Restaurant Music – How to Build the Perfect Restaurant Playlist

Atmosphere is a huge part of why people go out to eat at a restaurant.

Within your restaurant, the color scheme, décor, menu design, and even the background music should all blend together in a way that represents your brand and creates a memorable experience for your customers.

All too often, owners and managers neglect the audio element of atmospheric design in their restaurant. They let their employees choose music from their phones, put on Pandora, or shuffle popular songs, unaware that they’re missing out on a valuable opportunity to influence their customers behaviors.

The Power of Music in Restaurants

Multiple studies have been done on the influence music has on consumers.

In restaurants, music can be used to influence consumer behavior in many different ways. For example:

  • Louder, fast paced music causes consumers to eat faster and spend less time in your restaurant, which can increase table turnover.
  • If your goal is to increase the average check size, then soft, slow paced music can get consumers to stay longer.
  • Genre can affect how much consumers are willing to spend. With the presence of classical music over top-40, consumers spend more on wine.

The right playlist can cause your customers to behave in ways that help increase check size, increase table turnover, and create an overall better experience.

Your music selection shouldn’t just be limited to these factors, however. It’s also important to select music that’s specific to your brand.

In this post, we’ll discuss in detail how to put together a playlist that’s right for your restaurant.

How to Legally Use Music in Your Restaurant

A common problem among small business owners is that many of them are using music illegally and don’t even know it.

As a result of expensive copyright lawsuits from music licensing organizations, many of these restaurants need to shut down.

Even if you’re using a music streaming service like Pandora, you may be at risk of being sued for copyright infringement on the songs that have been played in your restaurant.

This makes sense – the music copyright owners for the songs need to be properly compensated.

To become compliant with copyright law in a way that lets you use any song you’d like in your business, you need to get licenses from the Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) BMI, ASCAP and SESAC (yes, all three).

The reason you should get licenses from all 3 is because each organization represents different songwriters, and many times, a single song can have multiple songwriters.

To save on music licensing fees, you could get a license from one of the organizations and only use songs written by the songwriters they represent, but this can make for a very time-consuming playlist creation process, as you’d have to look up the information for each songwriter in the copyright database, and the individual databases of the PROs.

If you’d like to learn more about the details on how music licensing works, check out some of these music licensing questions.

Consider Live Music

If you have a high-end restaurant, providing a classy experience involving live musicians might be a good option to consider.

Expensive restaurants require attention to detail to justify the cost. This doesn’t just go for food, but also the design of your restaurant.

Due to the quality of live music over that of a recording, live music can add an increased perception of attention to detail that recorded music just doesn’t get.

Pulling this off can be difficult, as you may need to buy the instruments and sound equipment, as well as find talented musicians, but it can be well worth it if you want to go the extra mile.

If you choose to go with live performers for your background music, you may still need to pay licensing fees to BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC if the performances consist of cover songs.

How to Build the Perfect Playlist for Your Restaurant

If you’re fully compliant with copyright law and have a brand strategy in place for your restaurant, you’re ready to get started crafting your playlist.

When building your playlist, you want to focus on a few different things. Let’s discuss them each in detail.

Style and Genre

The genre of music can have a huge impact on how consumers perceive your restaurant, and how much they spend on food and drink items.

Certain types of music influence purchasing decisions by creating an atmosphere that increases the perception of value. For example, multiple studies, like this one, have shown that the presence of classical music causes consumers to spend more on high-end alcoholic drinks such as wine.

Music can also influence our perception of taste. Softer music, like some forms indie rock or pop, can cause us to perceive certain flavors in a stronger way, while more intense music such as hip-hop and dance can have a negative affect on our ability to perceive taste.

It’s most important that you choose a genre that goes well with your restaurants’ image.  If you’re running a coffee shop themed around local art, music from local indie rock musicians is a great fit.

The takeaway: Don’t just put on the top 40 hits playlist. Choose a genre that goes along with the style, culture, and theme of your restaurant.

Volume and Tempo

Volume and tempo can have a positive or negative affect on your restaurant, depending on how it’s used.

Setting the music louder can help increase table turnover, but may give customers an unpleasant experience.  Too quiet, and the diners aren’t influence by the music because they can’t hear it.

Tempo, on the other hand, can affect our heart rate. With an increased heart rate, we tend to move faster.

The best way to set the volume and tempo of the music is different depending on the time of day.

If you’re in a slow period, setting the playlist to a low volume with slower songs may keep people in your restaurant and give you time to encourage them to buy desert or stay for an extra drink.

During the dinner or lunch rush, turn the volume up and play some faster paced songs to increase table turnover so you can get new customers seated quickly.

The takeaway: Adjust the volume and tempo of your music throughout the day to influence how much time customers spend in your restaurant.

Major vs. Minor Songs

Usually, major key songs sound happy, perky, or enthusiastic, while minor key songs sound sad, mysterious, moody, or melancholy.

When choosing what types of songs to play in your restaurant, it’s important to consider what emotional message you want your brand to deliver to your customers.

It may seem like you’d always want to go with the major key (happy sounding) songs, but minor key songs have much more emotional intensity.

Take the time to consider what sort of emotions you want your brand to convey, and choose music that compliments this message.

The takeaway: Choose music that matches the emotional descriptions of your restaurants’ brand.

The music playing in the background at your restaurant has an effect on people’s mood and even their decisions. You want your customers to have a positive, memorable experience of dining with you and music can have an influence on this. Be conscious of the music you’re choosing for your restaurant and of course, make sure the songs you’re playing are legally sound as well.


