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.

Accessibility

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.

Discoverability

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.

Time is Money: Use it Wisely as a Restaurateur

As a restaurant owner, you’re aware that when it comes to time, it’s of the essence & is extremely valuable. In an industry where business hours can start at dawn and extend until after midnight, it is crucial for owners and managers to find ways to maximize their productivity, profitability, and energy.  While running your restaurant, you must focus not only on keeping up with the day-to-day, but with keeping up with industry trends to better prepare for the future. In an era of constantly evolving technology such as apps, online presence, and social media, lagging behind can prove to be a fatal flaw.

Although it’s certainly a challenge, there are definitely ways to make each work day less dizzying and more efficient. Read on for our suggestions on how to make the most of your time and tips on some places to focus it.

Make the most of your time:

Delegate Tasks Smartly
One of the most time-consuming things about being an owner is overseeing the staff. From servers, to cooks, to managers, it may seem like it is a job within itself just to keep tabs on all employees and operations. At times, it may be too difficult to handle everything effectively on your own. Some restaurant owners have a hard time relinquishing full control, but it is often necessary.

How do you solve this? With a strategy! Identify tasks for each staff member and hold him or her accountable for them. Implement a system with clearly defined expectations on what your staff’s day-to-day should be. Whether it is a spreadsheet that is emailed out each week, or a checklist that is handed out each day, have this documented to make sure all employees sign off on their responsibilities. This will prevent micromanaging your employees, help the overall functionality of the restaurant, and, most importantly, give you back some hours in the day to utilize elsewhere.

Plan Ahead
In order to succeed and get the results you want, it is vital to plan ahead. Identify your needs and be proactive about them. Be organized! Make a list of what needs to be accomplished on a daily basis and another list for long range projects. Allocate your time in a way that best suits the way you operate. If you function best after your first two cups of coffee, schedule your important obligations for the morning. Conversely, you might fare better when most patrons have left for the evening and things are winding down. Recognize your own abilities and structure your day accordingly in order to get the most out of it.

Think on Your Feet
Even the most well-thought out playbook can get thrown off course. Unforeseen occurrences are unavoidable, and they happen all the time! Staff may call in sick last minute or a food delivery might be delayed.  It’s the nature of the beast. And you have to be able to act quickly! If you find yourself behind the eight ball with the clock ticking, reassess. Your list of daily tasks needs to be prioritized. Tackle the issues of most importance first. If you need help, refer back to Tip #1 – delegate!

Take Time to Stay Informed
When you are crunched for time the last thing you want to deal with is a phone call from someone trying to sell you something. As a restaurant owner you’ll receive what feels like 50 phone calls a day to go along with the handful of pop-ins by reps promising that they have the next big thing. Although some of their products might not align with your vision or your needs, it is important to allocate time to hear what they have to say. With so much competition in the industry, it’s crucial to stay in the know about latest technologies and trends so you can stay ahead of the curve.

Have your staff take down detailed messages of the calls if you’re unable to answer them yourself.  Then, take 15-30 minutes a day to return your phone calls. Listen to what’s being offered and if you are intrigued, find a time where you can go into further detail of their product and talk next steps. This way you can focus on the products and services that are relevant to you and make decisions about what will best serve your business.

Embrace Change
It is important to know that things change. What you have been doing for the past few decades may not be the best thing for you anymore. Be open to the new ideas and welcome change. Changing a process or strategy can even help you save more time in the future!

Focus on:

Budgeting Wisely
Create a monthly or quarterly budget. Being aware of cash flow and sticking to an allocated budget will help you to be more at ease and in control of your finances. Plus, with an organized budget, you’ll spend less time at the end of a week or a month going back to reconcile costs that could have already been accounted for.

Maintaining Social Media Presence
It may seem like having social media accounts to run is too time-consuming, but having this presence is crucial. Close to half the world’s population (3.03 billion people) are on some type of social media! You want to get in front of your customers and potential new ones, so it’s wise to be where they’re spending a lot of their time – online and on social media!

Create a Facebook, Twitter, and/or an Instagram. You can even use a social posting tool to schedule posts ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about scrambling at the last second. This is a great way to interact with followers, post about specials and upcoming event, and even respond to questions or concerns. Social media is the modern day word of mouth, so you want to be present where your customers are in order to drive new business and maintain old relationships.

