Restaurant Operations

  1. How to Start a Restaurant

    There are many restaurants today. If you are the average American who has never owned a restaurant before, then it can be quite daunting to know where to begin. So we decided to do all the research and compile it into one easy-to-read article. Let’s begin!

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    Here are the things you need to know! What is the statistics? According to a recent study done by Alleywatch.com results show that 60% of businesses fail in their first year. Of course, none of us want to be part of that statistic. We do not want to discourage you from opening up that dream restaurant; however, this is to serve as an eye-opener to see the practicality of the advice we are giving you. The biggest thing that contributes to failure is lack of planning. In other words, when you lack solid planning you can plan to fail solidly. As you will see in this article, planning is the most important part, even before worrying about the money. Planning involves preparing for possible roadblocks, minute details and preparing yourself to take responsibility.

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    Have the right motives. Now we all like money. Money is both a necessity and a luxury. In addition, we as humans love time. Do you often hear yourself saying “I wish I had more time?” We know we do! Some may reason that opening up their own business will offer them more money and time. Is this true? The answer, not necessarily! The truth is money and time doesn’t come automatically. In fact, owning your own restaurant would require even more work. So if money, time, or some other force is motivating you to start a restaurant maybe you should reconsider. Ask yourself, will I love what I will be doing? Am I willing to put forth the necessary effort and time to see my restaurant succeed? Will I be motivated to wake up in the morning and put in a hard day of work? If the answer to any of these is no then you should reconsider.

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    Your target market. Who are you looking to appeal to? There are different generations, different preferences and different views. Remember in the restaurant business one size does not fit all. You have to choose your target market before you even think about your restaurant name much less your restaurant itself. Is it a family style or is it more for adults, children, or teens? You may think about what a teenager would like, and how it is different from a child, or how a child would differ from an adult. Things you can consider is who would you see being at your restaurant? Who would they recommend to come?


    Begin your business plan. This is where the brainstorming begins. This is where all your ideas can come together in an array of excellence. What are somethings you should think about? What is the atmosphere you are planning to create? What is the theme? What are the hook’s that drive customers in? How does your restaurant differ from other similar restaurants? Why will customers like my restaurant? Where is the restaurant’s location, and how will that adds to the experience of the restaurant? Here are some of the fundamental parts of a business plan you’ll need to think about. These are followed by:
    • Executive Summary
    • Company Description
    • Products and Services
    • Market analysis
    • Strategy and Implementation
    • Organization and Management Team
    • Financial plan and projections
    You are well on your way to starting your new restaurant business and restaurant supply is here to help! We have the right supplies for anyone even you! Let us know what you need!

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  2. Ace Your Next Inspection

    Restaurant inspection time can be very stressful for employees and restaurant owners alike. Taking the time in advance to ensure an inspection goes well can be difficult, but we highly recommend it. Not only will it reduce your anxiety when inspection day comes, but it will ensure that in the future, you never fail an inspection again.


    Basic Food Sanitation


    While everyone is aware of this, sometimes things can slide to the back burner when the restaurant gets busy, or when employees aren’t checking loose ends. Get back to basics and check out the list below to make sure that your food sanitation measures are up to par.


    • Store food for the proper amount of time and at proper temperatures

    • Correct cleaning and sanitizing of all utensils, equipment, and food contact surfaces

    • Proper employee personal hygiene and frequent washing of hands and arms, including covering any flesh wounds

    • Suitable basic cleaning and maintenance

    While most restaurants have an organized daily checklist for these procedures, going back to the drawing board and making sure that you have all areas covered is definitely worth it.


    Employee Personal Hygiene


    In the weeks or months leading up to the inspection, it’s worth it to sit down with your employees and revisit the employee handbook for proper hygiene procedures at work.

    The majority of foodborne illnesses are caused by bacteria or other microorganisms that are passed by those who work with food. All processes in food service can potentially impact food safety, such as purchasing, storing, preparing, serving, and cleaning.