About the Author: Nick Rubright is the founder or Dozmia and guitarist for the band Days Gone By. He’s passionate about all things music and marketing, and writes to bring these together.

To Tip or Not to Tip? For Restaurants, the Debate is Just Beginning

Imagine the last time you went out to eat. When your server cleared your plates and returned with your check, you probably started calculating a tip without even thinking about it. Tipping is now just an automatic step in restaurant experience (and has arguably improved our mental math skills a bit!)

The origins of tipping can be traced at least as far back as the Roman Empire. Wealthy Americans brought tipping to the states from Europe in the 1850s so that they could show off their knowledge of European customs. And the rest is history.

While tipping has been phased out in Europe in favor of a hospitality-included model, tipping is now as American as apple pie. However, over the past few years, some restaurateurs have begun chipping away at the well-ingrained cultural norm by banning tipping at their restaurants and instead absorbing service charges into menu prices (once again taking a cue from Europeans).

Celebrity restaurateurs Danny Meyer and Tom Colicchio were at the helm of the movement. In 2015, Meyer announced that he would do away with tipping at all 13 restaurants in his Union Square Hospitality Group. His decision was decades in the making. In a 1994 newsletter, he wrote:

[The American system of tipping is awkward for all parties involved: restaurant patrons are expected to have the expertise to motivate and properly remunerate service professionals; servers are expected to please up to 1,000 different employers (for most of us, one boss is enough!); and restaurateurs surrender their use of compensation as an appropriate tool to reward merit and promote excellence]

 via Eater via Eater

When he finally abolished tipping in 2015, Meyer cited closing the gap between tipped, front-of-house workers’ and non-tipped back-of-house workers’ earnings as one of his main motivators. Under his tip-free model, every individual employee benefits from revenue-sharing.

Colicchio was also a vocal supporter of restaurants moving toward the tip free-model when he eliminated tipping at his flagship restaurant Craft in 2015. He told CNBC’s “On Money” that he chose to go tip-free so that he could compensate his staff members more fairly.

[We know through Studies at Cornell University that the amount of money left in the tip has very little to do with service, it has more to do with your accent, your race, or your gender.]

 Tom Colicchio via Bravo TV Tom Colicchio via Bravo TV

Meyer and Colicchio removed the line on the check where customers would typically add in a tip. To compensate for lost tips, the chefs raised menu prices around 20% so that they could increase their staffs’ wages. Hundreds of restaurants across North America have followed suit.

 via CityPages.com via CityPages.com  via Chicago Tribune via Chicago Tribune

However, some restaurants who have tried the model have abandoned it, citing lost business. Colicchio’s Craft is one of them. Colicchio reversed his tip-free policy in 2016. Although he still believed in the reasons that restaurants are going tip-free, he conceded that the model cannot be successful until all restaurants adopt it.

[At Craft, if I were going to pay my servers an hourly wage that is on [a] par with what they’re currently making, it would be in the neighborhood of $34 an hour. So back waiters or bussers in the range of $22. They’re making a good wage because of tips. Now, we do away with tips. The only way to fund that would be through raising prices. If the average tip is about 20 percent, we still have to raise prices 23 percent, because then you’re going to push up wages for everyone else. If I were to do it tomorrow, it puts me at a competitive disadvantage to someone who is just shopping online looking at prices. If everyone does it, then I think we’ll see some change.]

So, should your restaurant ban tipping? We’ve rounded up some of the most common arguments for and against going tip-free.

Arguments For Going Tip-Free

Higher BOH Wages

One of the most compelling arguments in favor of going tip-free is that it leads to higher wages for back-of-the-house workers like cooks and bussers. At restaurants where the average check size is steep, back-of-the-house workers typically make less than tipped servers even though their base wages tend to be higher. This data from Bon Appetit is pretty staggering.

 via Bon Appetit via Bon Appetit

Under the tip-free model, BOH workers are included in the restaurant’s revenue-sharing policy. That’s why Meyer reported raising menu prices just over 20% (20% is widely acknowledged as the standard restaurant tip). After going tip-free, Meyer raised the starting hourly pay for line cooks at the Modern from $11 to $14.

A Better BOH Staff

A positive side effect of higher BOH wages—in addition to more appropriately compensating staff members hard work—is a stronger BOH staff (which translates into higher quality food!). According to Seattle restaurateur Renee Erickson, who went tip-free at Sea Creatures, eliminating tipping is a good investment for restaurants because it results in less BOH turnover. Less turnover means less rehiring and retraining on your end as well as more experienced cooks.

More Wage Stability for Servers

Another reason many restaurants are going tip-free is to increase their servers’ wage stability. As you probably know, in many states, the minimum wage for tipped workers for tipped workers is lower than the minimum wage for non-tipped workers. In fact, only seven states require employers to pay tipped workers the full minimum wage. In the other 43 states, the minimum wage for tipped workers can dip as low as $2.13 an hour. Workers are expected to make up the difference with tips (employers are legally obligated to make up the difference if servers earn less than minimum wage after tips, but investigations by the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor between 2010 and 2012 found an 84% non-compliance rate).

 via dol.gov via dol.gov

Although tipped workers have the potential to make great money through tips, that is entirely dependent on check size and what percent of the total bill customers decide to tip. So, while tipped workers can make a lot in a day, they can also make very little. At restaurants with lower menu prices or where diners tend to tip less, FOH workers can actually make much less than BOH workers. In fact, a 2011 EPI study found that tipped workers are more than twice as likely as non-tipped workers to fall below the poverty line.

