Monthly Archives: August 2016

  1. Restaurant Weeks and Why to Connect

    Italian food

    Restaurant Week. Something that people buzz about, but what is it and what is the value to your business? For the most part, a Restaurant Week is a period of time between one week and two in which local area restaurants offer a prix fixe menu of 3-4 courses for a fixed (typically low) price. Price ranges are between $20-$30 for everything, and it's a great chance for local diners to try a full, decadent meal at your establishment at a lower cost.

    The cons of this model are pretty obvious, especially for fine dining establishments. It's just not a lot of money per course to cover food costs. But done correctly, restaurant weeks can be an excellent marketing opportunity for your establishment to attract new customers and give a nice treat to your loyal following. Here are some things to consider before signing up:

    How is the restaurant week marketed? Typically, a local media company will be in charge of your local restaurant week. They may charge a flat fee OR have an advertising obligation to participate. Because of this, as well as your lower profit margin, there may be a financial burden with participation, so ensure that the media company is going to market this well, and that it's a popular and well established event in the community. They should have, at least, a landing page where people can view your prix fixe menu, as well as some sort of advertising and social media campaign and/or TV spots on local morning shows to raise awareness of the restaurant week. Also, consider the time of year. You don't want to lower your prices drastically when you're in your busy season. The best restaurant weeks will happen in the dead of winter or middle of summer - typically times which are slower (unless you're a shoreline/seasonal establishment, in which case the exact opposite may be true).

    When putting together your menu, think about food costs, but also consider what is a really good representation of your restaurant. You don't want to put out food which is not up to your usual quality - tempting though it may be - at that price. This won't give any new customers a good idea of who you are. The main benefit of restaurant weeks are to fill your tables during a slow couple of weeks and also expose new diners to your establishment, so make a menu which is cost effective, yet highly appealing and representational of your overall brand. In addition, consider offering add ons which can increase your overall ticket cost. A bottle of wine for $30, or a $15 surchage for a lobster tail can raise the ticket price drastically per table and boost your overhead.

    Finally, make sure you have the correct menu to market to restaurant week consumers. If your average menu item costs around $10, for example, there may not be as much value in a $30 prix fixe meal for consumers. In a situation like this, get creative - offer movie tickets or a beer flight, or a souvenir glass or t shirt, in order to justify the cost of the meal. And be sure to advertise your offerings on your own Facebook and Instagram pages also!

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  2. Empowering Your Staff

    It seems too often that the best new restaurant in town is slowing down or even worse closing their doors. Many times we automatically think the decline is attributed to the opening of the new restaurant down the street, or perhaps our clients tastes have changed. We find ourselves blaming others for our lose and become unable to criticize of ourselves find the true reason our venue failed.

    One of the most important if not the most important aspects in our business, that we all to often forget is our internal customers. Those that make our restaurant thrive and succeed in all areas; our cooks, our hosts, our servers, bus boys, bartenders and bar backs. The individuals that are not only there for long hours but, are our biggest fans when kept engaged, trained and empowered. It is astonishing what a well trained team can do, especially when you set clear service goals, steps of service, and performance expectations is integral in the teaching process of instilling a consistent philosophy of service. Teach service every single day, lead and inspire your staff to focus on and improve performance issues on a daily basis.

    Stay true to hospitality, and remember to pay attention to daily coaching sessions with particular areas of service you want to see improvement on. Also important to remember is that constant training in imperative, especially when taking into consideration that it takes 21 days to create and build habits, and it takes 21 days to slip back into an old one.

    With this constant training your employees with know what is expected of them and have what they need to do their jobs and do them well. They want to feel comfort in knowing their managers have their backs, and will be willing to assist with any aspect of growing their own business. A positive culture in hospitality will thrive when and where the staff feels appreciated and supported.

    Your staff wants to feel important and they want to know they are appreciated. Sometimes the simple pat on the back isn't enough, Generosity goes a very long way with servers and staff member and will make your employees feel committed and compelled to do the best job they can! A simple gift card to a near by restaurant or wine tasting (that can be used as training, or a cooking class with your executive chef can truly make your team bond and feel a special connection.

