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9 ways to maximize menu profitability

Too often, restaurant menus have catchy descriptions, gorgeous photos and an attractive layout, but are missing a key ingredient: They aren’t driving profitability.

Certainly, you should have a visually appealing menu that matches your restaurant’s brand. But beyond doing that well, it’s important to use the menu to your advantage financially.

By using key performance metrics, both financially (such as product mix and profitability) and operationally (such as speed of service, quality and SKU utilization), you can better understand what items are good candidates for menu features, deletion or product re-engineering. This approach also takes emotions out of the picture.

With this in mind, here are nine tips to help maximize your menu:

1.     First and foremost, take stock of your current menu offerings. Use point-of-sale data to understand demand for items and how the product’s volume compares to its overall profitability (price less theoretical food cost).

2.     Promote and feature items that are profitable and wide-reaching. For example, a profitable item that has a polarizing taste profile may never become highly popular, even if it’s pictured on the menu.

3.     In addition to customer reach, ensure that the product can be executed easily (speed of service) and consistently (quality). And, more importantly, it needs to be something that embodies and represents your brand. This may be the first experience for that guest, and it may be your only chance to convert that guest to a regular user.

Read the full article here:

5 key metrics to running a profitable restaurant

Running a restaurant is no easy feat. We can only act on what we know, and too many operators don’t know what they don’t know. To keep costs down while getting the most out of every hour, meal and cover, you need to know what drives important deliverables like repeat purchases, faster turn times and high tickets.

It comes down to a combination of the tastes of your guests and staff performance. These aspects aren’t easy to guess, and they require a look at several key metrics. Not only does this data need to be made available to managers, but it also needs to be easy to understand (and acted upon) to make the most of every shift.

1. Historical sales trends: Historical sales trends show how your sales today compare to the previous day or the same day last week, month, quarter or year. This type of detailed data is important to record and save daily to understand whether business is trending up or down. It’s one of the most effective ways for a restaurant to forecast and plan.

Reacting quickly can only be done when enough information is gathered to proactively strategize. For instance, running a huge promotion during the Phoenix summer won’t be as effective as it will during the winter, when the snowbirds return. Trending sales data lets you understand exactly what’s popular when — and why — well in advance.

2. New vs. repeat guest breakdowns: Another important metric to track is new vs. returning customers. Converting a new customer is difficult, and the lifetime value of each needs to be as high as possible to create the most return for your marketing and advertising budget. When you know how much business comes from repeat guests, you’ll better understand how to drive loyalty in a cost-effective way.

Every restaurant needs regulars to make its menu items the talk of the town and drive new business. According to a recent study by the National Restaurant Association, repeat customers make up 71 percent of sales at quick service; 68 percent at fast casual; 64 percent at casual dining; 63 percent at family dining; and 51 percent at fine dining. No matter how much you spend on marketing, it can’t compete with a customer recommendation.

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Offer hydrating menu options this summer

For restaurant guests looking to beat the summer heat, serve hydrating, stand-out specialties that can become your seasonal staples. Experiencing culinary brain freeze? Play with classic and complex flavor profiles and track what resonates most with your guests.

Here are a handful of ideas that can inspire your tastemakers:

  • Popsicles. Made with 100 percent fruit juice, water, fruit and even spices like ginger, popsicles can appeal to all age groups. Before freezing for a few hours, consider pouring your mixtures into uniquely-shaped molds to make your presentation even more appealing.
  • Shaved ice. For a light, scoopable dessert, pour juice over finely shaved ice. Select serving vessels – tall glasses, elegant bowls, portable cones – that fit the atmosphere of your restaurant.
  • Slushies. In a blender, incorporate ice, juice and fruit until the concoction is almost liquefied. Top off with a fruit skewer that complements the beverage’s flavor.
  • Infused waters. Slice fruit and submerge it in a large, covered vat of water. Place in the refrigerator and serve refreshingly cold. According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2016 What’s Hot chefs’ survey, infused waters are a top 10 beverage trend.

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Suggested gratuities inch up to an 18-percent minimum

Is the 15-percent tip going away?

Among a growing number of restaurants that print a suggested gratuity on guest checks, it appears to be.

The trend was highlighted last week, after news emerged of a California Restaurant Association campaign being tested among restaurants in Palo Alto, Calif.

The goal is to raise awareness about the economic challenges restaurants face, said Sharokina Shams, the CRA’s vice president of communications.

