New BrightLocal Research Reveals Online Business Accuracy is Crucial

Inaccurate business information online is detrimental to your restaurant’s reputation. Hopefully, you already know that having the wrong information about your business online is a no-no. Now, there’s brand new research to back it up.

BrightLocal recently released a Local Citations Trust Report, in which they surveyed over 1,000 US consumers about inaccuracy in business listings. The responses were staggering.

Today, we explore the results of this research and how you can avoid inaccuracy online for your business.

68% of consumers would stop using a local business if they found incorrect information in online directories. (Local Citations Trust Report, BrightLocal, 2018)

The amount of consumers who’d boycott a business due to inaccurate information isn’t surprising, as I’ve even had this experience myself.

Not too long ago I checked online for a local Italian restaurant in my area and found one with great ratings on Google. Their Google listing said they were open until 9 pm, so I walked there for dinner, just to find that they were closed (lights off, chairs stacked, no staff in sight). I was extremely irritated that the restaurant did not have their correct business hours online and my hunger only made it worse. Needless to say, I never returned to that location because I was frustrated by the wrong information I was given.

BrightLocal also found that 93% of consumers say they are frustrated by incorrect information in online directories. I was definitely annoyed that day and understand why so many respondents expressed this same disdain.

30% of consumers would go to a competitor if they couldn’t locate a business because of incorrect information found online. (Local Citations Trust Report, BrightLocal, 2018)

You don’t want to lose any business to your competitors, but of course, it’s going to happen from time to time. Poor customer service and quality of food are valid reasons for a diner to choose to eat elsewhere, which is why business owners put effort into training their staff and perfecting their recipes. However, how your business information is represented online may not be top of mind for you. It should be.

The majority of people use search engines to discover new businesses and you want your restaurant to provide accurate information on all of those platforms they’re searching on. If there is a wrong address or phone number on one of the major search engines, you’ll be disappointing a large number of potential customers.

80% of consumers lose trust in local businesses if they see incorrect or inconsistent contact details or business names online. (Local Citations Trust Report, BrightLocal, 2018)

The ability to trust someone is the cornerstone of any interpersonal relationship. Although your business isn’t human, you should treat it like one when it comes to trust. How you conduct business, as the owner, is a direct reflection of yourself as a person. Your business’ online presence is just as important as how you manage operations in-house.

Think about it in the context of social media. Most of us have social profiles that we update with posts, photos, and comments. Many of our followers form opinions about who we are based on what they see on our social channels. If you’re posting content online that isn’t a true reflection of yourself, other individuals are going to be confused, and even disappointed, when they meet you in real life.

Similarly, if your business doesn’t accurately represent itself across websites and apps, people will form opinions about it that may not even be based on an in-house experience. A lot of the time, the discovery of your business begins online, which is why it’s extremely crucial to have all of your business information correct in all the places that matter.

Where to Begin?

It’s clear that consumers are extremely disappointed with inaccurate online information about a business. As they should be! In a world where 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine, it’s obvious that most hungry researchers are using search engines on their laptops and smartphones to discover new places to eat. First impressions are everything, so make yours count.

When looking to improve the accuracy of your business’ online presence, the process can seem overwhelming. Think of all the websites and apps people are using for discovery. One individual may use Google to find a restaurant, then head over to TripAdvisor to read reviews about the place, look at user-generated photos on Yelp, and then finally book a reservation there on OpenTable.

As mentioned, you want your business information (and your menu) correctly posted on all of those sites, plus many others. But, the task of making multiple updates on multiple sites, like seasonal hour changes and new phone number, will become a time-consuming chore. Plus, it’s easy to forget to make a change on just one of the many sites people use on a daily basis. We’re not saying it can’t be done, but the process will be tedious.

As a restaurant owner, you’ve got a lot going on. Running your business is top priority and we understand the demands of the hospitality industry. That’s why we’re here to help when it comes to bolstering your online presence.

A menu management company’s prime concern is to get your restaurant’s information and menus across all of these places people are searching. We do the heavy lifting so you don’t have to. We’ve already formed partnerships with publishers, like Google, Bing, Yelp, Yahoo, AppleMaps, and many more, to get your information accurately in the places it needs to be. Why waste your time making manual updates when you can just hand off the work to us?

When working with a menu management company, like SinglePlatform, you can rest assured that you’ll be providing your customers with accurate information, whether they’re looking for your updated business hours or the seasonal dinner menu. Never let a potential diner become a lost customer because of inaccurate online information again.


