Congratulations on Completing the Training Program, Marlene!
We are so thrilled to share with you Marlene’s experience with our SynergyU Restaurant Management Training Program. Read her review of our the program in her own words.
“Individuals are always stronger when they have their successes and strengths clearly in mind.” -Don Clifton
2020 was not the year I had anticipated. The year before, I had made a few significant changes in my life, including changing my whole career path, which was way overdue. It took years, if not decades, to finally buckle down and fully pursue my passion of becoming a chef and immersing myself in the restaurant industry, a field I had dreamed about my whole life.
March 2020 came along, and all the fear, hard work, anticipation, sleepless nights, early mornings suddenly seemed to just come to a halt, and I was left jobless. I knew the efforts I had put forth in changing my career were all worth it and would still be of benefit, but I was frustrated, at 33 years old, feeling like I had to start my entire career all over again.
I found myself re-training my brain on what I could do in a situation that I had no control over. I found myself looking for ways to advance my knowledge so that no matter what else happened in the coming days, weeks, and months I would be able to find a job of my choice. Additionally, gaining the necessary training and knowledge, I would need to move forward even if that meant not having hands-on training at that current time.
My boyfriend and I talked for months about executing a business plan for a restaurant of our own. We had an “Aha” moment and knew there was no better time than now. I started doing research on managerial classes and looking for consulting groups that could lend us a hand and help guide us to get to where we wanted to be. I came upon Synergy Restaurant Consultants while doing my research. I saw the extensive clientele Synergy had and that they had guided a few restaurants I had previously worked in and played a significant role in other restaurants I had looked up to and admired over the years because of their reputation, experience, and consistent execution.
My time spent taking Synergy’s Management Course was something I am incredibly grateful to have found. Their Synergy U e-Learning Management Training Program felt like a breeze. The information was well delivered and adaptable to even an individual that might not have any restaurant experience. The video’s and information showcased and replayed the words communicated on the screen. I especially liked how the training platform was available not just on my iPad, desktop computer but mostly on my iPhone. It is so valuable to have easy access right in the palm of my hand that would be the same on any other platform type.
The management course focused on the front of the house and what it means to be a floor manager and showed and highlighted the importance of having a positive and open relationship with the kitchen. From my experience, a lot of front of house training doesn’t explore the unique bond between the back of the house staff. The e-Learning management course recognized the importance of communication with the Chef, line cooks, dishwashers, prep cooks, etc., and the value of learning more about them as humans, their drive, and their pride in the food they present. It creates a good rapport and allows an open communication line so that the front of the house feels just as competent to provide guests with that phenomenal experience, not only the first time but every time a guest comes in.
A well-run restaurant is composed of many different harmonious pieces; the front of the house staff, the back of the house staff, investors, customers, vendors, etc., are all part of making restaurants great. Synergy U Management Training program did a great job in relaying that and how all the different puzzle pieces of a restaurant come together, from the moment the guest walks in the door until when the kitchen closes up for the night.
In addition to the informational videos and bulleted notes shared in the Synergy Management Training platform, they also went above and beyond to provide a forms toolbox to utilize. They walk you through the form and give you an editable version that you can customize based on your establishment’s individual needs.
As an overly organized individual and acting General Manager, I like to have checklists, accountability sheets, service steps, manuals, etc., so when I train my staff, they know what our expectations are and are all held accountable. Synergy Management Training platform provided those tools and more, from inventory checklists to steps of service, how to complete a “restaurant loop” in 15 mins to learn how service is going, and so much more.
When my restaurant launches in mid-2021, I will have a sound foundation and footing on a well driven and oiled machine. I feel like I received way more than I had expected upon taking this course, and it makes me feel so much more confident in this new role now and prepared for what is to come my way. I’m genuinely even more excited to train my staff with all the incredible knowledge I’ve picked up and hope to share the Synergy Certified Manager Course with my employees and others looking to make strides and move ahead in the hospitality field. The Synergy U Management Training covers way more than you would expect. Not only do you receive a plethora of information, but you also have tools that will be forever accessible and adaptable as the restaurant industry grows and continues to expand.
