Why You Need A Restaurant Scheduling Tool Instead of Excel

The year is 2018, and modern restaurants are beginning to realize that scheduling with Excel just doesn’t cut it for the functionality that is needed for maximum efficiency.

Creating a staff schedule in 2018 and beyond is a dynamic process with constantly changing factors, such as staff availability, vacation requests, or variable sales.

Excel has proven itself to be a time consuming and cumbersome affair for scheduling, most notably because it is a one-way tool – managers have to constantly inform staff of changes made. What a time suck!

Shifts are rarely set in stone and often change quickly, which easily leads to headaches for managers who must stay on top of changing requests and make sure the entire team knows about those changes.

According to Snag, a marketplace for hirers and job seekers, managers spend approximately 25 percent of their time making a schedule each week and dealing with schedule management issues, such as shift swaps.

That’s a long time to spend using an inefficient tool. However, scheduling doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, once you have the proper tools you can make scheduling something that you will look forward to completing. Here is why using a dedicated schedule tool beats Excel every time.

Always Up-To-Date

The one-way nature of Excel means that whenever there are updates to be made to the schedule, a new version of the schedule has to be sent out to employees. This is very time-consuming and cumbersome, especially when changes are coming at you frequently. For this reason employees often do not know if the version of the schedule they have is the “final” one, which leads to missed shifts and miscommunication.

With a cloud-based scheduling tool you can eliminate this miscommunication because shifts are constantly updated. The moment you make an update to the schedule, all of your employees will have access to their most up-to-date shifts, and can be alerted if their shifts change. This virtually eliminates the excuse of “I didn’t know I was suppose to work?!”

With online restaurant scheduling software, you can also accommodate last-minute time-off requests from staff using free mobile apps –  such as the one 7shifts offers. With a scheduling app, you can easily approve requests or update availability on the fly, which are then incorporated into your schedule.

Better Communication

According to Forbes, two of the top five reasons employees are unhappy at work directly relates to a lack of communication. Scheduling with Excel can only exacerbate this problem. Nobody wants to show up to work only to realize they weren’t scheduled, feel that their vacation requests are not being taken into consideration, or ended up playing phone tag with another member of their team.

Just as SinglePlatform offers multiple outlets for you to provide customers menu information, restaurant scheduling software offers a variety of ways to communicate with your employees.

Employee scheduling software allows staff to communicate directly with one another using messaging and team chat, as well as provides managers the ability to send one-way announcements to their staff for things like special events or even tonight’s special.

If an employee can’t make a shift, it’s easy for them to let their coworkers know or even help find a shift replacement, saving managers time in having to reach out to each employee individually.

This connectivity closes the communication loop between everyone on your team – ensuring excellent communication and job satisfaction, which in turn leads to increased staff retention.

Make Payroll More Accurate

Payroll can be a headache for even the most experienced restaurant manager due to constantly changing shifts and swapping between employees. Not only is it tough to stay on top of payroll, it is always very time consuming – over a quarter of small business owners spend up to five hours a month dealing with payroll, according to Score, a non-profit that mentors small businesses. Payroll is also unforgiving – if the numbers are slightly off, then the calculations must be done all over again, or worse, the employees are paid incorrectly.

When scheduling with Excel, payroll problems can easily add up due to human error, such as calculating payroll with an outdated schedule that does not accurately reflect who worked when. Nobody wants angry employees who have not been properly compensated.

Employee scheduling software can help avoid these pitfalls listed above by integrating with your restaurant’s existing payroll system to sync the hours that are actually worked with the proper pay. This takes human error out of the equation and can allow you to let out a sigh of relief knowing everything is accurate.

Look for a scheduling tool that comes with either direct payroll export or comes with integrated time and attendance, which can help eliminate manual errors that result from improperly updated Excel spreadsheets.

Automation & Time Savings

Excel is great for saving time calculating data using formulas, and automating simple calculations, but as powerful as it is, it has no way to automate the creation of your staff schedule every week.

This is where scheduling software really shines. Similar to how you can use SinglePlatform to automatically post to your social media feeds, restaurant scheduling software you can set up schedule templates to help you create your schedule automatically. This efficiency and time savings means you can spend more time on other parts of your business that need your attention.

And remember that automation doesn’t just end with schedule creation. With dedicated restaurant scheduling software you can automate tasks like overtime alerting, shift reminders and more to help make you time on repetitive tasks.

In Closing

Don’t make life harder than it has to be – working in hospitality is hard enough already! It is up to a manager to use all the latest tools at their disposal to create efficiencies in order to stay competitive and profitable. Making the switch from Excel to a dedicated scheduling tool may take some adjustment because Excel is what you and your team are used to, but once you make the switch, you’ll never look back!


