18 November

November 2012 Newsletter

Synergy Restaurant Consultants | Blog, newsletters, Restaurant Branding
Synergy Restaurant Consultants


For many of us, the events of the past month have been challenging, to say the least. We sincerely hope that those of you who were in or affected by the path of Hurricane Sandy and the “Plan B” Nor’easter that followed it have some lucky stars to thank-or at least are well on the way to recovery.


As is so often the case, the industry showed its resilience in a variety of ways, from the restaurants that stayed open for their neighbors until the floodwaters started rising in Red Hook to the food trucks that rolled into places like Towson, MD, and the Rockaways in Queens to help in ways both financial and material.


A number of restaurants and chains have launched relief efforts to assist those in need, including McDonald’sIron Hill BreweryMoe’s Southwest Grill and a number of popularneighborhood restaurants in Brooklyn.


We continue to be proud of being a part of all this and more.


To your success,

Dean and Danny

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The Evolving Role of Mobile Apps

Just a few years ago we wouldn’t have written this article—that’s how quickly the world of device-based restaurant marketing has been moving. After all, according to Media Connection, mobile devices have achieved a reach of 100 million consumers 11 times faster than the internet did.

Mobile applications have also become more important, particularly for quick-service chains, as a tool for CRM (customer relationship marketing). And, these apps have become more complex, particularly in light of the multiplicity of platforms in use by customers, from iPhones and Androids to Kindles. That implies all kinds of issues about screen size, functionality, target audience and more for these tiny but powerful marketing tools.

A recent article on qsrweb.com posits that the best apps are now interactive information tools, not just a means for mobile order-placing or finding the nearest location. And that means that they are meant to be customized for each guest’s experience. For more information on how mobile apps can be used to improve not only profits but also customer relationships, download the report “Mobile Media Applications for Restaurants” here.

Take a look at some of the more noteworthy apps that have been introduced in the past few months alone, and what they do.

• The suite of apps available for Domino’s includes versions for iPhone, Android and—most recently—the Kindle Fire, enabling customers to access the entire menu for ordering takeout or delivery to any saved address (office, home, etc.). It also extends many of the company’s website-based online ordering features, including coupon search, store locator and the ability to follow an order with Domino’s Tracker.

• Starbucks, which has been a leader in mobile payment, has continuously upgraded the reach and functionality of its app. With Android having been added this summer, more coffee-drinkers can now access their rewards, and reload their accounts using PayPal. Meanwhile, the coffee giant’s Square Mobile Payment System is now live at 7,000 locations.

• Wendy’s introduced a mobile app this summer that functions as a customized nutrition system, allowing patrons to build a meal based on calorie targets or favorite menu items, giving fans “free reign to customize their tastiest, calorie-conscious creations, all on their smartphone.”

• Dunkin’ Donuts’ mobile app for iPhone, iPod Touch and Android smartphones, unveiled in August, includes payment and m-gifting platforms. In early November, the company added a new “My Offers” tab which enables patrons to get customized geo-targeted regional offers, such as 99-cent hot chocolate.

• Jersey Mike’s Shore Points Rewards loyalty program, which had 650,000 members as of mid-October, has been “mobilized” with an app that also lets iPhone and Android users access special offers through an opt-in text message system.

While full-service chains have been less quick to integrate mobile apps into CRM initiatives, T.G.I. Friday’s has been doubling down with improvements to its mobile ordering app that include not only rewards tracking but more recently music, celebrity gossip, movie news and other information.

The Finer Points of Wine Service

By Joan Lang

Wine is more important than ever in many full-service restaurants, but it is often mishandled. Here are some tips and ideas to make your wine program more profitable and easy to execute.


Wine Service at Kelowna Wine and Cuisine | Image Credit: Flickr by Kelowna09

1. Make sure your wine selection fits with your menu concept in both style and price. This subject could fill a book (and depends upon everything from your location and business plan to your ideology) but in general the selling price is usually double to triple the wholesale on any given bottle. You should, however, factor in the average cost of an entrée and be able to offer at least a few decent wines in that general range. This is much easier now that there are so many New World and other affordable wines available.

2. Serve wine at the proper temperature. Customers should never have to drink a “hot” red or wait for a white wine to come up to temperature so that they can taste it. Storing wines at the wrong temperature can also damage wine. Although fine wines are stored at temperatures that are unique to the varietal and other factors, typical temperature for storing red wine ranges from 52º – 65ºF, and 45º- 50ºF for white wines.

3. There are all kinds of ways to write a wine list—again, dependent upon the style of the restaurant and the personality of its owner, among other things. While you don’t want to overwhelm guests with information, in general your wine list is an educational tool as well as a means to help them make their decision: Country of origin is a must, and for better wines you should also include the producer and vintage, if applicable. A brief description can also be helpful if your audience warrants it.

