Tips to Improve Your Restaurant’s Menu

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

 Metips-to-improve-your-restaurants-menunus are an important yet often overlooked tool in restaurant promotion. When designed correctly, a menu can convey a specific brand image, nudge consumer choices, and increase sales of side dishes, desserts, and other complementary items. If your current menu is not helping in these areas or is due for an update anyway, you can improve it by following these dos and don’ts.

Dos

  • Do organize your menu logically so customers can order a meal without having to flip back and forth several times. The most common arrangement is to place appetizers first, entrees and side dishes next, and beverages and desserts last, but feel free to choose something that works best for the kind of food you offer.
  • Do focus on writing tantalizing food descriptions as a means of stimulating enthusiasm and appetite. Highly descriptive words such as “melty,” “silky,” and “creamy” appeal to the senses and allow you to promote dishes that will put your commercial cheese melter, ice cream maker, and other restaurant equipment to good use.
  • Do understand consumer tendencies when it comes to reading menus and use this knowledge to print your selections accordingly. For example, the top right of the menu is the first place people look while the bottom left is typically the last, and the dish listed first in each category tends to be the one customers choose most often. Reserve the best spots for the items you wish to highlight.
  • Do make your menus easily accessible. Keeping menus in tabletop menu holders rather than having waitstaff remove them after taking orders is not only more convenient for customers, but also encourages additional browsing and may lead to an increase in dessert and beverage sales.

Don’ts

  • Don’t be afraid to adjust prices when ingredient costs go up or down for a sustained period. Occasional—and reasonable—hikes are to be expected, and are largely tolerated by customers.
  • Don’t print your menus in an unusual font that’s difficult to read. You’ll save your customers and waitstaff from a lot of unnecessary frustration if you stick to readable fonts.
  • Don’t add pretentious details to your food descriptions. Unless phrases like “farm to table” or “all-organic ingredients” are vital to your eatery’s overall marketing strategy, few customers will care how the produce was harvested or how the chicken was raised prior to ending up on their plate.
  • Don’t hesitate to revamp the menu periodically. Whether you do this seasonally, when there’s a major personnel change in the kitchen, or to tie in with specific promotions, your customers will welcome and appreciate some new selections.

One of the first interactions customers have with any restaurant is through the menu, so getting it right is paramount. Use the above tips when designing or improving your own menu to ensure you project the desired image and showcase your best dishes.

2017 Food Trends Forecast

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

2017-food-trends-forecastSome restaurants appeal to customers by offering an unchanging menu filled with predictable and comforting favorites year after year while others carve out a niche by adapting their menu and services to reflect the evolving preferences of their patrons. If your establishment falls into this latter category, here is a forecast of some upcoming food trends to be aware of in 2017:

  • Nonalcoholic beverages: Beer and wine will always be bestsellers, but look for nonalcoholic beverages to experience a surge in popularity in 2017. And we’re not just talking about standard sodas and iced teas here; today’s consumers expect a wider variety of sophisticated mocktails, designer coffee-based drinks, and original concoctions to choose from, so stock your beverage station accordingly.
  • Hearty and healthy soups: The slogan “souping is the new juicing” began making its way around restaurant circles early in 2015 in reference to consumers looking for a more substantial replacement for juices and smoothies. The movement has been gaining momentum ever since, and restaurateurs are responding by keeping hearty and healthy soups simmering in their tabletop kettles all year round.
  • Fats: Medical experts and consumers alike are welcoming dietary fats—in the form of butter, olive oil, avocados, and nuts—back into the fold, so make liberal use of these ingredients to add succulent flavor and texture to appetizers, main dishes, and desserts.
  • Convenience: Once expected only from fast food chains, consumers now want convenience from virtually every type of restaurant they visit. You can address this need by offering takeout and delivery service, as well as by providing meal kits that can be prepared (or simply warmed up) at home.

Now that you know about the top food trend predictions for 2017, you can get your restaurant ready to accommodate customers’ changing tastes. Start modifying your menu, ordering required ingredients, and purchasing the countertop food warmers, commercial blenders, and other equipment and supplies you need as soon as possible so you can remain ahead of the food trends curve.

Prepare Your Restaurant for the Holiday Season

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

Everyone knows that the holiday season represents a prodigious boon for retailers. All across the country, big-box stores and mom-and-pop shops alike rake in a reported 20 to 30 percent of their total annual sales in the period between Black Friday and Christmas. This is a significant portion of any bottom line.

But retailers aren’t the only ones who benefit from the holidays. Restaurants like yours can also experience a huge increase in customers and sales, either through direct promotion of holiday specials or via residual foot traffic from nearby malls and shopping centers. The catch is, you have to be ready to handle the upcoming surge in a way that is least disruptive to standard operations. Towards that end, here are some tips on how to prepare your restaurant for the holiday season.

