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It’s Just Wings: A Blueprint for the Future?

Jul 29, 2020

A number of big restaurant chains have seen their sales skyrocket during the pandemic — now they’re inventing their own “independent” concepts

While the current upending of the restaurant industry has flattened many independent restaurants, big chains like Domino’s, Del Taco, and Wing Stop have seen their sales surge. These multinational concepts possess better quality technology and coveted drive-thru’s, and their substantial resources have allowed them to easily pivot to the new normal. Now they’re pushing ever forward to satisfy customer’s perennial desire for comfort foods while borrowing a page from today’s trends.

Brinker International, parent company of Chili’s and Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurants, launched It’s Just Wings earlier this summer. This delivery-only virtual concept takes advantage of unused kitchen capacity in 1,000 company-operated Chili’s and Maggiano’s around the country. The hyper-focused menu of wings, sauces, fries, and one dessert is only available for delivery through DoorDash.

The brand itself possesses the swagger and simplicity of an upstart independent, with its slogan of “killer wings, stupid prices.” Wings are available as bone-in, house-smoked bone-in, or boneless, accompanied by a range of chef-inspired sauces like Apple BBQ and Truffle Hot Sauce. Brinker is upfront about the brand’s origin — likely to avoid the controversy that Chuck E. Cheese faced on social media when customers found out that the chain had covertly created their own virtual brand, Pasqually’s Pizza and Wings1. The brand story that Brinker spins is focused on the creativity of their chefs to develop a menu that could be prepared quickly with popular items that travel well.

With the pandemic effectively shutting down most traditional dine-in service locations, Brinker has made a smart move by pivoting kitchen capacity as their own “ghost kitchen” and leverage the exploding popularity of chicken. Furthermore, by using their chefs for targeted menu development, a few marketing dollars for an identity and website, and undoubtedly negotiating a favorable percentage with DoorDash, Brinker has paved the way for building a rapid concept prototype.

Will other restaurant chains like Brinker fill the rapidly shrinking independent void with similar offshoot brands? The longer dine-in traffic is limited or forbidden, the harder it will be for emerging chains to stay in business. For entrepreneurs looking to jump into the restaurant industry once the COVID brush fire has swept through the country, it would be wise to look at Brinker’s model for future growth.

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Ingredient Spotlight: Black Lime

Jan 28, 2020

A foodservice operator must always be on top of how to keep things innovative, fresh, and on-trend at their restaurant. A way to do this is to experiment with different ingredients to develop novel flavors and, in turn, memorable dishes that keep guests coming back for more. In the Synergy Test Kitchen, our chefs often incorporate new foods, spices and techniques for our clients and today we want to introduce you to an extraordinary item.

You’ve probably heard of black garlic – aged garlic with an earthy taste and sticky texture. You’re probably familiar with black rice, which has a mild and nutty flavor and believed to have many nutritional benefits. Have you’ve heard of black limes (also known as loomi)? Yes, there is such a thing! This lime isn’t naturally black; however—its black color comes after the lime is dried out in the sun (after it’s first boiled in saltwater). Now, this isn’t a new food. Black limes are often used in Middle Eastern cooking which is from where the black citrus fruit hails.

Credit: Theinfo CC BY 3.0

The big question: What’s it taste? The flavor is strong—citrusy, tangy, sweet, and tart. The second big question: How do you cook with it? In Persian cuisine, often black limes are used to add a sour flavor to stews and soups. You will also see black lime used to season fish and rice dishes. Used, whole or ground, the black lime can be a very versatile ingredient. Mixologists find creative ways to integrate into their cocktail menus like Lee Zaremba’s Devereaux Daiquiri, which features aged white rum, aguardiente, kiwi syrup, lime juice and shaved black lime garnish.

We love how creative some chefs are in their use of black limes. Grant Achatz infuses them in his Korean-style sauce used at his three-Michelin-star restaurant, Alinea. Jessica Koslow from Sqirl in Los Angeles adds dried limes to her chicken porridge.

So go ahead and try cooking with black limes! You can find them at Middle Eastern grocery stores, and apparently, it’s quite simple to make on your own, too.    

