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Everyone’s heard of hot sauce. Nearly every nation has their own cultural rendition of a spicy condiment to enhance the flavor of their food. While hot sauce has been popular in the U.S. for decades, it’s become increasingly popular in recent years. Hot sauce is more than just a common part of street food, as there is a science behind how spicy each sauce is, as well as a history of hot sauce’s origins. 

Most hot sauce is some combination of chili peppers, vinegar, and salt. Many hot sauces are fermented to add a funky flavor element. They can be liquid or paste, green, red or even brown. While there are other spicy condiments that get their heat from ingredients that aren’t chilies (Mustard sauce, Wasabi, Horseradish), we’ll just focus on chili-based sauces.

Most sources agree that hot sauce is an ancient invention that goes back as far as Mayan times. The first hot sauces were likely just a mixture of peppers and water, but it didn’t take long for people to begin breeding pepper plants to develop the most desirable traits in their peppers. Then, as with most foods, colonization led hot sauce to be evolved even further by introducing ingredients from other parts of the world, such as vinegar and other spices. It didn’t take long for spicy flavors to reach all corners of the globe after that.

In the 19th century, the Tabasco company brought hot sauce into the commercial scene by bottling and selling their products, mainly to hotels and restaurants. And today, there are countless varieties of hot sauce covering a broad spectrum of flavors, from sriracha to buffalo sauce.

What Makes Hot Sauce Hot?

The chemical that gives peppers their distinctive spicy flavor is called capsaicin. Sources believe that nature intended capsaicin to deter many animals from eating peppers, but the chemical has had the opposite effect… because spicy food is delicious. Fun fact! Most species of birds cannot taste the spiciness of capsaicin, likely so that they could help spread the seeds of pepper plants by ingesting and excreting them.

Chile, Chili or Chilli: What’s the Proper Pepper Spelling?

You’ll likely see two different spellings used to describe our spicy little peppers. And while they can be used interchangeably, you may find that certain regions tend to use one option more consistently than the others. For example, you’ll likely find “chilli” with two ls is most common in India and the UK, while South and Central America tend to use “chile” with an e… not to be confused with the country of Chile, which is spelled the same, but is unrelated to the origins of this word.

Also, here in the U.S., chili with one l is the preferred spelling of the pepper, but it also refers to the beef stew that stems from Mexican chili con carne, which includes chili powder, beef, onion, tomatoes, and sometimes beans.

Styles of Hot Sauce by Region

Just like most foods, there are people who craft specialty hot sauce and incorporate unique flavors into the mix. You can find artisanal hot sauces with fruity elements such as pineapple, mango and even blackberry. But most hot sauce types are defined by the region from which they originate.

When it comes to measuring the pungency of a spicy food, experts refer to the Scoville scale. This system was developed in 1912 by pharmacist Wilbur Scoville as a means to measure the level of capsaicinoids (which includes all the spicy chemicals, not just capsaicin) in a particular substance. The unit of measure in this scale is Scoville heat units (SHU) and is a useful bit of knowledge when examining or discussing the spiciness of a particular food. SHUs can also be used for non-food items, such as law-enforcement-grade pepper spray, which can be anywhere between 2 to 5 million SHU.

While tasting spiciness can be a somewhat subjective thing, measuring the chemicals on the Scoville scale provides an objective means of communicating just how hot something is. And while chili peppers may come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, flavors… and even spellings, the fact that spicy foods can be found in nearly every country on earth is a unifying quality. Humans have enjoyed hot sauce since ancient times and, as with so many foods, it can serve as an international language to bring different people together and find common ground. 

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You’re with a friend at a bustling café. You’re just getting situated at your table and taking in the sights and smells as your server approaches. She’s friendly enough, but you notice she’s wearing ripped jeans and an ill-fitting blouse. “That’s a little tacky,” you think to yourself as she takes your order.

The server leaves, and your attention quickly returns to your conversation…but as the meal progresses, you can’t help but notice that all the servers are wearing different outfits. There’s no uniformity—nothing to distinguish them from the patrons.

As a business owner, you find this oversight a bit baffling (if not offensive). “This is Business 101 stuff,” you think to yourself.

Will the sub-ideal appearance of the wait staff deter you from going back to that café? Maybe not. But it might not be your first choice next time.

The message here is that impressions matter.

Stylish, functional, well-fitting uniforms are a must in any restaurant—whether it’s a small-town bistro or a nationwide sports bar franchise.

Here are five things to consider when choosing a uniform for your establishment. 

 
Branding

Your staff is the face of your business. The uniform they wear represents your brand. Think you don’t need a brand just because you’re a small business owner with a single restaurant location? Guess again! Every business—large or small—needs a brand identity. Uniforms are a silent marketing tool, promoting your business without words or images. They also help prevent confusion by distinguishing staff from patrons.

Darker colors typically convey a more serious, upscale impression. Bold colors capture attention. White conveys sophistication and purity. If you’re curious about how color influences impressions and attitudes, here’s a good blog post on color psychology.

Uniforms don’t have to be expensive or elaborate, but they should make a statement. At a minimum, that statement should be that you take pride in your establishment.

 Style

It goes without saying that your uniforms should be tidy-looking and functional, but they should also be stylish. Unless your restaurant has a specific or unusual theme, contemporary is the way to go. This doesn’t mean you have to cast aside tradition—an ensemble of vest, slacks, and button-down shirt is timeless attire for servers, especially in more upscale establishments, while chef’s hats and coats are both functional and make a statement about who’s in charge in the kitchen.

Comfort

The restaurant business is demanding. Your hardworking staff deserve uniforms that are functional and comfortable. An uncomfortable uniform is like a pair of shoes that are just a tad too small—you can’t wait to get out of it. Itchy, ill-fitting, or otherwise irritating uniforms may very well translate into poorer service from staff on the floor, poor creativity from staff in the kitchen, and reduced productivity all around. And, in any case, do you really want patrons observing your wait staff tugging at their collars and adjusting uncomfortable slacks all day?

Choose comfortable uniforms that give your staff room to move and breathe. They don’t have to cost a fortune, but quality matters, which brings us to our next point…

Quality

Quality matters. You might think you can save a bundle by ordering in bulk from an overseas wholesaler site, but don’t be surprised if those $5 aprons only last a few months before you’re back online ordering more. Investing in quality restaurant apparel upfront will save you money in the long run. In any case, shoddy tailoring and poor-quality materials don’t convey pride in your establishment. Go for the good stuff.

Safety

Safety is so important in the restaurant industry, where open flames, fiery ovens, spills, splashes, and splatters are part of the job description. Protecting chefs, cooks, and servers from these hazards is essential. Many standard apparel items protect wearers by design—think the double-breasted chef’s coats that protect a chef’s chest, neck, and arms from burns, splatters, and hot liquids. Or bib aprons, which also guard against splatters and spills. To ensure you’re getting quality apparel designed with safety in mind, order restaurant apparel from a company that offers trusted brands in the industry.

In a nutshell, quality restaurant uniforms that convey a sense of pride in your establishment and reflect your brand identity will help you take your business to the next level.

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With delivery on the rise, operators of all food types are racing to embrace the new paradigm of convenience. Understandably so: Morgan Stanley and other industry analysts predict delivery sales will build at a compound annual growth rate of over 15 percent in the next five years, prompting a delivery ‘arms-with-bags’ race. Changes in consumer demand and the rise of last-mile delivery services will bring lifelong impact to the restaurant industry. As a result, decisions and deals are materializing fast, which means missteps can happen just as quickly – and they are.