Create a personality for your business by running contests, posting enticing photos, and showing the story behind your restaurant. Social media is all about human interaction, so let the uniqueness of your brand shine through.

Monitoring Your Competitors
Be aware of what your competition is doing. See what works well for them and recognize what areas of your business may need improvement in order to keep up or stay ahead. Of course, you want to stay authentic and true to your own brand, but it’s wise to keep a pulse on the industry landscape.

Keeping Up With Technology

We live in a world where technological advances are routine, no matter what industry you’re in. The abundance of technology may seem overwhelming, but there are also many products out there that can be beneficial to your business. There are apps, websites, and software to help with virtually anything – from time management to online ordering and even issuing a check to a customer at the end of a meal. You just need to determine which technologies will be useful and affordable for your business, and what tasks you can complete the old fashioned way. Most technology companies will offer a free trial period so you can test out the product and make a decision after actually getting your hands on it. Take advantage of these as they can be crucial when considering a new product. If those aren’t available, head to the company’s website. Reading more about their product or service, and even checking out their blogs or downloadable content, can help you get a feel for what they offer.

Listening To Your Customers

Take the time to monitor your customers’ thoughts and opinions. Keep tabs on your reviews to recognize your strengths and listen when customers offer suggestions for improvement. If possible, respond to reviews. Interaction shows you care. You can even utilize positive reviews in testimonial features and other marketing initiatives.

Try designating a certain block of time to reviewing and responding to online reviews. If you get into the habit of making this process routine, it will become second nature.

The restaurant industry is unlike any other. The hours are long and tiring and there are constant demands. Patrons expect complete satisfaction, from food to service and ambiance, and if they aren’t completely pleased, you risk losing a valuable customer. Clearly, it is imperative for restaurant owners to be on top of their game when it comes to all aspects of the business.  It may seem like a small feat to properly manage your time, but it can be done. By having a solid plan for training and management, prioritizing your responsibilities, delegating tasks, and keeping up with the latest industry and technology trends, you can find balance and success within a hectic and demanding atmosphere.


About the Author: Casey Densing is a Senior Business Analyst at SinglePlatform, where he helps small business owners promote their online presence. Outside of the office, Casey can be found at the nearest sporting event or best new restaurant in New York City.

 

2018 Top 5 Restaurant Industry Trends

It’s the first few days of a new year and many industry influencers have already made their predictions for restaurant trends in 2018. Multiple Restaurant Week events are taking off across the country this month, & we are interested in seeing what menu offerings will be available to diners everywhere. We’ve observed trend forecasts from a variety of sources to come up with our Top 5 Trend List of 2018.

See our picks below & weigh in on what you think will be the biggest hits this year.

1. Ethnic-inspired ingredients: With the rise of culinary intricacy and a passion for travel, palates are adapting to different flavors from around the world. Gone are the days of satisfaction from a plain hamburger with lettuce and tomato. Foodies are looking for a more exciting offering that use ingredients inspired by unique places across the globe. Restaurant.org predicts that ethnic cuisine will be prominent in everything from kid’s menus to spices and condiments. We agree that diverse culture will have a large influence of what are on menus this year.

2. Good food that’s good for you: It’s no secret that Americans have been on a bit of a health kick in the past few years. We’ve seen a rise in veganism (with over 1.5 million Americans over the age of 17 identifying as vegan), ethical eating habits, and a focus on organic ingredients. This year, we believe we’ll see this trend go a step further with adding prebiotics and probiotics to food options and using food as medicine. Offering meals that taste great and are good for your gut is sure to attract health conscious diners everywhere.

3. Hyper-locally sourced foods: Consumers want the food that you’re serving them to come from your backyard—literally. Locally sourced ingredients can be a big hit for your restaurant’s approach in 2018 because they scream freshness and evoke a sense of trust (they’ll find peace in knowing exactly where their dinner is coming from). Have you considered the ingredients that you’re using and how you can potentially grow them yourself? Offering a menu of items sourced from your own garden may attract even more customers to your door. Olmsted of Brooklyn planted their own garden behind their dining facility in Prospect Heights, proving that NYC isn’t just a concrete jungle, but a fresh food sanctuary.