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Synergy’s Best of 2019: Restaurant Discovery

Dec 31, 2019

As we wave goodbye to the ‘10s, foodservice news is chock full of food and restaurant trend predictions for the coming decade. For our last newsletter of the year, we wanted to highlight some of the great dishes and concepts that inspired us during our Discovery tours across the country. Some of these locations just might surprise you:

Orlando

You might think of this Florida city as the home for Disney and Universal Studios, but “The City Beautiful” is also home to a number of distinctive dining and bar hot spots. At the top of our list is BarTaco, a rustic and beachy destination for amazing handhelds and a margarita brimming with fresh-squeezed lime juice. A small menu on both the food and beverage side makes it easy for the kitchen to pump out freshly prepared tacos, rice bowls, and sides. Guests order using a dim-sum-like menu and everything hits the table as soon as it’s ready.

Tacos from BarTaco

On the bar side, Mather’s Social Gathering delivers quality cocktails and an over-the-top experience. A quick trip up the nondescript Mather Building elevator drops you off in a reimagined 1800s-style speakeasy with soaring ceilings and an impressive collection of antiques. Mixologists behind the onyx bar share and stir a collection of classic libations with twists from today. Notable drinks include The Phoenix with a hit of fresh jalapeño that will keep your lips buzzing, and The Grand Frozé with a float of Grand Marnier. Order your favorite spirit with a square ice cube that’s as clear as the summer sky.

Grand Froze from Mather’s
Clear Ice Cube from Mather’s

Orange County, CA

We thought we’d seen it all in the California county that serves as our home base, but there’s always something new happening in the OC. One of our new favorites is CDM Restaurant and Bar, an elegant establishment in Corona Del Mar that’s thankfully close to our offices. CDM combines the upscale comfort of a plush living room with an industrial central bar and edgy speakeasy downstairs, along with a focused men that celebrates seasonal ingredients. A menu standout is the BBQ Heirloom Carrots with pecan butter and an herb dressing, both unexpected and incredibly savory. We sampled this dish in July and can’t stop thinking about it.

Carrots from CDM

We can’t mention Orange County without mentioning one of most respected restaurant companies, the Hillstone Group. No, their locations aren’t new on the scene but any of their Orange County locations serves as a mini-bootcamp on how to operate a great establishment. From the closely curated menu to ingredient prep to order to their teamwork approach to customer service, Hillstone is the platinum standard for food quality and guest experience. Check out our in-depth article on Hillstone in last month’s newsletter.

Chicken Sandwich

Austin

The capital city of Texas has long been known as a center for culinary creativity. Our Discovery tour there this fall revealed a commitment to modern food trends alongside traditional food standards. Odd Duck lets their trend flag fly with their playful combinations of down-home, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Mexican, and Indian flavors. A few standouts we sampled included the Green Chile Crab Pimento with everything-bagel-seeded crackers, and the Chicken Fried Fish

Crab Pimento from Odd Duck

Heads coated in a fish bone caramel sauce. Odd Duck cuts loose with their take on mashups, much to the diner’s benefit.

Fish Head from Odd Duck

Riding the traditional train is Terry Black’s Barbecue, one our favorite spots on our Austin tour. You can’t swing a stick in Austin without hitting yet another barbecue joint, but Terry Black’s stands at the top of the wood heap. They focus on the classics – brisket, beef ribs, chopped beef, and sausage – and put their energy into crafting some of the best smoked meats in town. A few sides and sandwiches round out their offering. You won’t find trendy food here, just amazing ‘cue.

Terry’s Black BBQ Pit

Miami

Florida’s sultry city to the south lays claim to tons of nightlife and beautiful beaches, but the city’s downtown core is becoming known for its vibrant food scene. Our Discovery tour in Miami revealed some of our favorite dishes of the year.

You wouldn’t expect a restaurant with a Russian name to offer some of the best sushi in town, but Novikov more than delivers. This glamourous hotspot features new style sashimi and premium sushi along with maki, rice and noodles, and wok-fired dishes. One of our many favorites included a grilled king crab leg with a creamy truffle sauce, where the meat was removed from the shell, cut into bite-size pieces, and arranged back in the shell for easy eating.

