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Interested in learning how to buy a restaurant, rather than starting a restaurant from scratch?

One Google search for “restaurants for sale” would show that you’re not alone. In fact, a whopping 18,100 people are searching for available restaurants for sale every month.

Part of the reason many restaurateurs look into buying an existing restaurant is the cost; startup costs can be significantly less when you don’t have to worry about renovation fees, licenses, and permits.

How much does it cost to buy a restaurant? Restaurants for Sale offers listings for restaurants, bars, and nightclubs for sale across the U.S., and every year they produce a report on the average and median asking price for restaurants. In 2018, the median asking price was $229,000 and the average asking price was $469,500, increasing ~5% from 2017. In each U.S. region, the numbers break down as follows:

  • Midwest: $197,000 median, $439,000 average

  • Northeast: $350,000 median, $644,000 average

  • South: $250,000 median, $489,000 average

  • West: $200,000 median, $435,000 average

With kitchen equipment, tables, furniture, signage, and more included, the advantages to buying a restaurant are clear. Plus, the brand is likely known in the community, relationships with vendors are established, and permits and licenses have been acquired.

However, it’s important to do your due diligence before signing the restaurant lease. Here are questions to ask before you sign on the dotted line.

1. Why is the restaurant for sale?

This question should be the first one you ask, always. Is the owner retiring, or do they want to leave the restaurant industry? Are they having problems maintaining profitability? Are there legal problems and existing liabilities making it hard to keep doors open?

When you sign a lease, you will inherit everything — the bad with the good — so it’s important to know the reasoning behind the sale. If the owner is having trouble making ends meet, that may signal that you may want to rebrand or introduce new service models to improve table turn time. If the owner is simply retiring after a long stint in the restaurant industry, and the financials look good, then you may be able to keep the menu, name, and brand in tact.  

2. Is the restaurant equipment in good shape — and will you own it?

Restaurant equipment is one of the most costly restaurant expenses. When purchasing a restaurant, you’re also purchasing all of the furnishings, fixtures, and equipment, or FF&E.

Hire experts to inspect the physical building, plumbing, heating and air conditioning, and kitchen equipment. What is the age of the equipment? When was it last serviced? Does the equipment meet current safety standards? Does anything need to be repaired or replaced? If the equipment is faulty, require that the seller fix it before proceeding; otherwise, you may have to pay for repairs on your own.

Also, pay close attention to the wording in the lease. If you’re buying from the landlord, instead of the owner because the owner defaulted on the lease and left the space owing several months’ rent, the landlord may own FF&E. In that case, you may require approval from the landlord to make tenant improvements, like a bar or other built-in improvements.

3. Will you be signing a non-compete agreement?

Independent restaurant owners may want to consider signing a non-compete agreement with the previous owner, preventing them from opening a similar restaurant down the street and putting you out of business. 

Especially if you’ll be taking over the restaurant’s brand and recipes, it’s important to consider buyer protection as part of the investment. Consider the geographic radius as well as the length of time the non-compete covers, and work with a lawyer to finalize the agreement.

4.  Are there any violations against the restaurant?

Restaurant violations can sink a business. In some states, if you purchase an existing business, you’re on the hook for any taxes owed on the property, including any debts or legal action pending against the prior owners, so it’s important to understand the restaurant’s standing.

Ask the owner if there is unpaid overtime, unpaid sales tax, health code, or pest violations that could jeopardize your ability to successfully operate the restaurant. You can also search for the restaurant on apps like What the Health, HD Scores, and of course, your local government website, like The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, to see up-to-date restaurant inspection results.

5.  What is the restaurant’s reputation in the community?

The restaurant’s reputation in the community is critical. If the restaurant is failing because of bad reviews online, it may be time for a rebrand.

To understand the restaurant’s reputation, first search for the restaurant’s name on Google. Go past the first page, and dig into news articles covering the restaurant.

Search review sites like Yelp, Google My Business, Facebook, TripAdvisor, YellowPages, FourSquare, and even the Better Business Bureau for negative complaints, and make note of how you, as a new owner, would address them.

Also pay attention to the demographics of the community you’ll be joining. Will there be foot traffic or driving traffic? Will your guests be millennials with kids or baby boomers with cash to spare? What's the crime rate in the area? Visit the restaurant for an entire day and observe the way the community interacts with the restaurant. Plus, visit other restaurants in the area to perform a competitive analysis.

6. What contracts already exist with vendors?

Don’t forget to inquire about the restaurant’s food shipments and any existing contracts with food and drink vendors like Gordon Food Service and US Foods.

Restaurant technology contracts are also important to consider. When buying a restaurant, you might inherit the point of sale system as well; compare the costs of implementing a new system with the costs of sticking with the contract by using a pos system ROI calculator. For many legacy POS systems, annual contracts do not include technical support; when buying a new restaurant, it may be time to evaluate options that do.

7. What is the value of the restaurant?

The valuation of a restaurant depends on real cash flow, not just the owner’s personal estimate. Ask to see a detailed profit and loss statement, tax returns, bank records, as well as historical financial growth (or loss) over the years.

When valuing a restaurant business, there are a number of factors to take into consideration, and a lawyer or appraiser can help. Using the asset-based method, you will add up every asset the restaurant owns or leases (real estate, chairs, tables, inventory, equipment, cash) and come up with a purchase price. With the cash flow multiple method, you will sum up the owner’s salary, perks, net income, and expenses, and then attach a specific multiplier to get your purchase price — 2 or 3 for full service restaurants and 1 or 2 for quick-service restaurants.

