A Digital Business in a Digital World

Apr 21, 2021

By: Shane O’Brien, Culinary Consultant


Expanding your customer contact is a tried and tested way of not helping your business but responding to a pre and post-Covid landscape’s growing demand.


How can you be more accessible with changing customer behavior?


Church’s Chicken has developed a method with eye-popping results. 85% of their guests interact with the company using their mobile device, so they poured resources into beefing up their digital storefront.

restaurant marketing


“A new website, channel strategy, and mobile welcomer (location finder) were rolled out to help guests go from first impression to desired action within three clicks.”


Return business is an elusive dynamic with many factors affecting why guests return. But having an appealing, fun, and ultimately easy-to-use digital experience can vastly improve your chances. Dictating the ease of use within digital interactions is highly effective at driving return business.


In addition to their freshly overhauled web experience, Church’s took steps to develop their mobile app and email platform.


Along with a loyalty program upgrade, Church’s “launched a new customer database in order to create more personalized and dynamic communications.”


Important to note that in addition to all of the benefits that Church’s saw with their digital renaissance, “Church’s saw an uptick in adoption among GenZ and Millennial audiences, particularly following the launch of the new Church’s Chicken Sandwich.”


Digital development can help capture existing guest’s appreciation, but a large portion of the market is already fluent in social media and virtual business experiences, so it’s a win-win.


Employee Rewards Technology – Give Your Team the Boost They Need!

Apr 21, 2021

By: Rita ImersonOperations & Training Consultant


We hear it time and time again…how do you retain the best employees with the industry being so competitive, compensation constantly increasing, and when the current workforce places a lower value on loyalty and job longevity?


The answer is complex, and there is no simple solution. Good hiring practices that truly target the Gen Z workforce, strong onboarding and training with clear expectations and management engagement, fair practices, and a positive work culture all help create an environment in which team members feel valued and enjoy working.


staff reward


We all know scheduling and communication apps and checklist technology improve and simplify the workplace for team members, but now technology is stepping into employee perks.


With Onaroll, your team members are rewarded with points for the performance goals you set. Goals can include the speed of service, upsells, and on-time arrival. Additionally, you can reward tenure and keep your team invested in staying put working for you long term. Each week team members are given tickets with BIG winning opportunities…the longer they stay in the job, the more chances they have to win.


This technology integrates with your POS to award points automatically without any work for you or your management team. It is SMS-based, so there is no app or downloads, or enrollment.


If your leaders are looking for a simple way to improve productivity and boost morale, this may be just the answer. It’s an easy to implement option that offers a fun way for your team members to feel rewarded and valued.

employee rewards app


People + Process = Success

Apr 21, 2021

By Mike Walls, Operations Consultant & Beverage Certified Cicerone

In a recent conversation with our friends at RASI, an accounting system, and educational service, we discussed the perils of implementing new technology without firmly establishing the fundamentals in systems, training, and operations to put good data into the system to get the results you need.

Many technology platforms can help to build those standards and best practices, and they’re getting better at it all the time, but there are a few issues that we repeatedly see in the field:

  1. Wobble: Wobble occurs during growth periods, periods of high turnover, or in businesses with “telephone training” where information is passed from one person to the next without referencing source material or with no system of skills validation and accountability. Over time, the “why” is forgotten, steps are skipped, and what was once a firmly planted brand or practice begins to wobble from its foundation, which turns into more of a hindrance than a solution.
  2. Over-reliance on technology: Sometimes, we rely too heavily on our technology solution or process and not enough on the people executing tasks. People + Process = Success. Both are needed, and one doesn’t work without the other. Try to think of your technology resource as 50% of the solution and your team as the other 50%. Train the team, tell them why, and hold them accountable. Make sure they have the tools to exceed your expectations. Refresh training regularly and make sure that no key players are left behind.


training for restaurant staff
On-going restaurant training is crucial


Many symptoms can be treated by addressing the underlying problem that is a lack of training. This should be the top priority of any growth-oriented company. New technology can help get you where you want to go, but to make the solutions long-term, you need to remember the other half of the equation and continuously work to keep your team empowered.


