Monthly Archives: December 2017

  1. The 50 Best Restaurant Experts and Chefs to Follow in 2018

    restaurant experts 2018

    It's that time of year again. 

    Each year, we strive to equip restaurant owners with the resources they need for a successful new year. 

    What better way to stay on top of things than to follow this list of restaurant experts – the owners, chefs, and writers who are shaping the industry?

    2017 saw a paradigm shift for many restaurants. Diners are still eating out, but their preferences have changed in many ways. Everything from the menu items they are demanding, to the ways they want to place orders, are new to many restaurant professionals. 

    Restaurateurs, in order to stay on top, have been forced to respond – sometimes reactively. 

    Following this list of restaurant experts will help you stay on top of the industry, and enable you to make proactive, positive decisions for your business.  

    Making the List of 2018's Leading Food & Restaurant Experts

    For the past two years, we've made lists for the Top 30 Experts and Top 35 Experts to follow, respectively. This year, we're upping the ante to include the 50 Best Restaurant and Food Experts to Follow in 2018.

    While you'll definitely see some familiar faces, read through the list and see if you can spot who's new this year. I believe their presence on your timeline will be most welcome.

    To be included on this list, one must be:

    • A chef or restaurant owner.
    • A restaurant chain professional.
    • A restaurant consultant.
    • A trailblazing food or restaurant celeb.
    • A dedicated food blogger.
    • A reporter or thought leader in the food and/or restaurant industry.

    Additionally, these restaurant leaders must have been active on Twitter within the past month and have more than 1,000 followers. Their social reach must be great, and they must post excellent restaurant content about kitchen management, industry news, food, and/or restaurant marketing. 

    The following is an alphabetical list, by first name, of the most knowledgeable professionals in the restaurant industry.

    Open up your Twitter account and be sure to follow these industry professionals for some great day-to-day restaurant insights! 

    The Top 50 Restaurant Influencers 

    aaron.pngAarón Sánchez

    Award-Winning Chef, TV Personality, Cookbook Author, and Philanthropist
    FOX's MasterChef / Author / Dad / mexiCAN
    @AaronSanchez - Website
     


     

    adam.pngAdam Goldberg

    Editor-in-Chief, Drift and Ambrosia
    @alifewortheating on Instagram/Facebook and @lifewortheating on Snapchat.
    @LifeWorthEating - Website


     

    Alan Liddle alan.png

    Data & Event Content Director, Nation's Restaurant News
    Data and event content director. At Nation's Restaurant News since 1984. Also, researcher for Supermarket News Top 75. Formerly: daily/weekly news; restaurants.
    @AJ_NRN - Website


     

    Allie Tetreaultallie2.png

    Food and Restaurant Blogger, Toast
    Content Marketing Manager at Toast, Journalist, Blogger, Acapella alto, Wheaton College Grad. Entertainment Buff. 
    @aktetreault - Website


     

    allison-1.pngAllison Aubrey

    Food Writer, James Beard Award Winner
    NPR Correspondent, PBS NewsHour contributor, mom, aspiring yogi, lavender lover.
    @AubreyNPRFood - Website


     

    carlson.pngAndrew Carlson 

    CEO of Carson Hospitality
    On a mission to bring back the customer experience to restaurants in America. Restaurant Speaker. Author. CEO of Carlson Hospitality.
    @andrew1110 - Website


     

    bourdain.pngAnthony Bourdain 

    Chef, Author, and Television Personality
    Enthusiast
    @Bourdain - Website


     

    april.pngApril Bloomfield

    Chef
    Holds a Michelin star at two restaurants.
    @AprilBloomfield - Website


     

    cast.pngBarbara Castiglia

    Executive Editor, Modern Restaurant Management
    Executive Editor, Modern Restaurant Management. [email protected]
    @bcastiglia44 - Website


     

    brad.pngBradley Toft 

    The Restaurant Specialist
    The Restaurant Guy. Husband, Dad, and a work in progress. Risk Specialist at Newman & Tucker Insurance.
    @BradleyToft - Website


     

    Bret ThornBret Thorn 

    Food Writer, Nation's Restaurant News
    Follow the adventures of a New York City food writer. Senior F&B editor, NRN & Restaurant Hospitality.
    @FoodWriterDiary - Website
     


     

    bruce.pngBruce Irving

    Chef and Restaurateur
    Founder SPM Marketing: The #1 Digital marketing platform for pizzerias  | Speaker | Podcaster | Host of the top rated SPM Podcast : Family First 
    @Irvingmedia - Website


     

    cheryl2.pngCheryl Bachelder

    Former CEO, Popeyes® Louisiana Kitchen, Inc.
    Former Popeyes CEO focused on developing purpose-driven leaders who evidence competence and character in all aspects of their lives. Author of Dare To Serve.
    @CABachelder - Website


     

    chill.pngChris Hill 

    Chef, Bach Kitchen 
    Leadership and Branding Restaurant Guy - Entrepreneur - Author + 2X TEDx Speaker. (Chris was also a guest on Toast's podcast, The Garnish! Listen here.)
    @bachkitchen Website


     

    christina.pngChristina Tosi

    Chef, Author, Television Personality, and Owner of Momofoku Milk Bar
    Hardbody for life.
    @ChristinaTosi - Website


     

    dan.pngDan Pashman

    Host and Creator, The Sporkful Podcast
    Creator/host of The Sporkful podcast at Stitcher and the Cooking Channel web series You're Eating It Wrong and The Snackdown. An eater, not a foodie.
    @TheSporkful - www.danielboulud.com


     

    danny meyerDanny Meyer

    CEO, Union Square Hospitality Group
    CEO Union Square Hospitality Group. Founder Shake Shack. Always Setting the Table.
    @dhmeyer - Website


     

    dg.pngDave Gonynor 

    CEO/CO-Founder, That's Biz
    Helping restaurants, bars, and chains attract new customers and drive repeat visits.
    @thatsbiz - Website


