April 2011 Newsletter

Apr 17, 2011



Restaurant Business has just released  “The Social Media 50,” an analysis of the foodservice operations that rank highest on Facebook and Twitter. To our knowledge, it’s the first time the press has taken these steps to evaluate chains on their social media activities and performance.

This project, and the associated article in the latest issue of the magazine, points up how important social media has become to the restaurant industry. Perhaps you’re already using social media to promote your restaurant business, or maybe you’re only thinking about it. In either case, we hope our tips for using these resources give you some fresh ideas.

We’re also sharing our perspective on trends in the increasingly important sandwich category, and our Senior Design Associate, Margee Drews, has written about why the recovering economy may mean that it’s time to give your operations a facelift.


To your success,

Dean and Danny

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Go Freshen Up—For Your Customers’ Sake

By Margee Drews

The recessionary clouds are parting, and there’s a bright new feeling of optimism on the horizon. Consumer confidence is coming back and Americans are out spending money again. Thankfully, they’re also going back out to eat. Dining out, after all, is a relatively affordable luxury, and it’s a great way to get out and have some fun.

Don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet, though. Over the last few years, new restaurant players have emerged and old standbys have reinvented themselves out of necessity. Many restaurateurs have taken the time during the economic downturn to make improvements: revamping their menus, upgrading service, adding new features or redesigning their facilities to make them more efficient and appealing.

That means that the consumer, already on the lookout for new experiences when dining out, has even more choices now than ever.
Does your décor concept speak to this new era?

Does it offer the right backdrop to your new, forward-thinking ways to stay relevant in these competitive times? It’s fun to talk about new experiences, and by freshening up your decor you can give your guests a new experience as well as a reason to “tell all their friends about it.” It can also keep you from becoming obsolete.

Freshening a restaurant need not be an expensive proposition, but it does need to make an obvious statement, to create a necessary impact that achieves your goals and makes your investment worthwhile. Careful thought needs to go into how you spend the capital so that the guest fully appreciates your efforts.

Your goal should be a new experience for your existing customers, as well as a means for attracting new ones.

Your guests begin to experience your restaurant every time they drive by it, and again as soon as they pull into your parking lot. That’s why a restaurant freshening should not just be limited to the interior design but to the facility as a whole.

Think about what the guest experiences initially:
• Is the parking lot safe and in good condition?

• Is the entry monument signage in excellent condition?

• Spring is in the air; does your establishment reflect that, with abundant flowers at the entry and well-cared-for landscaping outside?

New exterior paint may be the single biggest and best investment you can make in a new design package. Prospective guests driving or walking by may never even know you have something new and fabulous on the inside if they don’t see an enticing change on the outside. Lure them in! Then take a good look at what your guests see the very second the front door swings open and they step inside.

• Have you delivered the WOW of what your brand promises?

• Is your lobby or entryway your biggest and best statement?

• Do guests know where to go when they enter? If you have a hostess stand or a place to be met and greeted, is the location obvious?

Of course, attention must be paid to the dining room. Your guests may be spending an hour or more in your restaurant once they sit down. Are they comfortable? Is the interior well-lit and visually exciting? Sit in your dining room for a while so that you can understand what your customers experience. Will they want to linger and enjoy themselves? Will they want to come back?

Good restaurant design will do that for you.

While you’re at, make sure you pay attention to the details, like comfortable chairs, openings and thresholds that can be crossed safely, table lighting that is sufficient for reading a menu. And don’t forget the restrooms; they should also be an integral part of any new design improvements.

By looking at your design through your customers’ eyes and experience you can determine what needs to be done. Remember, this is one of your best chances to get your fair share of the recovery.

Contact Synergy Consultants for a free design consultation or other services to help you give your business a boost.

Sandwiches in the Crystal Ball

By Joan Lang

Eight years ago, we did a presentation on “hot new sandwiches to watch” for an industry conference on menu trends, and several of our predictions were right on target—even if it took a little while longer than we expected for some of the sandwiches we showcased to get on the mainstream radar.

Case in point: banh mi, the Vietnamese sandwich that everyone from Serious Eats to NRN and Saveur magazine has been singling out lately.

banh mi

We were reminded of our prediction that this addictively tasty, exotic-yet-familiar sandwich (full of spicy flavors and fresh, crunchy textures) would hit the big-time when we read about the recent opening of Bun Mee in San Francisco.

