics firms to provide their customers with what they expect from their deliveries, while providing them with the optimized business models required for retailers to win in today's challenging market.” Guy added: “We are on a mission to equip enterprises with the technology platform they need to orchestrate successful delivery operations – providing their management and logistics teams with the tools they need to not only survive but thrive in this exciting new landscape.”

Matthew Cowan, Partner at Next47 added: “We’re delighted to invest in Bringg, a pioneering company that’s providing crucial capabilities to leading organizations looking to connect logistics data across different silos and optimize their last mile of delivery. With the global logistics market predicted to grow to $15.5 trillion by 2023and the 'Amazon effect' drastically changing customer expectations, Bringg has a massive opportunity to fundamentally transform the logistics industry by enabling seamless automation, greater data transparency, and a more collaborative mental outlook.”

DTP Companies Partners with Como for Customer Engagment

Como has partnered with DTP Companies, a $350 million project in Downtown Las Vegas, to implement advanced data-based loyalty and engagement solutions for DTP‘s Las Vegas owned businesses.

Container Park

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh founded DTP Companies in 2012 with an intial $350 million investment distributed in tech startups, restaurants, bars and other ventures in a 45-acre area of Downtown Las Vegas. After a competitive analysis, DTP has selected Como to help its portfolio of businesses take advantage of the latest in-store innovations in customer engagement and loyalty.

“We truly believe in DTP’s vision, and we’re happy to join forces with them,” said Yair Holtzer, President of Como America. “Just as DTP is empowering people to follow their passions, we are empowering businesses to unlock their true potential, turning data into a means of nurturing long-lasting relationships that generate growth.”

Oak & Ivy

“We are excited to work with Como and use data and technology to enable the strongest growth opportunities for our businesses”, said Rene Durruthy, Digital Marketing Manager of DTP Companies. “We were looking for a company that would help us leverage the synergy between our restaurants, bars, and hotels while being fully integrated with our POS system in order to make sure that our customers are getting a seamless experience,” he said. “Como shares our vision of improving customer experience through technology.”

By implementing Como’s innovative product, Como Sense, across its businesses in Downtown Las Vegas, DTP will be able to provide those businesses with an advanced toolset of actionable insights and analytics, flexible loyalty programs, personalized promotions and recommendations, and mobile apps – all integrated with the businesses’ Point of Sale (POS) systems and designed to improve the guest experience and customize offers for our guests that align with their preferences. 

Como is partnering with Toast POS to fully integrate with the point of sale systems of DTP’s food and beverage venues while collaborating with Clock PMS for integration with the property management systems (PMS) of DTP’s hotels as part of a holistic and deeply integrated solution required by DTP Companies.

“Of course, we hope to get a larger share of the guest wallet with this new technology, but that isn’t our focus. If we create a robust user experience through a lifestyle-focused app that improves our customers’ knowledge on Downtown events and activations while giving offers to incent our customers, we will drive revenue growth. Como’s technology allows us to create the right experience,” said Durruthy.   

MomentFeed Debuts Location Finder

MomentFeed launched  Location Finder Templates and Widgets to provide multi-location brands and digital agencies with simple, elegant and SEO-ready components that can be used to enhance and build their own ‘local landing pages’. Fueled by MomentFeed’s own location data assets, brands can choose from multiple templates and content widgets to provide location-specific content to engage and convert online consumers to customers.

"Local is the secret sauce of any full-funnel SEO campaign. Location landing pages allow you to compete on longtail keyword sets where there is less competition capturing generic, branded and ’near-me’ searches. These types of searches influence e-commerce buying behavior and drive in-store visits,” said Jason White, Director of SEO, The Hertz Corporation.

“Local landing pages have become the most authoritative signal that search engines use today to recommend a local business to consumers, making them an indispensable asset for any brand using SEO to drive customers to their physical locations,” said Robert Blatt, CEO and Chairman of MomentFeed. “The more visible and complete your locations are, the more consumers will see your brand, engage with the content, and the more in-store visits you’ll drive. It sounds obvious and simple yet it is incredibly hard and complex to consistently manage and optimize SEO for thousands of local landing pages at scale. MomentFeed Location Finder continues to be the go-to solution for brands that want to leave nothing to chance when it comes to their search results and location visibility at the local level.”

To help multi-location brands create and maintain their critical local landing pages, MomentFeed offers three effective options:

Location Finder Widgets (NEW) – Designed for brands who want to enhance their existing local landing pages or want to quickly build their own. Brands maintain full control over their pages and can choose from multiple location-specific widgets including location details, menus, reviews, social icons, promotional images and custom buttons for online ordering, reservations and more.

Location Finder Templates (NEW) – Designed for brands who want SEO-ready, mobile-first local landing pages, but don’t want to maintain or host them. With MomentFeed’s battle-tested design Templates, brands can focus on providing localized content like calls-to-action, promo images, and descriptions that mobile consumers need to make decisions. By choosing a Template, brands can roll out local landing pages in one to two weeks.

