FREE OKC Food Truck Business Accelerator: Your Roadmap to an $8,000 Grant

Jun 19, 2024

A food truck business is a wonderful way for talented chefs and entrepreneurs to make their mark in the hospitality industry. The mobile operations allow owners to reach communities in ways a brick-and-mortar location can’t, and lower overhead is another perk in this foodservice industry. However, food trucks must still compete like any other business does while still striving to maintain efficiency and profits. Food truck operators are incredibly hardworking, and we understand how challenging it is to run a mobile company. Operators always welcome funding to help with equipment upgrades, hiring, marketing, and more.

The OKC Accelerator Program

Synergy is thrilled to introduce the OKC Food Truck Business Accelerator Program! This is not just a program, it’s a golden opportunity for you to access government funding, receive tailored support, expert guidance from Synergy Restaurant Consultants, and become part of a supportive cohort community. It’s a chance to take your food truck business to new heights.

Backed by the American Rescue Plan Act funding from the City of Oklahoma City and the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City, this one-of-a-kind program is designed to empower and elevate local food truck businesses. We are extending a special invitation to you to be a part of this unique opportunity. The program will enhance your operations, assist in creating a focused business strategy, and offer you the chance to secure $8,000 in funding that you don’t have to repay.

What the FREE Program Includes

The program preps you to apply for an $8,000 grant from the City and The Alliance to fuel your growth and includes:

  • Hands-on Business Evaluation
  • Comprehensive Bootcamp
  • Exclusive Online Training
  • Personalized Coaching
  • Community and Collaboration


Learn more about this amazing opportunity here.


Read the FAQs and APPLY here.






What is SB 1524? An Update to the California Junk Fee Ban

Jun 12, 2024

California’s controversial SB 478 bill, set to ban “drip pricing” and junk fees starting July 1, may now include an exception for restaurants, thanks to a new addition, SB 1524. This comes off the heels of significant pushback from the restaurant industry. Introduced by State Senator, Bill Dodd, SB 1524 would allow restaurants to add service fees or surcharges if these are clearly displayed on menus before customers order. This amendment has support from the California Restaurant Association and Unite Here, a hospitality labor union. The bill, labeled as an urgency measure, must quickly pass the state Senate and Assembly and be signed by Governor Gavin Newsom to take effect immediately.


Why do Restaurants and Bars Oppose SB 478?

Restaurants and bars oppose SB 478 for several reasons:


Operational Costs: They face numerous costs, including taxes, credit card fees, and employee salaries and benefits. Service fees help cover these costs without significantly raising menu prices.

Transparency and Predictability: Many restaurants already disclose service fees on their menus or other displays. They argue that clear disclosure of fees should be acceptable and that SB 478’s restrictions are unnecessary and disruptive.

Customer Experience: Sudden price hikes on menu items to cover operational costs, instead of transparent service fees, could lead to sticker shock for customers, potentially reducing patronage.

Business Model Impact: Service fees are often used to support specific business models, such as replacing traditional tipping systems with automatic gratuities that ensure equitable pay for staff. Banning these fees could disrupt these models and negatively affect worker compensation.

Administrative Confusion: The inclusion of restaurants in the “junk fees” ban has caused confusion in the industry about what is permissible, leading to concerns about compliance and potential legal issues.

When does the Restaurant Fees Bill Need to be Passed?

SB 1524 must be passed by the California state Senate and Assembly and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom before July 1, when SB 478, the “junk fees” law, goes into effect. This accelerated timetable is necessary to ensure that restaurants can continue charging clearly disclosed service fees without interruption.




Fast Food Restaurants Using Ai

Jun 07, 2024

The fast food industry is increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance efficiency, improve customer experiences, and address labor challenges. As labor shortages persist and wage costs rise, fast food chains are leveraging AI to streamline operations and manage their workforce more effectively.

