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We know that saving money is the #1 concern for restaurant owners & managers everywhere. It’s easy to shy away from the idea of selling your food for a smaller profit. In reality, running a promotion can not only help you stand out and be memorable, but it can give your customers an incentive to purchase more than they would have normally! Take a look at some of our “do’s” and “don’ts” of running promotions, designed to help keep your customers coming back for more.

Do this:

Keep it simple

I don’t know about you, but the discount code “123get50percent0FF456” wouldn’t necessarily have me reaching for my phone to place an order. The key to promo codes is keeping it short, sweet, and relevant. Is there a holiday coming up? Think “GREEN” for St. Patrick’s Day. Running a percentage discount? Try “25OFF” to be specific. The easier the code is to type in, the more likely the customer will be to use it.

Stay current & on trend

In this day and age, there is always something “trending”. Remember Pokemon Go? Restaurants that advertised as a “PokeStop” were suddenly flooded with hungry gamers. Don’t let your promotions run stale. Stay in the know and act accordingly! If there is a popular event coming up in your community or a trending topic that relates to your business, jump on it before it’s too late.

Run an Instagram contest

An effective and creative way to market your restaurant is to run a contest on Instagram. Promoting a new dish? Try posting a photo of the item with clear & concise rules for the contest. Followers can compete with their own images and tag your restaurant to enter. The winner gets that new dish for free! The idea is to stay relevant and give your customers more of a reason to be excited about your brand.

Not this:

Don’t keep your promotion a secret

Make sure that no matter where your customers look, they are aware of the promotion going on. Add the details of the promotion to your voicemail message. Enter the promotion into your POS system so it prints out on all receipts. Do you provide table service? Add a promotional card to all of your checkbooks. Does your restaurant have a counter? Place a sign on the counter with the discount details. There are endless ways to inform your customers of great deals, it’s just a matter of you placing it there for them.

Don’t rush your customers

Time is of the essence! Promote your next special at least two weeks in advance, since future party plans could involve a huge order from your restaurant. Promoting a deal with short notice won’t capture the intended audience in time for you to see the expected results. Especially if it’s a holiday or big event (e.g., the Superbowl). If customers are planning to place a big takeout order for a party, more likely than not they already have a restaurant in mind.

Don’t devalue your menu

We understand! You want to save money by giving away something that doesn’t cost you much, but let’s face it – by offering promotions that aren’t attractive, you’re not only devaluing your menu items but you’re wasting your resources by offering something that customers won’t care about. Would a “5% Off” promotion excite you if you found out the order minimum was $300? Exactly.

There are many effective ways to promote your restaurant that will increase revenue and create loyal customers. If you’re doing some of the “Don’ts”, don’t sweat it! It’s never too late to change those into “Do’s”.

If you’re a ChowNow restaurant client and want some feedback on your upcoming promotion, schedule a call — we’re happy to help. If you don’t already have online ordering at your restaurant, 2017 is a great time to get started. Get a free ChowNow demo from one of our experts to get started today!

The post The Do’s and Don’ts of Running Restaurant Promotions appeared first on ChowNow.

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The service industry has a special gravitational pull for many: it’s a great way to make money while pursuing other interests, engage a passion for people, and refine beneficial skills for other aspects of life. However, it’s no secret that not everyone working for you is doing so because they’re passionate about restaurants or food.

Just because working at your restaurant might not be their dream job doesn’t mean that there isn’t potential for you to realize their value, help them grow personally and professionally, and boost your bottom line.

The question is: how do you facilitate a longer, fruitful tenure in an industry with notoriously high turnover rates? We’ve put together some easy tactics to reduce restaurant employee turnover.

3 Effective Ways to Reduce Restaurant Employee Turnover  1. Reward with Perks

You can’t always throw money at your employees (if you can, do that! everyone likes money) or promote everyone to a manager, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have resources to motivate. Here are some alternative rewards that really work:

  • Will work for food! Give your deserving staff an extra meal or a choice of higher priced items that might normally be off limits.
  • Shift choice. There’s probably a busy shift that everyone wants or perhaps they want a weekend off. Giving the occasional shift choice, as long as it makes sense for your business, will be a coveted prize that your employees will strive for.
  • Employee of the month. It may sound ‘cheesy’ or perceived ‘old school’ but you would be surprised how far a small amount of recognition goes. Post their picture in the break area and let them have the steak for their staff meal. Highlighting a member of your staff also makes for a great social media post!
2. Create Experts

Running a restaurant is no small task, and you often have to be in multiple places at once. The good news is, you have smart people on your team who are ready for new challenges. It’s time to help create some value via expertise. Creating specialized roles will empower your team and help take some of the pressure off you while you’re running the floor and engaging with your customers. Here are some examples of areas to focus to create experts and reduce restaurant employee turnover:

Visual Merchandiser

Do you have display case or retail area? Your most creative cashier is now your Visual Merchandiser. Challenge them to create a display and keep it full for maximum guest appeal.  A well maintained display will entice your customers (and your cashier just added an impressive new title to their resume).

Social Media Manager

Who’s running your social media account? A successful social media account needs to be constantly updated with new, fresh content. If you’re employing anyone under the age of 30, it won’t be hard to find someone interested in becoming a social media manager, and you’ll likely be impressed by the results.

