5 Simple Ways to Prepare Your Restaurant for Fall

As we mentioned in an earlier blog on boosting sales with a seasonal menu, a new season is just around the corner. You may already be thinking up new menu items for autumn, but there are other preparations you should be making as well. We highlight 5 ways to prepare your restaurant for fall.

Do Some Autumn Cleaning

Cleanliness is Key

The catchphrase is spring cleaning, but there’s no reason why you can’t spruce things up around your restaurant ahead of fall! Give your kitchen a thorough scrub, clean out the refrigerators and freezers, and make sure your dining space and restrooms are sparkling. With the busyness of business getting in the way, it’s easy to forget to clean tough to reach places, like the tops of chandeliers, behind tables and chairs, and in the shelves and drawers of your space.

When the weather gets colder, germs spread quicker, and you want to start the season off in tip-top shape! Plus, the cleanliness of your restaurant is a direct reflection of your business and yourself. You don’t want guests walking into your establishment to see dirt and dust. Research performed in the UK showed that restaurant cleanliness was a more important factor to patrons than customer service. Keep it clean!

Sanitation and Health Code

Health inspections typically happen twice per year and are usually unannounced. You always want to be prepared for a surprise visit by keeping your restaurant as clean as possible. It’s wise to keep your staff informed about the correct food handling and sanitation procedures. Restaurants are shut down over violations of health codes, food handling, and cleanliness.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene began requiring restaurants to display their health inspection grades in 2010. This allowed customers to enjoy more transparency about the status of the restaurant they choose. Since this took effect, there have been less restaurant closings and more higher grades across NYC’s 23,000+ restaurants.

A statement from the New York Times: “The restaurant rating program is an example of how powerful transparency can be,” Ms. Schiff said. “New Yorkers are using the grades to motivate restaurants to create a better dining experience for everybody.”

According to NYC Health, 21,968 NYC restaurants have passed with an A grade for sanitation in 2018. At the same time, 58 have been closed so far this year due to a failing health inspection grade.

Sanitation matters. You don’t want to lose your business because you didn’t take care of your restaurant space properly.

Train Your Staff Effectively

You’re probably saying goodbye to some staff members who are headed back to high school or college. If you’ve recently hired some new employees for your team, you’ll want to properly train them before they hit the dining room floor. Create a training schedule to help training run smoothly. Assign current employees to training duties and designate specific days and hours to training efforts. Having a clear strategy can help the training process be more efficient and useful.

You want new employees to stick around. Unfortunately, the average tenure of a restaurant employee is 1 month and 26 days. Proper training and ongoing education, along with incentives, can help you with employee retention.

Be confident that your new employees are educated about the important elements of your restaurant. Staff should be well-versed in all the menu items, including seasonal items, the operations of your restaurant, and the customer service standards you want them to abide by.

Take newcomers through important motions, from setting the tables to serving food. Allow them to shadow current employees to see how best to execute their duties. Learning firsthand the ins and outs of your restaurant gives new employees the experience they need to be confident in performing positively in the role. You can also consider mixing in some online training to help staff become educated independently.

Even seasoned staff members may need a refresher course. Offer ongoing training opportunities to help your staff stay sharp and become better at their tasks. This can even lead to promotions and advancement within the company.

Decorate with Fall Inspiration

Autumn brings a sense of warmth and comfort, reflect this in your restaurant’s decor. Depending on your restaurant’s ambiance and design, there are plenty of design elements you can incorporate to make it seem more like fall.

Harvest Colors

Small details, like napkins or plates that are dark fall hues, like brown, auburn, or burgundy, can add a pop of deep color. The Pantone color of the year, Ultra Violet, is a rich purple that could work well with your current color palette. New tablecloths can easily give your space a fresh look. Color has an effect on how we perceive food and on our mood, learn more about that here.

Natural Elements

Do you have a fireplace or mantel? Decorate it with fall foliage and real harvest items like pumpkins and gourds. Create centerpieces with faux leaves, wood influences, and candles. Fabric like burlap is cost effective and can be used for table runners or tied around mason jars for table decor. Earthy elements can help bring the outside in and make guests feel at home.

Make it Instagram Worthy

Instagram has a huge influence on how people perceive restaurants and food. Create an area perfect for an Instagram photoshoot. Warm lighting and props like those mentioned above can help stage the perfect fall tablescape for a photo-op. Ask customers to tag your restaurant social handles and use your business name as a hashtag, or make one up specifically for this!

Host Autumn Themed Events

Introduce the new season by inviting guests for a fall gathering. September 22nd is the first official day of fall. It’s a Saturday, which is the perfect time to host an event at your restaurant. Consider hiring a band, offering complimentary fall treats (apple cider doughnuts, pumpkin pie, apple crumb bars), and introducing your seasonal menu. A changing season gets people excited about a new start, so take advantage of this by celebrating.

With autumn comes a new season of sports, most notably professional and college football. If you’re running a sports bar, bar and grill, or casual dining concept, you should prepare for your sports-related events. What specials will you offer? Do you have televisions and seating for proper game viewing? Make your restaurant or bar the premier spot to enjoy football games for the season.

Looking for a non-sports social gathering? Host a fall wine festival and let guests taste samples of your new beverage offerings. You can do a wine and cheese pairing event and make a profit off of ticket purchases. Take it a step further and offer a paint and sip party featuring a harvest-inspired painting. You can also host an exclusive fall tasting menu night where guests pay a prix fixe fee to get a taste of your new menu items.