About the Author: Eric Stober is a freelance content producer for 7shifts, an employee scheduling platform built for restaurants. Eric has written for publications such as Global News and the Toronto Star, and has a keen interest in travel, technology, entrepreneurship, spirituality and mindfulness.

People are Searching for “Restaurants Near Me.” Are You There?

The “Near Me” Factor

Did you know that there are over 63.5 million searches every month with some derivative of “restaurants near me” on Google alone? It’s true. Clearly, hungry diners are taking to online search engines and other discovery sites in order to find their next favorite place to eat.

According to a study by xAd and Telmetrics,  65% of smartphone users looking for restaurant locations are looking specifically for locations within walking or driving distance. If you’re in close proximity, you want to be there in those search results.

Searchability is a need-to-have today if you want to remain relevant in the restaurant industry. With over 600,000 restaurants open for business in the United States, competition is copious, and you should be doing everything in your power to stand out from the crowd. How?

Menu Management Can Help

As a menu management company, our goal is to make sure you’re visible where it counts online. We want your restaurant to be accurately represented whether someone is searching on Google or browsing on TripAdvisor.

Having your menu and business information readily available on these different sites is crucial to your visibility, and in turn, your profitability.

We’ve already done the heavy lifting to build lasting partnerships with search engines, travel sites, and review forums, among others. This synergy allows us to ensure your menu is distributed across all these sites and apps where people are performing searches for restaurants, cuisine types, and menu items.

But, it goes further than just getting a menu online in all of these places. Getting it online, and making sure it’s correct, is key to your restaurant’s success.

Accuracy is Essential

If your menu is available online in all these other places besides just your website, that’s great. But, what good will it do if the information you provide is inaccurate?

Let’s say your concept focuses on farm-to-table ingredients with a menu that rotates every 3 months. You don’t want your online representation to be outdated with last season’s menu. Customers will be disappointed if they come for the pumpkin risotto they saw online only to find out it was replaced a few months ago.

Even if you have a fairly stagnant menu, prices change and even descriptions of your dishes can stand to be refreshed every so often.

With a menu management tool, you can easily make updates and edits whenever necessary.

With a company like SinglePlatform, we’ll even do the work for you. As long as you give us your menu changes, our dedicated team will make sure they’re up-to-date as soon as possible.

Avoid Customer Disappointment

As we mentioned in a previous blog, new BrightLocal research reveals that 93% of consumers are frustrated with incorrect information in online directories. Don’t risk customer frustration because the details you provide online are inaccurate.

We’re Taking It To The Streets

Having your menu online is a necessity and will delight hungry searchers who are hoping to find a new place to dine out (or order in). But, how about when they’re on the go?

When people are cruising to a destination, headed on an adventure, or just visiting a friend, they typically turn to GPS navigation to get them there. I know I do.

Whenever I’m driving (or walking) just about anywhere, I’m typing the address into my phone’s GPS and waiting for my direction-savvy friend to guide me there.

Over three-fourths (77%) of smartphone owners regularly use navigation apps.

But, how would you feel if you heard that 70% of listings in navigation apps are incorrect?

A Wrong Turn In Navigation

It might pain you to hear that in the last year, 22% of consumers visited the wrong location because the listing address was incorrect!

Imagine finally finding a restaurant you want to try, typing in the location’s address you found online to your smartphone, and driving there, only to find that you’re at the completely wrong place. I don’t think frustrated would be the word to describe that situation.

Providing The Solution

In the latest powerboost to our technology, we’ve mitigated this issue by extending our services on navigation platforms. We’re pushing the correct business information to these top navigation service providers to ensure accuracy when your customers are looking for you on their travels.

Our network now includes navigation tools like AppleMaps, Waze, TomTom, and more.

Just to be clear, we’re talking about business address and phone number here, not your menu. Of course, with the use of our platform, your menu will be up-to-date when these roadtrippers are searching online for a place to make a pit stop. But, once they’ve discovered you, we make sure they’ll be able to find you on their travels by providing correct business information via GPS.

85% of smartphone users convert after searching to call, look up directions or look up businesses nearby.  With the help of our tools, we’re determined to get more conversions for your restaurant.

With the SinglePlatform Navigation Pack, we’re making strides to get people where they want to go by providing the information they need to get there.

In Closing

With the availability of information at everyone’s fingertips, it’s important for your business to be represented correctly online. Millions of searches for “restaurants near me” are being performed every month, proving that when people are hungry, they’re looking for a solution within walking or driving distance.

