Update Your Summer Menu Online Before You Miss Out on More Business

Americans blow more money dining out in the summertime than the rest of the year, a new survey from MarketWatch finds.

87% of Americans spend more money on dining out in the summertime than any other time of the year. This includes both local dining and eating out while traveling on seasonal vacations.

According to statistics released by Capital One, dining at a restaurant is a top priority for spending in the US. In fact, 65% of people’s budget, up to 77% for millennials, is going towards dining experiences.

Consumers look at menus online before choosing a restaurant.

Knowing the importance of menu information to your customer’s journey, we examined 1.2 million menu views from more than 950,000 unique locations across all of 2017 and 2018. From that study, we discovered that June into July represents the last increase in menu views until October.

People are dining out in the summer and they are looking at menus on sites like Google, Yelp and Facebook before they ever even get to your website. If you are not in control of and updating your online menus in all the places people are searching for where to eat in the summer, you are losing customers to your competition.

Update your restaurant’s menu online now, before the summer begins and every time you add or subtract an item on it ensures that customers will be able to find your restaurant when they are making plans to spend money at restaurants over the summer.

 

Here is more info on U.S. Summer dining trends that can help you plan to attract more customers into your restaurant during the warmest months of the year.

 

Need to up update your Summer menu on sites like Google, Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor and more?

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How East Village Pizza Used SinglePlatform to Let the World Know How Great Its Garlic Knots Are

Just over 60 percent of new restaurants close before their hit their first anniversary — so by longevity alone, East Village Pizza, which has been around since 1997, has already more than beaten the odds. But every year brings new challenges as customers’ tastes and behaviors change — and even established local favorites need to adapt.

When Frank Kabatas took over East Village Pizza in 2003, he had plenty of experience making great pizza, but he says he was “like a freshman” when it came to marketing his business.

East Village Pizza - NYC's best garlic knots

He looked around and saw that all of the other pizza places in New York City were distributing paper menus as their main form of marketing. For many years, he too used to go door-to-door, leaving printed menus all around his neighborhood every six months. Customers would keep them on their refrigerator or in a drawer, and when they were hungry they would call East Village Pizza for delivery.

Kabatas says back then, whenever he distributed menus, the restaurant would soon see a lift in business — an increase of maybe 10% over the next few months.

The system worked, so he kept doing it — until eventually, it didn’t. At first, he started noticing in 2008 that the percentage lift he got from his physical menu distributions was dropping. “Either we were doing something wrong, or something else was happening,” he says.

Then, around 2015, after years of decline, his main marketing method just stopped working. He would distribute the paper menus and there was barely any lift at all.

THE CHALLENGE

Customers’ habits had changed. People no longer wanted to pick up a paper menu, let alone a phone. Instead, they had migrated to third-party sites and apps like Yelp and GrubHub (and many more) to both discover restaurants and to place orders. He realized that this meant he needed to find a new way to reach new customers and to keep his menu up to date across all of these new platforms.

Looking for ways to capture more people’s attention online, Kabatas started using social media to promote the business, posting on Facebook and Instagram, making his pizza live on camera every night, and getting into conversations with customers.

He noticed that replying to people who left reviews or commenting on their posts created a much deeper connection than any photo he shared — and he started hunting down influential people online and inviting them in to try East Village Pizza’s food, in the hopes that they would share their experiences online.

The more Frank promoted certain items online, the more people asked for them when they came in.

That’s when Frank realized he could set his business apart by focusing some of his marketing efforts around an item that every other pizza shop offered but didn’t promote: garlic knots. He was confident his knots were better than anyone else’s. If he could get people’s attention on them, not only would they choose his pizza shop over a competitor’s, customers would order not just a slice but also garlic knots, increasing his average ticket.

East Village Pizza's famous garlic knots

Frank started featuring his garlic knots on social media, suggesting them to customers in-store and highlighting them on his in-store and printed menus. The problem: when you searched for “best garlic knots east village,” his wasn’t the top search result — despite having a leg up because of the “East Village” in the restaurant’s name.

THE IMPACT

Part of the reason that Kabatas’s garlic knots weren’t ranking high in searches was structural.  On his website, his menu was posted as a PDF. He had reasoned that this format allowed customers to download and print it, but he hadn’t realized that this meant the menu text wasn’t searchable by Google, Yahoo or Bing. It didn’t matter how many times he posted tantalizing photos and videos of the cheesy garlic knots on social media if customers couldn’t find them when they searched on Google, Facebook, Yelp, Yellow Pages, TripAdvisor or even on the East Village Pizza website, it created a hole in the customer journey.

