The Coffee Industry is Changing: How Will Your Business Adapt?

Coffee. For most people, coffee is the fuel that gets them going in the morning (I know it is for me). Whether it’s a cup brewed at home or an iced latte grabbed on the go, the average coffee drinker has 3 cups per day. In the US alone, there are 150 million daily drinkers. Of course, drinking coffee isn’t a new trend. It’s been around since the discovery of the “coffee berry” in Ethiopia way back when in the year 850.  But, the ways in which we consume the hot (and cold) stuff has quickly evolved in recent times.

Because of its increasing popularity, the $100B coffee industry itself is currently experiencing growing pains. There is ample room for opportunity, but where there’s opportunity, there are also threats. CBInsights says:

[Global coffee production is hitting record highs this year, and analysts predict consumption growth of 5-7% through 2025.

Young people in China are drinking more coffee, while Americans are drinking more expensive coffee — opening huge opportunities on both fronts.]

Good news, right? Of course, coffee production companies will have to adjust to supply accordingly, especially those suppliers in the U.S. More countries that are usually top coffee suppliers are becoming avid coffee drinkers, which means fewer beans available for export to the US. Here are the top 4 coffee exporters based on 2017 data:

  • Brazil: US$4.6 billion (14.1% of total coffee exports)
  • Vietnam: $3.5 billion (10.7%)
  • Germany: $2.64 billion (8.1%)
  • Colombia: $2.58 billion (7.9%)

The United States is 12th on that list, which means we’ve got to step up our coffee production game if we want to keep enjoying those fresh cups of joe.

So, what does all this coffee news mean for the restaurant industry? Well, the demand for coffee is present and will most likely trend upwards. But, brick and mortar locations are at a low when it comes to growth rate. Why? Because there are plenty more options today than just grabbing a hot cup of coffee at the local diner or cafe.

If you’ve recently been in any big-box supermarket or convenience stores, chances are you’ve seen a dozen or more options for grab-and-go coffee. Bottled, boxed, or canned, coffee is available in multiple forms and flavors. This segment of coffee is called the ready-to-drink market and major brands like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts have already caught on. Cold brew, a term that was foreign until the late 2000s, has become a massive phenomenon in recent times. Cold brew is served both in brick-and-mortar locations and in the ready-to-drink form. And it’s a huge hit with millennials.

 via Spoon University via Spoon University

According to CNBC:

[The ready-to-drink coffee market is forecast to show 67 percent sales growth from 2017-2022, according to Mintel. It also said the ready-to-drink coffee market is the fastest growing segment within the retail coffee market.

“The ready-to-drink coffee market is growing at a very, very strong rate and one of the fastest growing non-alcoholic beverages in general,” Bryant told CNBC.

The ready-to-drink market is certainly a strong competitor to kind of traditional coffee shops because these drinks have become more premium, more specialized and come in a variety of flavors as well,” said Caleb Bryant, senior foodservice analyst at Mintel. “And generally they might be less expensive than something you get at a coffee shop.]

Of course, brick and mortar restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops have to keep this ready-to-drink segment on their radar. But, the good news is millennials are willing to spend more for a fancy caffeinated beverage. As a millennial myself, I think that the ready-to-drink options are convenient and useful in a pinch, but I would still much prefer enjoying a fresh roast at a real cafe.

When it comes to how coffee drinkers go about prioritizing what’s important, we found this infographic by My Coffee Pro quite interesting:

It’s clear to see that people find convenience, location proximity, and good quality product the most important factors of their coffee decisions.

Since the brick-and-mortar growth rates are currently low, you should jump on the opportunity to make it known that you serve what the masses are looking for. Market your business creatively and get your full menu online. Millennials are a great demographic to target & they’re doing online research to discover new spots to drink & dine, so it’s essential to be in all the places they’re searching. Get hyper-local in some of your marketing efforts to make sure you’re reaching an audience near your location. Most people are looking for a morning or afternoon pick-me-up nearby, so you want to let it be known that you’re available and close!

In the wake of a changing coffee landscape, below are a few ideas on how to stand out from the rest of the java crowd.

Create an Exclusive Drink

Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte isn’t a drink, it’s a lifestyle. Dunkin Donuts chooses seasonal syrups like Cookie Dough and Peppermint Mocha and then includes the limited-time flavors in any drink you can think of. McDonald’s just released frozen cold brew – a midsummer day’s dream. The moral of the story: people love exclusivity, limited-time offers, and creative concoctions. So, come up with your own! The big guys aren’t the only players who can entice customers with one-of-a-kind items. Dream up, test, and serve drinks that are exclusive to your business and too delicious to deny. Then market those drinks as a limited-time summer (or fall, winter, or spring) offer and get people excited to try them out. You can create buzz around your business simply by being creative and original. But, remember, marketing is a key tactic in all of this. Drum up buzz on your social channels, send email blasts, and make sure your menu is updated everywhere!

Make it An Experience

You may not be a business solely dedicated to coffee but still serve it as your restaurant. Even if you are exclusively a coffee shop, you may want to consider making the experience more “DIY.” Although fast-casual dining is uberly popular, people are still interested in making dining out a true experience. According to a survey by Eventbrite, 75% of people said that they believe unique dining experiences are worth paying more for. So, capitalize on this by offering a one-of-a-kind experience at your location. Try out an upscale coffee bar, complete with different mix-ins and toppings, so guests can create their own potent potion. You can charge a fee per addition or a flat fee based on cup size. You can even set up a photo station with great lighting and props to inspire guests to take photos to post on Instagram.

You may even consider a “pop up” coffee stand outside of your location’s entrance or even in a completely different location. You can make this a limited time offering just for the warm months to offer cold brew and iced coffees. If you have an inviting outdoor area, you may just tempt guests to stay a while longer.

Market, Market, Market!

 via Kays Boutiques via Kays Boutiques

It’s tough to compete against big-name brands and convenient coffee options. But, as we already mentioned, you’ve got something that makes you unique. Marketing goes a long way when it comes to both customer retention and bringing in new guests. Make sure to dedicate some effort to marketing. You can send email newsletters to customers you have email addresses for to tell them about new item releases and exclusive drink deals. If you’re feeling generous, offer coupons for new drinks or a rewards program for multiple visits. Post updates frequently to social media and use high-quality, attractive photos to catch followers’ eyes. Make sure to geotag your posts and encourage others to do so as well so new guests know where you’re located.

