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:
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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.

Preparing Your Restaurant for a Health Inspection

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Restaurant health inspections are just a simple way to prevent your kitchen from being attacked by illnesses. It’s a way to keep your customers happy and healthy. If you have one coming up, here are some helpful tips on what to do before the restaurant inspector even arrives.

What to Do Before an Inspector Visits

Without a health inspection, your restaurant could fall victim to a food borne-illness outbreak that could ruin your establishment’s reputation and even force you to close your doors.

The proper strategy for a successful health inspection is to be ready for an examination at any time. This means that you and your managers should become inspectors and conduct weekly, in-house examinations before health inspectors arrive.

When conducting a self-assessment, you should use the same form — or a similar form — that your health department uses and put yourself in the health inspector’s place.

Your self-inspection should include walking into your establishment from the outside to get an outsider’s impression.

After you inspect your operation, hold a 10-minute briefing with kitchen staff to review any problems. This step will help convey the importance of food safety to staff members.

If your staff includes employees for whom English is a second language, ask a bilingual employee to translate the findings to them so they also understand how important cleanliness is to the success of your restaurant.

Your self-inspection priorities for kitchen employees should include: food temperature, awareness of food types and hand washing.

Temperature guidelines include checking the temperature of products when they arrive, when they are stored and when they are served. Doing this will reduce food borne-illness outbreaks by 70 percent.

Food-type guidelines are divided into three categories: beef and beef blood; chicken; and all other types of food. These three categories can never touch each other during preparation.

The importance of hand washing should be re-enforced by posting signs at all kitchen sinks and in employee restrooms.

Train your managers to ensure that they are up-to-date on the latest food-safety techniques. Restaurant employees can use the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s ServSafe food-safety training program.

Review your local health code for any special, local requirements.

Another way to influence the outcome of your restaurant health inspection is to get involved politically. Join your state’s health-code-revision committee to give a restaurateur’s perspective. Involve senior staff on such committees as well.

These helpful tips were put together by the National Restaurant Association.

Thanks to all who contribute!

Restaurants May Be Required to Disclose Nutrition Info

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Some restaurants may soon be required to disclose nutrition information on their menu. It’s all a part of a campaign recently launched by The Coalition for Responsible Nutrition Information. They are hoping to pass national legislation that would result in chain restaurants and other restaurants using a uniform standard to present nutrition information to patrons.

Since healthy eating habits and weight loss are quickly becoming a concern for many consumers, restaurants that provide consistent nutrition information will be giving people more control over what they’re eating. Basically, the thought is that the more consumers know about what they’re eating at restaurants, the better able they’ll be to make healthy choices at restaurants.

This proposal is known as the LEAN Act, and if passed, it’d give restaurant patrons a great amount of information that they can use to make better choices when they dine out. Some information that would be included: trans fats, cholesterol, carbohydrates, protein, calories and sodium.

So of course comes the question of where this information will be located in restaurants. It must be given in writing in a convenient way that fits in with the restaurant. For example, sit-down restaurants may put the nutrition information on their menu, while fast-food restaurants may display nutrition information on a poster or electronic kiosk.

Restaurant Equipment and Healthy Eating

Restaurant equipment and healthy eating go hand-in-hand. If you’re a restaurant owner who is selling healthy food options, you’ll need quality restaurant equipment to get the job done. Whether you’re a salad restaurant in need of Hobart food cutters or walk-in refrigerators, or a sandwich and smoothie shop in need of a commercial work table or commercial blender, ShortOrder.com has you covered. Start shopping now to get everything you need for your restaurant.

Restaurants Redefine the Salad

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Restaurants around the country are redifining the salad in order to give customers what they want. And they don’t just want a plate of iceberg lettuce — customers want a salad that’s filling, healthy and on par with an entree.

Not too long ago, salads were merely ordered as a side, or when someone didn’t see anything on a restaurant menu that they liked. A last resort, a way to appear healthy, ordering a salad is now neither of those things because consumers really, truly are paying attention to eating healthier meals.

A recent article in QSR Magazine talks about this new, growing trend in restaurants. The article noted that Technomic Information Services’ “Salad Category Report” showed 55 percent of consumers said they ordered a salad most of the time or every time when they dine away from home. This report also showed that if a salad is unique, new and sounds appealing, 43 percent of consumers are likely to purchase it.

Hobart food cutterFast food restaurants are even working to meet the demands of consumers by offering affordable salads. It’s a good move for fast food restaurants, since the National Restaurant Association’s 2008 Restaurant Industry Forecast found that entree salads are growing in popularity, according to 59 percent of quick-service operators. What’s more is that they found 76 percent of consumers are trying to eat more healthfully now than they did two years ago.

Restaurant Equipment to Make Salads

Restaurant equipment to make salads is a necessity — just having fresh, delicious ingredients isn’t enough to get the job done. If you’re serving up tasty salads at your restaurant, you’ll need a way to keep the carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, sprouts, dressings and anything else you’ll have on hand at a safe temperature. Kolpak walk-in refrigerators can get that job done. And to give chefs and restaurant staff members a place to chop and dice ingredients, you’ll want a quality commercial work table. Hobart food cutters are also worth considering, as they could help get food prep work done more quickly and efficiently. Get the lowest prices on restaurant equipment at ShortOrder.

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