To learn more about what SinglePlatform can to do help your business’ online visibility, contact us today! We look forward to working with you to help you stand out everywhere that matters online.

How to Create an Appetizing Restaurant Email Newsletter

Email marketing is an extremely effective way to engage with your business’ customers.  A well-executed restaurant email newsletter lets your customers stay in-the-know about what’s new at your restaurant.

Just how effective is email marketing for businesses? Today, 72 percent of consumers prefer email as their source of business communication. Emails also provide a healthy return on investment. For every dollar you spend on email marketing, you can expect to make a return of $38.

You’ve collected a number of customer emails through in-house and online efforts. You have some exciting new events coming up, a brand new menu being released, and other ideas for customer communications. You’ve invested in an email marketing platform, like Constant Contact, to get the ball rolling. It’s about time to create and send your first email newsletter.

Don’t know where to get started? Read on for step-by-step tips on creating an appealing restaurant email newsletter.

Determine a Cadence

How often do you want your restaurant newsletter to be distributed? Getting in the habit of scheduling these communications is wise.

Are you always changing specials and events? Maybe weekly or bi-weekly is the way to go. Don’t want to overwhelm your readers? A monthly or bi-monthly newsletter may do the trick. If you don’t have too many updates to share, you may want to spread it out and only offer a seasonal newsletter. Whatever you choose, keep it consistent. After a while, customers will be expecting your newsletter in their mailbox and will look out for it if it’s well-executed.

Once you’ve determined a schedule, mark it on your calendar. You can set a reminder on your smartphone to create your email or if you use Outlook or Gmail, schedule recurring events so you always remember to complete the task.

Outline Your Features

Newsletters are great because you can fit a bunch of small tidbits into one succinct communication. Think about the most important updates you want to share with your customer base and outline those in order from most important (or exciting) to least.

(You want your customers to look like this when they receive your newsletter):

Draw people in with an enticing update, whether it’s a special you’re running for the month or an upcoming event with a big-name band. The rest of your chosen topics can follow.

Of course, you want to keep your email digestible and fun, so don’t make the newsletter too long. Choose around 5-7 solid topics to include. If it’s a quick update, you can get it across within the newsletter. But, if you’re doing a long feature or interview, insert a call-to-action (CTA) button that links directly to a blog about the topic. There, you can continue telling the whole story.

Keep your newsletter consistent by cooking up recurring topics that can be updated with new information in each newsletter. Some ideas include:

  • Real Deals: This week’s (or month’s) specials and discounts
  • The Beat Goes On: Upcoming entertainment calendar
  • Fresh Eats: New menu item description and photos
  • Eyes on the Prize: Introduce a new contest, like naming a new food item or a social media challenge, that you want customers to participate in
  • Staff Spotlight: Feature a new staff member each time with a Q&A
  • Recipe Corner: A quick recipe customers can try at home
  • Meet the Menu: Feature a different menu item with each newsletter edition that highlights its history and ingredients
  • Keeping it Local: A feature on another small business in your town

After you’ve chosen your features, decide on the content you’ll include in each section for the first newsletter. Keep it clever, quick, and informative. You want to keep your customers engaged, so make sure the content is compelling enough for them to stay interested.

Design the Layout

Once you’ve established the outline, it’s time for design! Separate your newsletter into clear sections. Most email tools have premade layouts you can choose from, and if you’re being creative, you can start from scratch.

You can even create eye-catching headers for each new segment. Free tools like Canva, and more advanced programs, like Adobe Photoshop, can help you achieve the look you’re going for.

Check out a section header I created for free in minutes with Canva:

It’s important to stay true to your restaurant brand when creating your newsletter design. While 26% of SMBs polled use email marketing for sales, just 7% use email as a brand-building tool. The content plays a large part in brand building, but the design does as well.

Header and Footer

Of course, you should include a high-quality version of your logo in the email header so people know immediately where the email is coming from. When creating your footer, make sure you offer essential business information that people can easily reference:

  • Restaurant name
  • A link to your business website
  • A phone number
  • Your restaurant address
  • Links to social media channels

Color Scheme

Your newsletter needs to be cohesive with your color scheme and restaurant concept. If the theme of your Mexican restaurant is bright hues of green, yellow, and blue, you don’t want your email to be muted tones of brown, black, and purple. It just doesn’t fit! If your restaurant has established brand guidelines, stick to those in the newsletter.