     

    henkes.pngDavid Henkes

    Advisory Group Senior Principal, ‎Technomic Inc.
    Global food/beverage industry trendwatcher, consultant, & connoisseur. Senior Principal at . Named 1 of top  experts to follow in 2017.
    @davidhenkes - Website


     

    dsp.pngDavid Scott Peters

    The Restaurant Expert
    I own a coaching company teaching independent restaurant owners how to use systems to be successful and profitable. We offer coaching, workshops and software.
    @RestaurantXpert - Website


     

    dev.pngDevra First

    Food Writer, Boston Globe
    Boston Globe food writer and restaurant critic. Come for the rabbis, stay for the food.
    @devrafirst - Website


     

    db2017.pngDonald Burns

    The Restaurant Coach™
    The Restaurant Coach™, industry expert at  and Toast. Former USAF Pararescue. My motto: All business problems are really people problems in disguise.
    @donaldburns - Website


     

    eric.pngEric Cacciatore

    Host, RestaurantUnstoppable Podcast
    Host, RestaurantUnstoppable Podcast. Successful hospitality professionals telling their stories of success and sharing their mentorship.
    @EricCacciatore - Website


     

    gerry.pngGerry Ludwig

    Chef, Gordon Food Service
    Representing Gordon Food Service through culinary research and development, restaurant trend tracking, food writing and public speaking.
    @GFSChefGerry - Website


     

    gordon.pngGordon Ramsay

    Celebrity Chef, Restaurateur, and Television Personality 
    Check out an awfully British experience in the heart of London York and Albany this festive season.
    @GordonRamsay - Website


     

    graha.pngGraham Elliot

    Chef
    Chef, Restaurateur, Cookbook Author, TV Personality
    @grahamelliot - Website


     

    heather.pngHeather Lalley

    Editor, Restaurant Business Magazine
    Editor at Restaurant Business Magazine, new restaurant concepts. Medill + Washburne Culinary grad. Previously at Spokesman Review. 
    @flourgrrrl Website


     

    hudson riehleHudson Riehle 

    Senior Vice President, National Restaurant Association
    National Restaurant Association - SVP, Research & Knowledge Group
    @HudsonRiehle - Website


     

    kenji.pngJ. Kenji Lopez-Alt

    Author and Chief Culinary Advisor, Serious Eats
    Stay-at-Home Dad. Author of The Food Lab. Serious Eats (NYC), Wursthall, and Backhaus (both San Mateo). Husband to Adriana. Feminist. 
    @kenjilopezalt Website


     

    oikle.pngJaime Oikle

    Owner, RunningRestaurants.com 
    Owner, Restaurant Report and  - Helping Restaurants Succeed and Profit
    @JaimeOikle Website


     

    oliver.pngJamie Oliver

    Celebrity Chef and Restaurateur 
    The latest from Jamie Oliver HQ.
    @jamieoliver Website


     

    jean.pngJean Lee

    Restaurant Social Media & Events Consultant
    Restaurant PR + Social Media + Events | Food + Drink + Travel | NYC Native
    @jeaniusNYC - Website


     

    broughton.pngJenna Broughton

    Freelance Food and Restaurant Writer
    Made in Florida. Former American Idol auditionee. Onetime sweepstakes winner. Freelance writer covering impact of tech & policy on food & agriculture.
    @JennaBroughton - Website


     

    telesca.pngJenna Telesca

    Editor-in-Chief, Nation's Restaurant News
    Editor-in-Chief of Nation's Restaurant News. News tips? [email protected]
    @JennaTelesca - Website


     

    jim-1.pngJim Sullivan

    CEO and Founder, Sullivision.com
    All about restaurant & retail Leadership Strategy at  Author: Multiunit Leadership & The Fundamentals. Speaker, Writer, Omnivore, Dad, Lad, Grad.
    @Sullivision - Website


     

    jonathan mazeJonathan Maze

    Executive Editor, Restaurant Business Magazine
    Executive Editor with Restaurant Business Magazine. Egghead. Married up to Haila Maze. Opinions pre-approved by a blue ribbon panel of experts.
    @jonathanmaze Website


     

    waxman.pngJonathan Waxman

    Restaurateur and Chef
    Chef and owner of Barbuto & Jams NYC, Adele's Nashville and Brezza Cucina Atlanta
    @chefjwaxman Website


     

    jose.pngJosé Andrés

    Author and James Beard Award–Winning Chef
    When they go low, we go high...
    @chefjoseandres - Website


     

    julie.pngJulie Jargon

    Restaurant Reporter, Wall Street Journal
    Wall Street Journal restaurant reporter, mom of three. LA via Chicago via Denver. Hiking, running, West Coast rap.
    @juliejargon - Website


     

    ken burginKen Burgin

    Founder, Profitable Hospitality 
    Helping restaurants, cafes, clubs & hotels to be more profitable - marketing, management, cost-control, training, staff. Plus the Profitable Hospitality podcast.
    @KenBurgin - Website


     

    keith.pngKeith Nunes

    Executive Editor, Food Business News
    Food, like most things, is best when left to its own simple beauty.
    @FoodBizNews - Website


     

    liz.pngLiz Grossman

    Managing Editor, Plate Magazine
    Managing Editor of PlateMagazine, co-founder of Between Bites and Instagram curator of nail and food art.
    @elizabites - Website


     

    marcus.pngMarcus Guiliano

    Chef and Restaurateur 
    Food Activist, Professional Speaker, Eco-Lectic Restaurateur, Restaurant Consultant, Health Nut, Ultra-Marathoner, Raw Food Lover, Craft Beer & Wine Snob.
    @1ChefonaMission - Website


     

    michelle.pngMichelle Williams

    New York Food Blogger
    The voice of Coffee And Champagne. I explore and create food and share my faves so you know what to eat next 
    @coffeeandchamps - Website