    Is Your Sanitizer Up to the Task?

    Likely, you’ve been using the same trusted brand for years. Make sure that the sanitizer you’re using is listed with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Read the label to make sure the product is effective against the bacteria you want to destroy. It is also important the sanitizer is appropriate for the food equipment you plan to sanitize. Make sure all of your employees are trained in the use of the sanitizer. It is even worth it to re-train employees that have been with your restaurant leading up to the inspection on proper sanitization techniques.



    In conclusion, don’t let the inspection be a source of stress! Go back to the drawing board, revisit the manual, and make sure that you and your employees are educated on and using the latest sanitation techniques and you will have nothing to worry about.


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  3. How to Keep Employees and Reduce Turnover

    If you've been in the business for a while, you know that turnover can be an issue for your restaurant. Restaurant turnover rates can be higher than 60% a year, and can cost over $5,000 in expenses for the restaurant per employee. Not only is it expensive, but it can reduce the morale of the rest of your employees, which can lead to even more issues. Clearly, this problem is worth discussing. Today we dive into the root of this problem and how to ameliorate it.

        



    Hire People You Believe In


    Take your time with the hiring process. As tempting as it can be to get someone on the schedule when you’re in a fix, it’s worth it to take time to hire the right people to do the job. Beyond skills and resume, consider character when you’re interviewing someone. You shouldn’t hire someone based off of character alone, but it’s an incredibly important factor in creating a long-lasting, trustworthy staff. Make sure you check references and employment history. Have they held any jobs longer than 3 months? A year? These are definitely things worth considering when hiring new staff members .


    Take Time to Train New Staff


       As mentioned above, the urge to get new staff members out on the floor when you’re in a pinch can be overwhelming. However, taking a couple weeks to make sure someone is ready is more than worth it. Make sure that you assign new employees a mentor, and that they have adequate time to shadow them. If your employees feel that they’re working a dead-end job with little room for advancement, chances are they’ll leave sooner rather than later. If your employees feel that you’re invested in their success, it’s more likely that they will stay.



    Encourage Feedback


    Your employees should feel like they should be tell you anything, to a certain point. While the boundary between boss and friend can be difficult for some to find, it’s key in keeping good relationships with your staff. Respect obviously goes a long way, but so does empathy and understanding. Listen to your staff’s problems with open ears, and you’ll notice they feel more valued. It can be as simple as working with an employee through a scheduling conflict, or listening to a personal problem. Whatever that looks like for you and your staff, we encourage you to find it.



    Make Them Feel Appreciated

    Beyond everything we’ve mentioned so far, making a staff member feel appreciated may be the most important. Staff members that feel under payed or undervalued are more likely to leave than those who feel invested in the business and appreciated for their time and efforts. High employee turnover is widespread in our industry but it doesn’t have to be the case for you. As long as you hire the right people, provide proper training, encourage communication, and show your appreciation, your staff will be much more likely to stick with you through thick and thin.



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  4. How To Calculate Liquor Cost in Your Bar or Restaurant

    liquor cost

    • “Why aren’t we making any money?” 
    • “I know people are stealing, I just can’t find out where or how.” 
    • “I have no idea if my happy hour is making me any money!” 

    These questions, along with roughly eight out of every ten questions asked by owners in our industry, can all be answered through understanding and analyzing your bar's liquor cost. Also known as COGS, your Cost of Goods (the cost of the goods you purchase and use to create revenue), is the nucleus of every successful restaurant.

    So, how do exactly can you calculate your bar's liquor cost?

    Calculating Liquor Costs

    There are very specific nuances related to the management of food and beverage costs; today we’re going to focus our attention on liquor costs.

    Managing your profitability with regard to beer, liquor, wine, as well as any non-alcoholic beverages, represents the single greatest differentiator between success in the food-service industry, and being a part of the 26% who don’t make it through the first year.