You need to provide accurate information online in order to maintain customer loyalty and trust. Your menu should also be readily available on search engines, review, and travel sites where people are discovering new places to eat.

With the help of a menu management company like us, all of this is taken care of for you. Just provide us with the correct menu, and we’ll disperse it in all the places it needs to be online. And in order to close the loop, we’ll get your accurate business information across navigation tools people are using to get them to your restaurant.


Drive business to your restaurant’s door with SinglePlatform. To learn more, get in touch with us today.

Don’t Miss These October Restaurant Marketing Ideas

October is just around the corner, so you should be preparing your business by utilizing new marketing ideas for the month. We give you some inspiration on how you can market your restaurant this October.

Every Day Is A New Holiday

If you look online or on social media, it seems like each new day is a different celebration of something food-related.

The 1st of October is World Vegetarian Day, the 17th is National Pasta Day, and the 27th is American Beer Day. Check out Restaurant News for the full list of October’s holidays and see what can work well for your restaurant.

Do you serve plant-based meals? Offer a discount or market an event for October 1st.

If you’re an Italian establishment, celebrate pasta on the 17th by introducing new macaroni dishes or offering up a two-for-one deal.

These are easy wins for your restaurant, not only for profit, but to create excitement.

We recently created an Upcoming Holidays calendar in our dashboard that you can use to stay in-the-know about relevant food holidays. If one fits your concept, easily post social messages to let followers know about the deals you’re offering in celebration. Don’t ever miss out on a marketing opportunity when it comes to food celebrations again.

October is National Pizza Month

Besides the daily food holidays, there’s also a monthly celebration of pizza. If  you’re a pizzeria, or even if you’re not but still have pizza on the menu, this applies to you. Keep the party going all month long by revealing weekly deals on pizza.

Make it interesting by posting the weekly special in advance to get customers interested in your offerings. Maybe the first week of October is half off on pepperoni pies, while the next week is buy-one-get-one slices of choice. Get creative.

Let your customers know you’ll be honoring pizza all month long by sending out email and social communications. Let’s be honest, pizza definitely is a great reason to celebrate.

Stake Out at Street Fairs

Autumn is the perfect time to check out local events like street fairs, food festivals, and other fall gatherings. Get in there! Find out about booth rentals or other vendor opportunities to help get the name out about your business. You want your restaurant to be a notable name in your community, so you have to put in the effort to get to know people.

Hand out business cards or free giveaways with your restaurant logo on it. Offer samples of your food and drinks. Ask people to follow you on social media. These little impressions go a long way, especially in a small community.

Even if you aren’t a booth vendor, you can stop by these events to get acquainted with attendees. Walk around, introduce yourself, and establish a presence. You can always find out more information on how you can become a full sponsor or vendor at the next event. Don’t miss the chance to get to know your neighbors and make a mark in your area.

Host an Event

We discussed 5 Restaurant Events to Host This Fall in a previous blog, so check that one out for some more ideas. October is when people really start to get into the autumn spirit, so take advantage. There’s an event opportunity for every business, whether you’re a craft beer bar or a Mexican restaurant. You can choose to create it around a theme, like Fall Harvest or Halloween, or just make it a gathering to ring in the new season.

Create Columbus Day Deals

Columbus Day is a national holiday taking place on Monday, October 8th this year. Most people have a day off from work and school, which means you have a pretty good chance of seeing a larger crowd than usual.

The purpose of the holiday is to commemorate Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the Americas in 1492. Come up with some creative deals, dishes, or drinks to pay homage.

Offer discounts on certain menu items or send out coupons ahead of time for guests to redeem money off the entire bill.

This is also a perfect opportunity to host an American Trivia night to test your guests’ United States knowledge. Have fun with it!

Praise Pumpkin

We all know that people get pretty crazy about these edible gourds come October. Delish.com notes that according to Nielsen data, sales of pumpkin-flavored products reached $488.7 million over the last year (from August 18, 2017 to August 18, 2018). That’s insane!

Suddenly when fall rolls around, we see pumpkin-flavored everything pop up in grocery stores, from cereals to pies, ice cream, and coffee creamer. Label Insight data provided by Nielsen says there are a crazy 446 pumpkin products in traditional grocery stores right now. It’s an epidemic and it’s pretty unstoppable.

So, as a restaurant owner, what should you do? Capitalize on the craze, of course!

Incorporate pumpkin as an ingredient in your recipes, introduce a pumpkin-flavored dessert, serve up pumpkin coffees during the season. Heck, you may just want to release an entirely pumpkinized menu (think pumpkin ravioli, risotto, soup, pie…you get the gist).

