Attract Guests with (the Right) Outdoor Seating

June 23rd, 2016

restaurant outdoor seatingThere’s no question customers love outdoor dining in the spring and summer. In fact, many restaurateurs report that patrons would rather wait for a table on the patio than be seated immediately indoors. So if you’re looking for a proven way to attract even more guests to your establishment this season, follow these tips to make sure you do outdoor seating right:

  • Confirm that your available outdoor space is suited to customer seating. At a minimum, this means having enough square footage that the tables aren’t crowded too close together. A pleasant view of the surroundings wouldn’t hurt, either.
  • Select weatherproof furniture that is durable yet comfortable. The pieces should be easy to clean and the general style should fit with your restaurant’s overall decorative concept.
  • Protect your customers from the elements with the help of patio umbrellas, awnings, and natural insect repellents like lavender, basil, lemongrass, and citronella.
  • Add extra lighting in the form of tiki torches, Chinese lanterns, tea lights, and other decorative options so customers and staff for visibility after sunset.
  • Consider putting a portable refrigerator or back bar storage cooler near the outdoor seating area to facilitate serving larger happy hour and weekend crowds.
  • Hire seasonal help (if necessary) to ensure you have enough employees to handle the influx of customers.
  • Get all the necessary permits and licenses required by your state or municipality so you can be in compliance with the law and avoid penalties, fines, or even a shutdown.
  • Advertise your newly opened patio space, and generate even more interest by hosting special events such as live music or game nights.

If you have the space and resources to set up an outdoor seating area this summer, you should be able to attract many more guests so long as you use the above tips to help get things right.

Get Ready for Summer Drinks

May 17th, 2016

summer drinks 2

Summer beverage sales have the potential to contribute big bucks to a restaurant’s bottom line. The profit margins for alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages alike are among the highest in the food service industry, and can provide your establishment with a welcome boost in what might otherwise be a slow season. Check out these great tips on how to get ready for summer drinks:

  • Invest in a Bunn frozen drink dispenser to help cut down on the prep and cleanup time involved in serving perennial summer favorites like daiquiris, margaritas, and slushies.
  • Swap out hot coffee, tea, and other popular beverages for iced and cold brewed versions to allow customers to get their caffeine kick in a more refreshing form.
  • Offer drinks that contain less alcohol by volume. These are often lighter, brighter, more flavorful, less dehydrating and thus ultimately more satisfying than heavier alcoholic beverages in the summer.
  • Add food elements such as candied fruit, edible stir sticks, and interesting garnishes that make drinks more fun and visually appealing.
  • Target your health-conscious patrons with delicious green or fruit smoothies. Peaches and strawberries are especially popular in summer, so be sure to stock your inventory accordingly.
  • Think outside the fruit basket and try using fresh vegetables in beverages to yield a more savory result.
  • Experiment with alcohol infused dessert drinks to increase after-dinner sales. Vodka milkshakes, lemon drop dessert shots, and alcoholic ice cream or sorbet are a few easy ones to start with.

Getting your restaurant, food truck, or kiosk ready for summer drinks can be achieved with a few menu modifications, a commercial frozen drink dispenser, and a willingness to try new things. Put your own twist on these ideas to keep your customers coming back all season.

Get Your Grill On: Lighter Options for your Spring Menu

April 12th, 2016

With spring in the air, it seems that everyone suddenly has a hankering for freshly grilled foods. And while nothing beats a classic burger charbroiled to perfection on a Globe broiler with cast iron radiants, it’s always a good idea to offer your customers a variety of mouthwatering options to choose from. So as you put the finishing touches on your seasonal menu, consider adding these lighter selections that can be prepared on your commercial grill.

grilled foodStarters and sides

Kick things off and whet your customers’ appetites by making these popular starters and sides available on your spring grill menu. All of the food listed here can be customized by mixing, topping, or serving with your own special sauces, seasonings, cheeses, and dips:

  • Shrimp
  • Clams
  • Vegetable kebabs
  • Buffalo wings
  • Whole bell peppers
  • Corn on the cob
  • Potato wedges
  • Artichoke hearts

Main dishes

The great thing about these items besides how easy they are to whip up—just brush with some olive oil before grilling and add salt, pepper, or other seasonings to taste—is that they can be served on bread as a sandwich or on a plate with sides. Either way, your customers will love the result and clamor for more, so be sure to stock up accordingly:

  • Lean pork tenderloin
  • Swordfish
  • Turkey burger
  • Meatballs
  • Thin crust pizza
  • Quesadillas
  • Flank steak
  • Farm-raised pheasant
  • Boneless leg of lamb

Sweet treats

Customers might not be used to thinking of sweets and desserts coming off the grill, but these light and tasty treats will change their mind in a hurry.