On guest checks, the participating restaurants are printing the statement: “We love our guests … FYI: On average, for every $1 spent eating in the USA, about 95 cents goes to food, the place and a GREAT staff!”

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Re-engineering your kids’ menu? Try these 8 healthful tips from the NRA

Get input from parents and children to design kids’ meals that are nutritious, satisfying and tasty. The payoff: options that appeal to children are good for your sales.

Three participants of the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell program share how they developed winning kids’ meals. Discover best practices from Arby’sApplebee’s and bd’s Mongolian to get started:

Make sure your menu evolves to keep pace with kids’ changing tastes. Applebee’s started with what seemed fun for kids and added a few “stealth healthy” options, says Darin Dugan, senior vice president of marketing and culinary. “We approached the new menu by asking what kids and parents wanted and let that steer our development,” Dugin says. “The result has been very encouraging.”

Find out what consumers are looking for. Applebee’s studied kids’ preferences through focus groups, surveys and in-restaurant testing. The result: a menu that offers a breadth of choices and healthy options that kids want to eat. Today, it offers 10 Kids LiveWell-approved meals, which Dugin says are popular with guests.

“We’ve learned to listen to guests, whether they’re kids or adults,” he says. “Use those insights to engineer a menu that meets their needs in creative ways.”

Match what parents feel good about serving their children with food their kids will eat.  Like Applebee’s, Arby’s conducted focus groups and quantitative research to find out what customers were looking for. During the 10-month testing process, the company discovered parents weren’t necessarily looking to count calories for their kids, but they wanted wholesome options to choose from, says Debbie Domer, director of brand marketing.

For example, parents said they wanted more fruit, so the 3,400-unit chain added apple slices to the menu. It also added a salad and turkey and cheese sandwich to the kids’ menu and switched to low-fat milk, juice and bottled water as default beverages.

While Arby’s still sells more kids’ meals with curly fries than apple slices, the changes are paying off. “It’s getting good response from a sales perspective and positive feedback from moms who are happy with our new offerings,” Domer says. “We feel we’re making a real impact with our consumers.”

Read the full article here:’-menu-Try-these-8-healthf

10 legal issues for restaurant operators to watch

Article originally published by Nation’s Restaurant News

With the election of Donald Trump as president, labor-related stress that restaurant operators have experienced in recent months may soon relax. However, new federal, state and municipal regulations will impact operators in 2017. Regardless of federal policy, restaurants will face uncertainty when it comes to employment and regulations.

Here are 10 legal developments that should be front and center for operators this year:

1. Overtime

In early 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor published a final rule updating regulations governing the exemption of executive, administrative and professional employees from the minimum wage and overtime pay protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act. This rule doubles the annual salary threshold that generally determines who qualifies for overtime pay under federal law, from $23,660 to $47,476.


The rule dramatically impacts restaurants with mid-management employees. It was scheduled to go into effect on Dec. 1, 2016, but in late November, a federal judge in Texas blocked the rule nationwide, after 21 states joined to file a lawsuit alleging that the new overtime regulations were an unconstitutional exercise of power.

Additionally, Trump has nominated Andy Puzder as secretary of labor. Puzder, formerly CEO of CKE Restaurants Holdings Inc., parent to Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, is an outspoken critic of worker protections enacted by the Obama administration. A labor department under Puzder is unlikely to take a favorable view of the new overtime rule, and it is likely to be scrapped or significantly revised.

2. Minimum wage

Wages are always a pressure point for restaurants. While some states and municipalities have recently increased the minimum wage, the federal minimum wage remains at $7.25 per hour. Early in his campaign, Trump suggested that he would support a federal minimum wage increase to $10 per hour. But it is more likely that the Trump administration will leave the issue to state and local legislatures, rather than push Congress to act at the federal level.

Many states are acting on their own to boost the minimum wage, which has a significant impact on the restaurant industry. For example, effective Jan. 1, 2017, the California minimum wage increased to $10.50 per hour for employers with more than 25 employees. Employers with 25 or fewer employees are not subject to the increase until 2018. The statute provides for annual increases until the minimum wage reaches $15 per hour for large employers in 2022, and for small employers in 2023.

3. Marijuana and the workplace

In November, California voters approved Proposition 64, legalizing the recreational sale, possession and use of marijuana. This has raised several immediate questions about what, if anything, employers should do, and whether Prop. 64 created any new employee rights.

