19 March

March 2013 Newsletter

Synergy Restaurant Consultants | Blog, newsletters
Synergy Restaurant Consultants


The year 2013 is shaping up as a big year for issues surrounding food allergies. With as many as 15 million Americans suffering from food allergies, according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN)—6 million of them children, the state of Maryland has recently proposed a Food Allergy Awareness bill that would require restaurants to have an employee who has taken allergen awareness training to serve as a certified “food protection manager.”

That employee would not only be available to answer customers’ questions about the menu, but would also be responsible for training other employees—both front- and back-of-the-house—in food allergy awareness. The proposed law mirrors one that was implemented in Massachusetts in 2011.

At Synergy, we have been proactive about this issue by aligning ourselves with several experts who can help our clients respond to this growing problem, including Lara (“Food Allergy Gal”) Holland, who wrote about tapping the food-allergic market in last month’s newsletter.

As the restaurant industry already knows from recent experiences with menu labeling, if we don’t regulate ourselves, the government will do it for us. Start arming yourself with information about food allergies through Synergy and with such resources as FAAN, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, Allergy Eats, and Food Allergy Research & Education.


To your success,

Dean and Danny

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Going Mobile

Starbucks Mobile App
Starbucks Mobile App | Image credit: Flickr by Rob Enslin

These days, it’s not enough to have a great website and a well-developed presence on the major social-media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube. Many successful operators have found that they also need a mobile-friendly site or even an app.

Mobile differentiates your brand from competitors’, strengthens your relationship with customers—particularly loyal regulars—and drives profits.

Recent data from Morgan Stanley reveals that the number of smartphones and tablets is now outstripping computers, and mobile browsing is becoming the new normal for internet access. Meanwhile, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, some 50% of smartphone users have a restaurant-specific app on their smartphone, and 55% use such “multi-restaurant” apps as Yelp and OpenTable. Two-thirds (69%), meanwhile, have placed food orders via mobile devices.

Yet a recent SmartBrief poll revealed that the industry is lagging behind on the mobile opportunity, with just over 16% of respondents reporting that an integrated mobile marketing strategy was important to them.

Not surprisingly, big chains like McDonald’s, Starbucks and Chipotle are leading the mobile charge. But it’s not just the major chains that benefit from having a dedicated app. Companies like My Mobile Fans , ChowNow and mAPPsolutely specialize in building mobile apps for virtually any size business, and can help an operation accommodate mobile ordering and payment, whether through Facebook or their website.

And even if you don’t have an app, it’s important that your website be optimized for use on mobile devices. Most mobile owners use their devices to find places to eat, and if they can’t access or read your website easily—for instance, to check the menu or hours of operation—they’ll likely go elsewhere, particularly younger customers. (If you’re not sure about your customers, you can check Google Analytics to see what percentage of people is accessing your restaurant’s website from a mobile phone.)

Compared to mobile sites, desktop websites are typically too busy, are slow to load, and aren’t easy to navigate, leading to frustration on the part of the user. All those graphics and content that you may have spent months or even years developing will gum up the works; you need something that’s simpler and easier to read on a small screen, and can load quickly on any connection your customer may be using. You’ll also want to add such user-convenience features as click-to-call, for reservations and other information.

Jack in the Box recently redesigned both its desktop and mobile sites to reflect the new mobile reality, with an easy-to-navigate layout, more responsiveness, and more interactive features. And Olive Garden is using location-based mobile technology in a campaign to get consumers to try its new lower-calorie entrees.

Developing Effective Supplier Partnerships

By Jim Campbell, Restaurant Supply Chain Management

What do we mean by a supplier partnership, and why do we differentiate it from an ordinary supplier relationship?

A partnership has deeper roots, and typically it is tied to either high volume or products that are quality-critical to the restaurant concept. While price is always a part of the equation, issues such as quality, supply, research and development, and other considerations are of primary focus in a supplier partnership. It is a relationship that develops and benefits both buyer and seller, and is long-term in nature. Because these relationships take more time to develop and maintain, you must be selective about which suppliers will be designated as supplier partnerships.

Building the Partnership:

As with any relationship a supplier partnership is multi-dimensional and is built over a period of time.