Location Finder Custom Pages – Designed for brands who want unique local landing pages that match their website, but don’t want to host them. MomentFeed designers provide a customized page layout using pre-built page components and can integrate with a brand’s existing software such as booking, reservations or appointment scheduling.

 
DoorDash Goes National

DoorDash debuted its first integrated national TV campaign in the United States. The campaign, created in partnership with advertising agency M/H VCCP, will run across broadcast, digital, social and out-of-home channels from January 14 to March 31. 

The brand campaign, "Delicious at Your Door," introduces DoorDash's unrivaled selection of leading restaurant brands, featuring popular national chains on the platform including The Cheesecake Factory, Chipotle, and Wendy's. Local TV spots will highlight city fan favorites available through the platform, including Portillo's in Chicago and Mendocino Farms in Los Angeles. The TV campaign showcases a broad range of food delivery use cases—from a new mom in a maternity ward to a dorm room crammed with college students—to illustrate how DoorDash offers customers the possibility of more time for themselves and others.  

"Food brings us together and is an essential reality for everyone. We were fascinated by the idea of every door opening you up to a different scenario, showcasing the world of possibilities when it comes to eating," said David Bornoff, Head of Brand at DoorDash. "We want all of our new and existing DoorDash customers to walk away knowing that DoorDash has all of their favorite restaurants for any occasion at the tap of a button."

The TV spot, created by director duo, Greg and Lio, shows viewers a semi-surrealist world in which the bounds of gravity and laws of physics don't apply. By grounding the scenes in relatable examples, viewers move freely between a fantastical world while maintaining a strong sense of practicality. A door motif is featured throughout the spot to reinforce the broad, diverse audience set for on-demand food delivery. Working with Lital Gurai, a Tel-Avivbased Art Director, the set design and art direction was brought to life using the DoorDash brand color palette through a rich series of hues infused into each room and wardrobe. 

"Our world is changing rapidly, and so is the way we eat. We can all relate to feeling too exhausted to cook, or the desire for a pick-me-up comfort food when working late. Our story focuses on the reality of today's consumer experiences, as we showcase all of the different places and people who use DoorDash," said Kelsey Wilkins, Associate Creative Director at M/H VCCP. 

"Our aim was to create something visually delightful in order to elevate the spot beyond the everyday scenarios typical to the category. Ultimately, we hope the campaign drives acquisition but also creates equity for the brand," said Adam Ledbury, Associate Creative Director at M/H VCCP.

TSYS's Vital Launches

TSYS launched Vital®, a new brand of payment products designed to help small and medium-sized businesses run more easily and efficiently. Vital is also available to be white-labeled by TSYS partners.

The Vital brand’s initial offering includes Vital POS, a full-featured, cloud-based point-of-sale solution. Vital POS is made up of three products designed with various functions for businesses of different sizes – all built on the same back office software, enabling a single access point across all products.

Vital Mobile is for mobile merchants seeking a fast, affordable and easy-to-set-up payment acceptance platform. The product runs on a business owner’s mobile phone or tablet with an inexpensive EMV card reader.

Vital Plus offers an ideal replacement for countertop payment terminals and electronic cash registers. This product is intended for merchants that are busier and bigger than those using their personal mobile devices – and desire more control and reporting than their existing terminal offers. 

Vital Select provides business owners who have one or more brick-and-mortar locations with a powerful, full-featured POS system, as well as peripherals to address additional business needs. Vital Select includes more robust functionality in such areas as discounts, pricing and inventory management.

All three products feature tools that free up business owners to spend less time on administration and focus more on what they love about their business. These back-office features include: robust analytics and reporting, inventory management, taxes, time-clock and employee management, discounts and pricing functionality and more.

Philip McHugh, senior executive vice president and president, Merchant Solutions, TSYS, said Vital POS goes above and beyond point-of-sale efficiency.

“Business owners are looking for more than just payment acceptance, and that’s what Vital delivers,” McHugh said. “It allows them to run their whole business on the platform through a single user interface — making short work of tasks like inventory, time and attendance and reporting.”

This interface provides Vital POS users with access to market-leading analytics and reporting. Merchants can evaluate employee performance, which inventory items are selling, which days are the busiest and many other data points from their business’ operations. 

Elo Adds to Line

Elo made several additions to its POS and self-service solutions. Within the full Elo platform, notable new offerings include the the versatile EloPOSTM system, stylish Elo PayPoint® Plus for Windows system, and the compact 1302L touchscreen monitor:

EloPOS™ System for Windows:  This versatile system combines modern aesthetics, modular flexibility, and commercial-grade durability. It boasts a 15.6-inch touchscreen, Intel’s 8th-generation processors, and an integrated expansion hub to connect customer-facing displays, payment readers, printers, cash drawers, barcode scanners, and scales. From traditional POS to self-service applications, and backed by Elo’s standard 3-year warranty, the EloPOS™ system delivers the reliability needed for today’s commercial use.