Ultimately, Prop. 64 does not generate new concerns for California employers that did not already exist when the medical use of marijuana became legal (Prop. 215). Following the passage of Prop. 215 in 1996, employers were faced with issues concerning drug testing, possession or use of marijuana at the jobsite or during working hours, dealing with employees possibly under the influence, and what the employer legally could or could not do upon discovering that an employee was using marijuana for medical purposes while working. Generally, Prop. 64 does not change the current legal landscape in the employment area.

Many employers have a mandatory drug testing policy, and legalization complicates this process somewhat, as the presence of a legal drug in someone’s system prior to starting employment is not necessarily an indicator of their propensity to abuse illegal narcotics or to be intoxicated on the job. Similarly, such a common pre-work screening could violate an individual’s privacy regarding a medical condition.

But this is nothing new, as the same concerns existed after the passage of Prop. 215. However, employers may wish to re-communicate workplace policies to employees, as they specifically relate to marijuana use in light of Prop. 64, so that employees do not mistakenly assume that workplace policies changed with the passage of the proposition. Violations of marijuana use policies should be documented, and, like all employee information, considered as a whole when determining an employee’s current and future status with the company. Employees who feel aggrieved are apt to seek recourse, and while an employer may have a sound basis for a termination, it is best to avoid giving a former, or even a current, employee, a pretext for seeking representation.

4. Joint-employer liability

The National Labor Relations Board decision in the Browning-Ferris Industries case, which is currently on appeal, has created a wave of issues in the restaurant industry, including conflict between franchisors and franchisees over which is liable when lawsuits arise, as well as increased liability when working with contractors.

In its highly controversial BFI decision, the NLRB revised its test for the joint-employer doctrine, dramatically easing the criteria for a company to be considered a joint-employer. For many decades, the traditional joint-employer test focused on governance, wage and supervision decisions, and “direct and immediate” control. The test excluded “limited and routine” oversight and supervision, because “hiring, firing, discipline, supervision and direction” were not considered essential or meaningful to the employment relationship. Under the new standard, a finding of joint-employment is much broader, and only requires that a business exercise “indirect” (or potential) control over workers. Hence, under the new test, a company may not only be held liable for its own labor violations, but also for those of the other entity.

The BFI case is relevant not only to franchisor/franchisee relationships, but all relationships in which tasks and responsibilities are outsourced. The recent joint-employer rulings affect all companies that outsource any aspect of their business. This includes contractors, suppliers or even outsourced cleaning or IT work. All of these business relationships can now be subject to review under the new joint-employer standard.

Unfortunately for restaurant owners, the appellate court is unlikely to adjudicate the matter until later in 2017, thereby ensuring that joint employment will remain a critical labor issue in the interim. It remains to be seen how the appeal will play out in the courts, and to what extent the Republican administration will relax this joint-employer standard.

5. Predictive scheduling

In November 2014, San Francisco became the first U.S. jurisdiction to pass predictive scheduling legislation. Seattle and New York introduced similar laws in 2016. Another bill has been drafted, but delayed, in Washington D.C., and a California statewide bill was advanced early in 2016, only to be tabled by the state senate. It is safe to say that this is becoming a trend, and one that restaurateurs must watch closely.

A recently introduced New York bill, for example, requires quick-service employers to schedule a majority of expected shifts and publicly post a workplace schedule two weeks in advance. It also forces employers to provide additional compensation when workers are required to accommodate last-minute changes to their schedules for reasons within employers’ ability to plan or control. The bill purports to address problems created by the practice of “clopenings,” or shifts that require employees to consecutively work closing and opening shifts with fewer than 10 hours between.

Although the New York legislation would only affect quick-service restaurants, we may see efforts to extend the reach of the law to other restaurants in New York City. As operators work to stay competitive, regulations like the one proposed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio place further strain on the industry. Such bills dramatically limit management’s flexibility in an industry that already must be creative with scheduling in order to meet demand and control labor costs.

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Assess your buys to manage food costs

Originally Posted by the National Restaurant Association

Restaurant operators finally got some relief from increasing food costs in 2015, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2016 Restaurant Industry Forecast. However, this was the first decline in wholesale food prices in six years, leaving overall food costs elevated. Try these strategies to boost your bottom line.