Of course, make sure your social followers and customers know about any new updates through social media, email blasts, and on your website.

Celebrate Halloween

October 31st falls on a Wednesday this year, are you going to celebrate? You can host an event the weekend before or after, or go all out on the actual holiday.

According to The National Retail Federation’s annual survey, 7 in 10 people planned to celebrate Halloween in 2017. Why not let them do so at your restaurant?

Some Halloween ideas at a glance:

  • Ask customers to dress up to receive 15% off their entire meal. Take photos to share on social media.

  • Get some buckets of candy (or make your own) and tell kids to make your restaurant a stop on their trick-or-treat trail.

  • Make something enticing for the adults, like a special potent potion only available for the week of Halloween.

  • Hit your guests with a little Halloween history by hosting a Trick-Or-Treat Trivia night on Wednesday.

  •  Host a costume contest and award the winner a gift certificate to dine with you in November.

  • Make the decor just a bit spooky by incorporating some skulls, dry ice cauldrons, and dim dining lights.

There are plenty of ideas to help make Halloween night at your restaurant a must-attend. Market it well throughout the month and make it worth the trip.

In Closing

Each new month brings unique market opportunities for your restaurant business. October is full of holidays, seasonal traditions, and celebration. Plan ahead and be cognicent of all the chances you have to bring in more customers. Get creative, market heavily, and have fun.

Are You Using These 3 Restaurant Customer Service Tips to Delight Customers?

We’ve spoken about customer service efforts outside of your actual restaurant, but let’s discuss the strides you should be taking when a customer comes in to dine with you. You’ve made an awesome impression online, done a great job of responding to online reviews, and have an appetizing menu that draws diners in. Now, you have to make the experience match up to the expectations.

According to New Voice Media, U.S. companies lose more than $62 billion annually due to poor customer service! Don’t let business opportunity slip through your fingers because of insufficient customer care.

We discuss 3 restaurant customer service tips to make a positive impression on your guests.

Be Quick to Greet

No one wants to wait. It doesn’t matter if you’re waiting for a train or a subway, are on line at the supermarket, or are anticipating the season premiere of your favorite show – waiting isn’t fun! And guests don’t like waiting at your restaurant either. I’m not talking about the wait time for a vacant table on a busy Friday night, that’s bound to happen and is understandable. I’m talking about the time it takes for an employee to greet a new customer once they walk in the door.

When a guest enters your door, you should be there to greet them and let them know of next steps, whether it be to follow a hostess to their seat or take a number in line for a free table.

Your greeting is quite literally the first in-person impression someone will have of your restaurant. It comes before the food and drinks, the entertainment, and the rest of the service. And it matters for your profits.

After one negative experience, 51% of customers will never do business with that company again.

I once entered a restaurant that wasn’t at all crowded. I stood at the hostess table waiting for someone to greet or seat me, and well, nothing. A few minutes passed by and I watched servers walk back and forth to tables, bartenders look at me and continue on their way, and other staff meander in the rear of the restaurant with no intentions of making a move. After those minutes passed by and I wasn’t greeted, I left. They lost a customer just because they weren’t forthcoming or friendly.

Your staff should be trained to greet customers whether it is their main job function or not. In that situation, the unbusy bartender could have said hello and let me know that someone would help me in a moment.

Depending on your restaurant concept, you may have a host or hostess that is always available to welcome new customers. If not, you should still have a staff that is friendly and attentive at all times. Don’t let a single guest go unnoticed or else you could lose what could have been a valuable loyal customer.

Be Attentive, Not Annoying

There’s a fine line that exists between being diligent and overbearing. People are dining out to enjoy great food and the company of each other. Your waitstaff shouldn’t become a part of the party, but instead an observant asset that is aware of guests’ needs.

We’ve all had experiences with both scenarios. On one hand, you have an overly-involved waiter who checks up on you every few minutes, asks if there is anything else you need, and hands you the check as soon as you’ve dropped your fork. Their helicopter ways are so intrusive that you feel like you should just invite them to join the dinner.

Then, you experience a server that makes you question whether they were in the flesh or just a figment of your imagination. You saw them briefly once you sat down, but they went off in the distance to cater to other guests. So much time passes that you have to call them over yourself in order to place your order. They bring you your food and disappear before you can ask for extra napkins. By the end of the meal, you’re considering asking the restaurant owner himself for the bill.