Just how much does setting the right foundation matter? To see a distant future resembling what Olo Founder & CEO Noah Glass calls the “sad path” of food on-demand, look no further than similar missteps in the travel industry. Hotel brands didn’t foresee the significance online travel agents would play quickly enough, and once they did grasp the big picture, it was too late to take control. For hoteliers, a fifteen-year battle wages on. Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott International, just proclaimed at the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference in June that his company is “in an absolute war for who owns the customer,” predicting more years of grappling with OTAs over customer engagement.

So how can the restaurant industry embrace the exciting promise of delivery while maintaining the health of their businesses? As a foundation, they must avoid the four “worst practices” of delivery enablement to capitalize on delivery’s true potential.

Worst Practice #1: Redirecting Guests Away from Your Brand Site or App … or Store

Picture it: you’re hungry for Bob’s Burgers and head over to BobsBurgers.com for delivery. Bob offers his own direct delivery, but clicking on the ‘Delivery’ link sends you off to a third-party site. To the majority of digital guests, this bump is negligible; however, to the restaurateur it means lost work to get you to the site and send you to another provider while paying a commission for the privilege.

While marketplace partners undoubtedly provide solid streams of incremental orders for many brands, no brand that offers their own pickup/delivery experience should bounce visitors from their own .com or app to a third-party. This is also true for destinations like Yelp, Google My Business, and every other place on the web where menu and ordering links appear.

Even worse, many restaurant locations are willingly posting on their front window/door delivery stickers advertising delivery services that charge the restaurant a 20-30 percent commission on every order, hog customer data, and list that very location next to its neighborhood competitors.

As speaker Jim Sullivan recently highlighted, the power of your guest data far exceeds our industry’s current use of it. Without intervention, Sullivan says in “last place will be the restaurant industry itself, which created the market and the demand, but will become its supplier and servant instead. Who owns the data owns the future.”

Worst Practice #2: Being Indifferent Toward Your Own Direct Channel

Quite commonly, brands are enabling on multiple order streams without a stance or preference on the order origin, resulting in a marketplace-dominant mix. Executive sentiment then goes something like this: “Marketplace X/Y/Z drives most of our orders, so we’ll focus our energy there.”

It’s no surprise that secondary channels would drive a majority of orders without an aggressive digital marketing strategy to attract guests to “first-party” direct channels. Why is investing here important? Look again to the travel and lodging industry, where many hotel brands are actively working to win back guests to “book direct” through expensive loyalty programs that are the direct result of lost market share to sites like Expedia, Orbitz and Priceline.

The antidote is a brand like Disney, which today retains 100 percent of its revenue through direct bookings and has been able to build pricing and inventory systems to fully control yield. As Olo CCO Marty Hahnfeld says, “not every hotel or restaurant brand could be Disney, but some certainly could if they had the vision to control their own future.” Those that do will be the ones to beat.

Worst Practice #3: Signing an Exclusive Marketplace Deal as a Delivery Strategy

Whether it’s Yum Brands and Grubhub or McDonalds and UberEats, we’re seeing many examples of close partner alignment with delivery. We’ve even heard executives go so far as printing marketplace partner’s name on marketing materials because of the delivery company’s “trusted household name” – only a few years old vs. the brand’s four decades of business.

Aside from coverage concerns, there’s one simple reason to not sign an exclusive deal: each marketplace can bring a unique subset of customers to you. Incrementality between providers exists, as evidenced by Olo’s research across hundreds of thousands of delivery orders by email address. There is also the coming future of continued change and consolidation in the space that makes a 1×1 alignment more complicated.

Worst Practice #4: Assuming Your Brand Can’t Compete in this New Environment

Change is inevitable, and marketers are reacting to new entrants in the space armed with big budgets aimed at converting guests searching for their own brand and food. It may sound fundamental, but the biggest mistake the restaurant marketer can make is to decide they can’t compete for their own brand searches.

At Olo we know that it’s possible for brands of all sizes to compete and win – because we’ve seen it happen. In a study of over 300 restaurant brands, we identified that most brands are losing delivery searches for their own brand, but those that fight back with paid ads and brand-first marketplace deals can compete and win their fair share of the digital dining dollar.

One thing is clear: delivery providers are establishing the terms of engagement for delivery and it’s up to the brands to step up and take control of the conversation. Look to leaders like Portillo’s for the best practices.

If you already have delivery with multiple marketplaces, that means renegotiating for favorable terms for your brand. If you’re just getting started, we advise brands launch their own direct delivery channel (like many Olo brands have with Dispatch) and set strict parameters around any marketplace agreements you enter. Brands, technology providers, and guests will benefit as a result.

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MRM’s News Bites returns with news from The NextGen Cup Consortium and Challenge, Shoney’s, IHOP and DoorDash, Parts Town, Peter Luger Steak House and Wondertable,  Umami Burger, Toast, Softtek, US Foods, Chef Works and Gather and EVENTup.

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

Finding Packaging Solutions

The NextGen Cup Consortium and Challenge, convened by Closed Loop Partners, announces that McDonald’s joins Starbucks as a founding member of the group joining together to develop a global recyclable and/or compostable cup solution. This announcement follows recent commitments by both companies to drive innovation of their packaging and help reduce waste. 

McDonald’s is committing $5 million in partnership with Closed Loop Partners to help launch the NextGen Cup Consortium and Challenge announced earlier this year, bringing the total contributed to $10 million. The Challenge kicks off in September and invites innovators, entrepreneurs, industry experts, and recyclers to submit their ideas for the next generation of recyclable and/or compostable cups. Awardees will receive acceleration funding up to $1 million based on key milestones. Up to seven of the awardees will enter a six-month accelerator program to help scale their solutions. 

“McDonald’s is committed to using our scale for good to make positive changes that impact our planet and the communities we serve,” said Marion Gross, Senior Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer, McDonald’s USA. “We are excited to join Starbucks and Closed Loop to help solve this pressing challenge as collaboration is key to finding a scalable, lasting global solution.”

“We are proud to come together with industry partners like McDonald’s to drive innovative, scalable solutions for cup waste,” said Colleen Chapman, Vice President of Global Social Impact focused on sustainability for Starbucks. “A better cup will benefit the entire industry and we invite others to join us as we move these efforts forward.”

NextGen builds on years of work in the industry and is a critical step in the development of a global end-to-end solution that will potentially allow the 600 billion cups globally to be diverted from landfills and given a second life. ‘

“There has never been a greater need to tackle the ways in which we source and recover materials. McDonald’s participation is a strong step forward in building momentum from major brands to come together and develop innovative approaches to materials waste,” says Erin Simon, Director of Sustainability Research and Development (R&D) and Material Science at World Wildlife Fund, U.S. “Working together across the entire value chain of these major companies will allow us to create a comprehensive and lasting solution to this critical conservation challenge.”

Launching in September, The NextGen Cup Challenge, in partnership with OpenIDEO, is the first initiative in this journey. The NextGen Cup Challenge will be open to supply chain leaders, innovators and solution providers that have promising solutions to recovery of single use cups, with a focus on the fiber based hot and cold cup, starting with creating a fully recyclable and/ or compostable cup in North America. 

“To date we have received more than 1,000 inquiries from companies and individuals interested in participating in the challenge and we anticipate some exciting and impactful proposals,” says Kate Daly, Executive Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “In our experience investing in circular economy innovation, we find the most successful path to scaling a systems-changing solution is to bring together key players along the entire value chain in a pre-competitive collaboration. This is the type of partnership we need to foster innovative solutions without sacrificing profit. We are working with consortium members to build a robust shared set of technical, performance, and environmental criteria that we will announce later this summer.”