Fonts

Choose fonts that are easy to read. Most people are scrolling through email on their phones, so you don’t want text to be painfully small or too ornamental. Clean, readable fonts, like sans serifs, will work well. To get some more font ideas, this is a great read on the readability and usage of fonts.

Photos

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it could also be worth even more email opens. According to Hubspot, 65 percent of users like emails that are mostly made up of images, while only 35 percent prefer their emails to be text heavy.

Choose photos wisely; you don’t just want to throw graphics into your newsletter to fill in gaps. Make sure your photos are high-quality images that capture your brand. If you’re photographing food and drinks, get the lighting right. Blurry, unfocused, and dark photos won’t enthrall readers. You don’t necessarily need a fancy point and shoot camera and corresponding equipment to snap something great. If you have a newer smartphone, like the iPhone X or Google Pixel 2 XL, you can capture some pretty impressive photos with minimal effort.

This newsletter update from Chaia showcases a new menu item and makes it look pretty delicious!

Upload Your Contact List

What’s a really awesome email without anyone to send it to? Make sure that your contact list is in an appropriate file. Email marketing platforms usually like the information in an excel or CSV format for easy digestion. Separate the information into columns, like First Name, Last Name, and Email Address. Save the file in a safe spot (I suggest creating a folder specifically for email lists) and name it using the month the newsletter is going out (i.e. Email List_September 2018 Newsletter). Then, upload it to the platform and use that same name to save it there as well.

Personalize it & Test it Out

You’ve established your voice and brand identity, wrote some killer content, and perfected the newsletter design. What’s next? Personalization and testing.

Personalization

If you’ve received an email – and I’m sure you’ve gotten thousands – you know that some companies choose to make the email more personal. It’ll say “Hi Taylor,” before going into the body text. This personalization works! Personalized email messages improve click-through rates by an average of 14% and conversions by 10%. The inclusion of a first name makes the email feel less like it was sent to the masses and more like you’re familiar with your customer base. That’s why it’s extremely important to capture names when collecting email addresses.

You might be thinking it’ll be really time-consuming to write a tailored email to each person. And you’re right! But, email marketing tools have made it easy to address recipients directly. By using custom fields, you can include first names and even change how the sender looks.

For example, instead of just a generic email from City Bistro, you can have it sent from Mike at City Bistro to make the email come across more human. Depending on what email marketing provider you use, you can find helpful how-tos on making dynamic content. Here is an example from Constant Contact.

Testing

You want to make sure everything is in tip-top shape before pressing send to an email list. Send test emails to your own email address and read through the email as if you were the customer.

Click on each link you’ve provided to make sure they’re going to the right place. Test the CTA buttons to ensure they work. Make sure your images are clear and attractive. Even small details like the text color being right can make a huge difference.

Schedule it!

Once you feel confident that your email newsletter is ready to hit several inboxes, schedule it! You can choose to send the email right then and there, but from experience, I like to schedule it out at a later date (in case you wake up in the middle of the night realizing you want to edit something).

Do some research on the best time to send emails. According to Convince & Convert, the best time to send emails to consumers is Saturday at 12 AM (way, way past my bedtime!) This could be the sweet spot for you, but you won’t know until you try.

In the beginning, test out sending the email at different times and see what has the best open and click rate. You can even do some A/B testing (depending on what your email marketing tool permits) and split the email list up into two different send times or days. With analytics, you can see which email time performed better and use that for future reference.

Also consider the content you’re sending when deciding on a time to schedule the email for. Do you have happy hour deals Monday through Friday? Then, Saturday seems like the perfect time to inform customers about the week ahead.

Analyze the Results

Checking out how your email performed is essential to making sure you’re getting the most out of email marketing efforts. You can find out how many opens and clicks you got, as well as who unsubscribed from your email and who bounced. Bounces mean that the email address you sent the newsletter to was invalid, so remove those from your future lists.

To further drill down on email performance, you can analyze which content was most popular. You will be able to see how many clicks each CTA and link received to determine what interested your readers the most. If the third topic received the most attention, try moving it up to be the first section in your next email. Marketing includes a fair share of trial and error, so don’t be afraid to make some adjustments along the way.

Email marketing is a great way to keep your customers engaged and provide them with essential updates and happenings at your restaurant. A customer newsletter keeps your diners in-the-know by providing information on multiple topics at once. If you’re looking to improve your overall email marketing strategy, consider creating a newsletter and keep the dialogue between your business and your customers cooking. We hope these tips will help you to get started!