Novikov
Crab Leg from Novikov

Another wonder was braised pork belly pressed for 48 hours, cut into cubes, and kissed on the plancha with a sweet soy sauce.

We also marveled at Zuma Miami, a monolithic space in which a cluster of cooks prepare sophisticated twists on Japanese izakaya cuisine. We enjoyed watching the bartenders craft a few whimsical drinks like the Zombie Cocktail, a tequila concoction served in a Day of the Dead mug adored with a tiny straw hat and mint sprig.

Cocktail
Zombie Cocktail from Zuma

In looking back at the restaurants that caught our eye, a few patterns emerge. One, a focused menu of top-notch dishes and drinks. Two, a commitment to quality and culinary craft. Three, a fully realized concept that provides a memorable dining experience. Solid and timeless lessons for all restaurants to heed instead of chasing the latest food fads.

We are looking forward to our Discovery tours in the new year and to unveiling a new set of favorites. Let the Roaring ‘20s begin!

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Best from Foodservice and Hospitality Expos 2019

Dec 30, 2019

What a year 2019 has been for the foodservice industry! We were fortunate enough to travel the country to check out the latest trends, greatest tools, as well as the movers and shakers in the hospitality space. It was a delight to engage in person with others and to get hands-on experience with restaurant innovation. Our Chef, Anne Haerle and Synergy co-founder Dean Small, were invited to share their knowledge and expertise in workshops, specifically on menu innovation techniques and how to increase sales. We want to take this opportunity to share with you our insights from our trips to food shows and restaurant discoveries.

Anne Haerle: Turning Obligation into Opportunity
Anne Haerle presenting at the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York

During our trip to the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show in New York and the Healthy Food Expo, we learned about many new products and several tech-driven device demonstrations. Notable robotic devices included the Suzumo automated sushi maker and a very impressive salad-making vending machine called Sally The Robot by Chowbotics. Sally is a robot that vends fresh salads, bowls, and snacks 24/7 in just a 3×3 space.

Salad robot, Sally
Sally the food-making robot

Eco-friendly packaging and plant-based foods made a consistent splash at the restaurant and foodservice conventions we visited. Zero-plastic straws made from brown rice from Edible Ecoware, as well as spoons you can eat made by Planeteer, were a couple of innovative items we came across. In the beverage space, “CBD-infused” certainly abounded, be it in sparkling water or water-soluble CBD powder that can be mixed into your coffee! More in drink trends: plant-based alternative milk like oat milk, collagen, mushrooms/adaptogen powders and draft lattes. Healthy food in the form of microgreens has been something we’ve seen a lot of this year with an emphasis on how to grow your own in-house.

Planeteer eco friendly spoons
Edible spoons by Planeteer LLC

There were some exceptionally memorable gadgets we found to be unique such as Snow Van’s machine that made a snow dessert out of virtually any liquid. Over at the IAAPA Expo in Orlando, we also checked out technology that printed custom selfies on drinks! At the NRA Show, Dean was especially impressed with Peel-A-Ton from Astra Inc., a machine that quickly and efficiently peels veggies and fruits.

Drink your selfie
Selfie on your drink, created by SIPMI

We are excited to see what 2020 has in store for the restaurant industry! Please follow us on social media to keep updated on the latest trends in food and hospitality as we traverse the globe on our culinary discoveries.

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Are Hybrid Restaurant Concepts the Answer to the Surging Take-Out Trend?

Oct 28, 2019

“A mega trend that looks to grow tenfold over the next decade.”

This is what Swiss investment giant UBS said about the online food delivery trend after its in-depth research arm Evidence Lab released the findings of an intensive report in 2018.

“We estimate the global online food ordering market could grow more than tenfold over the next decade or so, to $365 billion by 2030 from $35 billion today. The ramifications could be substantial. We see a bright future for food delivery platforms, and positives for the restaurant sector as delivery adds a further growth engine.”