     

    ming.pngMing Tsai

    James Beard Award Winning Chef and Restaurateur, Television Personality
    Chef/Owner-Blue Dragon, Exec Producer/Host-Simply Ming and President-National Advisory Board Family Reach. Food is simple, make it tasty! (Ming was also a guest on Toast's Podcast, The Garnish! Listen here.)
    @mingtsai - Website


     

    paul.pngPaul Barron

    CEO, Foodable
    CEO, editor in chief, Exec Producer of Foodable, the largest digital network in food. Founder FastCasual, Author of The Chipotle Effect
    @paulbarron - www.rickbayless.com


     

    pete.pngPeter Romeo

    Editor, Restaurant Business Online
    Editor at Large for  and . Covering the restaurant industry since 1984 
    @PeterRomeo - Website


      

    ron rugglessRon Ruggless

    Senior Editor, Nation's Restaurant News 
    Senior editor at Nation's Restaurant News | Roughly 60% water (results may vary)
    @RonRuggless - Website


     

    sarah.pngSarah Whitten

    Food & Restaurant Journalist, CNBC 
    Journalist at CNBC covering food, restaurants, consumer products, toys and entertainment | cat lady, gif linguist & nerd.
    @sarahwhit10 - Website


     

    tiffany.pngTiffany Lopinsky

    Boston Food Blogger
    A Bostonian documenting my eats in the city!
    @Boston_Foodies - Website


    Please note that with so many knowledgeable professionals in the restaurant industry, there's no way we could have fit everyone on this list. So let us know who we’re missing!

    Congratulations to everyone featured here, and good luck to the contenders next year! Who did you think were the most influential restaurant experts? Who would you add to the list? Leave a comment below!

    This article is compliments of Toast.

    As always, check out Restaurantsupply.com for all your restaurant needs.

    Read more
  2. What is a Soft Opening for Restaurants & Why Should You Have One?

    what is a soft opening

    The tables are set, covered with spotless poly-twill covers. The freezer is well-stocked with a fresh inventory of delectable foods waiting to be pan-fried, roasted, and broiled.

    It appears as though your restaurant is ready to open for a curious – and especially hungry – public.

    But... you’re still missing something.

    That something is the soft opening: A limited, invite-only unveiling of your restaurant for friends, family, colleagues, and other close acquaintances. These are smaller, free events with a hand-picked guestlist where you have the option of making the full menu available, or merely serving certain appetizers, drinks, and meals you think will be fundamental to the menu.

    Why You Should Do a Restaurant Soft Opening

    Restaurants of all concepts can benefit from hosting a soft opening before their traditional grand opening. Below are four reasons why you should host a soft opening at your restaurant. 

    1) Build Hype

    When the restaurant organizes a soft opening as a preview, the guests can help generate free publicity and awareness for the proper opening set to occur later. 

    Allowing guests to tell their friends and social media followers about their exclusive look at 'the hottest new restaurant in town' can certainly drum up interest for when you’re ready to officially open.

    Reality TV star Kathy Wakile went the extra mile with her Italian restaurant’s soft opening – allowing dine in, takeout, anddelivery; if you have the staff capacity for it, going all out on these methods would certainly spread awareness as well.


    2) Create Future Revenue

    Soft openings are a great way to set yourself up for a temporary revenue stream down the line. Hand out coupons for certain discount percentages, BOGO deals, or other offers that are good for a specific date or block of dates in the future. 

    If your guests enjoy their free experience, they’ll certainly be willing to return with money in hand, and might even become a regular. They’ll also have something tangible to give to friends when talking about the restaurant, an incentive for them to take a risk on a new place and check it out.

    restaurant soft opening

    It even works for the big chains: People were looking forward to returning to this Jackson, Michigan Buffalo Wild Wings location after their successful soft opening.

    3) Preseason Practice

    The restaurant soft opening is also a fantastic way to train employees and prepare them for business without sabotaging their tip potential. They’ll learn the ins and outs of your restaurant’s specific procedures and best practices, without actual payingcustomers to worry about. 

    Additionally, if any of the processes aren’t working to their full potential, like order input and output, POS systems, or inventory management, this is a perfect time to retool before customers get their official first taste. It’s also an opportunity for you as a manager to see what’s working efficiently and what isn’t. Maybe the cooking time is too long, or methods too complicated for certain dishes ; perhaps there can be furniture re-arrangements to maximize space and exit lanes for both servers and customers.

    Georgette Frakas of Rotisserie Georgette knows the value of soft opening practices. "With all the people involved," she says, "I made sure to constantly reassert that message: This is about training."

    How to Do a Restaurant Soft Opening

    Now that you're sold on why to run a soft opening for your restaurant, let's go about how to do one. 

    1) Offer a Limited Menu

    Your soft opening might be more manageable if you consider only offering select entrees, appetizers, drinks, and desserts from the menu. After all, there’s less mental preparation to worry about when only a few items are being prepped, cooked, and poured.

    There are certainly benefits to having the full menu available, though. Patrons might develop an immediate favorite you didn’t expect to be received so well, and plan to come back soon to have it again. 

    2) Focus on Feedback

    Guests can provide valuable feedback for all aspects of the business, from the food to the service to even the environment.

    “[Soft openings] can endear people to feel more alignment with the restaurant because they feel they’re in the know,” says restaurant consultant Aaron Allen. Soft openings can be used not only to practice, but also to help people connect with the restaurant.”

    At the end of the night, kindly ask guests to fill out a questionnaire in exchange for their free meal. It’s a great way to get outside perspective after working strictly with employees, managers, and independent contractors to get things up and running. Since your guests will predominantly be colleagues and friends, they likely want to see you succeed, and should be willing to provide actual constructive feedback for the restaurant moving forward.