Presto has integrated its voice AI with Qu’s POS and kitchen production systems at Taco John’s, enabling automated voice orders to be seamlessly managed with the existing technology. Ryan Baune, Taco John’s VP of technology, reported positive preliminary results, including faster service, improved order accuracy, and higher average ticket sizes due to upselling. Steve Smyth, director of restaurant technology, noted that the technology enhances the guest experience by eliminating the need for staff to take new orders at the pickup window. Taco John’s has also partnered with Flybuy for location-based ordering. Having spun off its tablet business, Presto is now focused on voice AI, testing fully automated and Spanish-speaking voice AI systems, and partnering with Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Checkers and Rally’s.

Domino’s is leveraging AI to enhance its pizza-making and delivery processes, aiming to expedite service. CEO Russell John Weiner explained that AI algorithms start making pizzas before customers complete their orders, reducing delivery times as pizzas are ready when drivers arrive. This approach speeds up delivery and increases driver tips and customer satisfaction, fostering repeat business. While current AI implementations are basic, future goals include optimizing delivery driver allocation and pizza preparation timing without managerial intervention.




Domino’s is collaborating with Microsoft to simplify online ordering with an AI assistant, envisioned as a “pizza concierge service.” Additionally, the company is developing an AI assistant to aid store managers with daily tasks like inventory management, ingredient ordering, and staff scheduling, aiming to streamline back-of-house operations and improve efficiency.

Yum Brands, the parent company of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, and Habit Burger Grill, is pioneering an “AI-powered” future under the leadership of Joe Park, the Chief Digital and Technology Officer. Yum Brands has introduced several AI-driven tools, including SuperApp, a comprehensive management tool for restaurant managers that handles operational advice, inventory, and shift scheduling. This app is already used at over 8,700 Pizza Hut and KFC locations. Additionally, AI-powered customer-facing applications, such as voice AI for drive-through orders and image-recognition AI, are being explored to optimize service.

As AI continues to integrate into various aspects of fast food operations, the industry is poised for a more efficient and personalized future.




Haymaker Public House

Jun 01, 2024

Synergy Restaurant Consultants partnered with Haymaker Public House in Ann Arbor, MI,  to support their recent relaunch and reopening. Synergy did a holistic performance assessment of the business. We provided the owner with a very affordable turnaround strategy that would transform the restaurant into one of the best eating establishments in Ann Arbor.


This collaboration followed an assessment process and a concurrent recruitment project. Synergy’s focus was on enhancing Haymaker Public House’s operations and guest experience through several key initiatives:


  • Revamped Menu & Beverage Offerings: Synergy created a new and exciting sports bar menu emphasizing variety, attractive selections, and value. They re-engineered existing menus to introduce unique dishes and drinks, setting Haymaker Public House apart from the competition.


  • Strengthened Management & Staff Development: Synergy’s commitment to Haymaker Public House’s success is evident in the comprehensive onboarding plan developed for the newly recruited General Manager. This plan included an eight-day on-site training program and ongoing weekly coaching sessions. Additionally, Synergy created training materials and conducted hospitality, kitchen, and food & beverage presentation sessions for the entire staff, ensuring a well-prepared team.


  • Optimized Operational Systems: Synergy’s culinary expertise was instrumental in creating detailed support documentation for the kitchen and bar, outlining best practices for consistent implementation. This documentation has improved organization and workflow efficiency, as evidenced by the optimized kitchen layout resulting from Synergy’s collaboration with Haymaker Public House’s team. By implementing these strategies, Synergy aimed to ensure Haymaker Public House had a successful relaunch with a focus on operational effectiveness, high-quality food and beverage offerings, and a well-trained staff ready to deliver a superior guest experience.


Just last week, Haymaker held their grand re-opening to an eager crowd! Take a look at the delicious new menu items and revamped space.




Power Up Your Restaurant: How Renewable Energy Can Save You Money and Make You Sustainable

May 28, 2024

In today’s environmentally conscious world, consumers are increasingly looking to support businesses prioritizing sustainability. This extends to the restaurant industry, where diners are interested in not only delicious food but also how their meal is prepared and served. Integrating renewable energy solutions into your restaurant operation can be a win-win situation, benefiting your bottom line and the planet.