Next: Hire a Lawyer and Negotiate a Contract

Buying a restaurant can be an arduous process, so hire an experienced restaurant business attorney who understands this process thoroughly to help you make decisions, negotiate a contract, and ensure a smooth closing.

Make your first offer realistic and attractive to secure a deal as quickly as possible, and show that you have a strong restaurant business plan and proof of capital.  

Once your offer is accepted — hooray! — it’s time to think about your transition plan, including how you'll introduce new staff policies, what you will renovate or replace, and how you’ll change the menu, if at all.

A restaurant acquisition can be an excellent alternative to starting a new restaurant from scratch, with trained staff on hand, legal permits and licenses obtained, and an established customer base hungry to dive in.

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A great restaurant website can attract new customers, maintain loyal ones, and raise the overall profile of the establishment outside of the physical location.

But how do you put together a great website when you - the restaurant owner or operator - are busy with the many other critical tasks related to running your restaurant?

Well, building the best restaurant website doesn’t have to be a time-consuming or difficult task. In many cases, there are simple things you can build into your website to share the most important information with your frequent and potential guests.

Check out 12 of our favorite restaurant websites, each paired with a pro tip that explains what makes them stand out. Further down, you can find a slideshow of Toast's 50 best restaurant websites if you need even more inspiration. 

Don't Forget the Basics: Address, Hours, and Contact Info

Example: Acorn (Denver, CO)

Usually, when your guests head to your website, it's to grab the most basic information: the address, the hours, and a way to contact you. Don’t make it difficult! With this being the #1 thing people are looking for, put it front and center - like Acorn does on their website. No scrolling necessary, their basic information is displayed clearly at the top-left of the page.

 


Showcase Your Menu

Example: Parachute (Chicago, IL)

If the #1 thing people are looking for on your website is when and where to find your restaurant, #2 is what they’ll eat when they get there! That means you should be making it very easy to find and browse your menu(s). Ideally, this will be in webpage format so that it’s easy to click around and search your menu items, but at the very least, you should include a PDF of your latest menus. Parachute in Chicago, IL has simple, beautiful website that makes it extremely easy to find the menu - just scroll down, and there it is! 



More Content Brings More Guests

Example: Mei Mei Street Kitchen (Boston, MA)

The more content you have on your website, the more opportunities you have to attract and engage guests online. Boston's Mei Mei Street Kitchen does a great job of this - including information about their restaurant and food truck, content about their local and sustainable approach, as well as links to recent press. On top of all that, they have a blog where they post about their food, events, and more. A blog is a great way to keep customers coming back to your website and staying engaged with you in between visits.



Enable and Encourage Online Ordering

Example: Upper Crust Pizzeria (Multiple Cities)

Online ordering is already widespread and continues to increase in volume across the industry. If you don’t offer online ordering - for takeout and/or delivery - you may be missing out on a huge additional revenue stream. And if you do offer online ordering, make it easy for customers to find it on your website! While online ordering sites like GrubHub and Doordash provide the reach and functionality for online ordering, they can also come with big fees. If you've already got a customer on your website, take advantage of that and let them order online, straight from you. Upper Crust Pizzeria, like many pizzerias, does a lot of business via online orders. They prominently display a button at the top of their website to let visitors easily place an order. Alternately, some restaurants choose to provide links to whichever online ordering sites they use to dispatch food to customers' homes. 



Make it Easy to Make Reservations

Example: Old Lady Gang (Atlanta, GA) 

If you take reservations, make it easy to do on your website instead of sending your customers to the phone. Old Lady Gang in Atlanta, GA puts a reservations form right at the center of their homepage. This way, their guests can easily see what times are available without having to talk to a host that's trying to hear them over the din of the restaurant.



Offer Quick Access to Your Loyalty Program

Example: Costa Vida (Multiple Cities)

Loyalty programs were created to help restaurants reward their best customers and to encourage repeat visits, creating new regulars. Consumers estimate a restaurant loyalty program would increase their visit rate to a restaurant by an average of 35%, and when a customer is about to unlock their loyalty reward, they spend 39% more on average. If you have a loyalty program, don't just rely on punch cards - make it easy for customers to check their status online, like Costa Vida does through the “Rewards” section of their website.



Highlight Events to Get Customers Coming Back

Example: Olympia Oyster Bar (Portland, OR)

Many restaurants will run events throughout the week - like Trivia Tuesdays or afternoon Happy Hours - to keep customers coming back at specific, perhaps low traffic, times. This is great content to add to your website to make sure new guests know about the unique things happening at your establishment. Olympia Oyster Bar in Portland, OR has an Upcoming Events section up top, and if you scroll down, you'll find their Weekly Happenings section, as well as more info about their events. 



Let Customers Buy Gift Cards and Merchandise Online

Example: Lucha Libre Taco Shop (San Diego, CA)

If you sell merchandise and/or gift cards in-store, why not also sell them on your website? Lucha Libre Taco Shop in San Diego, CA has a bright-blue button for "Lucha Gear" on their homepage, and if you scroll down, you find a button for e-gift cards. If you make it easy for your customers to buy gift cards or merchandise, they'll be more likely to think of you next time they need to buy a present! Also, offering merchandise creates awareness around your restaurant; your customers will be vouching for your brand in everyday life. 



Link Your Social Accounts and Posts

Example: Dutch’s (Portland, ME)

Social media is one of the best ways to engage with your customers and share great photos and updates from your restaurant. Be sure to link to your social accounts right from your website (and vice versa), and even include a feed of your recent updates and photos - it’s a great way to add more interesting content to your website! Dutch’s in Portland, ME, for example, has a big section of their homepage dedicated to their Instagram account, and they also link to a bigger gallery of photos they’ve taken.


Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly

Example: SusieCakes (Multiple Cities)

Many of your visitors will be checking out your website from their smartphones - whether it’s to grab your address while on their way, or to place an online order while sitting on the couch. Make sure your website is easy to navigate and looks good from a phone; otherwise, you risk missing out on a lot of great customers.


Collect Email Addresses for Marketing

Example: Smith & Wollensky (Multiple Cities)

Turn your anonymous visitors into known guests you can email by collecting email addresses on your website. Some restaurants, like Smith & Wollensky Steakhouse, have an email signup link, while others use pop-ups when landing on the website. In all cases, make sure you have a good reason for someone to give you their email address - such as notifications about upcoming events, exclusive promotions, menu specials, or even fun updates from the staff.


Incorporate Press and Reviews

Example: Marlowe (San Francisco, CA)

Hopefully, you already have people saying wonderful things about your restaurant. Make sure to highlight press quotes and customer reviews right on your website to make it even more appealing to someone trying to decide where to eat. The website for Marlowe, in San Francisco, shows off their many accolades on their homepage, while other restaurant websites choose to create a separate page for recent press.

Here's a slideshow of 50 Examples of Great Restaurant Websites from Toast Tab to help you get even more inspired to update your own!

  What are the best components of a restaurant website in your eyes? Let us know in the comments below!

 

                                 
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Alcohol server training is a vital part of training for businesses in the hospitality industry.

While everyone knows that on-the-job training is extremely important, failing to include alcohol server training in your new employee onboarding and staff training systems does a disservice to the hard work you've put into growing your restaurant and and could potentially leave you vulnerable to some pretty costly repercussions. 

What is alcohol server training? 

Alcohol server training is designed to educate your employees about local alcohol laws and safe serving techniques should their job require the sale or serving of alcohol. The goal of the training is to ensure that servers, bartenders, managers, and anyone else who handles alcoholic beverages has the knowledge to sell and serve legally and responsibly.

Many cities and states across the U.S. require a license or certification before someone can legally sell or serve alcohol; in some states, like Massachusetts, there is also an age requirement.  Although the specific requirements will vary from state to state, alcohol server training generally includes educating staff members about the following:

  • Specific laws that regulate selling or serving to minors, intoxicated people, and non-members of a private club.

  • The effects of alcohol on customers.

  • The correct way to check IDs and prevent the sale of alcohol to minors or individuals with expired identification.

  • How and why to refuse the sale of alcohol in specific situations.

  • How to protect themselves and their employer from liability.   

Although one of the top benefits of having staff who underwent alcohol server training is that they will be able to prevent rowdy customers from ruining the dining experience for all, the biggest benefit by far is the preservation of public safety.

When your staff knows how to identify when to stop or refuse serving a customer alcohol, they have the power to save lives. Ultimately, your staff are the ones who can stop a customer from getting into their car and driving while under the influence or stop a guest from drinking to excess and risk hurting themselves or another either in your establishment or after they leave. 

This is one of the big reasons why alcohol policy exists -- to minimize alcohol-related harm and promote public health.

The risks of not requiring alcohol server training in your restaurant

Holding a liquor license is key to the success of most bars and restaurants. Losing your bar license – especially if you also have to pay fines, too – can be enough to wreck the restaurant or bar that truly embodies your lifelong passion realized. 

As you can see with this interactive Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) calculator, it doesn’t take many alcoholic beverages to increase the risk of a crash on the road. According to the World Health Organization, there are about two billion people worldwide who consume alcoholic beverages. The vast majority of the people who consume alcohol are light to moderate drinkers who occasionally drink at what would be considered a high-risk level. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines high-risk drinking – sometimes referred to as 'binge drinking' – as five or more drinks in one session for men or four or more drinks in one session for women regardless of the visible impact on the drinker. 

By over-serving a guest or serving a minor, your restaurant could risk encountering the following legal repercussions:

  • Hefty fines,
  • A suspended or revoked liquor license, 
  • A suspended or revoked foodservice license,
  • A suspended or revoked business license,
  • The forced closing of your restaurant or bar, and/or,
  • Jail time. 

Most states have either voluntary or mandatory alcohol seller-server training requirements. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there are 19 states that have mandatory beverage service training requirements, while 16 additional states offer mitigation of penalties for businesses who voluntarily decided to have their staff complete training.

In states that don’t have alcohol server education requirements, many owners and operators will still opt to voluntarily have their employees complete training to prevent the above mentioned safety and legal repercussions. 

Here are a few examples of alcohol service related laws and mandates you may encounter as a restaurant or bar who serves alcohol. Given the discrepancies from state to state, it's important to check out the local laws in your area to make sure your business is compliant. 


1. Dram Shop Laws

Dram Shop Laws are some of the most common alcohol related statutes – sometimes referred to as a "blue law" –  that you’ll find across the United States.

A Dram Shop is a commercial establishment, such as a bar or tavern, where alcoholic beverages are sold. A Dram Shop Law makes the business or server liable in the event that an over-served customer causes another individual bodily harm; Dram Shop Laws can also put additional liability on servers and businesses who are caught serving alcohol to underage customers. 

To learn more about Dram Shop Laws and find out about the laws specific to your city or state, check out this resource page from The National Conference of State Legislatures. 