Squarespace and Tock, Hospitality Digitally Delivered

Apr 21, 2021

By: Natasha Reta, Culinary Consultant


Squarespace has been steadily rising in popularity by enhancing eCommerce through its user-friendly platform.  Last year restaurants eager to improve sales in an otherwise “closed year” increased retail offerings sales, packaged goods, and merchandise.  So it is no shock to hear the news of the $400 million acquisition of Tock, the reservation system founded by the Alinea Group’s Nick Kokonas. Kokanas commented about the merger, “Combining Tock’s unified platform and years of hospitality industry expertise with Squarespace’s reach resources, and design-forward products, in our view, creates an opportunity to deliver a best-in-class solution to millions of entrepreneurs and small businesses around the world.”


Tock, awarded in Most Innovative Companies in 2021, has offered users a platform for reservations, take-out, and delivery. Designed by a professional team of restaurant hospitality enthusiasts, designers, and writers, The Tock platform not only delivers food but also delivers hospitality chosen by you through an easy-to-navigate platform, including experiences of art and culture, wine tastings, and fine dining.  It’s the only unified system with reservations, take-out, delivery, and events all in one.  In March 2020, Tock to Go helped thousands of restaurants and wineries rebuild their operations, lower costs, re-employ staff and eliminate the use of high-priced third-party delivery apps. They even included COVID-friendly floor plan customization and advanced waiting lists. With only a 3% commission of delivery orders and carry out, it was more affordable for restaurants than the 15-30% in fees that other third parties like Grubhub and DoorDash are charging their clients.


This new partnership with Squarespace means Tock can expand its premium hospitality service to a local area near you. Nick Kokonas of Alinea Group will remain CEO of the newly acquired reservation platform, saying, “the entire team will join Squarespace to support our clients in digitally connecting with the world- elegantly and with the same spirit of innovation we’ve fervently embraced.”


On the app or the web, Tock and Squarespace will be delivering exquisite hospitality through events, packages, dining, and more.  Get ready to enjoy the art and culture in your local community.


What Makes a Great Restaurant Website?

Oct 29, 2020

What makes a great website? Well, that depends on the type of website. Is it a world news site, an online apparel store, or a how-to blog? Each kind of website has its own standards because every audience is unique. An eCommerce shop’s ultimate goal is to get a visitor to complete a purchase whereas a restaurant’s web presence aims to entice phone orders and reservations. As foodservice consultants, we want to go over best website practices as it relates specifically to the restaurant industry. Now is a great time to review your website for areas of improvement!


Restaurant Website Audit

As we mentioned, each industry is different, and with its own objectives, will have respectively different looking websites. However, there are general best practices all websites should follow and we will cover those as well. Take a look at our list and note where your site may be lacking or excelling.


Menus: Both your restaurant menu and the actual website menu should be easy to find and use! After all, people are coming to your site to learn more about your offerings. Your navigation should include an up-to-date menu (including seasonal items). Also avoid publishing your menus in PDF format and instead opt to use HTML text and images.

Don’t overcrowd your navigation with too many choices and don’t forget to showcase enticing, high-quality food photos throughout the site, not just on the menu page. We love how Toppers Pizza does this.

Contact: Include contact information and your location address. Sounds obvious, right? We can’t overstate the importance of making this information readily visible for your potential guests. The phone number, physical address, and your mobile ordering page should be prominent or easy to find. Make sure they are on your site’s main navigation. If you’re on social media (which you should be), let it be known!

Offers: Give ‘em the goods! Do you have special offers for the season? Any promos in exchange for their email sign-up? Got a hot, new mobile-app you want to promote? Get the word out there on your website!

On-Brand: The colors, font types and copy on your website should be consistent with your brand. Keep in mind balancing background and font colors as they should be easy on the eyes.

COVID Response: The pandemic is still here it’s a reality we’re all learning to live with. Safety measures are critical during these times and you need to let your audience know how your company is responding. Are you offering curbside-pickup as well as limited indoor dining? Let your guest know.

Mobile-Friendly: Why should your website be mobile friendly? In the second quarter of 2020, more than half of website traffic came from mobile devices (excluding tablets). You’ll want your site’s content to fit a mobile screen so content is easy to see and read. Further, it is important to make your website accessible to those with disabilities. Here are some tips from Search Engine Journal on how to do just that.

avoid slow website loading

Loading Time: Nothing is much more of a turn off than a slow-loading website. Don’t lose site visitors because your site takes too long to load! Check your site speed using a tool like Google’s Page Speed Insights or GTMetrix. Type in your site address and there will be a report and  recommendations that can be shared with your website administrator

SSL Secure: In the current data-age, digital security is of utmost importance. Getting your site an SSL certificate is a great way to ensure information entered on your site is encrypted and secure, lending your visitors peace of mind. Plus it can help with SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Remember also to establish a privacy policy so visitors can know how their information will be used.