    3) Find the Red Flags

    What are the downsides of a soft opening? The benefits certainly outweigh the drawbacks, but there are things to consider. 

    You want to ensure your guests have a good time and share their experiences online to spread awareness, but you do run the risk of competing restaurants stealing your creative property – whether that be menu items, ideas for decor pieces, or even table-and-chair arrangements. A competitor might already be open and able to fast-track it to public availability, beating you to the punch on opening day.

    Don’t forget that real customers can be far more brutal than friends. There’s the chance your soft opening guests will be hesitant to criticize, so when real customers come through the door for the grand opening, there may be some reality checks in order. Ensure that after the feedback process, there isn’t anything that hasn’t been overlooked by either your own staff or the soft opening’s guests.

    There’s also the aspect that your restaurant is operating to some degree without actually generating revenue. The soft opening is essentially optional overhead, a marketing expense that offers little in the short-term. While that may be true, you should view the soft opening as a long-term investment, where you're building awareness and possiblly future business, making it fiscally low-risk, but medium-to-high-reward.

    Launching Your Restaurant Soft Opening

    There’s considerable upside to doing a soft opening, as illustrated above. The benefits can act as a confidence boost for when the grand opening comes and the proper public makes their way in. You’ll have an advantage that will set things up for success right out of the gate.

    This article is compliments of Toast.

    As always, check out Restaurantsupply.com for all your restaurant needs.

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  3. 4 Distinct Restaurant Themes (And What Customers Think of Them)

    restaurant themes

    Deciding on the perfect restaurant theme is no small task. It takes a careful blend of creativity, planning, and insight into the market where you intend to open your business.

    There are countless restaurant themes to choose from; whatever you decide to go with will be unique to you, your business, and your clientele.

    While diners do cite ambiance as an important element of their dining experience, it’s not everything. Cool lighting fixtures and intricate murals won’t make up for excessive noise, poor service, or low quality food. 

    Here are four real examples of restaurants with distinct themes, accompanied by real online reviews of their businesses.

    1. Bohemian With An Edge

    restaurant theme ideas

    A bohemian-themed restaurant is a great way to take your guests back in time, or transport them to parts unknown around the world.

    Beatnik, located in Chicago, is designed to resemble the Bohemian lifestyle of 1950’s America and Europe. They incorporate exotic music, lush enteriors, and elements of old world elegance to bring guests back to the time of Kerouac and Ginsberg. 

    What Their Customers Say

    Alka Maheshwari, a Google local guide, writes “A beautiful place in West Town. The decor alone is worth the visit: ornately carved wooden panels to the opulent chandeliers to the checkerboard floor. Multiple small plates and sides on the menu making it easier to order a variety of dishes. All three sections of the establishment have their own charm.” 

    Hunter G, another Google local guide, has a different opinion on the vibe.  Accompanying his two star review, he writes, “Horrible hostess staff. Requested a nice table because it was a special event in the reservation. She sat us at a high top in the bar area. Inside is really artsy and the atmosphere is awesome.

    What Can We Learn From Beatnik?

    Beatnik’s bohemian vibe is counter-culture coolness, but an experience with poor service is always sure to ruin a night out.

    2. Locally Sourced

    Incorporating your values into your restaurant's theme can be a great way to connect with customers on a deeper level.
    The Marshal, in New York City, is a great example of a locally-sourced, sustainability-focused restaurant that has oriented their entire business operations to reflect their values. By emphasizing the importance of locally-sourced ingredients, The Marshal sends a message to customers that they support their community, value local small businesses, and want to protect the health of the environment and their customers. They source all of their menu items from local farmers, local wineries, and local distilleries to reduce carbon emissions when shipping. 

    restaurant theme

    What Their Customers Say

    Noah Choi writes, “Quite possibly the best burger I have ever had: smoky flavor, very juicy, and with a bun that was literally oven-fresh.” 

    Bob Kirksey, a Google local guide, writes, “Farm to table at its finest. I travel 230 days a year. Good health makes my living. Food quality and tremendous flavor are what I seek.”

    Susan Rosenthal, another Google local guide, writes, “A delicious gem of Farm to Table scrumptiousness.”

    What Can We Learn From The Marshal?

     Supporting your local community is always a great restaurant theme and business practice. No Farms, No Food, after all. 

    3. Keep It Simple

    restaurant theme

    Centering your restaurant theme around one food item is a simple and effective branding tactic. It’s also a great way to generate repeat business with customers who will view you as their “go-to” for that specific product. 

    At Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits in Chicago, the name says it all; pies and biscuits are their game.

    What Their Customers Say

    Matthew Martin, a Google local guide, writes, “The Key Lime was probably the best I’ve ever had!

    Another reviewer's experience was a bit of a mixed bag. They write, “Food was good, not great. The biscuits were the best I’ve had at any restaurant period. Servings are terribly undersized, flavor was good.

    What Can We Learn From Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits?

    Keeping your theme and menu simple can be a successful strategy, but it’s nothing if the quality of your product is so-so. 

    4. Vintage Upscale

    resturant dining themes

    If you want to incorporate some upscale flair in your restaurant theme, attention to detail is key. 

    Invest in some fancy bells and whistles to make your customers feel utterly aristocratic.

    El Gaucho and AQUA by El Gaucho, both in Seattle, have a taste for the finer things. In addition to jazz on the piano and top-of-the-line service, this upscale restaurant serves a 28-day dry-aged steak and has a classy tuxedo staff. 

    What Their Customers Say

    Jeanie writes, “The food and the view were amazing. The service was awful. We were there to celebrate our anniversary and our-less-than-attentive waiter didn’t add to the experience. Maybe they don’t care since their tip is already included in your bill.

    Here’s how El Gaucho responded: “Thank you for taking the time to review AQUA, Jeanie. While we are happy to hear you enjoyed the views and food we are terribly sorry to hear that you experienced sub par service. We strive to create an all-around memorable visit and we apologize we were wide of the mark in this regard.