Both situations are not ideal and ones you should strive to avoid in your own restaurant. Being a restaurant waiter is all about timing (and of course, some patience). Know your cues and don’t overstep your boundaries.

Make a Lasting Impression Through the End

Your customer gave you their credit card to pay for the meal and are getting ready to leave. This doesn’t mean you can forget about the customer service you provide. Your impression lasts until a diner walks out the door (and of course, extends beyond that as well).

Just as you greeted them on the way in, you should send guests off with the same effort. Let them know you were happy they dined with you and are anticipating their return.

Offer up something extra, like after dinner mints, toothpicks, or an espresso to finish the dinner. Even up the door for them if possible. Every little detail counts when it comes to customer service. And believe me, they’ll notice.

In Closing

Lauren Freedman, President of E-tailing Group, was quoted saying, “Always keep in mind the old retail adage: Customers remember the service a lot longer than they remember the price.”

Don’t miss out on more customers and higher profits because your restaurant failed to provide a positive customer experience.

American Express studies reveal that 7 out of 10 U.S. consumers say they’ve spent more money to do business with a company that delivers great service.  Putting in the extra effort to be attentive and accommodating will go a long way.

Should Your Restaurant or Bar Host an Oktoberfest Event?

It’s that time of year again. High-spirited diners and drinkers will be dusting off their Lederhosen for Oktoberfest celebrations. Taking place during September and October, the German revelry has become part of America’s party culture.

Should your restaurant host an Oktoberfest event?

The History

 Via Muenchen.de Via Muenchen.de

The official Oktoberfest is a 16-18 day festival held yearly in Munich, Germany. The celebration got its start in 1810 and now attracts more than six million people from around the world. It usually begins in mid-September and the party rages on for over two weeks.

Traditional Oktoberfest celebrations included horse races, but those became obsolete in 1960.

In modern times, the focus is on the festival. When it comes to food and drink, the centerpieces of Oktoberfest are German beer, bratwurst, and pretzels. Live music and polka dancing provide entertainment, and contests like stein holding competitions keep guests engaged.

The American Adaptation

 Via USAToday Via USAToday

We couldn’t just let Germany have all the fun! Americans have made our own versions of Oktoberfest celebrations, taking place in the same timeframe as the original. Major cities like New York, Cincinnati, and San Francisco host their own versions of the rowdy event. According to the Insider, some of the most authentic events in the U.S. take place in Frankenmuth, Michigan, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Fredericksburg, Texas.

Some take place in large halls or open fields, while some restaurants choose to host their own events. Regardless of where it takes place, you can guarantee there will be plenty of German beer flowing and European fare being consumed.

Should You Host One?

Events are great for attracting large crowds and making bigger profits. But, should your restaurant consider hosting an Oktoberfest event? We weigh in.

It Depends on Your Concept

This one is pretty obvious. We just can’t see an Italian fine dining establishment throwing an all-out German bash. But, you don’t need to be a German pub or restaurant to get in on the fun.

Sports bars, casual grills, and even Irish pubs and other drinking holes can consider hosting their own versions of Oktoberfest.

Zum Schneider on the East River in New York City has been putting on their own Oktoberfest event for five years. Guests are required to buy tickets for a select date within the ten day celebration period.

 Via Zum Schneider Via Zum Schneider

The restaurant describes their celebration as “an unforgettable and traditional Munchen Oktoberfest experience.” There is a decorated tent, original Oktoberfest beers, and traditional food as well as music and games.

Although not German, Bull McCabe’s Irish Pub in Durham, NC also throws a biergarten bash. Contrary to the sixteen day tradition, Bull McCabe’s event is only on one day, but still boasts traditional elements like beer, food, and music.

If you believe your restaurant or bar concept is capable of hosting an Oktoberfest event, you may want to consider it.  It’s a smart way to draw in large crowds who are willing to purchase tickets, sometimes even just for entrance with nothing else included in the fee. From there, they will be purchasing food and drink to help get the party started.

Consider the Food, Drink, and Entertainment

In order to make your celebration authentic, you should have the authentic German cuisine and beverages people will be looking for. Hofbrauhaus Munchen and Radeberger are a couple of the popular German brands of beer typically served. Do you already serve those brands? If not, can you get enough of those brands to keep the drinks flowing? How much will it cost you?

If large pretzels, bratwurst, and schnitzel aren’t a part of your regular menu, you’ll want to consider whether or not you’ll be serving it.

Having German food isn’t necessarily a requirement, but it boosts the authenticity of the event. And some die-hard Oktoberfest goers may be upset not to see their favorites on the menu.