    If you’ve managed a bar or restaurant for longer than a minute, you’ve undoubtedly asked or been asked, “what’s your PC?” or, “what’s your Beverage Cost?” or perhaps, “what is your COGS?” 

    Knowing the answer, and how to calculate your liquor cost, can be the difference between life and death in the restaurant industry. Let's take a look at the liquor cost formula, how to use it to manage your spend, and find cost savings opportunitiesfor your business.

    Do The Math

    Managing your liqour costs begins with knowing the formula for calculating COGS: OI+P-EI/S

    Broken down as:

    OIOpening Inventory, or what you had on the shelf at the beginning of the week, 
    plus
    PPurchases, or what product you’ve purchased within that week
    minus
    EIEnding Inventory, or what you had at the end of the week
    divided by
    S) Sales, or by what you sold, 

     equals PC or COGS, your product usage.  

    Let’s put a face on this formula.  Here’s an example for calculating your liquor cost.

       OI   +    P    -   EI    /     S =     PC or COGS

    Liquor: $1906 + $6398 - $2425 / $23,000 = $5879 (25.56%)

    1. Our OI (Opening Inventory) of $1906 represents the total stock value of our previous weeks’ inventory. 
    2. Our P (Purchases) of $6398 represents all of the liquor that we purchased during the week. 
    3. Our EI (Ending Inventory) of $2425 represents the total stock value of the current weeks’ inventory.
    4. Our Sales (Liquor Sales) of $23,000 represents the revenue the business brought in from selling beverages assigned to a liquor sales category. 
    5. The PC or COGS (liquor Product Cost or Cost of Goods) of $5879 or 25.56% represents the answer to the question, What’s your liquor cost? or What’s your Liquor PC?

    Now that you have an understanding of how to calculate your liquor costs, let’s press on and address the reasons why it’s important to know your liquor cost, and some of our best practices for managing liquor costs successfully.

    The Why

    Having a keen understanding of your liquor cost enables you to protect your franchise players (liquor items) and ensure your restaurant is profitable

    Using the example above, we know that for every dollar in sales roughly 25 cents is used to pay for the liquor. This leaves you with 75 cents of gross margin.  

    Think about that for a moment: It takes a lot less to earn the 75 cents on each liquor item sold, than it does to earn 65-70 cents for each food menu item sold. This means, the labor needed to make and deliver each drink is significantly less than each menu item.  

    Pro Tip: This is why it’s dumb to focus on discounting booze for Happy Hour, as opposed to creating a value driven Happy Hour food menu. Liquor sales contribute to an organization’s net profit far more than food sales contribute.

    The How 

    While business priorities in the restaurant industry are hotly debated, two that are high on everyone’s list are theft prevention behind the bar and proper purchasing strategy.

    Behind-The-Bar Theft Prevention

    Your customers want alcohol, and your employees not only control said alcohol, but work for tips. There are a variety of ways for bar staff to cheat the system, and use their powers for evil, not good. The following best practices should always be implemented behind the bar.

      • Weekly Bar Inventory – Performing weekly bar inventory enables you to readily see the variance in your INV levels, as well as the relationship between your purchasing dollars against the sales revenue.

      • Consistency in Counting – Always having two people count and record the same way every week provides you the accuracy you need to readily spot anomalies in your bottle usage and stock value.

      • Repair & Maintenance Issues – By counting weekly it also keeps you aware of the surrounding facilities and equipment to be proactive on preventative maintenance concerns.

      • Breakage Book & Comp Tabs – The breakage book, also known as a Bottle Book is a tool that allows you to readily check your usage against your sales to clearly see if a team member has a pension to giving away a specific type of alcohol as well as controlling waste or spill.  For an added benefit it is always recommended to provide your bartenders with a Comp Tab.  Comp Tabs enables your bartenders to build your business and while you maintain control of how much product is being given away or promoted to do so.  