Run a Contest

Looking to increase traffic to your restaurant ahead of the new season? Want to do something fun for your guests? Start an autumn-inspired contest to get people talking about your business. Depending on your goal, a contest can be as easy as asking customers to write down their name and email for a raffle. The prize can be a $100 gift card to dine with you, a fall-themed picnic basket, or tickets to a local event. This is a win-win for you and the winner because they received a prize and you’ve just captured email addresses. Build an email list to keep customers in the know about future contests and other happenings.

Once a winner is chosen, spread the great news on your social media accounts. Tag the winner and ask them to take a photo with their prize to post on their own account.

You can also run your contest on Instagram. Create a contest-specific hashtag like #ForrestCafeFallsforFall. Ask diners to take a photo at your restaurant, follow your account, tag two friends, and use the hashtag. Pick one lucky winner from those who followed all the rules. You can gain followers this way and also have the opportunity to follow those other social users who were tagged in their friends’ posts. Build a social community through a contest, it’s simple and effective.

New seasons are Mother Nature’s way of giving you more business opportunities. Play up the excitement of the introduction of autumn by giving your restaurant a fresh start to fall. From things as simple as cleaning the space to running contests and promoting events, there are plenty of ways you can prepare for the season ahead.

5 Real-Life Restaurant Promotions To Inspire Your Own

Restaurant promotions can help stir up some business in slower months, during a lull in the day’s business hours, or even when traffic in your restaurant is at its highest. People love discounted or free items and they give diners an incentive to visit you and even choose your establish over another. So, which restaurants have had success with running promotions? We highlight 5 stellar restaurant promotions that you can take cues from in your own business.

Starbucks Happy Hour

 Via USA Today Via USA Today

When you hear the word happy hour, your mind probably goes to discounted beers and spirits, half-priced tapas, and deals on select cocktails. Happy hours in bars and restaurants help to draw in after-work crowds and late night party-goers. But, happy hour doesn’t just have to be for liquor and bar food. Starbucks took the idea of happy hour and ran with it – for coffee and novelty drinks.

Starbucks Happy Hour first launched in 2010 with discounted Frappuccinos on specific days. Lines flooded the streets with people waiting for a discounted mocha fix. The uber-popular event left baristas out of breath, so Starbucks decided to revamp the promo by making it more exclusive. And let’s face it, exclusivity is attractive.

Today, if you go to happyhour.starbucks.com you’ll find a form waiting to be filled out with your name, email address, and zip code. This signs you up to be a Starbucks Rewards member and allows you to receive updates on news and promotions. Genius, right? Now, they’ve captured tons of email addresses to be used in marketing efforts. Although Starbucks is taking a bit of a revenue cut by offering BOGO pricing on select items, they’re capturing more customer data to be used later on. Pretty great marketing if you ask us.

Starbucks is currently running a buy-one-get-one free happy hour promotion just on iced drinks, including iced coffees and lattes, cold brew, and even their iced tea concoctions. This event is perfect for the end of summer. And, of course, they’re not running this promo during the morning caffeine rush. BOGO starts after 3 pm on certain days – making it hard for people to resist that second coffee to reverse their mid-afternoon slump.

So, how can you execute on inspiration from Starbucks’ Happy Hour? You may already offer happy hour specials at your restaurant, but try making additional offers more exclusive. Let patrons know that if they sign up for your mailing list, they can unlock more deals and discounts. 55% of consumers receptive to email marketing prefer money-off deals. If you offer hard to resist promotions, diners will be waiting for new deals to hit their inbox so they can dine with you again.

Domino’s Potholes for Pizza

 Via Entrepreneur Via Entrepreneur

Yes, you read that correctly. Domino’s recently introduced their Potholes for Pizza campaign which is helping towns across America pave the way for more perfect pizza. They’re asking consumers to nominate towns who are in dire need of road repair. Then, they’re acting on it by helping fill gaps in the pavement so pizzas don’t get bumped or bruised during delivery.

According to a press release, Domino’s is providing grants to selected towns in order to make their roads great again. To date, they’ve already fixed around 200 potholes in four cities.

This promotion isn’t monetarily based as far as offering discounts on food items, but it makes Domino’s look really, really good. A pizza chain that cares about your community? The effort and execution they’re putting behind this initiative shows that Domino’s cares about its patrons and their neighborhoods. This gives the restaurant brand a human-like quality that can’t be achieved just by offering coupons.

Of course, we don’t expect your restaurant to participate in something to this scale, but you can take cues from Domino’s strategy and apply it to your business. Make a statement in your community, put a face behind your brand, and participate in local charities or other town events. Sponsor local community events and get to know people in your neighborhood. This type of restaurant promotion shows that you care and helps build relationships that can turn into long-time patronage.

Sonic’s Sip the Night Away

 Via TV Commercial Spots Via TV Commercial Spots

We’ve all seen those iconic Sonic commercials, the gimmicky bits starring improv comedians that have been serving up laughs since 2002. And although Sonic banks on these funny quips, what they’re really trying to sell is not their jokes, but their current restaurant promotions.

Currently, Sonic is offering a “Sip Your Night Away ‘Til Labor Day” deal that offers half-priced drinks after 8pm. Shakes, floats, and ice cream slushies are all on sale for the remainder of the summer. Similar to Starbucks’ Happy Hour, this sweet deal offers a price-cut on items during a time that probably sees less foot traffic than peak hours.

What do we like about it? The relevance. Summer is the time of year that people want to enjoy icy drinks and delicious shakes. Plus, with school dismissed until after Labor Day, families and groups of friends are staying out later than usual to get the most out of the long hours of summer solstice. This is why offering summer-specific deals after 8pm is a huge win. Plus, if you sign up for their mobile app, you can enjoy a free drink or slushie.