Moreover, research has shown that perceived service quality explains less than 2% of the variation in tip percentage. Clearly, your servers are being tipped based on factors that are out of their control. For example, young diners typically leave smaller tips. About ⅓ of millennials tip less than 15% (whereas only 16% of older demographics admit to doing so). In a recent survey, 10% of millennials said they don’t tip at all!

Replacing the tipping model with a revenue-sharing one leads to less income variation from day to day and moderates the effect of working a slow shift or serving particularly stingy diners.

Tipping is Discriminatory

Additionally, as Colicchio said, tip sizes are often unfairly based on factors like race, age, and physical appearance. On average, nonwhite servers make less than white servers for equal work. Dr. Michael Lynn, a professor of food and beverage management at Cornell University’s school of hotel administration and a leading authority on tipping research, says that this data qualifies tipping as discriminatory and therefore calls the legality of tipping into question. He explains:

[Specifically, the results suggest that the use of tips as a means of compensating workers may violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The idea that employers might be held liable for the discrimination of their customers will come as a surprise to many, so it deserves elaboration. In Grigg’s v. Duke Power Company (1971), the Supreme Court rules that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits business policies that have a disparate impact on protected classes of applicants and employees even if those policies and practices appear at  face value to be neutral and are not intended to discriminate.]

Tipping Perpetuates Sexual Harassment

Living off of tips provides an incentive for employees to tolerate inappropriate behavior from customers. According to a Restaurant Opportunities Centers United report:

[Tipped workers experienced higher rates of harassment via media from customers than non-tipped workers. Tipped workers reported higher rates of inappropriate letters, ‘sexts’ or texts of a sexual nature, and photos from customers. Tipped workers also reported higher rates of harassing physical behaviors from customers, including pressure for dates, suggestive looks, deliberate touching, and inappropriate kissing. Tipped workers also experience higher rates of certain verbal harassing behaviors from customers such as sexual teasing and being told to flirt and expose themselves.]

 via rocunited.org via rocunited.org

The same report revealed that tipped workers also experience more sexual harassment at the hands of their employers. For example, female tipped workers’ uniforms are typically more suggestive than female non-tipped workers. Moreover, a server from Houston explained that hiring criteria often places demands on women’s appearances. The server reported, “[They] would say, ‘I want this many servers, none of them fat, none of them ugly.”

Arguments Against Going Tip-Free

Many Servers Oppose the Policy

Regardless of your intentions, servers may not be happy about you banning tipping at your restaurant. Many servers, especially those who are used to collecting generous tips, are opposed to the tip free model. After Bar Agricole went tip-free, servers made an average of $20-35 an hour instead of $35-45 an hour. The pay cut led 70% of servers to leave the restaurant. Likewise, Meyer says he lost 30-40% of his FOH staff after eliminating tipping at his restaurants (one Union Square Cafe server claims that her annual pay dropped $10,000). So, while going tip free has been shown to reduce BOH turnover, it can increase FOH turnover.

Customers Oppose the Policy

Apparently, customers aren’t too happy about restaurants going tip-free either. A 2016 survey found that 81% of Americans were opposed to the idea of eliminating tipping. Why? There are a few plausible reasons. First, people believe that the service is worse at tip-free restaurants because there is no incentive for servers to perform well. Second, research shows that people are happier when they can leave a large tip. Third, people have the urge to penalize poor service. So, when customers lose the ability to adjust tip size, they feel alienated.

According to Dr. Lynn, tip-free models can lead to negative reviews. When Dr. Lynn looked at Google reviews and yelp ratings for 18 Joe’s Crab Shack restaurants where the company temporarily suspended tipping. Ratings on a five-point scale decreased by a third of a point on average during that time.

Some customers have gone beyond leaving negative reviews. In October, consumers in New York and the Bay Area filed a class action lawsuit against, Meyer, Colicchio, and other notable restaurateurs who have gone tip-free. They alleged that the owners were holding secret meetings and eliminating tipping for the sole purpose of raising prices as part of an anti-competition conspiracy.

Diners May Experience Sticker Shock

According to Dr. Lynn, customers experience “bundled” prices differently than they do “partitioned” prices. So, even though customers will eventually have to add gratuity at restaurants that accept tips, they see menu items as cheaper than at restaurants where hospitality is already included in the menu price. When NYC restaurant Fedora went tip-free, customers ordered less food or lower-priced wines. This led to a loss in revenue, so the restaurant reinstated tipping after four months. Colicchio reported a similar experience.

To be fair, customers do end up paying a bit more at tip-free establishments because restaurants often raise menu prices more than 20% so that they can share revenue with FOH and BOH employees. This means that customers could pay up to 5% more if they usually tip 20%, or more if they usually tip less than 20%.

It’s pretty clear that whether or not you should tip free depends on a number of factors. For example, when determining what’s best for you and your employees, think about the average check size at your restaurant and how your customers would react to higher menu prices.

So, where do you stand in the tipping debate?

TripAdvisor’s 2018 Hospitalist Sector Report Reveals Online Presence is Important to Business Owners

Today, our partner site TripAdvisor announced the results of its 2018 “Hospitalist Sector Report,” and we can’t say we’re surprised by their findings.

TripAdvisor’s report revealed that online reputation management, mobile experience, and driving direct bookings are now critical areas of focus travel businesses like hotels and, you guessed it, restaurants.