    Proper Purchasing Strategy

    Using your COGS to influence your purchasing strategy is a great way of turning data insights into tangible cost savings. 

    By tracking your restaurant’s sales and spend on a weekly basis in a weekly purchase journal, you’ll be able to zero in low on slow selling items and make spending cuts accordingly. 

    Using a declining budget based off of forecasted sales each week will allow you to keep Inventory levels lower, more easily track variances in your inventory, and cash in the bank. As an added bonus, having an inventory system will ensure that your stock value (total sum of inventory value) is accurate against your purchases for that week.

    This article is compliments of Toast.

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

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  5. National Food Holidays in 2018: Marketing Calendar for Restaurants

    2018 food holidays

    With 2018 comes a new year and a new opportunity to impress your guests every single day.

    We all know about Mother's DayChristmas, and Valentine's Day - but in your restaurant, do you observe the popular national food holidays?

    I'm talking about everyone's real favorite days of the year - National Taco Day, National Shrimp Day, National Cheeseburger Day, and all the other national food days.

    Arguably, national food holidays are more important to your restaurant than the more "traditionally observed" holidays because, in a way, these days were made for restaurants. It's up to you to come up with creative restaurant promotions and marketing ideas to bring more customers into your restaurants on these days. 

    These national food days are also a fantastic opportunity to leverage your restaurant's loyalty program and sell more gift cards throughout the year.

    Here are 16 popular food days and national food holidays you can start planning for in your restaurant. Be sure to take note of them in your 2018 Restaurant Marketing Calendar.

    Download the 2018 Restaurant Marketing Calendar

    National Chocolate Cake Day – January 27

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    National Chocolate Cake Day (January 27) celebrates a staple of the restaurant industry – from bakeries and cafés, to Happy Birthday sing-a-longs at casual dining chains, to exquisite Bavarian delight in fine dining restaurants. Since desserts are among the most highly marked-up sections of the menu, don't dismiss this dessert's day.

    Try out a couple ideas for your National Chocolate Cake Day promotion:

    1. Bake a limited-edition National Chocolate Cake Day cake.
    2. Offer a free chocolate cake slice per table.
    3. Give a coupon for a free slice of cake for a guest's next visit. 

    National Pizza Day – February 9

    national pizza day

    National Pizza Day (February 9) is just around the corner! Pizzerias rejoice - this is one of America's most beloved foods, with 3 billion pizzas being sold each year in this country alone. If you create a promotion to celebrate the true joy that pizzas bring, your customers will definitely embrace it.

    If your restaurant sells pizza, try one of these promotions for National Pizza Day:

    1. Half-price pizzas with two or more toppings.
    2. A free small cheese pizza with the purchase of a $25 gift card.
    3. A complimentary slice of pizza to everyone who stops by and is a member of your loyalty program.

    To raise awareness of whatever promotion you decide on, share the special on your restaurant social media pages and send out an alert to your customer database and loyalty program members. 

    National Margarita Day – February 22

    national margarita day

    National Margarita Day (February 22) is clearly here for the 21+ crowd. Have some fun with this one for your bar or full service restaurant!

    Consider one of these promotions:

    1. Offer an extended happy hour to celebrate the day.
    2. Host an event for unlimited or discounted margaritas. Sell tickets in advance and serve light apps or chips and salsa. 
    3. Keep it simple and offer half-off margaritas.

    National Shrimp Day – May 10

    national shrimp day

    National Shrimp Day (May 10) lands just as the weather starts to get warmer and people get excited for summer months. Bars offering shrimp cocktail and classier seafood restaurants could see a surge in business. Acknowledge the day with one of these promotions. 

    1. Host a "Cocktails and Shrimp Cocktail" event in your bar. 
    2. Make your specials menu entirely shrimp-centric. 
    3. Offer a free fried shrimp appetizer with the purchase of any other appetizer. 