When it comes to food, you could consider bringing in external vendors to serve up the sausage and Schweinebraten. This way, you can give some authenticity to the event and continue to also serve your usual menu. Of course, you’ll have to calculate the cost of bringing in vendors and decide if it makes sense based on the profits you project to make.

Delight revelers by consider the entertainment you’ll be providing. Will you bring in a live band or play traditional Oktoberfest tunes from a laptop or smartphone playlist? Weigh your options when it comes to entertainment.

Folk music and polka dancing are reminiscent of the original Oktoberfest celebrations and can help liven up the affair. You can even incorporate games and contests.

Decide whether or not you want to charge an additional fee for contest entrance and let guests know about all additional costs.

Think About the Aftermath

Unlike a typical busy dinner time rush, Oktoberfest may require more clean-up than you’re used to. Do you have the manpower and time to ensure your restaurant or bar will be in tip-top shape for the next day of business?

When it comes to transportation, you may want to team up with some local cab companies to provide rides for attendees.

Uber Events also allows you to purchase ride passes for a specific event. Guests will then have access to an event-specific code that is good for a discounted or free ride. Let guests know that the option is available and encourage ride-sharing.

Although you want your customers to have a great time, it’s also important for them to get home safely when the party’s over.

In Closing

Oktoberfest is a traditional German celebration that is steeped in history and provides a ton of fun to attendees. If your restaurant or bar concept is fitting for the event, consider hosting one of your own. Feel free to put your own spin on it and create your own traditions, but incorporate some of the authenticity that makes it one of the most popular and boisterous events of the year.

Dining Out Isn’t Just About Eating & Exiting, It’s About the Dining Experience

With the influence of technology and trends, a memorable experience is becoming more of a necessity than a nicety. In fact, an EventBrite survey revealed 75% of people believe unique dining experiences are worth paying more for.

Has your restaurant considered how your dining experience is impressing your guests? Below, we discuss different experiential concepts, both restaurant related and not, to give you ideas to apply to your own business.

Simple Experiential Elements

With the technology available today, it’s easy for people to choose to order delivery and stay in the comfort of their own home, which is why we believe restaurants need to make it more about the overall dining experience than ever before.

Experience doesn’t have to mean marveling your guests with fire-flame throwers or hiring a Mariachi band. It can be as simple as providing the right lighting, music, and decor to really make it memorable.

Maybe you installed a display worthy of an Instagram photo-op or make the dinner interactive by allowing the chef to cook before guests’ eyes. Diners want to feel like they’re getting more than a meal, so create an atmosphere that impresses them.

Take a look at these examples of restaurants who have considered and executed upon the experience factor.

Tokyo Record Bar

 Via nycgo Via nycgo

This Greenwich Village hideout is an 18-seat establishment with the focus on the full experience. They urge guests to make and stick to their reservations, as a full house is what makes the trip worthwhile. Upon arrival (if you find the entrance), diners are asked to pick a song or two for the meal’s playlist. All choices are then combined and become the soundtrack of the night. Once the vinyl starts spinning, guests are treated to a seven-course tasting menu. The focal point here isn’t necessarily the food, but the combination of the senses that create something unique.

Alinea

 The Clear Pumpkin Pie via ABC News The Clear Pumpkin Pie via ABC News

Aside from being a three star Michelin restaurant, this Chicago outpost is known for its inventive creations and prolonged (up to four hours) dining sessions. Testing the limits of science, guests may enjoy a clear pumpkin pie or edible balloon. You’ll engage your senses throughout the edible journey and enjoy reputable food and wine pairings. Plus, things will be glowing and there will probably be dry ice at some point. The restaurant describes itself as unconventional, which is safe to say is true.

UltraViolet

 Via AWOL Via AWOL

Experiential dining exists across the globe. In Shanghai, Ultraviolet brings immersive dining to life with the influence of technology. The establishment only has one ten-seat table and is hidden away in a nondescript location (diners meet at an external meeting point before entering). Once there, guests enter into a controlled atmosphere of sight, scent, and sound. Plus, there’s a 20-course menu to coincide with the sensory elements.

Ask yourself if you have a concept that’s unique enough to inspire people to want to spend a day or evening with you. Will it be memorable? Will it be worthwhile?

Experience is Popping Up Everywhere

Restaurants and bar concepts have capitalized on the pop-up experience popularity. Creating a “pop-up” or limited time event is a great marketing tactic. It encourages people to purchase tickets (if necessary) before the rest of the crowd and creates a sense of urgency. If it’s the hot new thing, people will jump on the chance to experience it before it’s gone.

