How Successful Restaurants Are Testing the Mobile Waters

The SinglePlatform team was excited to attend the Restaurant Leadership Conference last week. While we have stressed the importance of mobile in the past, our team was grateful for the insights presented at the NoWait talk, “There’s an App for That! Stay Ahead of The Game with Mobile Technology”. Panelists from restaurant juggernauts like Grimaldi’s, First Watch, and On The Border discussed how their restaurants have incorporated mobile technologies into their businesses and what other mobile advancements they predict for the future of the restaurant industry.

Cross-Departmental Collaboration Is Critical When Adopting New Technology

The panelists shared their views on the roll of IT in their restaurants’ operations, and how that impacts mobile adoption. Jeff Dinard, CIO of On The Border, spoke of the increasing importance of IT in choosing new technology, “For brands to be successful, IT needs to be an arm that’s helping to define business strategy. It’s elemental to our success that IT gets involved early.”

Jeff was not alone in his evaluation of IT’s importance. Chris Tomasso, President at First Watch, concurred that IT was integral to a restaurant’s marketing strategy. “IT is no longer its own silo,” Tomasso said. “The shift of how much IT is integrated into marketing can make or break your marketing plan.  It has to be a lot more collaborative now than ever before.”

Mobile Payments Could Impact Customer Experience

While the panelists overwhelmingly agreed that mobile tech will be important in the years to come, they were more hesitant when it came to the direction of mobile payments. Some restaurants had tried mobile payments with mixed results while others were still waiting for the dust to settle before investing in a new payment system.

Dinard recalled, “Today, we’ve dipped our toe in the mobile payments water. It’s freezing, so we’re stuck where we are. The way that it works today, it’s a little clunky.” He was most concerned about the awkwardness of a server handing over a device and waiting while a patron chose whether or not to tip.  “It’s weird to either walk away or stand there while the customer has the device.”

Other panelists were also conflicted on the topic of mobile payments. Tomasso stated, “With the power of the phone in your hand, I think that’s where the power is going to go: to each individual’s mobile device.” While Brittany Maroney, Marketing Director at Grimaldi’s, admitted, “We’re terrified. We’re a hospitality-focused business. Incorporating technologies and maintaining customer services is a big concern for us as a brand.”

Invite Servers to Weigh in on Mobile Technology Early

As the industry embraces mobile technology, the question of how these innovations will affect front of house workers is raised.  Our panelists noted that reactions have been mixed. Dinard explains that servers appreciate new technologies, “When the IT guys and marketers get out of the office and engage with your servers, that’s when they get excited.”

While other panelist experienced more hesitancy from their servers, Maroney described her servers’ transition to newer technologies as a productivity boost, “When we started testing this, we didn’t see excitement. Once they saw how it changed the table turns, they started to get excited.”

While most of the panelists had experienced the growing pains associated with new tech, such as clunky software or iPads knocking over glasses, it is undeniable that mobile innovations will have a significant impact on the restaurant industry this year. Make sure that your restaurant or group keeps up. Learn how SinglePlatform can help your company navigate mobile and stand out everywhere it matters online.

SPstories: 3rd Coast Cafe

SinglePlatform is thrilled to work with a wide variety of local business owners who all have their own unique backgrounds and experiences. Recently, we caught up with Janet Thomas, co-owner of The 3rd Coast Cafe. Nestled in the heart of Chicago’s Gold Coast, The 3rd Coast has been serving fresh-to-order dishes to locals and tourists for over 30 years, cementing its status as a neighborhood institution.

The 3rd Coast originally opened in 1985. In those days, Janet’s current business partner, Chris, and his sister were servers at the cafe.  At the time, the cafe only served coffee, wine, and small plates. This was a time before Starbucks and the cafe was the only coffee shop in the area.

 Via @3rdcoastcafe on instagram Via @3rdcoastcafe on instagram

Fast-forward to 1998 when the 3rd Coast Cafe’s business faltered and the property ended up in bankruptcy. Chris, who was now a chef, got a call. Did he want to buy the 3rd Coast Cafe, the coffee shop he had worked at years prior? Chris decided to ask his business-savvy girlfriend about it. Janet recalls, “I said I think we should get married and buy the business. So, we bought the business and then we called our wedding off three weeks before the wedding.” Although the romance fizzled, Janet and Chris have co-owned The 3rd Coast Cafe since 1998 and remain the best of friends.

Janet explained to us her simple philosophy for success: “Build a really strong team and have great food at a great price with awesome service.” Over the years, Janet and her staff have expanded the menu to a full all-day menu with a dinner menu that changes on a daily basis.