  • Feature affordable quality. Track food prices; on the individual commodity level, the USDA expects declines in beef and eggs this year after sharp increases in recent years, according to the NRA’s 2016 Forecast. Meanwhile, beef prices are expected to continue their rise. Review your menu and recipes for affordable alternatives. For example, use pollock or swai rather than the more costly Atlantic cod, recommends Bruce Reinstein, chief operating officer for Consolidated Concepts, a purchasing partner that focuses on supporting multi-unit restaurants with leveraged buying and consulting. For meats and poultry, consider less expensive cuts, like chickens thighs, which pump up your profits while going easy on customers’ wallets.
  • Review your produce specifications. Too often, restaurants pay more than needed for produce because they’re not selecting the most appropriate variety and grade for their use, says Consolidated Concept’s Reinstein. For example, a restaurant might automatically specify No. 1 grade avocados. “But the real difference between No. 1 and No. 2 grade is how the avocado looks on the outside; it has no effect on the inside,” he says. “If you buy No. 2 grade, you’re going to save money and still have the quality.” Consolidated Concepts offers a produce management program that includes monitoring specifications and negotiating contracts.
  • Join a purchasing group. Because of their sheer volume of purchases, large chains often negotiate favorable deals. “The only way an independent restaurant can compete with the chains in terms of food costs is to join a purchasing group,” says Linda Lipsky, a Broomall, Pennsylvania-based restaurant consultant. Collective groups, such as Dining Alliance, Consolidated Concepts’ sister company, let independents gain purchasing power by pooling their procurements.
  • Compare apples to apples. When bidding out items, be careful that you’re making a true comparison between items. For example, if you’re comparing the prices for a case of tomatoes, factor in any differences in yield, urges Reinstein. Just because one vendor offers a case for less, doesn’t automatically make it a better deal.
  • Get set to prep. Consider doing more prep work in-house, rather than buying items already cut and prepped. Instead of purchasing precut 4-ounce chicken breasts, you’ll pay less per pound for pieces that randomly weigh 4-6 ounces, points out Lipsky. So, by trimming the excess chicken in-house, you’ll also trim food costs. Don’t throw away those savings by trashing the chicken trimmings; incorporate them into other dishes like a Caesar salad topped with grilled chicken. Conduct a make/buy analysis to determine where this approach makes sense for you; don’t forget to factor in labor costs.
  • Lock in prices. By signing a contract, you can shield yourself from surging prices, due to extreme weather conditions and other unpredictable factors, says Reinstein.
  • Don’t let your crew eat your profits. Minimize costly order errors by training your front-of-the-house team on how to accurately record and check guests’ orders and your back-of-the-house team on time and temperature indicators of readiness. Discard any items sent back to the kitchen and record them as waste.
  • Remember the 80/20 rule. As a general rule, about 80 percent of your food costs come from 20 percent of your items, says Reinstein. Negotiate good deals on these core items, he advises, but don’t overlook the other items. “I’ve seen restaurants that grossly overpay on the other 20 percent.”
  • Root out hidden costs. Beware of hidden costs like freight charges, says Reinstein. Be sure to negotiate these upfront. Audit your invoices to ensure that you pay for only what you receive and that no extra charges are tacked on.

Ben E. Keith Company Acquires MenuMax

Fort Worth, Texas - Ben E. Keith Company has acquired MenuMax, a recipe and menu management software company that provides innovative solutions for the foodservice industry. The sale was complete on November 1, 2016 and terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

MenuMax offers a fully automated cloud based recipe and menu management system that assists in organizing and planning menus, calculating food costs and nutrition, maximizing efficiency and increasing operator profit margins.

“The MenuMax solutions will strengthen Ben E. Keith’s customer-centric digital platform as we continue to improve our suite of applications for our customers,” said Jim Ashley, Chief Information Officer at Ben E. Keith.

Ben E. Keith will continue to service its current MenuMax customers, as well as offer and expand the brand and services for all foodservice users throughout the industry.

“In today’s environment, the foodservice operator is looking for innovations to help manage their operations, and with this addition of MenuMax to our portfolio of services, we feel it is a great opportunity for us to help in this area.  We continue to be known as the home of the independent operator and it is our responsibility to make sure we provide every tool available to help them grow their business,” said Ron Boyd, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing.