Your web presence needs to accurately reflect your brand and values! While this is not an extensive guide, we hope you find this helpful to see how your website measures up.


National Margarita 3-Day Weekend

Mar 08, 2020

We are so excited to launch a new restaurant in Vancouver, Washington,  DosAlas Latin Kitchen & Tequila Bar. The Synergy culinary team has been working hard in the test kitchen, perfecting the menu, and now we’re onsite for construction. Last week our client hosted a huge event, open to the public, to celebrate National Margarita Day at his current restaurant, Jorge’s Margarita Factory. We were there to provide support during the event and to garner local interest and increase foot traffic. It was a great opportunity also to let guests know about the new restaurant, DosAlas, opening in June.

While National Margarita Day fell on Saturday, February 22, our client decided that the party didn’t have to be limited to one day. Locals gathered to drink over-the-top margaritas and indulge in delicious Mexican cuisine over the entire weekend—what a party! We want to extend a huge thanks to all that joined in the celebration!

With new restaurant startups, it’s crucial to get the buzz started early. Unfortunately, it’s not enough in the restaurant business to only serve fantastic food in a beautiful location. We are experts in helping new restaurants create awareness. Our marketing team crafts events around the various holidays to create brand buzz. Promoting the restaurant by capitalizing on national food holidays and events is just one piece of the whole restaurant marketing pie. Our Brand Development and Marketing arm take strategic steps to ensure restaurant startups gain the visibility needed to ensure things start on the right track! Reach out to us to learn more about how we can help you.


Ghost Kitchens: Path to Success or Just an Illusion?

Aug 29, 2019

Operating out of a ghost kitchen can save thousands in operating costs, but without marketing, your customers may not know you’re there

The spiraling costs of opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant has served as the catalyst for a number of foodservice trends, including food trucks, food halls, and container restaurants. Food entrepreneurs are now looking at ghost kitchens as the next step in this evolution. Ghost kitchens — rentable kitchen space for professional food production — provide a place for restaurants to prepare their menu items for pick-up by third-party delivery services like GrubHub and DoorDash. For cash-strapped restaurant concepts and small operators looking to expand their market reach, ghost kitchens offer the opportunity to set up shop without the expense of a full-blown restaurant to build and staff.

Despite the allure of drastically reduced facility and labor costs, ghost kitchens are not a cure-all for the single-unit operator. “Ghost kitchens are an amazing alternative for well-known restaurant brands since they have already established a high level of name recognition,” said Monica Challingsworth, catering and off-premise sales consultant for Synergy. “They typically incorporate a high level of marketing spend in their operating costs, so they’re less reliant on foot traffic for promotional purposes. For the small operator, ghost kitchens are a really challenging business model when trying to build brand exposure.”

Do the lower costs of the ghost kitchen model make it easier to break into the competitive restaurant landscape? Not according to Challingsworth. “When you’re operating without the visibility of a  physical location, all you have is your own marketing efforts and the third-party delivery services. You can’t completely rely on delivery companies to be your only promotional channel because the bigger brands are paying to have their restaurant featured at the top of the list of customer choices. Yes, you’re spending less on a location, but you must significantly increase your marketing and social media spend to gain any kind of market share,” says Challingsworth.

Ghost kitchens can provide expanded capacity and efficiency for operators with significant catering and third-party order volume.  As a former Catering Director for both Seasons 52 and Lemonade, Ms. Challingsworth says, “ghost kitchens are a great addition to a restaurant chain that does high-volume catering or delivery since it takes the food production and packaging responsibilities out of the hands of the restaurant locations. But you still must have a catering salesforce pounding the pavement to promote your services. Just having a production facility is not enough to ensure success.”

Despite the challenges of operating in a ghost kitchen, specific food concepts can benefit from this operating model. “Concepts who specialize in pre-packed ice cream or individually packaged frozen goods are great candidates for using ghost kitchens that specialize in frozen packaging and delivery, typically a big headache for a restaurant,” according to Ms. Challingsworth.

For single-unit operators considering a ghost kitchen to enter a new market without the brick-and-mortar costs, Ms. Challingsworth offers the following advice. “If you want to bump your restaurant higher on the third-party delivery lists, offer free delivery. Their algorithms favor restaurants who don’t charge delivery fees. You can slightly increase your menu prices to compensate but be careful not to price yourself out of the market. Your biggest consideration is your marketing spend and promotional efforts. Yes, you save money on operating costs, but you can’t cut corners on marketing. There really is no free lunch.”