Financial Advantages of Going Green

The article published by FSR Magazine highlights the key financial benefits of adopting renewable energy sources. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Reduced Energy Costs: Solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal systems can significantly reduce your reliance on the traditional grid, leading to substantial savings on your electricity bill.
  • Government Incentives: Many governments offer financial incentives, such as tax credits and rebates, to encourage businesses to switch to renewable energy. These incentives can offset the initial investment costs of installing renewable energy systems.
  • Attract Eco-Conscious Customers: By showcasing your commitment to sustainability, you can attract customers actively seeking out environmentally responsible businesses. This awareness can give you a competitive edge and boost your brand reputation.

Practical Steps for Implementing and Integrating Renewable Energy into your Restaurant:

  • Conduct an Energy Audit: Start by understanding your current energy consumption patterns. An energy audit will identify areas for improvement and determine the most suitable renewable energy solutions for your needs.
  • Explore Different Options: Solar panels are a popular choice for restaurants due to their space efficiency and potential for significant energy generation. Wind turbines might be better suited for locations with consistent wind patterns, while geothermal systems can be considered depending on your geographical location and geological features.
  • Partner with Experts: Consult with experienced renewable energy companies who can assess your needs and recommend the most effective solutions for your restaurant. They can also guide you through the installation process and ensure compliance with local regulations.


So, how do you communicate your commitment to sustainability with your guests? Sustainability is no longer a niche concern – it’s a growing expectation for today’s diners. But simply implementing eco-friendly practices isn’t enough. You must effectively communicate your efforts to your customers and build trust in your commitment to the planet. Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Lead by Example:

    • Visible Efforts: Highlight the sustainable practices happening right before your customers’ eyes. Use reusable tableware for dine-in or offer compostable containers for takeout. Partner with local farms for fresh, seasonal ingredients and display signage informing customers.
    • Employee Training: Ensure your staff is knowledgeable about your sustainability initiatives and can answer customer questions confidently. Their enthusiasm can be contagious!

2. Integrate Sustainability into Your Messaging:

    • Menu Descriptions: Subtly weave sustainability into your menu descriptions. Mention locally sourced ingredients, ethically raised proteins, or recycled materials for packaging.
    • Visual Appeal: Use eye-catching graphics or icons next to sustainable menu items or feature them in a dedicated “Eco-Conscious Choices” section.
    • Signage and Décor: In your restaurant, display informative signage about your sustainability practices. Consider incorporating eco-friendly materials into your décor, like reclaimed wood tables or recycled glass lights.


3. Engage with Your Community:

    • Social Media: Share your sustainability journey on social media! Post pictures of your local farmers, highlight your recycling efforts, or showcase energy-saving measures implemented in your kitchen.
    • Partnerships: Collaborate with local sustainability organizations or participate in farmers’ markets. These events can increase brand awareness and connect you with environmentally conscious customers.
    • Website Transparency: Dedicate a section on your website to showcase your sustainability efforts. Explain your philosophy and the specific initiatives you’ve adopted.

4. Make it Easy for Customers to Participate:

    • Recycling Program: Implement a straightforward, easy-to-follow recycling program for takeout containers or beverage bottles. Provide clear signage to guide customers.
    • Composting Options: If you offer composting for food scraps, make it accessible to customers. Consider offering a small discount for those who bring their reusable containers.
    • Donate or Upcycle: Partner with local charities to donate leftover food or with artists who use recycled materials to create art pieces for your restaurant.

5. Be Open and Honest:

    • Transparency is critical: Don’t try to greenwash your customers. If certain aspects of your operation still need sustainability, acknowledge them and outline your improvement plans.
    • Focus on Progress: Sustainability is a journey, not a destination. Celebrate your achievements while being transparent about ongoing efforts and future goals.

Investing in a Sustainable Future

Integrating renewable energy is a strategic investment in your restaurant’s future. By embracing sustainability, you not only reduce your environmental impact but also benefit from cost savings and enhanced brand image. By taking the initial steps outlined above, you can build brand loyalty, enhance your overall reputation, and embark on a journey towards a more sustainable and profitable restaurant operation.