He had been diligent about going to multiple online platforms to update menu information and make changes, but the process of going to each of them one-by-one was time-consuming and onerous — and doing so still wasn’t propelling him to the top of the relevant search results.

Then earlier this year, Kabatas started using SinglePlatform to manage his menus — not only on his website but also on sites like TripAdvisor and Google My Business — and he began seeing changes very quickly.

THE RESULTS

SinglePlatform published Kabatas’ menu to his website, replacing the PDF,  and then to Google My Business — and in just five days East Village Pizza was the number one search result in the area. Kabatas was also pleased to discover that he no longer had to spend time communicating with various online platforms to make updates.

And because it has become much easier for him to change the items on his menu online, he does so more frequently.

“The world is now online — and when the world is online you need to control your online menus,” says Kabatas. “And it’s tough to do on so many platforms. SinglePlatform is really helping me and saving me time — at least 40 minutes a day on average. The money that you are paying is nothing. You’re going to save time and make much more money than what you are paying for SinglePlatform to handle your menu.”

How to Turn Your Restaurant Employees Into Brand Advocates

The restaurant industry is hectic and laden with cut throat competition, which is why standing out in the crowd is so important to the success and longevity of any restaurateur’s business.

One marketing channel that may have flown under your nose is a simple one that lies within your very own walls—your employees.

Turning employees into brand advocates for your restaurant and having them share positive, authentic messages can help you gain more exposure and customers. By prioritizing employee advocacy, you can form the narrative for your restaurant that shows it in the best possible light and grow your reputation in the industry.

benefits-employee-advocacy

Benefits of Employee Brand Advocacy

While you may run your own social media channels, having your employees become brand advocates has several benefits.

Your employees offer a wealth of networks that can help you reach a more diverse and expansive audience. Research by PostBeyond, an employee advocacy company, and Golfdale Consulting showed that messages sent by employees rather than the restaurant’s social channels reached 561% more eyes.

Content shared by employees also will come across as more authentic and natural, rather than promotional, which will increase trust and engagement. PostBeyond’s research found that messages related to your brand from restaurant employees were reshared 24 times more than those shared by the restaurant.

That extended reach and engagement when employees advocate for your brand can ultimately benefit sales. SocialChorus, an employee communications software company, found that a 12% increase in brand advocacy can double revenue growth.

Plus, brand advocacy doesn’t cost anything, making it a low investment, high reward option for marketing.

How to Increase Employee Brand Advocacy

increase-employee-brand-advocacy

Employee brand advocacy has many rewards, but how does one achieve it? Here are the steps any restaurant can take to leverage evangelism marketing with staff.

1. Have a clear brand to advocate

The first step to creating brand advocacy is to have a brand for employees to advocate. Take time to set values and a clear mission for your restaurant, which will give your employees something they can believe in and want to advocate themselves.

When you set your mission and goals, it helps create a cohesive company culture that your employees can feel like a part of.

2. Get employees involved

The next step is to set this culture into motion and get your employees involved.

Start on the right foot with your employees with excellent onboarding and training. After you hire a new employee, don’t kill the energy from the interview process by first handing them a huge handbook. Instead, bring them into the fold with a fun onboarding process.

employee-training

This could include showing a funny or engaging video that makes your place look special, cross-training your new hires so they have a chance to meet all the staff and gain in depth knowledge of your restaurant’s inner workings, and providing a meal on-the-house at the end of their first day—including a few free drinks.

Onboarding sets the tone for your employees’ whole experience, so don’t skimp—your generosity will pay dividends later.

3. Treat your employees like the rockstars they are

Once an employee has entered your company culture, then it is up to you to treat them like a rockstar to increase their work engagement. Offer rewards for when they do a good job, have regular meetings and checkups to make sure no anger is brewing in the background, and try to really get to know your staff and their dreams so you can help them along the way. Show that you care about their goals by offering mentorship and opportunities for career advancement.

4. Use tech to improve employee satisfaction

Use scheduling software such as 7shifts so employees can easily trade shifts and have a central place for work communication to also aid your employee satisfaction at your restaurant.

When your employees are proud of where they work, and have good relationships with restaurant leadership, then they will be more willing to share that enthusiasm in authentic social media posts. Creating positive employee relationships by leveraging technology and strategies to streamline restaurant staff communication between your managers and team members is a good place to start!