Elo PayPoint Plus for Windows: This stylish and functional POS system delivers the power of Intel® CoreTM i5 processor. It includes a fully integrated barcode scanner, three-inch printer, encrypted MSR, full-sized cash drawer and connections for third-party peripherals. A flip-for-signature 15.6-inch touchscreen encourages shopper engagement, making the system ideal for retail stores and QSRs.

1302L: Elo’s latest 13-inch touchscreen monitor features the same seamless style of the 02-Series and is the first Elo monitor to utilize USB-C. With a compact form factor and clean design for easy integration, the 1302L offers the flexibility to install as a traditional stand-alone touch monitor or a customer-facing one, making it well-suited for point-of-sale, self-service, signage, and hospitality applications.

“The Elo platform makes creating and implementing any in-store touchscreen application much easier and less expensive than ever before,” said Craig Witsoe, CEO, Elo. “Retailers and restaurants are growing sales and reducing costs with touchscreen applications, but they need less store tech complexity. With unified architecture across multiple applications, everything gets easier.”

Taco Bell’s self-order kiosk solution will be on display to demonstrate app ordering and the Taco Bell Cantina store experience. Taco Bell uses EloView software to simplify deployment, management and security of the kiosk devices and content, helping to create a consistent experience for every customer visit. The EloView solution allows management of self-order kiosks from a central location, reducing operating costs while increasing uptime and security. The touchscreen displays deployed include Elo’s versatile 22-inch I–Series built for high-traffic environments.

WorkJam Completes Peerio Acquisition

WorkJam completed its acquisition of Peerio Technologies, a  provider of employee communication software with one of the most secure messaging and file sharing technology platforms on the market today.

“The team shares in our mission to provide simple and secure communication for everyone. Together, we will drive the future of enterprise communication and collaboration in the Digital Workplace.”

By acquiring Peerio and its entire workforce, WorkJam is continuing to invest in building the market’s most complete enterprise class digital workplace platform – one that unifies the employee experience across an ever-growing number of channels, devices, and touch points.

With this acquisition, WorkJam is enhancing its existing team communication and workstream collaboration capabilities with secure live chat enabling teams to connect and collaborate more effectively than ever before. In addition, the secure document and content sharing capabilities will enable teams to stay productive by making it easier to share documents in a centralized workspace.

With the acquisition of Peerio, WorkJam delivers an even more robust Digital Workplace solution, complete with the highest-level of security and data privacy. The platform delivers greater security than traditional enterprise-grade communication applications and exceeds existing security standards, including those imposed by the military and the healthcare, financial services, and legal sectors.

“When it comes to communicating with a large dispersed group of non-desk workers, control over data security is everything,” said Steven Kramer, CEO and co-founder of WorkJam. “Organizations can no longer afford the immense risk of their employees using unsanctioned and unsecure communication systems that cause a company to lose control over its confidential data and the personal data of its employees. With the addition of Peerio, WorkJam now provides the most secure digital workplace platform available — a platform that exceeds the most demanding security standards any enterprise could have when it comes to communicating with their workforce.”

With Peerio, WorkJam provides users with three different secure modes of communication: Live Chat, Channels, and Messaging. The live chat feature provides a secure way for corporate and frontline team members to message instantly with each other to communicate about day-to-day activities and also securely share files in a chat format. The messaging feature allows communication to be sent directly to a user’s in-box and the channels feature provides the ability to post targeted communications to different segments of the non-desk workforce or by topic area and allows feedback through channel post comments and likes. These modes of communication allow corporate headquarters personnel to communicate directly to the frontline employees and frontline employees to communicate between each other.

“We couldn’t be more proud to join forces with a company like WorkJam,” said Vincent Drouin, founder and CEO of Peerio. “The team shares in our mission to provide simple and secure communication for everyone. Together, we will drive the future of enterprise communication and collaboration in the Digital Workplace.”

Starbucks' Coffee Sanctuary

Starbucks opened its largest destination in Southeast Asia – the Starbucks Dewata Coffee Sanctuary. The store pays tribute to the important role that Indonesia, the fourth largest Arabica coffee growing region in the world, plays in bringing Starbucks customers quality coffees, including the popular single-origin..

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Location, location, location is often stressed for restaurateurs looking for the right property for a new business (or moving or expanding). And for good reason.

How can you distinguish sites that make sense for your restaurant?

As we recommend in our book, Negotiating Commercial Leases & Renewals FOR DUMMIES, your leased premises can make or break your restaurant and you should weigh many demographic aspects when considering leasing a location in a certain area or territory.

While you may have found a new property with space for lease this doesn’t mean the demographics will fit your ideal criteria. As a restaurant tenant, the following points will be specifically important to you when searching for your new business home: 

Age: The average age of people living in a particular area is extremely important to many business-owners. Will your restaurant be more attractive to parents with young families or retired seniors?  

Income: As mean income and the proportion of two-income households vary, so do the ability and desire to spend disposable income at your restaurant. 

Location: If you don’t think it matters which side of the street you’re located on, think again! Certain operations do better on one side of the street. Your restaurant may likely do better on a route where most people are driving home after work. Many people will not stop for a meal on their way into the office. Accessibility is another consideration here … do customers have to turn left in front of oncoming traffic to enter your parking lot? 