Like many business owners, Janet has had to grapple with the changing digital environment of the business. Janet says they were managing their online presence “poorly.” She explains, “I used to update everything by hand but now it would be impossible for me to know all the places where my menu pops up.” Janet decided to try SinglePlatform to help her keep up. Learn more about how SinglePlatform helped Janet in our latest Success Story. She says “I would recommend SinglePlatform to anyone. I couldn’t run the business I have today without SinglePlatform.”

3 Simple Ways to Build Your Pet Care Business

When it comes to owning and operating your own pet service business, it can be hard to know what areas of your business to focus on for success. Here, we’ve compiled some of the industry’s best practices on how to both gain new clients and maintain the ones you currently have.

Get Social

It should come as no surprise that now, more than ever consumers are consulting the internet before they make any sort of purchasing decision, especially when it comes to their pets! According to a recent PSI survey, “More than half of Professional Pet Sitters are also using at least one social media platform to promote their pet-sitting services.” Similarly, PetSit.com explains that it can be extremely valuable to schedule daily posts via social media (Facebook & Twitter) that offer timely pet-care tips. Provide advice to potential clients, as well as existing clients, and portray your company as knowledgeable and influential. Remember, you’re the expert!

Be Unique

In the crowded pet services sector, it’s easy to get lost in the mix, so make sure you are standing out amongst your competition. That Mutt reports that making your company stand out is one of the most important keys to gaining new business. Diversify your services from your competition. Whether it is luxurious pampering or natural sustainability, find your niche! Ensure that you have something to offer that your competition doesn’t.  

Encourage Feedback

It can be hard for many of us to hear criticism about something that we worked on tirelessly. But business owners shouldn’t fear complaints. Feedback is meant to help build your business up, not shoot you down. According to PetSitUSA.com, “50% of your pet sitting clients who complain about your service would do business with your pet sitting company again if their complaints were handled satisfactorily.” Feedback is a gift and an opportunity, not only to inspire loyalty from your customers but also to better understand how to meet your customer’s needs. 

Following these best practices will help you build and sustain a healthy business in the booming pet service industry. For more tips and industry news, be sure to follow @SinglePlatform on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Check out our new Instagram

3 Reasons Your Business Needs a Website

In today’s day and age, most consumers’ first glimpse of a business will be experienced online. The old days of window-shopping, while not gone, have diminished significantly. 34% of shoppers think that local businesses gain credibility from a strong website. Now, the decision to go to one business over the other involves a little bit of online research. Not only is it important to have a website but your website should effectively portray your business for these reasons:

1.    Clear and Concise Representation

Given the fact that 85% of consumers use the internet to find local businesses, you need to control the representation of your business online. The first step: a website! Having a websites gives you a vehicle for direct communication with your consumers and creates a centralized place for your business information.

2.    Develop Credibility

Consumers tend to believe that businesses with websites inevitably have more credibility than those who do not.  Without having any representation online, you leave yourself and your business open strictly to speculation. It is important that you have some form of online representation. According to Search Engine Land, “It arose that having a bad or ugly website may not be the worst thing to consumers, either — you often have more to lose by not having one.”

3.    Inform Your Customers

When it comes down to it, consumers want to see what it is that you and your business have to offer, and your website is a wonderful vehicle to educate. While the name, address, and phone number of your business are available on review sites, the products and services that you offer are what defines your business. Give your customers a way to find your value. 

Websites clearly are a very effective tool for businesses to both promote their products and services offerings while maintaining their brand image. As the following study showed, “68% said that having a website – ideally one that is well designed – is a key factor in the opinion they hold about a business and directly influences their decision to use a local business.” Put yourself in a position to be found by creating a website and focusing on your online presence.

Google’s Changes to Online Ads: What it Means for Your Local Business

As Google continues to make changes to the way people browse the Internet, small businesses are going to have to keep up if they want to continue being discovered on these search engines.

Announcing the latest development last month, Google and its partners have officially changed the way advertisements are seen on the search engine’s results page for any given query. Eliminating text ads displayed on the right sidebar, Google and its partner sites will now show up to four text ads above the organic listings, and up to three below them.

Although this may seem like a small change to the search engine results page, it will have an impact on the way small businesses attract and retain new and existing customers on the Internet.

Any small businesses who rely heavily on Google Adwords, a Pay-Per-Click program designed to generate traffic for the business, should be aware that the placement that they are paying for will be altered. With Google’s new change, these small businesses are going to have to pay more to secure one of the top four spots on the search engine result page. If a business owner is not willing to pay the additional money for a top spot, they will have to decide if a spot at the bottom of the page is worth it or ditch Google Adwords altogether in favor of a more organic approach.

A more organic search approach would include making sure that your business’s information is up-to-date and consistent everywhere it is found on the web. Google pushes reliable content to the top of their searches, making your business easier to find.

To find out how SinglePlatform can help you get discovered and stand out, click here.