How to Promote Brand Advocacy

Now that your employees are happy working at your restaurant and actually want to share the love with others, the next step is to encourage brand advocacy on social media.

Here’s how to make your business social media-worthy:

1. Employee Events

Consider throwing a few events each year for your employees to be able to mingle and have some fun. Hosting a company-sponsored event for the staff’s benefit will make employees want to whip out their phones and start sharing. Event ideas can include bringing a mascot or special guest, or hosting a themed gathering, like go-karting or karaoke.

2. Restaurant Design

full restaurant view from outside of window

Social media-friendly attractions in your restaurant are also a good way to get employees sharing. Instagram-worthy photo op areas have been popular for some time now, and don’t show any signs of going out of style.

Assets to incorporate into your overall design may include a neon sign with a unique message, a photo booth, or food competitions at your establishment.

3. Branded Hashtags

Even if your staff members are posting about your restaurant, it won’t mean much if they don’t include the right hashtags. Bring your staff into the social media fold by encouraging not just posts, but including certain hashtags and tagging your restaurant’s handle. Ask employees to follow the restaurant’s social accounts so they can share any news they find exciting. If you have a social media manager, make them the point person for staff to ask questions.

4. Menu Links

When your staff posts about the food at your establishment, make sure they know about an online menu, which can easily be set up with SinglePlatform. They can then include a link to the menu in their posts.

It might not be necessary to have an enforced social media policy, but a little guidance can help you get the most from your staff’s posts.

Conclusion & Takeaways

waiter in an empty restaurant carrying a tray

Employee brand advocacy has a lot of benefits, but it is not something that can be too heavily directed. It must come naturally from an inviting company culture and a mission your staff feels part of. From there, providing ample opportunities for them to get great content, and a slight nudge on social media best practices will allow you to get the most out of their shares. You’ll soon find you won’t have to do much for them to spread the message of your restaurant – and all for free!

If you focus on building a great company culture, and give your staff the right channels to share it, then the results will flow in!

5 Kinds of Apps to Consider for Your Bar or Restaurant

Whether you’re looking to switch things up for your restaurant or you’re looking to take your workflow to the next level, using an apps can only be an assistance in your operations.

There are a number of uses for apps in today’s food service industry. But finding the correct apps can make for a tough time.

When it comes to really improving your restaurant’s workflow, your operations management, and your customer service, there are some apps that really come in handy, like:

  1. Social Media/Website Apps
  2. Messaging Apps
  3. POS Apps
  4. Event Management Apps
  5. Dining and Nutrition Apps

So let’s get started on seeing how these apps can add some extra spice to your restaurant’s daily management and operations.

1. Social Media/Website Apps

group of freinds on social media

Using social media and other online tools to your advantage will improve your management abilities significantly, from both a marketing and an operations perspective.

If using social media/website apps is what you’re interested in for your restaurant, you should take the opportunity to:

  • Film videos. Using social media platforms like Instagram or Facebook to take videos of your restaurant and its environment is an effective marketing technique that brings more customers to your business. Make sure to film your restaurant at peak hours or to film during promotional events to convey the excitement and vibe of your restaurant correctly to your viewers.
  • Pick the right social media platforms. Sometimes Twitter might be useful for your restaurant, and sometimes Instagram might be the right way to go. Consider what your restaurant needs at that particular time and make the decision based on your thoughtful assessment. A platform like Instagram might be more useful for taking videos and photographs while a platform like Twitter might help more in informing your customers on the day-to-day happenings in your restaurant.
  • Use WordPress plugins. Using the right WordPress plugins and apps means you can manage your restaurant’s website. This can be especially helpful for restaurants that conduct staff and order management through their website, as some apps can improve functionality through those platforms .Even using wordpress ecommerce plugins can help your restaurant’s management capabilities.

Using social media or other website apps like this can be extremely effective when trying to improve your restaurant’s marketing. Don’t wait to use them!

Communication between customers and staff plays a major part in your restaurant’s operations, including booking and management.

2. Messaging Apps

woman on smartphone texting

Messaging apps not only make the booking process more efficient, they also do wonders to increase customer satisfaction.

While messaging apps can’t necessarily be integrated with a bar pos system or a restaurant point-of-sale system, they work very well when they’re both a part of the same workflow.