Test this out in your own restaurant by offering seasonal-specific deals. You can dream up a new seasonal menu and offer discounts on select items during a specified time frame. Since fall is just around the corner, test out some seasonal items at a discount and see how popular they are. After school (3-5pm) or the post-work rush (5-7pm) could be golden opportunities for increasing business through promotions. Once daylight savings time comes around in the beginning of November, you can create a promotion around that. “After Dark Deals” can help inspire hibernating diners to come out for a meal instead of staying put on the couch.

Dairy Queen’s Blizzard of the Month

 Via Chewboom Via Chewboom

I’ve been craving a DQ Blizzard all summer now. Unfortunately, I don’t live in close proximity to a Dairy Queen, but I do see their mouthwatering Blizzard commercials quite often. The mixed ice cream treats are delicious and seemingly unbothered by gravity (if your Blizzard falls to the ground when you turn it upside down, there’s some sort of guarantee).

Dairy Queen makes one Blizzard, in particular, the star of the show each month with their Blizzard of the Month promotion. For instance, this month gives special praise to their Reese’s Outrageous Blizzard. You can join the Dairy Queen Blizzard Fan Club (which has over 4 million members, by the way) to enjoy their buy 6 get one Blizzard deal.

Although the Blizzard of the Month isn’t specially discounted for the month, we like that Dairy Queen makes a buzz around a new item each month. This makes it exciting for those dedicated Blizzard lovers to see what’s next on the pedestal. Plus, if the Blizzard of the Month catches a hungry person’s eye, they may just make a specific trip to pick one up.

When planning your next calendar year, try dedicating each month to a different stand-out item. You can offer discounts around those items for that month, or just promote it heavily on social media to make it hard to resist coming in to try one. When coming up with an item of the month, pay attention to the food-inspired national holidays. September 13th, for example, is National Guacamole Day. Why not just make the whole month of September a celebration of guac?

Chili’s 3 for $10 Deal

 Via Chili's Via Chili’s

Chili’s, the popular restaurant chain that puts a bit of spice into the casual dining landscape, has a 3 for $10 promotion running that lets diners choose a drink, a starter, and an entree all for one Alexander Hamilton. Of course, the beverage option is non-alcoholic, and entree items are pretty basic, like chicken fingers and a burger. But, for $10, how can anyone really complain?

The deal is available for dining in or picking up, which makes it an even better deal that reaches a wider audience. You can adapt this idea to your restaurant menu by choosing certain items that can be combined to make an irresistible deal at a low price point. Different combinations include an appetizer and entree for $15, an alcoholic beverage and an entree for $20, or an appetizer, entree, and dessert for $25.

Play around with the menu offerings and price to find what works for you. If you want to put a time constraint on this deal, offer it as a lunch promotion or dinner discount on certain weeknights. Just make sure you’re staying profitable while offering a deal that’s difficult to pass up.

Promotions, discounts, and deals are great ways to get new and returning customers in your doors. They’re useful when trying to attract crowds during slower hours, looking to boost business in off-season months, or just to create year-round buzz for your restaurant.

Large restaurant chains have the manpower and budget to create attractive and memorable campaigns around their current promotions. Although you may not want to offer a promotion on that big of a scale, you can take inspiration from these restaurant brands and apply them to your own business.

Can You Boost Sales By Introducing a Seasonal Autumn Menu?

Summer is on its way out the door. Chain stores are displaying fall (and even winter, yikes!) decor and people are gearing up for a new season. It may seem like autumn is on its way too soon, but when it comes to revamping your menu, you should get ahead of the game.

Now is the perfect time to reevaluate your menu and offer up some fresh items for fall. The change of seasons gives you an opportunity to introduce new ingredients and menu items in order to attract new crowds.

Plus, an updated or brand new menu gives you fresh marketing opportunities. Marketing your menu will help to drive more diners, which in turn means more sales.

Marketing the Menu

Use social media to let followers know that you’ve brought on some exciting autumn-inspired eats. Send an email newsletter to make a splash about the seasonal additions. Even consider hosting a special event to introduce your autumn menu.

Does updating your menu help to boost sales? Again, it’s all about how you market it. It’s obvious that people get excited when they hear about change. Whenever Starbucks introduces a new Frappuccino, the crowd goes wild! When they dropped the Unicorn Frappuccino in 2017, it sold out. The popular coffee chain is one of many who introduce new seasonal items in order to get people excited about the brand again. Unmetric evaluated Starbucks’ social strategy:

 Via Time Via Time

[From Zombie Frappuccinos to Pumpkin Spice Latte, Starbucks has managed to create a cult following for their various offerings. Even though the brand does not post that often, whenever they do, there is a frenzy around it. The brand posted more photos than any other type of content and they had the highest engagement as well.]

If you advertise your new menu effectively, you can get your customer base excited to dine with you again. Starbucks, to use the same example, does a great job marketing their products whenever they’re releasing a new item. They hype up the crowd and get patrons excited about what’s to come. Although you probably won’t be serving up any Unicorn Fraps, you can take some cues to incorporate into your strategy.

Don’t forget to get your seasonal menu online so you can reach more new potential diners. People are looking for places to eat all the time, so you want to be visible on the platforms they’re searching on. When you use a tool like SinglePlatform, you can post announcements on the top of your menus. This is prime real-estate to let diners know that you have new menu items, specials, and events.

Menu Descriptions

The way you describe your menu items can help entice your hungry customers. Menu expert Gregg Rapp notes menu descriptions are an important factor in determining your profitability.