5 Useful Tools for Every Hospitality Business

It can sometimes feel impossible to keep up with the demands of the day-to-day grind of the hospitality industry, especially because of the fast-paced nature and constant focus on customers. Thankfully there are some great technology tools available that can help ease some of the workload – anything from staff learning and scheduling rosters to taking your menu digital – all to ensure that your days are more productive.

We highlight 5 handy hospitality industry tools you should be using now:

1. 7Shifts

Organizing your team’s roster can often be challenging, particularly when your staff don’t work regular hours. The clever thing with 7Shifts is that their cloud platform allows you to auto-schedule your staff based on their availabilities and create custom templates to suit your business, making it easy to coordinate your team. To take it one step further, you can also use their platform to manage sales and labor costs.

2. Sidekicker

Finding qualified seasonal staff is a common problem in the hospitality industry, where you may just need temporary staff for a one-off event, or a short contracted period. Sidekicker is an on-demand staffing platform that helps resolve this issue. Their database has over 11,000 experienced staff in hospitality, promotions, events, business administration, and retail. Staff profiles are detailed, rated and reviewed so that employers can easily find the right people for the job.

3. Typsy

Learning and upskilling should always be a priority for every hospitality professional, particularly as the industry faces a skills shortage. Typsy’s online learning platform offers hospitality businesses, staff, and schools the ability to assign professional hospitality courses and lessons with their 350+ video library. Users can learn essential industry skills in areas of culinary, beverage, service, marketing, and business. Courses are led by world leading hospitality professionals, including champion baristas, restaurant consultants, restaurateurs, and chefs.

4. ScreenCloud (Digital menu app)

Digital menu signs are beneficial for restaurants with certain concepts. Of course, you probably wouldn’t consider using them in a fine dining establishment, but they work really well in a fast-casual setting. Digital signage is not only aesthetically pleasing, it makes it easy to update information on menu items, discounts, and more.

With ScreenCloud’s menu feature, users can easily create, edit and customize digital menus in real time and manage it remotely for in-store display. Their software is also compatible with plenty of devices, meaning it can be displayed nicely across most screens within venues.

5. Upserve

Having the right point of sale system in your hospitality business is crucial for efficiency and a smooth operation. It’s also important for your POS to be industry-specific in order to ensure it can meet the demands of our industry. There are plenty of point of sale systems out there, but not all are geared toward restaurants and hospitality. Upserve is tailored to the restaurant and hospitality industries. Aside from basic POS functions, Upserve features like mobile payment, marketing tools, inventory control, and more.

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Using online tools in your hospitality business definitely has its benefits –  it’s efficient, saves time and it’s cost effective. By incorporating these tools you’ll increase productivity and have more time for priority areas in your business. Why not give these a shot?


About the Author: Glennise Pinili is the Social Media/Marketing Coordinator at Typsy, which is an online learning platform for hospitality businesses, staff and schools. Their bite-sized video courses help hospitality professionals skill up, serve the world better, and make every hospitality moment exceptional. Learn more at typsy.com, and follow them on FacebookLinkedinInstagram and Twitter.

3 Last-Minute Labor Day Restaurant Promotions

Labor Day is coming up and the extended weekend holiday is a reason for people to celebrate. Although the holiday marks the unofficial end of summer and starts back-to-school season, people are making plans to spend a long weekend away from work. Have you thought about how you’ll draw crowds to your restaurant? If not, we’ve cooked up 3 last minute restaurant promotions you can use this Labor Day.

A Brief History

So, why do we celebrate Labor Day in the first place? The holiday was created to honor American workers and their contributions to society. It became an official holiday way back in 1894 and always falls on the first Monday in September.

When Labor Day was first observed, the landscape of America’s labor force was dismal, to say the least. People worked long hours in unregulated factories and unsafe working conditions. Labor unions became prominent during this time in an attempt to provide a better way of life for workers. With the government and workforce at odds, many riots and strikes ensued. As a result, Congress attempted to make amends with the labor force by making Labor Day a legal holiday. Today, it’s still celebrated with barbecues, parades, and other public gatherings.

Three Labor Day Restaurant Promotions

Honor the American Worker

This seems like a no-brainer since the country’s workforce is what the holiday is all about. But, you can put your own twist on what Labor Day means to your restaurant by offering some history, and some deals, to guests. Provide quick fact sheets on tables and bar settings so people can learn all about the history of the holiday. You can even host a trivia event that covers the history of the American workforce over the years.

Offer discounts or a free item to diners who flash you a work or government ID. Giving customers a special deal shows that you appreciate the hard work they do all year!