I want to thank Mike Walls and his excellent team for publishing such a fantastic course and touching base with me throughout my progress, continuing to open their wide door of resources for myself and my team whenever I might need it.
Thank you so much for all you do!
Marlene E. Spicer
Training Millennials in the Restaurant Workplace
For those of us who’ve been in the restaurant business for decades, the arrival of millennials to the workforce can be a bit of a challenge.
They are smarter, more outspoken, and less tolerant of poor workplace cultures than any generation before them. They have instant access to thousands of resources that tell them “how it should be,” and they’re not afraid to voice their opinion about what needs to change.
- Instead of the classic restaurant training that involves a lot of talk and paper, use online resources. Let your staff study and take exams online. They’re used to it, even if you’re not.
- Explain the reasons behind what you’re teaching. It’s not enough to say, “Greet a table within one minute.” You need to explain to them why it makes a difference to the customers.
- Give them buy-in to the restaurant’s success. Let them know how sales are doing and what everyone can do to increase them.
- Have a restaurant training program that’s detailed, complete, and engaging. Don’t simply talk to your new staff of Millennials, engage with them.
- Offer value beyond cash. A lot of restaurants can’t offer more pay, but there are other things they can offer. One great example is a lunch and dinner for the crew after their shift. Have the cooks make a family style meal out of whatever is starting to turn or something inexpensive. Invite everyone to sit and eat for free. It will cost you maybe $1.00 a meal, but will create massive loyalty.
Millennials are the new workforce. They’re smart and hard-working when their boss understands that they want to be a part of the system, not simply someone who shows up for a shift.
6 Ways to Resolve Guest Issues
According to David Chang, TV personality and owner of the award-winning Momofuku in New York City: “The livelihood of the restaurant is dependent upon getting the word out.” One of the most important factors to a restaurant’s success is its reputation, and the biggest threats to its reputation are guest issues. The White House Office of Consumer Affairs reported that unsatisfied customers will tell an average of 9-15 people about their negative experience.
In the world of online reviews, a negative impression can be even more far-reaching. Here are a few ways to resolve guest issues with grace.
Believe the Complaint
There’s an old saying that goes, “the customer is always right.” Although it’s an easy one to remember, it’s a difficult one to practice. Many times, a restaurant staff acts like a family, and no one wants to believe that someone in their family truly did something wrong. Other times, everyone wants to point the finger at someone else to alleviate the blame. The first step in resolving guest issues is to act accountable and believe that they happened in the first place. Questioning a claim’s authenticity or pointing the blame in another direction will only further escalate the situation.
Thank the Guest
Thank the guest for pointing out an issue that you would not have known without their help. Mike Lester, president of The Melting Pot, firmly believes a complaint is a “gift.” These “gifts” can act as training points for staff moving forward.
Try to make the experience right, but be careful not to come off as if you are trying to buy their goodwill. Extend your apologies and make a logical offer to the customer. If the complaint is about a specific item, comp the item if you can. If the complaint happens online, send a direct message and offer a discount or free voucher to get them back in the door, and the next time around, be sure to make a better second impression.
Face Your Negative Reviews Head-On
According to Yelp, 97 percent of those reading online reviews take a business’s response into account when trying to decide whether or not to patronize a business. For guest complaints that take place in cyberspace, your reaction will leave a lasting impression, not just for that particular customer but for many other potential guests down the line. Businesses have the option to respond to reviews publicly or via direct message. By responding promptly and publicly, your business can show that it is transparent and willing to accept constructive criticism. Just remember the three points above when doing so.
Consistency is Key
Moving forward, providing a consistent experience can prevent customer issues in the first place. Thomas Keller, the winner of Culinary Institute of America’s Chef of the Year for his Napa Valley restaurant, French Laundry, stresses this point. An experience that makes the customer happy every time can be achieved with a thorough restaurant training program for cooks and waitstaff. Beyond that, the best restaurants never stop training their employees and learning from their mistakes.