Residency: Set up shop where your target customers already live if possible, rather than try to make them come to you. 

Adjacent Property: If you find a great property with space available for lease, look around. If there is a bare patch of ground between your desired unit for lease, assume that someday, the landlord will lease that pad site or construct a building there that blocks visibility to both your signage and storefront. 

Neighboring Tenants: Who would be doing business next door to you? Will these tenants help or hinder your restaurant? If the tenant next to you is a heavy user of parking during the same prime times for your restaurant this may discourage customers from dining with you. 

Visibility (or lack thereof): Lack of visibility for your store front can cause people to drive right by it – especially if traffic is heavy. Trees in a parking lot can block signage and restrict visibility for drivers passing by. Some landlords have been known to overbuild their pad sites near the road, therefore blocking the visibility of the retail plaza behind it. 

Anchor Tenants: If you’re looking for commercial space to lease in a shopping mall or plaza, consider the anchor tenants (frequently major department stores which help to draw customer traffic). Ask the leasing rep/agent about how long the anchor tenant has leased in the property and if the anchor tenant has any plans to move. If the rep/agent claims to not know this information, press for more details.

Competition: Be aware of any, and all, competition within the area. Not only should you be acutely aware of your competitor, you should have someone “secret shop” their restaurant and report back to you about the entire experience. You could also have your secret shopper ask them about your restaurant (if you are already open) so as to discover what your competition is saying about you. Remember to also think in terms of future competitors. Check out which competing businesses are expanding within your city or planning to come to town. 

How can you distinguish sites that make sense for your restaurant? Begin by understanding that just because a developer bought some land and put up a building it doesn’t mean that the site is automatically a winner. Perhaps it was a great neighborhood 30 years ago, but it’s gone downhill? Perhaps the area is overdeveloped, meaning that another retail site isn’t needed or justified?

Consider the following two questions before choosing a specific commercial site for your business and signing a long-term lease agreement or a lease renewal: 

  • Are you planning to open a restaurant that people will travel for miles to visit? 
  • Are you taking your restaurant to where people already are (e.g. downtown, the suburbs, or a large shopping entertainment development)? 

For a complimentary copy of CD, Leasing Do’s & Don’ts for Commercial Tenants, e‑mail DaleWillerton@TheLeaseCoach.com.

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Blockchain, beyond the buzz, is a general purpose technology that is widely applicable to food supply chains. Often misunderstood, a public blockchain serves as a neutral arbiter of trust, capable of integrating data from different stakeholders into a single unmodified chain of information. In the food industry, this allows for proof of origin, end-to-end traceability, and even quality assurance of products.

One specific industry that stands to exponentially reap the benefits of such a distributed system is the global halal market. Halal, a term used to refer to Islamic law and the means by which meat should be prepared, is a crucial product identifier for more than 1.5 billion people around the world. As halal products have become better known for their health benefits and sustainable practices, fraudulent products claiming to adhere to rising consumer expectations have come to dominate the market. Blockchain may hold the key to effectively combating these practices but many still have questions about the technology. How exactly can blockchain be used to verify the integrity and authenticity of halal products? What benefit would consumers have from such a technology? Most importantly, how can blockchain open up the halal market for new competitors interested in building an inherently transparent business, offering inimitable traceability? Blockchain, as will become clear in time, will digitally transform the entire halal industry in a trusted and transparent manner.

Blockchain, as will become clear in time, will digitally transform the entire halal industry in a trusted and transparent manner.

In simple terms, a public blockchain refers to a distributed network of operators whereby data can be collected and verified by any party with access to the network. In turn, this data remains visible to all third parties involved or merely spectating. What this provides, unlike a database and other information technologies, is a way for multiple parties to build trust around the information they are sharing, by permanently writing such data into a publicly visible ledger.

More concretely, for the halal food market, this would mean that the origin, quality-controls, and supply chain journey of all halal products could be integrated into a single coherent data flow. From the butcher, to the transportation company, through customs controls, and up until the retailer, the various stakeholders can each, individually, upload data to the blockchain from their portion of the supply chain, communicating their role and activity in the process. Once the product reaches the consumer, all of the data can be integrated into a single application or web address that can be accessed by scanning a QR code with a smartphone.

Importantly, this is only the tip of the iceberg for the kinds of solutions that blockchain-based technologies can provide for the $ 1.4 trillion USD global halal food market. Unlike many other food products, halal is distinct insofar as it must be prepared in a specific way and cannot, under any conditions, contain pork. While certain labels such as HACCP (Hazard analysis and critical control points), GMP (good manufacturing practice), and GHP (good hygiene practice) have been used to identify properly sourced and managed halal products, blockchain takes such systems and brings them up to an entirely new threshold.