4. Waste not, want not: Sustainability is key in today’s eco-conscious society. Sadly, about 1/3 of all food intended for consumption ends up being wasted or lost. It’s predicted by Whole Foods that cooks everywhere will be cutting back on their food waste and instead recycling it for creative use. Utilizing every part of meat and vegetables will help to mitigate this issue in order to help save the environment and get the most out of ingredients. Some restaurants that are right in our neighborhood have even started utilizing this philosophy on their menus. Take Graffiti Earth, for example, a restaurant that practices sustainability by using the “ugly” fruits and vegetables and scraps. Some companies are even taking the concept of eliminating waste as an opportunity to give back to the community or repurpose food for other uses. With the environment in mind, we predict that we’ll see more restaurants becoming earth-conscious in the coming year.

5. Camaraderie from communal dining: “Table for two” may become an underused phrase in 2018. More and more restaurants are moving toward a communal style of dining, with long table layouts that foster mingling and interaction between patrons who may not have known each other when they walked in. This style can also maximize square footage in your restaurant and  the number of meals you can serve. We hope this open concept experience will nurture more conversation around the dining experience in a world where social media tends to become the default for human interaction.

The year is just beginning, which means there’s plenty of opportunity for the predicted industry trends to take off at full speed. Here at SinglePlatform, we’re interested to see how the year will unfold in the restaurant industry.

Do you agree with our Top 5 Trend predictions for 2018? Is your restaurant business prepared to take on a whole new year?  Learn more about how we can help your business Stand Out Everywhere That Matters.

The Rise of Veganism

Veganism is here to stay—there’s no denying it anymore. It’s no longer a peripheral eating habit misunderstood by the mainstream. Alongside sustainability and waste-less living, veganism is being welcomed across a number of markets.

In fact, media, at least of the social variety, has become an ally for the lifestyle trend. Toss in access to new information on its health benefits and the realities of the global impact of the meat industry and more and more people are starting to take adopting a plant-based diet seriously—whether or not they’re willing to give up their meat consumption entirely. Veganism is on the rise in almost every western country and, in a recent study in Britain, data revealed that there has been a 350% increase in the last ten years and it’s particularly popular with people under the age of 34.

Veganism has also found its way out of homes and into the culinary world—even though some chefs like Aaron Adams still avoid the negative connotations of the word. “We like to present [our] restaurant as more vegetable-forward, rather than freak people out by calling things vegan. I’m not going to scare people or yell at people for eating meat. I just try to help our guests experience other ways to eat using completely local and seasonal produce,” he says. More and more restaurants are adding more vegan-friendly, if not becoming entirely so.

As public perception shifts, with celebrities and athletes becoming more vocal about their endorsements, our knowledge-base grows, and access to proper ingredients and dining options become easier, veganism, and all of the markets that it touches, are going to continue to steadily rise. The success of restaurants catering to plant based diets and a vegan lifestyle are posed to rise along with this trend. Cash in on this trend by updating your menu today.

Learn more about how SinglePlatform can help your business get discovered by new diners today.

5 Restaurant Trends You Should Know About for 2017

The new year is the perfect time for new beginnings. Make sure your restaurant is starting 2017 right by staying up-to-date on the newest trends for cuisine and dining.

Here are 5 trends the diners will love in the new year:

1. New and Interesting Cuts of Meat & Artisanal Butchery

A ribeye will never go out of style, but there are more cuts of meat than the three or four we’re used to seeing on a menu. As diners become more adventurous with their pallets, new and interesting cuts of meat (from quality butchers) are looking to take a leap in popularity. Try sourcing a whole animal from your local butcher and create specials from a different cut of meat every night of the week until it’s gone. It’s a great way to cut back on food waste, ensure fresh, sustainable ingredients, and force your team to come up with some creative and inspired new dishes that will peak the interest, and the tastebuds, of your customers—and have them coming back for more.

2. Plant-Based Meals that Resemble Classics

More and more diners  are trying to cut back on their meat consumption, for health and environmental reasons, so plant-based foods are gaining  popularity. The trend doesn’t look like it’s going to stop anytime soon, but just because they want to cut back on their meat intake doesn’t mean people are ready to leave the comfort of their dining habits behind. Add a roasted beet reuben sandwich, a chickpea burger, or a lentil sloppy joe onto your menu and surprise your diners with how delicious and seamless their decisions to be healthier in the new year can really be.