Get your menu online, with the help of a menu management company, so people searching for “coffee near me” can find you (remember, location is important to customers!) With the help of menu management you can gain visibility on the sites that matter – like Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and many more. Getting the word out there about your brand and your products will help you attract more coffee lovers.

Coffee has been around since before you or me, but the way in which we drink it has changed drastically over the years. A simple percolated pot of coffee has evolved into an artistically topped latte and cold brew in a can. As a restaurant or cafe owner, you should be mindful of how the coffee landscape is changing and how it affects your business. You want to continue to bring in business despite the existence of competition, so think of new and exciting ways you can offer, and market, your cup of joe.

Meal Kit Delivery Services: How Will Your Restaurant Compete?

Each morning, I listen to a podcast on my way to work. Without fail, at least twice a week, the regular programming is interrupted with advertisements for Blue Apron and HelloFresh. You’ve probably heard of these companies too. They, along with a slew of other meal kit services, deliver pre-portioned ingredients straight to customers’ doors so that they can make restaurant quality dishes like brown butter gnocchi and provolone burgers with marinated kale at home.

 via Hello Fresh Instagram via Hello Fresh Instagram

The meal kit delivery concept originated in Europe in 2007 and has exploded in the United States over the past few years. Now, there seems to be a delivery service to cater to every culinary niche. For example, Sun Basket offers paleo, vegan, vegetarian, and pescatarian options, Purple Carrot is 100% vegan, PeachDish focuses on Southern specialties, and GreenBlender is exclusively for those who prefer to drink their meals. Collectively, meal kit services are said to rake in a whopping  $1.5 billion in sales each year and, as of last year, the industry was worth an estimated  $4.65 billion.

So, where are those billions of dollars in sales coming from? According to Nielsen, one in four Americans had tried a meal kit service as of March 2017. Neilsen’s study also found that men of all ages are 40% more likely to purchase meal kits than women of the same age and that Millenials and Gen Xers are 321% more likely to buy them than older generations. Moreover, households with children are 326% more likely to purchase meal kits than households without children.

While restaurant traffic has slowed over the past year, meal kit sales are growing exponentially. Now, grocery stores and other major retailers are getting in on the action.  In 2017, Kroger introduced a line of Prep+Pared meals and Amazon began offering meal kit deliveries to select cities. This year, Walmart rolled out its Home Chef Meal Kits at more than 2,000 of its stores. This means that meal kits are now more readily available to the general population than ever before. Therefore, it’s not so hard to believe that the meal kit delivery market is predicted to be worth about 11.6 billion dollars by 2022.

So, how can your restaurant compete with these services? We’ve compiled a list of ways you can make sure you don’t lose sales to meal kit delivery services.

Make Ordering a Cinch

In order to compete with meal kit delivery services that automatically send meals to customers’ doors, you should make ordering ahead as quick and easy as possible. For example, instead of requiring customers to place pickup and delivery orders over the phone, allow them to place their orders online.

Not only is online ordering convenient for your customers, it’s also better for you! Online ordering improves order accuracy (there’s no risk of mishearing a customer and customers can check their selections before they submit them) and digital orderers spend $4 more on average than non-digital orders.

If you’re already partnered with a third-party food ordering service like Grubhub or Seamless, that’s great. Not only do these services make ordering easy, they can also make it easier for new customers to find your restaurant.

It can also be very beneficial to implement your own in-house online ordering software so that customers can place their orders directly on your website. Not only does in-house software allow you to customize your interface, you also won’t lose profits to middlemen. As a result, you’ll boost your revenue. Check out how easy it is to place and customize your order on Boloco’s website.

Offer Cooking Classes

According to a study conducted by Market Force Information, of respondents who had tried a meal kit service, 44% did so because they thought it would be a fun experience, 27% did so because they wanted to learn new cooking techniques, and 26% did so because they wanted to improve their culinary skills.

You can offer diners all three of those things by holding cooking classes at your restaurant. Restaurant-bakery Le Pain Quotidien holds a variety of cooking and baking classes. Prospective students can choose from a course catalog including artisan pizza making and biscuit and scone making. New York eatery Thaimee Table, formerly Ngam, offers Thai cooking classes. Whatever your restaurant’s specialty is, diners may be interested in learning how to make it. Consider gaging interest in a class at your restaurant in order to boost revenue.

Bread making class at Le Pain Quotidien (Tiny Oranges)

Highlight High-Quality Ingredients and Healthy Menu Items

Another common reason that individuals opt for meal kits is for their high-quality ingredients and options that accommodate different dietary restrictions. Many meal kit services heavily advertise their use of organic, antibiotic-free, and sustainable ingredients as well as their low-calorie and diet-friendly options. Additionally, home-cooked meals are generally assumed to be healthier than restaurant ones.

Because restaurants meals often get a bad rap for being unhealthy, you should make it a point to mention if ingredients are organic or locally sourced and if dishes are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or otherwise healthy options. You should also make it as easy as possible for customers to alter dishes to accommodate their particular diets. Some restaurants even note on their menus which items can be made vegetarian or gluten-free upon request.

Make Customers Offers They Can’t Refuse

Many of the meal kit companies offer special deals to attract new customers. For example, Blue Apron offers $20 off of each of customers’ first three boxes and HelloFresh offers up to 50% off customers’ first boxes. According to Fast Company, all of the price competition between services leads many customers to jump between companies so that they can take advantage of the discounts that each of the companies have to offer.

Clearly, discounts are a good way to acquire customers. So, to better compete with meal kit delivery services, consider offering coupons or Groupon deals or implementing loyalty programs that reward customers for repeat visits. In case you need another incentive to start a loyalty program, customers spend 46% more when businesses have loyalty programs.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join “Em

Finally, you can try offering meal kits of your own. 49% of adults said they would buy a meal kit from their favorite restaurant. So, why not give the people what they want?

You can either try a pilot program in which you deliver meal kits that help customers prepare your most popular dishes at home to their doors each week or just sell meal kits at your location.