Beginning on the farm, the animal in question can be individually labeled alongside its dietary routines: How the animal was taken care of, what it was fed, and its individual ID can all be immutably recorded;

At the butcher, everything from images with timestamps to veterinarian health check documents can be uploaded to the blockchain to verify the exact cut of meat and establish the conditions in which it was prepared, thereby ensuring that it is safe to sell to customers and certify as halal;

Taking things one step further, the halal products in question can be quality tested using a DNA sensor after being prepared, and then monitored using temperature-sensitive smart packaging that tracks the product environment; 

These sensors and smart packaging devices can then be calibrated to automatically transmit data to the blockchain in real time. Geographical coordinates, customs controls, and other identifiers of where the product has traveled can also be incorporated either through a sensing device, text message, or other forms of digital communication. 

Blockchain is a foundational technology, that can create a self-reinforcing cycle of trust, transparency, and positive business practices for the halal supply chain.

Once stored on the blockchain, this information can be synthesized and externally configured in the form of a web and mobile application. A solution for import controls on halal products can be designed to improve regulatory compliance; customer reviews of products, and new marketplaces for suppliers can additionally be created. Data, once integrated onto the blockchain from halal supply chains, can be further used for legal, tax, insurance, and consumer purposes so as to unlock hidden value and improve business to business (B2B) or business to consumer (B2C) relations by building trust and credibility in the authenticity of the produce.

As the global halal market is projected to reach a market value of US$ 2.6 trillion by 2023, an ever-growing number of products and beverages will begin to integrate the halal label. For consumers, chefs, and food and flavoring companies (among others) the prospect of better sourcing halal products with enhanced quality controls will increase the appeal of blockchain-based halal foods across the food value chain. New companies interested in building a brand based upon transparency, quality assurance, and consumer interaction, will be able to leverage blockchain as a competitive advantage and stakeholder of trust.

Finally, for consumers, the possibility of distinguishing between fraudulent and verified halal products via a QR code on the side of a package or bottle will limit counterfeit goods, and positively reinforce good business practices. Altogether, blockchain is a foundational technology, that can create a self-reinforcing cycle of trust, transparency, and positive business practices for the halal supply chain. As the global halal market continues to expand into new industries and reach out to new consumers, blockchain is an optimal business solution for digitally grounding quality-halal products on an immutable and trusted foundation.

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The beginning of a new year brings hope and promise to many. It's this time of year when we focus on planning and goal-setting, on making improvements within ourselves and our ventures.

For business owners in any industry, the start of a new year can be a "reset" over the last year. Operators set goals for the new year, informed by higher projections and larger quantities. They seek to ditch the methods that aren't working and adopt new ones which will improve their operations.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said rather famously "a goal without a plan is just a wish." Without a solid understanding of your existing bandwidth, a clear projection of what you want and detailed methodology to get there, you're not likely to succeed. In the modern age though, restaurant technology and data make it easier to set real, actionable goals than ever before. Here's our list of SMART goals, and how you as a restaurant operator can set goals for 2019. 

Specific Goals

For goals to be successful, they must be specific. You've got to know what you're working with, to understand what you can change. Through restaurant analytics, you can use the reporting features of your restaurant technology to make operational decisions. Using data from the devices in your restaurant will help you hone in on your particular challenges and strengths. In other words, you won't be making arbitrary guesses as to what you can improve – you'll know!  

From your back-of-house software, like your kitchen display system, you can gain insight into how well your kitchen is functioning. The speed of service metrics shows how quickly you're processing orders from the POS to the kitchen and back onto the floor. Cook time variance shows how long something should take to cook, and how long you're making.

From your front-of-house technology, you can get data to inform your guest management efforts. Reports like average wait times, open menu counts and average party sizes help you understand your efficiency in the lobby. 

Finally, data from your POS can help you identify financial metrics, and break them down by months or weeks, to identify successful periods. 

Measurable Goals

You cannot make good on the goals you set if you can't measure them. Imagine you're trying to lose 15 pounds. How would you know to measure your progress without a scale? It's the same in your restaurant.

Data reporting and analytics means you measure your real-time performance, so you can see if your efforts are paying off. For example, if you made a goal to lower your average speed-of-service times by two minutes, you'd be able to see from the report if you were on track to pull it off. If you notice, perhaps, that you've managed to lower your time by 1 minute and 15 seconds, you may conclude that you need to continue restructuring your kitchen. To make these efforts more active, you can isolate particular days and hours which throw yourrestaurant metrics our of wack, and focus on those.

Achievable Goals

Setting a specific goal, and measuring your progress as you work to pull it off is one thing, but if your goal isn't possible in the first place, you're expending all that energy for naught. Data reporting in your restaurant work in the same way and gives you a clear portrait of your limits and thresholds so that you can set goals reasonably.

If you're running reports and discover that your average wait times exceed 30 minutes, reducing that down to five minutes in a single week isn't likely. Instead, you can make smaller, incremental goals, in a specific time frame, that gets you closer to your ultimate goal. 

Relevant Goals 

A restaurant operator will only achieve goals if they're relevant. For example, if you're making a goal to be more consistent with exercises, the steps you'd take should be related to that specific end. You could try getting more sleep and waking up earlier, good habits for sure, but they won't necessarily contribute to your end goal.