4. A robust wine-by-the-glass program lies at the heart of a profitable, customer-friendly wine program. A good selection of wines by the glass should encompass at least four to six white wines of differing styles (i.e. rich and oaky, light, slightly sweet) and four to six reds, with the possible addition of a rose and a sparkling wine, depending upon the season.

5. Wine-by-the glass is also a good outlet for overstocks, samples, wine that will be phased out because of a list change, and other quality wines that need to be moved quickly. These can be merchandised as you would any special—blackboard-style or hand-sold against a specific food order.

6. Consider boxed, kegged and other large-format wines that can be served “on-tap.” Quality is much improved from the 1970s and ’80s when these wines were first introduced, and they are much easier to pour, store, and dispose of. There are also the environmental benefits of having less glass around. Under the right circumstances, table servers can even dispense these wines.

7. Boxed wines also make it easy to sell wine by the quartino, half-carafe or carafe, which is a win-win for value-seeking customers and busy service staff.

8. Stemless wine glasses, tumblers and other hardworking glass styles are a good fit with today’s more casual service style; come in a wide variety of sizes, styles and quality levels; and are much more durable, especially in mechanical dishwashers. They are also easier to store.

9. Train, train, train. The single greatest reason that wine programs fail is a lack of server education—not just the bartender but table service staff as well. You don’t need a squadron of wine geeks but you do need staffers who appreciate the role of wine in an enjoyable meal and are comfortable with its service.

a. Conduct regular tastings and service meetings—your distributor can probably help in this regard. It may cost a little money but it’s worth it

b. Supply handouts and emphasize simple, self-evident descriptions like “full-bodied” or “tastes like green apples and

c. Consider tools like multimedia, videos, online training and even site visits to wineries or restaurants whose wine programs you admire, if your level of service warrants it

d. Allow and even encourage servers to taste that last heeltap of wine from an unfinished customer bottle that’s going to be tossed… after the shift

e. Make sure that anyone who will be serving wine to customers knows how to present the bottle, open it, and properly pour

10. The wine list, if there is one, should be presented at the same time as the menu.

11. Make sure servers can get their wine. A busy bartender or floor manager may not be the best person to ensure that customers receive their wine promptly after ordering, and nothing is more galling to a wine drinker than having to wait until halfway through the appetizers to start in on that bottle.

12. Service staff should never overpour on a bottle of wine or top off glasses too frequently. Many customers perceive this as a hard-sell, and they don’t necessarily mind refilling glasses themselves after the initial pour.

Want more ideas for maximizing your restaurant’s beverage potential? Contact Synergy Restaurant Consultants.

What Becomes a Legend?

By Joan Lang

The recent news that Boston’s landmark Locke-Ober restaurant would close

First opened in 1875, Locke-Ober was a bastion of fine dining and a cultural touchstone for the city, perhaps best known as the place where JFK enjoyed the signature lobster stew, and where the chairs of regulars were leaned symbolically against the walls when they died.

Famed Beantown chef Lydia Shire took over the kitchen a decade ago, with a mandate to help Locke-Ober keep pace with the times, but the writing was already on the wall: Rather than turn the restaurant into a casual bistro or a small-plates wine bar, owner David Ray opted to close it.

And yet I can think of several restaurants of similar lineage and historic place that are still going strong, including Tadich Grill in San Francisco and Galatoire’s in New Orleans. Granted, both of these cities un-coincidentally support a booming tourist economy and several other heritage restaurants (like Swan Oyster Depot and Antoine’s, respectively), but there’s more to it than that.

What the perennial appeal of such restaurants says to me is that service, ambience and quality food are indeed eternal. In fact, while the fresh seafood and traditional haute Creole cooking of Tadich and Galatoire’s are always satisfying, it’s the spot-on service and timeless atmosphere that always give customers such a sense of well-being in these restaurants.

They may not be trendy, they may not have buzz—and they certainly could be considered pricey for their respective markets—but even in the midst of earthquakes and floods, their seats and coffers are packed. And while they both get their share of out-of-towners, both of these restaurants still hold an important place in the life of their cities.

It’s precisely because of the dependable nature of these two restaurants that they have succeeded; locals know they can have a good meal in a comfortable seat, and be greeted by a waiter—it’s always a waiter—who probably knows their name and how they like their martini. There’s no star-chef arrogance and table-of-the-moment fueled anxiety.

Lawyers and titans of local industry still avoid the lines at Galatoire’s (the place takes no reservations) by coming late for lunch on Friday, whiling away the afternoon over another Sazerac until it’s too late to go back to the office. And as Anthony Bourdain said of Tadich Grill in an SFO episode of the television show No Reservations: “I am ashamed we don’t have something like this in New York.”

Tip of the Month

Springpad represents an ideal means for sharing thoughts or cataloging projects with colleagues, especially across multiple locations. Post notes, documents, photos, messages, recipes, datapoints, ideas, links to articles and more in a way that can be accessible to everyone of the team-kind of like clipping folders for the internet age, only better.


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