  • Fruit, including apples, peaches, pineapple, strawberries, mangoes, and bananas
  • Any variation of S’mores (chocolate or flavored chocolate spread and marshmallows sandwiched between graham crackers or cookies)
  • Grilled ice cream
  • Miniature pastries filled with any of the fruits listed above
  • Grilled pound cake with fruit or whipped cream topping

If you’ve been using your grill only for traditional food like burgers, steaks, and chicken, it’s time to break out of that pattern and offer up something fresh for spring. Choose your favorite ideas from this page, test out a few recipes, and get ready to wow your customers with a new menu.

 

Getting Your Restaurant Ready for Spring

March 15th, 2016

The snow has melted in most parts of the country, temperatures are gradually warming, and the calendar shows that the official start of spring is just a few days away. This means customers are ready to shake off any lingering symptoms of cabin fever and patronize their favorite eateries with renewed enthusiasm. Be sure you’re ready to welcome them back by sprucing up your restaurant with the help of these seasonal tips:

Spring RestaurantMenu

Review your menu with an eye toward replacing heavy, hearty fare with lighter, more refreshing options for spring. Iced versions of popular beverages such as coffee and tea are no-brainers, as are desserts such as Lemon Bar Cheesecake, Key Lime Pie, Orange Sherbet, and other citrusy sweets. Main courses and salads made with seasonal produce should also be featured prominently on your revised menu.

Restaurant equipment

Inspect your cooking, serving, and cooling equipment to make sure everything is in good working order. Refrigerators and ice machines should be a top priority at this time of year, so take this opportunity to repair or upgrade these items. You may also want to consider purchasing a display refrigerator to showcase your new desserts, deli offerings, or daily specials.

Restaurant interior

Cast a critical eye around the interior of your restaurant to see which areas are in need of change. Are the tabletops chipped, scarred, or otherwise damaged? Are the window treatments looking a bit discolored and shabby? Are the carpets worn or hopelessly stained? These can all be major turnoffs for customers, so restore, replace, or deep clean as necessary. For even better results, try adding brightly colored decorative accents such as vases of spring flowers or linen tablecloths to improve table presentation.

Restaurant exterior

If you offer outdoor dining, it’s time to start prepping the area for customers that wish to enjoy their meals al fresco. Pull your tables, chairs, and patio umbrellas out of storage for cleaning, and carefully examine each piece for rust or other problems. If you’ve had the same outdoor furniture for many seasons, updating to a more modern style could be a wise move. You might also wish to create a pet-friendly space in a shaded spot where you can provide fresh water and treats to diners with pets (be sure to check local ordinances first). Finish by anchoring everything down and training staff on how to care for diners in the event of a sudden rainstorm.

Give your customers a fresh dining experience by sprucing up your restaurant for spring. Use these tips to get started and visit ShortOrder.com to purchase any new restaurant equipment or commercial refrigeration solutions you need to get the job done.

Protecting Your Investment: Fryer Maintenance

February 24th, 2016

ShortOrder_Frymaster-FryersAll equipment needs TLC. The “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset is really only applicable to prep-tables. Almost everything else in your kitchen needs routine maintenance.

Consider the workhorse of many American facilities, the fryer. Fryers are a pretty simple machine. They have targeted jets of flame that heat-up the underside of a pot that contains oil. The oil heats and is used to cook food. When the oil is used, you filter or replace it and move on. Not much to it, right?

In reality, it does still need some routine maintenance. Daily, the exterior should be wiped down and cleaned. Focus on the  rim, sides and front. This is more than an aesthetic thing. Dripping oil on the floor can be a very dangerous matter for your employees. In addition, make sure to clean the fry baskets daily. Remove them from the oil, wash them and let them dry overnight.

When you filter the oil, make it a habit to clean the elements under the fryer. These can and will get congested with oil mist and other contaminants. Filter the oil, clean the elements.

It’s important to boil out your fryer at least twice a year. Remove the oil. Replace with water and cleaning solution. Allow the water to heat and scrub the fryer pot as instructed by the manufacturer. Be careful not to splash hot water on yourself or others while you scrub. Been there, done that – ouch! Once complete, carefully drain the water and rinse the pot with warm water. Once complete, towel dry and replace the oil. You’ll be good for another three to six months.

Full inspection of the unit should be done annually. Check all electronics and make sure they are free of debris. Look at the legs or casters and make sure they are in good working order and stable. Inspect your fry baskets to make sure the handle is secure to the basket. A basket breaking during agitation or product transfer can cause serious injury.

These simple maintenance techniques will increase the longevity of the fryer, keep the foods prepared in it tasting good, keep your workers safe and maximize your return on investment!   