If you’re selling a hanger steak with two sides for $40, the basic description would be “Hanger Steak with Mixed Vegetables and Potatoes.” Boring, right?

Get a little more creative when telling your customers what they’re ordering. Creating a story around the meal paints a picture in a customer’s mind, which can help justify the cost and inspire them to order it.

Hanger Steak with Mixed Vegetables and Potatoes becomes Orchard Farms Seared Hanger Steak with Parmesan Crusted Zucchini Chips and Garlic Roasted Potatoes.

Doesn’t that sound so much more delicious?

When going for an autumn-inspired offering, think about what kind of emotions, scents, and tastes the season evokes. Crisp air, savory foods, and dark hues are quintessential autumn elements. Let those shine through in your menu descriptions to give your guests that warm, fuzzy feeling they’re looking for when the air gets colder.

Menu Items

So, what should these new dishes include? We explore 3 autumn-inspired ingredients you can incorporate into your menu. Of course, when formulating a new menu, you should consider the factors that go into profitability, like the cost of goods and pricing it right.

Mushrooms

 Via Veggie Primer Via Veggie Primer

Description: Edible mushrooms are eaten for their nutritional and sometimes medicinal value. The Portobello has a meaty texture and a rich flavor. The white button is milder, but is the most commonly used one of the bunch. Shiitake mushrooms release a garlic-pine aroma and have an earthy umami flavor.

When Wholefoods released their picks for the Top Food Trends of 2018, “functional mushrooms” made the cut. We think fall is the right time to introduce some functional fungi into your dishes.

Portobello mushrooms can replace meat to create a hearty burger topped with goat cheese and apricot chutney. Create a mushroom broth soup to warm the chill of the autumn air. Mushroom risotto, stuffed mushrooms, and a pasta dish with garlic mushroom sauce are all great options for incorporating a savory fall flavor. And there are different kinds to choose from! Portobello, white button, and shiitake can be used in different recipes to pack a punch.

Butternut Squash

 Via InspiredTaste Via InspiredTaste

Description: Butternut squash is by far sweeter than other squashes thriving in winter. It is a nutty dose, but sometimes it is similar to other vegetables. For instance, its flavor is particularly the same as sweet potatoes when in purees, or as a pumpkin but a little sweeter.

This vegetable just screams out fall (arguably more so than a Pumpkin Spice Latte – but don’t quote us on that). And there are so many ways you can use it. If you think butternut squash soup is too overplayed, get more creative.

A simple cinnamon butternut squash roast can be a replacement for the age-old mashed potato side. Toss them with another fall favorite, Brussels sprouts, in an autumn casserole. Transform it into a dessert with a butternut squash layer bar or pie. The possibilities are practically endless!

Bosc Pears

 Via Fast Growing Trees Via Fast Growing Trees

Description: Bosc pears have a golden russet-colored skin. The creamy, off-white flesh is tender yet crisp with an intense honeyed aroma. Bosc pears have a pleasantly sweet flavor with hints of fall spices. The flesh of a Bosc pear may be dense, but it is also quite juicy.

This fruit is in season from September through April, making it a great option for your fall menu. You can bake them with brown sugar for a sweet, healthy treat to serve over ice cream. Poached pears may also be a hit. Looking for savory? Pair them with bleu cheese or aged gouda on a fall-inspired charcuterie plate. Or, combine them with shallots to dress a pork tenderloin.

Autumn is upon us, which means you should consider switching up your menu for a new season. Presenting a fresh menu can help drive more customer interest and profits. The way you market your menu can help drive new business by creating buzz about brand new items. There are plenty of seasonal ingredients to choose from in order to make your offerings hard-to-resist. Get a head start on your fall menu and contact SinglePlatform to get it distributed to the places that matter online.

Are You Missing Out On Making Your Restaurant More Profitable? (In Ways That Have Nothing to do With Marketing)

We talk a lot about how to smartly market your restaurant. But, how do you increase profits in ways other than marketing? Today, we discuss what else you should be doing to make your restaurant more profitable.

Pricing it Right

Your menu has to be priced competitively, but not too competitively. You need to make money, but you also don’t want to turn guests away with a price tag that’s too high. So, how do you find a happy medium? Think strategically about your menu prices and consider not only the cost to you, but the amount local competitors are charging as well.

In order to make smart decisions about menu pricing is by getting an understanding of how much each plate is really costing you vs. how much you’re making off of it. You can do this by calculating your food cost percentage (FCP). The equation is pretty simple:

How much the ingredients cost / How much you sell the dish for

= Food Cost Percentage

The general sweet spot for restaurants is to keep your FCP around 28-35%. However, the percentage is based upon what type of food you serve. Steakhouses are going to have higher food cost percentages (more on the 35-40% side) than pasta restaurants because the ingredients they use cost more. Of course, you want to keep the FCP as low as possible without taking away the quality of your offerings.

Let’s look at an example. If you sell a pasta dish with diced chicken and vegetables for $21 and the ingredients cost you $6, your food cost percentage will be:

$6.00 / $21.00 = 28%

For this dish, you’re right in the range where you want to be. Make sure you’re going through this calculation with each menu item (of course, you need to be aware of your ingredient cost for every dish).

Let’s look at an example where the food cost percentage is high. You’re selling a steak and potatoes with mixed vegetables for $32. The ingredients cost you $13.

$13.00/$32.00 = 40.6%

This is above the average FCP range, but it’s not surprising because it’s a steak, which is typically a higher quality item where the ingredients cost more.