Inventory Specialist

Teach an employee to count a small section of inventory or put them in charge of the orders coming through the ChowNow Tablet. Small tasks like this might not seem like much to you but they break up the monotony of your employees daily duties and makes them feel more invested in your business.

3. Run Contests

You can preach about upselling and being on time in every pre-shift meeting until you’re blue in the face, but there’s nothing like a little friendly competition to really get your team motivated and have some fun. Put a contest board in your break area and make sure you update it daily with the latest results to keep the team excited. Here are a few ideas that are easy to implement:

Sales Bingo

Print out a bingo card for each server and put different menu items in each box. Every time a server sells an item, they check off that box. The first server to get BINGO wins. This is best utilized for high margin or overstocked items.

Don’t forget about your back of house, create teams! Pair a member of the back of house with a member of the front of house. Now create a list of tasks or achievements that you can assign points to. (e.g. Being on time 3 days in a row= 5 points, Perfect side work for one week=10 points, Forgetting to clock out = -3 points) The first team to reach 50 points wins.

Online Reviews

A customer with a bad experience is far more likely to write a review than all of the customers that you give great service to every day. Don’t let a few bad reviews tarnish or ruin your online reputation and rating.

Here’s an easy solve: Give your team some business cards with their name on them. The card should say something like “My name is ______ I’m so glad you enjoyed your experience today. Give us a review on Yelp or Tripadvisor and mention my name.” The employee with the most positive reviews that month wins. Very easily you can turn the online review challenge into an enticing opportunity for your team members to shine.

Running a restaurant is quite possibly one of the hardest jobs out there. After a long and busy day, it can be hard to get creative about contests and rewards for your team. But if you take the time to show your staff that you care about their personal growth they’ll become more invested in your business, stay with you longer and provide more genuine service to your customers.

If you’re a ChowNow restaurant client and want some other ideas about how to reduce restaurant employee turnover, schedule a call — we’re happy to help. If you don’t already have online ordering at your restaurant, now’s a great time to get started. Get a free ChowNow demo from one of our experts to get started today!

The post 3 Effective Ways to Reduce Restaurant Employee Turnover appeared first on ChowNow.

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Similar to many other third party online ordering portals, Grubhub, Eat24 and UberEATS take hefty commissions from each and every order a restaurant receives through their platforms. Not to mention, they fail to provide restaurants with valuable customer data, prohibiting restaurants from marketing to their customers in a smart and targeted manner. You may be asking yourself, ‘Why would a restaurant owner sign up for this?’ Here at ChowNow, we ask ourselves the same question.

We help our restaurant clients see the value behind having a branded online ordering solution. Read on to learn about the benefits of converting third-party delivery app customers to your restaurant’s own online ordering channels — and some simple ways to convert them in practice.

Why You Want to Convert Customers from Grubhub Increase your profit margin.

Let’s face it. It’s time to stop paying over and over again for your own customers. With Grubhub, you could be paying 15-30% commission on each and every order you receive. If the phone company charged you 30% for every phone order you processed, you would have stopped taking orders over the phone a long time ago. Not only are these large commissions cutting into your bottom line, but they are inhibiting you from using your money wisely. With branded online ordering through ChowNow, you can take unlimited, commission-free orders from your website, Facebook and Instagram. Never pay commission on repeat orders again. This financial freedom allows you to create room for a marketing budget that focuses on your brand, not Grubhub’s brand.

Market to your customers directly.

While Grubhub may bring in new customers and a high order volume, you aren’t receiving any valuable customer data from them. Instead, you’re forced to rent your customers, while Grubhub owns all of the information surrounding your customer database. This makes it very difficult for you to tailor your promotions and directly market to or communicate with your customers. With a branded ordering solution, you will have the ability to see and own all of your customer data, including email addresses and ordering behavior. Having this valuable data can help you increase repeat orders and build loyalty with your customers.

Stand out among competitors without paying for it.

Let’s say you own an Italian restaurant and you’re known for your famous calzones. About a month ago, you had a new customer stop in to the restaurant to try one and they loved it. You pass them a promotional card that you received from Grubhub to market your restaurant. Fast forward to present day. That same customer may not remember your restaurant name, but they remember your famous calzones and seeing “Grubhub” at the top of the card you handed them. They search “calzones” in Grubhub’s search bar. Can you guess how many restaurants come up?

Not only will they be inundated with marketing for other restaurants that have paid to be at the top of the search results, but your customer is now a loyal Grubhub customer. Can you imagine if they were handed a promotional card with your restaurant’s name at the top? This is yet another reason why having online ordering that is branded to your restaurant is so important.

How to Convert Grubhub Customers in 5 Easy Steps 1. Offer promotions on your website only.

To create an incentive for your customers to order directly from you, create a promotion that only applies on your website. If you want to get even more targeted with this promotion, create a specific promo code (e.g., Get 20% off your next online order with code NOGRUBHUB) to apply to their order. This will push customers to order less from the third party marketplace and more from your website. Offering a website-only promotion will not only drive customers directly to your branded ordering, but it will help to create a habitual ordering pattern and increase your order volume.