There are a number of problems and activities that a messaging app can help your restaurant with. For example, it can help you:

  • Retain your customers. Messaging apps are fun and convenient for customers to use and take away a lot of the headaches involved in booking a table. This means that having a messaging app as a part of your restaurant’s workflow and booking process will be greatly appreciated by both customers and staff alike. Plus there are plenty of messaging apps that are easy to use.
  • Promote your restaurant’s deals. Once your customers have decided to use the messaging app, you can promote your restaurant’s deals with the app itself. Most customers enjoy being informed of great deals and promotion nights from their favorite nights.
  • Manage booking and reservations. The prime purpose of messaging apps is to make the booking and reservation process easier. Nothing is more frustrating for a restaurant manager than an error made during the booking process. Messaging apps eliminate the possibility for these kinds of mistakes by opening up a clearer path of communication between the management, the host, and the customer.

A messaging app can help your restaurant out with any of these major tasks. Give it a shot, and watch your restaurant’s workflow and efficiency improve in no time.

3. POS (Point-of-Sale) Apps

crowded coffee shop with employees and customers

POS systems and the apps they use can be a big help when it comes to restaurant management, especially when looking at ways to run your restaurant’s operations more effectively.

Curious about how a POS system and its app can help out your bar or restaurant? Remember that with a point-of-sale system and its app, you can:

  • Employ mobile POS management. Modern point-of-sale systems can be used from mobile locations for on-the-go restaurant management. POS systems with mobile kiosks, especially, are helpful in this situation and can accommodate a variety of unique food service situations. Food trucks and smaller food stands will value this kind of flexibility in their highly mobile service environments.
  • Track customer and restaurant data. Point-of-sale systems can keep great track of customer trends and restaurant management statistics, allowing you to spend time on your day-to-day operations while your POS system collects data that can improve your management and marketing strategies. Information like this can improve customer service and restaurant workflow in one pass.

Try out these ideas when you’re looking for ways to expand your POS usage. They can be a great help to any restaurant in need.

4. Event Management Apps

waitress setting up a table for a party

While underestimated in the restaurant industry, event management apps can come in handy if your restaurant is a pinch for organizing promotions or special-themed nights.

In case you’re at a loss about how event management apps can help your restaurant management, keep in mind that you can:

  • Work with local organizations. There are always local organizations that would love to hold their fundraiser or team-building night at your restaurant. Whether it’s a local sports team or a friendly charity, these organizations usually are in need of sponsors and hosts, and that means more customers for your restaurant.  Having an event-management app on hand means you can organize these situations easily and not have to change around your restaurant’s workflow too much.
  • Find alternatives to Eventbrite. While Eventbrite is a popular tool for organizing events, there are a number of software and app-based alternatives to eventbrite that could more directly address your restaurant’s needs. Maybe your event has tickets or is with a specialized nonprofit organization, and eventbrite won’t cut it. If that’s the case, check out Fonteva’s article on eventbrite alternatives to get started.

Follow suggestions to combine your event management and restaurant management skills into one great strategy, and you should be having no problem throwing great events at your restaurant.

5. Dining and Nutrition Apps

person on smartphone looking at a nutrition app while eating cake

Dieting and nutrition apps are constantly being developed that could help put your restaurant on the map.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a pizza restaurant or serving gourmet french food, you can work with these apps to improve your restaurant marketing and your management skills.

If you need some ways to use these dining and nutrition apps, don’t forget that you can always:

  • Advertise your dietary specialties. Some restaurant and nutrition apps keep track of the dietary restrictions or specialities found in each restaurant. If your restaurant offers vegan food or follows kosher restrictions, these apps can be a great aid in attracting specialty customers to your restaurant, especially if those customers are few and far between sometimes.
  • Get customer feedback. Some of these nutrition and dining apps allow for customers reviews and feedback to given. You can use this feedback to improve your restaurant’s service and workflow, and if the review is especially positive you could even ask to publish it on your restaurant’s website.
  • Spot special marketing opportunities for diets. With keto and paleo diets becoming mainstays in the nutritional world, some restaurants are taking this opportunity to adjust to the trends and offer meals specifically oriented towards these diets. If your restaurant is one of those, then you can indicate that on dieting and dining apps to make sure that your customers are well-informed.

Use these tips whenever you’re looking to expand your restaurant’s online presence into the wonderful world of dining and nutrition apps.

In Closing

flat lay of people eating dinner burgers and fries

The world of apps and restaurant management might make an unlikely pairing, but when you choose the right apps for your restaurant operations, it can make all the difference.