Now, Bun Mee is the phonetic spelling of this iconic sandwich, which is being brought out of the “Asian quarter” by a New Orleans transplant and former Seattle attorney named Denise Tran. Her clever menu features classic as well as gourmet versions of banh mi, such as Vietnamese Caesar steak salad with mixed greens, grape tomatoes, orange and grapefruit, and tea egg. But we’ve seen banh mi sandwiches on menus in places like Bunk Sandwiches in Portland, Oregon, to a hipster bier café in Portland, Maine. They’re even being served in college cafeterias, thanks to Sodexo’s licensing agreement with celebrity chef Mai Pham.

We were also dead-on with our guess that the Cuban sandwich would achieve widespread popularity on mainstream menus. What these two delicious sandwiches have in common is the fact that they both feature ingredients that are fairly familiar—crusty bread, ham or roast pork, condiments (mayo in the case of the banh mi, and mustard in the Cubano)—with surprising textural and flavor combinations that their fans can’t get enough of.

And in fact their popularity represents an important lesson in how food trends move forward in restaurants in the United States, evolving from something ethnic (strange and slightly intimidating) to downright ubiquitous (like a taco). Sandwiches are a perfect vehicle for experimenting with ethnic flavors and ingredients precisely because the idea of a sandwich is so familiar and comforting to American diners: It’s a sandwich, after all, so how weird could it be?

Here’s the complete list of 10 sandwiches which we predicted great things for back in 2002, by the way. How close were we?

Thinking of making some menu changes? Contact Synergy Consultants to find out how our team can help you meet you goals.

Fresh Ideas for Facebook and Twitter

By Joan Lang

If you’re using social media to promote your business, congratulations. There are more than 500 million active Facebook users, and every month, more than 250 million people engage with Facebook on external websites . As for Twitter, current estimates project that 20.6 million U.S. adult internet users will use Twitter at least once a month in 2011, up 26.3% over 2010 .

Combined with other tools including foursquare (which has more than 7.5 million users), social media is booming. But are you getting the most out of it?

• Use QR (Quick Response) Codes on ads, flyers, takeout menus and other printed materials that will allow smartphone users to link to your Facebook page (and/or website)

• Take the long view with offers. A free beer may cost you 50 cents, but you’re getting people in the door and talking about your place; very few will drink the beer and run

• Tweet when you have reservations cancel or empty tables at the last minute

• Tweet nightly food or bar specials

• Enlist your staff (and trust them) to tweet their friends and followers and get them following your Facebook and Twitter activities

• Monitor week-over-week sales volumes and reservations; if they’re running behind, offer a special via Twitter and/or Facebook

• Include information about your Facebook page and Twitter on a card with every check, or use a card to solicit emails so you can send out texts and invitations

• Get your fans and followers involved in contests like naming new menu items, deciding what charity to get involved in, or selecting which beer to feature on tap

• Use Facebook Questions to solicit information; since it’s viral, you’ll end up getting a lot of feedback or attention from “friends of friends”

• Have your chef tweet about new menu items you’re developing, or create a photo feature of new items on your Facebook page to generate excitement for a new menu

• Consider putting your menus on Facebook, not just by providing a link to the restaurant’s website

• Post pictures, lots of pictures—of the food, scene, employees, etc. It’s a marketing maxim that will never go away that a picture is worth 1,000 words
• Consider using a tool like livebookings or OpenTable to enable reservations right from your Facebook page. Don’t forget to tweet when you have the service in place!

• Use Twitter to evaluate and address complaints, questions and comments about your operation; you should see patterns develop, and not only be able to respond to your customers, but also fix any systemic problems

Whatever you do with any or all of these ideas, don’t wear out your welcome. Peter Romeo, a restaurant industry blogger and the voice behind Restaurant Reality Check, suggests that two messages a day from your brand —via Facebook, Twitter or texting—are about what you should be aiming for.

And don’t neglect your website. You give up a lot of control to the community on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites, so in addition to managing what people are saying about you there, make sure your website is the very best it can be: up-to-date, easy-to-use, and on your message.

Synergy Consultants offers a full range of marketing services. Contact us for a free consultation.

Tip of the Month

By Joan Lang

Like bar codes, QR (Quick Response) codes are most frequently used for retail applications, but the restaurant industry is getting on-board, too. These distinctive looking codes can be used in a variety of ways to bring users from printed materials like ads, takeout menus or your business card to additional information, such as nutritionals, or your website or Facebook page. They can also be used to scan in your address and phone number to a user’s contact list.

Check out this video for more information..

Synergy Execs to Share Business Intelligence at Chicago NRA Show

By NormaLynn Cutler

On Sunday May 22,  during the National Restaurant Association show in Chicago,  the co-founders of Synergy will meet with restaurateurs, aspiring and existing, to review any aspect(s) of their business and share their wisdom, gratis.  Appointments are available to first 5 entrepreneurs only. For more info, contact