When you find the food cost percentage of a certain dish is too high, consider using less expensive ingredients or adjust your price accordingly, keeping in mind what customers will be willing to pay for it. It’s good to have a mixture of items, some higher end and some with a lower food cost, so that they balance out the menu and FCP nicely.

Understanding the Importance of Menu Design

We’ve introduced you to Gregg Rapp, the menu engineer. Gregg has made a career out of helping restaurant owners restructure menus to gain more profit.

The way your menu is designed, where items are located on a page, and whether or not you use dollar signs in front of prices, all have an influence on the profitability of your menu. Other factors, like how many items are within each category, and the font you choose, also play a role in the success of your menu.

How long has it been (if ever) since you last took a good look at your current menu? Take the time to examine your menu with the consideration of profitability for your business. This attention to detail can uncover new opportunities to earn you more money.

Want Gregg’s help? Visit his website to get in touch.

Considering Your Gross Profit Margin

Calculating your food cost percentage is essential, but remember that you’re not only accounting for the cost of food when considering how much profit you’re making.

Gross profit is what is left after you deduct the direct costs of goods sold, such as food costs and labor costs directly associated with preparation and serving, from your revenue.

Of course, this means you should consider your restaurant’s Gross Profit Margin (GPM). With Typically, the Gross Profit Margin for a restaurant can range between 0-15%.

You can calculate the Gross Profit Margin by subtracting the cost of goods sold (and the labor costs) from the revenue and then dividing that number by the revenue.

GPM = Revenue – Cost of Goods Sold/Revenue

Let’s say in a year’s time your restaurant makes a total of 1.25 million dollars in revenue. In order to produce the food you spent 1.1 million dollars.

Gross Profit Margin = (1,250,000 – 1,100,000)/ 1,250,000 = 12%

Calculating Your Net Profit Margin

This calculation is considered when determining whether a restaurant can sink or swim. It’s different than your Gross Profit Margin because this is the amount of money that’ll actually be going into your pocket.

When it comes to your Net Profit Margin (NPM), you have to factor in other restaurant costs than just food and labor, like rent, bills, salaries, marketing efforts, and equipment. Your NPM is the profit you’ll actually be taking home.

NPM = Revenue – All Costs/Revenue

As a frame of reference, the average net profit margin for all S&P 500 companies is a little over 8 percent. When it comes to restaurants, in 2017, full-service restaurants had average profit margins of 6.1 percent. So, what does an example of a net profit look like?

Last year your restaurant made 1.25 million in revenue. After all was said in done in calculating all costs, you determined you spent 1.16 million.

Net Profit Margin = 1,250,000 – 1,160,000/1,250,000 = 7.2%

That 7.2% is a healthy margin by restaurant industry standards. Do this exercise to determine your Net Profit Margin. Is it too low? Reevaluate your costs including aspects like your rent, monthly bills, and payroll. You can also consider cutting costs of food and beverage or changing your menu to be more cost-effective.

Marketing is a great tool to help gain more profit for your restaurant. But, there are many other considerations you need to take into account when looking to become more profitable. Keeping a pulse on how your business is performing can help you make actionable decisions that will result in more money for you!

5 Ways to Creatively Market Your College Town Restaurant

Back to school season is right around the corner and has even already begun in some states. College kids typically head back to campus in early to mid-August for yet another semester. In a recent blog we discussed 5 Back to School Restaurant Promotions to use in the spirit of school being back in session. Today, we’re focusing in on college town restaurants and how those businesses can creatively market to new and returning students.

Offer Free Samples

Take a cue from the big-box chain stores like BJ’s and Costco who make bulk shopping a can’t-miss event by offering customers free samples.

Let’s face it, college kids love free stuff. They’re tight on cash, but still hungry for great food. Use this to your advantage by offering up some free samples, either at your location or on campus. This is a great way to market your college town restaurant, give students a taste of what you offer, and do some essential face-to-face interaction. If students like what they taste, they’ll be more inspired to visit your restaurant and order it again.

Free samples can even have an effect on reciprocity. According to Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke University: “If somebody does something for you”—such as giving you a quarter of a ravioli on a piece of wax paper—“you really feel a rather surprisingly strong obligation to do something back for them.”

While promoting the free samples, you can throw in a coupon for 10% off the next meal or a free appetizer. Again, any kind of discount or free item goes a long way for a busy college kid. Plus, you’re giving them a reason to come into your restaurant at a later date.

Hand Out Swag

What better way for you to market your college town restaurant than to have walking billboards all over campus? Get some fun t-shirts printed up with your company logo and give them away at your location, on campus, or at other community events.

You can even see if the campus administrative buildings will place your branded pens in common areas for students to use and take home. Other swag ideas include umbrellas (for those rainy day walks to class), hats, mugs, and tote bags.

Although purchasing giveaways items is an investment, it’s great for getting the word out there about your business. And it’s effective! It’s said that 85% of people have done business with a company after receiving a promotional product. That same research shows that logoed mugs are more effective advertising than radio and television spots! Now, that’s good marketing.

People find it important for promotional products to be something useful, so keep that in mind. Plus, like we mentioned above, college students love free stuff. They’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Sponsor an Event

Activity doesn’t just stop when the last class is over. There are tons of clubs, groups, and teams that participate in events all over campus. Find out if you can be a sponsor an event or offer a prize for an auction, charity event, or raffle. This is a prime opportunity for your restaurant’s name to be mentioned on a microphone in front of a large crowd, in promotional flyers, or any other marketing collateral there may be for the event.

The Event Marketing Institute found that 74% of consumers are more likely to buy products after exposure to a branded event marketing experience.

Be sure to do some social posting, like an Instagram story or Snapchat filter, around your participation in the activity.