Try out a “have a drink on us” special where people with proof of their work status receive a select drink on the house. It’s a great way to let customers sit back, relax, and enjoy the holiday celebration.

If you want to get really creative, you can base the discount on how many years someone has been on the job. If a healthcare physician has been in practice for 20 years, they’ll enjoy 20% off their meal, if a librarian has been serving a school for 35 years, they receive 35% off, and so on. This is a fun way to get to know your customers, discuss their work history, and offer a token of your appreciation.

Similarly, if you want to have guests participate in a raffle instead, ask them to write down their name and email for a chance to win a prize. You can collect email addresses for future marketing efforts and they’ll try their luck at being the winner.

Host One Last Summer Hoorah

Although many of us are sad that summer is coming to a close, there’s no reason we can’t enjoy what’s left of it. If you’re still offering an exclusive summer menu, you can slash prices on the warm weather items for the entirety of Labor Day weekend.

Host a happy hour with even deeper discounts on your summer drink selections. Throw a tapas and cocktail party with discounted drinks and food just for the weekend.

You can even have a “beat the clock” event where prices on select food and drinks start off at an insanely low cost and increase at the beginning of every hour. Racing against time will be fun for guests and inspire them to get early and stay a while!

Looking to let summer linger longer? Inspire customers to keep the summer vibe alive by choosing a theme, like a luau or backyard barbecue, to keep spirits lifted.

Usher in Fall Festivities

For those of you who are already looking forward to sweater weather and pumpkin-flavored everything, this is an opportunity to introduce autumn before it’s official (that’s not until September 22nd). Kick off the fall right by having a Hello Autumn bash. Unveil your new seasonal menu, offer tastings, and discount some items to give customers an idea of what they can expect at your restaurant this autumn.

Hand out coupons that can be used at a later date during the fall and that expire when winter takes over (September 22nd-December 21st). This will get people excited to return to your restaurant at another time and provides a sense of urgency because of the expiration date.

During the duration of Labor Day weekend (Friday through Sunday) ask customers to sign up for your mailing list to keep up with your fall events, specials, and deals. If they subscribe, they get a free appetizer or drink on the week of Labor Day. Win-win!

Labor Day was created to honor America’s workforce and our contributions to upholding society. Give back to the hardworking individuals in your community by offering exclusive holiday incentives, either just on Labor Day, or all weekend long! Your customers will appreciate the deals and special events and you’ll enjoy a large crowd of hungry diners. For more restaurant marketing ideas, check out the rest of our blog!


Interested in improving your restaurant’s online presence? We can help! SinglePlatform puts your menu and business information accurately on the search, review, travel, and social sites people are using to find new restaurants. Get in touch today to learn how we can help you stand out everywhere that matters online.

Why A Retail Point of Sale Is Not An Alternative To A Restaurant POS System

Do you own a restaurant business? Well, maybe you ran a local boutique that took off and now you’ve expanded to include a little coffee shop next door. Perhaps you tried your hand at retail first before realizing that the restaurant industry was your calling. Since you already had experience in retail, you decided to keep the same point of sale system you used in your boutique for your restaurant. Maybe you decided this on your own or received advice from someone else. Whatever the case may be, there seems to be a misconception out there that retail point of sale (POS) systems can work as substitutes for a restaurant POS and that notion is just plain wrong.

Before diving into why a retail POS is not ideal for a restaurant, let’s take a step back a first talk about what a point of sale is and why you should use one in the first place.

By definition: “A point of sale system is a combination of software and hardware that allows merchants to take transactions and simplify key day-to-day business operations.”

In today’s world, using a pen and paper and an old-fashioned cash register to complete transactions just isn’t practical. You want to be efficient in order to keep customers happy and tables turning. That’s where a point of sale system comes in. A point of sale system helps to make everything from inputting orders to inventory and even taking payment more streamlined.

But, using a POS that is tailored to retail isn’t wise because a restaurant is a completely different business with different needs. Having the technology in place that is industry-specific better caters to the demands of a restaurant business.

Here are 3 reasons why a retail POS simply is not an alternative to a restaurant POS.

Just Because You Can Use It, Doesn’t Mean You Should

Think about it like this: Just because you can physically cram seven people into a compact car doesn’t mean that you should, and it certainly doesn’t mean that opting for an SUV with an extra row of seats isn’t by far a superior option that will make the whole experience better for everyone. If you’re running a restaurant, the compact car in this scenario is a retail POS system and the SUV is played by a vastly superior restaurant POS system that’s designed specifically for all the unique demands that a restaurant puts on a POS system.