2. The TABC Safe Harbor Rule

In Texas, the TABC Safe Harbor Rule protects restaurants, bars, and private clubs who do their due diligence by training their staff about safe serving protocol from repercussions should a staff member over serve a guest or serve a minor. A violation would be issued to the employee but administrative action wouldn’t be taken against the business’ selling license.

If an alcohol related incident occurs involving a guest, in order for a restaurant, bar, or private club in Texas to qualify for protection under the TABC Safe Harbor Rule they would need to prove:

  • The business owner requires alcohol server training for new hires within 30 days of their first day,
  • The employee accused attended/participated in said alcohol server training course, and,
  • The employer can prove they had not encouraged the staff member to violate Texas law.

If you are a Texas based restaurant and would like to learn more about The TABC Safe Harbor Rule, check out The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission's website


3. Mitigation Benefits in Florida

Another state that offers businesses a benefit for voluntarily participating in alcohol server training is Florida.  

Any business owner who voluntarily participates in the state’s “Responsible Vendor Program” may have their penalty for violations reduced based on their status as a responsible vendor. 

If you are a Florida based restaurant and would like to learn more about The Responsible Vendor Program, click here

Helpful resources to start alcohol server training in your restaurant 

There are a variety of companies and organizations who offer or host alcohol server training tailored to your city or state's legal requirements. 

Some restaurants opt to host a course on-site once a year in order to ensure their entire staff is complying with local safe serving protocol, while others encourage new and existing staff to take courses recommended by their local restaurant association. Whatever method you choose, make sure to get a copy of each staff member's certificate of completion after attending or participating in an alcohol server training course. 

It's worth noting that safe-serving certifications often expire in a one to two year time frame, so existing staff members will likely have to retake their chosen alcohol server training course during their tenure at your restaurant.  

Serve Safely Every Time

Alcohol server training is a smart business decision. Not only will it protect your restaurant from potentially disastrous consequences but it also tells your community that you care about the safety and well-being of all – not just your guests. 

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Valentine's Day is just around the corner. Is your restaurant ready for the influx of diners? 

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans plan to spend an average of $27.72 per person on an "evening out" this year, second only to planned spending on expensive jewelry. In 2018, 32% of Americans planned to spend their money on a restaurant visit according to Statista

Your restaurant may be offering prix fixe menus, discounts, and other restaurant specials for Valentine's Day, filling every table with lovey-dovey couples — or parties celebrating Anti-Valentine's Day. 

Whatever your plan, Toast and OpenTable are here to help. We're digging in to exclusive data on restaurant sales, online ordering, reservations, and more this Valentine's Day so you can know what to expect — and how to staff up. Check it out in the moving infographic below! 

Known for gifts, chocolate, and fancy restaurant dates, Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Let’s take a look at U.S. restaurant sales and reservations trends on February 14, 2018 compared to the year before to help you prepare for the big day.

Staff Up for an Increase in Restaurant Sales

On Valentine’s Day, online and in-store restaurant sales increased and service remained excellent with high tips, so make sure you’re staffed up and ready to go.  

Overall sales increased 32% compared to other Wednesdays in February. 

Online ordering sales increased 7% compared to other Wednesdays in February. 

The average tip on Valentine's Day is 20%. 

In a Larger Metro? Prepare for More Visitors

Larger metros see a lot of Valentine’s Day visitors! New York City, Chicago, and Boston were the cities with the highest growth in sales. Massachusetts, California, and New York were the states with the highest sales overall.

  • New York City: 22% increase

  • Chicago: 28% increase

  • Boston: 36% increase

When it comes to making reservations, couples in New York City, Baltimore, California, and Missouri saw the highest increases in seated reservations:

  • Of all US Cities, New York City had the highest absolute increase in seated reservations.

  • Of the top 25 US Cities (by Valentine's Day Reservations), Baltimore had the highest percentage increase .

  • Of all US States, California had the highest absolute increase in seated reservations.

  • Of the top 25 US States (by Valentine's Day Reservations), Missouri had the highest percentage increase.

Make the Date Special

Many Valentine’s Day diners seek an elevated experience. Of all restaurant types, fine dining restaurants saw the largest increase in restaurant sales.

On Valentine’s Day, we saw 105% of the average fine dining sales.

Optimize for All Types of Reservations

Overall, reservations significantly increase on love day. Make sure your restaurant availability is optimized to bring in both planners and last-minute bookers.

Restaurant reservations increased 433% compared to the average number of reservations made for the same day in the weeks surrounding Valentine’s Day.

Many couples make reservations the week of Valentine’s Day. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 52% of Valentine’s day reservations are made between February 7-14

  • 19% of Valentine’s day reservations are made between January 30 and February 6

  • 11% of Valentine’s day reservations are made between January 22 and January 29

  • 18% of reservations are made January 21 or earlier

Give All Parties the Best Experience

Valentine’s Day celebrations come in all shapes and sizes! Of course, parties of two increase on Valentine’s Day, but so do parties of four, three, six, and five, compared to the average party size in the weeks surrounding Valentine’s Day.

  • Table for 2: 764% increase

  • Table for 4: 123% increase

  • Table for 3: 79% increase

  • Table for 6: 46% increase

  • Table for 5: 35% increase

How Are You Preparing Your Restaurant for Valentine’s Day?

How will you staff your restaurant — and prepare your menu — for Valentine’s Day this year? Whether you’re offering a prix fixe menu or delighting couples with free champagne at the end of the night, it’s never too late to start thinking about your Valentine’s Day restaurant strategy. 