2. Increase brand visibility.

One thing Grubhub, UberEATS and other do well is promote themselves. Consider how they promote their platform. They send out email campaigns, promotional cards, signage, etc. Now it’s time to spread the word about your brand in the same fashion, without losing your customer base to competitors. One easy way to convert your customers is by getting branded promotional cards for your restaurant and taping them to your takeout containers. Avoid just dropping them in the takeout bags or stapling them to the outside because you’ll run the risk of the Grubhub staff member tossing it out.

Do you have a hold message or voicemail for your phone line? Record a new one stating your website-only special and your website URL. Print your special on all of your takeout menus. Add branded table tents to every table. Think about all of the places your customers can see and put something there that mentions your branded online ordering. You’ll be sure to convert those customers in no time.

3. Remove Grubhub as an option from your website.

If you have multiple online ordering buttons listed on your website, you will most likely confuse your customers. How will they know which option to pick? If you’d like to prevent customers from ordering on Grubhub, the first step is to make sure they’re button is not visible on your website. If a customer has a choice between “Order on Grubhub” and “Order Online,” they will be more inclined to choose Grubhub because they recognize the name. Instead of running this risk, don’t give them an option!

4. Be transparent.

Your loyal customers deserve to know why you don’t want them to order from Grubhub. Be honest and open with them about the commissions they take. Customers care more than one might think and will always appreciate your honesty. Establish how they can help your business instead of hurt your business, by ordering directly from your branded ordering channels.

5. Get new customers through a restaurant-friendly marketplace.

If you’re still interested in acquiring new customers through an online ordering marketplace, make sure to sign up with one with restaurant-friendly pricing. Believe it or not, it is possible to sign up for a service that doesn’t charge you again and again for orders processed through their app. With a ChowNow subscription, you can not only take unlimited, commission-free orders through your website, Instagram and Facebook, but you also have the option to get listed on our top-rated mobile app and website. While other marketplaces charge a fee on every order, ChowNow takes a small finder’s fee on each new customers’ first order that we send you from our community of diners — all following orders are commission-free. Restaurants are never charged again and again for their own customers.

Even better, we equip you with the tools to convert newly acquired customers to your own ordering channels. ChowNow provides your restaurant with a Dashboard complete with customer email addresses and ordering behavior, so you can communicate with your customers directly with our suite of print and digital marketing products. New customers and free repeat business? That sounds like a win-win.

Want more tips for converting your customers to your branded ordering system? If you’re a ChowNow client, reach out anytime and my team and I are here to chat! If you’re not taking online orders through ChowNow yet, get started with a free demo today!

The post 5 Ways to Win Back Your Restaurant’s Customers from Grubhub appeared first on ChowNow.

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Have you received an invitation to participate in ChowNow’s Apple Developer Beta Program? Follow the guide below to get a branded iPhone app, built and developed by ChowNow. If you haven’t been formally invited, please check back when we officially launch the program later this year.

Before You Get Started

You should have already had a call with our in-house app specialist before following the steps in this tutorial. If you haven’t scheduled a call, please refer to the email we sent you to schedule a phone appointment.

Have your restaurant domain email address ready: Use an email address you frequently access with a business domain (i.e. name@business.com). This cannot be a Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, other domain. Please note: If you do not have a business domain email address, you cannot enroll in the Apple Developer Program until you create one.

Look Up DUNS number: Please search for your business’s legal DUNS Number through the DUNS lookup tool.

Step 1 – Complete Apple Developer Enrollment Form

Read through the “What You Need to Enroll” page and select “Start Enrollment” at the bottom of the page.

If you do not currently have an Apple ID:

  • Create an Apple ID using your restaurant domain email address (e.g. info@hudsonscafe.com).
  • Once complete, Apple will send a verification email to the email address used for your Apple ID.
  • Go back to the web page and enter the 6-digit confirmation code found in that email.
  • Click ‘Verify’ to create your Apple ID.

Having trouble creating your ID? You might find yourself in a loop with Apple after including the 6-digit verification code that was sent to your business domain email. This can happen when Apple is preparing for the close of the day. If this occurs, please allow 8 hours for resolution or contact Apple Support directly at 800-633-2152.

If you already have an Apple ID, or if you just created one:

  • Sign in with your Apple ID on the Apple Developer page and select “Company/Organization” from the Entity Type dropdown. Do NOT select “Individual/Sole Proprietor/Single Person Business.”
  • Confirm that you have the authority to sign legal agreements on behalf of your organization.
  • Proceed to fill out the section ‘Organization Information,’ including entering your restaurant’s DUNS number.

Having trouble with your DUNS number? If you see the error message that’s depicted below, click “update your D&B profile.” Apple does not accept DBAs or fictitious names, so be sure to include the appropriate business structure type. Total wait time to process profile updates through D&B and Apple may take up to 3 weeks. We recommend trying to enter your DUNS number into the Apple Developer Program form once per week during this wait period, as DUNS may have have completed processing sooner.