Sure, if you choose to use a retail POS for your restaurant, you can figure out workarounds to make it useable, but this isn’t the most effective use of your time. A point of sale system’s purpose is to make daily operations easier for you – so why waste your time trying to make something work when there are better options?

Plus, point of sale companies that are made for the restaurant industry strive to integrate with other restaurant-centric platforms. POS companies integrate with menu management companies, delivery services, loyalty programs, staff scheduling tools, and much more. You just won’t get that type of seamless integration with relevant restaurant technologies if you invest in a retail point of sale.

Before deciding on one point of sale system, weigh your options. Point of sale providers will be happy to provide you with a demo so you can see how the software works firsthand before choosing a provider.

The Need to Modify is More Important Than You Realize

How often does a retail team need to modify any of the inventory beyond adding a discount to a pair of jeans? Not often, if ever. Restaurant workers, on the other hand, are constantly modifying inventory to meet the often highly particular needs of their guests. Add cheese, substitute onion for tomato, and sweet potato fries instead of salad, are just a few modifications servers hear on a daily basis.

Without a restaurant POS system, you’ll have to rely on servers and bartenders to type all specifications in manually or run back to the kitchen every 20 minutes to communicate with the back of house staff. These methods leave a lot of room for human error, especially when the restaurant is busy at peak hours. Human error leads to mistakes, which lead to unhappy customers. Plus, these ways of noting modifications on orders are not the most efficient or time-friendly way to go about business.

In the restaurant industry, time is money, and you don’t want to be wasting time with manual work that could be automated with a point of sale system.

Going Beyond Just Sales is Essential

Retail POS systems only need to carry out very basic functions like selling, returning, discounting, and tracking items. In most retail scenarios, once something is sold, it goes from “in stock” to “out of stock” and that’s about it. Restaurant owners should demand so much more from their POS system in order to help streamline operations, recognize trends, and get the job done quicker.

  • As everyone knows these days, marketing is essential to successful restaurants, and you should be able to track your marketing campaigns through your point of sale.
  • Loyalty and rewards programs will keep customers coming back time after time, and is a feature that retail POS systems can’t handle. Unless you want to manage your loyalty program on a paper punch cards, you’ll need a restaurant POS system that can easily (and digitally) handle the functions of a rewards program.
  • Your inventory is always fluctuating. Keeping track of stock with pen and paper is unnecessary and not the best use of time, money, or resources. Restaurant inventory management saves owners 30-50 hours per week and will help streamline back-of-house, reduce waste, and cut your food costs.

Point of sale systems were made to help business owners make day-to-day tasks easier and faster. However, certain POS systems were created with a specific industry in mind. Retail software is great for clothing stores and furniture outlets, but they don’t serve the restaurant industry as well. Having industry-specific technology in place is wise because it was built with you, the restaurant owner, in mind. Before making a decision on a point of sale system, weigh your options, check out the features, and figure out what’s best for you.


About the Author: Vania works closely with the restaurant industry and has shared her behind-the-scenes stories and experiences for 5+  years.  She’s an ardent advocate of Upserve’s technology solution and the way it’s transforming the restaurant industry.

How Significantly Does Restaurant Lighting Affect the Meal?

Restaurant ambiance is key to setting the mood for your diners’ experience. Ambiance encompasses everything from color palette to furniture, wall decor to music. Restaurant lighting is an important element of your restaurant’s overall design, but does it also influence what and how we eat? Today, we’re putting a spotlight on restaurant lighting and how it affects the dining experience.

Setting the Mood

 Blacktail Blacktail

Of course, restaurant lighting plays a part in setting the mood. Depending on your restaurant concept, the lighting should reflect it. A romantic steakhouse usually has dim mood lighting enhanced with tabletop candles or lanterns. This emits a come and stay a while aura, which can encourage people to have the dessert and another glass of wine. Conversely, a fast-casual establishment is focused on getting people in and out the door, so bright lights encourage fast-paced feasting. Order your food on the assembly line, eat it, and move on.

Your ideal lighting can be achieved in a number of ways. Pendant lights, recessed lighting, and even wall lamps or ceiling fans can help bring vibrancy to your space. If you’re looking for a more eco-friendly and natural look, natural lighting from large windows will bring the outside in.

We love the lighting strategy that Westville Dumbo uses. They combine natural light, pendant fixtures, and sconces to create a friendly, open environment perfect for Sunday brunch or a laid-back lunch.