    Jonji, another Facebook reviewer, writes, “Not my first rodeo here, and I must say service and food are always top notch!

    El Gaucho’s response: “Glad to hear it Jonji. Hope to see you again soon!

    What Can We Learn From El Gaucho?

    Customer relationship management is essential to the success of your business. Responding to both positive and negative reviews, like El Gaucho does, is an easy way to show existing and potential customers alike and that you value their input, and their business. 

    If You Only Take One Thing Away From This Article...

    Creating a phenomenal experience for your guests is so much more than just having a really cool restaurant theme. Didn't your mom teach you to never judge a book by its cover?

    Your goal should be to have every guest walk away with great memories they’ll cherish and forever associate with your business. 

    This article is compliments of Toast.

    As always, check out Restaurantsupply.com for all your restaurant needs.

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  4. 9 Must-Have Restaurant Technologies That Improve Business

    9 Must-Have Restaurant Technologies That Improve Business

    Looking for ways to make your restaurant more innovative? You’re not alone: according to the National Restaurant Association, 32% of operators think their business is lagging in restaurant technologies. So, we hand-picked 9 types of tech that deliver the most bottom line bang for your buck.

    ORDERING RESTAURANT TECHNOLOGIES

    Get orders out quickly and correctly. That’s good old-fashioned advice for the restaurant biz. The benefits are key: You’ll make guests happier, turn tables faster, and cut down on food waste and costs from inaccurate orders. Now, restaurant technologies are multiplying those benefits…

    1. ONLINE ORDERING

    Do you offer takeout? Or, are you a quick-serve or fast casual establishment looking to save guests from long lines?
    Good news. The demand for online ordering restaurant technologies is growing with consumers. Operators who offer online ordering restaurant technologies see benefits like:

    • Higher Revenue: With online ordering, customers can leisurely browse rather than hurriedly placing their order in person or over the phone. Since there’s no pressure, customers are more likely to order extra items, leading to higher sales.
    • More Accurate Orders: Ordering over the phone is old news. Not only is your phone line tied up, but a bad connection or a loud bar drowns out parts of the conversation. Orders are recorded incorrectly, which means a waste of food and revenue for your bar – and a bad experience for your customer. Ordering with online restaurant technologies eliminates those variables.
    • Data Tracking: If orders are placed through your website, you can track information. You can learn who your regular online customers are, how often they order, and which items they usually purchase.

    You can partner with a third party, like ChowNow or Netwaiter, to develop online ordering for your website. Most programs integrate with your other restaurant technologies for a trackable and streamlined service. Look to Dominos Pizza to see a great example of online ordering in action.

    2. DIGITAL POS SYSTEM

    POS (point of sale) restaurant technologies are widely used in the hospitality industry – 81% of restaurants use either a POS or Electronic Register System. However, POS systems are getting even more sophisticated. Some POS systems, like Digital Dining, integrate with tabletop tablets so customers can browse a digital menu, place orders, and pay themselves. That brings us to the next item on our list of restaurant technologies…

    3. CUSTOMER-FACING TABLETOP TABLETS

    Restaurants are leveling up their ordering game. How? By giving guests the power to order from a digital menu and securely pay on a touchscreen tablet.

    In fact, 37% of restaurant owners believe customer ordering is the single most important type of tech they should try.

    The self-service restaurant technologies trend started with QSRs (Quick Service Restaurants). QSRs like Taco Bell let customers place orders using a tablet, mobile app or kiosk. The benefits started rolling in. Taco Bell reported a 20% increase in digital order sales over ones made traditionally with a human cashier.

    Self-service restaurant technologies are now being adapted by the casual and even fine dining industries.

    Restaurants are using tabletop tablets that display their digital menu and allow customers to place and send their orders directly to the kitchen.

    Orders come out more quickly than if a table had to flag down a server during lunch or dinner rush. That means faster table turn – and happier guests.

    Plus, since customers can dig deeper into the menu to discover more add-ons and extras than any server could recite, check averages are increasing.

    As an added bonus, some tabletop tablets come loaded with games and entertainment to add even more value (see #6 on our list of restaurant technologies).

    What’s amazing about these restaurant technologies is that they aren’t replacing personal service – only enhancing it. Servers can spend more time engaging with guests instead of verifying their orders or running the bill back and forth.

    MARKETING RESTAURANT TECHNOLOGIES

    Today, automation is the big buzzword in marketing. These restaurant technologies can simplify and streamline your marketing.

    4. LOYALTY PROGRAMS

    Restaurant technologies are putting a new spin on loyalty programs. Now, it’s easier than ever to design a great loyalty program on a standalone app or integrate it with an online program.
    Unlike traditional punch cards, online loyalty programs like Level Up provide great marketing insight through the latest restaurant technologies. You can track customer behavior that may influence your marketing strategy, like how often your customers visit and why.

    Using restaurant technologies for your loyalty program enhances the customer experience as well. Rather than having to track their visits on a card (which can get lost easily), customers conveniently keep tabs on their app.

    Certain programs even track customer’s birthdays or anniversaries, so you can offer a special treat on their big day. Now let’s see a punch card to that!

    5. EMAIL SERVICE PROVIDERS

    One of the most affordable restaurant technologies to try today? An ESP (email service provider) like MailChimp. An ESP is a 3rd party software that you can use to manage and send email marketing campaigns.

    With easy to use templates, you can craft attractive emails to your customers that outline your upcoming events and specials. The ESP will track analytics, like who opened your email and what they clicked on, so you can improve your campaign as time goes on.