TripAdvisor’s press release reads:

[“We asked travel business owners and operators in the U.S. and around the globe about the key industry trends that are top of mind for them in 2018, and the results provide a rare look into today’s evolving digital travel marketplace,” said Martin verdon-Roe, Vice President of Business-to-Business Product of TripAdvisor. “What’s clear is that the overwhelming majority of owners and operators are concerned about their presence online and how they are using mobile and social platforms to attract the right customers.”]

The owners and operators’ concerns are justified. After all, 93% of diners regularly check online menus before selecting a restaurant, and nearly 60% of customers’ searches are now performed on mobile devices.

Clearly, business owners like you recognize the growing importance of a solid online presence. But, maybe you just don’t know where to begin.

Read on to learn how you can manage your business’ online efforts.

Online Presence

If you want new customers to find your restaurant online, you need to make sure that all of your owner-verified information (like your most up-to-date menu, address, phone number, and hours) can be easily found online. And that information should be just as easy to obtain on a smartphone as on a computer.

That means that you should make sure your restaurant’s website is optimized for mobile viewing (87% of owners and operators surveyed by TripAdvisor said that having a mobile-enabled website or app is important).

In this day and age, having a restaurant website is not enough. You need to be found on all of the websites, like TripAdvisor, that people are searching most (96% of people noted they use TripAdvisor when looking for restaurants while travelling!)

Your online menu should also be mobile-optimized for easy reading. A lot of people are looking for places to eat on the go, so you don’t want to frustrate them by having an unreadable or unavailable menu.

Online Reputation

Managing your online reputation on those crucial search sites is important. That’s why 97% of those surveyed by TripAdvisor said that online reputation management is important to their business and 98% said online reviews are important to their business.

Those numbers are so high for a reason. 88% of consumers report reading online reviews and say that positive reviews influence their buying decisions and 85% of consumers report reading up to 10 reviews before feeling like they could trust a business.

Instead of passively letting the reviews roll in, you should do your best to respond to reviews—especially the negative ones. A thoughtful response and apology can help moderate the effect of a negative review and may even help you win back the dissatisfied customer who left the review. This is not only a courtesy but a smart marketing strategy.

Social Media Presence

Social media management is crucial for restaurants. Potential and repeat customers are looking for places to eat and drink and engaging with social sites to find the next best thing. Enticing photos and an interactive presence can help you attract more diners.

Restaurants and other small businesses should have a firm grip on their social presence because these platforms provide business owners the opportunity to engage with their customers, post photos, and communicate timely information.

Of course, as a restaurant owner, you’re busy doing so much that you probably don’t have time for social media. But, there are tools available to help you schedule social posts ahead of time so you can maintain a social presence without being on apps all day,

Online Booking

In addition to online reputation management and social presence, 71% of respondents also said they prioritize driving direct bookings. One of the best ways you can drive direct bookings for your restaurant is to make it as easy as possible for customers to make reservations online.

If you don’t already offer online reservations, consider partnering with a third party site like OpenTable.  On OpenTable, users can search for the platform’s over 45,000 partner restaurants to check availability. If there’s a table open at the customer’s desired time, the customer can make a reservation with just a few clicks. No phone call needed.

Users can also search by cuisine, location, and even ambiance, which means that diners who hadn’t heard of your restaurant before visiting OpenTable could be making reservations too.

That was probably a lot to take in. The good news is that SinglePlatform can help you manage everything we’ve talked about, from your menu and website to your online reviews and social media postings.

To learn more about SinglePlatform, get in touch with us today!

Restaurants Banning Plastic Drinking Straws are on the Rise: Will Yours Be Next?

As the trend away from disposable plastic, particularly plastic drinking straws, builds momentum, the restaurant industry is taking notice and adopting alternatives.  Compostable straws, utensils, and packaging are now requirements in some markets.  Many businesses, from large franchises to individual establishments, are jumping out in front of the legislative wave and replacing their own offerings proactively.  What else can we expect as plastics are slowly phased out?

New Precedents Appear

On July 1, 2018, Seattle became the first major city to ban the distribution of plastic drinking straws and utensils.  The move was virtually concurrent with the Seattle-based Starbucks franchise switching to straw-less lids in its shops throughout the country.  And while Starbucks has no trouble making news headlines, there is an ever-growing number of businesses following suit.  Foodservice distributors, hotel chains, ballparks, airlines, and of course cocktail bars have all joined the ranks of the eco-friendly.  McDonald’s has set a target timeline of 2025 to phase out its own non-compostable utensils.

Miami Beach and Fort Meyers, Florida, as well as Malibu, Davis, and San Luis Obispo, California, have similar prohibitions on single-use plastics.  New York is expected to eventually enact its own similar ban in due time.  Elsewhere in the world, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union as a whole are weighing proposals banning plastic straws.  From there, it’s easy to foresee the domino effect continuing.

The legal precedents away from plastics are nearly a decade old: in 2009, Washington D.C. enacted a law requiring businesses to charge a $.05 surcharge for plastic shopping bags.  In grocery stores especially, there has been a longtime push to at least offer alternatives, such as lightweight reusable bags.  You can see the footprint of plastic bag legislation here:

 Source:  http://bit.ly/2v7UuB7 Source:  http://bit.ly/2v7UuB7

Motivations Behind the Change

Environmental consciousness lies at the root of the movement away from plastics.  Marine wildlife has been hit hard by the effects of pollution.  Even responsible sanitation practices will inevitably yield some spill-off into rivers, lakes, and oceans.  Since it can take hundreds of years for a typical straw to decompose, birds and sea creatures of all sizes are left vulnerable to this floating junk.