Is ‘Netflix and Chili’s’ here to stay

As home television screens get bigger and entertainment streaming services more comprehensive, people cocooning themselves at home most nights doesn’t appear to be a passing fad. We can now order from our favorite restaurants on an app and have the food brought right to our doors without making reservations, fighting traffic, or enduring long waits for a table.

This is a great way to satisfy an immediate craving, but it would be incredibly unfortunate if the art of dining out gets lost in the push for convenience. There is still much to be gained by meeting friends, enjoying the atmosphere of a great restaurant, and having an interpersonal exchange with your dining companions and service personnel. Not to mention experiencing food prepared and presented as it was meant to be – fresh to order, delivered to your table at the proper temperature.

Some additional numbers

According to an October 2018 column by Forbes Food and Drink senior contributor, Alicia Kelso, “statistics for off-premise dining are staggering.” She cites a study by CHD Expert indicating that restaurants are going all-in on these options.

  • Takeout for pickup is projected to generate $124 billion in sales this year
  • Takeout with direct delivery from a restaurant: $32 billion
  • Takeout with delivery from a third-party delivery company: $13 billion
  • Catering for pickup or delivery: $40 billion

The explosion of online ordering fills more than an “in-between” niche. People who are busy with work, commutes, kids’ activities, meetings and events don’t have to settle for frozen or fast food for speed and convenience. Just a few short years ago, cities such as New York or San Francisco were the envy of much of the rest of the United States because they had delivery options that varied outside the realm of pizza and occasional Chinese to “you can have anything delivered!”

Now, with apps like GrubHub, Postmates, DoorDash, and UberEats, a variety of delivery options are available for cities large and small throughout the country. You can get food as basic as Burger King to items as indulgent as rack of lamb and lobster delivered to your door, depending on which of your local restaurants are partnering with the third-party delivery services and what menu items they’re offering.

But how do restaurants maintain excellent food and brand standards when product is not being conveyed in a controlled environment that helps provide optimal quality?

Before we answer that, let’s first examine some of the pros and cons of offering online delivery:


The good and the bad of online delivery

Pros

  • Extends reach beyond normal geographic range, introducing your restaurant to an audience it might have previously missed
  • An additional revenue stream that can transcend seasonal cycles and build towards large orders, etc.
  • Helps customers discover favorite menu items to create repeat business
  • Great marketing reach and impetus to customers coming in for full dining experience

Cons

  • Menu items are not presented at ideal temperature, timeliness or presentation
  • There is little room for error; incorrect or inadequate orders are not easily rectified as they are in-store. This may result in customer annoyance far greater than a situation where a manager can quickly control and solve.
  • To-go orders, particularly large orders, take a lot of additional organization, packaging and production space. For instance, all sauces and condiments must be on the side, menu items often need to be deconstructed, so one element doesn’t compromise another, etc.

Logistics, logistics, logistics

To-go drivers wading through a crowd of in-house diners and those waiting to be seated can be chaotic, to say the least. Sufficient space and manpower to properly execute high delivery volume or large catering orders are becoming a necessity for many restaurants. The needs for this niche are so demanding, creating a proper workspace could require remodeling the front or back of the house or both. Parking adjustments should also be made.

As mentioned above, there is a very small margin of error and the best way to minimize a confusing clash of takeouts and dine-ins is by providing team members organized space from which to work. If one Uber Eats driver accidentally receives an order meant for another, it will likely result in two separate parties being extremely unhappy.

Takeout packaging areas should be designed for maximum efficiency the same way the line and the expediting areas are. All common tools should be in easy reach, which includes condiment cups, containers, wraps, utensils, bags, etc. Anything the team member needs, such as dressings, garnishes, condiments, etc., should also be easily accessible.

When evaluating a dine-in order in the kitchen, the chef and/or expediter can easily do a visual assessment to ensure every plate is correct. This is not nearly so easy for takeout. Once an order is packed away, viewing a menu item is difficult, particularly when using any eco-friendly packaging that isn’t transparent plastic. Every time a container is opened to check for accuracy, you expose the item to air, which increases the risk of it getting cold or stale.