Beyond Takeout: The Challenges and Opportunities of To-Go Delivery

May 28, 2024

The rise of online food delivery has fundamentally changed how we dine. Gone are the days of simply ordering pizza for a casual night in. Today, thanks to services like DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats, a vast array of restaurant options are available at our fingertips, delivered straight to our doorsteps. But with this convenience comes a new set of challenges for restaurants, forcing them to adapt their operations and rethink the dining experience beyond the four walls of their establishment.

Balancing Quality and Efficiency

A recent article in FSR Magazine by John Hinterberger delves into the complexities of to-go delivery and the experience it creates outside the restaurant. Hinterberger highlights the delicate balancing act restaurants must perform. On the one hand, they need to ensure food arrives fresh, hot, and beautifully presented, replicating the in-house dining experience as much as possible. On the other hand, efficiency and speed are paramount in the fast-paced delivery world.

Presentation Takes a Hit

One of the biggest challenges is maintaining the visual appeal of dishes. Food designed to be enjoyed hot and plated artfully can suffer during transport. Sauces can congeal, fries get soggy and meticulously arranged elements can become a jumbled mess. The consistency between the curated presentation of the restaurant’s menu and the reality delivered to the customer’s door can lead to disappointment.

Rethinking the Delivery Experience

The article suggests that restaurants must go beyond simply getting the food to the customer. Creating a memorable delivery experience requires thoughtful packaging that protects the food’s quality and presentation. Hinterberger highlights examples of restaurants using tamper-evident seals and branded packaging to elevate the experience. Additionally, offering small touches like personalized notes or special instructions for reheating dishes can go a long way in building customer loyalty.

Innovation and Collaboration

The to-go and delivery market is constantly changing. The article explores potential solutions such as temperature-controlled packaging and designated delivery kitchens closer to residential areas to maintain food quality. Collaboration with delivery platforms is also crucial. Restaurants can work with delivery services to ensure proper food handling and develop clear communication channels to manage customer expectations.

The Bottom Line

The rise of to-go delivery presents both challenges and opportunities for restaurants. By acknowledging delivery’s limitations and taking steps to mitigate them, restaurants can create a more positive and memorable experience for takeout and delivery customers. In this new dining landscape, restaurants that embrace innovation and prioritize the entire customer journey, from menu selection to doorstep arrival, are poised to thrive.

Is your off-premise strategy leaving your food cold and your profits lukewarm? Synergy Restaurant Consultants can help you adapt and thrive in the changing dining landscape. Contact us today for a free consultation and unlock the full potential of your takeout and delivery options!


Don’t Forget the Drinks! How Specialty Beverages Can Boost Your Restaurant Profits

May 28, 2024

In today’s competitive restaurant landscape, maximizing profits requires creativity and strategic thinking. While focusing on food is essential, there’s another area often overlooked: beverages. A recent Revenue Management Solutions survey revealed a surprising truth – 80% of diners order specialty drinks multiple times a week, even when their overall restaurant visits decline. This trend presents a golden opportunity for restaurants to leverage the power of specialty beverages and increase their bottom line.

Why Specialty Beverages Reign Supreme

So, what makes these unique drinks so popular with customers? Here’s the secret sauce:

  • Increased Perceived Value: Specialty drinks are often perceived as a special treat, justifying a higher price point than standard soft drinks. Customers will pay more for a handcrafted beverage with unique flavors and presentation.
  • Enhanced Dining Experience: These drinks go beyond quenching thirst. Specialty beverages elevate the entire dining experience by offering exciting flavor combinations and creative presentations that complement the food.
  • Customization is King: Many restaurants allow customers to personalize their drinks with syrups, toppings, or different milk options. These options cater to individual preferences and dietary restrictions, making the experience more engaging for your guests.

