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.

Get Ready for Summer Drinks

Tuesday, 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.

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.

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

Tuesday, 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

Tuesday, 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.

Ways to Improve Your Food Business in the New Year

Tuesday, 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.

3 Ways to Spice Up Your Fall Menu

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

Restaurant Fall MenuAs it gets colder, customers’ taste buds start to beg for something warm and comforting. Out with crisp summer salads and barbecued meat, and in with the soups and baked goods. However, standard recipes can become stagnant over time, so it’s important to spice things up every once in awhile. Here are few ideas to help inspire your autumnal menu.

1. More Soup For You

When it’s cold, there’s nothing better than a warm cup of soup. However, it doesn’t take long for a simple soup du jour to become a bit boring. Branch out from traditional favorites like chicken noodle, and introduce some new flavors to your menu. Butternut squash is seasonal and super easy to prepare, a chorizo and white bean stew is a fresh take on a classic recipe, and spicy harvest chipotle chili gives a favorite fall comfort food a little kick. To get your restaurant ready for the season, try these bowls for a warmer color scheme. (more…)

Can you make GREEN by going green?

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

Garden on the RoofIn his recent article on FastCasual.com, Ed Zimmerman asks the question that seems to be on everyone’s mind these days: “Is your restaurant green?” According to a recent survey among consumers regarding food trends, environmental sustainability ranked first!
The reasons to “go green” are numerous. It’s responsible, it shows you care about your community, but now you can add customer interest to the list – which means it’s profitable.

How can you go green?

Shop local. Locally sourced food is a growing trend and local farmers are more than happy to work with you. Develop monthly specials based on season. Don’t be afraid of adding it to the “featured menu,” even if there’s not a ton of product. If you run out for the night, it will increase the demand on future nights!

Source green foods. There are so many options! Chefs can now find green options year-round, even fruits and vegetables, pasta, cheese, wine and more. (more…)

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