Wood Ranch debuts WR Kitchen & Bar to rectify this challenge

It’s taken time, commitment and care to build your brand, reputation, following and customer relationships. Those who love what you offer are the heart of your company’s success. The last thing you want to do when keeping up with evolving trends is to turn your back on your brand’s history and loyal supporters.

In the evolution of every restaurant or product, there will be times when you need to evaluate what is working, what is not, and how you translate any changes to be consistent with what people already love and trust about you. If you betray the trust of your brand loyalists and brand ambassadors, you may deeply undermine your company’s reputation. So how do you weather seismic shifts in the market without risking that trust and loyalty? The leadership team at Wood Ranch had an idea for the rising costs of running a restaurant with a large footprint, requiring significant staffing day and night while a share of its business was converting to pickup or delivery options.

Known for its cozy, dark-wood, rustic atmosphere, the flagship brand was having difficulty translating to lighter, brighter, faster restaurant trends. But those who know and love Wood Ranch expect the traditional architectural and thematic elements.

What if they created a sub brand that wasn’t a replacement of their flagship but an extension? It could solve many of the dilemmas the company was facing without undercutting its existing brand elements. The solution: WR Kitchen & Bar, a “more casual dining brand with a smaller format and streamlined ordering system,” according to media reports announcing the first location in Laguna Niguel, California. It opened May 2019, and a second location is set to open in Carlsbad, California in the fall.

Not an overnight decision

According to media reports announcing the new concept, the operators of Westlake Village-based Wood Ranch had been considering the idea of opening a smaller-format concept for more than eight years. Rising costs of maintaining Wood Ranch was becoming prohibitive and they wanted to find a way to offer more value to guests with a new twist. Leadership was clear that they didn’t want the new concept to be fast-casual but they did integrate some of the more efficient elements to form their hybrid idea.

The full bar element elevates it from any fast-casual confusion, even if the ordering/delivery element is a bit more automated than most full-service establishments.

When diners enter, they see a bar that goes along the length of the restaurant. This is where diners order food and drink, similar to how it’s done in London pubs. The bar has three ordering stations.

Once they’ve ordered, diners receive a pager and can seat themselves at any available table. There are servers on the floor who will assist with additional food and drinks, though non-alcoholic beverages can be refilled at a self-serve station. Customers pay via iPad on tables for those who have ordered from the table.

The quality of food, drinks, and friendliness of the staff are all designed to maintain the level Wood Ranch has cultivated since it first opened in 1992, an era known for big restaurant footprints and large portion sizes. Other similar concepts, like Claim Jumper, also based in Southern California, are now struggling because a unique course correction couldn’t be made in time to keep the flagship afloat in shifting trade winds.

It will be interesting to see where this goes. When a company with a 27-year history understands it needs to pivot without making a full about-face, maybe that will spur the innovation of others facing similar challenges.

Innovation and a clear understanding of goals and challenges are key. Restaurants considering such a significant shift should consider bringing in the expertise of a consultancy. They can help you address every element of the change, from branding and product to operations and marketing logistics.

Sources: https://www.forbes.com/sites/aliciakelso/2018/10/31/restaurants-turning-to-off-premise-channels-to-gain-share/ https://upserve.com/restaurant-insider/restaurant-industry-trends/

https://www.restaurant-hospitality.com/new-restaurant-concepts/wood-ranch-bbq-grill-turns-small-hybrid-concept-efficiency

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/19/how-restaurants-are-adapting-to-the-food-delivery-boom.html

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A Peek into 2020 Restaurant and Food Trends

Sep 26, 2019

Just as fashion fads come and go, so too do food trends (avocado toast, anyone?). Sometimes, these trends seem to move in cycles, where it once was outdated, only to be revived and re-embraced (think fondue and the popular restaurant, The Melting Pot). As a restaurant owner, it’s important to not only keep on top of dining trends but to be prepared and flexible enough to adapt as these trends evolve. After all, when consumers’ tastes change direction, their wallets will follow.

