Most independent restaurants calculate their food cost only once a month, but virtually all of the major chains calculate theirs each week.
According to industry averages, chain restaurants ‑ before corporate expenses ‑ are two to three times as profitable as independent restaurants. While weekly food costing isn’t the entire reason for that profitability, it’s part of it.
To accurately calculate your cost weekly, you’ll need to take inventory weekly as well. The only method for computing accurate cost of sales is to take physical inventories and then calculate the value of inventory on hand. Many operators erroneously believe that what they spend on food and beverage purchases is their cost of sales. While this may be true in the long run, for specific-period analysis it is inaccurate.
The correct formula for calculating cost of sales for each category is this: Beginning Inventory plus Purchases minus Ending Inventory equals Cost of Sales.
Taking weekly inventories doesn’t mean you have to spend half the night to do it. Here are a few tips to help you take inventory quickly. Properly applied, these principals will help you to be more accurate and should reduce the time spent counting your food inventory to under two hours.
Get organized. It is virtually impossible to take an accurate inventory when the stock room or walk-in is in disarray. Be sure all store rooms, shelves and refrigeration units are organized and clean. Product should be easy to see and count. Labels should be used for hard to identify product. Don’t put items in incorrectly marked boxes or containers.
Count it on Sunday. Most restaurants are open seven days a week. A natural tracking period is from Monday to Sunday. Also, inventory levels will be at their lowest on Sunday evening. If you are closed Sunday, then count it on Saturday evening or early Monday morning.
Separate your inventory into groups. Group your inventory into cost categories, such as meat, seafood, produce, dairy, grocery, etc. This will make it easy for cost calculations and help to organize your inventory. Grouping your inventory also makes it easier to zero in on cost control problems.
Arrange items in shelf order. Some managers advocate arranging items on the inventory sheets in the order they count the inventory. If you are using an order guide, arrange your spreadsheet to match that of the order guide. You can then record your counts on the order guide and transfer them to the spreadsheet for calculating the total value.
Use two people for taking inventory. One counts and the other records; the one recording is also an extra pair of eyes so nothing is overlooked. Also, be sure to use a pencil to encourage correcting mistakes.
‘Paint’ your restaurant. Always conduct inventories by starting at one end of the building and counting everything in a contiguous order. This practice will help ensure nothing gets skipped. Jumping from one area of the restaurant to another and back again will almost certainly cause you to miss something. It is much easier to flip to the proper page several times for a particular item rather than try to visit all of the places that item may be stored.
Keep counted areas off limits. Some kitchen managers like to get a head start on the inventory counting process. This approach is fine as long as counted product isn’t subsequently sold that same day. Once you have counted an area, make sure nobody removes or adds product to that area. For instance, maybe you have already counted the freezer, but later find out that the cooks need another case of frozen hamburger patties you have already counted. Be sure you adjust your count before putting them into production. That case will end up in an area you have not yet counted and thus will end up being double counted.particular item rather than try to visit all of the places that item may be stored.
This article is presented courtesy of RestaurantOwner.com, a source of operational and business resources for independent restaurant operators. For more information, visit www.RestaurantOwner.com.
Many restaurant owners want to recycle but don’t know how or where to begin. Follow these 7 steps from the National Restaurant Association to get started.
Starting with a big, complex recycling program can be difficult for a several reasons:
- Different cities and counties take different materials.
- Training staff can be time consuming.
- Establishing a front-of-house recycling bin system can take up considerable space.
Even if you can’t tackle everything at once, you can start by recycling the material that takes up about 25 percent of your dumpster. If you haven’t already guessed, it’s cardboard!
“Focusing on recycling your cardboard will help you get big bang for your buck by reducing the size of your waste stream and the need for a big dumpster to hold your ‘trash’,” says Jeff Clark, program director for the NRA’s Conserve program.
Waste material, such as cardboard shipping boxes, often has significant market value as useful new products. Boxes can be recycled and turned into paper cups or other items if the material isn’t contaminated.
Discover seven tips on how to begin:
Find out if you can recycle on premise. If you rent your space, check your lease to make sure you can place additional bins out back. If you can, make sure there’s enough room throughout the space and/or parking lot.