Learn from the Best and the Worst
Jill Tyler, owner of Michelin-rated Tail Up Goat in DC, advises: “There are hundreds of restaurants that are successful. There are thousands of restaurants that have failed. Study both and always keep learning.” Devise a restaurant training program that not only focuses on what not to do, but also incorporates advice based on how other restaurants have succeeded. By incorporating negative examples with the positive, well-trained staff will know what to avoid and what to embrace, creating a workplace culture that should minimize guest issues in the future.
Synergy Sync’s online training program allows you to train your staff on important customer service topics. They will be able to know the best practices to implement during common guest service issues. With our remote learning program, your servers and managers are able to learn from anywhere, any time. Please contact us for a free virtual tour of our affordable e-Learning training solution.
The Top Food Trends of 2021
While much of 2020 was about stocking up the pantry with nonperishables and desperately Googling “curbside takeout near me,” 2021 should be a whole new ballgame for the food industry. After a year of being in survival mode, expect to see some welcome food and beverage trends, many of which put a renewed focus on health’s flavor.
The Delicious, Nutritious Chickpea
Chickpeas are gaining popularity as a hearty, meatless alternative that doesn’t skimp on protein and has a distinctive, nutty flavor. While it has been in mainstream grocery stores for decades as the primary ingredient in hummus, expect to see more of it in 2021, even in its non-mashed form. It may appear in traditional middle eastern stews, as a main ingredient in dressed-up vegetarian tacos, and even take center stage in fancy tapas. It can also be used as a wheat alternative in the form of chickpea flour. Gluten-free bakers, rejoice!
If you think of mushrooms primarily as a pizza topping, it’s time to hit the books. Adaptogenic mushrooms have been used medicinally for decades in East Asian medical practices. Health gurus boast some strains of mushrooms as ways to reduce brain fog, increase immunity, and lower stress levels. Expect to see these in health food stores and beyond.
Birria originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Traditionally, it is a long-marinated pulled meat, usually goat or lamb, although it might include beef in the United States. The meat is placed inside a tortilla, topped with cilantro and red onion, and then served with a side of broth for dipping. It has been on the rise as a menu item in Mexican restaurants for the latter half of 2020, and it should continue to gain traction in 2021.
Plant-based burgers will be even more popular in 2021, being offered at restaurants and even commanding their own aisle in grocery stores. With so many deceptively meaty burgers on the market to choose from, which one should you pick? The New York Times ran a blind taste test of six top brands and reported their findings to help you make an informed decision. Expect to see more meatless “jerkies” as well, including mushroom and jackfruit jerky.
Hard seltzers have been having a bit of a moment lately. Expect the catalog of all that is bubbly and boozy to expand a bit this coming year to make room for hard seltzer’s hipster older brother, hard kombucha. When the health benefits of probiotic Scoby meets the buzz of a beer, what’s not to love?
A Whole New Oil
Expect to see many new oils beyond your traditional olive, peanut, and vegetable oils this year. Some will emerge for their unique flavor, some for health benefits, and others because of their high smoke point, which allows you to cook things like jalapeños without the fumes burning your eyes. Pumpkin seed oil, sunflower seed oil, and avocado oil may make an appearance in salad dressings, too.
These Japanese sandwiches started as a convenience store staple. Traditionally, they have katsu—a fried pork cutlet—in the middle. Now they’ve taken a more gourmet turn and can contain just about anything, from egg to salted beef to strawberry. As a snack that proudly displays its middle, restaurants may go overboard in their offerings in hopes of free advertising. This snack is so ‘grammable,’ some chefs are opting to stuff it with picture-perfect, edible gold foil.
Spicy and sweet have made quite the duo in the past, and this time it’s no different. Expect to see this devilishly sweet condiment drizzled on everything from fried chicken to ice cream. What makes it hot? In a recipe for homemade hot honey, Bon Appétit suggests using chiles like Thai, Fresno, or Holland.