All of these apps can be instrumental in upgrading your restaurant management skills or in changing up your restaurant’s service style. Take advantage of them and watch the results happen in no time.

5 Steps to Optimizing Your Restaurant’s Employee Lifecycle

With an average annual turnover rate of 73%, according to The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, restaurateurs know that employees are going to be coming and going from their business with frequency. However, not many restaurateurs think about how they can optimize the processes of both employee hiring exiting.

Since high turnover is likely, it is in restaurants’ best interest to consider the lifecycle of an employee as a whole, and optimize the journey to make sure the business gets the most of each employee, which helps keeps costs down and morale amongst staff high.

Roughly speaking, this journey can be thought of as 5 distinct stages which an employee moves through: Hiring, Onboarding, Training, Scheduling and Engaging.

We’ll take you each step of this process and provide some helpful tips, strategies and tools to help you save you time, money and stress when it comes effectively managing your staff.

Any employees journey with your restaurant staff starts with the hiring process. There are a many things you can do while hiring to make the process easier and help make sure you get the right candidate who will be a productive and efficient team member.

Before releasing your job posting, make sure that your restaurant’s online presence is top notch in order to attract top talent. Give your online presence a quick audit to make sure you like everything that is out there, from social media to your website to reviews of your establishment. Ensuring that your restaurants brand is polished is increasingly becoming a reason potential employees choose one company over another to apply to!

SinglePlatform can be used to make sure that what you’re putting out online, such as menus, your website, and social posts, are the best they can be.

Next, place your job postings in the right place. Job boards such as Indeed, Glassdoor or your own social media networks are good options, but there are also hospitality focused job boards such as Poached. Make sure you use the right keywords in your posting to give it better placement on job boards.

Also use your own professional network to find qualified employees. Let all your employees know you’re hiring, and consider providing an incentive for a referral. A referral can be great for building team morale and a consistent company culture.

Approaching the hiring process carefully and with an eye for quality can save you money and time in the long run because it can attract the best possible hire, not just the quickest.

Once an employee is hired, the next step is to onboard them to your operation make sure they feel comfortable, are learning as much as they can, and are welcomed into your workplace.

Up to 20% of employee turnover happens during the first 45 days of employment, so it is important to have a tried and true onboarding method in place to make sure you don’t lose those great new hires. Organizations with a standard onboarding process have 50% greater new hire retention.

A checklist is a good idea to follow an onboarding process, and software, such as Process Street, is now available that can help you create and follow a checklist. Process Street outlines each step of the way, from getting an employee’s details to assigning them a mentor on the first day and following up to see how they are doing. Having a checklist gives you a great, transparent way of monitoring progress that is purely analytical.

Following an onboarding process will allow for further refinements in the future and can remove the stress of not knowing how to make a new hire part of the team.

Much like onboarding, training also requires a plan. When creating a plan, think about the goals of the training ­‑ what you would like your employee to know and in what timeframe. Don’t just hand your employee a handbook and set them to work immediately. Think of training as a continual process that requires patience and many check-ins.

Break each role down in your restaurant into a set of tasks and design your training around teaching each of those tasks. When clear goals are set within a specific timeframe, then you and your employee share the same expected outcome and tracking progress is easier.

You can also look at implementing hospitality-specific learning and training systems like Wisetail which can help track and test the knowledge of your new employees to ensure they have the skills they need to do their job well.

Also consider an initial skills audit of the employee so you don’t waste time on training them on things they may already know. Monitor an employee’s performance through performance reports that use data collected monthly and weekly to see where an employee may need more training to be optimal.

Once a new employee is hired, onboarded and trained on what they need to do their job well, the next step is to get them on the schedule! Luckily the days of “penciling them in” for a shift are long-gone. Modern restaurants can take advantage of web-based scheduling tools which make this process a breeze.

Restaurant scheduling software provides great features to help you save time and money adding new staff to your schedule. For example, with a web-based scheduling app you don’t have to worry about dealing with complex availability for new staff – you can simply add them to your schedule and then your new staff can submit their own availability which a manager can then approve.

A scheduling tool like 7shifts takes this one step further by allowing employees to provide shift feedback after their shifts which managers can then use to keep track of their onboarding and training to see if any further action is required and to quickly act on issues that may affect an employee’s on-the-job performance.

To help retain your staff, a good idea is to become knowledgeable of the pain points your staff feel and learn from past employees.