Step 2 – Verify Your Apple Developer Account
  • Phone call from Apple: Once you are able to complete the enrollment form with your verified DUNS number, an Apple representative will call the phone number you provided in the form. You will have a short conversation and will need to provide them your first name, last name, date of birth, and a secondary contact person for this Apple Developer account.
  • Email to accept terms: After the successful verification call, you will receive an email from Apple containing a license agreement. Select “Review Now” in the email and continue through the terms. After agreeing, you will automatically proceed to payment (see below).
  • Complete payment for Apple Developer Program: You’ll see a final cost of $99.00 and have the option to select auto-renewal for your developer account — we highly recommend choosing this option to ensure your app does not get removed from the App Store. Select “Purchase” and confirm your login information to submit your billing information.
Step 3 – Invite ChowNow as a Contributor
  • Invite ChowNow to your new Apple Developer Account
    • Log in to your Apple Developer Account.
    • Click “Invite People” and enter the ChowNow Developer Email Address that your App Specialist provided you in your ChowNow Purchase Confirmation email. Make sure to select the team member role “Admin” and click “Invite.”
  • Invite ChowNow to your App Store Connect Account
    • Log in to App Store Connect with your Apple ID.
    • Select Users and Roles and click the ‘+’ symbol to add a user. Enter “ChowNow” in the “Name” field, and in the “Email Address” field, enter the ChowNow Developer Email Address that your App Specialist provided you in your ChowNow Purchase Confirmation email.

That’s it! We will let you know as soon as the app has been published, within 2 weeks of receiving your invite. If you have any questions related to this process, please reach out to apps@chownow.com.

The post Tutorial: How to Enroll in ChowNow’s Apple Developer Program appeared first on ChowNow.

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The way that people communicate with each other has changed dramatically over the last decade, with a recent report showing that the average American spends 26 minutes each day texting compared to only 6 minutes talking on the phone. It’s therefore not at all surprising that most consumers now want to speak with businesses via text message as well — Twilio recently found that a staggering 90% of people would prefer to speak with brands via messaging apps.

With the rise of online ordering and reservations platforms and easy consumer access to restaurant information on sites like Google and Yelp, it’s easy to see why restaurants are more focused than ever on perfecting their online presence with messaging tools. In fact, many restaurants are ditching their landlines completely in an effort to cut costs and push customers to get answers to their questions online.

Read on to learn how your restaurant can embrace restaurant messaging tools to increase engagement with your customers online.

Where can guests message your restaurant online?

As consumers spend more time texting and less time calling, it’s more important than ever to make it easy for them to connect with your business and let them get answers to their questions quickly from their preferred messaging channels.

But how do you let customers interact with your restaurant in real time without hiring new staff and taking your attention away from your restaurant?

Let’s first take a step back and talk about how many ways there are for guests to get in touch with your business in messaging apps. Up until a few years ago, there were two ways for guests to get in touch with you — by phone and by email. Now, however, there are dozens of messaging platforms, which can feel overwhelming at first glance.

Nearly all of the major platforms, from Yelp to Facebook, have begun to embrace messaging in the past few years, so having a messaging strategy is not only a great way to chat with customers in their preferred format, but also an effective way to be present on new platforms as soon as they are launched.

The same can be said for online ordering, with companies like ChowNow helping restaurants ditch the archaic phone ordering and streamline their ordering process by offering simple ordering to customers everywhere they are online, from Facebook to Instagram to a restaurants’ own website.

Here are the major platforms currently embracing messaging:

  • Facebook (the “Message” button on your page)
  • Yelp (the “Message the business” button on your page)
  • Google My Business (a “Message” button on your search results)
  • Twitter (the “Message” button on your page)
  • Resy (editing reservations via text message)
  • Your website (live chat on your website)
  • SMS (the most basic of all — letting guests text you directly)

If you can’t tell, most of the sites that you have a restaurant profile on already have messaging options, with more adding messaging every month.

However, in many cases, if a customer tries to message your business on any of these platforms, they’ll never get a response. In much the same way that someone leaving a voicemail and never getting a response could result in lost business, the same is true for unanswered messages. In fact, 95% of restaurants have the Message button enabled on Facebook but don’t even realize it!

How to chat-enable your restaurant

Even if you haven’t embraced messaging yet, it doesn’t change the fact that your customers want to message you, and being responsive online is a great way to capture new bookings and keep existing customers coming back. Major restaurant chains across the country are pushing full steam ahead into the world of messaging. Domino’s recently released DOM, it’s online ordering chatbot, which lets you order from any of their locations in a conversational format. Friday’s has had automated messaging enabled on Facebook for over a year. And if you visit Patron’s Twitter page, you can have a full conversation with their AI-powered cocktail artist chatbot.

Depending on what is most important for your restaurant and how your team is structured, there are a few different ways that you can let your guests message you.

Live Chat Tools

You’ve probably seen those “Chat with us” icons pop up on many websites recently. Live chat is a tool that many startups and businesses are embracing, because it lets them answer customer questions in real time. Services like Intercom are great tools for live chat if you can devote the necessary resources to it. For example, diners ordering their lunch on Allset’s website can chat directly with a rep at the company if they have questions about their orders.

Live chat has many advantages because it lets customers chat with a live person at your restaurant in real time. This lets your staff answer difficult questions quickly.

The downside of live chat is that it requires someone from your team to be monitoring a dashboard waiting for questions. And if a customer thinks they’re chatting with a real person, they expect answers quickly or else they’ll get frustrated. Live chat is also often limited to certain platforms like your website and Facebook.

Automated Messaging Tools

If you want the benefits of live chat without having to devote valuable staff time to actually answering questions, then an automated tool might be your best bet. There are three main ways automated messaging solutions you can choose.