    Encourage your staff to be service professionals! Have them enjoy going above and beyond for your clients and always give them tools they need to make a difference with your guests. If you are able to build an organization that not only builds trust but, respect with your employees you will have a very rare opportunity to create an extraordinary experience for guest and employees alike.

    So at your next pre-shift, empower your staff! Inspire them and build a community around impeccable service and make sure they are given the correct tools, are trained properly and amongst all over are a true asset to your establishment.

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  3. Simple Summer Sangria Recipes

    We have all been there, at a point in our lives where we want sweet fruity drinks, cocktails that we can sit around with a group of friends and enjoy the summers afternoon sun. Our go to picks may have been sweet wines such as Moscato, Lambrusco or the ever favorite Sangria. Today these libations have become increasingly popular again with Millenials and Gen Z consumer. Although considered be dessert wines, many of these consumers have been found to drink it all day making it an integral part of many recent restaurants’ wine lists.

    The general public has typically viewed sangria as a wine based cocktail for the warm summer months but, recently it has become an all-weather/ every season cocktail, with fruit, juice and spices that when done correctly can be adapted to any season and most importably any demographic basis.

    Drinking of course, in any sense is commonly seen as a communal experience which makes sangria an enjoyable treat in a group but, also creates a sense of community and makes the establishment offering the cocktail be seen in a very positive light and a place people truly want to be at!

    Considering we are about to go into the fall season, which is filled with delicious root vegetables and hot spiced wines, it is evident that Sangria is the mulled wine of summer and the young drinking demographic can’t get enough of it! Perhaps it is evident to some but, to those of you who are not promoting sangria on your wine list, you are missing a great profit opportunity.

    After all, when this younger generation goes out with friends, to enjoy great food and drinks they are likely to order pitches of Sangria because, they feel as though they are being offered a great deal. For the restaurant owners and manager, this “deal” helps your beverage cost and drive your bottom line. This is associated to the low cost associated with the production of Sangria and the high demand for the drink, it really can become a viable source of income. It is also a wonderful idea to make the sangria you serve to be individualized and customizable.

    We know it is always helpful to have delicious recipes to offer your clients so we want to supply you with a few:

    SangriaTraditional Red Sangria

    Ingredients

    •1/2 apple, cored, skin on, chopped into small pieces

    •1/2 orange, rind on, sliced into small pieces, large seeds removed (plus more for garnish)

    •3-4 Tbsp (41-55 g) organic brown sugar (or 3 Tbsp (37.5 g) organic cane sugar)

    •3/4 cup (180 ml) orange juice, plus more to taste

    •1/3 cup (80 ml) brandy, plus more to taste

    •1 750 ml bottle dry Spanish red wine*

    •Ice to chill (~1 cup)

     

    Instructions

    Add apples, oranges and sugar to a large pitcher and muddle with a muddler or wooden spoon for 45 seconds.

    Add orange juice and brandy and muddle again to combine for 30 seconds.

    Add red wine and stir to incorporate, then taste and adjust flavor as needed. I added a bit more brandy, orange juice and brown sugar. Stir to combine.

    Add ice and stir once more to chill. Serve as is, or with a bit more ice. Garnish with orange segments (optional).

    Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours, though best when fresh.

     

    Traditional White Sangria

    INGREDIENTS

    • 1/2 cup superfine sugar
    • 1/2 cup cognac
    • 1 mango, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced
    • 1 peach or nectarine, pitted and thinly sliced
    • 1 red apple, cored and thinly sliced
    • 1 to 2 plums, pitted and thinly sliced
    • 2 bottles (750 ml) dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio,chilled
    • Ice cubes, for serving

    DIRECTIONS

    In a large pitcher, stir sugar and cognac until well combined. Stir in fruit slices until fully coated; let stand, refrigerated, overnight.

    Add wine to pitcher and stir until well combined. Serve sangria over ice.