3. Dark Chocolate for Breakfast

According to a recent study, dark chocolate has the ability to help brain activity and cognitive function—making it the perfect start to any day. Tap into your customers sweet tooths by offering them an indulgence they can feel good about. Add some sea salted dark chocolate to a fresh bowl of berries, yogurt, and granola and you’ll have a simple, delicious dish that will satisfy your customers and give them the cognitive function to remember to tell their friends.

4. Sour Beer & Chilled Red Wine

The craft beer & wine industry has been exploding for a while and there are no signs of stopping, but, as the trend continues, people will be looking for options that are more off-the-beaten-path. Sour beer isn’t new. It’s been around since the mid-90’s and chilled red wine has always been a preference for some—especially in Europe. But neither has found their way into the mainstream markets here in America quite yet. By adding some unique items and serving styles for your customers, you’ll be adding talking points to your menu that will set you apart and have your customers feeling cool and ready to tell their friends.

5. Fermented Ingredients

The demand for fermented ingredients is growing in more than just dining. Fermented vegetables, hot sauce, and drinks like kombucha are set to continue their popularity into 2017. Consider jumping onto this surprisingly delicious bandwagon and you’re customers will be reaping the health-benefits of bacteria while you reap an increase in sales.

Changing with the times is necessary for a long-term business plan and it can be done with some minor adjustments and without sacrificing your original intent. Incorporate these culinary trends in the new year and your customers will be banging down your doors to start their new year off right with you. For even more tips and tricks on running your local business, sent straight to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter below:

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SinglePlatform 2016: A Year in Review

It’s new year’s resolution time and as the SinglePlatform team plans out how to make 2017 our best year yet—for our company as well as our customers—we’ve been looking back at all the things that we were able to accomplish in 2016.  We’ve expanded in new and exciting ways and we want to make sure that all of our customers are aware of these exciting developments. Check out our below accomplishments to make sure that you are update on all things SinglePlatform and that you are getting the most out of what we can offer to you.

The New SinglePlatform Brand

In February we launched our SinglePlatform website and brand. We wanted our company’s appearance to match out mission and values, so we created a logo and website that exudes the hard work we give to our customers and the fun we have while doing it. Read more about that journey and what our new brand means to us.

We Got Social

This year we revamped not one—but two—of our social media channels to make sure that we are providing you with easily accessible resources to make your local business thrive. Check us out on Instagram and Youtube for the latest tips to help your business attract more customers today. Want to see how we keep things fun at the office? Check out our Mannequin Challenge.

Oh, Canada

Any business owner knows that choosing the right time to expand is essential to the health of your business. In fact we recently went into depth about what the best time to open a second location looks like. Well this year we took our own advice and seized the opportunity to help even more businesses get discovered online by expanding into Canada. SinglePlatform is proud to know be able to accept customers in our neighbor to the north and look forward to continuing to grow internationally.

Review Monitoring Released

We expanded our product offerings with our Review Monitoring Suite. Adding this to your SinglePlatform subscription helps you monitor, protect, and upgrade your online reputation.  Learn more about this new option.

WordPress Menu Integration Made Easy

We made it easier for our customers with WordPress sites to integrate their menus with their SinglePlatform. This plugin makes it easier than ever to streamline your menu updates so that any changes you make in your SinglePlatform account are automatically update on your website. Search SinglePlatform in your WordPress PlugIn database to download today.

Webinar with Main Street Hub

We teamed up with our friends at Main Street Hub to host our first ever webinar. We’re dedicated to helping local businesses in any way that we can so we’re focusing on making resources that provide you with useful insights into running a local business in the ever-changing digital world.  Check it out to learn more about how your local business can get discovered online.

Looking back on the year, we’re thrilled with the work we’ve been able to do to improve the SinglePlatform experience for all of our customers. We’re excited to continue into 2017 and keep improving. New to SinglePlatform? Learn more.

The Best of Tech Tools to Grow Your Local Business

As a local business owner you know your clients and you know your craft, but when it comes to the latest tech innovations, you may be left feeling confused and overwhelmed with the variety of new options available on the market. From deal sites to point-of-sale systems, the options are seemingly endless. That’s why we’ve created the comprehensive e-guide for The Best Tech Tools to Grow Your Local Business. We’ll take your through the various types of tech solutions that are out there and help you understand the features of the leading companies in those fields. 

Download the e-guide today!

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