About Ben E. Keith Foods:

Established in Fort Worth, Texas in 1906, Ben E. Keith is the nation’s eighth largest broad line foodservice distributor and operates today with eight divisions shipping to fourteen states throughout the country.

For more information about Ben E. Keith contact:

David Werner, Vice President, Marketing. 817-759-6826.

Could higher minimum wages help casual dining?

This post is part of the On the Margin blog. Originally posted by Nation’s Restaurant News

Casual dining is still struggling, and that’s especially true for the bar-and-grill segment that dominated the sector for so long, as the 4.1-percent decline in same-store sales at Chili’s last quarter demonstrated.

Could higher minimum wages change that?

Several states are in the process of raising their minimum wages, promising to increase labor costs for restaurants across the country.

But a lot of the labor at restaurants is in the form of waitstaff, who in most states are paid lower wages because they receive tips, although a few states do not have any such tip credit.

Casual-dining concepts could therefore avoid some of the labor cost increases that their counterparts in the quick-service sector will have to deal with.

That could, at least in theory, help casual dining close the cost gap with higher-end quick-service concepts.

Casual dining has been in decline for a decade. One of the reasons is the need to provide that tip of 20 percent to a waiter or waitress, which increases the cost of dining.

Because they don’t have tip-credit workers, fast-casual and quick-service concepts might have to raise their prices at a higher rate. If customers ultimately see the price differential between the two has diminished, there could be a theoretical point where they return to casual-dining concepts.

“Raising the minimum wage could actually  benefit casual dining,” said Larry Miller, co-founder of the monthly MillerPulse survey. “They’re not going to feel the brunt of the increase in the minimum wage.”

Of course, there are many other reasons why casual dining has been in decline. For one thing, the brands are simply older, and customers like trying new things. In addition, time constraints have hurt the chains, especially during the crucial lunch daypart.

To be sure, casual dining certainly has labor-cost concerns, like overtime regulations, healthcare and recruitment. And casual-dining concepts on average spend more on labor than limited-service chains.

Higher minimum wages could push limited-service restaurants to use technology more aggressively to offset labor and make their businesses more efficient. As it is, McDonald’s and Panera Bread are toying with kiosks that, while not specifically a labor issue at the moment, could quickly evolve into one if labor costs increase too much.

There might be less potential for the casual-dining segment to offset labor costs with technology. Tabletop tablets that have become popular at so many chains could evolve into ordering technology, but ultimately those concepts are about service.

Nevertheless, there could be some very minor and very early evidence that casual dining is erasing the gap with quick service: According to Miller’s survey, casual-dining restaurants outperformed quick-service concepts in two of the year’s first three months.

Contact Jonathan Maze at
Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

How to utilize food inflation data

On a regular basis, the U.S. government measures the rate of price change throughout the country in all industries, including the restaurant and grocery sectors.

As restaurant owners and executives, this data is one of many metrics to review that can be used to compare price changes in your organization with price changes of the restaurant industry, as well as grocers. The data can also shed light on the competitive landscape.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) produces two indices related to the restaurant industry: Food Away From Home (FAFH) and Food At Home (FAH). FAFH measures the price of eating out, from quick-service to fine-dining establishments. FAH is the grocery index. It encapsulates food purchased from grocery stores (or other food stores), and food prepared by the consumer unit on trips.

Both indices provide important data for the restaurant industry that operators should understand. Reviewing FAFH data for your region helps you understand where your price changes fit among traditional restaurant competitors, while FAH tells you if you are also competing with non-traditional competitors (i.e. the refrigerator).

But while it’s important to pay attention to these indices, there are some caveats to keep in mind as you review the statistics.

Try to take as detailed a look as possible at FAFH data. It’s important not only to look at the overall index, but also to review the specific data for your region and segment if it’s available and appropriate.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases new information on a monthly basis for four U.S. regions: West, Midwest, South and Northeast; and the data is further subdivided by population density, separating areas of more than 1.5 million from those with fewer than 1.5 million (8 regions total based on this criteria). Furthermore, 14 major metropolitan areas are also reported on a regular basis. These figures are updated monthly or bi-monthly, so make sure you’re looking at the latest information.

In addition to regional figures, you could also look at the figures for your segment of the restaurant industry. However, these are only available at the national level. BLS breaks down FAFH segments as follows: full service (table service), limited service (quick service and takeout), employee sites and schools (cafeterias), and vending machines and mobile.