(Restaurant Hospitality)

Strip House in New York City offers “Steak to Go” kits that include two each of barrel-cut filet mignons, prime center-cut strip steaks, and dry-aged boneless ribeyes as well as the restaurant’s signature pepper blend, oil, seasoning, steak sauce, and grilling tips. They typically sell 20-30 kits each week.

(Restaurant Hospitality)

Dos Caminos restaurant offers a “Guac’Tailing To Go Kit” that includes all the ingredients customers need to make guacamole and margaritas at home.

The creators of  Boston Burger Company created a BurgaBox Burger Meal Kit that provides ingredients for four burgers and two sides. Co-owner Chuck Sillari shared some advice for other restaurant owners hoping to get into the meal kit business. “I think only operators who can execute properly should consider meal kits; they’re a totally different world compared to running a restaurant. A lot of testing and tasting go into the creation of every kit,” he told Trendista. “But, if you love making your people happy and can do it right, I say do it. It’s great to see people get so excited about provides what we’re doing.”

Meal kit delivery services are everywhere. Is your restaurant ready to compete?

The Current State of Employment’s Effect on Your Restaurant

In today’s employment market good help is hard to find. And the current state of employment in the US directly affects your restaurant business. Of course, as a restaurant owner, you want to stay afloat despite any potential difficulties. It’s important to stay in-the-know about current industry trends and realities in order to adjust accordingly. Today we’re discussing the state of the employment industry as it relates to the restaurant industry & what all of it means for your restaurant.

Low Unemployment Rate

The unemployment rate is currently holding steady at a record low at 4% (the lowest it’s been in 17 years). This is a great thing for our economy but can pose threats to your restaurant business. If everyone has a job, they don’t need a new one! Despite the unemployment rate, the restaurant industry continues to grow at a rapid pace. There are too many positions available and not enough talent, which really makes it an employment seeker’s market. This notion means that candidates might strategically negotiate higher wages because they know restaurants desperately need roles to be filled. And if a potential new hire isn’t happy with your offer, they might just go across the street to another restaurant to negotiate for a higher wage. Current minimum wage varies; you can see the current minimum wages by state here.

Without enough employees, you’ll find it even more difficult to keep running your operations smoothly. That’s why creating a solid company culture is ever-so important. Although it may currently be a challenge to bring on new employees, you should also focus on keeping the ones you already have happy. A business is strengthened by its people and without your staff, you’d have to close up shop.

Ideas for Increasing Employee Longevity:

  • Offer ongoing training opportunities
  • Create some attractive company perks and incentives
  • Establish an open line of communication between owners and employees

High Staff Turnover

Another factor,  the elephant in the restaurant dining room, is high staff turnover. As a restaurant owner, you know it exists. We discussed staff turnover in our blog on company culture and offered up some ideas on how to improve your restaurant’s culture.

Unfortunately, the hospitality industry sees over 70% in turnover rates. There are many factors that contribute to this in restaurants.

Many restaurant workers are part-time, using it as a first job opportunity and as extra cash while they’re in school. On the other hand, some employees discover that the long and demanding work hours just aren’t for them.

Plus, many restaurant industry jobs are tip-based, which can prove to be an undesirable source of income for some workers. And when it comes to tips, the current tip debate may pose additional threats. Although some believe that having a pricing model where the tip is already factored into the cost can help mitigate tip theft and other issues, others are standing strong against it. According to the article by Food & Wine:  “Some servers say this means lower wages and more turnover.” 

The turnover percentage varies based on restaurant type as well, with fast-food restaurants experiencing the highest rates.

According to the National Restaurant News:

[Turnover among limited-service restaurants is 153 percent, including a 60-percent turnover rate among managers. Full-service restaurants have a turnover rate of 101 percent, with managers churning at a 37-percent rate, he said, citing data from Dallas-based analytics firm TDn2K.]

The cost of turnover is detrimental to restaurants, as rehiring and retraining are an ongoing burden for your finances and resources. This is another reason why keeping your current employees happy is extremely important.

Of course, not every employee is going to stick around for a lengthy tenure, but it’s wise to have a plan in place for keeping workers around. Creating a solid and desirable company culture can help your employees see the benefits of working for you.

Ideas for Boosting Company Culture: 

  • Fun, interactive team outings
  • An inviting break room
  • Consistent check-in one-on-one meetings

Current Government Status

The government’s crackdown on immigration laws is also influencing the restaurant industry’s hiring pool. Since 2017,  seasonal work visa allowances for immigrants has lowered. An article by The Sand Paper states:

[Prior to the Trump Administration, the U.S. would allow some 66,000 non-agricultural workers to work seasonally on what’s called an H-2B Visa, where business required more labor than the local workforce could supply. Traditionally, workers who returned season after season weren’t included in the 66,000 cap.

These are legal, temporary immigrant workers who are taxed. They return to their home country at the end of the season.

The current administration decided to keep the cap at 66,000, which has left many U.S. businesses scrambling, particularly ones that are busiest in the summer. In May, the Department of Homeland Security raised the cap, allowing another 15,000 workers. But for some businesses it may be too late.]

With fewer workers on visas allowed into the country for seasonal work, there are even fewer options when it comes to temporary hiring. Businesses, especially those who boom in the summer months, are finding it difficult to fill roles even for a short length of time.

Aside from legal immigrants, illegal immigration is being closely looked at as well. Undocumented workers are aplenty in the restaurant industry, but their potential deportation poses even more of a threat to restaurant staff numbers.

Studies from 2017 show that immigrants make up 17% of the US labor force, with almost one-quarter of those workers being undocumented. Pew Research finds that if immigration declines, the workforce numbers will fall along with it. As Baby-Boomers phase out and the US birth rate remains low, there are less homegrown citizens in need of work. It’ll be important to keep tabs on the state of immigration laws and how they evolve to see how they’ll impact the workforce.

Piecing it All Together

It’s no secret that there are many factors making hiring and maintaining employees difficult in the restaurant industry currently. As a restaurant owner, you’re probably feeling the effects. If your business has had a history of high-turnover, consider some of the suggestions we’ve made for keeping employees around longer.