Consider measuring how long staff stay with your restaurant, which can help you understand what you need to do to keep them longer. If your average server stays for 24 months, design incentives around that time frame to keep your employees motivated.

Incentives and rewards are a good way to retain staff. Implement small wage increases every year, staff meals, holiday parties or fun group activities to make your staff enjoy working in your restaurant more. Learn more about creating a solid company culture here.

If an employee does leave, perform an exit interview to see why and what can be improved in your entire employee lifecycle program so the same mistakes aren’t done twice. Also have regular check ins with your employees to make improvements before it is too late. It’s important to identify stressors in your workplace by talking with your staff so you can make strides toward improvement.

In Closing

Since your restaurant may see a lot of staff come and go, use that repetition to always be enhancing and strengthening how you manage an employee’s lifecycle. From using your network and the best job platforms to find the right candidate, to having a tight process for onboarding and training, then regular check-ins to make sure your staff is happy, you will find that approaching an employee lifecycle strategically will save you time, stress, and money in the long run.

10 Ways You Can Give Back To Your Customers This Holiday Season

The holiday season is all about what you can do for others, and that includes your customers.

If you can provide your customers with a memorable, personal experience during the holidays that other brands just aren’t providing, you’ll be top of mind next time they seek out your business.

Here are 10 ways you can give back to your customers during this holiday season.

1. Offer A Sale

A sale is an easy way to give customers something without taking a loss. The sale can be targeted at returning customers to encourage them to return to your business, or target new customers as an effort to draw in new business.

When offering a sale, make sure it’s on a product that provides real value to your customers. Discounting certain menu items or offering a free drink with the purchase of another can work well for a restaurant. At the same time, you want to keep an eye on your margins. It could be a good idea to offer something completely for free, but only if this has a high probability of pulling in additional sales.

Whatever the case, make sure you run the sale in a way that doesn’t kill your profits.

2. Run Conditional Promotions

Similar to running a sale on an individual product, you can offer conditional promotions that encourage your customers to purchase more overall.

You want to position these promotions in a way that provide your business with a profitable sale while providing value to your customer. Here are some examples of how you can do that:

  • Buy one get onethis can work well if you have a product with margins over 50%. Do you sell merchandise or “swag”? The holidays are a perfect time of year to offer discounts on current inventory – and you’ll make room for new products!

  • Spend X amount and get a % off For this one, make sure you choose a price point that’s positioned to get customers to order additional items to increase the dollar amount of their purchase.

  • Buy a specific item to save a % If there’s a specific product that provides you with the majority of your profits, this can help encourage sales of that product.

3. Host A Contest With Rewards

This requires creativity, but it can be worth the extra time spent preparing. Running contests can also help you collect email addresses to be used in email and online marketing efforts.

Social Contest

On your own Instagram account, ask patrons to take a photo either in your restaurant location or with a branded item (like a to-go coffee cup or branded t-shirt) and tag your Instagram handle along with the contest hashtag (for example: #HolidaysAtHansens). To enter the contest, they’ll also have to follow your Instagram page (to boost your organic following).

Then, choose your favorite photos, either based on different categories, or simply on creativity. Award the winner with a prize, like a $50 gift card to dine with you. This encourages repeat business and inspires guests to get involved.

Bonus: You can use this user-generated content in your future social marketing campaigns!

In-Store Giveaway

The contest can also be in the form of a raffle. If you’re trying to get people to stay in your business longer, a raffle is a great way to accomplish that. Ask people to write their email address and name on a piece of paper to be entered. Put together a gift basket, or simply raffle off gift cards to your restaurant or merchandise. It’s that simple! Pull a name from a hat and inform them of their winnings.

If you’re feeling extra generous, do this for 12 days to align with the 12 Days of Christmas.

4. Display Products

Have a bunch of products displayed within your place of business for people to see, and offer guests a way to win select items. Similar to the idea above, you can use this as a way to gather emails.

The products can be anything tailored to the image of your brand. If you’re a coffee shop, for example, maybe choose music and art products to give away to your customers. You can find acoustic guitars for under $500, artwork from local artists, or albums from musicians in a relevant genre to give away to your customers.

If you’ve ever dined at the Cracker Barrel chain, you know they have a store attached to their dining room filled with novelty items, holiday decorations, and even old-fashioned candy. It turns an entire visit to their restaurant into an experience and inspires people to buy more than just food. Consider how you can incorporate this concept into your restaurant strategy, even if just for the holidays.

If you need some inspiration, you can find a good amount of Christmas gift ideas here.