Understand how your organization might affect the index. If your organization is the dominant player in a segment or region, you may want to look at a broader view of the indices. Otherwise, if you only look at your segment, you’d be making comparisons in large part to your own organization, and of course, that isn’t very helpful.

The information is broad and might not capture the restaurants down the street from your location. While the indices break down by region and segment, they are likely not as granular or micro as you may like. It’s a fixed basket of goods that are shopped each month and you don’t know which products are shopped, how often the products are switched out, or if a new product or a brand-specific item is being shopped. And you don’t know how all of these factors affect the index.

For example, one of our consultants recently noticed an anomaly in the Atlanta metropolitan data. The Atlanta FAFH data had grown tremendously over recent months, much more so than other regions. After contacting the BLS regional office in Atlanta, it was determined that one restaurant in that market had a change in ownership, and with that raised prices dramatically. Because the Atlanta metropolitan market is a smaller subset, those price changes made a big enough impact to change the index.

For a good indicator of what is happening in your market, you also have to shop your competitors. If you want to know for certain where your competitors are priced at, you have to shop them yourself. This tactic also tells you if competitors are doing something to undercut your prices, if they are charging the same, or if they are making price changes before or after you. And you can’t rely on the prices a chain is advertising because those are often national advertisements and many local franchisees are able to operate autonomously.

Don’t forget to check FAH. Although we think of restaurants generally competing with other restaurants, in today’s environment, grocery continues to add new take-home offerings like deli sandwiches, rotisserie chicken, pre-made salads, etc. While your price changes might be competitive with other restaurants in your area, it’s also good to have a pulse on where you stand versus the grocery store.

Even with the aforementioned caveats, these indices are the best publicly available data for what is going on in the industry related to prices. Knowing what is going on in the competitive environment can help you better gauge what’s realistic as far as combating cost pressures, like minimum wage, with price increases.

For example, the national forecasts provided by the USDA’s Economic Research Service for FAFH and FAH in 2016 is 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent and 1 percent to 2 percent, respectively. If you find that you’d need price changes above 5 percent, for example, to offset upcoming cost pressures, this data signals that this will only be achievable if your restaurant can sustain additional price increases based on your customers’ willingness to pay. Depending on your perceived brand value, you may have to look to other areas within the business to offset those pressures (i.e. getting more customers in the door and/or cost-saving measures like decreasing waste or altering staffing levels).

The best way to know if you’re doing a good job with managing menu pricing is to review transactional data so you can have a deep understanding of how pricing impacts customer traffic and how it affects customer spending at your restaurants.

Original article posted by Nation’s Restaurant News:

6 Things You Never Knew Impacted Your Restaurant Order

There is more than meets the eye when it comes to deciding on your meal when you are dining out. Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab conducted a study on what factors play a role in your restaurant order. These 6 reasons will surprise you, and even make you wonder what other stimuli impact your dining experience.

Reason #1: Your Waiter’s BMI (body mass index)

  • Cornell researchers found that people were four times more likely to order dessert when their water had a high BMI.
  • Diners also drank more heavily when they had a waiter with a higher BMI– up to 17% more alcohol consumption.
  • How do scientists explain this? “Scientists say a heavier waiter might cause people to think ‘what the heck?’ and live it up.”

Reason #2: Your Dining Companions Weight

  • Being in the presence of someone who is overweight decreases the amount of food a regularly healthy person would order and increases unhealthy habits (while at the restaurant).

Reason #3: The Ambiance

  • A relaxed atmosphere makes you enjoy your dining experience more. Therefore, soft lighting, and relaxing music can convince diners that they are enjoying their food more than they actually thought.

Reason #4: The Names of Foods

  • People are much more likely to order descriptive menu items (i.e. “Succulent Italian Seafood Filet” vs. “Seafood Filet”).

Reason #5: The Order of a Buffet

  • The first foods in a buffet line are typically eaten the most and also influence the rest of your choices. The best place to start? The salad buffet.

Reason #6: Menu Specials

  • More people are likely to order a menu special/promotion because, simply, we are lazy when it comes to ordering.

Read entire article here

10 Steps to Improve Your Restaurant Inventory Process

Taking inventory is one of the most dreaded tasks in a restaurant, but also one of the most crucial. It is critical to measure the amount of food, supplies, and other products your restaurant uses in order to control food costs and maximize profitability, yet no one wants to do it. Many managers admit that they have overlooked inventory by not doing it thoroughly or frequently. By initiating some simple structure, taking inventory becomes a much more bearable task, and can improve efficiency.