What’s on the Agenda for 2020

CBD: It’s everywhere now. Ever since The Farm Bill was signed into law, cannabidiol, the active compound found in the Cannabis plant touted for its health benefits, is popping up in places and forms you’d never expect. No longer confined to capsules and oils, you can now find CBD in items like cocktails, popcorn, sparkling water, gummies, chocolate, and more. Keep in mind infusing CBD into foods is not federally legal nor is it legal in every state.

Collagen: What you thought you’d only find in skin creams and pills is now showing up on menus, from bone broths to smoothies. On the consumer packaged goods front, you’ll find collagen in products like drink mixes, creamer, and bars. Why ingestible collagen? Many consumers are gobbling up so-called “beauty foods” like these to improve their skin, hair, and nails. Others consider using as an aid in their keto diets. While the efficacy of eating collagen is still up for debate, its popularity cannot be ignored. The use of collagen is a trend we see continuing into the coming year.

Plant-Based: You may be living under a rock if you haven’t heard about meatless burgers, particularly the ones made by Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. Big chains like Burger King and Carl’s Jr. have already introduced meatless options to customers. Meanwhile, KFC is testing out meatless chicken at a restaurant in Atlanta, and other food companies are following suit. Consumers’ perception that meatless is healthier is driving the surge in demand. NPD reports that “case shipments of plant-based protein from broad-line foodservice distributors to foodservice operators increased by 20 percent in the year ending November 2018 compared to year ago with all Census regions showing double-digit growth.”

ECOWARE Straws made from whole-grain brown rice

Sustainability: With climate and ecological health concerns ever-growing, people are seeking more ways to promote global sustainability. Numerous cities and states have already enacted strict regulations on plastic straws at food establishments (only giving straws on request, for example), to outright bans. Along with straws, other single-use plastics are being scrutinized and swapped out for more eco-friendly options. You won’t be hard-pressed to find Styrofoam packaging and cups replaced with those made with recycled paper and renewable materials.

Even More Convenience: In 2020, you’ll likely see more of your favorite restaurants listed on third-party delivery apps like Doordash, Grubhub, Postmates, and Uber Eats. Just last month McDonald’s announced a partnership with DoorDash that will secure meal delivery services in 10,000 stores across all 50 states. Bringing convenience to the consumer will extend to in-store traffic too, with an increase in self-ordering kiosks and self-pickup cabinets for mobile orders.

The new year is sure to bring in surprises and challenges for those in the restaurant industry. You’re already one-step-ahead of the competition if you recognize the need to adapt to changing consumer preferences. It’s not too early to begin strategizing to accomplish your goals for the upcoming year. For professional help in menu development, restaurant branding, restaurant design, off-premise sales or bringing a new concept to life, please contact Synergy.

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Reducing Food Waste in the Kitchen 

Jun 25, 2019


Food supply chains across the globe are getting increasingly connected, streamlined, and more efficient. In the developed world, the increase in low-cost food supplies is creating a culture of high waste.

According to a New York Times article, Americans waste about $160 billion a year in food. Worldwide, close to 1.3 billion tons of food is discarded per year. Another study by Food Waste Reduction Alliance found that 84% of unused food in restaurants ends up in the trash.

To further illustrate the scale of waste, projected sales for the entire restaurant industry in 2019 is $863 billion, $160 billion of which is destined to decay in a landfill. That is a lot of money lost on inefficient storage, portion sizes, or too much inventory. With food costs reaching approximately 30% of typical expenses in the food industry with thin margins, food waste reduction can be an easy and accessible way of quickly increasing revenue.

Here are some general ideas to help reduce food waste:


One common source of waste is holding too much inventory compared to expected sales. Getting more efficient with identifying trends in sales can help manage the amount of inventory needed. The goal is to have enough inventory to supply consumers while prolonging the shelf life of excess inventory to minimize waste.


Another place to start is to create an audit to identify trends in the kitchen. We can learn a lot by identifying the types of items that wasted regularly. Creating a log of items that are discarded and recording the reasons for the waste will help identify problems ahead in the chain. We might find that the waste is due to cold storage temperature or food handling processes, for instance. Using a FIFO (first-in-first-out) food rotation system can help eliminate food waste due to spoilage.