While NextGen intends to work on the entire cup system, including cups, lids and straws, its first challenge will focus on the fiber-based hot and cold cup. For more details on the consortium or challenge, visit www.nextgencup.com.

Shoney’s to Phase Out Plastic Straws

Shoney’s® is choosing paper over plastic and will phase out plastic straws at all of its company-owned stores by 2020, according to Shoney’s Chairman and CEO David Davoudpour.

“America has spoken and Shoney’s always listens and for the sake of the environment and our communities, we are taking action,” said Davoudpour. “We are in the people business and have spent decades doing the right things in our neighborhoods as well as our restaurants and are committed to being at the forefront of this change. Our objective is to introduce FDA-compliant eco-product straws with paper and plant materials which are 100-percent compostable. When Shoney’s first opened 70 years ago in Charleston, West Virginia, the paper straw was the only straw. But it had its shortcomings and was phased out in the early seventies. But today is a new day, where longevity and sustainability usurp convenience. Shoney’s is here for the long haul and getting it right is always at the top of our priority list.”

In order to get back to what Davoudpour calls Shoney’s “Glory Days,” the brand is now growing through franchising following an extensive revitalization effort. Shoney’s is offering franchising opportunities to qualified single and multi-unit candidates.

IHOP Teams with DoorDash

IHOP® Restaurants is rolling out its first, and largest, national delivery program in partnership with DoorDash. The introduction of delivery at select IHOP restaurants across the U.S. is a  step in expanding the brand’s IHOP ‘N GO® (to-go) platform which already includes a fully-integrated online ordering system through IHOP.com and the IHOP mobile app. 

“For 60 years, IHOP has proudly served our guests freshly made breakfast favorites and more, all day, every day,” said Darren Rebelez, President, IHOP. “Undertaking a national delivery partnership is an exciting new chapter in our story and builds on the foundational work we’ve done on IHOP ‘N GO this past year, including introducing a mobile app, online ordering through IHOP.com, and special packaging that preserves the quality of our food for takeout. Most importantly, our partnership with DoorDash helps us bring more pancakes, to more people, whenever and wherever cravings strike – something IHOP guests told us they wanted.”

Currently, more than 300 IHOP restaurants are set-up for online ordering through the DoorDash website and mobile app with another 600-700 IHOP restaurants expected to be available for delivery by the end of the year.

“As a leading delivery provider with extensive national reach and a focus on strategically – and rapidly – expanding, DoorDash is an ideal partner to help us kick off the next phase of IHOP ‘N GO,” continued Rebelez. “Right now, about 300 IHOP restaurants are signed up with DoorDash with more coming online every day. Given the national matchup between where there’s an IHOP and DoorDash’s current and anticipated service areas, I expect to have close to 1,000 restaurants added to the DoorDash platform before the end of the year.”

“At DoorDash we pride ourselves on offering the best selection in the industry, and today’s announcement with IHOP is especially exciting as this brand has consistently been a top requested restaurant by our customers,” said Christopher Payne, Chief Operating Officer at DoorDash. “Customers can now order their favorite IHOP menu items any hour of the day, from over 300 locations across the country, and counting.”

Parts Town Acquires PartsXpress

Parts Town acquired PartsXpress, an independent supplier of foodservice and commercial appliance parts in the country, powered by Smart Care Equipment Solutions. Financial terms were not disclosed.

As part of this acquisition, Parts Town will become the primary supplier of genuine OEM parts to Smart Care Equipment Solutions’ technicians. The acquisition will further expand Parts Town’s leadership in supporting field service companies across the globe with the genuine OEM parts they need to deliver field service excellence. Smart Care Equipment Solutions will retain and build on its growing national field service capability, not acquired by Parts Town.

“PartsXpress is an exciting addition to the Parts Town family and will further strengthen the value Parts Town brings to both manufacturers and customers,” said Steve Snower, CEO of PT Holdings, parent company of Parts Town. “This acquisition moves us one step closer to our vision of making it easier, faster and even kinda fun for customers to find and buy foodservice equipment parts. The PartsXpress team brings a strong and diverse customer base and demonstrated expertise and passion for servicing customers, and we look forward to welcoming a new group of accomplished team members to Parts Town’s dynamic culture.”

Bill Emory, CEO of Smart Care Equipment Solutions added, “The sale of PartsXpress is another key step in our strategic plan to build Smart Care Equipment Solutions into the nation’s premier foodservice equipment care company. It allows us to focus on growth by doing what we do best: delivering great service for our customers through the strongest and largest team of commercial kitchen equipment technicians.”

Peter Luger To Open in Japan

Peter Luger Steak House and Wondertable, Ltd. announce an exclusive contract to develop a Peter Luger Steak House in Japan. This marks the first time the renowned Peter Luger brand will expand outside of the United States. The forthcoming Peter Luger Steak House will be in the center of Tokyo and is expected to open by 2020.

“Tokyo is an amazing culinary city where the demand for American beef has grown tremendously and we couldn’t be more excited about working with Wondertable to bring the Peter Luger experience to Japan,” said Amy Rubenstein, CEO of Peter Luger. “We’ll be shipping the same USDA Prime beef that we use in our New York restaurants. Between our strict quality controls and Wondertable’s vast operational expertise, we’re confident that we can give customers the same great experience that they’ve come to know and love in New York.”

“Among Japanese consumers, the award-winning Peter Luger Brand is already synonymous with unsurpassed American dry-aged beef and the New York restaurants are frequently ranked among the top must-visits spots in Asian publications,” said Michio Akimoto, COO of Wondertable, Ltd.“We are honored to bring this acclaimed restaurant to Tokyo, where we know it will be incredibly successful.”  

Peter Luger Steak House has been a fixture in Brooklyn for more than 130 years. When restaurateur Peter Luger first opened the Williamsburg restaurant in 1887 it was called Carl Luger’s Café, Billiards and Bowling Alley and quickly became a neighborhood favorite. Following Luger’s death the restaurant struggled and was sold at auction to Sol Forman, owner of Forman Family, a local manufacturing company. The Forman family still owns and operates the restaurant today and has since added a second New York location in Great Neck, Long Island. In addition to the restaurants, Peter Luger products are sold in grocery stores and dry-aged cuts are available for home delivery through the online butcher shop.

Wondertable has nearly 120 restaurants around the world and a track record of introducing American restaurants to the Japanese market including Lawry’s the Prime Rib and Union Square Tokyo, a Danny Meyer restaurant.

Plans for Peter Luger in Japan are still in development by Wondertable. The restaurant, which will replicate the design and operational elements of the New York locations, will be centrally located in Tokyo and be approximately 7000-11,000 square feet. 

Umami’s Artist Series

Umami Burger announced its latest Artist Series collaboration with global award winning Chef Daniel Boulud in celebration of Bastille Day on July 14th. Chef Boulud has created ‘The Umami Frenchie’ as an exclusive culinary creation available at participating Umami Burger locations nationwide from July 14 to September 14, 2018. A key aspect of this collaboration is that $1 from each burger sold will benefit Citymeals, which provides a lifeline of nourishing meals and vital companionship to New York City’s homebound elderly.

Sam Nazarian, Founder & CEO of sbe states: “I and the Umami Burger team are incredibly honored to partner with Chef Daniel Boulud for our latest Artist Series. We are always looking to bring new products and drive innovation through our collaborators to amplify the Umami Burger experience and could not be more excited to have Chef Boulud create something remarkable for our guests. In addition to partnering with such an award winning chef, we are able to support the incredible charitable organization Citymeals on Wheels through our Artist Series program.”