Here are 10 steps to improve your inventory process:

  • Day of the week and time
    Establish the day of the week and time you wish to take inventory in order to create consistency. It is best to stick to the same day each week, and choose a time before the restaurant opens or after it closes, in order to get the most accurate count.
  • Assign the same two people to always take inventory
    Typically, the kitchen manager and general manager collaborate on inventory together. Each completes their own inventory, then compare results.
  • Take inventory frequently and before a new shipment arrives
    Inventory should be done at least once a week. Some items need to be monitored more frequently than others and should consistently be accounted for. Complete inventory before a new shipment arrives, then add the new stock to your count.
  • Clean out and organize stock areas before beginning inventory
    Dispose expired items and keep stock area organized.
  • Ensure all food and supplies are accounted for
    Make sure that all food gets rung in and accounted. Train servers and cooks to correctly track food that gets sent back and re-ordered, ruined, or comped, in order to have an accurate inventory count.
  • Use count sheets
    Count sheets allow you to track your inventory in a consistent and easy to read manner. They can also be used to track your inventory over time, and see patterns.
  • First In, First Out (FIFO)
    Utilize the FIFO system by rotating older items to the front of the shelves in order to get used first. This is also useful to see how many items are close to expiring, and shows you what item you have an excess of, and need to cut down the order.
  • Calibrate scales
    If you use scales to weigh inventory or measure portions, be sure to calibrate them weekly to ensure they work correctly.
  • Standardize unit cost
    Prices change almost weekly, and need to be accounted for. Always use the latest price paid as your standard.
  • Invest in accounting software
    Accounting software tracks your counts and can turn them into weekly reports. This allows you to view any changes or patterns from a weekly basis.

When a manager establishes structure and consistency for taking inventory, the process becomes much easier. Using the same managers, on the same day of the week, at the same time, and comparing numbers will give you the most accurate result.

See the original article here:

How Promoting Free Wi-Fi Helps Restaurants

BY for RMagazine

Restaurants are always trying to find new ways to increase customers, as well as gain their loyalty. Many restaurants have used the idea of giveaways as a promotional method to gain new customers. Giving stuff away for free you will attract the opportunists, but how long can you run a business like this for? Restaurant owners need to find ways to gain long-term loyalty, and one such method is to promote free Wi-Fi at your restaurant. Wireless Internet is one of the joys of modern technology, particularly for young people who find it difficult to pry themselves away from their smartphones and tablets. Restaurants, coffee shops and retail outlets have started offering free Wi-Fi access to customers as a way of gaining their loyalty, and you should definitely consider doing the same.

The Benefits of Offering Free Wi-Fi

Have you ever sat down in a coffee shop or restaurant and seen a sign that features a Wi-Fi code? You can use this code to log on to their servers and use the Internet for free. There is a good chance that whoever punches in this code will automatically have a newfound love for the establishment they’re sitting in, which in turn will inspire loyalty. If a customer knows they’re getting free Internet access with you, they’ll be coming back in the vast majority of cases.

Free Wi-Fi can benefit your restaurant in a number of ways besides allowing people to gain free access to the web.

For a start, customers who are using the web in your establishment are more likely to Tweet about where they are; upload a photo of their food to Instagram or check-in to your restaurant on Facebook or apps like Foursquare. This is free advertisement for your restaurant, and you got it just by offering free Internet access. Another useful tip for restaurateurs who are offering free Wi-Fi access to customers is to have an email sign-up attached to your access. This means that they will be asked to enter their email address when they log in to the Wi-Fi. Make sure that you give them an incentive to do so, including loyalty card sign-up, competitions, special offers and access to members only materials. You can guarantee that the majority of your customers will opt in, even if it’s just to say thanks for the free Internet access.

Things to consider

It’s important to remember that many hotels, restaurants, retail outlets and shopping malls don’t offer free Wi-Fi, and sometimes the ones that do aren’t supplying high speed internet. The only thing worse than no Internet access is slow Internet access, so make sure that your supplier is giving you a great connection. Many hotels will charge their guests for Wi-Fi access, so if tourists are heading out into towns and cities without having checked Facebook or their emails for a while, finding a restaurant that supplies their customers free wireless internet access is going to gain you some huge bonus points. Here is a really good point to consider: Think about how much time flies when you’re on the web. If your customers are spending more time in your restaurant because you have free internet access, chances are they are going to buy a few more drinks from the bar or maybe they’ll take a little longer with their main course and have a dessert after a little Twitter break.