    Champagne Sangria

    Ingredients

    • 3oz triple sec
    • 3oz brandy
    • 2oz rum
    • 2oz vodka
    • 1 cup strawberries, blended
    • Chopped up fruit as desired (apple, mango, tangerine, pear, peach)
    • 1 (750ml) bottle sparkling wine

     

    Directions

    Prepare a large bowl or pitcher. Add in the Triple Sec, brandy, rum, vodka, strawberries, and fruit. Mix together well. Allow to sit for at least a few hours, and preferably overnight, so the liquids soak up the flavors of the fruits you have chosen.

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  4. Pop Up Time - How to Host the Perfect Pop Up for your Restaurant

    Handsome man in the kitchen

    What is a pop up exactly? Other than being one of the trendiest buzzwords in the food industry right now, it's a simple, effective, fun marketing idea. Bring a restaurant to life for one night where no restaurant existed before. This can involve taking over an old warehouse and bringing in a chef, menu, equipment, and food, OR it can involve the much simpler method of inviting in a star local chef to showcase his or her cuisine in your space.

    Let's assume you want you want to do a large scale pop up where no restaurant existed before. This will be an ambitious project, and there are both logistical and marketing concerns to address in order to make sure you can execute your vision. For logistics - permits - especially liquor permits - must be acquired first and foremost. Working with a local charity can help you obtain a temporary liquor license, especially if you operate in a state with restrictive liquor laws. Do your research and make sure everything is in place to avoid major problems with permits. Once you have permits, consider structure. If there is no kitchen in the existing location, you'll need a mobile kitchen. Or a friend with a food truck. Last, make sure you have a solid viral marketing plan in place. With just one night to sell tickets, create buzz, and turn a profit, you want to make sure you sell out all available seats. Strong social media and brand recognition will go far to helping you succeed here. This is a lot of work, but it's a great way to create buzz for your new restaurant concept or elevate your existing brand in a fun, quirky way.

    If this sounds like a lot of work (it is!) consider instead having a local, well known chef, cook in your location instead. This works particularly well if you are a fast casual concept, such as a cafe or bakery, and you want to have a more traditional 'fine dining' chef in to create a cool menu of courses for your guests. You can also invite some food trucks to park onsite and sample their wares to your customers for a more casual and low key evening. Showcasing different types of food in your space gives your regulars a new reason to visit you. Working with a local chef with a big local following will also show your space to new customers who may come in based on that chef's marketing too! So have fun. Get quirky. Don't be afraid to let a new person in on your 'turf.' The exposure you get will lead to new customers, and everyone will have a fun night if it's executed properly.

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  5. Planning a Seasonal Menu for Late Summer/Early Fall

    Fresh kohlrabi on the wooden table closeup

    It’s a wonderful time of year for seasonal menu offerings. Across the country, farms are bursting with fresh, local produce. It’s cheap - it’s readily available, and it belongs on your menu! Offering your customers fresh, seasonal and - when possible - local and organic produce - will ensure that your menu tastes great and is eco conscious and trendy also. When vegetables are super fresh, they don’t need much treatment or seasonal. Local corn is sweet and ripe just as it is and is great as a side or a soup or garnish for steak dishes.

    Bell peppers, carrots, cauliflower, artichoke, and arugula are all also in season, so now is a great time to add a large entree salad to your dinner menu. Lots of local vegetables will provide beautiful texture and flavor, and by including different protein options, you can create something which is versatile for both meat eaters and vegetarians - and also gluten free - to appeal to virtually every dietary restriction.

    Another oft overlooked vegetable which is fast gaining popularity is kohlrabi. Nutrient dense and with a juicy, appealing texture, kohlrabi makes a great slaw accompaniment to fresh fish for a light, healthy summer meal. Kohlrabi leaves are also excellent sautéed in olive oil or animal fat.

    Last but not least - dessert! Don’t neglect fresh fruits when planning your produce purchases. Apricots, blackberries, blueberries, figs, lemons, limes, nectarines - all are currently ripe and ready to be baked into pies, put in parfaits, blended into fresh ice cream, or enjoyed with just a touch of fresh whipped cream.

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  6. National Food Days to Market

    National Food Days to Market

    It seems too often that advertised on our social media news feeds that it’s, “ National Oyster
    Day, National Apple Pie Day,” or a million other things. It’s hard to keep up, acknowledge every
    day, come up with a promotion and then hope that we actually see a return on profit for our
    efforts. It is our job as owners and managers to delegate and distinguish which day’s are worth
    your while, and if you customer base will feel compelled to visit your venue due to the holiday.