People are becoming “sober curious,” which started happening even before quarantine forced us to reexamine our daily habits. After the success of Dry January in 2020, CNN Travel ran a piece about how non-alcoholic craft cocktails were changing the bar scene. Until recently, non-alcoholic options were slim for any bar patron not wanting to consume alcohol for various reasons, including pregnancy, liver problems, or just an overall desire to cut back. Now companies like Seedlip and Stryyk are making it their mission to distill high-end non-alcoholic liquors that can be a part of a cocktail that is as carefully hand-crafted as a boozy one.
Are you evolving your menu to meet new tastes and demands? How are you keeping your management, chefs, and staff abreast of new food trends? Don’t underestimate the power of conversation, knowledge, and training! If you want to stay ahead of the curve, you have to keep your restaurant staff in sync. Synergy Sync is an integrated training and operations management platform created by restaurant leaders for restaurant leaders. Increase sales with consistent, quality training, maximize labor efficiently utilizing our app-based, results-oriented training program. Schedule a virtual tour to learn more about Synergy Sync and how it can accelerate your training and help your team thrive and succeed.
Trends for 2021: Creativity & Innovation in the Restaurant Industry
As we usher out 2020, we reflect on this unprecedented year; we look forward to 2021 with renewed resiliency and optimism. The COVID-19 worldwide pandemic significantly impacted the restaurant industry in ways we may have never imagined. As a result, the restaurant industry will have to be creative and innovative as we reimagine business in 2021 and beyond. With the dramatic changes caused by the pandemic, customer’s needs and preferences have also shifted, which, in turn, has influenced many restaurant trends.
With the various stay-at-home orders, indoor restaurant closures, and reduced allowable occupancy levels due to the pandemic, many communities are looking for ways to support local businesses and the hurting restaurant industry. Forced to focus their attention on creative ways to sustain their businesses, many restaurants pivoted to off-premise dining. Offering this option provides a way for restaurants to safely bring food straight into guest’s homes while retaining staff and has allowed many restaurants to survive the mandatory closures. Another interesting off-premise dining trend is Wonder, a new delivery startup launched by renowned celebrity chefs. This delivery service “focuses on high-income suburban neighborhoods and licenses notable restaurant brands to package their famed dishes into meal kits and finish them in hybrid electric vans while in transit to consumers’ doorsteps.” We anticipate that guests will likely continue to feel uneasy about dining out once restaurants are fully reopened, so it is essential to keep a focus on off-premise dining well into 2021.
Contactless Ordering & Payment
Before the pandemic, placing an order via a mobile app or the ability to pay by waving a phone or credit card over a payment device was gaining popularity. Customers appreciated the increased transaction speed and convenience. Since the pandemic, many restaurants have further enhanced their online ordering platforms, created apps to facilitate more efficient ordering processes, and partnered with UberEats, DoorDash, Grubhub, and other contactless delivery service options. Even when the pandemic is over and health and safety measures relax, contactless ordering and payments are likely here to stay.
With safety and sanitation the number one goal, contactless curbside pickup has grown dramatically in popularity. Many restaurants have designated parking spots reserved for curbside pickup. Orders are placed in the trunk or passenger seat, reducing the need to have any physical contact between staff and guests. Many enjoy the ease and convenience and especially the safety, and it’s likely we will continue to see the curbside pickup option well into 2021.
Businesses are rethinking their menu offerings to be more accessible and viable during the pandemic. Take, Noma, a Michelin two-star restaurant and four-time winner of the “World’s Best Restaurant,” which replaced their legendary 20-course meals with affordable burgers and snacks. When Seattle’s fine-dining restaurant, Canlis, shut its dining room, they launched a morning “Bagel Shed,” a lunchtime burger drive-thru, and a dinnertime family meal delivery service, complete with bottles of wine. These changes allowed them to create jobs for their employees while continuing to serve their community safely.