Transforming Your Beverage Menu into a Profit Center

Ready to unlock the revenue potential of specialty beverages? Here are some key strategies to consider:

  • Think Outside the Box: Ditch the predictable options and experiment with seasonal ingredients, house-made syrups, and unique flavor profiles. Think lavender lemonade for spring or a spicy mango margarita for summer.
  • Delivery Domination: Don’t forget the delivery crowd! Highlight your specialty drinks prominently on your delivery app. The slightly higher price point might not deter delivery-focused customers already spending more.
  • Fine-Dining Focus: For upscale restaurants, emphasize the premium ingredients and potential health benefits of your specialty drinks. This can further justify a higher price tag and enhance the overall dining experience.
  • Mocktail Magic: Don’t neglect non-alcoholic preferences! Offer creative and flavorful mocktails to cater to a broader audience and ensure everyone can enjoy a refreshing beverage.

Turning Every Sip into a Win

Implementing these strategies can transform your beverage menu from a mere afterthought into a significant profit driver. Remember, even small changes can have a considerable impact. Start by introducing a few new specialty drinks, gauge customer response, and refine your offerings based on popularity. With a focus on creativity and customer preferences, you can turn every sip into a win for your restaurant’s bottom line. So, don’t underestimate the power of specialty beverages – they might be your restaurant’s secret ingredient for success!


Tapping into the New: What’s Changing in The World of Beverages

May 21, 2024

Gen Z’s preferences are driving significant changes in the beer industry, emphasizing diverse flavors and unique experiences. This generation continues the trend of reduced alcohol consumption, with nearly a third of adults aged 21-24 never drinking, according to a 2023 CivicScience survey. As a result, there is a growing demand for non-alcoholic beers, and breweries like The Brass Tap are responding by offering a variety of flavorful non-alcoholic options. Partnerships with companies such as Athletic Brewing have helped meet this demand, and non-alcoholic options now make up about 9% of their product list.

Even among those who do drink, Gen Z shows distinct preferences. They prioritize quality over quantity, often choosing higher ABV beers initially and then switching to lower or non-alcoholic options.


Beyond Beer

Bars, restaurants, and stadiums across the country are undergoing a major shift in beverage preferences, with cocktails on tap replacing beer. Establishments are increasingly offering draft cocktails like negronis, margaritas, and Mai Tais instead of traditional draft beers. Despite being pre-made by bartenders or distributors, these draft cocktails can still deliver quality and flavor, as cocktail educator Tiffanie Barriere noted.


This transition from beer to cocktails on tap is accompanied by a decline in kegged beer sales, with on-tap beer consumption dropping about 5 percent year over year in 2023. The number of draft lines dedicated to non-beer products has surged to approximately 10,000, up from 1,500 before the pandemic. Pre-made cocktails offer benefits for both customers and bar owners, as they are quicker to serve, requiring no shaking or muddling. This trend suggests a growing acceptance and preference for draft cocktails, potentially transforming the traditional tapline offerings in the hospitality industry.


The Raw Deal, a fair-trade hub in downtown Menomonie, has introduced a new product: kombucha from Manifest Kombucha Co. of River Falls. Known for its diverse selection of ready-to-go beer, wine, tea, fresh-roasted coffee, in-house sweets, and snacks, The Raw Deal now offers this gut-friendly beverage made from black tea cultured by bacteria and yeast. Customers can enjoy unique spring flavors such as hibiscus lemon, pineapple ginger, and mint mojito, available on tap in 8- or 12-ounce glasses, or grab a bottle to go.

Curious Cork
Curious Cork has 64 Wines on Tap

Orlando’s newest Wine Bar, Curious Cork, utilizes an innovative, Italian wine-serving technology – Enomatic – which allows guests to taste a variety of delicious vintage wines. Currently there are 64 self-pour wine taps at their Lake Nona location.


Whether you’re a fan of traditional draft beers or curious to try a kegged cocktail, the next time you ask what’s on tap, you might find a delightful surprise waiting for you. Cheers to the future of taplines and the ever-evolving world of beverages!