It's the same for an operator. If you notice that things in your back-of-house are slipping, your kitchen data reporting will help you pinpoint where to focus your efforts.  With restaurant data, you can make the relevant changes and tweaks you need to, where you need to, to make right on the goals you've set. 

Time-Bound Goals

Finally, goals need to have a projected time frame, an "achieved by" date to be most effective. Anyone can make the aim to improve revenue, cut ticket times and raise customer satisfaction metrics in an indeterminate time frame. However, an effective goal-setter will set a projected date for when they hope to hit these milestones.

The beauty of restaurant data and analytics is that they give you specific time increments, days, weeks and months, to measure your data. These robust features help you set realistic (see "achievable") goals, but also lets you know the kind of time frames you can expect to make any changes. 

SMART Conclusions

In the end, the key to making your goals actionable is to make them smart, to hit every letter in this suitable pneumonic device.  While you might not hit every target you set, every time, you'll still make other improvements to your restaurant, in pursuit of these big goals. With restaurant data on your side, you can ensure that any goal you set is smart. 

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This edition of MRM’s News Bites features Olo,  eatsa, Hostme and Lightspeed, Paytronix,  New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute, Bar Nine, Milk Bar and Oat Foundry.

Send news items to Barbara Castiglia at bcastiglia@modernrestaurantmanagement.com.

Tiger Global Invests $18 Million in Olo 

Olo received an investment of $18 million by Tiger Global Management, LLC, a New York based investment firm. The investment was structured using common equity held by long-term Olo employees, providing an opportunity for those team members to realize a monetary benefit in acknowledgment of Olo’s  success in alignment with Tiger Global’s belief in the growth of the restaurant technology sector.

Noah Glass

“Tiger Global’s investment is a testament to our achievements to date, and offers a way for long-term team members to realize the value of their hard work to build and grow Olo,” said Noah Glass, Founder & CEO of Olo. “We are thrilled to have Tiger Global as part of our investor base and look forward to working with them as we partner to grow digital ordering and delivery for the restaurant industry.”

“We have invested heavily in the restaurant technology industry as part of our focus on e-commerce and are very impressed with the work Olo has done to help restaurant brands benefit from digital ordering adoption by acting as their digital interface and technology backbone. We believe Olo has a long runway ahead,” said Scott Shleifer, Partner, Tiger Global Management.

Olo is the on-demand interface for the restaurant industry, powering digital ordering and delivery for over 250 restaurant brands across 50,000 locations.  Today, more than 100 million consumers use Olo to order ahead and get meals delivered and more than half of the publicly traded restaurant brands engaged in digital ordering and delivery use Olo including Applebee’s, Chili’s, Chipotle, Denny’s, Five Guys Burgers & Fries, Jamba Juice, Noodles & Company, Red Robin, Shake Shack, sweetgreen, Wingstop  and more. 

eatsa Picks Up Solution

eatsa lauched the Spotlight Pickup System, which addresses operational challenges facing restaurants and retailers as consumer expectations continue to grow for fast, seamless and delightful experiences powered by digital ordering and third-party delivery services.

The Spotlight Pickup System was designed to be an engaging, easy-to-use order pickup solution that simplifies and streamlines the pickup process for customers, restaurant staff and delivery service providers, orchestrating operations with a guided and personalized experience. eatsa has selected three lighthouse project partners for initial  deployments including fast-casual, build-your-own mac & cheese restaurant, MAC’D in San Francisco; gourmet-salad-to-go restaurant, Evergreens in Seattle; and the steamed buns and rice bowl concept, Wow Bao in Chicago, coming next month.

“Third-party delivery is often the biggest growth opportunity for restaurant operators, but with the lack of organization around how to best manage customers and delivery personnel who are taking food to go, it’s frequently fraught with confusion and delays for customers and chaos for operators,” said Tim Young, CEO of eatsa. “Our Spotlight Pickup System alleviates this problem with a combination of automation and personalization as well as offering an engaging and fun way for brands to simplify the experience and guide their guests efficiently through the pickup process. We are thrilled to bring this product to restaurants to address this important challenge.”

Tim Young

The Spotlight Pickup System, an alternative to eatsa’s  Cubby Pickup System, simplifies a crucial organizational challenge facing operators: how to increase off-premise order volume while alleviating overcrowding and bottlenecks often caused by mobile ordering and third-party delivery. Upon arriving at the restaurant, each customer or delivery driver checks the digital Status Board to quickly understand the status of their order, and are then guided to their pickup ‘Spot’ where the customer’s name is clearly highlighted on the front display. 

The Spotlight Pickup System has a modular design that’s quick to install and easy to customize in order to fit into existing restaurant layouts without construction or downtime. It includes an array of automated surfaces called 'Spots,' each equipped with product sensors, a toplight for status indication and a front display for customized digital messaging. The System seamlessly integrates with ordering and order management solutions to orchestrate the handoff process, eliminating confusion, reducing errors, and providing unprecedented levels of operational and consumer data and analytics.  