Resiliency & Innovation
Despite the rapid and dramatic changes that the restaurant industry has endured, it has remained flexible and creative, fostering new ways to meaningfully engage with customers, all while balancing the need to protect employees and stay in business. While the future is unknown, one thing is sure; the restaurant industry will remain resilient and innovative and continue to grow and make necessary changes to meet customer’s needs, wants, and expectations. As we say goodbye to this unprecedented year, may we continue to stay safe, healthy, and creative into 2021 and beyond!
Reflecting on 2020 and Looking Ahead to 2021
As we say goodbye (and don’t let the door hit you on the way out!) to 2020 and look ahead to 2021, we know that the restaurant and hospitality industry will continue to face challenges, at least for the first few months of 2021. Looking towards Quarter 2 as vaccines are rolled out across the country and warmer temperatures allow for pleasant outdoor dining, we are hopeful that restaurants will see a surge in on-premise dining as consumers take advantage of the ability to dine out. Additionally, after the first quarter, there may be more optimism on the catering side of off-premise sales as at least some office workers return to their communal places of work. Catering menus may necessitate individually boxed or plated items instead of the traditional shared or large platter catering menu options as there is uneasiness concerning health and safety. If you haven’t adjusted your catering menus to include individual plates, boxes, or meals, now would be a great time to do so and update them across all ordering platforms.
We’ve learned a lot in the industry over the last year, including turning/reacting and adapting throughout ever-changing circumstances. Although some changes may be temporary, there is no doubt that many industry trends will be here for the long run.
- A focus on food safety, cleanliness, and sanitation will be important to guests and potential guests into the new year and beyond. It will continue to be critical that you are not only practicing elevated sanitation procedures but that you are showing your guests precisely what your team is doing to ensure their safety. A great way to do this is to include photos and videos on your social media channels highlighting cleanliness and sanitation and the measures you’ve taken to make it easy for guests to ensure their safety, for example, sanitizing or dining room handwashing stations.
- Contactless ordering and pickup will continue to grow and become a competitive advantage. Now’s the time to make sure your online ordering platform is user-friendly and is programmed correctly to ensure an excellent guest experience.
- Does it prompt for upsells: sides, drinks, desserts?
- Does it ask if the guest needs utensils?
- Are menu items described correctly and easy to modify (photos are a bonus)?
- Takeout and off-premise dining will continue to be popular with guests seeking menu items that travel well and are appropriately packaged along with value or perceived value, all being points of differentiation.
- Take a hard look at your menu items and if they need to be modified for takeout
- Make sure your packaging holds items well and that each container is the appropriate size for the item it’s intended for
- Give your guests as close to the same experience for takeout as they experience with in-house dining. Appropriate sauces, condiments, and “freebies” (such as complimentary bread) should all be included with takeout orders
One of the many challenges during this time has been to continue to provide great service with the many restrictions we have to follow while also supporting our teams and the challenges they face and, of course, fighting the labor dollar battle that never gets easier. We all know high turnover is not only costly from a training standpoint, but it also affects your guest experience and the potential they will return. Supporting your team, especially during these challenging times, will most certainly improve retention and reduce the headache of hiring and training new team members. As we look to 2021, the prediction is that forward-thinking organizations will look for ways to broaden team member empowerment, recognition, and contribution to improving not only guest experience but team member experience (along with business reputation and bottom-line profits). One thing we may take away from this experience is that the guest is not ALWAYS right…sometimes, we need to step up and support our team because it’s the right thing to do! As operators, ensure you’re checking in with your team regularly to understand how you can best support their work, goals, and even their life outside of work.
As we look to spring and summer, and our communities emerge from hibernation, operators should consider ways to bring entertainment value to their guest experience. We will all be thrilled once we can go out, enjoy a great meal and service and feel a sense of ease while dining, but there will be even more enthusiasm for communal experiences and entertainment once we can safely enjoy these types of events paired with great food and drinks. Consider planning for live music, live sporting events, trivia, or other games and holidays to deliver the entertainment your guests will likely be craving.