Work as an Experience

Today, employees aren’t just looking for a paycheck; they want incentives and benefits that make the job worthwhile. Implementing even the smallest of changes to make the work environment more enjoyable can help keep workers around longer.

Educational Opportunities

Giving your employees additional opportunities to learn an advance can prove to be beneficial. Ongoing training and education can inspire workers to climb the ladder at your company instead of going elsewhere. Providing opportunities to learn shows that you care about their career path.

Preparing for the Inevitable

Of course, turnover is always going to be a factor in the restaurant industry. How you deal with it will help in the long run. If you have a tried and true training strategy mapped out, it will be easier and faster to bring on new employees. Make sure that your training staff is well-educated and prepared to take on new hires.

Smart Recruiting

When it comes to immigration laws, there isn’t much that we as common citizens can do about them. But, instead, the restaurant industry should prepare to adjust.

Get creative when recruiting new employees. Showcase what makes your restaurant unique and provide reasons why prospects should work there. Make sure that the application process clearly shows your brand identity and highlights your strengths. Be transparent during the interviews so the candidate knows exactly what to expect from the start.

Referrals are also a great way to reel in quality employees. Ask current driven employees if they know anyone who would be a great fit. Of course, you should incentivize the employees who gave you the recommendation if you decide to hire their referral.

Don’t just hire to hire, hire because you see the individual as a great fit for the company. Although these ideal employees may be hard to find, they have more of a chance of lasting longer.

The employment landscape is always changing, but as a restaurant owner, you need to know how to adapt quickly in order to stay afloat. It’s important to be aware of current employment rates, industry turnover percentages, and government regulations. Being informed and prepared will aid you in making more informed decisions so you can hire smarter and keep employees around for the long haul.

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

Top Chefs: 11 Amazing Restaurateurs To Keep On Your Radar Right Now

We’ve rounded up a list of restaurateurs to watch from across the United States. Each of these restaurateurs (or restaurateur groups) brings a unique point of view to their newly opened restaurants (they’ve all opened at least one within the last year). While some of them have been in the restaurant business for longer than others, they all show great promise and should definitely be on your radar.

1. Edouardo Jordan

  • City:  Seattle, WA
  • Restaurants: JuneBaby, Salare
  • About: Edouardo Jordan honed his skills at the widely acclaimed French Laundry. In 2015, he opened his first restaurant, Salare. Salare boasts a refined menu that is primarily European but draws upon African, Caribbean, and Southern cuisines for inspiration. Jordan admits that he initially ran away from the idea of cooking classic southern food because he did not want to be pigeonholed. However, this year, he opened a second—and uber-successful—restaurant, JuneBaby, that pays tribute to the southern food of his childhood. The venture has already earned him two James Beard awards—best new restaurant in the country (he’s the first African American chef to take home that honor) and best chef – northwest. The house specialties at Junebaby include fried catfish with grits and fiddleheads and “Momma Jordan’s Oxtails” with grapes, trumpet mushrooms, turnips, and black rice.
  • Learn more: Bon Appetit, The Seattle Times

2. Rose Previte

  • City: Washington, DC
  • Restaurants: Compass Rose, Maydan
  • About: Rose Previte has quickly become one of the biggest names in the D.C. food scene. Growing up in a Sicilian-Lebanese family, she helped her mother run a Lebanese catering business out of their kitchen in Ada, Ohio. She developed an appreciation for other global cuisines when she visited over 30 countries during the time her husband, NPR journalist David Greene, was stationed in Russia. Her travels inspired her first restaurant, Compass Rose, which she opened in 2014. The menu features traditional street food dishes from across the world. Diners can enjoy Malaysian chili shrimp, Russian beet-cured trout, and Peruvian steak in the main dining room or in the Bedouin tent built on the back patio for private parties. The restaurant’s signature dish is khachapuri, a cheese-filled bread common in street food stalls across the world and especially ubiquitous in Georgia. This year, Previte returned to her culinary roots when she opened Maydan, a Middle Eastern restaurant just four blocks North of Compass Rose. The fare is inspired by family meals in Eastern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. Flatbread is brought out continuously to eat with the wide selection of spreads (including Beiruti hummus, taktouka, and labneh), vegetables, seafood, kebabs, and larger plates—Previte’s lamb shoulder with Syrian seven spice is widely praised.
  • Learn more: Eater, Washington City Paper, Vice, WETA

3. Philip Krajeck

  • City: Nashville, TN
  • Restaurants: Rolf and Daughters, Folk
  • About: Philip Krajeck’s appreciation for good food began when his family moved to Brussels when he was ten years old. He opened his first restaurant, Rolf and Daughters, in late 2012. The restaurant’s specialty is homemade pasta, which diners enjoy in the restaurant’s exposed brick dining room. Customer favorites include the hand-cut farro gemelli with mushrooms, kale, and parmesan and the paccheri with spring onion, heirloom beans, and pine nuts. The restaurant was an instant success, and was even named one of Bon Appetit’s top three new restaurants in America in 2013.  Naturally, diners eagerly awaited Krajeck’s next restaurant, Folk, which he opened in April. Krajeck, who previously staged at famed new York Pizzeria Roberta’s, has described Folk as a passion project. At Folk, he hopes to share his love of pizza with the world. The restaurant’s specialty pizzas include a tomato mozzarella pizza topped with a salad of spring lettuces, herbs, and Italian dressing and clam pizza with agretti, bonito, lemon and chili. The rest of the menu focuses on minimalist vegetable dishes that use just a few ingredients each.
  • Learn more: Star Chefs, Bon Appetit, Eater, Eater, Food & Wine