 

This Valentine’s Day, Romance Them with Non-Alcoholic Drinks

February 9th, 2016

fancy teaA simple, and often overlooked, way to increase per-table sales is non-alcoholic beverages. They can quickly add up, leading to a higher check total, which is good for the server and the restaurant! Valentine’s Day is coming up, one of the busiest days of the year for any restaurant. Try these tips to help boost your sales:

Start with the menu. Be sure to give the non-alcoholic drinks their own section on the menu. As a recently pregnant diner, I was frequently frustrated by many restaurants lack of a beverage menu. Many restaurants will opt to exclude them, but it’s important to increase sales.

Offer limited-time-only beverages. Nothing generates interest like knowing something is only available for a limited time! Rotating seasonal beverages can help you test new flavors and if something really takes off, you can add it to the menu full time.

Education is key. Educate your serving staff to sell non-alcoholic beverages. They know to offer a glass of wine or beer, but teach them to suggest a few non-alcoholic options as well. A cool glass of tea on a hot day or a warm cup of coffee at brunch might strike a perfect balance with that mimosa!

Pair them with a meal. When your table full of “I’ll have water” customers orders, suggest a non-alcoholic beverage that goes great with that dish. Flavored teas are perfect for this, when you consider their herbal qualities and subtle flavors.

Develop a “signature drink.” Create a taste that is worth coming back for. Flavored teas and lemonades are HOT right now, and might make the difference between you and the restaurant across the street.

Put them on display. Frozen drink dispensers rotating in the background, bubbling lemonade in the mixer and even bottled beverages in display refrigerators all help keep the beverages on display and in the customer’s minds. Increase sales by keeping both alcoholic AND non-alcoholic options visible to your customers.

One of the greatest margins in any restaurant is the beverage service. Don’t miss this opportunity to boost sales and revenue with a few simple steps this Valentine’s Day.

 

Ways to Share Valentine’s Day with Your Customers

February 2nd, 2016

valentines dayDining out is one of the most popular ways for couples to celebrate Valentine’s Day, which gives restaurateurs a tremendous profit making opportunity in the midst of the winter lull. And with February 14 falling on a Sunday this year, there’s a chance to generate even more revenue than usual by offering breakfast and/or brunch in addition to dinner.

But Valentine’s Day success doesn’t just happen. You must be willing to temporarily tailor your menu, decor, services, and operating hours towards attracting customers for the holiday, especially if your restaurant is not typically known as a romantic destination. Here are some suggestions on how to do just that, even with a limited marketing budget:

 

  • Make sure would-be diners know your restaurant will be doing something special for Valentine’s Day by getting the word out on all of your social media accounts and posting notices within your establishment.
  • Offer a complimentary appetizer, drinks, dessert, or other freebie or discount for the first 20-25 reservations or for making a reservation prior to a certain date to encourage early responses.
  • Create holiday-specific dessert options, such as red and pink or heart themed desserts, or ‘dessert for two’ menu offerings.
  • Based on the number of early reservations you get and the number of walkups you can expect, be sure to have enough kitchen help and waitstaff able (and willing) to work.
  • Alter the ambience of your restaurant to suit the occasion by dimming the lights, placing candles on each table, choosing soft background music, and adding red or pink accents to the interior decor.
  • Create some kind of keepsake that customers can take home to remember the experience. Popular keepsakes include special menu covers, custom champagne flutes, personalized matchbooks, or a printed photo of the couple.
  • Promote red or pink drinks such as strawberry daiquiris, pomegranate margaritas, Jack Rose cocktails, blood orange mimosas, and cosmopolitans to help diners get in the spirit of the evening. Save time and keep the fun flowing by using a Bunn frozen drink dispenser or a Waring high-powered commercial blender (both available at ShortOrder.com) behind the bar.
  • Serve heart-shaped versions of appetizers, breads, and desserts, and arrange the food in the main course into a heart shape prior to serving.
  • Give each departing couple a red rose and a voucher or discount coupon for a future date.

 

While some people might cynically dismiss Valentine’s Day as a “made up” holiday, few restaurateurs can afford to ignore the occasion. Demonstrate your willingness to share Valentine’s Day with your customers by using some of the ideas listed above to make their dining experience unforgettable.

A New Year Means a Clean Slate

January 26th, 2016

restaurant in kitchen

Chipotle has been in the news a lot lately, and not for the reasons any restaurant would want! They’ve shut down and promised a “deep clean” of all locations and hope to recover from the PR beating they’ve had lately. What can you do to help prevent an outbreak of sick guests at your location? Start with a deep clean, clean often, establish a routine and train your employees.

The obvious place to start is with your equipment and prep areas. Clean those well, and keep them clean. Food code requires establishments to clean and sanitize food contact surfaces after each use. But we all know that! What about the other places that are often touched by customers and employees alike, and are often missed during daily cleaning?

