Portion Size and Restaurant Sales

It is no surprise that more and more people are becoming calorie conscious. With obesity becoming a major issue in the United States, restaurants need to re-evaluate how they prepare and serve their food to keep their customers. According to the National Restaurant Association, “Two out of every three American adults are now either overweight or obese.” Restaurants need to adjust, by offering healthy alternatives and smaller portions to keep their customers coming back.

More than 80 percent of dinners eat out once or more throughout the week. In order to keep that percentage high, restaurants have to modify their menu to accommodate all types of diners. Excluding fine dining establishments, everyday eateries should consider offering half portions and healthier options to keep people coming through the doors. Displaying nutritional information is a great way to attract customers who are concerned about eating healthfully.

Using smaller bowls and plates and taller, narrower glasses is a strategy that many dietitians recommend for curbing portions. Dietitians also recommend using more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to make plates look fuller and attractive without overdoing it.

With the FDA mandating that restaurant chains display their calorie information on all menus, portion sizing is bound to be affected. Dinners are taking the time to be informed about what they are choosing to put into their bodies and restaurants that want to stay competitive need to begin planning to meet these needs by allowing for increased transparency.

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Appeal to Environmentally Conscious Eaters

Culinary trends aren’t just about what customers like to eat; they influence how a restaurant operates its business. Currently, the environment is on everyone’s mind. Transitioning to locally sourced ingredients or incorporating eco-friendly practices in your business can appeal to environmentally conscious eaters. However, these changes can incur unnecessary costs if not properly understood.

Locally Sourced Ingredients

According to the National Restaurant Association’s annual culinary forecast report, locally sourced meat and seafood and local produce comprised the number one and number three spots, respectively, of the top food trends in 2016. In fact, 57% of people in 2015 said they were more likely to seek out a restaurant that offered locally sourced items on the menu. In terms of revenue, the local food movement has seen an increase from $5 billion in sales in 2008 to over $11 billion in 2014.

One of the major obstacles restaurants experience when purchasing local is their need for such large quantities. Regional food hubs are being established to solve this problem and provide a steady supply chain for local produce. Concerning the costs of local sourcing, there is a common misperception that local ingredients are much more expensive than wholesale or traditional ingredients. In reality, as a recent USDA study proves, local produce costs are cheaper than those sources from groceries or super centers.

With costs and sourcing becoming less of a problem, your restaurant can enjoy the benefits of bringing in new, locally conscious consumers while participating in eco-friendly practices (local food uses fewer transportation-related emissions). The best methods to participate include partnering with local farms, shopping at farmers’ markets, or using a local food distributor.

Environmental Sustainability

As people become more eco-conscious in their daily lives, this awareness is affecting their consumer behavior. For restaurants, this translates to people consciously seeking out establishments that align with their personal beliefs and implement environmentally friendly practices.

According to the 2014 National Restaurant Association study, over half of 18-24 year olds look to frequently dine at restaurants that practice environmental sustainability. This means your restaurant would not only attract new diners, but also they would be more loyal as they feel personally attached to the cause.

One of the major ways to practice eco-friendly behavior in your restaurant is to reduce food waste and use all parts of the ingredient. Showcasing these menu items and highlighting your food waste elimination efforts bring positive attention to your business and attract the conscious consumer who’s willing to pay more for such peace of mind.

Your restaurant can start small with eco-friendly strategies such as printing menus on recycled paper, using linen napkins instead of paper, and educating yourself and your staff on environmental sustainability. Eventually, sourcing ingredients as locally as possible, investing in energy-efficient equipment, and giving your restaurant an eco-conscious overhaul are all strategies to consider.

Quality Work and Customer Service: Why Consumers Prefer Local Businesses

Considering 77% of consumers think national chains offer more competitive pricing, it is essential to set your small business apart by delivering quality and customer service. Providing customers with a personalized experience enables your business to be chosen over name brand stores.
Beat out national chains and get chosen by customers with these local business strategies:

  • Emphasize Quality

When it comes to national chains and local businesses, 72% of consumers are willing to pay your small business more for a higher quality product, even though 77% of consumers say national chains offer more competitive prices. When it comes to purchasing a product or service, price isn’t necessarily a factor – but quality is. Ensuring that your business offers a high-quality product that satisfies customers’ needs in both the short and long-term will ensure they choose you over national chains.