4. David Nayfeld, Matthew Brewer, and Angela Pinkerton

  • City: San Francisco, CA
  • Restaurants: Che Fico, Theorita
  • About: Business partners David Nayfeld and Matthew Brewer have worked in some of the best restaurants in the country. Nayfeld, who is originally from the Bay Area, worked at Eleven Madison Park in New York returning to California to open a pop-up restaurant, Fifty Seven, in Los Angeles. Brewer spent two years at the Michelin-starred L20 in Chicago before founding Hogsalt Hospitality restaurant group (Au Cheval and Bavette’s), where he directed operations until 2014. That same year, a mutual friend who knew that Nayfeld and Brewer were both looking to open restaurants of their own introduced the two. They recruited pastry chef Angela Pinkerton, another Eleven Madison Park veteran, to handle desserts. In March of 2018, the trio finally opened Che Fico (the name, which roughly translates to “what a fig,” is an Italian slang term that means “that’s so cool”). Despite the Nayfeld and Brewer’s fine-dining backgrounds, Che Fico serves rustic Italian and Roman Jewish fare with a focus on local California ingredients. The menu features handmade pasta, in-house charcuterie (there’s a room dedicated to aging charcuterie in the middle of the dining room!), and Neapolitan pizzas as well as seasonal specials. Pinkerton’s desserts range from cannolis with housemade ricotta to olive oil cake with elderflower gelato). Even though Che Fico is only a few months old, it is wildly popular and counts Gwyneth Paltrow and Anderson Cooper among its devoted diners. Now, devotees are eagerly awaiting Theorita, a pie-focused luncheonette the three are opening this fall.
  • Learn more: Food & Wine, Haute Living, SF Gate

5. Erling Wu-Bower

  • City: Chicago, IL
  • Restaurants: Pacific Standard Time
  • About: Three-time James Beard nominee Erling Wu-Bower has an impressive pedigree. He’s worked at some of the best restaurants in Chicago, including Avec, The Publican, and Nico Osteria.  This April, he opened a windy city restaurant of his own with his restaurant group Underscore Hospitality. At Pacific Standard Time, Wu-Bower trades in precision cooking (the style of choice in his previous kitchens) for wood-fired hearths and pizza ovens. The menu at Wu-Bower’s “obsessively anticipated” restaurant changes daily and pays homage to authentic California cuisine. Wu-Bower, whose mother immigrated to the U.S. from China, is inspired by the intercultural conversations that California diners have come to expect in their meals. Therefore, PST’s menu incorporates flavors from across the world and also adopts California’s emphasis on seasonal cooking. Dishes at PST range from wood-fired flatbreads and coal roasted vegetables to soft shell crab with bacon, pickled onion, bibb lettuce, and tomato and sea bass in a poblano broth with clams, snap pea, and radish.
  • Learn more: Chicago Tribune, Wired, Michelin Guide

6. Edwin Zoe

  • City: Boulder, CO
  • Restaurants: Zoe Ma Ma, Chimera
  • About: Edwin Zoe’s parents owned multiple Asian restaurants in the Midwest before relocating to the west coast. In 2010, Zoe and his mother opened Zoe Ma Ma, an authentic Chinese street food restaurant, in Boulder. Zoe Ma Ma emphasizes high-quality ingredients such as organic noodles and cage-free eggs.  In 2015, they opened a second location in Boulder’s Union Square. Now, Zoe is back with a more upscale restaurant, Chimera. At Chimera, located next door to Zoe Ma Ma, Zoe does not stick to the confines of just one Asian cuisine. Rather, he draws on his father’s northern Chinese heritage, his mother’s Taiwanese heritage, and his own Midwestern upbringing to offer diners a taste of the Pacific Rim. The menu features everything from Jasmine-tea smoked chicken to Korean hotpot, and soup dumplings. Since opening in April, Chimera has received rave reviews and even tops Eater’s list of The 14 Hottest Restaurants in Denver, June 2018.
  • Learn more: Westword, Eater

7. Antoni Porowski

  • City: New York, NY
  • Restaurants: TBD
  • About:  Antoni Porowski has captured hearts across America as the designated food expert on the Netflix revival of Queer Eye (season 2 premiered June 15). Some viewers believe that the dishes Porowski prepares on the makeover show (like fresh guacamole and French omelets) are too simple for him to be taken seriously as a chef. However, his defenders maintain that he needs to cater to the skill levels of the men and women the “fab five” advise (most of whom don’t know their way around the kitchen). Porowski will have the chance to prove his cooking chops once and for all when he opens his first restaurant, a fast-casual place in New York. While most details about the restaurant are still under wraps, Porowski says that the restaurant will open within the next few months.
  • Learn more: Eater, Vogue

8. Samantha Kincaid, Jon Nodler, and Michael Fry

  • City: Philadelphia, PA
  • Restaurants: Cadence
  • About: Husband and wife team Samantha Kincaid and Jon Nodler met Michael Fry when they were working at Ellen Yin’s Fork. Together, the three opened Cadence this past March. The chefs cook with the best ingredients that the region has to offer and incorporate many obscure ingredients and offcuts, like lamb heart, in order to create a dining experience that is “at once thought-provoking and familiar.” For example, the chefs upgrade traditional chicken wings by stuffing them with a chicken mousseline flavored with Thai chilis, herbs, and lime. Kincaid is responsible for the desserts which include a malted chocolate tart and oat milk shaved ice. Diners can choose to order a la carte or set-price menus. The restaurant is BYOB, but offers an extensive menu of non-alcoholic drinks like house-made vinegar shrub sodas, kombuchas, and high-grade teas (the teas are paired with the tasting menu). They can also recommend wines that are available at a nearby liquor store to go with each course.
  • Learn more: Philly,  Philly Mag

9. Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis

  • City: Los Angeles, CA
  • Restaurants: Bestia, Bavel
  • About: Husband and wife team Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis burst onto the culinary scene in 2012 when they opened Bestia with established restaurateur Bill Chait. Menashe served as chef while Gergis served as pastry chef. The Italian restaurant has been called one of the biggest restaurants to open in Los Angeles in the last decade and, six years after opening, is still almost impossible to get a reservation there. Menashe and Gergis have cemented themselves as restaurateurs in their own right since the opening of their second restaurant, Bavel, in 2018. Bavel’s Middle Eastern menu pays homage to the couple’s ancestors in Israel, Morocco, Turkey, and Egypt. The menu includes three kinds of hummus, foie gras halva, and other spreads as well as a selection of appetizers, flatbreads, and entrees, all.intended to be served family style. The slow-roasted lamb neck shawarma with tahini, fermented cabbage, pickled turnips, and laffa is particularly well-reviewed. In addition to developing inventive desserts like licorice ice cream bonbons and rose clove chocolate donuts, Gergis contributed to the interior design of both restaurants.
  • Learn more: The Infatuation, The Infatuation