Lastly, if you will be re-opening (or opening a new) a location in 2021, consider how you can take this opportunity to retrain your team, implement systems to improve guest experience, improve and modernize your menu offerings. Build anticipation through marketing as you lead up to your re-opening. Sometimes, when you take a step back and regroup, it allows you to assess what needs to be done to put your business on the path towards success.
Trends for 2021: Food Automation
By: Chef Natasha Reta
The thought is difficult for many to bear, but the reality is all too prevalent to deny. The world of robots has been and will become our new normal. People no longer fear the robotic arm of “Flippy the Burger Flipper,” replacing their human counterparts. Automation will increase throughput by enhancing BOH staff with what is so aptly named Cobots. Designed to work beside humans to fulfill menial tasks that often slow production, Cobots help increase fabrication and chopping, provide maintenance to programs or equipment that is otherwise unsafe for humans, and even take the guesswork out of cooking temperatures and packaging. Compiled with automated sensors and triggers, these Cobots are programmed to provide services at increased speed and efficiency. These are critical factors as people begin to return to work with new safety regulations, increased labor wages, and increased delivery and take out.
With travel and work localized due to the pandemic, most of our business will continue to take place from the safety of our own homes and communities. Along with our Cobot friends of efficiency, more stand-alone kiosks will appear within our communities. These are self-contained bots that can provide a composed meal or fresh item for service or pick up that day—utilizing phone-based apps to limit social interaction at the pick-up site and increase user customizations. Take, for example, Blendid, a smoothie bot in San Francisco. With the Blendid app, you select your smoothie from chef-created blends, increase or add items to your personal preference then send the order for preparation at your specified pick-up time.
These self-contained kiosks can provide healthy options with contactless service. Many are designed to decrease their carbon footprint, localize their ingredients, and provide a service to communities that may be underserviced due to a lack of labor resources. Wilkinson Baking Company has created the Breadbot. The Breadbot takes fresh, shelf-stable flour, yeast, and sugar products to make fresh-baked loaves of bread. This will allow a community to serve freshly baked bread without preservatives, without costly plastic packaging, without days in shipping and handling, creating a safer product that has undergone less human manipulation.
Lastly, we will see a rise in healthy vending machines as salad bars, and buffets are a concept of the past that likely will never return. Sally from Chowbotics is a salad vending machine that allows you to choose from many healthy options and customize them to your preferences. A transparent window in the vending process allows the user to visually see each product’s freshness in their order visually.
In 2021 it’s clear that people will continue to have growing concerns about their health and safety. This pandemic has pushed us to limit all face-to-face interactions, and that efficiency and consistency will need to provide quality and entertainment in an otherwise socially distant society.
Going Touch-Free at Your Restaurant
While restaurants across the country are re-opening their doors to indoor dining (although perhaps not at full capacity depending on where you are), social distancing, heightened sanitizing, and overall elevated health protocols remain vital to these foodservice operations. Unfortunately, any mishandlings or failure of following rules can unfortunately lead to the spread of the virus in the facility, your workers, or even your guests.
Even if you have put in what you feel are easy and clear guidelines for your staff, it is much more challenging to control your guests’ habits. Whether they have thoroughly washed their hands before touching common areas in your restaurant is undoubtedly a concern. When it comes to processing payments, you know right away how often that credit card terminal or tablet is touched whenever a customer signs their name or touches that button to leave a tip.
Of course, properly sanitizing these machines between uses is crucial! However, isn’t there an easier way to go touch-free? Luckily, current technology has caught up to the contactless trend, even before the pandemic hit.
3 Ways to Go Touch-Free at Your Restaurant
Invest in a contactless terminal: There are a variety of credit card terminals– in fact, many these days–that have NFC (near field communication) enabled so that your customers can pay by just hovering their credit cards over the terminal to checkout or even to use Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay in the same manner. Call your merchant service provider or the hardware brand itself to inquire whether your existing equipment has these capabilities.
Call ahead: Consider encouraging patrons to call in their orders ahead of time and paying over the phone (or online) if possible to reduce the amount of contact. When they come in to dine, they can also expect speedier service because of this — a win-win!