  • Cultivate your Customer Service

Creating a positive experience by providing stellar customer service not only engages your customers with your brand, but also creates loyal customers; 88% of consumers say local businesses offer better, more personalized service, in comparison with national chains. While national chains may offer lower prices, customers will opt to purchase from you if they know they’ll have a positive customer service experience.

  • Promote your brand through online reviews

If asked by a business owner to post a review online, 89% of customers say they would if their experience was positive. By promoting your business online and encouraging customers to post about their positive experiences with your business, you not only create brand ambassadors (and loyal customers), but also provide testimonials to potential customers that your business consistently delivers personalized service and satisfaction.

Understanding the customer advantages of using a local business, and capitalizing on them, ensures your business will be chosen (consistently) over your biggest competitors: national chains.

Check out our full infographic here:

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Presentation is Everything

When it comes to dining (and drinking) out, visual presentation is everything. It takes 1.5 seconds for a wine label to make an impression on us. Talk about fast right? Before someone can speak two words, they will have been affected by the design of a wine bottle.

Deciding to purchase is based on three key factors; if it grabs attention, looks expensive, and sells for a value price, the consumer is more likely to convert to a customer. Overall, it is clear that when something is aesthetically pleasing it is more likely to be a popular purchase amongst consumers.

This concept doesn’t just apply to wine. Restaurant chefs have noticed that in order to have the top dishes on their menu sell, the food needs to be presented in a way that is appetizing to the eye as well as to the palate. Perhaps this is because the effort put into the presentation of a dish makes consumers feel that their food is made with their dining experience in mind. According to Charles Spence, a Professor at The University of Oxford, “When you see presentation, you can see that someone has put effort into it, and that may convey expectations and impact the experience.” When people see that a chef put a personal twist or extra pizzazz into the presentation of an entrée, they are more likely to not only have a positive dining experience, but also visit the restaurant again in the future.

By appealing to diners’ senses through visual presentation, you empower your business to not only increase your sales, but your customers’ overall satisfaction as well.

5 Customer Service Training Mistakes to Avoid

Great customer service starts with training, and training starts with you as the business owner. If your staff isn’t properly equipped to handle customer requests, chances are that they’ll make mistakes that could be costly to your business.
Want to set your employees up for customer service success? Here are 5 mistakes to avoid during training.

Mistake 1: Training? What Training?

Your small business likely doesn’t have a full-time customer service representative. Even if you do, he or she probably isn’t the only staff member helping out with customer service. Make sure all of your employees are trained to help customers, and have everyone adhere to the same guidelines so that your patrons’ experience is consistent across the board.

Mistake 2: Not Setting Tangible Goals

It’s one thing to tell your staff to answer the phone promptly, but telling someone and holding someone accountable are two different things. Setting concrete customer service goals will help clarify your expectations for employees and give them something to work towards. It will also help you benchmark success and have clear milestones for incentives and rewards.

Mistake 4: Forgetting Your Customers’ Needs

When you have a small staff, it’s tempting to take short cuts to resolve issues so that your team can get back to work. Don’t do it! Remember, your customers don’t just want their issues to be resolved—they want to feel like they’re a priority for your business. Train your staff to take the time needed to really listen to each customer and make sure their needs are met.

Mistake 5: Not Preparing for Bad Situations

Every business deals with unhappy customers from time to time. Leaving it up to your staff members to handle these situations on the fly is a recipe for disaster. Make sure your training includes clear directions on how to handle sticky situations, including a proper escalation hierarchy. They’ll handle complaints much more gracefully if they prepare in advance.

Mistake 5: Lack of Autonomy

Once you’ve trained your staff on how customer service should be handled, let them handle it. Except for difficult cases that require your input, your staff members shouldn’t have to come to you every time there’s a customer service issue. Not only will this type of system become a burden on your time, it will also quickly frustrate your employees. If you have concerns about specific staff members, you may not want them helping out with customer service at all.