The same Eventbrite data we mentioned above revealed that after having a positive pop-up dining experience, 90% of respondents would recommend the restaurant or chef to loved ones, and 87% say they’d return to the restaurant with friends.

Many times, restaurant and bar pop-up endeavors are inspired by popular television shows and movies. Washington D.C. welcomed a Game of Thrones bar in 2017, a 3,000 square foot space that spared no details when it came to recreating the most popular elements of the show. Drinks were all GoT inspired elixirs and although they were arguably pricey, fanatic fans waited on line for hours just to get inside.

 Game of Thrones pop-up via Thrillst Game of Thrones pop-up via Thrillst

Similar concepts have been produced based on shows like Stranger Things, Golden Girls, and Saved By the Bell.

However, pop-up doesn’t just mean it has to be based on a cult-favorite film or series. It can simply mean a limited timeframe for an event. The Magnum ice cream brand hosted a summer pop-up in New York City, where they invited guests to create their own edible concoctions. It closed down when summer was over, which makes sense since the fall isn’t exactly a high season for ice cream.

 Magnum pop-up via amny Magnum pop-up via amny

A pop-up can also mean a featured chef or bartender making a pit-stop at another location. Emily, a popular pizza joint in Brooklyn, hosts the pop-up Margot’s Pizza right within their own turf. Guests have to purchase a ticket to the event (which has already been sold out for each spot in 2018) to experience the culinary creations of Adam Kuban, not of the Emily owners. The purpose? To help Adam gain more exposure within the community. Soon, he will piggyback off the success of this series and open his own pizza parlor.

Pop-ups are great exposure for up-and-coming chefs and bartenders because they let people who have previously flown under the radar to gain more notariety without having to open a full establishment of their own. This concept has created a sense of community and camaraderie between restaurateurs, as opposed to competition. Plus, it gives the guests a unique experience to enjoy as well.

Outside of Restaurants, Experience is Still Key

 Museum of Ice Cream via sf.curbed Museum of Ice Cream via sf.curbed

An experiential focus doesn’t just apply to restaurants. Companies and brands are creating pop-up events and exhibits focused on interaction and documentation on social media.

Take the Museum of Ice Cream for example. Founder Maryellis Bunn created a pop-up wonderland out of sweets, sorbets, and sprinkles. The museum came to New York in 2016, but has since traveled to places like San Francisco and Miami for limited stints. While at the museum, ice cream fanatics dive into pools of rainbow sprinkles and pose for photos with larger-than-life Maraschino cherries.

The museum has amassed over 450k followers on Instagram and if you search the hashtag #museumoficecream, you’ll find 171k related posts. The brand recently launched an ice cream brand and has worked on collaborations with large names like Sephora and American Express.

Tickets often sell out quickly because of the urgency factor and the fact that it’s the perfect setting for high-quality Instagram content. Similar endeavors have popped up recently including the Color Factory and Rose Mansion.

 via Rose Mansion via Rose Mansion

The popularity of these events goes to show that people are looking for something memorable, so consider taking these ideas and apply them to your restaurant!

Food Trucks & Markets

 via Pinterest via Pinterest

Trucks

Food trucks have been on the up for a while now and have given diners at grab-and-go experience that may have been unexpected. The mobility allows owners to get up and move to a new location at their discretion to reach a wider audience. Trucks are also a more cost-efficient way for newcomers to gain exposure before opening a permanent location.

While the restaurant industry has grown at a yearly rate of 2% recently, food trucks are growing rapidly at 7.9%! This goes to show that the mobile meal-makers are a hit with people across America. Trucks offer all different cuisines ranging from tacos and burgers to kebabs and yes, even lobster. Plus, many of them serve as perfect backdrops for a photo or two.

Markets

Market halls have also been on trend in metropolitan areas. Popular restaurants that already have physical locations are also scoring space in halls comprised of multiple different vendors. You can find multiple food halls in New York City, including Chelsea Market and Gansevoort Market, that boast some of the best eats from around the Big Apple.

Boston has big plans for the market scene as well; a recent article by Eater states that one day a food hall will be present on every Boston corner, even referring to them as “the new food truck.”

Food halls give people a different kind of dining experience. Besides a plethora of food options and cuisine types, they take us back to our grammar school cafeteria days. Suddenly, we’re eating among people we haven’t even met before, brought together by a meal.

Plus, food halls take your typical mall food court up a notch, typically offering items from sought-after chefs and hyper-local establishments rather than conglomerate chains.

In Closing

Dining out is no longer comprised of grabbing a bite and going. Today, people want more out of their time at a bar or restaurant; they want a full-on unforgettable experience.