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One of the restaurant industry’s biggest struggles is employee turnover. In the spirit of a new year and new beginnings, it’s the perfect time to turn over a new leaf (see what I did there?) and minimize the number of employees exiting your business. 

Table of Contents 
I. What is an employee annual review?
II. The benefits of conducting employee annual reviews
III. How to conduct employee annual reviews in your restaurant

  What is an employee annual review?

Employee annual reviews are scheduled, recurring performance reviews and personal check-ins between a manager and an employee. In case the word “annual” didn’t tip you off, an employee annual review takes place once a year. But don’t be fooled: making employee evaluations a core part of your business is a year-round, ongoing commitment.

Think of it like Valentine’s Day: sure, you’ll treat your partner to some extra TLC on February 14th, but you should love them the other 364 days of the year, too.

Reviews are regular, scheduled opportunities to connect and communicate with your employees about their performance, goals, and objectives. Given that poor communication is the number one reason staff leave a job, and 81% of workers across the U.S. put “honest feedback” at the top of their "Employer Must-Haves" list, restaurateurs would be remiss not to implement a restaurant employee review protocol.   

The benefits of conducting restaurant employee annual reviews

If you aren’t already convinced, here are two more reasons why employee evaluations are such a transformative practice in the restaurant industry.

1. You’re pretty much guaranteed to learn something new

Living in an age of big data means that almost everything is quantifiable. While your restaurant POS system and employee scheduling software are full of data goodies, that’s only half the story. Things might be ticking along nicely on paper, but in speaking with your staff you might gain a critical qualitative insight that would have otherwise evaded you. Lending a consistent ear also develops trust, comfort, and rapport—bonus!

2. Your staff will feel good (and so will you)

Did you know nearly 50% of workers referenced lack of recognition as one of the main reasons for quitting a job? Recognition doesn’t require some big fanfare; especially for us introverted folk, a genuine thank you during a one-on-one sit-down can be just as powerful.

Of course, sometimes the feedback you’ll have to give won’t include a rave review; however, if you can deliver this information clearly and respectfully, and follow up with a plan of action, your employees will know you still have their best interests at heart. A better employer-employee relationship means more employee motivation and commitment, so it’s a win-win!

3. Employee satisfaction has a positive impact on your business

When employees feel included and understood, everyone wins. Employee satisfaction has been linked to increases in productivity, sales, and company culture. We also know that a healthy workplace culture positively impacts engagement, creating a happy and—in the case of restaurants—profitable cycle.

  How to conduct employee annual reviews in your restaurant

Before we delve into the specifics, let’s first talk about the necessary pre-work. Remember how I mentioned employee evaluations are a year-round affair? One half-hour meeting once per year won’t cut it, and this is where career path planning and one-on-one meetings come in.

We now know there's an inverse relationship between development opportunities and turnover rates: the fewer the opportunities, the higher the turnover. Setting aside time to discuss your employees’ plans and ambitions for the future, and supporting that with resources, tools, and training shows you care and gives added incentive for that staff member to stick around.

One-on-one meetings are essentially a mini version of an annual review (which we’ll detail in a minute), but with a greater focus on the day-to-day stuff (workload, policy or menu changes, etc.). How often you schedule your one-on-ones is up to you, but I suggest striving for a monthly check-in. With the right restaurant time management strategies, this is totally achievable.  

Oh, and let us not forget the importance and value of on-the-spot recognition. Offering genuine, specific, in-the-moment praise creates a recognition culture that will ripple throughout your restaurant.

Here are four helpful tips to keep in mind when your next employee annual review season rolls around:

1. Come prepared

It’s your responsibility to be collecting performance data all year long (not just in the days leading up to the big review). Typically, annual reviews include three kinds of evaluations: self, peer, and management. And the job doesn’t stop at data collection, either. Carefully analyze the data for patterns and outliers, and put together a list of talking points to ensure the review runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

2. Balance feedback and goal setting

Going in with an agenda will help keep you and your employee on track. You’re not there strictly to discuss performance over the past 12 months—this is also when you should be talking about goals (and what actions can support those goals) for the year ahead.  

3. Keep cash out of the equation

Because financials tend to consume conversation, an annual review is neither the time nor the place to discuss compensation. Of course, employees might broach the topic (after all, it is a safe space you’re creating), but careful not to let the lines get too blurry.

How employee reviews can impact compensation is that it gives you time to both track and review the employee’s performance and growth over the past year, which can inform later compensation decisions. That way, when it does come time for a raise, the evidence of their work is already on the table.

4. Stay cool

Everyone responds to feedback differently. Depending on the employee, you might have to brace yourself for silence, anger, or even tears. But remember, this reaction has nothing to do with you as a person or an employer.  

 

Want to read more about employee retention? We jam-packed The Employee Retention Playbook with 30 pages of tips, tricks, and free resources to help you 86 the 73% restaurant turnover rate. (Spoiler alert: we even included a handy-dandy restaurant employee evaluation form.) Best of all, it’s FREE.


How do you manage employee reviews in your restaurant? Let us know in the comments below! 

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When it comes to running a successful restaurant, having access to reliable, comprehensive data in real-time is essential.

While online businesses have been besieged with customer analytics for decades, guest Wi-Fi analytics have recently emerged to provide brick-and-mortar restaurateurs with the same sorts of data-driven advantages.

Whether you run a single location, or you manage a multi-unit chain, guest Wi-Fi analytics can be the catalyst for continuous improvement, helping your business reach higher and more profitable levels by improving marketing campaigns, saving on costs, and using the data to make much more informed operations decisions.

What Are Guest Wi-Fi Analytics?