The system complements eatsa’s Omnichannel Intelligent Queue Software which integrates multiple order channels – including in-store kiosk and POS, mobile, third-party delivery and web – eliminating the need for manual queue handling from multiple third-party delivery tablets, and providing optimized order management with accurate order availability times. 

“Our customers value quick and efficient service, and the Spotlight Pickup System optimizes the pickup process, reducing confusion over order status and where to go,” said Antony Bello, Co-Founder of MAC’D in San Francisco. “When considering eatsa’s technology, it was critical for us to have the ability to customize it to fit both our space needs in the restaurant and our brand standards for how we communicate with our guests. We were able to install the Spotlight Pickup System overnight and it fits seamlessly into our restaurant design. The added benefit is it’s very fun and engaging for our customers. I’ve seen many smiles as they easily find their order and are able to go about their busy day.”

“Like so many restaurant operators, we have seen a big increase in the number of pickup orders at our restaurants and perfecting operations for these new digital orders has been a challenge. We’re excited that the Spotlight Pickup System is solving this important operational challenge,” said Tom Small, Chief Operating Officer of Evergreens in Seattle. “We are looking forward to being able to clearly communicate to our customers the status of their digital order from the moment it’s placed and guide them to their pickup Spot in store without having to interact with our cashiers. We think our customers are going to love this new innovative pickup experience.”

Hostme and Lightspeed Partner

Hostme is partnering with Lightspeed POS Inc by integrating their technologies together to help restaurateurs significantly streamline their operations.

“Our partnership with Lightspeed is a win-win-win for our two companies and for our customers — restaurants and chains of all sizes that seek a more seamless reservation and table management system and a powerful, scalable, cloud-based POS,” said Hostme CEO and Co-Founder Evgeny Popov.

The Hostme app helps restaurants seat more and spend less through advanced 24/7 reservation and table management. Hostme streamlines front-of-the-house operations, eliminates costly no-shows, boosts return business, and increases staff satisfaction. It makes operations accessible via any mobile device — in nine languages.

Lightspeed delivers technology for independent businesses with big ambitions, providing point of sale, loyalty and CRM, merchant services, and e-commerce for its hospitality and retail customers. Hostme is Lightspeed’s first reservation system partner, contributing to Lightspeed’s robust array of integrations as it moves into the full-service space.

Together, Hostme and Lightspeed complement one another’s strengths by helping restaurant owners and operators tighten up their table turnarounds and get more control over revenue and cost centers.

“We both share a passion for customer success. Hostme’s waitlist management is a stellar feature with in-depth analytics,” explained Peter Dougherty, Director of Partnerships at Lightspeed. “By working together, we’re really providing technology that facilitates how restauranteurs manage their businesses.”

The Hostme and Lightspeed integration is already being adopted by restaurants such as De Witte Berg in Belgium

Get Loyal with Paytronix

 Paytronix Systems, Inc., is accepting nominations for the 2019 Paytronix Loyaltees Awards. The annual awards program highlights the most innovative guest engagement strategies from leading brands in the restaurant, convenience store, and retail industries—highlighting how companies are leveraging the Paytronix platform to deliver market-defining guest experiences.

The Paytronix Loyaltees competition is open to all current Paytronix clients. It recognizes the most effective guest engagement and loyalty programs that ultimately drive transactions and increase customer acquisition. The Loyaltees honor those who creatively deploy Paytronix solutions to manage the customer experience, from mobile engagement to point of sale—prompting targeted guest behavior and breaking new ground with relevant offers that leverage data-rich loyalty programs.

Winners share their success stories for others to learn from, with a focus on leveraging technology and data analytics to engage with customers, drive more frequent visits, and increase spend. Read the success stories profiling last year’s winners, including Peet’s Coffee, Yesway Convenience Stores, Captain D’s, and The Counter.

The 2019 Paytronix Loyaltees will accept entries in four categories:

  1. Best Loyalty Launch: Celebrating brands that have either launched their first loyalty program or revamped an existing program in 2018.
  2. Marketing Innovation: Recognizing early adopters and forward-thinking brands that are seeing results from leading the pack in adopting new technology and tactics for guest engagement and 1-1 marketing.
  3. Business Impact: Acknowledging loyalty programs and campaigns that delivered measurable business value (moved sales, drove traffic, and delivered ROI).
  4. Best Gift Card Sales Program: Recognizing brands that have developed a promotion or campaign that delivered a remarkable lift in year over year gift card sales.

“The Paytronix Loyaltees celebrate the most innovative and exciting ways that our customers are deploying loyalty and gift card programs to engage their customers, strengthen the brand experience, and uncover actionable insights in guest behavior,” said Michelle Tempesta, head of marketing with Paytronix Systems, Inc. “Together we explore new ideas around customer engagement and proven techniques for loyalty-driven, real-time marketing.”

Submit a Loyaltees nomination, learn more about the awards program, or read about prior award-winning Loyaltees campaigns and programs here.

Winners will be announced starting in March, 2018.