“This collaboration with Umami Burger is first and foremost philanthropic” added Chef Daniel Boulud. “A burger with a cause to support Citymeals and the incredible work they’re doing in New York City. Every time someone will order ‘The Umami Frenchie’ burger, a dollar will be given to Citymeals. This burger also shows people that the French can go casual. I’m known for having created the DB Burger almost 20 years ago, which started the craze of gourmet burgers; I eventually wanted to create a more casual one and that’s how ‘The Frenchie’ came about. It’s different than your typical Umami Burger because it has the DB French touch!”

“Citymeals is thrilled to be part of this delicious collaboration with Chef Boulud and Umami,” said BethShapiro, Executive Director Citymeals on Wheels. “Customers get to enjoy a wonderful burger knowing that their purchase is supporting the preparation and delivery of meals for the homebound elderly.” 

The burger will be available at participating Umami Burger locations through September 14 for $18.

Toast Secures Funding

Toast announced $115 million in Series D funding to accelerate investment in research and development, recruit new talent, and expand its market presence. The financing round, led by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., with participation from new investor Tiger Global Management, LLC – as well as existing investors – values Toast at $1.4 billion. 

“The way restaurants serve their customers is going through a fundamental change, and the technology that enables restaurant operations must respond to these new demands. Toast does this,” said Henry Ellenbogen, portfolio manager of T. Rowe Price New Horizons Fund. “Our investment in Toast reflects our belief in the firm’s ability to become much larger over time. We look forward to working with Toast’s management team as they help their clients and grow the business.”

“Toast enables our team to streamline operations in a way that wouldn’t be possible with legacy technology,” said Austin Brinson, VP of analytics at B.GOOD. “Thanks to Toast’s focus on the unique needs of restaurant operators, our entire organization is empowered to make data-driven decisions.”

To support the demand for its platform, Toast now employs more than 1,000 people in over 30 states and is actively hiring new talent to support its increasingly global footprint. New offices opened in Portland, Oregon and Omaha, Nebraska will support Toast’s growing workforce. When combined with Toast’s Boston headquarters and existing office in Dublin, Ireland, the company is well positioned to support thousands of employees in the future.

“With close to $800 billion in annual sales and representing nearly 15 million jobs in the U.S., the restaurant industry is a powerful contributor to local economies,” said Christopher Comparato, CEO of Toast. “As restaurant owners and operators navigate shifting consumer expectations driven by mobility and personalization, they’re selecting Toast as their platform of choice to deliver a guest-first and data-driven experience that increases revenue, streamlines operations, and delights guests.”

The Series D funding allows Toast to accelerate investments in research and development. Areas of continued focus include:

  • Handheld technology to increase sales: Toast Go™, a fully integrated mobile point-of-sale device designed by Toast, transforms how restaurateurs run and staff their business. Odd Duck – a full service restaurant in Austin, Texas – increased revenue by over $500,000 and reduced server turnover as tips grew by $7,000 per server, annually, with Toast Go.  

  • Back of house technology to increase speed of service: Eventide, an innovative seafood concept in Boston, introduced a continued service model powered by Toast. In the fine-casual eatery, guests enjoy a mobile ordering experience and receive text notifications from the Toast Kitchen Display System when their food is ready. Servers on the floor extend the service model and provide continuous tableside ordering with Toast Go.  

  • Guest-facing technology to manage brand risk: Harvard Business School found that a one-star change in online restaurant ratings can have a dramatic impact on revenue. With new guest feedback applications under development at Toast, restaurants of all sizes will soon be able to proactively address service concerns and re-engage guests directly through their point of sale.

Softtek Launches Guest Engagement Solution

Softtek launched Softtek Guest Engagement Solution, a cloud-based omnichannel application aimed at increasing restaurant efficiency and improving the dining experience.

By enabling real-time ordering, updating and payment via mobile devices, Softtek Guest Engagement Solution redefines the dining experience. In addition, by integrating point of sale (POS) data with back office data systems, the solution helps restaurants gain customer insight and improve operational efficiency.

“The Softtek Guest Engagement Solution allows a customer to use his or her mobile phone to order ahead before arriving at a restaurant, add to their order while at the restaurant and then pay the check when they’re done,” said Robert Whitehead, Director of Hospitality and Retail Technology at Softtek US and Canada. “By streamlining the transactional components of ordering and paying for meals, the solution simplifies the logistics of restaurant dining, without compromising the value-added human interaction of the dining experience.”

The mobile application digitizes restaurant activities such as placing drink orders and waiting for menus, checks and receipts – activities that cumulatively can take up to 20 minutes. By automating these interactions and reducing table time, Softtek’s Guest Engagement Solution makes dining out more feasible for time-strapped customers. Restaurants, meanwhile, can significantly increase table turnover during peak periods. At the same time, while the tool increases waitstaff productivity, servers can still engage with customers to offer suggestions, describe daily specials and upsell premium items.

“The Softtek Guest Engagement Solution model can help fast casual restaurants leverage technology to satisfy customers and compete more effectively in today’s demanding environment,” said Whitehead. “The platform’s unique approach to automation makes eating out more enjoyable for customers and more efficient and profitable for restaurants.”

US Foods Goes Clean Label

US Foods Holding Corp. said its entire line of Metro Deli®, Rykoff Sexton®, Chef’s Line® and Stock Yards®* Exclusive Brand products will be produced with clean label profiles as part of the company’s Unpronounceable List™ initiative. The initiative is aimed at producing products with simple, more recognizable ingredients by avoiding, removing or replacing ingredients and food additives found on the company’s new Unpronounceables List.

The company’s Unpronounceables List includes more than 80 ingredients the company will avoid using in more than 1,000 of its Exclusive Brand products. Product ingredient labels across the four best-quality Exclusive Brands will now be free of ingredients such as artificial flavors, artificial (FD&C) colors, high-fructose corn syrup, disodium guanylate, sodium benzoate and monosodium glutamate.

The Unpronounceables List initiative builds on the company’s Great Food. Made Easy. strategy committed to helping independent restaurant operators ‘make it’ with versatile and innovative menu options to meet evolving diner preferences.

“Forty-six percent of millennials would be more likely to buy a product with no artificial ingredients and we see this demand for simple, ‘back to the basics’ ingredients extending into the choices consumers make when dining out,” said Stacie Sopinka, Senior Vice President, Innovation and Quality at US Foods. “As diners increasingly make less-is-more food choices, we will continue to streamline and simplify our products by removing or replacing certain ingredients with preferred alternatives so what’s left is simply good food.”

To learn more about the Unpronounceables List initiative visit usfoods.com/unpronounceableslist.

Chef Works Cares

Chef Works granted $25,000 to Kitchens for Good as part of its “Chef Works Cares” charitable initiative.

“We have certain criteria that have to be met when we give out grant money and Kitchens for Good checks all of the boxes,” said Cynthia McCormick, vice president of human resources for Chef Works, who oversees the Chef Works Cares initiative. “When we learned about the amazing work they were doing, it made perfect sense for us to help support them.”

Kitchens for Good is a non-profit organization that tackles issues of food waste, poverty and hunger. By taking food that would otherwise go to waste, Kitchens for Good uses that surplus and creates nutritious meals through a culinary apprenticeship program for those formerly homeless, previously incarcerated or aging out of the foster care system.