10. Jonathan Benno

  • City: New York, NY
  • Restaurants: Leonelli Taberna, Leonelli Focacceria e Pasticceria, Benno
  • About: Chef Jonathan Benno has been called “criminally under-appreciated.” Benno, who has worked in Per Se, The French Laundry, and Gramercy Tavern among other esteemed restaurants, is well-respected among other chefs, but his name is relatively unknown to the public. That may change soon though. Last year, he left a six-year tenure at Lincoln to develop three restaurants of his own in the Evelyn Hotel. All three restaurants are Roman-inspired. The first, a cocktail bar and lounge, opened just last week. Leonelli Taberna’s menu features snacks like charcuterie and fried coquettes to share as well as antipasti like grilled octopus, pasta like a gnocchi with braised oxtail, and mains like a pork chop with horseradish gremolata. The second restaurant, an all-day bakery and cafe is set to open this month. Leonelli Focacceria e Pasticceria will feature pastries, focaccia sandwiches, soups, salads, and flatbreads that are largely influenced by Roman pizzas. The third restaurant, Benno, is slated for a fall opening. The most high-profile of the three, Benno will serve upscale Mediterranean food.
  • Learn more: Eater, Vogue, Grub Street

11. Anthony Lombardo

  • City: Detroit, Michigan
  • Restaurant: SheWolf
  • About: Chef Anthony Lombardo got his start at Bacco, a longstanding Italian restaurant in Southfield, Michigan. He later left his home state to work at the renowned 1789 and The Hamilton in Washington D.C.  Last year he ventured to Italy where he worked in numerous Michelin-starred kitchens. Now, he’s back home in Michigan where he just opened a restaurant, SheWolf, in Detroit with his childhood friends. SheWolf’s rotating menu, which Lombardo describes as “a more modern, chef-driven” Italian is inspired by the pastificios (“little pasta factories”) he explored while in Italy. The menu features starters like “Italian Divorce Soup,” a play on Italian wedding soup and entrees like a 16-ounce tomahawk veal chop with peas and bone marrow. The highlight of the menu, though, is the pasta. What makes Lombardi’s pasta so special is that he mills the organic, heritage whole wheat flour in-house in an enclosed glass room. The flour is used to make ten styles of pasta. Standout dishes include the cacio e pepe and the amatriciana (spicy red sauce) both made with tonnarelli, the spicy lamb neck ragu over orecchiette, and the conchiglie (shells) stuffed with octopus bolognese.
  • Learn more: Eater, Detroit News, Yelp

We love that the restaurant industry is so innovative & always evolving! Restaurateurs like these make us excited to be in an industry full of talent, craft, and deliciousness. If you haven’t already, make sure to check these restaurateurs’ restaurants out the next time you’re in their neighborhoods!

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

It’s All In The Ingredients: 5 Trending Foods To Entice Hungry Customers

Dining out is an experience that is meant to be satisfying, fun, and an escape from the norm of cooking at home. Choosing a restaurant to eat at, however, is not always an easy task. A potential customer must first decide what type of cuisine he is craving. Of course, his budget will dictate how much money he’s willing to spend on a meal. The distance he is willing to travel becomes a factor. Once he has decided on those factors, his cell phone, otherwise known as a handheld restaurant search guru, becomes his best friend. And even still before ultimately choosing a restaurant, what’s offered on the menu is observed. That’s when the Uber is called.

In 2018, it is essential that a restaurant has dishes on its menu that stand out to customers. This is what we’ll refer to as the trending foods. Because, let’s face it, trendy is interesting to most people. While sometimes it’s best to stick to what you know well, menu diversity is key and will attract a wider range of patrons. Give them what they’re looking for! Food trends can be fleeting, or they can become long-term staples. Inclusions or omissions from the menu can make you or break you as a restaurateur. Here are 5 trending food items we think you should seriously consider incorporating into your recipes today.

The “Instagrammable Item”

If your restaurant doesn’t have an Instagram account, consider making one. 93% of people use online menus to determine where to eat, but many are now also making choices based upon the restaurant’s Instagram pictures, as well as posts from food bloggers and social influencers. If a dish sounds good people will think about getting it. If a dish looks good people will want to eat it. Having items on your menu that are trendy and “instagrammable” are bound to attract crowds. Not to mention, it’s pretty great for advertising. People order your dish, tag your restaurant, and instantaneously their meals have been shared with a whole social network of fellow foodies. Whether it’s a cheesy appetizer, a juicy cut of beef, or a sinfully gooey dessert, a dish that photographs well creates exposure and excitement. Your eatery has become more than a restaurant; it is now a destination. Make sure you’re posting and sharing high-quality photos of your food to entice potential guests. Instagram-worthy foods of the moment are sky-high milkshakes, decadent doughnuts, and cheesy (the positive meaning of the word, that is) items ranging from burgers to pasta to fries. Will your restaurant create the next big trend in food?


Like the latest runway fashion trend, avocado is in. It’s healthy, colorful, AND tastes good. Not to mention, it’s high in fiber, good fats, and vitamins and low in sugar. How can you beat that? Avocado is something that should play a part on every restaurant’s menu. Its popularity has significantly risen over the years and continues to trend upwards. Whether the fruit (yes, it’s a fruit) is incorporated in breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner, on toast or in salads or sandwiches, avocado can be used creatively and deliciously. Including avocado as an ingredient is a great way to attract diners. People trying to be healthy can now enjoy their meal, feel good about it, and return for more. Capitalize on this opportunity.


Bacon is an oldie but goodie. Some may even question whether it came first before the egg. They go hand in hand, but that’s not the only combo involving bacon you can offer. Some will argue that bacon makes every dish infinitely better; it has somewhat of a cult-like following. And Americans are eating about 18 lbs of it per year! Unlike avocados, bacon is something you know is not the healthiest for your diet, but some believe it is something worth spending extra time on the treadmill for. Adding bacon to some of your less popular dishes will make them a hit. A bacon wrapped filet sounds better than just a steak. Brussels sprouts with bacon bits sound better than plain brussels sprouts (which, by the way, are a current trend you may want to consider as well). Well, you get the point. You can even take the lighter approach and use turkey bacon in your dishes. This is not only healthier but it allows people with certain food restrictions, like Kosher and Halal, to enjoy the meal too. There are even vegetarian and vegan bacon options! The possibilities are endless.