Guest Wi-Fi analytics refers to  the collecting and analyzing of customer data from Wi-Fi-enabled devices – like smartphones, laptops, and tablets – via your restaurant's guest Wi-Fi access point(s). The data is then sorted and presented in an easy-to-understand graphical interface.

Every mobile device – smartphone, laptop, tablet, smartwatch – sends out a broadcast signal as it searches for available Wi-Fi networks. This is what populates the ever-changing list of networks you see on your mobile device when you’re looking for a wireless network to connect to. The broadcast signal that is sent out contains a unique code that is associated with the device called a media access control address, or MAC address.

At the same time, any Wi-Fi access point within range can pick up the signal from the mobile device, including the MAC address. This is how a Wi-Fi analytics platform is able to collect specific guest Wi-Fi behavior data and associate that data with individual customers.  

While the system doesn’t know the customer’s name or demographic details at this point, it will be able to log several valuable metrics into the database from the moment a customer walks through your door, even if they don’t log into your Wi-Fi. This is referred to as anonymous data.

Which Customer Behavior Metrics Can I Access with Guest Wi-Fi Analytics?  

 If your restaurant has guest Wi-Fi available for customers – and you should, a 2017 study found that restaurant goers rank guest Wi-Fi second when determining which types of restaurant technology have the biggest impact on their dining experience – the anonymous data included in your restaurant's Wi-Fi analytics can provide never-before-seen insights into customer behavior at your establishment.

Here are six examples of rich customer behavior metrics available to restaurateurs who tap into the power of guest Wi-Fi analytics:

Dwell times – This metric allows you to know how long visitors are staying at your location. The metric can also be queried by hour, showing the average visit duration during each hour of the day.

First-time Visitors – The number of visitors to your location who have never been seen by the Wi-Fi analytics platform. This metric is valuable in measuring ROI of customer acquisition campaigns.

First-time Visitor Return Rate - This metric tells you how many of your first-time visitors came back to your location.

Daily Traffic - This is the average number of customer devices detected at your location during each day in the time period selected.

Popular Visit Times - The average number of customer devices detected during each hour of the day. This allows you to see precise foot traffic values over the course of the day.

Average Customer Repeat Rate - This is an accurate representations of how many times customers have returned to your location in the time frame specified.

How to Enhance Your CRM Customer Profiles with Guest Wi-Fi Analytics

When a customer logs into your restaurant's guest Wi-Fi, they are often required to provide their name and/or email address to access the internet. When this happens, a Wi-Fi analytics platform will instantly begin building a customer profile around that individual customer.

Any previous anonymous data that was associated with that device via its unique MAC address is added to the patron’s customer profile. Other data points in the profile include age, gender, email address, zip code and phone number.

Combining the metrics and insights available via a guest Wi-Fi analytics platform with the customer profiles you have housed in your restaurant's CRM solution is a lot like solving a puzzle: Though the many pieces on their own are valuable and important, together they paint a beautiful picture of your customer's journey and behavior while at your restaurant. 


How to Use Guest Wi-Fi Analytics In Your Restaurant Marketing Campaigns

As with the customer profiles available in your restaurant CRM system, the customer profiles created by a guest Wi-Fi analytics platform can be filtered and sorted to reveal important insights about your repeat customers which you can then put to use in both your restaurant customer acquisition strategy and your restaurant customer retention strategy

Since customer behavior is monitored while they are within the range of your Wi-Fi, pre-written marketing messages can be automatically emailed to the customer based on specific behavior criteria. Most Wi-Fi analytics platforms utilize email for sending manual and triggered marketing messages

If a customer visited your location for a predetermined amount of times, you can have the platform send them an email thanking them for their loyalty and perhaps including a coupon for a free appetizer or dessert. When a new customer visits for the first time and logs into your guest Wi-Fi, you can send them an email welcoming them and provide an offer, coupon or other incentive to get them to return.

Messages can also be triggered by demographic data, such as a customer’s birthday or zip code. A message could be sent a few days prior to their birthday, or to a list of customers in a specific area of the city, for instance.

Segmented and triggered email marketing can give consumers what they expect in today’s marketplace - personalized, engaging messaging. This will help solidify a positive brand image while increasing customer loyalty, spend, and satisfaction.

As an added bonus, guest Wi-Fi analytics are also useful for making data-driven staffing and purchasing decisions.  Not only can you identify the high-traffic days and times with accuracy, you will be able to better predict them. This will allow you to schedule the appropriate number of staff members at the right times while avoiding overstaffing and the accompanying revenue hit. Guest Wi-Fi analytics can also be used to influence your inventory purchasing strategy, enabling keeping your food items consistently as fresh as possible, decreasing the likelihood of ‘86’ing a product.


What's the Wi-Fi?

Using the data from your restaurant's guest Wi-Fi analytics is easy to do with the right tools and the strategy can garner great returns when used properly.

With the fierce competition in today’s restaurant, coffee shop, and cafe sectors, guest Wi-Fi analytics can be the catalyst for gaining a strong competitive advantage, developing an even stronger customer retention strategy, ensuring the lasting success of your restaurant. 

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With 2018 in our rear view mirror, restaurateurs are in full planning mode for the year ahead — but it’s also important to reflect on the milestones achieved.