Either way, there are no downsides to offering free Wi-Fi, because it costs no more to offer it to your customers than it does for you to use it simply for your own use – including powering the point of sale systems of your operation and allowing your offices access to the web. In an age where everybody is on the web at some point during the day, it pays to offer this great service to your customers, and inspire them to become loyal patrons for years to come.

How to Price Menu Items

One of the most effective ways to manage risks in the restaurant industry is through food costing. If you’re a new food business owner, below is a guide on pricing menu items for your restaurant.

1.Breakdown each dish on the menu

First, you should list all the ingredients of the dishes on your menu. This includes the main components and minor additions such as garnish, cooking oil, water and etc. Don’t forget to include the amount per ingredient that goes into each dish. You will want to be as thorough as possible during this stage, or you’ll throw off the numbers later on when the heavy computing starts

2.Calculate yield and cost

Next, calculate for the yield of each ingredient against the amount specified in the dish. For example, if you have an apple that costs 50 cents, and each slice is 10 cents (assuming you cut the apple in five equal parts); then a dish that uses two apple slices will cost 20 cents. In this step, be sure to add the purchasing fees (delivery charges, return fees and etc.) with each yield computation.

3.Include your overhead costs

Now you have to factor in the nonfood costs. These include labor, rent, taxes, electricity and etc. What you are after is the overhead costs per person. Once you determine the overhead expenses, divide it by the number of customers you expect to have daily. For example, if it costs $1,200 to keep your restaurant in business for an entire day and you cater to 200 diners daily, the overhead cost per customer is $6.

4.Determine your final price

Using your overhead costs as a guide, determine your final price. To get this figure, divide the total cost of the dish by the sales or mark up percentage. During this step, you’ll have to establish a mark up percentage that you’re comfortable with.

After pumping out some prices, you might come across some awkward figures. For example, salad that cost $5.17 or a slice of pecan pie that is priced at $5.83. Most restaurants round up to the nearest 10 or 25 cents, depending on the pricing standard for the menu. Rounding down is not common practice.

5.Double check the numbers and get a second opinion

Be sure to run the numbers a couple of times to make sure they are correct. Once you are confident with the prices, it is time to get realistic. Are your customers willing to pay for the new items in your menu? Is there room for you to make a higher profit?

You may need to get a second opinion from people in the area through feedback or surveys. A general average of what your demographic is willing to pay for (when it comes to meals) should help you compete with other food establishments.

This step is critical because you may have your food costing down properly, but if customers are not willing to pay for the dishes, your business will not survive.

Your Restaurant and the Affordable Care Act

Since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, employers have slowly seen the impacts of this new healthcare mandate. Initially, many were concerned with the impacts on healthcare and insurance industries, but those working in the restaurant industry may only now be feeling its full force. For instance, the complex requirements of the law’s employer mandate, regarding applicable large employers, phased into the industry at the beginning of this year. Due to the nature of the restaurant industry, the Affordable Care Act poses a unique set of concerns for your business, and with the risk of large penalties and fees, the ACA is just as large of a concern for your employees as it is for your business.

To first grasp the potential impacts of the Affordable Care Act on your restaurant, you’ll first need to consider whether or not you fit the bill. For instance, smaller restaurants with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from the ACA’s employer responsibility requirements. If you’re teetering on the edge of inclusion, then it may be time to sit down and reflect on your business plan, as passing the threshold for the number of full-time employees (or equivalents) can bump you into the inclusion for the ACA mandates and may drastically impact your restaurant’s healthcare.

If you’ve been coasting along in this category without having offered health insurance at an affordable price to your employees, then you’ve likely already felt the pressure of penalties. Rather than skirting the issue any longer, your restaurant should meet with human resources, payroll, and management to devise the best way of incorporating these new policies into your business plan. Then, discuss your company’s approach to communicating on the best plan and informing employees.

Plan to file ACA-required reports with the Internal Revenue Service and employees in early 2016, and prepare by tracking data for the current year accurately. Keep in mind that as the years progress, the requirements become more strictly enforced and more stringent, and harsher penalties are phased in each year.