    ENTERTAINMENT RESTAURANT TECHNOLOGIES

    According to a DirectTV survey, 70% of consumers say that visiting a restaurant is a form of entertainment in itself. Make your restaurant the go-to place by adding these entertainment-focused restaurant technologies…

    6. HANDHELD ENTERTAINMENT

    Restaurant tablets can do more than just help your guests place orders and pay. Companies like Buzztime offer restaurant tablets loaded with entertaining games and trivia. Guests can join nationally scheduled competitions 7 days a week, 15 hours a day. These restaurant tablets can even be used to run a live trivia event or poker tournament in your restaurant!

    With the right handheld entertainment, you can attract a wide range of customers: Big groups may come in specifically for a round of trivia or solo patrons can dive into a digital arcade that’s “open” 24/7. Either way, restaurant technologies that offer tabletop entertainment are a great way to increase repeat visits. In fact, one Arbitron study revealed that Buzztime players spent an average 21% more per table check than non-players.

    7. WI-FI

    Free wi-fi is one of the restaurant technologies that can significantly enhance your guest experience…if you do it right! Here’s an example. Many customers use smart phones to track fantasy football or other scores while catching the game at bars and restaurants. They may choose your venue if you offer free wi-fi.

    And wi-fi could lead to higher sales revenue. Larger groups may need a place to work, and will select a venue specifically for i’s wi-fi service – especially during slower hours when they know they can get a table.

    A word of caution about wi-fi restaurant technologies: Always use a credible wi-fi service provider. A bad connection leaves customers feeling irritated and reduces the chances of them returning for business. Stick with an industry leader, like Ruckus Wireless – used by 70% of the hospitality community.

    MANAGEMENT RESTAURANT TECHNOLOGIES

    Tired of juggling management tasks? Let these restaurant technologies can take some tasks off your plate.

    8. AUTOMATED INVENTORY TRACKING

    Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to spend hours per week manually logging your inventory? Now, systems like BevSpot can automatically track inventory for you.

    With traditional spreadsheets, you run the risk of clerical errors that lead to costly mistakes. Plus, if you want to run a comparison or check for inconsistencies in inventory – you have to manually configure data. Instead, inventory restaurant technologies can instantly run reports for you.

    Some programs even automate order suggestions so you don’t over or under spend for the week.

    9. SCHEDULING SOFTWARE

    Scheduling is like a tricky puzzle with moving parts. Many managers struggle to get it right. With last minute call outs and disappearing vacation notices, creating a staff schedule can be a nightmare.

    However, restaurant technologies like ZoomShift can free up your restaurant operator’s time by streamlining the scheduling process. Many scheduling software companies offer features like:

    • Automated Schedules: Once you know that a server or bartender can work every Monday night, you can log that information into the software. Every week, the program automatically schedules your employee for those hours.
    • Vacation Requests: Your employees can enter vacation requests online. A notification will pop up if you try to schedule them for hours they requested off.
    • Schedule Checks: Since most scheduling software is available online, employees can check their schedules through computers or mobile devices. No more disruptive calls from servers asking about their next shift!

    With the right restaurant technologies in place, you can enhance your customer experience and boost sales. Examine your restaurant needs and pick the programs that will work best for your business.

    This article is compliments of Buzztime.

    As always, check out Restaurantsupply.com for all your restaurant needs.

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  5. 10 Easy-to-Implement Restaurant Kitchen Safety Tips

    restaurant kitchen safety

    Workplace injury and illness cost restaurant owners millions of dollars annually in compensation and productivity; kitchen safety should be a top priority for all restaurants.

    For hospitality workers, where hourly wages and casual employment contracts are the industry standard, a single missed day of work can not only cause undue financial stress, but can also affect the productivity of your kitchen.

    This article is compliments of Toast.

    As always, check out Restaurantsupply.com for all your restaurant needs.

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  6. Why Restaurants Are Dumping Third-Party Food Delivery Services

    food delivery services

    We all know the demand for delivery is on the rise. Delivery trends hone in on convenience – something often sought today. Aside from pizzerias and Chinese food restaurants, we're now seeing restaurants like Wendy's and McDonald's join the game through partnerships with DoorDash and UberEats.

    But given the complications that arise with outsourcing delivery, is there a way for restaurants and food delivery services to share a mutually beneficial relationship?

    A Quick Recap: How Restaurants Outsource Web Technology

    Today, online reservations are the most important technology option diners want from a restaurant. Ten years ago, relatively few restaurants had a website, let alone offered the ability to make table reservations online. 

    Companies such as OpenTable, a third-party online reservation service, entered the market to address this limitation.

    It seemed like the perfect solution: restaurants gain convenience points in the eyes of their guests and don't have to build their own site. 

    However, a side effect of this trend was that guests were no longer engaging with the restaurant itself. Thus, branding and customer experiences became fractured. Some restaurants saw this as a significant limitation, leading restaurants like Ruth’s Chris Steak House to offer their own native table reservation as part of the website experience.

    But how does this relate to food delivery services?

    A similar trend is happening today with restaurant online ordering and delivery – several key third-party food delivery services dominate the online restaurant ordering and delivery experience. 

    But the market is shifting. 

    2016 report from Mintel found that “12% of Americans say that they have used a third-party delivery service in the past three months. Among non-users, 30% say they would rather order delivery directly from the restaurant itself.

    The Toast 2017 Restaurant Technology Report also found that more people have ordered from a restaurant's website than a third-party ordering site. 

    As with online reservations, some restaurants are starting to take ownership of their own delivery, as they can address some of the pain points of third-party food delivery services. In the same Mintel survey, the most common answer from diners who had not tried a third party service on what would motivate them to try these was fast delivery (31%).

    Third party online ordering services do a great job of providing delivery estimates, but there are multiple problems that can impact online delivery speed. 

    Below are four key reasons restaurants are jumping ship on delivery aggregate sites and why.

    1) The Restaurant Isn't Open

    Picture this: a guest orders delivery on your closed day via an online ordering site. 

    The customer notices the wait is past the delivery time and attempts to contact the restaurant directly. There’s no response so they reach out to the online ordering third-party. The guest is asked if they contacted the restaurant and is told the third-party will attempt to resolve the issue by contacting the restaurant. 