    National Wine Day – May 25

    national wine day

    National Wine Day (May 25) promotions will be most successful in bars, full service, and fine dining restaurants. Whether you have a limited selection or a wide array of fine wines, bring attention to your vino menu with one of these ideas.

    1. Offer a complimentary sampler of wines during dinner when guests order a meal over $40.
    2. Highlight a few featured wines that are new to your menu and aren't getting the attention they deserve. Add them to a special National Wine Day menu and sell them for a lower price to see if your guests enjoy the drink or determine if you should remove them from your menu.
    3. Offer a prix-fixe menu and include some of your finest wines as the selected beverages.

    Whatever you decide to do, it might be beneficial to turn Wine Day into Wine Week, especially if it falls on a weekday. Make the announcement on your restaurant's website and social media pages.

    National Egg Day – June 3

    national egg day

    National Egg Day (June 3) opens up a ton of possibilities for diners and for restaurants that offer breakfast. Whether you scramble 'em, fry 'em, or hard boil 'em, people love eggs, with the average American eating 250 eggs each year. Here are some ways restaurants can capitalize on this.

    1. Discounted omelets all day long. After all, who says no to breakfast for dinner?
    2. Bonus loyalty points for members of your loyalty program who stop in to visit and order a dish with eggs.
    3. Free toppings in omelets today only.

    For National Egg Day, share your promotion idea on any signs or boards you have in your restaurant so your regulars know it's coming up.

    National Onion Ring Day – June 22

    national onion ring day

    National Onion Ring Day (June 22) may just be the predecessor to the next major national food holiday (more on that later), but it's still a chance to bring some attention to an otherwise underrated appetizer. Try a couple of these ideas to get some sales rolling. 

    1. Charge a fee for upgrading to onion rings? Nix that for the day. 
    2. Give all tables a free onion ring tower if they purchase drinks. 
    3. The week before June 22, give all patrons a coupon for a free side of onion rings if they come in on the 22nd. 

    National French Fries Day – July 13

    national french fries day

    National French Fries Day (July 13) honors the staple side dish of almost every American meal. Some restaurants show their french fry appreciation in many forms: curly, sweet potato, parmesan truffle, you name it. Try some of these strategies to boost sales on National French Fries Day.

    1. Pizzerias can throw in an order of fries to all orders of $15 or more - even those that don't ask for it! This is called surprise and delight, and your customers will be gleefully taken aback.
    2. Fancier restaurants can offer a complimentary side of house fries (like parmesan truffle or sweet potato) at all tables.
    3. Post that it's National French Fries Day on your social media channels and say that all members of your loyalty program who come in and say "Happy National French Fry Day!" get a free side of fries. (Also mention that if they're not a member of your loyalty program they can easily join!)

    For promotion, it's best to stick to social media for this one. You can even try posting the announcement to your Story on Snapchat!

    National Vanilla Ice Cream Day – July 23

    national ice cream day

    "Anyone care for dessert?" 

    To get more of your guests to answer "yes" to that question, try these strategies on National Ice Cream Day (June 23).

    1. Any dessert with ice cream is buy one, get one free.
    2. Make any dessert a la mode at no extra cost. 
    3. Gift card special for the week: free ice cream cone/dish when a guest purchases a gift card $20 or more.

    National Oyster Day – August 5

    national oyster day

    National Oyster Day (August 5) finally brings us around to seafood restaurants, which have been waiting for their turn on the National Food Day calendar all year. Now that it's here, try these promotion ideas.

    1. All-you-can-eat oyster bar for a discounted price.
    2. Host an oyster eating contest at your restaurant. 
    3. Give a complimentary coupon for a free side order of oysters on the next visit when guests buy a $50 gift card.

    National Cheeseburger Day - September 18

    national cheeseburger day

    That picture is making me very hungry and I now wish that National Cheeseburger Day (September 18) were tomorrow. When it finally does arrive, these ideas may be worth a try.