First, you can create your own! Platforms like Chatfuel and Facebook let you build your own series of automated responses about your restaurant. The customization for these tools is limitless, but the downside is that you’ll spend dozens of hours creating it. And once you’ve finished it, you’re limited to responding to customers on just your website and Facebook page.

Second, you can use a solution built specifically for the restaurant industry. Guestfriend is one such tool. It pulls in all the information you’ve already put on your website and other pages, so it’s fully-customized with no work required on your end. You can easily add it to all of the platforms we listed above, so you can effortlessly answer your customers’ questions anywhere they’re discovering you online.

Finally, if you’re hyper-focused on accepting online orders for your restaurant and don’t want to complicate the ordering process by allowing guests to ask additional questions, you can use ChowNow’s Facebook integration to allow guests to make orders directly on your Facebook page and from your Google search results.

The way that your customers are learning about restaurants has radically changed in the last few years. Whereas previously people preferred to call restaurants to ask about reservations, menu items, and other hard-to-find information, guests are now spending more time on their phones and computers.

If you want to engage with your customers online in their preferred medium, a messaging solution is crucial. If you want to keep control over the exact messaging, you can try out a live chat solution that lets you interact directly with customers in real time. But if you’d prefer an automated solution, then a “virtual host” (like those provided by Guestfriend) might be your best bet.

The post Increase Engagement Online with Restaurant Messaging Tools appeared first on ChowNow.

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There’s something about the thrill of “secret menus” at restaurants that people just can’t seem to resist. From In-N-Out’s animal-style everything, to Starbucks’ Fruity Pebbles Frappuccino — secret menus create an exclusive experience that excites customers and gets them coming back.

But fast food chains and coffee shops aren’t the only concepts that can profit off of the secret menu trend. One of the most common questions we hear when working with restaurants is: “What marketing strategies can I implement without spending a lot of money?”

Generating buzz organically and at a low cost can be difficult. Creating a “secret menu” for your restaurant is easy to implement, and can be done within a day if you focus your efforts online.

Read on for why creating a “secret menu” is an effective way to boost orders and improve customer loyalty.

Why implement a secret menu? It’s exclusive.

Customers want to feel special. In an increasingly technical world where face-to-face interaction becomes rarer by the day, customers still want to feel like they are a “regular.” Why? Regulars often get perks!

If your customers are using your branded online ordering, they are already loyal to you and this channel offers an easy way to reward them and provide an “exclusive” touch. Even better if that reward is exclusively available on your restaurant’s app and website!

It creates buzz. Word-of-mouth is powerful, and social proof and peer recommendations are key to the growth of any business. Would you be more inclined to check out a restaurant if their site claimed they had the best burgers in town, or if a friend you trust said their secret menu has the best burger in town? 92% of consumers say — the friend [source]. Give ‘em something to talk about! It’s free!

If budget is an issue, this is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to implement new marketing. Instead of printing new menus or advertising in a print ad, this new menu is best promoted in a low key way. You can post about it on social media, have staff let customers know about it in the restaurant, even add it to your online menu without saying a word! Use it as an opportunity to offer something new and exciting, and the menu items will sell themselves.

How to set up a secret menu. Determine your items.

It’s important to pick items that are adventurous but still stay true to your brand. You can approach this in a few different ways: choose items that you’ve tested as a “special” in the past and have sold well, capitalize on a new food trend, or create something new and totally unique. Avocado toast selling out at a neighboring restaurant? Promote “The Ultimate Avocado Toast” on your secret menu.

Have fun with names and descriptions.

Don’t just throw a handful of items up that sound like they could be on your day-to-day menu. This is an opportunity to be creative and mysterious, and to encourage customers to try something different. Here are some fun examples to get your creative juices flowing:

Loop in your staff.

It’s a given that your staff should know about the new items, but you can also take it one step further and ask them to engage customers who have ordered them. This can be as simple as having them ask the customer how they enjoyed the dish, or organizing them to high-five or congratulate a customer for ordering off the secret menu. It’s your show, after all…

Get it online.

The most important, and easiest part of this promotion: get the menu online! You can easily create a new menu section and add in your items — if you’re a ChowNow client, it’s possible to do this yourself by signing into your ChowNow Dashboard. Or, you can just email our support team (support@chownow.com) with the menu name and items. Once it’s up, just wait for the orders to start flowing in.

Keep it going.

There’s no time frame for this promotion, so you can keep it running as short or as long as you’d like. I recommend trying out a new tactic to promote your secret menu every few weeks, and allowing time for word to spread. Mention it on social media, bring it up in conversations, or even write a line about it into your to-go menus! The more you promote its presence on your online ordering, the more of a response you’ll see as a result.

If you’re a ChowNow restaurant client and want some feedback on your secret menu build, schedule a call — we’re happy to help. If you don’t already have online ordering at your restaurant, now’s a great time to get started. Get a free ChowNow demo from one of our experts to get started today!

The post How to Create a Secret Menu in 5 Easy Steps appeared first on ChowNow.