Touchless kiosks: You heard that right! But you might be wondering, how is this even possible? How can you order something on a screen without even touching it? It’s all in the hands, ironically! Specifically, “hand gestures” that don’t require touching a device is what powers these contact-free kiosks from Kiosk Innovations and Ultra Leap.
Silicon Valley-based artificial intelligence (AI) provider, Sensory Inc., has worked on technology that allows the integration of both voice-based ordering along with vision AI into restaurant kiosks.
Given the current environment and so many interesting and cutting-edge technological solutions emerging, it will be exciting to see how future restaurants will look!
Back to the Future: Restaurant Trends After COVID-19
How will restaurants increase sales and design their spaces in the near future? Through a creative combination of historic and contemporary tools and techniques.
With the US still in the grips of COVID-19, restaurants continue to grapple with ever-changing regulations as well as shifting customer expectations. What does “service with a smile” mean when servers have to wear masks? Is the main restaurant metric still “butts in seats?” How can independent concepts be more nimble and creative to meet their customers’ needs? The solution lies in an inventive mix of classic service models, new performance measures, and the latest foodservice technology.
Low Touch and High Impact
While personal touches in restaurants are limited, restaurants are communicating with their customers in new and creative ways. True Foods Kitchen now prints language on their coasters to tell customers that their table has been freshly sanitized. Other establishments have their staff wear health check stickers dated that day to show their commitment to staff and guest safety.
With so many customers moving to take-out and delivery, restaurants can still provide a personal touch. One idea is to include a checklist completed and signed by the staff member fulfilling that order. Not only does this technique demonstrate the restaurant’s commitment to order accuracy, it also personalizes a typically “faceless” transaction.
Hospitality at its core is about warm and welcoming service. While servers’ smiles are largely hidden for the moment, operators can still make that all-important connection through inventive approaches.
Moving to Sales Per Square Foot
Current limitations on dining room capacity have left operators struggling to effectively utilize their indoor space. Restaurants lucky enough to have access to outdoor seating have moved dining outside, but with winter on the way, the doors to al fresco dining are soon closing.
Operators can now look at their dining room as part service counter and part marketplace. Many restaurants have set up makeshift pick-up stations in their dining room for prepaid online orders. Other ideas include setting up displays of grocery items, packaged sauces, and spice rubs. With the proper hot and cold holding units, operators can turn unused dining space into a mini-market, selling family meal kits, packed sides, hot soups, and marinated proteins. Instead of filling seats, think about filling your dining room with options that provide customer convenience and upsell opportunities.
Though winter is coming, don’t ignore your outdoor space and dedicated parking area for year-round opportunities to increase sales. If possible, dedicate a couple of parking spots for curbside pick-up or 10-minute parking. Consider renting all-weather party tents and freestanding heaters and create four-seasons seating. Designate a section of your parking lot for “dine in your car” opportunities. The goal is to think about your facilities, both indoors and out, and devise more ways for customers to easily do business with you.
Coupling Old-Fashioned Service with New Technology
While no one knows the long-term impact of the pandemic on restaurant size or design, large chains are looking to reinvent future locations with classic and cutting-edge devices. Last month, Burger King released 3-D animated footage of their “restaurant of the future” that visualizes the burger chain’s commitment to flexible ordering, pick-up, and onsite dining.
Mobile orders are held in a food locker unit reminiscent of an automat, where customers unlock their order cubby through their smartphone. A walk-up window allows guests to place an order and take their food to go without entering the restaurant. Designated curbside pick-up parking spaces integrated with handicapped parking ensures accessibility for all. The restaurant’s exterior design includes several modern touches like solar panels on parking awnings, a living wall, and a kitchen open to visitors in the drive-thru lanes. Kitchen space and flexible indoor/outdoor seating areas “float” over multiple drive-thru lanes allocated to pick-up and order placement with cash and credit card.