Garbage patches (or trash vortexes) are collections of marine debris that have formed in the world’s oceans.  The debris consists of various plastics, chemical sludge, and other garbage, clumped together as a result of the cyclical currents.  Garbage patches float near the top of the water.  As well as a tremendous eyesore, they can be toxic and ultimately lethal to the nearby marine wildlife.

 Garbage patches accumulate and circulate around oceanic gyres.Source: http://bit.ly/2A8IViG Garbage patches accumulate and circulate around oceanic gyres.Source: http://bit.ly/2A8IViG

In the social media era, it’s easier than ever to make a cause célèbre out of unfortunate wildlife hurt by pollution.  But it’s just as prudent to consider the limited space for the waste products of expanding human populations.  Plastic is a natural target for replacement with biodegradable alternatives.

There is a human health risk in play as well.  Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used to harden plastics, has been flagged as a concern by the Food and Drug Administration.  Infants are considered especially vulnerable to the effects of ingesting BPA, with possible brain development and behavioral issues cited as potential symptoms.  The effects of BPA on adults is still an ongoing study.  The FDA recommends reasonable precautions, such as avoiding heating foods and drinks stored in plastic.

While plastic drinking straws account for only a very small fraction of total plastic pollution, environmentalists believe that this small step can raise overall awareness and inspire the public toward more significant change.  Individuals who wouldn’t otherwise consider the environment in their daily choices will be more conscientious when the issue is presented in their daily routines.  The hope is that this modest measure will inspire people to further their recycling efforts on an even greater scale.

How Will This Affect the Restaurant Industry?

 Source: http://bit.ly/2v9IOO7 Source: http://bit.ly/2v9IOO7

Even if plastics have not been outright banned in your area, expect the phasing out process to proceed slowly but surely.  If you own a business that uses disposable utensils, there are some considerations to keep in mind in the coming months and years.

The cost of compostable utensils currently sits higher than the plastic status quo.  The precise cost of upgrading might be hard to calculate.  Vendors have cited anything from 10% to 200% above, depending on the size of the order and the quality of the biodegradable supplies.

If you replace a plastic drinking straw that costs $.02 with a compostable drinking straw that costs $.04, that microtransaction looks rather insignificant.  But if you serve thousands of straws every month, that small uptick can account for hundreds of dollars against your bottom line.

Look to buy in bulk.  An easy way to offset the increasing cost of supplies is to simply acquire them in larger quantities.  Businesses considering this change should think about how much space they can spare in their physical inventory.

Keep tabs on price points.  Like any emerging market, increased demand for compostable utensils will drive a larger supply.  This, in turn, will eventually lower prices.  If your business isn’t ready to make the switch away from plastics just yet, remember to check back every so often to see if the market has moved.

Can you do without?  Some cocktail bars are replacing their plastic drinking straws with no straws at all.  If you typically serve, for example, soft drinks for the table with straws inserted, can you simply eliminate them?  One immediate way to reduce your plastics usage is by keeping those products complimentary, but making them available only upon request.

Flaunt it if you’ve got it.  While the cause is noble, there is no shame in advertising that your business has taken an environmentally-responsible initiative.  This is absolutely an opportunity to do a bit of status-signaling.  Adding a line at the bottom of your menu or posting a small notice about the change in policy in your storefront will let your customers know you’re mindful (without being overbearing).

The recent trend of restaurants phasing out plastic drinking straws is arguably just the beginning of a bigger movement to save the environment. Keep tabs on any updates, including that of the law, to stay informed of the latest advancements. And in the meantime, consider how your restaurant will adopt.

Should You Open a Second Restaurant Location? 3 Things to Consider

Being a restaurant owner has its ups and downs (what career doesn’t?) You get to do what you love every day, but also face responsibilities of being in charge of the whole show. Still, you’ve found success in opening and maintaining your first location, so much so that you’re considering a second. Because of the prosperity of your first restaurant, you may be excited to bring on a new addition. But, because of this success, you may also be fearful of how the introduction of a second restaurant location will affect business.

There are numerous factors to contemplate when toying with the idea of a second restaurant location and we’re discussing three important considerations to make today.

A Steady Cash Flow

Before rushing into opening another restaurant, consider the cost. You’ve already done the legwork of opening one location, so you know the amount of capital that’s needed to get a business off the ground. You’ve been profitable so far, but do you have enough to do it all over again?

If you have enough cash flow to be able to fund the second location without having to look elsewhere, you’re likely prepared to open a second location. But, be wary of utilizing funds from your current restaurant to break ground on a new one. You don’t want to sacrifice your current profits when taking this risk.

An option is to seek out funding from an external source, especially from investors who are more focused on growing your business than seeing immediate returns. But taking on debt with high rates of return is always risky, especially when your new location likely won’t be turning a profit for the first couple months to a year.

It may have been a little while since your first restaurant’s opening, so consider all of the costs you’ll have to face:

  • Building rent or purchase & ongoing maintenance
  • Equipment & supplies
  • Staff salaries
  • Food inventory

The takeaway: Be confident in the cash before taking the leap.

A Smart Location Choice

You know the old saying location, location, location. But, in this situation, we’re talking about where you’ll open up shop in relation to your first restaurant. Being too close to your flagship poses a risk of depleting your customer pool. Conversely, opening up a second location nearby might be an option if your product is trending and competition is low.

If it’s too close for comfort, consider moving further out from your current restaurant where you might get a slightly different crowd. Of course, you’ll have to consider the population of the area as well as the competition. If you’re considering opening an Italian restaurant in a town where there are already 5, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.