    As in any special or offering, to ensure its successfulness you must know your client base and if
    the offer will truly entice their attention. For example, if your a fine dining establishment, the
    likely hood of National Ice Cream Day brining in additional revenue is relatively low. But, if you
    run a special on National Filet Mignon Day, you are more likely to see profit margins grow and
    customer satisfaction increase.

    To help with the next few months we have identified a key national holidays that will play well
    with a variety of different venues customer base.

    August:

    • 18th- National Pinot Noir Day

    • 28th- National Red Wine Day

    September:

    • 4th- National Eat an Extra Dessert

    • 9th- National Steak au Poivre Day

    • 12th- NationalNational Chocolate Milkshake Day

    • 20th- National Rum Punch Day

    • 23rd- National Chocolate Day

    • 28th- National Drink a Beer Day

    • 29th- National Coffee Day

    October:

    • 1st- National Vegetarian Day

    • 4th- National Taco Day

    • 4th- National Vodka Day

    • 9th- National Dessert Day

    • 16th- National Food Day

    • 17th- National Pasta Day

    • 19th- National Gin and Tonic Day

    • 21st- National Mescal Day

    November:

    • 6th- National Nacho Day

    • 8th- National Shot Day

    • 11th- National Sundae day

    • 12th- National Happy Hour Day

    • 14th- National Guacamole Day

    • 24th- National Espresso Day

    • 26th- National Cake Day

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  7. Tips for Crafting the Perfect Summer Salad

    Tips for Crafting the Perfect Summer Salad

    We all know what its like having the best intentions walking into a restaurant, with our minds made up that we will order that salad and we will stick to that diet. But, too many times it seems that as soon as our eye browse the menu and see the delicious entrees coming from the kitchen we loose sight to our goal, to eat a breathtaking salad that is filled with flavor and quality ingredients.

    What if we could developed the key elements to producing the perfect salad, one that becomes a super stars that ever guest must have. A salad that lacks tasteless ingredients and wilted lettuce and entices guests palates with clean, crip and tantalizing flavors from local farmers and textures from exotic lands.

    The first and possibly the most important element of crafting a vibrant salad is the lettuce, be it a nice summer mix, crisp romain or bibb, this first ingredient is the building block for the rest of your dish. Remember when choosing, different lettuce options not only allow you to build different flavor profiles, and certain lettuce are able to handle more toppings and and add ons. It has always been wise to build your and cost effective to play along with the season you are currently in and with the heat we have experiences lately, we know its summer. Most of our guest don’t want a heavy weighed down entree and may turn to a delicious salad that is full of vegetables, fruits and proteins.

    One of our favorite salads to create is a mixture of mescaline green summer mix topped with : corn, avocado, cucumber, cherry tomato and radish. All items are fresh right now, and can be bought in most local farmers markets, with the exception of avocados. We see so many customers asking for avocados that it may be in your benefit to outsource this item and add the delicious berry to a variety of your salad offerings. It’s true shocking how much more likely clients are to order a salad with avocado than if it did not have the fruit.

    Last, you need to find that go to salad dressing. It is so easy to over do it with the dressing, to bitter, too sweet, to tangy, the right dressing with add the perfect combination and allow all of the flavors to come together and truly be marvelous. For summer keep it simple, use olive oil, lemons, salt pepper and other spices to your liking. Simple is best and will allow all of your super star salad to come to life!

    Enjoy, now go out there and have your chef make the best salad they can!

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  8. Creating a Brand Identity with Different Restaurant Concepts

    Restaurant word cloud

    Congratulations. You've managed to open several (successful) restaurant concepts, and business is booming. The only issue is - these restaurants have very different themes. One is a seafood place, and one serves Santa Fe style food. Still another is a taco station which is more like the Santa Fe style restaurant - but not quite the same as it. With all these different brand identities, you want to be able to capture customer information to market to the entire group, and you also want to make sure your loyal customers at each location know about your different brands. But how do you cross market without confusion? Here are some tips.