“It’s an amazing collaboration on so many levels,” said Chuck Samuelson, founder of Kitchens for Good. “There’s an ethos we share between the two companies. We’re about quality and relationships. Chef Works truly understands what we’re trying to do and it’s a fantastic partnership.”

Added Aviva Paley, senior director of Kitchens for Good: “This money will help give more than 100 culinary students the opportunity for a second chance at life and to build a..

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The most surefire way to upset an employee is to mess up his or her paycheck. The more manual the payroll process, the more likely HR managers are to deal with paycheck errors and unhappy employees. Restaurants have a particularly challenging time ensuring the payroll process goes smoothly because of the very specialized regulations involved in transferring data from a point-of-sale system into a payroll platform. Trying to manage that data transfer can lead to inaccuracies such as duplicate data entries or missing information.

More than 81 percent of restaurants in the United States use electronic POS platforms, and about 76 percent admit to needing better tools for managing them. But the traditional processes for transferring data from a POS to payroll system can be time-consuming, creating major issues like incorrect paychecks and fines for noncompliance.

That’s why it’s so important to automate data syncing between your POS and payroll solution for a streamlined payroll process. With an increasingly competitive labor market, unhappy employees could walk out the door, potentially leading to lost business, bad reviews, and even closure. To prevent these issues from occurring, restaurant leaders and HR managers should follow these four tips for more efficient restaurant payroll:

1. Move Your POS System Into the Cloud

Taking orders on pen and paper isn’t as common as it used to be. Now, it’s more common to see tablets in waitstaff’s hands or on tables where customers can order and pay on the spot. Most of this technology is cloud-based, which offers a much easier way to connect POS data with payroll platforms anywhere.

While online solutions aren’t new to the industry, many restaurants still utilize locally installed systems such as Aloha and Micro, which work only within the building’s immediate vicinity. If that applies to your business, consider switching to an online service that allows for better communication and wider use — especially if you’re a multilocation restaurant owner.

2. Determine Whether Your POS Platform Has an Open API

Older cloud-based systems can be programmed to sync with newer payroll platforms, but only if the application programming interface is open. An API provides instructions on connecting a new platform to the existing one, thus removing the need to export and import files manually.

Upgrading to a more modern system will be worth the investment if your current solution’s API is closed. Shop around for a more efficient POS system, and be sure to choose one with an open API to make bridging it with your payroll service easier.

3. Make Your Systems Safer

Another benefit to moving your POS and payroll online is increased data security. In recent ransomware attacks, the virus was able to spread due to lack of upgraded security. Most online systems weren’t affected because the providers constantly monitored the databases from behind the scenes, applying operational patches and security fixes immediately.

Cloud solutions come with plenty of redundancies to ensure that any data stored on their servers is always secure. For instance, some services keep at least three copies of files on three different servers. All three have to be erased or taken over simultaneously for them to be compromised — a very rare occurrence.

4. Ask for Proof of Concept

If you don’t know right away what open API documentation should look like, one demonstration will let you know whether a system you’re considering actually works. Requesting this proof of concept during your evaluation of the system will help ensure that there are no surprises after installation of the platform.

For example, if you’re testing out a payroll service, ask the vendor to import a file from your system into its own on the spot. If it works, that means the new service can read and understand your existing platform’s data. If not, you know you need to look elsewhere for a solution.

Entering a Fast, Efficient Future

A new era of efficiency awaits restaurant leaders and HR managers who implement a cloud-based POS system that offers an open API for data syncing with a compatible payroll service. Adopting cloud technology, increasing data security, and asking for proof of concept are critical steps to improving a restaurant’s payroll process. And when payroll administrators can automate data syncing between their point of sale and payroll systems, restaurant leaders will know they’ve eliminated payroll issues once and for all.

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This edition of Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine’s “According to …” research roundup features the reasons why people do and don’t dine out, digital and loyalty trends from Tillster, hot dog on the menu, pizza and a movie and Millennial vs. Gen Z trends. 

The Why? Behind The Dine

Across the U.S., 85 percent of diners decide what to eat for dinner the same day the meal occurs, so it may not come as a surprise that compared to 2015, convenient meal solutions grew across almost every category and generation. Research released today in the 4th edition of The Why? Behind The Dine™ from Acosta and Technomic explores the most recent dining developments and motivators that are changing the way diners engage with foodservice.

“Whether it’s enjoying a family dinner out or picking up carry-out food, diners are seeking convenient, healthy options for themselves and their families,” said Colin Stewart, Senior Vice President at Acosta. “We are seeing more diners take advantage of the seemingly endless array of meal solutions, be it a quick trip through the drive-thru, grocery prepared foods, lunch from a food truck, or preparing dinner using a meal/ingredient kit.

Acosta and Technomic’s The Why? Behind The Dine™ presents a comprehensive overview of dining habits across generations and key segments.

Highlights from the report include:

Convenient Eats

  • Delivery food continues to be a popular meal solution for diners. In the three months leading up to the survey, 51 percent of total U.S. diners and 77 percent of Millennial diners reported ordering delivery food.
  • Pizza isn’t the only food diners want delivered. Diners surveyed expressed interest in everything from hamburgers (28 percent), chicken wings (27 percent) and Mexican fare (21 percent), to barbecue (14 percent) and desserts (11 percent).
  • In 2015, only eight percent of U.S. diners indicated they had ordered a meal/ingredient kit online. That figure increased by 10 percentage points to 18 percent of total U.S. diners by 2017, with more diners with kids and Millennial diners engaging with this option.

Welcoming Gen Z to the Table

  • Gen Z diners are already outpacing Boomer and Silent diners in reported monthly spending on food prepared outside the home.
  • Fifty-eight percent of Gen Z diners agreed they use the internet to find the best restaurant deals, the most of any generation.
  • Nearly 70 percent of Gen Z diners agreed they like it when they have restaurant leftovers for another meal.

Dining Out All Stars: Diners with Kids

  • Diners with kids reported their monthly spending on food prepared outside the home was more than twice that of diners without kids ($208 versus $95).
  • Healthier options continue to be important among diners with kids, with 46 percent eating more salads at restaurants over the past year, and 43 percent eating more restaurant meals with locally sourced ingredients.
  • Diners with kids are plugged in while dining out. Twenty-eight percent connect to Wi-Fi on their personal mobile device while at a restaurant.

The 4th edition of The Why? Behind The Dine™ study was fielded in November 2017 in partnership with Technomic Inc., using a random sample of 1,500 U.S. diners. To access the full report, click here.

Reward Me: Demand Grows for Digital Coupons

In its new Digital Coupons and Loyalty Index, Tillster examines how a restaurant’s digital coupons or loyalty strategy can help them to grow sales and engage with customers. The Index showcases how QSR and fast casual customers are increasingly motivated by digital coupons and rewards.

For the second year in a row, Tillster partnered with esteemed research firm, SSI, to conduct the study on the digital coupons and loyalty program usage of more than 2,000 QSR and fast casual customers. The Digital Coupons and Loyalty Index summarizes the proprietary study’s key findings, studying trends from the last year and looking ahead to the next year.  One significant finding from the study is that more than 80 percent of all QSR and fast casual customers would visit a restaurant more if digital coupons were offered or if they were part of a rewards program.

“We facilitate more than 50 million orders a year, for many of the largest restaurant brands in the world,” says Perse Faily, CEO of Tillster. “It’s clear that digital savings are no longer just for the tech-savvy or for the price conscious. App-based rewards are today, as our study shows, an important driver of brand loyalty and a growth opportunity in QSR and fast casual dining.”