  • Get organized: Planning ahead is crucial for meeting the demands of the holiday rush, so getting organized should be your first step. Reviewing your reservation system (or implementing a new one), evaluating your available personnel and planning key shifts, and ordering extra inventory are just a few items that should be on your to-do list.
  • Hire short-term help: Being overstaffed during the holidays is far preferable to the alternative, which is why you should start looking for seasonal help now. Depending on the size of your restaurant and services provided, you may want to consider adding kitchen hands, waitstaff, banquet servers, and delivery drivers to the roster for the next couple of months.
  • Inventory smallwares and check equipment for usability: More customers means you’ll require faster turnover of smallwares (dishes, glasses, cutlery, etc.) and will have your ovens, dishwashers, fryers, ice machines, and food warming stations working overtime. Inventory smallwares now to make sure you have sufficient quantities to serve larger crowds and inspect your commercial restaurant equipment to see if any repairs or replacements are needed.
  • Consider temporarily expanding your services: To really cash in on the season, consider adding services that you don’t normally offer. These may include home and office deliveries, full-service catering for offsite events, onsite parties, and providing to-go sides, pies, and other desserts for customers to enjoy at their own holiday dinners.
  • Sell gift cards or gift certificates: Gift cards and certificates are not only a blessing for people seeking last-minute stocking stuffers, but also a way to continue driving traffic after the holidays. Be sure to have gift cards or gift certificates available, and train your staff to suggest a purchase to every customer.

A strong holiday season can push your restaurant into the black or turn a good year into a great one, but the benefits aren’t automatic. It takes a lot of time and effort to prepare for the influx of customers and provide them with outstanding service, so follow the tips listed here to get started.

Back to School Restaurant Marketing Ideas

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

Back-To-School-Facebook-Cover-Picture

If the end of summer is typically a slow time for your restaurant, one terrific way to drive sales is to jump on the back to school marketing bandwagon. Offering various discounts and specials aimed at cash-strapped college students and families with school-aged children can help bring in new customers, establish goodwill within the community, and lead to longterm patronage and bigger profits. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Freebies
Everyone loves freebies, especially after spending hundreds of dollars on school supplies and textbooks for the upcoming term. Offer a free appetizer, drink, or dessert to customers that show a receipt for school related purchases or tuition fees. Another option that’s great for bringing whole families into your restaurant is to provide a free kid’s meal with the purchase of an adult entree.

Discounts
If your margin is too tight for freebies, discounts are the next best alternative. For example, eateries located in college towns or near high schools can offer discounts on all purchases for customers who show a student or teacher ID card. If that kind of promotion is unsustainable, consider offering the discounts only at lunchtime or only on a specified day of the week.

Coupons
Many college towns and communities distribute coupon books to students and residents at the beginning of the year filled with promotions from local businesses, so check to see how your restaurant can get in on the action. You can also put printable coupons on your website or Facebook page, or send out offers on sites like Groupon and LivingSocial.

Incentive/Loyalty Programs
A proven way to cultivate repeat business is through incentive or loyalty programs, so this is also a great strategy to try. A stamp card that gives the bearer a free item after “x” number of purchases is easy to implement, as is a free (or discounted or BOGO) item for showing a report card with a B average or perfect attendance.

Promotion
Whatever kind of back to school marketing campaign you implement, be sure to take time to promote it beyond your usual social media channels to ensure you reach new eyeballs. Distribute fliers on campus or at the mall, put up signs in your windows, and place ads in popular local media.

Get Your Grill On: Lighter Options for your Spring Menu

Tuesday, 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

Tuesday, 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.

A New Year Means a Clean Slate

Tuesday, 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.

2016 Food Trends – Should You be Trendy?

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

Last month, the National Restaurant Association came out with the top food trends of 2016. Many of the trends involved local sourcing and environmental sustainability, which was similar to the trends in 2015, and the year before that, but they note that trends tend to evolve slowly over time. Trends that are more lifestyle changes, like environmental sustainability, are even more slow to evolve.

In case you didn’t see the list, we posted it here for you:

Top food trends 2016

Now that you know what’s “trendy”, do you choose to jump on this bandwagon or stick with what you’re already doing? Some of this decision will be based upon what your restaurant is like. Are you focused on home-cooked comfort food? Some people say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” That might be true, but you might benefit from sourcing your meat and vegetables locally. You might already be doing this. (Aren’t you trendy?!) If not, and you decide to start sourcing locally, there are considerations. If you’re sourcing locally, you’ll have the freshest food – and you’ll want to keep it that way! You might need to add additional refrigerated storage. Ideally you’ll only order what you need in a short time-frame, so maybe an undercounter refrigerator is all you need to add to the mix. If you’re going to be busy, you might add a bigger two door reach in refrigerator. Keep in mind, many vegetables do not need to be stored in the refrigerator. So, maybe you just need to add a few more shelves. Easy! Your food will taste fresh and you’ll be helping your local community – it’s a win-win!