Plant-based, CBD-Infused Food and More Trends to Watch

May 17, 2019

I am currently attending a three-day Marketing Executives Group conference sponsored by the National Restaurant Association. This special event brings the biggest brands and the smartest marketing executives together to share ideas and discuss solutions to some of the greatest challenges facing the restaurant industry.

My ten big takeaways from day one: 

1. According to the Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report, 82% of respondents believe that culture is a competitive advantage.
2. Only 12% of restaurant executives believe their company is driving the right culture
3. Culture describes the “way things work around here,” while engagement describes how people feel about “the way things work around here.”
4. Restaurant sales in plant-based items continue to grow by double digits.
5. If your food presentation is not “Instagramable,” you have work to do!
6. CBD-infused drinks are the number one trend, and number two is CBD-infused food
7. Carrots could be the new cauliflower.
8. Kale and Brussels sprouts are still the fastest growing vegetable trend.
9. Smoked foods continue to gain traction in fast food.
10. It’s not just about the restaurant’s ambiance – menus must be experiential, too!

I am looking forward to the next two days here! Stay tuned for our next blog post regarding more important industry trends to watch.

— Dean Small


Attracting Millennials: Technology Should be a Part of your Strategy

Dec 08, 2018

We often speak about trends among the Millennials. It’s hard to ignore this segment—after all, this is a generation that is 75 million strong in America. By 2019, Millennials are expected to outnumber Baby Boomers. Restaurant operators need to take particular care to attract and sustain this important cohort. Millennials are driving dining trends including the growing off-premise segment.

According to ROTH Capital Partners’ 2018-2019 Millennial Survey, they found that:

  • Millennials believe the economy will be the same or better next year
  • More than half have decreased their social media usage over the last year
  • Only 26% of Millennials would prefer not to share personal information for a more tailored experience
  • Two-thirds of Millennials prefer to research significant purchases online, but 57% still prefer in-store transactions
  • 27% of Millennials are comfortable purchasing groceries online
  • 62% of Millennials are Amazon Prime members
  • More than one-third of Millennials have an Amazon Echo, Google Home, or similar product and 24% of those use them to regularly make purchases
  • 15% Millennials have used virtual reality (“VR”) to evaluate furniture purchases, while 16% have used “virtual mirrors” to try on makeup or clothing
  • More than half of Millennials belong to traditional fitness clubs while 28% attend classes at boutiques
  • Climbing, hiking, yoga, and cycling are among the most popular fitness activities for Millennials

You can read the full report by requesting the survey here.

These key findings tell us several things: Millennials are optimistic regarding the economy; they like and are open to technology when it comes to making purchases and decisions; they are health-conscious, and they enjoy convenience. What, as restaurant owners and operators, can we learn from this? For one, is your menu reflective of the Millennial values? Are you offering healthy dishes? Are your marketing strategies using technology to help attract this segment? How is your brand resonating with this crowd?

There are many actions you can employ to ensure you’re catering to Millennials. For more information or help on your restaurant strategy, please contact Synergy.


Learn Your ABZs

Nov 08, 2018

We are fortunate to be exposed to a broad range of research and strategic marketing strategies that enable our clients to out maneuver the competition. This year the focus seems to be on the Gen Z’s–the population of those 21 and under who tend to be dreamers, consumers and world saviors. What is fascinating about this generation is that they’re obsessed with all things culinary.

The research is telling us that Generations Z demands WOW food and beverage presentations as a form of indulgence, and they’re are using eye-catching food and beverage offerings and onsite experiences to express their creativity and distinguish themselves from their peers. While Millennials do share this passion for food, the Z’s are taking this trend to the next level.

If you’re scratching your head trying to figure out how to grow top-line food sales you might consider connecting with this overlooked market of obsessed foodies.  Gen Z’s want restaurants to WOW them with new indulgences and over-the-top food presentations to they can share them via social media. They want epic food that they can talk about and with the rise of video-based sharing platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, they now enjoy taking videos of presentations being made tableside.

If you’re not attracting this generation it’s a huge missed opportunity that could be remedied. Don’t let menu fatigue drive this generation of spenders to your competitors. Don’t forget about Gen Z– they enjoy

Synergy offers affordable menu development and culinary support that can help you raise the bar on your food and beverage strategy.