Digital Coupons Drive Change in Customer Behavior, Restaurant Visits

Digital coupons are playing an increasingly important role in influencing customer choice. The Tillster Index found that a significant percentage of customers would choose one brand over another, or would try a new brand if a digital coupon were offered. Additionally, loyalty and rewards programs are driving restaurant visits across all age groups and income brackets.

Usage of Digital Tools

While consumers always trend towards a good deal, the Tillster Index highlights the importance of deploying digital coupons and loyalty programs at the right times and places to help restaurants drive incremental revenue, reward loyalty and target personalized offerings for greater effect.  To see key stats on how digital coupons and loyalty programs are best deployed, download Tillster’s full Digital Coupons and Loyalty Index

Uptick in Momentum

Year-over-year chain restaurant sales increased 1.1 percent in June, the fourth consecutive month of positive or flat comp sales. The increases compare to relatively soft prior year numbers, but continue to suggest a turning point from the consistent declines of 2016 and 2017. Performance began to improve in the fourth quarter of 2017 and the industry has reported monthly sales increases in six of the past nine months. These insights come from TDn2K’s Black Box Intelligence™ data, based on weekly sales from over 30,000 locations representing 170+ brands and nearly $70 billion in annual sales.

The comp sales numbers are encouraging, but come against a backdrop of continued softness in guest counts. Store traffic declined -1.7 percent in June. This is an improvement of roughly one percentage point over trends from earlier in the year, but it points out the headwinds faced by the industry with respect to driving visit frequency.

Same-store sales in the second quarter of 2018 were up 0.8 percent, the third consecutive quarterly increase and another indication of a strengthening industry environment. Growth was consistent throughout the period with positive sales in 12 of the 13 reporting weeks. Traffic was down -2.0 percent, a slight improvement over the -2.6 percent drop in the first quarter.

Off-Premise Sales Fuel Growth in 2018
Year to date, sales are up 0.5 percent in 2018 versus a -1.2 percent decline at this point last year. All segments except fine dining were stronger in 2018. Compared to 2017 performance, casual dining and fast casual reported the most improvement.

The numbers reflect a changing landscape with respect to how consumers use chain restaurants. Virtually all the observed gains have come from to-go and delivery sales. Every segment recorded a decline in dine-in sales and every segment except family dining and quick service experienced to-go sales increases. Fine dining and upscale casual reported large percentage increases, but off-premise is a relatively small portion of their business. Their in-unit sales were the strongest in the industry and reflect the importance of a dining experience to consumers visiting those brands. The degree to which they can expand food delivery remains to be seen.

The casual dining segment reported double-digit increases in to-go sales so far in 2018. Many of these brands already have significant existing off-premise businesses and are capitalizing on a variety of social media and technical innovations to exploit additional to-go and delivery opportunities.    

Top Line Driven by Pricing
Check average is up significantly this year. For the first six months of 2018, average check is up 2.9 percent versus 2.2 percent for the same period last year. Price increases, largely in response to higher labor costs, are certainly a factor. But a large portion of the change in average check is attributable to casual dining, which may be influenced by the previously noted increase in to-go and delivery.

Economy is Robust, But Tariffs Loom
“The stronger growth in the second quarter was broad-based and has supported robust hiring,” according to Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors and TDn2K economist.

“With more people working and wages rising a little faster, consumers are spending again. The good news for the restaurant industry is that households are not over-extending themselves as much as they had been. They are now saving a little more as well as spending more. That means the improved demand at restaurants should be sustained. The only risk to the economy is the emerging trade war. Right now, it is largely a skirmish that should not affect economic activity significantly. But if the tit-for-tat on tariffs accelerates, growth could be harmed, inflation could accelerate and interest rates could rise even further. The best guess is that it will not reach that stage, so expectations are that the economy and consumer spending will be solid the rest of the year. That bodes well for restaurant sales.”

The Downside of a Robust Labor Market
Unfortunately, the same strong labor market that propels restaurant spending has also produced the most challenging staffing environment in many years. Turnover at both the hourly and management levels is at record highs and has become the “new normal”. Data from TDn2K’s People Report™ provides little comfort that market conditions will change soon. Accordingly, brands are struggling to adapt their service models to the new reality of low unemployment and rising wages. This is an especially difficult balancing act. Margins are always a priority, but experienced operators are well aware of the established linkage between quality service, consumer sentiment and revenue.

The upswing in sales is welcome news. General economic conditions are a bit fragile but should be favorable enough to support continued demand. There are fundamental challenges facing the industry, including difficult labor markets and an over-supply of restaurants. Nonetheless, we are encouraged that top-performing brands consistently find ways to deliver strong results in sales, people metrics, and social sentiment.

Gen Z Food Trends

Millennials have had their time in the spotlight; now, companies are looking to the next generation to see how they will impact the future of the food and drink industry. Generation Z*, who are also known as the iGeneration, has the potential to reset expectations for health and wellness, increase the reach of international cuisine and heighten creativity in the kitchen, according to the latest research from Mintel. 

Head start on a healthy lifestyle

Regardless of age, sugar is at the top of parents’ watchlists when it comes to what their kids eat and drink. In fact, 60 percent of parents with kids aged 12-17 and 55 percent of parents with kids aged 18+ in the household report saying “no” to their kids’ food and drink choices based on sugar content. But while sugar is a key concern for parents, just 11 percent of US food and drink launches aimed at children (ages 5-12) from June 2017-May 2018 had low, no or reduced sugar claims, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD).

With parents on the lookout, America’s youngest consumers are increasingly growing health-conscious themselves. In fact, one quarter (25 percent) of teens aged 15-17 say they worry about staying healthy, with another 49 percent agreeing that they think drinking soda is unhealthy.

“Generation Z has come of age at a time when health and wellness is a major consideration. Many younger members of Generation Z follow their parents’ healthy ways and it seems health-consciousness only gets stronger as they approach adulthood. However, health is multi-faceted for this group, suggesting that better-for-you formulations, such as craveable fruits and vegetables, can be expanded to give this generation options that fit with their ever-changing diet priorities,” said Dana Macke, Associate Director, Lifestyles and Leisure Reports, at Mintel.

Gen Z goes international

Today’s younger generations are the most diverse in US history and in addition to their varied racial and ethnic backgrounds, parents are raising their children to have broader palates. Gen Z seems to be cultivating an appreciation for international cuisine from a young age as 36 percent of US parents of children under age 18 agree that their kids enjoy eating international foods.

Interest in international cuisine goes well beyond the more commonplace varieties such as Italian, Mexican and Chinese as Gen Z consumers are driving consumption of more emerging international food and drink. In addition to interest in eating at international restaurants such as Indian (36 percent), Middle Eastern (38 percent) or African (27 percent), adult Gen Z consumers are also much more likely than other generations to find culinary inspiration from social media: 62 percent of young adults aged 18-22 say they cook international cuisines at home from social media, compared to 46 percent of Millennials (aged 23-40) and 23 percent of Generation X consumers (aged 41-52) who cook at home.

“Generation Z is America’s most diverse generation yet. With exposure to international foods starting at an early age, whether in restaurants or at home, Generation Z is more likely to be open to the latest international food trend or innovative fusion creation. These adventurous habits are creating opportunities across categories, presenting potential for products such as tikka masala meal kits or Chinese Peking duck-flavored potato chips. While restaurants remain the most common points of discovery for international cuisine, younger consumers’ exposure to a range of cuisine types creates opportunities for brands to offer more authentic and hybrid flavors,” said Jenny Zegler, Associate Director, Mintel Food & Drink.