• Mutual interests are a good starting point. Without this the relationship cannot develop beyond the traditional buyer/seller relationship, which can often be adversarial.

• Common goals with respect to quality, value, fairness, and a longer term view of supply chain all contribute to mutual interests.

• Common cultures with regard to social responsibilities, vision, and work ethics promote and foster supplier partnerships.

• Mutual interests drive mutual benefits and develop a trust for both the restaurant company and the supplier. This trust or “comfort zone” enables both parties to focus on much more than simply price and a deal.

Specific Components of the Partnership:

• Communication of your specific needs to the supplier seems like an obvious component of any business relationship. It’s not uncommon that supply-chain managers need to be more specific in terms of specifications. This is a great opportunity to engage with the supplier to discuss and even further develop your specs to better meet the need.

• Plant visits and personal contact with not only the sales personal but the plant manager, production management, quality assurance, research and development, logistics and even the ownership of the supplier. These relationships are valuable to you and your company, and will show the supplier that you want to understand as much as possible about the products or services you are purchasing. Suppliers will value your interest and even more they will begin to respect you. Good suppliers will always be proud to show you their facilities—and those that don’t likely are the wrong supplier for you.

• Partnerships often give you higher levels of access to suppliers’ R&D capabilities and can lead to beneficial innovations.

• As you work closer in these relationships with a supplier partner, you can better assess the production capacity of individual facilities, and suppliers are more likely to level with you regarding actual capacity.

• A real supplier-partner will share raw material supply information that is valuable to your company. Market information on commodities should always be evaluated from multiple sources, such as government agencies as well as private sources. The supplier-partner is always evaluating market prices for their own interests, and it is an additional source for your own market reviews and forecasts.

• Negotiations still must occur, and stress is not uncommon or unexpected:

a) If your relationship develops into a true partnership there should be a sense of fairness throughout the negotiations.
b) You should know the relative value of the service or product you are negotiating.
c) The supplier should share the cost components of their product or service from raw materials to labor to packaging to profit. This will give you a better understanding of the component costs and allow you to better determine real value.
• Verification and validation of performance by the supplier is necessary. This is an expected business practice which applies to finished manufactured products and their pricing. The supplier who manufactures quality will welcome this scrutiny.

Sustaining a Strong Supplier Partnership:

You have to work on it, and continually be engaged with the supplier and the process.

• Develop ideas and products together. The innovative process is not easy but can be rewarding to both parties, and will only serve to strengthen the partnership.

• Don’t avoid confrontations. Be clear and concise and be sure the supplier does the same. Business is a series of confrontations but that doesn’t mean they have to be adversarial in nature.

• Honesty and transparency will serve the partnership very well.
In the end, like any relationship both parties have to work at the relationship and there has to be a payoff for both the restaurant company and the supplier. There will be “bumps in the road” but that is unavoidable. A good supplier partnership will survive the bumps and be even stronger in the end.
For help assessing and developing relationships with your suppliers, contact Synergy Restaurant Consultants.

Build Sales with Lower Proof Offerings

By Joan Lang

Aperitif | Image credit: Flickr by Joopey
Aperitif | Image credit: Flickr by Joopey

Not everyone can or even wants to drink a Manhattan or Negroni delivering four or five ounces of liquor—much less order a second one. A selection of aperitifs and lower-proof cocktails will offer a sophisticated alternative to the more usual beer or wine by the glass for those who want to take it easy, and can also build loyalty and support premium pricing. Many of these options are also a great addition to the lineup in an establishment that only has a wine and beer license. Northern Spy Food Company, for instance, a farm-to-table restaurant in New York City, may not serve spirits but it does offer a number of signature cocktails based on wine, beer and aperitifs, priced at $6-$10.


These traditional pre-prandial beverages (many of them wine-based and hailing from Europe) represent a bracing but low-alcohol prelude to a meal—most aperitifs are between 16% and 24% alcohol, or 32 to 48 proof. The most familiar aperitifs are Lillet, Campari and Dubonnet, but the category is growing rapidly as interest surges, with the addition of such specialties as Cocchi Americano. This is also particularly true in the area of amari, pleasantly bitter Italian herbal liqueurs, exemplified by Campari, which can also be drunk as a digestif after a meal.