There are plenty of ways you can create an extraordinary encounter for your guests, with something as simple as lighting and music or as complex as creative elements involving technology and innovation.

Whatever you choose, keep the expectations of your diners in mind and let your business’ personality speak for itself.

Can Being Involved in Charitable Efforts Boost Your Restaurant’s Marketing?

Giving back to your community or another organization that is meaningful to you is admirable in its own right. You should volunteer or donate to a cause because you want to, not because you feel pressure to. But, this type of charity is actually a great marketing tool that can influence marketing campaigns and involvement from your customers.

We explore how being involved with charitable causes is beneficial to your restaurant’s marketing.

The Numbers

Charitable efforts have increased in recent times. According to Charity Navigator, in 2017, an estimated $410.02 billion was given to charitable causes. This total was record breaking and an increase of 5.2% from 2016. This goes to show that people care about giving back to their local communities as well as philanthropic causes that they are passionate about.

Your customers appreciate your business’ involvement with the community and your support. Cone Communications put out a 2017 study that revealed 92% of respondents are more likely to have a more positive image of companies that support social and environmental issues. At the same time, 87% are more loyal to those brands. Your business’ support matters, not only to a charity or a cause, but to the customers who dine with you.

Customers also want you to be transparent. 90% of consumers want companies to tell them how they’re supporting charitable causes. Incorporating your charitable efforts into your marketing strategy and into your communication with your customers can help shed light on your involvement.

The Ideas

So, how can you get involved in charity? Community volunteer efforts, food donation, and monetary donation are all great ways to make a difference.

Community Volunteering

Check out local volunteer opportunities and see if you and your staff can be included. Places like soup kitchens, nursing homes, shelters, animal sanctuaries, and youth clubs are always looking for people to lend a helping hand. If you’re a business in a tight-knit community, it goes a long way to become heavily involved with local organizations. Choose one that means something to you and set aside some time to get involved. Ask some staff members to join you in your efforts and get ready to roll up your sleeves.

Make sure to document your volunteer work by posting updates on your social channels. Take high-quality photos of your staff being active in the community to share. Your customers and followers will appreciate that you’re being open about where your time is being spent in the community.

Community volunteering also poses an opportunity for co-marketing efforts. Team up with other small businesses in your area to jointly give back to a cause. You can then feature each other in marketing efforts, tag their business on social media, and share the wealth of exposure.

Food Donation

Food donation is a great way for a restaurant to give back. I mean, food is your thing after all! Research some local charities in need of meal donation and get to preparing and packing. Make sure the food you’re cooking is within the guidelines of what they need.

If places are looking for non-perishable items, set up a donation box at your restaurant. Food drives are popular during the holidays, so keep that in mind as the season approaches.

Let customers know that you’re running a food drive and list the items you need. This is a great way for the entire community to get involved. You can even offer an incentive for a donation from a diner, like 5% off their next bill.

Make this food drive a part of your marketing strategy by including it in your restaurant email newsletter, social media, and any other communications you’re having with patrons. Let them know how long you’ll be collecting for, who you’re donating to, and what you are offering participants in return (if anything). Giving as much detail as possible reinforces the transparency of your efforts.

Monetary Donation

Cash is king, or so they say. Plenty of charities are looking for monetary donations to help fund different things, from supplies to research for cures. If you want to make a monetary donation on behalf of your organization, do it! This is a win-win because charitable donations are usually tax deductible. To learn more about the nitty gritty of this process, read this article.

You can also dedicate a menu item to the cause and donate a percent of the proceeds to the charity of your choice. Let’s say you create a special pink Cosmopolitan for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. You can dedicate 10% of the proceeds from each drink to go to the cause. Most restaurants tend to give between 10-25% of the proceeds to charity and  local businesses tend to give a higher percentage than chains.

Sometimes, the charity will reach out to you to host this type of event at your location. This is great for your business as well because you probably see an increase in business due to the promotion of the event.

Make sure that you’re promoting the event or the special you’re running heavily before and during the time period it’s available. You want to raise more money for the charitable cause, so you need more people in seats!

Being involved in your community and donating to charitable causes are honorable and show your dedication to helping others. You should always participate in these efforts because you want to give back, not just for the recognition. However, research shows that customers appreciate when you let them know where you are donating or how you’re getting involved with philanthropic organizations. Make sure to let customers and followers know where you’re donating to, what events you’re running, or where you’re volunteering. They’ll appreciate that you’re going the extra mile to make the world a better place. Plus, this is a great marketing opportunity for you to spread the word about your business making a difference.