Digitally native upbringing leads to DIY mentality

Raised in an era where consumers have access to information at their fingertips 24/7, younger generations have grown up with the ability to thoroughly research their hobbies and interests, resulting in 80 percent of Gen Z consumers under age 18 saying their hobbies/interests are just as important as their school work. What’s more, 36 percent of consumers aged 10-17 and 31 percent of those aged 18-22 believe that being creative is an important factor to being successful as an adult. This highlights an opportunity for food and drink brands to offer do-it-yourself experiences that help tweens, teens and young adults be creative and, eventually, confident in the kitchen.

“The wide range of food media, whether MasterChef Junior or YouTube videos, has piqued an interest in food and drink among some members of Generation Z. This younger generation’s easy access to technology and interest in being creative presents an opening for interactive products that encourage Gen Z to safely experiment and extend their passion for food and drink, such as chips that allow consumers to make their own flavor or kits to make more complex recipes or international meals at home,” concluded Zegler.

Plant-Based Popularity Grows

Plant-based innovation is flourishing. Growing consumer interest in health, sustainability and ethics is driving plant-derived ingredients and products into high popularity. Innova Market Insights reports that plant-based product claims increased by 62 percent globally (CAGR, 2013-2017) with growth occurring on platforms such as plant proteins, active botanicals, sweeteners, herbs & seasonings and coloring foodstuffs.

“The dairy alternatives market has been a particular beneficiary of this trend,” says Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights. “With the growing availability and promotion of plant-based options to traditional dairy lines, specifically milk beverages, and cultured products such as yogurt, frozen desserts and ice cream,” she stated.

The dairy alternatives category was largely pioneered by and continues to be led by beverages. Global sales of dairy alternative drinks are set to reach US$16.3bn in 2018 and they accounted for over eight percent of global dairy launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in 2017, up from 7 percent over 2016. Actual global launches have more than doubled over a five-year period.

Spoonable non-dairy yogurt has also seen strongly rising levels of interest, but from a smaller base, with a 48 percent CAGR for the 2013-2017 period taking its share of dairy launches from less than 0.5 percent in 2012 to 1.5 percent in 2017. According to Innova Market Insights’ consumer research, one in three US consumers have increased their consumption of plant-based milk/yogurt in the two years to the end of 2017.

“In the move to offer something new, we are starting to see an increasing variety of non-soy plant-based ingredients, including cereals such as rice, oats and barley,” notes Williams. “We also noticed an increase in nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts and macadamias, as well as coconut and more unusual options such as lupin, hemp and flaxseed.”

Interest in plant-based eating is clearly reflected in developments in the meat substitutes market, where global sales are set to grow to US$4.2bn by 2022. The range of ingredients used for meat substitutes includes vegetables and grains, as well as traditional sources such as soy and specialist manufactured brands such as Quorn and Valess.

Gravitation towards plant-based diets in general, along with interest in vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian lifestyles and concerns over animal welfare, have together served to increase interest and NPD has subsequently seen an 11 percent CAGR for the 2013-2017 period. Research also indicates that four in ten US consumers increased their consumption of meat substitutes/alternatives during 2017.

The Tech Effect

Technology is becoming an increasingly integral part of shopping and dining experiences for Americans, and in turn, technology successes and failures are seriously impacting whether consumers return to a store or restaurant.

Nearly half of consumers say that positive experiences due to well-functioning technology lead them to greater brand confidence (46 percent) and more frequent visits to the business (44 percent). Conversely, negative experiences due to malfunctioning technology result in a decline in brand confidence and less frequent visits to the business for more than a quarter of consumers (28 percent), the report says.

Boomtown issued the report, titled “The Digital Forward Customer Experience: New Expectations and Obstacles for Today’s Storefront.” The report examined how tech savvy national brick and mortar retail and restaurant chains are transforming the experiences and expectations of consumers across the entire shopping and dining landscape.

Boomtown’s report is based on a survey of 1,033 U.S. consumers. Respondents identified a strong preference for brands that make widespread use of advanced, reliable and intuitive technology. These brands, which are often called ‘digital forward’, include stores and restaurants like Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Shake Shack, Chipotle and others, and are gaining the business and loyalty of today’s consumers.

According to the Boomtown report, consumers who frequent large chain establishments over smaller businesses name technology as one of the key aspects of their in-store experience, highlighting a range of digital payment options (critical to 57 percent of consumers), online ordering and local pick up capabilities (important to 50 percent), self check-out options (important to 49 percent), and other digital offerings like in-store WiFi and real-time order information.

But the report also found that delivering a technology-driven customer experience can be fraught with risk. According to the survey, over 80 percent of consumers have encountered technical issues at retail stores and restaurants, and the consequences of a failed experience can be dire (including complaints, as well as a decline in business and brand reputation).

“These findings confirm that the digital transformation of the consumer experience is fully underway and that businesses – from small, regional shops or restaurants to national, consumer-facing chains – must invest in their technology to court and keep consumers,” said Alfred ‘Chip’ Kahn IV, CEO and founder of Boomtown. “But, investment in technology-driven customer experiences creates complexity and risk, offering the opportunity to please the customer but potentially imperiling customer relationships if the promise falls short.”

Other key findings from the research include:

  • When shopping or eating at large chains, 57 percent of consumers prioritize a wide range of reliable digital payment options as central to their overall experience

  • After a positive experience involving technology, 63 percent of consumers will compliment the location owner or refer the location to others

  • For 56 percent of consumers, a negative technology experience will translate to filing an official complaint

  • Over 80 percent of consumers have had at least one encounter with a technical glitch (such as failed payment processing or non-functional Wi-Fi) as they shopped or dined; nearly 60 percent of consumers have encountered these technical glitches multiple times

  • Nearly 60 percent have encountered slow or malfunctioning electronic payment systems

  • One in three..

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Since The Shake and Burger Bar opened its doors at the end of April, the New York City-based restaurant has realized the impact social media has on a new business. Under the direction of restaurant consultant Eddie Fahmy of A2Z Restaurant Consulting. the eatery offers gourmet burgers, “insane” shakes  and a buger served on black activated charcoal buns.

A staple offering of The Shake and Burger Bar features specialty “insane” shakes. Three “insane drunken” shakes are available, the signature being the Fireball Cinnamon Toast Crunch Shake, a vanilla ice cream shake with a shot of Fireball and RumChata mixed in with Cinnamon Toast crunch, topped with a cinnamon bun, churro and drizzled with vanilla frosting.

In ths MRM News story, Fahmy discusses the concept, menu engineering and the impact of social media. 

 
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Concerned a few years ago about the rumors of mandated food labeling by the U.S. Food & Drug administration, a group of Subway franchisees decided to look at the way employees labeled foods and the efficacy of the process in terms of food rotation, adherence to expiration dates and more.

What they found caused them to abandon hand-labeling all together—nearly four years before the FDA’s regulations requiring calorie and nutrition count be clearly labeled on menus and grab-and-go foods.

It’s nice to be ahead of the curve sometimes. Here’s what they found (and why you should ditch writing by hand on the food you sell):

Smiley-faces

Employees enjoyed the doodling that hand-labeling allowed, often producing flowers and smiley faces. Nothing wrong with a hand-drawn flower, but that artwork added time to the labeling process and subtracted an employee from the shift.

Confusion

There were a few problems here. Writing on paper—and even masking tape at times—caused smearing if certain pens were used or if drying time wasn’t allotted. And the handwriting itself was hard to read. Was that a 7 or a 1? A 3 or an 8? If the employee who wrote the label wasn’t in the store, which was often the case, there was no way to tell for sure what the label said.