Cultivating the Next Generation of Chefs

New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute (NOCHI) opened its doors welcoming twenty-one students in the Culinary Arts and the Baking & Pastry Arts certificate programs, top photo. NOCHI is a non-profit institute that brings to New Orleans an accelerated culinary and hospitality training model, which includes industry-driven curricula, hands-on experience, and strong connection to the local culinary industry, all in a fast-tracked term designed to enhance learning outcomes for students.

The Tuohy Family Baking & Pastry Lab Photo by Randy P. Schmidt

The intensive 100-day program blends fundamental knowledge and technical skills in cooking and baking, as well as courses in product knowledge, health and safety practices, restaurant planning and career development. Over the five-month term, students will receive the critical foundation to become professional cooks or bakers and gain essential skills to be successful in their career paths.

NOCHI is grounded in furthering the city’s legacy of hospitality and contributing to its ongoing evolution by offering the certificate program for a fraction of the cost of competitors at $14,775. Additionally, approximately half of the inaugural class received tuition assistance from NOCHI supporters, including Coca-Cola, Entergy, Sysco, the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation, and collective giving from the Ella Brennan Scholarship Fund.

Emeril Lagasse Foundation Culinary Lab Photo by Randy P. Schmidt

“We are thrilled to open New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute and to welcome a bright group of aspiring chefs and bakers, as well as locals and visitors,” said NOCHI Executive Director Carol Markowitz. “New Orleans is at the forefront of the culinary and hospitality industry and we’re excited to introduce our inaugural professional training programs and enthusiast courses right in the heart of the city.” 

NOCHI will take an engaging, hands-on approach to culinary education, offering enthusiast courses for home cooks, food and wine enthusiasts, and anyone wanting to better his or her skills in the kitchen. Courses will range in topics, including knife skills, seasoning fundamentals, Afro-Caribbean cuisine, and traditional New Orleans Creole cuisine and gumbo. Beginning January 10, NOCHI will offer its first enthusiast course in the fundamentals of cheese

At more than 90,000 sq. ft. and five stories, NOCHI provides a setting where everyone can enjoy New Orleans-style food and hospitality. Students and guests can showcase their talents in teaching kitchens, a beverage lab, lecture classrooms, computer lab, and even at the on-site restaurant, NOCHI Café by Gracious. NOCHI is located at 725 Howard Avenue.

Milk Bar Classroom

This year Milk Bar laid down roots in Los Angeles with the opening of their first L.A. outpost and now West Coast flagship. In true Milk Bar fashion, Chef and Founder Christina Tosi wanted the design of their newest and biggest location to “color outside the lines” of any other Milk Bar that they’ve opened before.

To set their new Melrose Avenue location apart from the rest, Tosi and her team developed Milk Bar’s first LA-based Milk Bar Classroom, an experience center that operates as an educational test kitchen to host baking classes and experiment with new recipes for customers to taste. When developing the design of the new classroom, the team knew that they wanted to incorporate a non-digital sign that would serve as an interactive menu for classes and events. After some research, they decided that an old-school Split Flap Display from Oat Foundry would be the icing on the cake. 

“From the start, we knew that the Milk Bar Classroom would serve as a multi-functional space that would allow us to host a range of events, so it was essential that we find a sign that would not only bring a unique and personalized element to the space, but would also be easy for the staff to manage and change on a daily basis,” said Milk Bar Director of Creative, Ursula Viglietta. “Since a digital display isn’t on-brand for us, the Split Flap display was the perfect option, giving us the flexibility to bring something new to the menu every day, without coordinating appointments to get new things printed.”

The Milk Bar design team worked directly with Oat Foundry to create a three row by thirty-two column Split Flap display to serve as the ad hoc menu in their Milk Bar Classroom. Since the display is fully customizable, Milk Bar asked Oat Foundry to incorporate their brand’s pink color into select flaps, to give their display a unique custom touch. Now sitting on the wall of their Milk Bar Classroom, the Split Flap display rotates a number of fun on-brand Milk Bar sayings, like “I seriously love you,” flashes a “Class is in Session” message once class is ready to commence and allows the staff to update class steps on the fly.

With the space constantly changing from a classroom to an experiential kitchen and even an event space, it was essential that the staff be able to easily process and manage any changes that needed to be made to the display. Using any device on site, the Milk Bar team can easily plug in a message or a new menu to the web app and instantly send it to the display or schedule it to occur at a certain time.

“Oat Foundry Marketing Manager Jeff Nowak came out to help us with the initial set-up and give us a lesson on the Oat Foundry Web App,” said Viglietta. “Because the system is so intuitive, we were able to easily manage and control the process on our own, after a quick 15-minute lesson.”

Not only does the Oat Foundry Split Flap display blend in seamlessly with the design of Milk Bar’s sweet new home on Melrose Avenue, but it has improved daily staff functions and really helped to make a statement in their brand-new Milk Bar Classroom.

“It’s so fun to see how everyone reacts the first time that they see it change,” Viglietta added. “It really has created a special moment in our newest and biggest flagship location.”

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