At the beginning of 2018 on The Toast Restaurant Management Blog, we covered how restaurants can set short and long term goals for the year ahead. Here are some examples of the real goals Toast customers set for themselves:

  • Swah-Rey: Our short term goal is to identify and train current staff members to prepare for our longer term goal of opening 2-3 additional locations by 2020.
  • pFriem Family Brewers: Short term to handle labor and lower our gross margin. Long term, open a new property.
  • Sergeant Pepperoni’s Pizza: Short term increase beer sales 5-10% long term: sell and retire a millionaire

Now it’s time to reflect and see if you reached those goals, as well as set new goals for 2019. Even if you haven’t “retired a millionaire” yet — reach for the stars! — there’s always an achievement to celebrate.

The Toast community in particular had a strong 2018, which we celebrated in this year’s 2018 Year in Review Infographic.

The way this group of restaurants flourished and thrived in 2018 has given us insight into trends and data impacting every corner of the food service industry. Here’s a preview of the key insights pulled from the Toast restaurant community.

Restaurants Using KDS Saw 21% More Orders Processed

In 2018, Toast released improvements to the kitchen display system (KDS), helping to create a smooth back of house experience.

From chits that change color, modification and allergy information that appears front and center, and items firing based on prep time, line cooks and chefs can rest assured their KDS experience will always be operating at optimum efficiency. 

Restaurants using KDS saw 21% more orders processed than restaurants not using KDS. Thanks to this added back of house efficiency, speed of service improved.

Loyalty Program Members Spent 32% More Than Non-Members

Repeat guests are valuable brand advocates who also contribute to your bottom line.

There were over 2 million signups on Toast’s restaurant loyalty program last year, and loyalty program members spent 32% more than non-loyalty members in 2018.

To put this into context, imagine a guest spent $20 on a meal. A member of your loyalty program would spend $26 — often, it's to earn more points because they are close to redeeming a big reward.

With a card-linked restaurant loyalty program, guests are prompted to join on the payment screen. Loyalty points are then tracked on their credit card — rather than a physical punch card — so all guests need to do to earn points is use the same credit card the next time they visit.

Guests Spend 10% More When Using a Gift Card

Restaurant gift cards — physical and digital — are valuable revenue streams. Guests tend to look at gift cards as “free money,” spending much more than the value of the card when they visit.

In fact, we found that guests of Toast customers spend 10% more than average when using a gift card.

With a hybrid gift card program of digital and physical gift cards — and a smart marketing strategy involving online and in-store promotion — gift cards can become a top driver for your business.

6,300 Trees Were Saved With the Adoption of Paperless Systems

In 2018, many restaurants focused on becoming eco-friendly. From banning styrofoam to reducing energy use, more and more restaurants are “going green.”

With paperless systems like kitchen display systems, which eliminate chits and digital receipts, Toast technology helped save 6,300 trees in 2018.


Brandon Hunt of Via 313 touts the effect of paperless systems: “The cost of paper is insane. At almost $50-60 a case, we were going through about a case a week, so it was a no-brainer for us to use kitchen display screens in the kitchen and go paperless in the front of the house as well.”

49% of Toast Customers Are Using At Least One Partner Integration

Almost half of all Toast customers are using a partner integration within Toast. There are over 50 integration partners who focus on mobile pay, labor, accounting, online ordering, loyalty, gift cards, reservations, security, analytics, and more.

With the ability to customize their restaurant ecosystem, the Toast customer community doesn’t have to sacrifice systems that have proved to work for them; they can integrate directly with Toast.

Toast Partner Connect now makes it easier for Toast customers to discover and add integrations directly within the product. Browse partners with integrations to Toast, and add any of these integrations to your restaurant with the click of a button in the new portal.

See What the Toast Community Accomplished Last Year

Armed with the right technology, staff, and product mix, restaurant operators have much to look forward to in the coming year.

Congratulations to the thriving Toast restaurant community, who had a record-breaking year in 2018. We're looking forward to our continued partnership with you in 2019 and beyond.

Want to see all the data from Toast customers in 2018?
Check out the full infographic!

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Life happens fast in the restaurant industry. 

Ingredients, dishes, drinks, and even entire concepts can rise and fall in popularity all within the course of one night's meal service.  As a restaurant owner or operator, it's imperative – and pretty time consuming – to stay on top of what's in, what's out, and then tailor your menu accordingly.

Thanks to social media, following trends and the restaurant industry experts who keep an especially close eye on them is as easy as the click of a button.   

At the beginning of a new year, it's a great exercise to take stock in your inbox and your social feeds and evaluate who you're following and why.  As the saying goes, you are what you read. 

With that, I bring you Toast's definitive list of restaurant industry experts to follow in 2019. While you're at it, check our our posts from 2016, 2017, and 2018.

How We Created The 2019 Restaurant Industry Experts to Follow List 

This list features individuals – not brands or companies – in the restaurant industry. To be included on this list, candidates must be:

  • A chef or restaurant owner.
  • A restaurant chain professional.
  • A restaurant consultant.
  • A food & beverage tv personality
  • A celeb chef.
  • A member of the media
  • A food & beverage C suite member.
  • A thought leader in the food and/or restaurant industry.

They also need to have cultivated a strong following on social media and demonstrated that they consistently create and share high-quality restaurant related content across their digital channels. 

**Please note: this list is by no means set in stone. Feel free to share any additional restaurant industry experts we should be following in 2019 in the comments section below!**

Restaurant Influencers to Follow in 2019: A Comprehensive List

We've included the twitter account and corresponding personal or professional website for each restaurant industry expert so you can quickly and easily follow them on Twitter or check out their website to learn more about their work and ways they're shaping the industry. 