We love the idea that Entrepreneur.com gives regarding market research: [pilot test sales of your products and services in the proposed new target market.]

If feasible, test out a “pop-up shop” in the location you’re considering. You can gauge the audience, demand, and popularity to see if it’s a good fit.

When starting the pop-up, you can either make it a mobile kitchen or rent out an empty space that previously housed a restaurant. Set up a dining space (if it’s in a physical location) and market the pop-up in a way that makes its limited-time factor clear.

Make sure your staff explains the purpose of the pop-up to your guests and asks for their feedback in a survey. You can get honest opinions on whether or not customers would like to see your pop-up restaurant become a permanent staple. From there, you can make a decision on whether you should open up there or keep hunting for a new spot.

The takeaway: Do your research on the location before making a determination.

The Manpower and Resources Necessary

You have the cash flow, you found a perfect location, now consider the long-term. You’ll need a stellar staff to be trained and maintained if you want your second location to prosper. As the owner, you can’t be in two places at once (unless you have superhuman powers) so you need to make sure the people who will be running your restaurant are ones you can trust.

At the beginning of your second location, you’ll want to be as involved as possible. By now, your first restaurant should have a staff that’s a well-oiled machine, thriving enough on its own that you can trust it does well with the current management team in charge. You’ve already set the standards for quality at your first location so it’s important to set your second location up to have just as much success. Being heavily involved, as the owner, in the beginning stages can help ensure your operations are running as they should be.

During the early stages, dedicate your time to the new locations so you can be hands-on in training your new staff for success (of course, you’ll have to put in the effort to hire them first).

Oversee each area of the restaurant, from front of the house to back, to ensure things are running as smoothly as possible. If there need to be adjustments, it’s better to get those out of the way early. Focus your efforts on this new location to make sure you’re giving it the attention it needs as it takes off.

The takeaway: Plan strategically to execute successfully.

With the success of your first restaurant, you may be considering opening a second location. This is an exciting venture to consider, but it also comes with some potential risks you must face. Before jumping into anything, make sure you think everything through to ensure you’re making the correct decision. And if you do decide that all systems are a go, we wish you much success with your new restaurant location!

SinglePlatform Customer, Brooks Burgers, Honored on TripAdvisor’s List of Top 10 Burgers in America

Hamburgers are quintessential quarter-pound slices of Americana. They’re delicious whether slathered in cheese, bunned or un-bunned, and topped with virtually any fixing you can think of. We may not all agree on how best to serve a burger, but it’s safe to say that the popularity of these juicy bits of heaven stretches way beyond backyard barbecues.

When researching where the popular food got its start, the origins are a bit unclear. Legend has it that the influx of German immigrants to America in the late 1800s sparked the birth of German beer gardens and food. And with that came with “Hamburg-style” chopped steak. The rest is, well, history.

Fast-forward to modern times. And by modern we mean just this month. Travel giant, and our partner, TripAdvisor recently announced the Top 10 Best Restaurants for Burgers. This list of hits was based on millions of reviews and opinions from TripAdvisor diners. The people spoke and TripAdvisor listened. And although we didn’t get to travel across the country and try every burger joint ourselves (which, to us, is an amazing idea), we did notice that a SinglePlatform customer made the shortlist.

All of our customers are kitchen rockstars. And it’s pretty cool that Brooks Gourmet Burgers & Dogs was honored in such an exclusive list of the best of the best burgers. So, we want to showcase what makes the restaurant great.

Brooks Gourmet Burgers & Dogs

  • Where: Naples, Florida
  • Since When: 2010
  • Signature Burger: “Donut Burger” topped with American cheese and bacon between two glazed donuts

 via Brooks Burgers Facebook via Brooks Burgers Facebook

Brooks Gourmet Burgers & Dogs keeps it all in the family. Todd Brooks and his wife own the 3 location Naples chain. The couple collectively has over 40 years of restaurant industry experience, which inspired them to open up their own establishment in 2010.

Todd is no stranger to the hustle and bustle of the back of the house. He started off as a dishwasher and worked his way up, becoming an executive chef, and eventually a Vice President of a 10 unit restaurant operation. Although becoming a small business owner proved to be entirely different than serving as a VP, after the economic crash, Todd decided to dive head first into a burger joint of his own. Luckily, over the past 8 years Brooks Burgers has enjoyed much success and a few impressive accolades.

The first location is housed in the same spot that was formerly Lindburgers, a Naples staple for over 25 years. It was formerly known for having the best burger in the state, so Todd thought the location was the perfect fit for his new venture. When launching Brooks Burgers, he added a sense of Midwestern hospitality to the mix and a unique aviation theme to the atmosphere.

He also introduced a plethora of specialty burgers to the menu. The Donut Burger is a signature item, but there’s a lot more where that came from. Guests can enjoy virtually any flavor they want, from the Pesto & Goat Cheese to a fan favorite, Todd’s Way (fried egg, crisp bacon, American & provolone cheeses).

And burgers aren’t the only thing you can get here – Brooks Gourmet offers an array of salads, hot dogs, and sandwiches. And although they won the award for the burgers, TripAdvisor customers praise Brooks Burgers for their other offerings, too.