Another example of bright and beautiful light? ATX Cocina, a modern Mexican establishment in Austin, screams inviting, light, and breezy.

 ATX Cocina Via Dwell ATX Cocina Via Dwell

“Underlight” vs. “Overlight”

The placement of your lighting also sets a tone. Underlighting, such as candles on a table, are more flattering than overlights, like fixtures above your head. Underlights illuminate your face in a way that makes it look more attractive, whereas overhead lights can cast shadows and make you appear tired. If you’re on a first date, you want to be seen in your best light (pun intended). So, romantic restaurants should take advantage of table lighting and even consider placing lighting closer to the ground.

The Globe and Mail wrote a piece on how lighting can make you more attractive. Zebulon Perron, designer and design firm owner, noted:

[“You try to conceal lighting so people don’t really understand where the source is. They just kind of feel the glow. People look a lot better when they’re lit from underneath. If you’re going on a date and there’s candlelight from underneath, human features are enhanced by that. It’s the campfire phenomenon.”]

One if by Land, Two if by Sea is a NYC West Village staple that was voted #5 Most Romantic Restaurant in the World by Architectural Digest. They utilize large, rustic chandeliers and tall candlesticks, along with natural light, to create an unforgettable ambiance.

 Via Architectural Digest Via Architectural Digest

It’s wise to consider the lighting of your restaurant heavily when working on the overall design. Lights are very important features that set the stage for the rest of the layout, so choose wisely.

Influencing Dining Decisions

 Cecconi's of Miami Beach Via Architectural Digest Cecconi’s of Miami Beach Via Architectural Digest

Sure, lights can impact the mood, but they also influence what we decide to eat. And there’s research to prove it!

Food & Wine published an article on how light influences eating including research done by the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab:

[Data published in the Journal of Marketing Research shows that patrons dining in well-lit spaces are 16-24 percent more likely to order healthy dishes than those in dimly lit rooms, due to a higher level of alertness.]

This makes sense, right? Think about it – dim lighting evokes a sense of comfort, which in turn can make us a little more lenient about our dining habits for the night. But, if the light is bright, we’re more likely to think more strategically about what we order, in turn resulting in healthier decision making.

During the study, half of the focus group was placed in a dim room while the other half was in a bright room. When ordering, the dimly lit crowd ordered 39% more calories!

But, the lighting might just be one influence that can be manipulated. Health magazine discussed this research study as well:

[The researchers found that when diners in dimly-lit rooms were given a coffee placebo (or simply asked to be more alert) they were just as likely as their peers in the well-lit rooms to make healthy food choices.]

The state of your mind at the time of consumption may be the influencing factor, but the lighting can help determine your mood, and in turn, your mental state when ordering.

Impacting the Amount of Food Consumed

If you asked me before researching this topic, I would have guessed that dimmer lit rooms would influence people to eat more. As mentioned, a dim-lit room is more comfortable, which in turn would inspire me to stay longer and order more.

However, an interesting study at Hardee’s fast-food revealed a truth that researchers weren’t expecting.

The fast-food chain took one half of the restaurant and transformed into a fine dining atmosphere, complete with low lighting and soft music. Researchers thought that diners there would eat more and stay longer than those in the typical fast-food dining room. However, it was revealed that people did in fact linger, but they didn’t eat more. It’s clear that they enjoyed the atmosphere, but that the ambiance didn’t impact the amount of food consumption.

To top it off, the fine dining room patrons found the food to be more enjoyable than those who ate at the untouched fast-food section. This begs the question – should fast food restaurants test out a fine dining atmosphere?

The Instagram Influence

Restaurants are destinations for food and lifestyle bloggers and influencers, as well as other social media users who just love taking photos of pretty things. With the heavy influence of social media on dining decisions, you always want your restaurant represented positively. People will be checking out not only your restaurant’s social media channels, but those of the food influencers who post irresistible pictures of food, drinks, and restaurant design. You should consider how the lighting in your establishment affects their photoshoots.

A glowing review can do great things for your business’ reputation, but beautiful photos can as well. Test out the lighting in your place to see how snapshots look when taken with an iPhone. The popularity of social channels, Instagram in particular, has changed the way people think about dining out.

Dana Eisenberg of Mediaite explained how social media has impacted her restaurant discovery process:

[“Social media, particularly Instagram, and now Snapchat has completely overhauled the way we eat. Ten years ago, looking for a restaurant meant finding the most recent Zagat edition we had in my parents’ car and scouring the short, pithy reviews for something that looked acceptable. Now, it’s a process that generally takes longer than the actual meal. First, something on Instagram catches my eye. If there’s a geotag on the photo, awesome. If not, I’ll find it. I’ll scroll through the Instagram archives, looking at pictures (often all of the same dish) until I’ve had enough.”]