    After another 30 minutes to an hour, it’s clear the order should be canceled and the guest receives a refund but must make alternate dinner plans up to two hours after placing the order.

    How Internal Online Ordering Helps

    Restaurants can set holidays up in advance via blackout dates.

    When a guest attempts to order during affected dates they will automatically see the restaurant is closed without any staff member needing to flag the restaurant as closed the day of. This saves a hassle for the food delivery service and for you, too. 

    food delivery services

    2) The Restaurant Doesn't Deliver to That Region or Zip Code

    What happens when a delivery order is placed out of range? The order is prepared but the guest is called by the restaurant and told the order cannot be delivered. The only option for the guest is to contact the third party delivery website to request a refund. 

    When you bring online ordering in-house, delivery areas can be set up to specific zip codes. 

    restaurant delivery services

    When a guest attempts to place an order outside the delivery range they are presented with a pick-up option or told delivery is not available to the area up-front. 

    3) The Restaurant Stopped Taking Delivery Orders

    It's Football Sunday and your chicken wing restaurant is quickly mobbed by college students who want delivery. The demand is so high that you stop taking phone orders for delivery. But wait – what about the food delivery service? There's no way to just shut down.

    Taking online ordering in-house makes it possible to turn off delivery orders from your POS. No wonder restaurants are ditching these services.

    4) The Menu Changed

    Have you ever changed your menu? Stupid question – of course, you have. Maybe it was an update in price or in offerings. Either way, the changes are not reflected in the online menu with some third-party services. 

    This puts restaurants in the awkward position of calling up guests and explaining the menu change – or worse – taking a hit on their bottom line. 

    What is the future of food delivery services?

    While plenty of restaurants still offer delivery through third-party solutions (and even more are moving that way), both restaurants and their guests are taking note of serious problems with the current food delivery service market. 

    Making the move to an internal online ordering program and bringing delivery in-house can mandate a lengthy learning period, but this is what diners want from restaurant delivery – convenience from the restaurant itself. 

    Isn't that what being in the hospitality industry is all about?

    This article is compliments of Toast.

    As always, check out Restaurantsupply.com for all your restaurant needs.

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  7. How to Calculate (and Control) Restaurant Food Cost Variance

    pexels-photo-612790-min-379700-edited.jpeg

    May the costs be ever in your favor.

    When receiving an order from a vendor, it’s second nature to glance at the invoice and check that each item is in the delivery. But how often do you take a step back and look at the prices of each of those items? If you’re like a lot of restaurateurs, not often enough. 

    This can result in a huge disparity in food cost variance

    Measuring and responding to food cost variance is absolutely essential for restaurants of any size. If you don’t know how much you’re spending on ingredients, you can’t:

    Likewise, because food costs are 25 to 35 percent of every dollar of food sales, being attuned to price variance can mean the difference between being in the black, the red, or closing the doors completely.

    Calculating Price Variance

    Cost variance (aka price variance) as a concept isn’t all that complicated: it’s just the difference between expected (also called “standard”) costs and actual costs. Ideally, the two sides (actual and standard) should be more or less in balance, which will also mean you’re more or less on budget. 

    Calculating your cost variance gives you a sense of where you stand and can explain why the numbers came out the way they did. 

    The equation for restaurant food cost variance is:

    Cost Variance = (Actual Price x Actual Quantity) – (Standard Price x Standard Quantity)

    The “actual” parts of the equation are pretty simple: 

    • Actual Price is what you pay for an ingredient. As you’re well aware, Actual Price varies based on seasonality, market trends, and a ton of other factors outside your control. 
    • Actual Quantity is even easier — it’s just the amount of an ingredient you purchase.

    In contrast, the “standard” parts of the equation are more theoretical. 

    • Standard Price should be derived using historical data so that an ingredient’s price fluctuations are smoothed out to the average price over a particular period.
    • Standard Quantity is the amount of an ingredient that you plan to buy. When calculating Standard Quantity, it’s important to factor in breakage. For example, in a case of potatoes, one might be rotten. Peel them for fries or mashing and even more product is “lost.” 

    When calculating Standard Quantity, acknowledge that some waste is inevitable. Challenge back of house employees to practice good habits in regard to waste and portioning

    If the guidelines are too lenient, there’s no reason for the BOH to be mindful about waste. Make them too strict and you’ll inflate the overall price variance by pitching the Standard Quantity too low.

    Getting a Baseline

    Figuring out cost variance can be quite a challenge, so for restaurants who don’t have a set process yet, we recommend setting up a short term study. Here’s how to get started:

    Use a Market-Basket Approach

    If you’ve ever heard of the 80/20 rule (no, not the one about side work and tipping), that’s basically how the market-basket approach works. The idea is to focus on just a few items (around 20% of them) that have a big impact (80%) on your expenses, so it’s okay to cherry-pick (for now) the ones that are easiest to track.

    You probably have a gut sense of which ingredients make up the bulk of your food costs, but if you don’t, do some back-of-the-napkin math to figure it out, or just check your inventory records.

    Pick a Time Frame

    For this exercise, we’d suggest picking a week or a month to start. 

    Be specific, and if you can, choose a boringly normal week. While it won’t account for unexpected price hikes caused by crop shortages or natural disasters, it’ll be more realistic than using numbers based on holiday or summer rush periods when both costs and revenues tend to be higher.

    Set Some Standards

    Now that you’ve chosen ingredients and a time frame to focus on, think about how much you’d expect to pay for each ingredient (Standard Price) and how much you’d expect to buy (Standard Quantitiy). These two numbers should stay in alignment, meaning that you might need ten cases of a product over the course of the month, but shouldn’t grant yourself a cut rate for buying in bulk if you’ll be receiving undiscounted biweekly deliveries.