“BEST Burger EVER”

“There were 6 of us and we only had to wait a few minutes. Heather was our server. Good craft beer selection. Fun atmosphere. The food was beyond delicious. I had the Fig and F.I.N.E. AHmazing. My husband had the Pesto & Goat and he loved it. My mom had the pastrami sammie, also delicious. My dad started with the stuffed onion ring. I wish we would have ordered more. He also had one of the dogs and he said it was the best he ever had. Both kiddos had hand-dipped corn dogs…yum! The fries were so good, too. I love when a restaurant exceeds my expectations and Brooks absolutely did!”

Since opening in 2010, Brooks Gourmet Burgers & Dogs has expanded to become a chain of 3 locations throughout Naples, Florida. Each location exudes the same authenticity, freshness, and quality. Brooks Burgers uses SinglePlatform to power their online menus for all locations.

“SinglePlatform has been an essential part of our success story. It has given us peace of mind and time to focus on the most important part of our business: Our customers! We don’t have to worry about if our menu is accurate on TripAdvisor, on Yelp, on the website or anywhere else. One click and changes are made. Our menu is the most searched item on our website. For new customers who haven’t been at Brooks Burgers, this is the #1 thing they are looking for. Making sure that they find the menu easily is key to draw them into their first Brooks Burgers experience.”
-Todd Brooks – owner and founder of Brooks Burgers (visit them at brooksburgers.com).

When asked about the TripAdvisor Top 10 Burger in America honor, owner Todd Brooks said,

“This is an unbelievable recognition and I couldn’t be more proud of our staff and customers who made this happen. As a local and family owned restaurant we truly appreciate the love and support of our community. We are honored to represent Southwest Florida in such a great way not only because of our great burgers but also because our staff treats guests like family!”

Although Naples, Florida, isn’t in the vicinity of our NYC office, it’s definitely on our list of places to visit next time we travel out of state!

Congratulations to Brooks Burgers and the rest of the honorees who made the list!

3 Awesome Real-Life Restaurant Marketing Examples

We’ve discussed how to market your restaurant. Now, we’ve compiled a list of three restaurants (or restaurant groups) that we think are doing a really great job at marketing. In this article, we’ll talk about what these restaurants did right and how you can take inspiration from them for your own restaurant’s marketing strategy.

Dog Haus

 via Gothamist via Gothamist

Dog Haus certainly isn’t in our dog house when it comes to restaurant marketing. In fact, the national burger and dog chain employs a number of effective marketing strategies.

What it does right:

Showcases its Personality

First, the restaurant infuses its cheeky personality into all of its copy. For example, its restaurant signs and hot dog dishes read, “The Absolute Würst,” a play on the German word for sausage. Clearly, Dog Haus is not implying that it’s hot dogs are the worst. Rather, it’s marketing the restaurant—and its culinary creations—as creative, fun, and unpretentious.

http://gothamist.com/2018/06/19/dog_haus_soho_review.php#photo-1

According to Toast, establishing your restaurant’s personality is essential.

[The personality of your brand, the way you speak and act, make up your restaurant identity and is what attracts and retains customers.

Start by describing your brand (as if it is a person) with three words (ie. Bold, Fun, Authentic) and then elaborate on each until you have a good understanding of the personality of the brand. Once you know this, the rest should be no problem; when knowing what type of “person” your  brand is,” you should be able to easily figure out how they would speak to your customers.]

While we don’t know exactly how Dog Haus developed its personality—or that it would use “creative, fun, and unpretentious” to describe itself—we do know that its personality effectively attracts customers.

Next, the restaurant’s yearlong chef collaboration series incorporates three effective restaurant marketing strategies.

Forges Celebrity Partnerships

First off, the series takes advantage of celebrity partnerships. For 2018, Dog Haus recruited eight “Kick-Ass Chefs” to dream up special hot dog or shake creations that will be served in Dog Haus locations for two months. For example, in May and June, the restaurant served Top Chef season 2 winner Ilan Hall’s Huli-Huli chicken and pork sausage topped with sweet ginger glaze,  pineapple and jalapeño relish, crispy fried onions, and scallions.

Hall promoted the dog on his personal Instagram and Twitter accounts, which have each amassed over ten thousand followers.

Dog Haus is currently serving James Beard award-winning chef Alex Seidel’s “Lambda Lambda Lambda” featuring a lamb and pork sausage, topped with tzatziki, feta, diced onions, tomato, and pickles, which Seidel promoted on his personal Instagram account.

According to Franchising USA, there are some definite perks to partnering with celebrities. Celebrities can introduce their fans to you and add an overall “wow factor” to your restaurant.

If you don’t have major celebrity chefs in your contact lists, consider reaching out to other local chefs or food bloggers. They’re somewhat of “celebrities” to target customers in your area, and all it would cost you is a meal on the house (and who wouldn’t want a restaurant dish named after them?)

Leverages Limited Time Offers

Second, by changing the special dog every two months, the series effectively uses limited time offers to increase sales. Studies show that applying urgency and scarcity to menu items can increase sales by as much as 332%!

Donates to Charity

Finally, the campaign is for charity. Every time a customer orders one of the LTOs, Dog Haus donates one dollar to No Kid Hungry.

Not only does contributing to charity benefit worthy organizations, it also benefits your restaurant’s bottom line. According to a 2012 study, 72% of consumers recommend a business that contributes to charity over one that doesn’t.

If you’re not interested in donating a portion of your proceeds to charity consider catering a local charity event (it’ll make you feel good and you’ll only pay for the cost of the food). If you don’t know of any upcoming charity events, Restaurant Engine recommends reaching out to your local chamber of commerce.