Besides restaurant design, the pandemic has forced restaurants to accelerate their thinking about technology. Obviously, the Burger King restaurant of the future will be heavily reliant on an integrated technology system that links POS with inventory management, third-party ordering platforms, and KDS—a solution more easily integrated by large concepts. Independent operators frequently rely on bargain systems with limited integrations, making the integration of a holistic technology solution a big challenge.
Convenience was already a huge restaurant customer trend before COVID-19. Nowadays, convenience has morphed into a critical need. Operators of all sizes must consider a heightened reliance on technology moving forward.
Some Things Never Change
While today’s pace of change has operators’ heads spinning, the core principles of hospitality haven’t changed. Listening to customers and responding to their needs, wants, and expectations will never go away, but the ways restaurants respond and express their commitment is a moving target. Most of all, making it easy for customers to do business with you now takes a village of online and offline branded touchpoints that keep customers engaged, reassured, and coming back.
For more ideas about future restaurant trends and sales tactics, check out our webinar with The Howard Company.
Virtual Brands – A Path to Real Success
With loads of restaurant kitchens sitting underused, big chains are developing virtual brands to boost sales. Is there an opportunity here for aspiring foodservice operators?
Not too long ago, many aspiring restauranteurs and chefs launched their new foodservice concepts with food trucks. These mobile restaurants allowed operators to get immediate sales feedback on their concept without the costs and hassles of a brick-and-mortar location.
Cut to 2020, and the food truck has largely disappeared, thanks to ghost kitchens. Enterprising foodpreneurs can now rent space in a commissary kitchen and launch their food brand online through delivery-only channels. This emerging foodservice opportunity has been gaining traction with both large chains and independents looking to grab a share of online food orders which have exploded due to the pandemic.
Restaurant companies like Brinkman International have leveraged underutilized capacity in their kitchens around the country as a resource for creating virtual brands with stand-alone identities and menus. With a tightly focused menu of wings, sauces, and fries, Brinkman’s virtual restaurant It’s Just Wings is on track to become a $150 million-dollar brand in the next year. Other large foodservice companies are quickly following the trend.
For individuals looking to break into restaurant ownership, creating a virtual brand holds a great deal of promise. Developing a virtual brand mitigates risk by allowing owners to stress-test their food and overall concept without the financial burden of a physical location. Renting space in a commercial kitchen is often a fraction of occupancy costs for a traditional restaurant space. Time to launch is much shorter and easier – no trying to find the “perfect” location with heavy foot traffic, and no build-out costs for a kitchen or dining room. Just create a small menu and a brand identity, and you’re off. It couldn’t be easier, right?
Launching a successful virtual brand, like any other foodservice operation, requires time and money spent in a number of key areas. First and foremost is the menu. Food items must be able to travel well and arrive in excellent condition since opening that box or bag will be the customer’s first impression of the brand. Delivery food integrity is also heavily dependent on packaging, which also must reinforce the brand’s commitment to safe and tamper-proof handling. Virtual brands would be wise to select packaging that honors food integrity as well as the overall brand. Before going “live,” it’s always a good idea to test your food and packaging through trial delivery runs.
Next, a virtual food brand must be adept at digital branding and marketing. It’s not enough to have a menu posted on a static web page. A virtual brand needs top-notch food photography, and vibrant social media feeds to attract customers. Third-party delivery services offer advertising and other promotional programs to help you get noticed on their platform. For a virtual brand, it’s paramount to understand the percentage fee structures each third-party delivery service demands, and work to negotiate the best position possible.
Finally, a virtual brand must do what any successful restaurant does – stand out from the crowd. In developing any foodservice concept, operators must determine what they can do that’s different and better than the competition. For example, It’s Just Wings is true to its name with its limited menu and wallet-friendly prices. To stand out amongst a growing number of competitors, any virtual brand must be able to capture the attention (and dollars) of diners by offering distinctive and approachable menu items.
For aspiring restaurant owners who want to create their ideal gathering space for their friends and community to enjoy, launching a virtual restaurant brand may not be the ticket. But for foodpreneurs who want to develop and test the financial viability of a concept quickly, virtual brands are a potentially lucrative option.