Being active in the college community can help you become a household (and “dormhold”) name.

Get Creative on Social Media

College-aged individuals are more in tune with social media than anyone else. This means you have to go the extra mile to make your social presence more interactive, fun, and effective.

Posting an update about happy hours or daily specials is useful, but it’s not enough. 5 out of 6 millennials connect with companies on social media networks. They’re not just looking for updates, they’re looking for interaction and acknowledgement from brands.

Consider their Opinions

How do you achieve this next level of social engagement? Make use of the tools available on the platforms. Instagram just released new updates that offer new stickers for Instagram stories. You can take polls, answer questions, and mention other social media users.

Testing out ideas for a new special? Ask your audience if they’d prefer a buffalo chicken wrap or a BBQ chicken panini. You can then make a decision based on your poll results and let your followers know that the decision was made because of them. This makes people feel like you listened and that you care about what they want.

Answer their Questions

Consider hosting a weekly or bi-weekly Q&A session using Instagram questions. Let your followers ask your restaurant things they want to know and address each question in your story. This gives followers a deeper insight into what your business is all about. Plus, you might just answer some burning questions people have been wondering about for quite some time.

Interact

If someone comments on your restaurant’s post, update, or photo, respond! 62% of millennials say that if a brand engages with them on social networks, they are more likely to become a loyal customer.

Make it Fun

Consider creating a Snapchat geofilter that customers can use when they’re in your restaurant. This is great for brand exposure and visibility to additional Snapchat users who may not be following you (yet).

Host a contest on social media. Tell followers that if they geotag your location and tag your Instagram handle in their post, they’ll enjoy 20% off their next order. This gets you in front of those individuals’ followers for even more exposure.

When it comes to social media, the possibilities are endless. Get creative when targeting this young audience of people who are checking their smartphones 45 times per day.

Host Your Own Events

You’ve gotten out in the community and on campus, participated in local charities, and handed out promo items. Next, consider bringing the party to your place. College nights can be a huge success if you have enough event space to host a crowd.

Designate one day of the week to a college-geared event. Are you a Mexican restaurant? Offer Taco Tuesdays with a discount on margaritas and beer. Italian cuisine? Buy-one-get-one pasta Mondays can entice people to eat with you and bring their friends. Have a martini bar? Half off Thursdays from 5-8pm can be your thing. College students are always looking for deals on meals and a place to have a good time. Be that place! Let your followers know about these events ahead of time by scheduling your social posts.

If you want festivities to continue late into the night, hire a live band or a DJ. You can even scout the campus to see if there are some bands that are looking for gigs.

Market this event by handing out flyers on campus and posting to social media. You can even ask the University if they’ll mention the event on their social accounts. It’s likely that most students are following their college’s social channels, so take advantage whenever you can.

If you market the event effectively and execute it even better, you’ll become to next hot spot to be each week.

In Conclusion

Having a restaurant located in a college town poses unique opportunities for your business. Your target audience is between the ages of 18-24, is active on social media, and is always looking for a great deal or a place to hang out. If you’re creative with how you market your college town restaurant to students, you can inspire them to dine with you for the duration of their campus life (and possibly beyond!)

SinglePlatform Customers on Food & Wine’s 40 Most Important Restaurants List

Food & Wine Magazine just released “The 40 Most Important Restaurants of the Past 40 Years.” These restaurants have played a part in defining dining in America over the decades. The list is comprised of restaurants new and old, open and closed, across the entire country. We examined the lineup and found several SinglePlatform customers who were chosen as standout establishments. Below, we explore each restaurant part of the SinglePlatform family and what makes them unique.

Brennan’s of Houston

 Via Brennan's of Houston Via Brennan’s of Houston

This Houston spot has endured its fair share of ups and downs. It’s one of the best Southern restaurants in the country, but that doesn’t come without challenges. 2008’s Hurricane Ike resulted in a fire that burned the restaurant down. But, like the Phoenix, Brennan’s rose from the ashes and continued on.

Brennan’s of Houston opened in 1967 and is the sister restaurant of the famous New Orleans’ Commander’s Palace. For over 50 years, Brennan’s has been serving up Texas Creole cuisine like the Holy Trinity Crudo, Hunter’s Honey Roasted Duck, and Snapping Turtle Soup, just to name a few.

But, the food isn’t the only contributor to decades of success. Brennan’s of Houston is immensely proud of the Southern charm that their staff exudes, a sense of hospitality that can make anyone feel at home.  If you visit their website, you’ll see a section in the “About Us” dedicated to the staff. You can read their bios to learn more about the people who uphold Brennan’s standards. Plus, they’ve got a great blog with recipes, events, and more.

Spago

 Via Spago Via Spago

Spago of Beverly Hills is the brainchild of famous chef Wolfgang Puck. Back in 1982 when he opened its doors, Wolfgang was at the forefront of the “celebrity chef” concept. Spago is his flagship restaurant that attracts A-listers of the L.A. dining scene. Since, he has built up the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group with a host of restaurants, bars, and lounges nationally and internationally.

Spago’s concept is modern fine-dining and a 2012 renovation gave way to a sleek design. The menus are inventive and modern to match. Guests can enjoy items ranging from caviar to ricotta gnocchi and Japanese Wagyu. For a taste of the west coast, diners can choose to try the California Tasting Menu.

As for Wolfgang Puck, he got his start in Austria when he began cooking alongside his mother. At age 24 he moved to the states and immersed himself in the restaurant industry. Today, he is the famous face behind the brand that has expanded to three companies: Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, Wolfgang Puck Catering, and Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, Inc.