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At well over 500 million active users and rolling out new features on the reg (business analytics, Instagram Stories, and live video just in the past few months), Instagram’s audience eclipses that of Twitter, Snapchat, and Pinterest. If you’ve been at a restaurant, event, or simply stepped foot outside recently, you’ve probably noticed the hunched posture and tell-tale scrolling motion of an Instagram user. I certainly fit the bill.

Why care? As a restaurant, you know connecting with customers and keeping your restaurant top-of-mind is an important key to your success. Instagram allows you to put your best food forward, interact with your customers in an authentic way, and reach new people. So whether you’ve tapped into Instagram already or need some instruction to get started, here are some tips to help maximize your success on today’s most powerful social media platform.

Instagram Posting Basics for Restaurants

1. Always post your best images.

Your goal is to get a customer’s attention. If you are posting food, make sure the photo is appetizing. Your restaurant interior? Inviting. A photo of your staff? Make me want to work there. Avoid blurry images, images that are too close up, or ones you simply don’t love. For tips on taking better photos, here’s a handy guide.

2. Be consistent.

Your Instagram feed is a representation of your brand. When a potential customer is deciding whether or not to follow you or interact with your photos, they are going to base it off of looks. Establish a theme you can maintain, such as a general color scheme, editing technique, or photographic style. Make it even easier with the help of an app like Mosaicowhich allow you to visually plan out upcoming posts.

3. Post often.

The more you post, the more likely people are to see your content, and therefore, your restaurant. As a rule of thumb, I aim for one post a day. You can always post more or less often than that, but avoid posting photos too close together (space out photos by at least 4 hours). It’s okay to test out posting more or less often to find your sweet spot.

Increasing Your Restaurant’s Instagram Following

1. Always use hashtags.

This is key for potential new customers to find your restaurant. To determine the best hashtags to use, think of keywords that describe your photo. For instance, if you’ve photographed a burger, search “burger” in Instagram’s hashtag section and use those results as starting point. For instance: when I search #burger, it gives me #bestburgers, which gives me related hashtags such as #burgertime and #burgerlove. Instagram caps you off at 30 hashtags, so maximize the effectiveness of the hashtags you use by choosing ones which relate to your location or cuisine type. You can include hashtags in your caption, or post them separately as a comment below your caption (this is visually cleaner).

2. Interact with people.

It’s important to establish a relationship with your followers. I recommend responding to every comment you receive on your posts, and at the very least, “liking” the comment. Your customers will be incentivized to interact with you more, and that engagement increases the chance that your post stays closer the top of people’s feed, or makes the Popular Page of Instagram.

3. Post at strategic times.

Having a business account on Instagram makes it easy to see what time of day your customers are seeing and interacting with your posts. Make a note to post during those times, and set reminders for yourself. Services like Planoly allow you to set up photos and times via your computer or phone, and will send you a push notification when your post should go up.

Taking Your Restaurant’s Insta-Game Up A Notch

1. Run Instagram Ads.

Instagram makes it easy by allowing you to target locals and set up an ad straight from your phone. Pick an appetizing food image, brainstorm a simple and eye-catching caption with your staff, and get ready to advertise!

2. Introduce contests or campaigns.

Take your brand to the next level by running promotions or campaigns that customers will want to interact with. We recommend giveaways, posts that encourage engagement (such as asking a question), or re-posting customer’s content with a shout-out to them. Check out the examples below for ideas.

3. Fit Instagram into your in-store strategy.

Include your Instagram handle on in-store receipts, takeout menus, or flyers. If you can get staff to spread the word, even better. I once had a server at the register tell me if I followed them on Instagram I’d get a 20% discount. I bought everything I was holding, and it’s now 4 years later and I still see and like their posts on a weekly basis. Don’t underestimate your employees!

Want more social media tips for your restaurant? If you’re a ChowNow client, reach out anytime and my team and I are here to chat! If you’re not taking online orders through ChowNow yet, get started with a free demo today!

The post Restaurant Guide: How To Maximize Your Success On Instagram appeared first on ChowNow.

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Instagram has surpassed 500 million daily active users worldwide, who spend more than 32 minutes a day scrolling, liking, and posting visual content. As consumers spend more time on social media, ChowNow is innovating to ensure your restaurant can reach customers where they are.

Today we unveil ChowNow’s newest ordering channel: Instagram. ChowNow’s integration with Instagram gives your followers the ability to place a ChowNow order directly from your restaurant’s Instagram profile.

Now, you can take your Instagram followers from scrolling to ordering, with the tap of a button. Read on to learn how L.A. based restaurant HomeState has grown their business with Instagram and ChowNow — and how you can, too.

HomeState’s Story

When Briana Valdez opened HomeState in December 2013, she and her team were on a mission to bring the Tex-pat community of Los Angeles together through authentic Tex-Mex cuisine and a nostalgic atmosphere inspired by her childhood in San Antonio. From real-deal breakfast tacos made with handmade tortillas, to thoughtfully curated music, to that undeniable Texas hospitality, Briana successfully created a restaurant that felt like home to those aching for the Lone Star State, and for those simply craving community.

Since opening their first 800-square-foot location in Los Feliz, HomeState has been — quite literally — overflowing with guests. Online ordering has multiplied their potential reach and introduced an easier guest experience — allowing even more customers the opportunity to try their food and bypass the line by ordering ahead. Briana’s customers will often order with ChowNow, grab their food at the counter, and then proceed to pull up a chair. HomeState just has that effect on people: a quick to-go order turns into drinking Palomas over warm queso and good conversation with new friends.