When dreaming up restaurant designs, you have to consider how your food and drinks will look on smartphone screens. Lighting can make or break the Instagram-worthiness of photos, so take that into account when picking out lamps and fixtures.

Let Your Light Shine

Restaurant lighting is an important element of the overall ambiance. It sets the tone, influences dining decisions, and makes or breaks a social media photo shoot. When considering your restaurant’s overall concept, design, and feel, lighting should be one of your points of focus. Although the food and drinks are your restaurant’s focal points, the lights shining down (or up) on them are just as relevant.

Partnership Profile: Guestfriend Delights Diners Using Virtual Host Technology

Guestfriend is a company that specializes in providing virtual hosts online for restaurants. They build personalized automated messaging tools for local businesses that let businesses effortlessly engage with their customers in real time across the web, Google, Facebook, and more. Today, we discuss Guestfriend and their innovative contribution to the restaurant industry.

The Purpose

The purpose of the product is to help businesses capture leads across all of their online channels and to make it incredibly simple for customers to get real-time answers to any questions they have about a business. Guestfriend was created to automate customer service for restaurant owners so their staff can focus on running the restaurant.

The Background

Guestfriend was created by restaurateurs for restaurateurs. 90% of people say they would prefer to communicate with businesses via text and messaging apps. Guestfriend founder and CEO Bo Peabody, who operates his own restaurants, Mezze and Allium, recognized the need to address this preference in technology in his niche of restaurants. The realization was sparked internally when Bo was trying to figure out how to correspond with customers online and via text without using too much man-power.

When talking to fellow restaurant owners, Bo realized that there was an opportunity to drive business through texting and messaging customers, but these restaurant owners didn’t quite know how to achieve success with it. So, in an organic series of events, Guestfriend was created.

The company received $5 million in seed funding from Primary Venture Partners, Techstars Ventures, and Betaworks. They launched in early 2018 and since have been educating local business owners on how their product can help drive new business and an improved customer experience.

How it Works

The Setup

The differentiating factor separating Guestfriend from other chatbots available is the amount of time the setup takes. Bo knows firsthand that restaurant owners are busy and don’t have much time to implement new technologies. Plus, with restaurant profit margins being some of the tightest out there, owners don’t want to spend a ton of money hiring third-party developers or agencies. Guestfriend takes minutes to implement and can be further customized later if a restaurant owner chooses to do so.

Once Guestfriend is implemented, it is already fully-customized to the restaurant’s specifications in categories that range from hours and dress code to ambiance and menu. The chatbot is a pop-up feature that appears in the corner of a website. It can also be easily added to your business’ Google search results and your Facebook and Twitter pages. Guests can even interact with it via a custom SMS text message number.

The Interaction

If someone interacts with the bot on your website, on your social channels, or through the SMS number, the bot will respond in real-time and provide answers to hundreds of questions based on the inquiries. It will also direct customers to the correct web pages they’re looking to access. For example, if someone asks about your dinner menu, the bot will suggest a few menu favorites and also provide a link to the full menu.

Of course, since the bot operates through Artificial Intelligence, it can’t always answer questions intended to “break the bot.” If the AI is stumped, it will direct the customer to contact the business directly or submit a simple form so the business can follow up offline. Business owners can even jump into the conversation in real time via Guestfriend’s simple dashboard to answer more complex questions or close a valuable business lead on the spot. Regardless of how complex the question is, customers will always receive either a direct answer or be routed to someone at the business who can help them.

Customer service is taken to the next level with the Guestfriend chatbot. 64% of people have a positive perception of companies who offer communication through text and messaging. Guestfriend is making it easier to have those interactions customers are looking for without an employee being glued to a keyboard 24/7.

The Future

Guestfriend is ramping up their efforts on both the product development and marketing fronts. They are excited for the future of AI and customer service. Right now, their focus is on the restaurant vertical, but they will soon be launching products in other small business verticals like home services, health and wellness, hotels, and professional services.

The team at Guestfriend looks forward to providing restaurateurs and other small business owners the ability to take their customer service up a notch without exhausting the resources of their staff. We look forward to seeing how the product helps business owners, and evolves, in the near future.

For more information on the product, visit www.getguestfriend.com.

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