 Adam Platt 
Writer, Father, bilious gourmand.
@plattypants | nymag.com

 

 Alton Brown
Host of Good Eats, Food Network Personality and Presenter, Author, Cinematographer, Musician. Thyme lord. 
@altonbrown - Website

Alan Liddle 

 Data and event content director. At Nation's Restaurant News since 1984. Also, researcher for Supermarket News Top 75. Formerly: daily/weekly news; restaurants.
@AJ_NRN - Website

Allie Tetreault

 #Food #Journalist #Writer #ContentMarketing @ToastTab  #Blogger #Acappella  @Wheaton #Movies & #Television & #VideoGames & #Travel. RTs ≠ endorphins
@alliekaytee - Website

Allison Aubrey

 NPR Correspondent, PBS NewsHour contributor, mom, aspiring yogi, lavender lover.
@AubreyNPRFood - Website

Amanda Hesser

Co-founder of Food52. author. former new york times writer. parent of twins. I live in brooklyn, but not the cool part.
@amandahesser - Website

  

Andrew Zimmern 

 Chef, writer, traveler, host of The Zimmern List on The Travel Channel
@andrewzimmern - Website

  

Anne Burrell

chef- food network personality- bon vivant-perpetual optimist-spreader of sparkles and smiles! follow me on instagram
@chefanneburrell | Website

 

Barbara Castiglia
Executive Editor, Modern Restaurant Management. bcastiglia@modernrestaurantmanagement.com.
@bcastiglia44 - Website

 

Bradley Toft 

The Restaurant Guy. Husband, Dad, and a work in progress. Risk Specialist at Newman & Tucker Insurance.
@BradleyToft - Website

Bret Thorn 

Follow the adventures of a New York City food writer. Senior F&B editor, NRN & Restaurant Hospitality.
@FoodWriterDiary - Website
 

Bruce Irving

Founder SPM (smart pizza marketing): The #1 Digital marketing platform for pizzerias  | Speaker | Podcaster | Host of the top rated SPM Podcast : Family First  
@Irvingmedia - Website

Cat Cora

The First Female #IronChef#Mother of 6 Cool Boys, Lifestyle Entrepreneur, #Author#Philanthropist, TV Personality, #Chef/#Restaurateur
@catcora - Website

  

Cherryh Cansler

VP of Editorial, NetWorld Media Group. Media maven. Yogi. Mommy. Director of Fun. Send me all your fast cas news!
@CherryhFastCas - Website

Cheryl Bachelder

Former Popeyes CEO focused on developing purpose-driven leaders who evidence competence and character in all aspects of their lives. Author of Dare To Serve.
@CABachelder - Website

Chris Hill 

Leadership and Branding Restaurant Guy - Entrepreneur - Author + 2X TEDx Speaker. IG: The_ChrisHill (Chris was also a guest on Toast's podcast, The Garnish! Listen here.)
@bachkitchen Website

Chris Santos 

chef. boxing junkie. metalhead. catch me on food network's 'chopped'. visit me at @vandalnewyork, @stantonsocial + @beautyandessex. les, nyc, vegas + hollywood. 
@santoscooks Website

 

Christina Tosi
 comfortably human / OG #hardbody  / founder & CEO @milkbarstore 
@ChristinaTosi - Website

 

Dan Pashman

Creator/host of The Sporkful podcast at Stitcher and the Cooking Channel web series You're Eating It Wrong and The Snackdown. An eater, not a foodie.
@TheSporkful - Website

Dana Hatic

Associate Editor @EaterBoston. Former @MiamiHurricanes athlete and native Floridian. There's no such thing as too much hot sauce.
@danahatic - Website

Danny Meyer
CEO Union Square Hospitality Group. Founder Shake Shack. Always Setting the Table.
@dhmeyer - Website


David Chang
retroactively retired from @momofuku since 2004. 
@davidchang - Website

David Henkes

Global food/beverage industry trendwatcher, consultant, & connoisseur. Senior Principal at Technomic
@davidhenkes - Website

  

Denise Landis

editor-in-chief of the cook's cook: a community of cooks, foodwriters & recipe testers. food writer, cookbook author, former @nytfood recipe tester.
@thecookscook - Website

Derrick Schommer

Host of Common Man Cocktails
@everydaydrinker - Website

Devra First

Boston Globe food writer and restaurant critic. Don't want to do the dishes / Just want to eat the food. .
@devrafirst - Website

Dominique Crenn

Watch @netflix Chef's table Season 2. Chef/Owner of Atelier Crenn/Petit Crenn/Bar Crenn. I stay 100% behind my team and my food. Food is art.
@dominiquecrenn - Website

Donald Burns

The Restaurant Coach™, industry expert at Foodable and Toast. Former USAF Pararescue. My motto: All business problems are really people problems in disguise.
@donaldburns - Website

Emeril Lagasse

the official account of Chef Emeril Lagasse.
@emeril - Website

Eric Cacciatore

Host, RestaurantUnstoppable Podcast. Successful hospitality professionals telling their stories of success and sharing their mentorship.
@EricCacciatore - Website

Éric Ripert

Executive Chef, Le Bernardin
@ericripert - Website

Francis Lam
I write and talk about food and people. I'm the host of @splendidtable, editor at Clarkson Potter, and ex-columnist at the NYT Magazine. I take statins. 
@Francis_Lam - Website

Gerry Ludwig

Representing Gordon Food Service through culinary research and development, restaurant trend tracking, food writing and public speaking.
@GFSChefGerry - Website

Gordon Ramsay

Always near food
@GordonRamsay - Website

Graham Elliot

Chef, Restaurateur, Cookbook Author, TV Personality
@grahamelliot - Website

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