Taking the Restaurant Experience Beyond Brick and Mortar

Just a few years ago it used to be that you had to visit a restaurant to truly experience it. That’s not the case anymore for local restaurants like HomeState, who are growing their business in the age of storytelling and social media. HomeState’s daily Instagram posts and behind the scenes stories transport you to the restaurant. Today, HomeState has over 11,000 Instagram followers, all tuning in to explore their menu and meet the people that power it.

It’s Here: ChowNow Allows Your Customers to Order from Instagram

Now, restaurants like HomeState are taking their Instagram followers from exploration to action — by giving them the ability to place a ChowNow order directly from their Instagram profile. With ChowNow’s Instagram integration, restaurants are provisioned with a “Start Order” call-to-action button on their Instagram business profile. Mouth watering from that picture of Frito Pie? Order it in an instant. Inspired by the staff cooking up a storm in HomeState’s latest story, but can’t make it for a sit-down dinner? Tap “Start Order,” and get it for pickup or delivery.

This past March Briana opened her second HomeState location in Highland Park. While you can (and should) stop by either HomeState location to experience their unique culture and taste their food that’s truly made with love, you can (and should) explore HomeState’s Instagram to get a little taste in the meantime — and place an order for takeout while you’re at it.

How to Get Instagram Ordering for Your Restaurant

If you’re a ChowNow client that has an Instagram Business Profile, you’re in luck! We’ll set you up with Instagram Ordering, at no additional cost and included in your ChowNow ordering platform.

For new ChowNow clients, here are a few tips to ensure you can be set up with Instagram ordering:

  • Make sure you have a Business Profile on Instagram. Here’s how to set one up.
  • Go to your restaurant’s Facebook Page and link your Instagram Business Profile. Here’s how to connect them.
  • Once your Instagram Business Profile is linked to your primary Facebook Page, we’ll add a Start Order button to your Instagram, which will drive customers to your ChowNow menu. No additional cost and no additional work on your end!

Own a restaurant, but not using ChowNow to take orders? You too can give your followers the ability to discover your food and order it directly through Instagram — included when you sign up for ChowNow. Get started with a free ChowNow product demo today.

The post Introducing Instagram Ordering with ChowNow appeared first on ChowNow.

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Running a restaurant is tough. It requires long hours and margins are thin, but you do it because you love it. You do it because you have a special experience to offer your customers, and unique flavors to share with the community.

But with minimum wage going up every year, the continuing rise in the cost of goods, and the fight for traction with customers, it’s easy to feel like you’re grasping at anything to help fill those seats and get more orders out the door. So it’s understandable that you turn to companies like GrubHub, Postmates and UberEATS to try and add a little pad to the bottom line.

But when you look at the numbers, what seems like a solution may actually be what’s killing many small restaurants.

Doing the math

Take Postmates for instance. By the end of 2017, many restaurants reported paying a 30% commission on every Postmates delivery. In Los Angeles, UberEATS also charged 30% for the same service. For a $10 item, that’s $3 right off the top.

The Restaurant Report says food and labor should cost restaurants between 50-75%. Let’s imagine your restaurant is running lean and mean at 50%, that’s $5 in food and labor costs. So far, you’ve made $2 and spent $8.

Remember, you haven’t taken into account expenses such as utilities, rent and spoilage. When all is said and done, you’re lucky if you make a penny or two. More likely than not, you’ve just paid someone to eat your food!

The story isn’t much better for the delivery app GrubHub, which will charge restaurants a base fee of 15 percent of every order plus tack on a credit card processing fee, order processing fee and delivery fee.

These delivery companies charge restaurants exorbitant commissions off of every customer order, when the only real the value they bring is helping new customers find your restaurant for the first time. When a customer orders again and again, it’s because your staff was friendly, the food was delicious and they had a great experience. Why should you pay Grubhub a 30% commission every time a customer orders? If the phone company took 15%, 20%, or 30% every time you took an order over the phone, you would have stopped taking phone orders a long time ago.

But what about marketing?

The argument can be made that these companies aren’t just delivering food for you, but they’re also promoting your brand to new customers. Marketing is a common selling point of these delivery companies, but requires a closer look to see how it actually impacts your restaurant. Sure, you might be featured on the delivery site, and sometimes you’re part of an email blast — there’s some marketing value to that. However, Restaurant Resource Group reports restaurants should only spend between 3 to 6 percent of their sales on marketing. That’s far less than what third-party marketplaces are charging. If the marketing exposure is what you’re after, there are less expensive options.

Furthermore, third-party marketplaces like Grubhub and Postmates don’t give restaurants access to their own customers’ email addresses, which makes marketing directly to your own customers virtually impossible. There’s so much value in owning your own customer’s information, so that you can encourage them to order directly from you and not pay marketplace fees time and time again for the same customer.

How can you fix it?

It’s easy to think that companies like GrubHub and Postmates are the only options out there. Their sales and marketing teams have done a great job of making you think that’s the case. But there are other options. Companies are finding ways to help you reach new customers, without spending all your money on middlemen. Companies exist that offer affordable alternatives. If you’re already a ChowNow client you know the deal.