5. Make A Holiday Album

Music is a great way to connect with your audience. If you’re playing holiday music in your business, maybe create an album of those songs that you can sell at a discount to your customers as a way to fully embrace the holiday season.

Another option is to create remixes of holiday songs that fit your businesses style. With the proper licenses in place, you can easily accomplish this with an online mixing and mastering service.

If you need artwork for your businesses holiday album, check out 99 designs for some inexpensive, but high quality, design work.

6. Design Holiday-Specific Items

Another great way to embrace the holiday season is to create a product specifically for the holidays.

Many businesses do this, and it can work for any holiday. Starbucks, for example, consistently releases seasonal flavors of coffee, along with merchandise like mugs, cups, and keepsakes.

Whatever your product, design something specific to the time of year that will appeal to your customers. We talk about seasonal menus and how they boost profits in another blog; these tips can apply to any season!

7. Host An Event

Events are a great way to create chatter among your target customers. You can have an open mic, holiday themed trivia, or another type of event that fits within the interests of your customers. We discuss some December Marketing Ideas in our recent blog post.

When running events, plan them a few weeks in advance so you have time to build buzz around them through your email list and social media following. The earlier the better and the more the merrier!

8. Surprise Them

What better way to create an amazing customer experience than with something great they didn’t expect?

Part of the enjoyment of opening a gift is that you have no idea what it is. You can replicate this type of experience for your customers. Throw something personal in their bag, like a $5 gift card with a note about why they’re awesome.

You can even set limits on this type of gift. For example, you can throw the surprise gift cards into bags only after they meet a certain dollar amount on their bill to protect your margins.

They’ll love it, and will definitely tell their friends about this experience. Not only that, but giving away a surprise gift card will encourage them to come back to use it.

9. Put The Spotlight On Customers

If your customers are generally creative, a great way to show your appreciation for them is to put the spotlight on their creations.

Invite local musicians to submit their songs to be considered for your playlists, or have paper and crayons for kids to draw a picture of Santa Claus to be put on your wall for everyone to see.

Making things about your customers will convince them that you care about them on a personal level and not just for the profits they may bring.

10. Send Snail Mail

If you have your customers’ addresses, sending them a gift card, coupon, or a special, personalized offer in the mail can be a great display of appreciation.

If you don’t have access to your customers’ contact information, you can make an attempt at reaching new customers with a direct mail campaign targeting households in your area.

Whatever the case, you want to make sure you run your campaign effectively. Here’s a resource that can help you with that.

Wrapping It Up

The holiday season is all about giving and it’s the perfect time of year to show your customers you care and appreciate their patronage.

Use these ideas to go the extra mile to give back to your guests this season – and all year!


About the Author: Nicholas Rubright is the founder of Dozmia and lead guitarist in the band Days Gone By. He has a passion for writing, marketing, and collecting some of the best acoustic guitars out there.

8 Reasons Your Restaurant is Losing Money

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, we don’t have to tell you that restaurants run on the thinnest of margins. You’re already doing what you can to bring more money in: solid and intelligent promotions, good staff training for upsales, scaling prices to the “sweet spot” that maximizes profit without driving people away. That’s all well and good.

But for a restaurant to really thrive, you have to approach this problem from both sides. Too many restaurants have great income but are simply hemorrhaging money. Below, we discuss a few of the most common reasons restaurants lose money worldwide, and some simple ways to stop the bleeding.

1. You’re Not Online

Social media, promotion sites like Groupon, community pages, and your own website are absolutely essential to success with any business in this century. This is especially true of restaurants.

Since more and more people use the Internet to make a decision about where to eat each year, you’re leaving money on the table if your online presence isn’t at least as inviting as your front lobby. You’re also missing out on getting new customers through your door if you don’t post your menu and business information online. People want to know everything they can about your restaurant before stepping foot inside, so make this readily available.

The good news is you don’t need to spend much time or effort to make your restaurant website at least as good as your competition: poor online presence is sadly too common in the restaurant industry. If you go above and beyond expectations to make your website top-notch, people will take notice.

2. You Built Your Menu for You

This subtle rookie mistake makes for higher food costs, fewer returning customers, and a surprising number of back-of-house and front-of-house logistical problems.

If you designed your menu based on what you want to cook, what you like to experiment with, and what you want to be perceived as, you’re serving the wrong customer.