Domino’s  

Domino’s has had a good year. In Q1 of 2018, the pizza chain outperformed its competitors and saw a 6.4% increase in same-store sales (which control for any new locations that opened during the quarter). Q2 resulted in the company’s 29th straight quarter of domestic same-store sales growth.

We would wager that Domino’s success is due in part to the successful marketing campaigns the brand has launched over the past decade.

What it does right:

Emphasizes Transparency

We’ll start our exploration of Domino’s marketing techniques by taking you all the way back to 2010. Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” dominated the airways, Apple introduced the iPad, and “Domino’s Pizza was known as the poor man’s Pizza Hut.” Faced with negative reviews and claims that its crust tasted like cardboard and its sauce like ketchup, Domino’s launched its famous “Pizza Turnaround” campaign. In the self-deprecating campaign directed by marketing guru Russell Weiner, Domino’s released a series of honest ads that admitted to its pizza’s flaws—and even highlighted negative reviews like “worst pizza I ever had,” “the sauce tastes like ketchup,” and ‘the crust tastes like cardboard”—and detailed the process of creating their new and improved pizza recipe.

Domino’s candor paid off. Q4 profits in 2010 rose to $23.6 million, more than twice 2009’s number. Store sales were also up 1.4% in 2010. Over the next four years, Domino’s opened 1,800 new stores in 10 countries.

Evidently, transparency can boost restaurant revenue. In 2010, Entrepreneur’s Tracy Stapp Herold reported:

[The honesty of the commercials succeeded in capturing not only customers’ curiosity but their sympathy as well. There’s something quite appealing about a big company willing to admit to its mistakes and put in the effort to correct them—especially amidst the corporate scandals and big bailouts that dominate the news nowadays.]

Values Customer Feedback

Not only was Domino’s “Pizza Turnaround” campaign honest, it also called upon consumer feedback to inform its business decisions. Clearly, customers were excited to taste the new recipe to see if Domino’s listened to their complaints (continued sales growth indicated that it did).

Domino’s emphasis on customer suggestions holds strong today. Currently, the company is asking for customers to recommend delivery hotspots, popular places without specific addresses that Domino’s should add to its delivery map.

Gathering customer opinions is a smart restaurant marketing strategy. Not only does it show customers that you care, it also gives you valuable insight into how you can improve your product.

You should always respond to feedback, whether that means reworking your recipes like Domino’s did or simply responding to reviews on Yelp and Tripadvisor.

Stevens et al.report that ignoring customer complaints is one of the worst things businesses can do. They say that, at a minimum, a timely, personalized apology should always be issued to minimize the impact of a complaint.

[When a customer receives a generic automated response from the firm, it gives them the impression that the firm does not value the customer. Many customers complain because they feel a need to be heard, and when an automated system is used—or even perceived to be used—they end up feeling like no one is truly listening.]

Launches Lighthearted Campaigns

You can read more about Domino’s lighthearted campaigns, like its wedding registry, that have generated buzz about the brand here.

Big Daddy’s and Duke’s

‘80s style diner Big Daddy’s and southern-influenced pub Duke’s are all over Instagram. In this day and age, that is a great way to be found online by new customers.

What they do right:

Reach Out to Influencers

Many restaurants that whip up “insta-worthy” concoctions are frequently tagged in Influencers’ posts. However, not all restaurants reach out to influencers directly to request that they post about their restaurants.

Branded Restaurants, the group behind the casual NYC eateries started reaching out to Influencers last year in order to increase brand awareness and drive restaurant sales.

Julie Zucker, the director of marketing and promotions for Branded Restaurants, talked about choosing the right Influencers for your restaurant.

[There are people who have millions of followers, and they’re not really the people that we’re looking for. We want Influencers who have around 10,000 followers or 20,000 followers. The idea is that we’d rather have somebody whose followers and the people they influence are in New York. That’s number one. Secondly, they’re all people that would, in fact, like you come to one of our restaurants.

We also want people that kind of fit in with our brands, we want people who are fun, and we want people who are colorful. We decided to institute an “Instagram account takeover program, in which we would have influencers come in, we’d give them a meal, and then, we’d have a manager log them into our Instagram account, and they would take a story for their visit and they would also take photos of their dishes.]

Use User Generated Content

The restaurants encourage the rest of their followers to post their pictures of their experiences as well. Big Daddy’s tells customers to post their pictures with the tag #bigdaddysnyc or #followthetot for a chance to be reposted by the restaurant.

Influencer marketing posting user-generated content are great ways to boost restaurant sales. I know that I check Instagram before deciding where to eat and research shows that I’m not alone. WordStream sites ‘foodie porn” as “arguably the very best way to promote your restaurant online.” As of July 20, there were 285,145,625 posts with tagged #food and 166,498,669 posts tagged #foodporn.

If you’re not located in a popular city like NYC and you can’t find any local Influencers, Medium suggests looking for local businesses that have standout social media presences and seeing if you can do some type of collaboration on your account. Another option is to ask the kids in your city if there is a particular person in the area with a mega Instagram following.

These restaurants used a wide variety of restaurant marketing techniques. They leveraged brand personality, celebrity partnerships, limited time offers, charitable contributions, transparency, customer feedback, lighthearted campaigns, Instagram Influencers, and user-generated content to grow their restaurant sales.

Whether you have 1,000 locations or just one, you can implement Dog Haus, Domino’s, Big Daddy’s and Luke’s marketing strategies on a scale that fits your restaurant and your marketing budget.

[Math.round(Math.random() * (chars.length - 1))]
[Math.round(Math.random() * (chars.length - 1))]