    First, create a strong corporate group identity. If you're big enough, it makes sense for your core brand to have its own logo, website, social media, etc. This core brand can then share information on all the groups and tie everything together, so to speak, for the different restaurant concepts. In terms of a brand name, choose something that speaks to your own personal identity in order to have a strong cohesive group name and concept. Use the core group's social media to share images from all your restaurants, and develop a hashtag with the group's name to be used in all Instagram posts to tie everything together.

    Next, consider offering a loyalty program which can be used at any restaurant location. By tying a loyalty program together for all your locations, you can also create a database of email addresses for email marketing. In terms of emails, it probably makes sense to have some sent to the entire group and some to individual per restaurant. For example - selling gift cards at the holidays? A good pull for the whole group. Beer dinner or farm dinner or wine dinner? Send to the whole group. Happy hour deals for a specific location? Send to one segment only. So save your list in 'segments' and have the ability to market across as broad or as narrow of an audience as you'd like.

    Finally, keep your social media separate for each concept. It may be confusing for visitors to understand why you're sharing photos from a (competing - for all they know) restaurant on your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat pages. So unless it's a very specific reason, use each separate social media channel to market that restaurant and concept only.

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  9. Back to School Food Trends for Hungry Students

    pizza-page

    The cafeteria lunch isn't as bad as it used to be. Middle and high school kids are becoming more aware of their eating habits and the health options which are associated with it. There are certain restaurant supplies which make these trends easier to accommodate, too.

    Let’s take, for example, the idea of made from scratch pizza. Honestly, while there are some people out there who still crave the not much better than cardboard pizzas of their youth, having something which has been created from scratch can really make the difference.

    So, in order to really pull it off, you need pizza cutters, but it’s also helpful to have a Nemco pizza oven with you on the premises – just to make sure that it’s made right. Maybe a True worktop refrigerator to make things even easier? That way you can keep everything all in one place.

    Maybe have a pizza station where students can have made from scratch crusts, and put their own toppings on the pizza? It’s definitely possible. Students and teachers are definitely becoming more savvy about their choices, and being pleased with food means that they’re likely to do better on tests. No one does well when they're hungry!

    In addition to pizza, try adding a salad bar to your cafeteria line up. The fresh vegetables will provide students with healthy and colorful additions to their lunch options, giving them the sustained energy to focus and stay alert all day long. The cost may be slightly higher, but high school students and their parents will thank you for giving them better options which aren't unhealthy.

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  10. Vermont Cheese

    C

    Cheese, there truly is nothing like starting off the evening with a fantastic variety of delicious cheese and an elegant bottle of wine. A great cheese selection not only shows guests palate sophistication but, it can also help shows that you are a good community citizen if you are sourcing the cheese from local areas.

    Being from the Northeast there is no question that some of the best sourced cheese come from Vermont, and rightfully so. Vermont has created it own council that represent the cheesemakers throughout its state, it is dedicated to the production and image of premier cheese making. In part the council hosts educational events for the public and food professionals alike and celebrate the art and science of artisanal cheese made in Vermont. With 48 members the Vermont Cheese Council, you are sure to find a sensational selection of cheese to serve your guest and can rest easy knowing that the product you are serving it held to stringent protocols to be considers Vermont’s finest.

    Now, in reality we know that cheese can be expensive and yields a high food cost but, when serving your clients high quality products, it is with great belief that you will be able to sell your selections and still maintain a black bottom line. It is also beneficial to source from farms within the Vermont cheese council because, they offer unique recipes that you may other ways look past or not think of. Recipes such as chocolate chèvre ice cream, chili con Grafton:chili dip and grilled chicken and lemony greens with an apricot & thyme crumbled goat cheese. Cheese is and always will be a wonderful exploration of taste, textures and smells. You can build an entire tasting menu using the finest of cheese’s and I guarantee guests will decide to sign up, regardless the cost. Have those cheese’s be sourced locally and you will exponentially increase your profit margin.

    For more information about Vermont Cheese go to vtcheese.com or take a drive and taste your way through the beautiful state that is Vermont.

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