The Bottom Line

Educate your staff members on customer service and clearly outline the standards you want them to meet. Make sure to cover the appropriate responses for different types of customer complaints so that no one is taken by surprise. Lastly, give your staff the ability to resolve inquiries on their own when possible—this will speed up the resolution process and give them a sense of autonomy and ownership over their customer service efforts.

5 Ways to Kick Your Customer Service up a Notch

Business trends come and go, and new technologies appear every week. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of customer service. Marketing efforts will help bring new customers to the door, but great customer service will ensure that you keep them—and keep them happy.
Even if you already have effective customer service practices in place, you can always find ways to improve. Here are 5 things you can do to make a difference with your customers:

1. Be Available

Do you need to host a 24/7 customer service hotline? Probably not. But you should make it as easy as possible for people to get in touch with you. Display your key contact information—business hours, phone number, social media channels, email address—prominently on your website and business listings to promote communication. 

2. Point out Problems Early

Does a customer look unhappy with a dish they ordered, or uncertain about a purchase they’re making? Don’t wait for them to complain—ask if you can do something different then and there. Addressing a problem early is the best way to ensure that it gets resolved quickly. It also lets the customer know that you’re paying attention and care about their overall experience.

3. Resolve Issues Quickly

The best way to turn a negative customer interaction into a positive one is to handle issues quickly. If a manager is required, have them respond to escalated requests immediately. If someone asks to speak to the owner, make yourself available for a conversation. Fast, attentive service can change someone’s mind about ditching your business—92% of consumers agree.

4. Keep in Touch

Once you’ve resolved a problem, don’t let that be the last time a customer hears from you. Send a thank you note to follow up, or ask for their feedback on the customer service experience via email or a survey. Knowing that you’re continuing to think about them—and to value their input in your process—is a great way to solidify a patron’s brand loyalty.

5. Reward Great Service

While helpful and prompt customer service should be a top priority for any employee, some may need additional motivation to go the extra mile. Rewarding great customer service, either individually or as a team, can provide additional incentive for your staff to bring their A-game when helping clients.

The Bottom Line

Improving customer service leads to happier customers—and happier customers lead to better business. Repeat customers spend 67% more than first-time customers, and make larger purchases in general. Spending the time and effort needed to cultivate great customer service is an investment that will pay off in the long run for your business.

How Loyal Are Your Customers? 4 Ways to Boost Retention

Every business owner knows that customer retention is key to long-term success. Studies have shown consistently that acquiring a new customer is much more expensive than keeping one. However, figuring out what makes customers leave—and what makes customers loyal—can sometimes be a guessing game.
While the specifics may vary, the root cause is usually the same. According to a recent study by RightNow, 82% of US consumers stopped doing business with a company due to poor customer service.

Here are 4 simple ways you can improve your customer service and boost retention:

1. Always Be Friendly

It’s easy to underestimate the power of a friendly face, but your staff’s behavior has a huge impact on customer retention. 73% of people who stop patronizing a business leave because of a rude employee. Although it can be difficult to remain upbeat with challenging customers, resorting to snarky behavior will damage both your relationship with individual patrons and your business’s overall reputation. A prime example from this year: Amy’s Baking Company.

2. Provide Readily Accessible Information and Help

Whether a consumer is trying to decide on a dish at a restaurant, obtain more information about a salon product, or select an auto repair service, they want the same thing: quick information and assistance. Make sure your staff is well-versed in all of the products and services your business offers, and encourage them to be proactive in offering help to customers, both in-person and online.

3. Create Personalized Experiences

In today’s custom-crazed culture, a little personalization can go a long way toward retaining customers. Birthday-specific freebies, tailored recommendations based on previous purchases, special discounts for teachers or veterans—the possibilities are endless. Do some research to find out what kind of personalization would be most valuable for your customers, and test out a few different offers to see which ones have the greatest impact.

4. Maintain a Great Reputation

If consumers have heard wonderful things about your business, they’re more likely to remain a customer. Conversely, if they’ve heard bad things about your business, they may hesitate to purchase from you again. Maintaining a good reputation can be a lot of work, but it’s work that needs to be done in order to keep customers’ respect and loyalty.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to retention, great customer service is essential. Make sure you and your staff are making the most of everyday opportunities to go above and beyond for your customers. You’ll get the best kind of thanks for your efforts—happy clients and repeat business.