    1. No charge for cheese or extra cheese on a burger. (It's National Cheeseburger Day, after all!).
    2. Double loyalty points when someone buys a cheeseburger today (and double points when someone signs up today).
    3. Free drink and fries with the purchase of any cheeseburger.

    Start promoting a week or two in advance. Social media is best, and reaching out to your customer base via email marketing will also work well. 

    National Coffee Day - September 29

    national coffee day

    Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee every day - it's almost like every day is National Coffee Day. Regardless, here are some ideas to help you celebrate.

    1. Free coffee for your loyalty program members. If money is tight at your restaurant or cafe, try offering a free coffee with the purchase of a pastry or food item (or vice versa).
    2. BOGO coffee when you come in with a friend.
    3. Complimentary coffee after a meal for fine dining restaurants.

    National Taco Day - October 4

    national taco day

    Forget Cinco de Mayo; October 4th is the real National Taco Day. Here are some ways you can embrace tacos in your restaurant.

    • $2 tacos all night long with the purchase of a drink.
    • Experiment with a limited-time taco menu - taco pizza, fish tacos, etc.
    • Taco eating contest. Enough said.

    National Nacho Day – November 6

    national nacho day

    National Nacho Day (November 6) embraces the classic bar snack. Add guacamole, chicken, salsa, corn, you name it. Everything seems to go with nachos. Promoting your National Nacho Day specials on your restaurant Instagram account with enticing images of chips smothered in melted cheese will have millennials flocking to your restaurant. 

    Here are a few options for specials:

    1. Offer free add-ons to any basic nachos.
    2. Promote a special of bottomless nachos with the purchase of any drink.
    3. Host bar trivia. The winning team wins a gift card redeemable for ten free nacho appetizers over the year.

    National Cookie Day – December 4

    national cookie day

    National Cookie Day can be a big seller for your cafe or bakery. Use social media to help promote one of these strategies.

    1. Complimentary dozen of cookies with the purchase of a $25 gift card and/or half off a dozen of cookies for everyone.
    2. One free cookie to everyone in your loyalty program and/or one free cookie with the purchase of another item for everyone else.
    3. Sell a limited-time cookie variety box with limited time varieties. Listen to the feedback you get and consider adding one of the types to your menu!

    Aside from social media, leveraging your customer database here is another smart idea.

    National Lager Day – December 10

    national lager day

    Cheers to you, National Lager Day! December 10 is the time to grab a glass and be thankful for the beers in your life. These days, Americans are obsessed with hoppy craft IPAs. If you have any German or Euro-inspired lagers, showcase them on your draft line this day. 

    Here are a few ideas you can give a whirl:

    1. Replace all of your ale kegs with lagers.
    2. If you can't swap out your kegs cost-effectively, offer half-off lagers. 
    3. Have a "two bears for the price of one" special to fill more seats at the bar.

    Preparing for National Food Days in Your Restaurant

    These are just ten of the hundreds of National Food Days and National Food Holidays your restaurant may want to prepare for. But how can you plan for the rest, not to mention every other holiday, like Mother's Day, Christmas, and Easter?

    We know how challenging it can be for restaurants to balance their marketing over the course of the year. 

    That's why we've whipped up a 2018 Restaurant Marketing Calendar. It's an interactive template you can use to plan out your marketing budget, activities, and promotions alongside 2018's national food days.

    We also connect you with the resources you'll need to formulate a restaurant marketing budget best fit for your restaurant.

    We've already made a dent in 2018 - it's time to start planning for the rest of the year in your restaurant.

    This article is compliments of Toast.

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

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  6. 8 Things to Avoid When Managing a Restaurant in 2018

    restaurant trends in 2018

    The New Year always brings about a sense that things can be better. It’s like you get a mulligan for the last year; a fresh start filled with hope, promise, and ambition.

    This article is compliments of Toast.

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

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  7. 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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  8. 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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  9. 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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  10. 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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