Truffles are part of the fungi family, but we’re confident that won’t scare your guests away! Just the word truffle sounds fancy, so people will be inspired to order it. In addition to sounding upscale, it is delicious and has a great aroma. The beauty of truffles is that they can be used in different ways. Whether it be black or white truffles shaved onto your pasta, or a truffle oil that is drizzled on top of a pizza, it is something that sets the dish apart. Once your customers experience the taste and the smell of truffles, the uniqueness leaves a lasting impression that they will not soon forget. They’ll want it again and again. Translation – repeat business! Find out here how Michelin star chefs incorporate the exotic ingredient into their dishes.

Specialty Cocktails

Everyone loves to eat, but what about the drinks? Having an impressive drink menu can help your restaurant cater to a sector beyond just foodies. Not sure what to offer? At the moment, culinary-inspired cocktails and local spirits, beer, and wine are trending. Get creative with the ingredients you choose and use fun cocktail names. You can even run a contest with your social media followers to come up with the best names for your cocktails by providing details about the ingredients. Serving great cocktails can not only enhance the dinner experience but create a lively bar scene. Having a drink in hand also makes it easier for patrons to wait for a table to open up during peak hours. People who are drinking are more likely to order more food and linger at your establishment longer. Shaken, stirred, or muddled- a unique drink menu will help you maximize profitability as well as create a positive customer experience. (Bonus points if the cocktails look good on Instagram!)

Your restaurant has many features to distinguish itself from the one down the block. You’ve painstakingly tended to the details of the décor, hired the friendliest and most experienced staff, but your menu is your bread and butter. Don’t miss the boat by sticking to the mundane. Sprinkle in a dash of new. Pick a few of the trending food items that people are buzzing about and offer them. Keep track of how popular the dish is & make adjustments accordingly. Do people love avocado-infused dishes? Offer more! The great thing about food is that it offers a chance to experiment, so take advantage of this to make some amazing (and tasty) art.

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

Veganism is at an All-Time High: Is it A Fleeting Fad or The New Norm?

It seems like no matter which way I turn, what restaurant magazine I’m reading, or food blog I stumble upon, the word vegan is showing up more than ever before. This isn’t a coincidence, my plant-based friends (and carnivores alike). Veganism is on the rise, and there are stats to prove it. In this blog, we explore the current state of veganism and how it is influencing changes in the restaurant industry.

The Facts

[There’s been a 600% increase in people identifying as vegans in the U.S. in the last three years. According to a report by research firm GlobalData, only 1% of U.S. consumers claimed to be vegan in 2014. And in 2017, that number rose to 6%.]

A 600% increase in veganism in the U.S. in only 3 years is a staggering statistic. It’s pretty obvious that more and more people are moving toward a plant-based lifestyle. But, when I look at this green machine revolution from my own perspective, the presence of veganism doesn’t seem as overwhelming as research shows. I only know one vegan personally. I also have a couple of vegetarian friends, but for the most part, the majority of my circle enjoys a good cut of beef. Still, I live in Brooklyn, which as of recent has been known for its influx of innovative restaurants and as a hub for food trends. Needless to say, there are vegan options galore if you’re looking for them, or even if you’re not. I’ll bet that if I walked within a few blocks of my apartment I could find non-dairy fettuccine alfredo or buffalo tofu sliders in 100 steps or less. More and more I’m seeing popular, traditionally meat-filled Americana classics, like burgers and buffalo wings, transforming into vegan-friendly dishes. There are even meat-free burgers that take on the disguise of real ones, red with “blood” and all.

Just as with anything else, location plays a huge role in current restaurant and food trends. If I was living in the heart of Houston, I’m not as confident that there would be such an abundance of vegan options.

This shift in dietary decision isn’t only within the United States. The adoption of a plant-based way of life started as a fringe movement but is now echoing around the world. Search data from Google Trends shows an impressive worldwide increase in the interest in veganism from 2004 to 2018. Top regions include Israel, Australia, Canada, Austria, and New Zealand. Seven percent or about 3.5 million people now identify as vegan in Great Britain. But, although the U.S. and U.K. round out the top 3 vegan countries by percentage, India takes the first spot with veganism encompassing 27% of the population. This comes to me as no surprise, though, as India has long been known as widely vegetarian. It will be interesting to see how these percentages shift if embracing of the diet continues to trend upwards.

The Reasons

So, why do people turn vegan in the first place? As we can see from the influx in recent years, it’s not just because they were born into the lifestyle. Most people probably made an educated, conscious choice to swear off meat and dairy altogether. A study based in the U.K. reveals:

It doesn’t surprise me that health and weight management are the top reasons why people are turning to veganism. Food allergies have been on the rise, with 1 in 13 children affected in the United States and a 50% increase in allergies from 1997-2011. Top foods that cause these reactions? 90% of food allergies come from milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. A large number of people also suffer from food-related illnesses like celiac disease (1 in 133 Americans) and lactose intolerance (30-50 million in the U.S.), which have a direct influence on diet choices and food restrictions.

Aside from allergies and conditions, some people go vegan in hopes of living a healthier lifestyle. Red meat has long been linked to diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Chicken is notorious to be a breeding ground for salmonella, and fish poses a threat of mercury. Some people just believe that plants are healthier than animal products.

Research conclusions from recent studies have come out on both sides of the coin.

A Time Magazine article explores whether or not vegan is actually better for health. From that, we extract some key findings from both sides:

[A 2015 Study from the University of North Carolina showed that veganism came out on top as the best diet for weight loss. Another study linked it to “significantly lower rates of heart disease and cancer.” However, a professor from Colorado State University notes that there aren’t any clear mortality benefits, and that vegan diets may be less healthy than those including meat due to the lack of essential nutrients like B12.]