Of course, waste culture is shared in part by the consumer. The prevalence of cheap food and lots of it means larger portion sizes. Reducing portion size for the consumer means less waste and reduced cost. However, the implication of reducing portion size is unattractive due to the competitive nature of the business, especially in American super-sized culture. However, we can balance consumer expectations by focusing on the least to most popular items. Strategically reducing portions can help cut waste and maintain customer satisfaction.


These are simple ideas to start, but there are many more complex strategies to cut costs and minimize waste. The main point here is to illustrate that waste is a huge issue in the industry, and even taking a few simple steps can help to minimize waste and thereby increase revenue. To find out more about waste reduction strategies using data-driven and experienced techniques specific to your operation, please contact Synergy.

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What Is Your Delivery Strategy?

Apr 29, 2019

Food delivery is now more common and convenient than ever, and modern technology has made it easier for people to access food no matter where they are.  Many restaurants stumble because they do not have their restaurants properly set up for delivery.  Restaurants operators who have a sound delivery strategy realize 20+% of sales towards this revenue stream, however, are they truly making money?

You’ve seen their names just about everywhere now–GrubHub, Doordash, Postmates, Uber Eats—3rd party food delivery services are a big deal. Estimates show that the delivery market is a $13 billion industry! As a restaurant owner, these companies have probably approached you. These 3rd-party services make a delivery option possible for you, but charge approximately 15% to 30% in commission.

Wait a second, 15% to 30%? That’s quite a figure! There has been much contention around the high costs associated with such delivery services. McDonald’s has recently begun negotiating with its franchisees, and Uber Eats to reduce commissions and provide some rent and royalty relief. Beyond the cost factor, Domino’s CEO Rich Allison has rejected the idea of using 3rd party delivery stating he would like to keep the quality and safety in their own hands. Jimmy John’s also does not rely on 3rd-party delivery services and instead delivers food to customers in “sandwich delivery zones” that are no more than a 5-minute drive or bike ride away.

It appears chains are taking a not-so-novel approach to control the costs for food delivery–they’re simply charging more. This strategy of charging more for delivery orders does not seem to negatively affect business as customers are willing to pay for this type of convenience. Consumers want convenient delivery options — you cannot ignore this truth. If you haven’t considered adding delivery as an option for your guests, be it 3rd-party or in-house, you’re falling behind!  If you need help trying to make real profits by tapping into this growing delivery industry, give us a call.  The Synergy team are experts on this subject!

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Innovations in Non-Plastics

Apr 28, 2019

Last Monday was Earth Day – this worldwide event is to bring awareness of the importance of environmental protection. That awareness also extends to the foodservice industry. On Monday, April 22, 2019 (coinciding with Earth Day) the City of Los Angeles put a new ordinance into effect, aimed at reducing single-use plastic waste. This new law requires that plastic straws be only given upon request in restaurants that have over 26 employees.

This eco-conscious move comes at a time when more and more cities are taking action against the use of single-use plastics. To reduce plastic waste, last year Seattle enacted a ban on not only plastic straws but plastic utensils as well, making compostable/biodegradable alternatives available instead. Restaurateur Danny Meyer recently announced that plastic straws would be eliminated from all U.S. Shake Shack locations, a move that Starbucks plans to achieve globally by 2020.

The trend is clear—foodservice companies are getting more environmentally friendly (either by force or choice) amidst the increased global concern over plastic waste. So what kind of alternatives are available to help restaurants comply with new laws against plastics? What are compostable straws made of and what do they look like? What are the costs?

Surprisingly, there are already many straws made from alternate, more eco-friendly materials. Innovation in this area is booming! Currently available are straws made of bamboo, paper, hay silicone, glass, steel, corn plastic, and even pasta! For the most economical value, a restaurant would likely opt for biodegradable paper straws which cost an average of about 5 cents a piece, which is double the cost of traditional plastic straws. It is easy to find non-plastic straw alternatives available in bulk from your usual restaurant product supplier or popular online sites like Amazon.

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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.