ChowNow, for example, takes a fresh approach to online ordering. We build you your very own online ordering system that lets you take unlimited, commission-free orders through your website and Facebook for a flat monthly rate. And if you’re interested in getting even more new customers, ChowNow will list you on its mobile app and website, charging you only for the new customers it sends you — all repeat customer orders are commission-free.

The good news doesn’t stop there. ChowNow gives you access to all your customers’ email addresses and will help you build loyalty and drive re-orders through print and digital marketing campaigns that encourage those customers to order again and again. ChowNow’s powerful analytics tools help you determine which marketing plans work and what your customers like. You’ll receive all your data about your customers that you can use as your business grows.

In other words, ChowNow does many of the things delivery apps fall short of doing, and it will do it for the most restaurant-friendly rates in the industry. Delivery, is not always included in the ChowNow offering, but the separation gives you the autonomy to hire or replace, when necessary, drivers in house or through local courier services to maintain the integrity of your food in transit. If you do the math, you’re coming out ahead. $15/hour for an evening delivery driver or 30% off every order you process. ChowNow partners with local courier services all over the country to help you process orders for delivery.

The point is there are other options. Don’t feel tied down. Don’t feel like you need to use expensive third-party delivery apps because everyone else is. It’s time to change how you do business. It’s time to stop paying companies to sell back your loyal customers to you at a 30% markup every time. It’s time to take back control of your business and your profits.

If you’re looking for a more cost-effective option, now’s a great time to get started with ChowNow. Get a free ChowNow demo from one of our experts to get started today! If you’re a ChowNow restaurant client and want some ideas about how to convert your customers off these expensive third-party delivery apps, schedule a call — we’re happy to help.

The post Don’t Let Delivery Companies Take Advantage of Your Restaurant appeared first on ChowNow.

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It’s undeniable that online ordering is revolutionizing the restaurant industry, with 60% of consumers ordering delivery or takeout at least once a week. And while the sheer convenience of online ordering will lead to larger ticket sizes and increased order frequency at your restaurant, it’s having access to the customer ordering data that will create the most value for your business.

Collecting customer data (e.g., names, email addresses, order history, etc.) for orders placed through your online ordering platform gives you the insights needed to retain your hard-earned customers. Unfortunately some online ordering systems withhold this information from their restaurant partners (we’re looking at you, Grubhub).

Read on to uncover exactly why harnessing your customer data is the secret sauce to realizing the full potential of your to-go business.

Data is hard to come by these days.

While it may seem like a no-brainer that your restaurant should have full access to information about your own customers, many online ordering companies, like Grubhub and Eat24, withhold this information from their restaurant partners.

So, why do these online ordering companies want to keep your customer data for themselves? The answer is simple: They market other restaurants to your customers — sending them to businesses that pay out higher commissions.

If you’re in the market to partner with an online ordering company, make sure you choose one that gives you full access to all your customer details. If you’re already a ChowNow client, you know that customer contacts, as well as advanced analytics and reporting, are automatically gathered for you — available anytime in your ChowNow Dashboard.

Why does data matter? Data helps you understand your customers.

Uncovering core information about your customer’s ordering behavior and grouping them into audience segments is essential for executing effective marketing campaigns down the line. We’ve all heard of the 80/20 rule – the vast majority of your revenue comes from a minority of your customers that are the most loyal, so understanding who these customers are will allow you to focus your marketing efforts accordingly. 

Consider this:

  • You might have a core group of loyal customers who order the same thing from your restaurant 3 times a week.
  • There may be a body of customers who have eaten at your restaurant once and have never come back.
  • Some customers order religiously through your website, while others order on mobile when they’re on the go.

Understanding who your customers are allows you to use specific, tailored messages that are relevant to your customers. ChowNow helps restaurants understand their customer profiles by providing a Dashboard that stores online and mobile customer information — complete with order history, contact info, analytics and reporting capabilities.

Data helps you retain your customers.

Getting customers to come back to your restaurant again and again requires a solid marketing strategy, and a solid marketing strategy is fueled by data. With an understanding of who your customers are, you can create personalized email marketing campaigns that allow you to influence their purchasing decisions with things like promo codes, new menu items, special discounts, restaurant event information, and more.

Imagine this: Based on the customer profiles you’ve uncovered by digging into your customer data, you start sending one email per month to your customers, offering them incentives to come back into your restaurant. Your loyal customers become brand advocates and your one-time customers become loyal regulars — all groups spend more money and order more often.

We recommend signing up for Mailchimp or utilizing ChowNow’s ongoing email marketing programs that take care of the heavy lifting. If you’re looking for more information about how to kickstart a data-driven email program, read our Restaurant Guide: Email Marketing Made Easy.

Using customer data to make informed business decisions and dictate smart and effective marketing campaigns, is frankly what is separating the most successful restaurants from restaurants on the brink of shutting their doors. If you don’t already have online ordering at your restaurant and want to harness the power of your customer data, now’s a great time to get started. Get a free ChowNow demo from one of our experts to get started today! If you’re a ChowNow restaurant client and want some ideas about how to best use your customer data, schedule a call — we’re happy to help.

The post Why Your Restaurant Needs to Take Advantage of Customer Data appeared first on ChowNow.

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