In my opinion, it’s too early to say whether or not a vegan diet can significantly improve health. I’ve heard about a number of different diets and each and every one has been both praised and discredited. Personally, I stick to eating meat (and vegetables too, of course) because I find it to be both delicious and a good source of protein and other nutrients that I just can’t see coming from all plant-based products. Of course, I don’t suffer from any dietary restrictions, which plays a part in what I choose to eat. If I had an allergy or condition, I’d have to make the proper adjustments. Still, since veganism has just recently picked up in popularity, I think it’ll be beneficial to revisit the research in the coming years, with a larger sample size, so we can get a better comparison between different diets to better weigh the positive and negatives.

The Effect on the Restaurant Industry

So, just how is veganism affecting the restaurant industry? It’s been identified as a major food industry trend for 2018 by chefs around the world. And some restaurants are already acting on it. Gauthier Soho, a French fine dining establishment in the U.K., has plans to go completely vegan within the next two years. When I came across this article I thought to myself, “wow, I don’t even know what I’d order there.” Now I know how it feels to be a vegan in a steakhouse.

Forbes is even predicting that fast-food giants will incorporate vegan options into their menu strategy, noting that a chain, Plant Power Fast Food, is already making its mark on the industry. I think that we’ll see even more well-known restaurant chains and popular dining establishments adopt a more vegan-friendly menu in the near future.

But, let’s take a step back for a minute. Even before the rise of veganism, restaurants throughout history have had to make adjustments to suit all different kinds of needs, from dietary restrictions like allergies to including vegetarian options. Being dynamic is an essential part of being a business, especially a restaurant, owner. Having the capability to adapt to this increase in veganism can help you gain a competitive edge. As more people make the decision to go vegan, there will be a heightened need for more inclusive dining options. Be there to fill that void before every other restaurant does.

Incorporating vegan items into your dining landscape is an example of how you can dynamically adapt to change.  Of course, that’s not to say that you should change every menu item from sirloin to tofu, but having a diverse offering can help you expand your customer base. An all-inclusive approach can not only help to win you more business but keep each and every customer satisfied.

If you are planning to go vegan, make sure you let your potential customers know. With 93% of people looking at online menus, it’s pretty much guaranteed that people are specifically looking for vegan options. Your in-house and online menus should accurately and clearly reflect your offerings so you can drive more business and fill more seats.

Clearly, adopting a vegan lifestyle is becoming extremely popular across the globe. As for me, I’m going to stick to my omnivore ways, but will be on the look-out for how restaurants and grocery stores continue to adjust. It’ll be interesting to see if the restaurant industry will evolve significantly in order to become more inclusive of vegan diets. For now, I’ll sit back, order a steak, and watch.

About the Author: Taylor Kelly is SinglePlatform’s Content Marketer.  She loves reorganizing words and cabinets, drinking iced coffee whether it’s summer or winter, and checking out the best happy hour spots New York City has to offer. Her goal at SP is to provide creative & informative content about anything restaurant & small business related.

Google Duplex: An Incredible Leap in AI

Did you see or, rather, hear Google’s presentation of their new artificial intelligence assistant? We’re pretty sure it’s going to be their next big thing.  Google Duplex will operate through Google Home and other Android enabled devices.  When it officially rolls out later this year, it still won’t be available everywhere due to legal constraints around call recording (yes, technically all voice assistants like Google Home, Siri, and Alexa record your voice in order to process your questions and return a response). Consider that detail just a technicality because this is BIG and as a restaurant owner, you should be prepared.. Here is our take on the positives and the potential risks of Google Duplex.


Let’s face it, you don’t really have much control over how consumers search online for you or anything else they want.  That’s why you’ve probably already made sure that you have a website and that you can be found on Google, Facebook, Yelp and other websites.  (IF you haven’t at least figured this out, then we need to have a different conversation!)  Technology and consumer habits are evolving faster than most of us can follow. Consumers can talk to their phones, home assistants, and even their televisions to search the Internet. In fact, there are already over 1 billion voice searches PER MONTH and that number is growing rapidly!  You absolutely want to ensure that they can find you no matter how or where they are searching.

Ensuring that your business information is accessible via these devices is only going to help your business get discovered.  How great is it that, if you have a Google listing, then a consumer can ask Google to call you and make a reservation or find out when you are open?  Yes, it’s incredible, space-age stuff!

Think about it, a diner can tell their Google Home device to contact your restaurant, “call Chez Josh to make a reservation for 7 or 8 pm on Thursday.”  Google has a realistic sounding bot that will make that phone call for them and have a real conversation with your restaurant host. And the host will most likely not know they’re talking to a robot.

So what could be bad about that?  Well, for starters, just how smart and flexible will the bot be?  If a customer wants a reservation at 7 or 8 and nothing is available until 9:30, then will the Google Duplex bot call them back to deliver the news?  We all know what a game of phone tag looks like. For simple requests that have a definitive outcome, this could be a great way to have an assistant take care of tasks. If you have to synchronize plans with numerous other people and the outcome is less certain, then it might be easier for a customer to pick up the phone and call you themselves!  At least for now, as the technology is still in its beginning stages.


Being accessible isn’t exactly the same thing as being discoverable.  Consider how using a voice assistant like Google Duplex will affect search engine optimization and discoverability. Today if, like most people, you search for “Joe’s Pizza in New York City” or if you search for “restaurants that serve Pad Thai in Peoria”, then Google will return a search engine results page (SERP) with a few ads and 10 actual search results.  Plus, the researcher has control over the experience and has the option to scroll through additional pages of results to find what they want even if they are, statistically, most likely to select something on the first page of results. When using a voice assistant, is your potential customer more or less likely to ask Google to read through even the first ten results, not to mention the first fifty?  Voice searching through Google Duplex, or a similar technology, will probably reduce discoverability because we will be more inclined to cede our control to these voice assistants rather than spend time listening to the options that they enable.

Finally, Google is, so far, only talking about using Google Duplex to be a consumer assistant. What happens when Google and other tech companies decide to release the merchant assistant version of Google Duplex?  Does that mean we’ll have robots talking to robots? That reality is, for sure, closer at hand than we all expect!

To listen to some examples of Google Duplex conversations with real businesses and read more about it click here.