What about healthful kids meals? Should you say out with the chicken tenders and in with whole grain pasta? I’m pretty sure chicken tenders aren’t your only dish that requires a deep fryer! If so, I say make the change and save the space in your kitchen! Parents love the option of having healthier items to choose from on the kids menu, so even if you keep the fried chicken, consider adding more healthy choices. Adding a new menu item that uses stuff you currently have on hand should be a quick change that could increase your business!

The tenth trend is house-made/artisan ice cream. While delicious, do you have what you need to keep your ice cream frozen? While you probably don’t need an 8 flavor ice cream dipping cabinet, you might need additional freezer space. You’re not going to be able to feed a lot of guests on 1 quart of ice cream. Better free up some space before you’re forced to serve artisan cream.

Number sixteen, ethnic-inspired breakfast items – we’re hoping that’s a fancy way of saying “breakfast tacos!” Here in Texas, we have tacos for breakfast. lunch and dinner. We feel like the rest of the country is seriously missing out. If there ever was a trend to latch onto, this is the one! What’s it doing way down at number 16 anyway? This one should be number one!

Last, but not least is food trucks. I know here in Austin we’ve been eating out of food trucks for years! It’s a great, affordable way for aspiring chefs to get their start. Wanna jump on this trend? (warning: shameless plug ahead!) ShortOrder.com has all the equipment you need to get started, and has outfitted quite a few of these restaurants on wheels. This trend is another one that needs to stick around. It’s an exciting change to the restaurant industry and a way around the financial roadblocks that are often found when trying to achieve your dreams of restaurant ownership.

What other trends are you seeing that didn’t make the list? Join the conversation on our Facebook page!

A Happy Staff Leads to a Great Customer Experience

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

Employees-in-Kitchen_Waverbreakmedia-Ltd-Copyright_ThinkstockThe holiday season is here! Let the hustle and bustle begin! Rushed customers at lunch, and worn out customers at dinner leads to a staff that has to be at the top of their game. How do you make sure your customers have a great experience every time? According to Matt Hood, Habit Burger’s chief marketing officer, it starts with nurturing the staff. He shared five ways to nurture the staff and improve the customer experience with the National Restaurant Association in this article. We’ve hit the highlights below:
(more…)

2010 Food Trends and Your Restaurant

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

The Food Channel recently released their list of predictions about the Top 10 Food Trends for 2010. At the top of the list? Basic ingredients — “keeping it real,” they call it, adding that there will be a shift from convenience foods to scratch cooking thanks to people having more time than money because of the economy. Another prediction on the list is for growth in grocery stores. There’s no “glory” in using name-brand products anymore — generic products have actually become their own brands.

That covers what’ll be on the table at home, but what about at restaurants? The Food Channel calls it “Experimental Nation:” People are redefining what it means to go out to eat, so restaurant concepts are in flux. They predict that restaurants with concepts having to do with DIY and “fresh” will “do well.” Since it’s all about experimentation, they note that many concepts will come and go as consumers decide what they like.

Number four on the list is “all about flavor delivery.” They say we’re defining a “new Global Flavor Curve” in America because of the new flavors immigrants have brought to the table. Think of your grandparents or great-grandparents: Chances are they immigrated to America from overseas — and they probably brought with them their own ways of making food. Mixing our heritage into American food can result in some creative dishes and unique flavors. As the Food Network says, the “presentation of food, the flavor, and the experimentation is coming into its own in 2010.” They call it “American, the New Ethnic.”

  • More highlights from the list of 2010 food trends:
  • Food vetting. People want to know where their food came from.
  • People and companies will become sustainable because they genuinely want to make a difference.
  • Food with added nutrients to increase nutritional value.

Is  your restaurant going to incorporate some of the trends included in this list? If you need restaurant equipment to make new dishes on  your menu, don’t miss our impressive selection of Vulcan ranges, Hobart slicers, Manitowoc ice machines and more.

Short Order | What's Cookin'

A Restaurant Equipment Blog for the Enhanced Professional Kitchen

View ShortOrder's Product Lines

Gen2
Gen2
Luxor
Luxor
Nemco
Nemco
Vulcan
Vulcan Ranges
Scotsman
Scotsman Ice Machines

Low Price Guarantee

ShortOrder.com is committed to being the low price leader. Not only will we meet, but we'll beat any legitimate advertised price from a competing food service equipment dealer for any item in our inventory. We will gladly refund 110% of the difference on an identical item from another dealer (including all freight charges.) Contact us at 800-211-0282 if you feel you have located an item that is priced lower than ShortOrder.com.

We beat any price

PRODUCT CATEGORIES