    Actualize the Actuals

    Be vigilant about using real numbers from the time frame you chose, even if it takes a little longer to dig up those invoices. 

    Use that information to find the Actual Price and Actual Quantity of the market-basket items you’ve decided to track. And don’t take the easy way out by relying on GL accounts unless they happen to be so granular that they accurately reflect a single ingredient.

    Run the Numbers

    Plug the numbers into the price variance formula up above and there’s your variance. 

    But don’t stop there: Do some quick math to figure out what it looks like over the course of a year. A small variance may not seem like a big deal, but when multiplied by 12 or 52, it might seem a little more dire.

    Interpreting the Results

    You’ve got a number, but what does it mean? If it’s positive, you have a favorable cost variance, which means actual costs are lower than standard costs. A negative number means it’s an unfavorable variance because actual costs are higher than standard ones.

    In general, a variance of around 10 percent is acceptable, but that percentage depends on your situation. Restaurants that have recently implemented new ordering or inventory processes might not mind a larger unfavorable variance, so long as it soon levels out to a more sustainable status. On the other hand, restaurants squeaking by on razor-thin margins might not be able to weather even a 10 percent unfavorable variance. 

    Reacting to Restaurant Cost Variance

    Once you’ve thought through the reasons for an ingredient’s price variance, it’s time to take action. 

    For favorable price variance, the best move is to think about ways to replicate that with ingredients that aren’t quite up to snuff. For example, if you’ve cracked the food management code for pistachios, consider using similar techniques for croutons.

    Dig Into the Details

    When ordering the same item from multiple vendors, it’s worth figuring out who offers the most competitive pricing. For folks overseeing multiple stores, splitting out the data by location may provide some insight.

    No matter how you approach the problem, keep the the 80/20 rule in mind; focus on items with the highest impact so you see tangible benefits, not just a few dollars saved per period.

    Ask Vendors What’s Up

    Don’t be afraid to reach out to vendors to ask why the price has been so unstable or to renegotiate. In some cases they’ll tell you that an item’s price has risen so much that they had to pass on the cost to their customers, but you also might be the victim of an invoicing error. 

    If their answers don’t satisfy you, shop around. A competing supplier might be the answer to price variance problems.

    Be Vigilant About Internal Controls

    Carefully monitor waste, portioning, and theft. 

    Using an extra tablespoon of butter in that sauteed swordfish might not seem like a big deal, but if you serve eight plates per day, in a year you’ve fattened up the Actual Quantity by more than 90 pounds. Not even butter can make that taste good. Encouraging proper food management protocols will ensure you’re not buying extra stock because it’s being misused.

    Adjust the Sale Price

    Ultimately, price variance is really about balancing actual numbers versus standard numbers. If you’ve optimized actual costs and quantities, it may be time to consider adjusting sale prices based on COGS

    May the Costs Be Ever in Your Favor

    Phew! Does it all seem too overwhelming to manage? Don’t give up. There are solutions that track the price of every ingredient you purchase, alerting you to both favorable and unfavorable variance.

    What's your preferred method for controlling price variance? Let us know in the comments below! 

    This blog is from Toast Blog

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  8. Recipe: Pumpkin Gnocchi

    Pumpkin Gnocchi

    Here in Minnesota, we’re in that season now where fall is fully upon us and we’re starting to get days that require our Fall Selves to show up. Full force. Wearing sweaters. Swapping iced coffees for hot ones. Raking leaves out of our yards (I have done this zero times).

    When my Fall Self shows up to the party, it does not show up empty-handed. It says: I see you, Sweaters. I see you, Hot Coffees. I see you, People Who Rake. And it says: I am going to feed you something yummy.

    Hints:

    • Pumpkin
    • Butter
    • Sage
    • Garlic
    • Parmesan

    Pumpkin Gnocchi:

    Sage Butter Sauce:

    • 2 tablespoons Land O Lakes® Salted Butter in Half Sticks
    • a few sage leaves and a smashed clove of garlic
    • 1 tablespoon flour
    • 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
    • 1/2 cup starchy water (leftover from boiling the gnocchi)
    1. Potato Prep: Bake the potato – see notes – and pull off the skin. Let the potato rest for a while to cool down. Once it’s cool enough to handle, grate it until you have about 1 1/2 cups of very fine potato shreds.
    2. Gnocchi Dough: Mix potato shreds with pumpkin puree. Measure flour onto a clean surface and put the potato/pumpkin mixture in the center. Make a well and crack your egg into it. Sprinkle salt on top. Grab a fork and whisk up the egg real quick. Using your hands, mix all ingredients into a dough. Don’t overmix. When it starts to come together, form the dough into a mostly-smooth, rounded little loaf.
    3. Gnocchi Prep: Cut off slices of the mound and roll each one into a long rope. Cut the rope into bite-sized pieces. Place the gnocchi pieces on a plate (make sure they’ve got a little flour coating so they don’t stick).
    4. Cooking the Gnocchi: Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the gnocchi, carefully, one at a time, to the water. You may need to work in batches. When the gnocchi rise to the top of the pot of boiling water, immediately remove them with a slotted spoon. Set aside. Melt your butter in a large nonstick skillet. Pan fry the gnocchi, undisturbed, to get one side lightly crispy and leave the other side soft. Remove from pan and set aside to wait for sauce.
    5. Butter Sauce: In the same pan, add butter, sage leaves, and garlic clove. Let the garlic and sage cook for a few minutes over low heat. When the sage leaves are starting to get crispy, remove from heat. Remove garlic as well. When it’s melted, add the flour and whisk. Add the heavy cream and whisk. Add the starchy water slowly, whisking to make a sauce that is the consistency you want. Toss with gnocchi, top with sage leaves and Parmesan, and BE HAPPY AND PROUD BECAUSE LOOK WHAT YOU MADE! Now pour yourself a glass of wine and feast.
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