Instead, pay attention to what your customers actually order, even going so far as to ask online or in the house. Build your menu based on what people buy, simplifying your offerings until you reduce waste considerably while retaining more customers and leaving them happier than ever at the end of their meal.

3. Your Turnover Is Too High

Between recruiting costs, extra staffing during training, and the price of a new hire’s beginning mistakes, it’s clear that hiring a new employee is far more expensive than keeping somebody on staff long-term.

Sure, employee turnover is an endemic problem in the restaurant industry, but you can still do a lot of things to keep yours lower than others. A few examples:

  • Schedule well, both so you don’t have to keep calling staff in or out, and to accommodate their reasonable needs.

  • Work with each employee about how you will help them reach their long-term goals, whether those goals are inside your company, or something like finishing school and moving on.

  • Check in regularly with everybody about how things are going, not just with them but in how you can improve things overall.

  • Think about your company culture as part of the hiring process. Doing without for an extra week or two is less stressful and costly than hiring somebody who just isn’t going to fit for the long-term—they’ll ultimately cost you and your business more money than they’d bring in.

4. Your Inventory Management Needs Help

Most restaurants spend about 1/3 of their money on inventory. Of that money, the National Restaurant Association estimates as much as 40% is wasted. This happens in three ways:

Without proper inventory management, you can’t spot and stop food theft by employees (more on that in a bit).

Proper inventory management also stops you from accidentally ordering too much of an ingredient to use before it goes bad.

Finally, bad inventory management means wasting food at the end of the night. Finding the right inventory management system, training your staff on it, and using it reliably, is one of the most effective ways to reduce costs in your restaurant beginning this quarter.

5. You Have No Loyalty Program

Experts say it costs 5-7x as much to land a new customer as to sell to a repeat customer, and repeat customers spend 10-15% more each time they come to your store. And yet, most restaurant owners focus on bringing in new customers and communicating to the general public.

Establishing some kind of loyalty program, whether that’s online via an app or something as simple as a punch card, keeps those low-cost, high-spending customers coming back for more.

6. Your Employee Benefits Are too Chintzy

Okay, here’s the truth. Your employees are going to steal from you. It’s no fun that this is true, but nearly all of them will help themselves to some ingredients, or “forget” to write a friend’s meal on a ticket, or take home a cooking pan they like. There’s nothing much to be done about this on the macro, industry-wide level. But you can minimize  it by giving your employees enough benefits to instill a higher level of loyalty.

This is especially true with your employee meal policy. If they’re getting a generous enough shift meal, they’re not going to help themselves to one. It costs about the same, but (a) you know about it and can account for the expense, and (b) it avoids this “gateway theft” to more serious losses.

7. You Haven’t Invested in Tech

Or maybe you invested in the wrong technologies. Apps, electronic menus, automated payroll and hours tracking, online credit card processing, and simple grocery apps are all examples of ways you can turn a little early investment into steady savings month after month.

By contrast, throwing money into fancy kitchen gadgets, unnecessary front-of-house decorations, and similar extravagances do nothing for your bottom line. 

Ever watch one of those bar or restaurant redesign shows? They do wonders on a fairly small budget, using materials originally. If you want your front-of-house to have some pretty and flashy decorations, spend less and create more yourself instead of investing in the wrong kind of expensive tech. 

8. You’re Not Forecasting

Knowing approximately how many customers you’re going to have in a given day isn’t some sort of psychic talent. It’s a well-understood, scientific process the big chains have down to a science.

Without forecasting your throughput, you risk food waste or shortages depending on the day. Without forecasting monthly, seasonal, and quarterly trends, you end up having to put purchases on credit to keep things moving. Both of those cost money.

The good news is that countless blogs (including this one) and free or cheap apps now exist to help walk you through how to forecast, why it’s important, and where to focus your efforts.

Final Thoughts

It’s possible some of the items on this list are things you have well in hand. It’s also possible that so many are out of control that you’re not sure where to start. Either way, doing something is better than doing nothing. We recommend starting with the one that feels easiest and implementing it for one to two months before moving onto the next.

Then use the resources and money that step has saved you to both inspire and support your implementing the next. By the time you’re done with this checklist, you’ll have the extra resources to find even deeper ways to improve your operations, reduce your costs, and increase your profits.


About the Author: Allen Waters is a restaurateur with 20 years of experience starting and running a variety of food places, from a hot dog joint to a high-end French gastronomic experience, before transitioning into consultancy.

He now helps small and struggling restaurants by assessing their main pain points, helping them get out of the red and become locally successful.