Daniel

 Via Daniel Via Daniel

Just the name Daniel is synonymous with restaurant royalty. The chic Park Avenue NYC restaurant opened in 1993 and is known for its European cuisine and a wine cellar that houses over 25,000 bottles. Named after the acclaimed chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud, the restaurant is steeped in French culture and cuisine.

Daniel is a Michelin 2-star restaurant that offers seasonal menus of the finest ingredients. Daniel offers prix-fixe menus and also hosts special pairing events, like the La Celebration Du Fromage, boasting an array of fine cheeses and wines. On the dinner menu? Foie gras, Quebec roasted suckling pig, and strawberry tarts, among much more.

As for the man behind the restaurant name, Daniel Boulud was named a “Best New Chef” by Food & Wine magazine in 1988. Since then, he has grown his restaurant empire with establishments in the US, Montreal, London, and Singapore.

Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House

 Via Emeril's New Orleans Fish House Via Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House

BAM! It’s no surprise to us that former Food Network star Emeril Lagasse’s restaurant made the list. It’s just one of many locations owned by the celebrity chef known for his bold personality and even bolder cooking. The Fish House is located in Las Vegas’ MGM Grand and boasts a twist on Louisiana’s classic Creole. The menu kicks it up a notch with items like PEI Mussels, Pecan crusted Texas redfish, and Emeril’s banana cream pie.

Emeril’s opening of the New Orleans Fish House prompted an influx of new restaurants on the Vegas strip. He was a pioneer of the dining scene that now exists in the flashy Nevada tourist hub. He also owns other restaurants across the country, including Emeril’s New Orleans and Emeril’s Coastal Italian.

Although born in Massachusetts, he is known for his “new New Orleans” cooking style. He even won the National Best Recipe award in 2003 for his turkey and hot sausage chili. Emeril is more than just a chef, restaurateur, and TV legend. He has written various cookbooks and created a cookware line as well.

No. 9 Park

 Via No. 9 Park Via No. 9 Park

Chef Barbara Lynch’s flagship restaurant is located in Boston’s Beacon Hill. It boasts elegant European design and dishes inspired by France and Italy. Barbara is a James Beard Award winner who has been on the food scene since age 13. In 2017 she was included in Time Magazines “Top 100 Most Influential People of the Year.”

No. 9 Park opened in 1998 and was immediately named one of the “Top 25 New Restaurants in America” by Bon Appétit and “Best New Restaurant” by Food & Wine. Twenty years later, the Boston favorite is still being recognized for its uniqueness and influence on the Boston restaurant scene.

The menu offers everything from caviar and gazpacho to swordfish au poivre and caramel souffle. As for Barbara, she is the head of the Barbara Lynch Group which boasts 8 restaurants in the Boston area, including No. 9 Park.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

 Via Eater Via Eater

The small ramen shop in New York’s East Village has spiraled into so much more since its 2004 opening. Owner David Chang is not only known for his inventive food and restaurants, he also has a hit Netflix show, Ugly Delicious and a media company, Majordomo.

Head to the noodle joint for lunch or dinner and enjoy items like shiitake buns, smoked chicken wings, and ginger scallion noodles (FYI: the Momofuku pork buns originated here).

Since the opening of the first restaurant, Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku has expanded to a full restaurant group that includes Milk bar, Majordomo, and Nishi, among others. David’s endeavors combine his Korean heritage, a passion for cooking, and an inventiveness in the kitchen. We’re patiently waiting to see what he’ll do next.

Red Rooster

 Via Red Rooster Via Red Rooster

Yet another well-known chef, Marcus Samuelsson is one of the men behind New York’s Red Rooster. Located in the heart of Harlem, the restaurant boasts a schedule of live music performances and signature dishes that celebrate American cuisine. Along with Andrew Chapman, Marcus opened the restaurant in 2010 with the goal of positively influencing the Harlem culinary scene.

Red Rooster’s Americana menu offers items like chicken and waffles, ribeye, and Marcus’ cornbread. Down home style cooking can be enjoyed while patrons listen to live music. Plus, downstairs at the Red Rooster you’ll find Ginny’s Supper Club, a speakeasy with food and cocktails.

Aside from Red Rooster, Marcus has opened a number of other restaurants, appears on Food Network shows like Chopped and Cooks vs. Cons, and was named “Best Chef: New York City” by the James Beard Foundation in 2003.

Junebaby

 Via Junebaby Via Junebaby

Chef Edouardo Jordan is behind both Seattle restaurants JuneBaby and Salare. We recently mentioned him on our list of Top Chefs: 11 Amazing Restaurateurs To Keep On Your Radar Right Now. Junebaby puts a new twist on Southern food but stays true to its roots that are steeped in culture and history.

The primarily walk-in only restaurant brings Southern charm to the West coast. For lunch, you can enjoy buttermilk biscuits, chicken gizzards, and Gulf shrimps. For dinner, try the fried catfish or Momma Jordan’s oxtails.

Edouardo Jordan has been hot on the restaurant scene lately. He took home two awards in 2018 from the James Beard Foundation, Best New Restaurant in the country and Best Chef: Northwest. He was the first African American recipient. Junebaby just opened in 2017 but has already received tons of acclamations and praise.

We at SinglePlatform are lucky to work with some of the top talents in the restaurant industry. Congratulations to all of the restaurants who were represented on the list.


How to Engage Your Restaurant’s Customers with Messaging Apps

A robust mobile marketing plan is crucial for restaurant owners and managers.  With 68% of today’s businesses integrating a mobile marketing strategy into their daily outreach, it’s vital that today’s restaurant owners get on board with mobile.