Risk

Use by” dates were also difficult to read. These dates are the difference between serving a good meal and making someone sick. The franchisees saw potential food safety and liability issues down the road that came with an enormous cost—both to the brand and to consumers. “Getting someone sick will cost a lot more than the price of automating the process and printing labels,” one franchisee said.

Automate It

The best solution was automation. The group began researching labeling systems that combined printers with a touchscreen interface, complete with a software application that tracked everything—ingredients, expiration dates, nutritional information and even food that was being thrown away and donated. The technology helped with keeping inventory costs in check.

Today, software is available that automates labeling and also imports scientifically calculated nutrition information from the outside to ensure compliance.

Because of Subway’s observation and attention to detail, the chain was in compliance far before it needed to be. 

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Restaurants are leading contributors to food waste nationwide, but data is helping food service organizations transform their business practices to dramatically cut down on waste.

The average person in the U.S. generates more than four pounds of waste per day and landfill costs are on the rise. In 2017, the average price to dispose municipal solid waste (MSW) increased 3.5 percent from 2016 to $50.60 per ton. In an industry with severely thin margins and steep operating costs, food service organizations require more sustainable operations to reduce both resource waste and costs.

According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2018 State of Restaurant Sustainability report, less than half of restaurant organizations track food waste and only 14 percent compost food waste. Without tracking this waste, restaurants are not only throwing excess food and resources away, but they are also leaving valuable data in the dumpster. Data is key to thinking more strategically about both financial and environmental costs and embracing a holistic approach to waste reduction.

To implement and execute more efficient waste management practices powered by data, restaurants should consider three best practices.

Dumpster Dive 

Waste audits provide an influential source of data that can be used to establish effective benchmarks, verify progress with sustainability initiatives and train employees to avoid mixing regulated waste streams. These audits enable businesses to determine current diversion rates, diversion compliance, non-compliant waste items and sites’ most common food waste.

By understanding waste better, organizations can determine where they have the best opportunities to improve waste management. With over nearly 2,000 locations nationwide, one quick service restaurant (QSR) set goals for high diversion rates and conducted a dumpster dive to assess trash composition. To enhance its recycling programs, the organization launched a cardboard box breakdown initiative, which collaborated with the marketing team for enhanced waste collection signage. The restaurant group also piloted a compacting system at 50 stores, which reduced the need for trash pickups by 40 percent. The QSR recognized that recycling and compaction systems had to be fundamental business operations to drive sustainability.

Learn Local

Restaurant organizations with multiple sites nationwide must align individual site waste practices with local regulations and available waste management resources. At 21 percentfood waste is the largest contributor to landfills, and, as a result, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency aim to cut current food loss in half, equaling $66 billion by 2030.

States and cities are further implementing legislation that requires businesses to compost food waste rather than send it to a landfill. These regulations require restaurants to closely examine their produce sourcing, food donations, and waste separation programs, and are also driving infrastructure changes to increase composting accessibility. Restaurants should understand what resources are available for compost programs locally before they roll out composting initiatives.

Many companies also delegate managing waste haulers to site managers. In addition to their existing responsibilities, these managers must select between a convoluted mix of major national, regional and small local haulers, each with different pricing, rate increase schedules, recycling programs, service levels and reporting abilities. As long as the waste goes away each week, many site managers don’t ask questions. Recognizing how local sites contribute to the bigger picture will drive a tailored but cohesive strategy. By better understanding recycling programs available to each geographic location and the local regulations, companies can more effectively determine the waste profile at each site and optimize container volumes and service frequencies. 

Get Creative

Effective waste management practices extend beyond food waste as restaurants have an opportunity to recycle other commonly used resources. For example, only 26 percent of restaurants recycle glass, but one restaurant group identified a unique opportunity to launch a waste management program that recycled wine corks and diverted alcohol bottles from the restaurant waste streams. The organization now sends these bottles to a company that repurposes them into glassware, which it then sells at property stores. Through waste assessments and sustainability initiatives, the organization has diverted over 270,000 tons of waste away from landfills, increasing its diversion rate to 40 percent from 23 percent since 2012.

For restaurants to truly overhaul their waste management practices, they must track and review waste data in combination with environmental considerations, behaviors and materials that define their waste stream. With this powerful insight, they can then develop a strategic plan to cut down on waste and save costs.

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Gallup’s findings show that constructive B2B partnerships can lead to higher customer engagement. And vendors can provide a tremendous amount of value that restaurant leaders too often leave untapped.

Build a More Strategic Partnership Today

Good vendors want to be partners. What’s more, they possess the expertise and equipment to be better partners than they currently are. Begin by:

  • creating a joint business plan with your suppliers and vendors for your new ventures and growth plans
  •  talking with your suppliers and vendors about your problems so they can offer solutions
  • Then, gear all solutions toward profit margins and your customers.
Increase Your Profit Margin

Contract negotiations aren’t the only place profit margins can be controlled. A good partnership should be designed to increase margins everywhere.

Pay close attention to the interactions between humans, machines and tech, because that interface can siphon margins quickly. The best POS machine in the world, for example, won’t improve margins if it takes so much training that few employees learn how to use it properly.

A dishwasher that can only be fixed under warranty by a certified mechanic is going to be a liability if there are no certified mechanics in town. Suppliers who are looking out for you will find profit margin leaks and ways to plug them.

Improve Customer Experience

Brand promise and purpose dictate the customer experience, and suppliers need to understand your promise and purpose very well. Whatever affects your customers’ experiences first should be a priority. That experience can be anything from a wrapper that keeps a taco shell crisp to the HVAC unit that creates an oasis for customers to dine in. If your customers frequently get takeout from your restaurant, control for that experience, too.

Brand promise and purpose dictate the customer experience.

Vendor expertise is vitally important — smart suppliers know the trends and potential trends in their industry and can bring that knowledge to you. And if you plan to grow your third-party delivery business, think about which of your suppliers can help you do this faster, smarter and more efficiently for your customers. How can they help you give your customers the same experience at home that they receive when dining within your establishment?

Take note of how your workers deal with suppliers and vendors. Ask your operators to rate the “ease of doing business” with your various suppliers (i.e., the liquor supplier or the produce delivery team). Talk to employees about their interactions with the materials and equipment they need to do their jobs. The closer the person is to the object, the better their perspective. From that, gain insights to guide product improvements that would help deliver your brand promise to your customers.

Ideally, you should be able to invite your vendors to assess the kitchen and floor with you. A real-world perspective helps them visualize your needs according to their abilities and plans. Thinking futuristically can spur ideas that will benefit restaurants’ growth and vendors’, too.

If you have off-premise dining (OPD) plans or current operational issues — and a lot of restaurants do, as that’s the direction the industry is taking — ask vendors to consider how they can support your initiatives or help you optimize your new offering.

It’s Your Choice

Just like customers have the choice to give you their business, you have the option to give your vendors yours. A cost-benefit analysis only shows part of the profit potential available to you — in fact, Gallup’s B2B report, Guide to Customer Centricity: Analytics and Advice for B2B Leaders, shows that 60 percent of B2B clients are emotionally indifferent toward their suppliers. This is evidence that they’re missing an opportunity to push partnerships to a more strategic and emotional level — one that generates real business growth.

Your suppliers and vendors can make the customer experience better, neutral or worse. It’s up to you to predict which of these is most likely to develop from your partnerships. Your suppliers can be more than just a transactional partner. They can be a strategic partner as well. If yours aren’t eager to fulfill both roles well, look for a vendor that is.

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