SB 478: New Ban on Adding Service Charges at California Restaurants

May 13, 2024

Starting July 1, California restaurants must adhere to a new state law banning undisclosed fees and surcharges. The law requires businesses to include all mandatory fees in advertised prices. Guidelines from Attorney General Rob Bonta clarify that such charges must be incorporated into menu prices. The Golden Gate Restaurant Association criticizes this, fearing increased menu prices and potential job losses. The law applies broadly to all businesses, except for government-imposed taxes or fees and reasonable shipping costs. Handling fees must be included, while separate charges for optional services can be excluded. Late fees and similar charges don’t require advertising. Businesses must not advertise one price and then add fees later. Those uncertain of final costs should wait to display prices. Live Nation Entertainment supports the law, having already implemented all-in pricing at some venues. The Travel Technology Association prefers a national standard for lodging price regulations. Expedia also opposed the bill. Bonta argues that California doesn’t need federal action to ensure consumer transparency, labeling hidden charges as deceptive and unfair. Exemptions for third-party delivery services like DoorDash and Ubereats are in place.


However, the law also presents challenges for the restaurant industry. Restaurants implementing such fees after July 1 could face lawsuits from diners, a potential outcome that disappoints the industry.  The Golden Gate Restaurant Association, a prominent voice in the industry, had hoped for a carve-out in the law. Previously, lawmakers suggested that restaurant service fees would be acceptable if they were clearly disclosed, but this is not the case. The association warns of significant challenges ahead, predicting menu price increases and potential job losses for workers, highlighting the industry’s concerns and uncertainties.


For more detailed information and answers to specific questions, visit California’s Office of the Attorney General for a comprehensive set of FAQs. These cover questions like ‘Do fees for optional services or features need to be included in the advertised price?’ ‘What about tips or gratuities left voluntarily by customers?’ and ‘What if a business doesn’t know how much it will charge a customer?’ This new law may raise many questions, so it is important to learn how it impacts your restaurant.




An Update to California’s Minimum Wage Increase: What’s Happening at Restaurants

May 07, 2024

In California, prices at fast-food chains like Chipotle, McDonald’s, and Chick-fil-A have risen following a minimum wage increase. Chipotle noted a 6% to 7% price hike in its California restaurants compared to last year, attributing it to the new legislation. Chick-fil-A also saw notable increases, with prices for items like spicy chicken sandwiches rising by as much as 13%. California’s minimum wage for fast-food workers is now $20 an hour, impacting chains with over 60 locations. Other companies like Domino’s and Burger King have also raised prices. Despite the challenges, companies like McDonald’s emphasized their commitment to providing value, though prices vary by location.


Customers’ Reactions

Customers in Southern California are feeling the impact of rising prices. A Chipotle customer, Owen Peralta, noted a significant increase from $10 to $13 in his usual order, prompting concerns about continued price hikes. Other customers, like Cindy Tran and Mike Larson, expressed intentions to eat out less frequently due to the rising costs, indicating a potential shift in fast-food consumption habits.

A TikTok video showcasing a $25 deal at a California McDonald’s has sparked criticism of the state’s recent minimum wage increase. While some blame the new law for soaring menu prices, McDonald’s asserts that prices vary by location and franchisee discretion.


minimum wage increase

Owners’ Reactions

Harshraj Ghai, who manages 180 fast-food restaurants in California, responded swiftly to the state’s new $20 minimum wage by capping worker hours, adjusting operating hours, and implementing technology like self-service kiosks and AI-driven drive-through systems. The increase in labor costs prompted many in the industry to raise menu prices, but Ghai focused on automation to offset expenses. Despite challenges like language barriers for AI systems, Ghai and others see automation as essential for staying competitive. While AI-driven drive-thru’s are still in development, they promise to improve efficiency and reduce labor costs in the long term. Ghai believes AI can enhance customer service while reducing the need for human intervention, ultimately leading to fewer required staff hours. However, he emphasizes that the goal isn’t to replace people but to enhance operations and customer experience.


Restaurant operators like Briana Valdez of HomeState in Southern California express concerns about the immediate challenges. Valdez emphasizes the need for restaurants to remain competitive in attracting talent, which may require raising wages beyond the mandated minimum. Michaela Mendelsohn, CEO of Pollo West Corporation, highlights the financial strain on businesses, leading to reduced hours, simplified menus, and the exploration of automation technologies. Both Valdez and Mendelsohn stress the need for a broader approach to wage increases and express concerns about the long-term viability of their businesses.