Served neat, chilled, on the rocks or with a splash of soda and perhaps a wheel of lime or orange, an aperitif piques the appetite without dampening the tastebuds. Other options that fall into this category include sherry, vermouth (particularly a higher-end brand such as Dolin or Carpano Antica), and even a refreshing sparkling wine like Cava or Prosecco.

Aperitifs and other lower-proof ingredients can also be the basis for cocktails, including but not limited to:
• Americano – Equal parts Campari and sweet vermouth on the rocks, with a splash of club soda; a jigger or two of orange juice is a nice addition
• Perfect or Half-and-Half (a.k.a. French Kiss) – Equal parts sweet and dry vermouth, chilled or on the rocks with a lemon twist
Vermouth Cassis – Dry vermouth on the rocks with a dash of crème de cassis, topped off with club soda

Many creative bartenders are also dreaming up their own delicious signature aperitif cocktails.

Beer Cocktails

You may have heard of a Michelada, the refreshing Mexican cerveza preparada made with beer, lime juice, hot sauce, spices and other condiments, served on the rocks in a salt-rimmed glass. But there’s more to the beer-based cocktail than this warm-weather favorite (when I lived in New Orleans, I used to enjoy a Lager and Lime on hot afternoons—Rose’s lime juice over ice in a pilsner with a side of Dixie beer, for custom-blending).

That was a quaff loosely based on the traditional mid-nineteenth century British Shandygaff or Lemon Shandy, which combines ale or beer with lemonade, lemon soda, ginger ale or cider for a light, low-alcohol refresher. Another popular drink made with beer is the Black and Tan, in which stout is poured carefully over a bar spoon into a pint glass half-filled with pale ale, to create two distinctive layers.

Although “cocktails” technically are based on spirits, that hasn’t prevented mixologists from blending up a buzz or two based on beer. Pearl & Ash, a new restaurant on the once-seedy Bowery in Manhattan, features a similar concoction called a Dark Horse Candidate: oatmeal stout, the French wine—based liqueur Pineau des Charentes, almond-flavored Orgeat syrup and a lemon twist (there are also numerous aperitif cocktails as well as interesting beers). And at The Cannibal, the suds-based offerings have included the Witte 75 (beer and gin) and Haven 212 (mezcal, beer, and chile-infused simple syrup)—drinks designed to showcase various high-profile craft brews like Ommegang Three Philosophers.

Wine Cocktails

Forget about wine spritzers: From the sophisticated Kir (wine and crème de cassis) to the iconic Sangria, cocktails made with wine have long been a popular and lighter alternative to their kin made with hard liquor. Though hardcore wine snobs might frown upon anything diluting the grape, there are a number of great options made not only with still or sparkling wine (such as Prosecco), but also the fortified wines such as Sherry and Port.

Many experts extoll the virtues of using wine in cocktails, in fact, bringing body, acidity and flavor to the challenge. Wine can be used as the sole source of alcohol in a refreshingly light, food-friendly beverage; these came into fashion during Prohibition, when spirits were outlawed, but now they’re part of the trend to pairing food with cocktails. Wine can also be used as a mixer with spirits, as in the case of Pimm’s de Verano, made with Pimm’s, Spanish red wine, lemon juice and simple syrup at Elixir , a prize-winning bar in San Francisco that has been around since 1858.

The Vintec Club, which promotes all things wine-related, shares a number of possibilities via its Pinterest page, including Tequila Sangria and the Redhead in Bed (a sunset-colored combination of Riesling, citrus vodka and strawberries).

The lexicon of bubbly-based cocktails is much better-known, including the Champagne Cocktail (poured over a sugar cube dashed with bitters), the Mimosa (with orange juice) and the French 75 and French 95 (two champagne-based cocktails named after World War I 75-mm and 95-mm guns, respectively, containing gin and brandy). In an interesting turnaround on the perception of wine as a lower-alcohol option, these drinks can actually be quite lethal.

Tip of the Month

If you’re ready to go mobile, Google’s “Go Mo”  site is a good place to start. You can learn about best practices, see how your current site looks to mobile users, and find a number of resources for building your own site or locating a developer.

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