So how does your restaurant go about implementing a mobile strategy? One powerful and affordable mobile plan that you should not overlook is messaging apps.  Adopting a way to use tools such as SMS messaging, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp as part of your mobile marketing will likely increase your conversion rate by 64%.

So how do you go about implementing a messaging plan into your mobile marketing strategy?  Simple, take a look at the ways your competition is integrating messaging and then do it better.  Since paying attention to what others are doing is not always that easy, we’ll show you how some restaurants are using messaging.

Customer Retention

Customer retention is vital to the success of your restaurant.  In fact, repeat customers spent 67% more than new customers when eating out.  As a restaurant owner or manager, you need to make sure that part of your mobile marketing strategy is aimed at these repeat customers.  But how? Simple—use broadcast lists in WhatsApp.

Creating broadcasts lists is a free and easy strategy to increase customer retention.  The most challenging part of creating these lists is getting customers to opt into your list.

Burgers and Relish, an American style diner, mastered the art of the WhatsApp opt-in by using their wait staff.  They played on the customers’ fear of missing out. The strategy was straightforward.

  1. Make sure the customers are enjoying themselves.
  2. Mention other events that will occur during the week.
  3. Ask the customers if they’d like to get reminders about events.
  4. Collect phone numbers.
  5. Ask the customer to add the restaurant phone number to WhatsApp.

This strategy landed Burgers and Relish about 6000 people on their contact list to receive messages.

Getting the number is just the first step.  WhatsApp allows you to put 256 people on one broadcast list; however, you can create as many lists as you’d like.

Where most restaurant managers fail using WhatsApp is by just dumping names and numbers into a list.  A more segmented approach to using broadcast lists is a significant factor in creating customer loyalty.

Customers like to feel like you know what they want, and that’s exactly what Burgers and Relish did to achieve the success they did.  They created segmented lists like family, young adult, couple, and students. Then they targeted their messages to the correct audience.  The result? Brand loyal happy customers.

You could easily implement this type of plan into your mobile strategy.  All you need is a WhatsApp or another messaging service and a motivated wait staff.  The best part, it’s free!

Promotional Offers and Coupons

There’s nothing like a sense of urgency to get people to act quickly.  And, as a restaurant owner, you can capitalize on this need by sending out flash sales, limited time offers, and coupons.

The strategy is straightforward.  On a slow night when you need to fill the dining room, send out a time-sensitive message.  Here are a few ideas:

  • The next 25 groups through the door receive a free appetizer.
  • For the next 2 hours, we are offering 20% your bill.
  • From 5 till 7 today we are offering $2 mixed drinks.

The list of ideas is endless.  Keep in mind that 57% of shoppers are motivated to try something new when they are given a discount.

Experiment with different types of coupons and sales and see which ones get the best response.  Then grow your ideas from there. That’s exactly what Pizza Hut did in its most recent SMS campaign.

The marketing team at Pizza Hut understood that targeting your audience is crucial.  So, they experimented with geofencing as its targeting strategy. For a 15-month period, the pizza giant sent out SMS coupons to customers on their list who entered a ½ mile radius of one of their locations.

The results of using SMS and targeting customers were incredible.  It was 4.4 times more effective than TV ads.  It was 2.6 times more effective than print ads.  And, it was 146% more efficient than their other marketing approaches.

Reservation Reminders and Confirmations

Restaurants who have a well-planned reservation system benefit from it tremendously for several reasons.

  1. Reservations reduce wait time.
  2. They increase the number of guests during slow times because you spread out the number of people in the building.
  3. They streamline managerial tasks.
  4. They improve customer loyalty.

Your parents and your grandparents may prefer a phone call and a human when it comes to communicating.  But, millennials want speed and convenience. That would explain why over 2 billion messages were sent on Facebook Messenger between consumers and businesses.

As a restaurant owner or manager who understands the benefits of a solid reservation plan, you can lighten your load when it comes to communicating with people who are not in your building by taking advantage of Facebook Messenger’s ability to make reservations.  The facts are simple.

Studies show that 69% of consumers prefer to interact with a bot when communicating with brands.  And, you need to be out and about in your restaurant and not on the phone taking reservations.  So, a bot reservation system like the ones that can be easily added to Facebook Messenger are the perfect solution.

Facebook Messenger bots allow you to accept reservations from your Facebook Page in the same conversational tone that a human would use when messaging.

If you are unsure how to set up bot reservations, don’t worry.  There are over 100,000 bot developers out there.  And they are mostly subscription services that come at a very reasonable price.

One thing that many restaurant owners worry about when it comes to reservations is no-shows.  When people don’t show up, you lose money.

But, with messaging apps, you can send links and reminders to patrons about their upcoming reservations. In fact, recent studies show the reservations reminders decreased no-shows by 23% which averages out to about $2,900 a month.

Conclusion

80% of smartphone users rely heavily on chat apps.  As a restaurant owner, you need to look at this as a direct line of communication with a large percentage of your customers.  Without a robust mobile marketing plan in place that includes messaging apps, you are falling behind the competition.

The bottom line is straightforward.  Your customers may think that you make the best wood-fired pizza in the area.  Or, they may feel that your steaks are better than the restaurants down the block.  But, the fact is they are looking at their phones 80 times a day.  And, if your competition is literally staring them in the face and offering them discounts and convenience it’s likely that your customers are will head past your door and down the block.


About the Author: Anastasia Sviridenko is a content marketing manager at TextMagic, a bulk SMS software solution. When she’s not working, you can find her wandering through a bookstore, or sipping on a coffee at home.