  • Door Handles: They are used by every person entering your restaurant. It’s important to clean the front door handles, but don’t forget the other ones too. Door handles like those to offices, storage areas, refrigerators, restrooms and the back door are equally as important to wipe down daily.
  • Community Areas: Community tables, chairs and benches all need cleaning and sanitizing. They are all touched often and can harbor bacteria. Don’t forget the arm rests and bottoms too.
  • Light Switches: Though the switches in the main dining area may only be used in the morning and evening, those that are in storage closets, restrooms and offices might be used much more frequently.
  • Railings: You might have them next to steps and stairs, you might have a banister on your second floor that overlooks the lower level. They are used frequently and should be cleaned frequently.
  • Tables for your customers: Establish a cleaning routine that is done between each customer. You can use a disinfecting spray in a marked bottle and disposable towels or pre-treated cleaning and sanitizing towels, whichever works best for your restaurant. Make sure it’s clear which roles in the staff are responsible for cleaning duties.

As important as the initial training is, it’s also important to revisit the steps and expectations often. Make sure your employees, both new and old, are familiar with their cleaning and sanitizing responsibilities.

As a manager, remember illnesses like Norovirus are highly contagious and can spread fast, especially in a restaurant setting. If one of your employees is having intestinal issues, play it safe and send them home. Then, make sure the surfaces on this list get a thorough going-over that day.

It just takes a few minutes to clean and sanitize around your restaurant and it can do wonders to prevent the spread of illness.

Ways to Improve Your Food Business in the New Year

January 12th, 2016

Now that the New Year is officially under way, this is the perfect time to evaluate your restaurant, cafe, food truck, or other food-related business to uncover and shore up weaknesses. Chances are, no matter how well your business did in 2015, there is still room for improvement in a major area such as quality, service, or overall efficiency for the new year. To help identify current shortcomings and set future performance goals, consider taking one or more of these steps:

improve restaurantExpand (or reduce) your menu

Whether you use an expensive point-of-sale tracking system, have tight inventory controls, or personally take orders every single day, you probably have a very good idea of which menu items consistently sell well and which lack customer appeal. Try new recipes that complement the bestsellers and ditch the underperforming dishes to reduce associated waste in food, ingredients, or storage space.

Spend off-peak hours wisely

Slow periods are inevitable in the food service industry, so it’s important to spend that time wisely. Clean up and preparation for the next meal rush are obvious ways to use downtime, but they’re not the only ways. Many business owners have increased revenues by offering off-peak specials such as early bird dining discounts, extended happy hours, or limited late-night menus.

Give your staff the right tools for the job

If your food business is plagued with operating inefficiencies, it might be tempting to place the blame on your kitchen or wait staff. But before doing that, find out whether or not they have the necessary tools for getting the job done. Is there adequate prep space in the kitchen? If not, consider buying more work tables. Is most of the mixing, blending, and chopping of ingredients being done by hand? If so, consider providing commercial food processors to improve speed, efficiency, and safety in these areas.

Develop a social media presence

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and other social media sites are no longer optional for businesses—particularly those in the food service industry. Today’s customers expect to be able to find your company and engage with you on one or more of these platforms, and it’s in your best interest to oblige. Being active on social media not only gives you the opportunity to improve your responsiveness to inquiries and complaints, but also helps you manage your brand in a positive way.

Improvements for the New Year don’t have to be radical or expensive in order to be effective; they simply have to fill a void in your business. So start examining your current practices now to see if your bottom line would benefit by implementing one of the above ideas at some point in 2016.

January Equipment Checklist: Clean, Repair, Replace?

January 5th, 2016

New Years 2016After the holiday craziness is finished, and you catch your breath, take a few minutes to celebrate yourself and your team for a job well done. Then, take a moment to reflect. As you pushed through crunch time, did you take mental or actual notes? How did you do? What things were the most stressful? What seem to fail when you needed it most? How can you improve?

In addition to the financial bump many experience it the holiday season, the bump in volume can really expose issues in your equipment an in your production methods. I’ve been there. You’re 100% in the weeds and are looking to just get through the season. Taking notes along the way can really help, but if you didn’t, try to remember the issues and use the start of 2016 as a way to improve your equipment and your processes.

Look at you reach-in refrigeration. How did it maintain temps? Are the door and seals in good condition? It is clean (be honest!)? Is it time to replace the unit? Did you have enough storage? Do you have the right types of containers to store things properly?

Look at your work and prep area. Where did it fall short? Do you need more work surface area for prep? What about a chef-base refrigerator or a work table, would they help? Can you use bins to store ingredients that you need in large quantities?

Check out your cooking equipment. How is it working? Where did you have a slow-down? Where is the bottleneck in production? Need more griddle space? More burners? More fryers?

What about holding space? What about cold prep and holding? Running through the low-lights of the year can help a lot in preparation for the holidays in 2016.

Good luck and happy new year from all of us at ShortOrder.com!

 

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