Train staff to safely cut up boxes and lay them flat in the cardboard bin. That will reduce empty space between loosely packed boxes so you can fit more in for each pick up. The result: You’lll save money and look more organized and clean to your customers and employees.
Put only cardboard in the cardboard recycling bin. Don’t contaminate the pile with other bags, bottles or cans, and keep it as dry as possible.
Ask your recycler whether he or she accepts waxed cardboard from foodstuff deliveries. Waxed cardboard must be separated from normal cardboard because the wax contaminates pulp during reprocessing.
Find out who will pick it up. Call local recycling centers and government agencies for information on finding the right hauler. Get references from neighboring business owners. And check out GridWaste.com, where haulers bid for your business.
Get baled out. If you have space constraints at your restaurant, ask the recycler about a cardboard baler to crush and bind the cardboard. Make sure you ask whether he or she can use the baled material as is. If not, ask what companies would accept it instead. Also, ask city or state environmental agencies about financial assistance to buy baling equipment.
Log your savings; revisit your efforts. You can’t manage what you don’t measure, so track your cardboard recycling by weight, if possible, as well as monetary savings. Once you have a successful program in place, consider expanding to single-stream recycling.
Visit the NRA’s Conserve program for more information about sustainability tips and tools, and check out the NRA’s partnership with LeanPath to provide operators with food-waste tracking technology.
Buying used commercial foodservice equipment can save you a bundle in the short term. But is it a good investment? Tackle these 10 questions from the National Restaurant Association before deciding whether to buy new or used.
1. What are your equipment requirements?
Start by determining your operation’s needs, recommends Joseph Carbonara, editor-in-chief of Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazine. Ask: Can the equipment help you execute your menu? Can it handle the volume? Is it simple enough for your labor pool to operate? Consider any growth plans, like increased volume or menu expansion. He recommends investing in new equipment for cornerstone items, such as a brick oven for a pizzeria.
Tip: Familiarize yourself with the available equipment options by visiting local dealers or the NRA Show. Then decide what features you need.
2. What does it cost to purchase the item new?
“If a used item costs more than 50 percent of the price of a new one, I would strongly suggest looking at new,” says Carbonara. Expect better bargains at auctions, but buyer beware.
3. What is the total cost of ownership?
To determine whether you’re getting a good deal, consider the total cost of ownership. Factor in the expected lifespan, the cost of service/repairs and operational costs. “The initial purchase price is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the total cost to own and operate an appliance,” says Richard Young, senior engineer and director of education for the PG&E Food Service Technology Center.
The cost of energy and other commodities, such as water or fryer oil, often exceeds the initial purchase price by many thousands of dollars. You might think you’re getting a great deal on a low-cost piece of equipment, but you potentially are throwing away big dollars on the operating side, Young says. FSTC offers an online calculator to help you estimate life-cycle costs.
Tip: To slash your energy and water bills, look for equipment that qualifies for eitherEnergy Star and/or California Energy Wise incentives. See the lifetime cost savings of buying new Energy Star equipment vs. new conventional equipment. Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to find used Energy Star equipment, notes Jeff Clark, director of theNational Restaurant Association’s Conserve program, which focuses on environmental sustainability in the restaurant industry. “Be sure to ask your equipment dealer though; you might get lucky,” says Clark.
4. Has the equipment been reconditioned?
Some dealers recondition used equipment before re-selling it, replacing parts and making repairs as needed. Ask specifically what work was done. Reconditioned equipment comes with a higher price tag but lower risk than equipment bought “as is.” You also could consider buying remanufactured equipment that has been stripped down and rebuilt.
5. What type of warranty is provided?
Used equipment generally sells “as is” from auctions and individual sellers, so don’t expect a warranty. In contrast, dealers often provide a 30-day warranty on parts; some might give 60 or 90 days on parts and labor. If you want the security of a lengthier warranty, consider a remanufactured or new item.
6. Can I get someone to service and replace parts?
Make sure parts are available and that a local technician can service and repair the equipment. Your chances are best with an American brand-name product, says Tim Schrack, vice president of purchasing for Omaha-headquartered Hockenbergs Foodservice Equipment & Supply, which has 10 locations throughout the country.
7. Who was the previous owner?
If you luck into finding equipment owned by a church or a school, it will have less “mileage” than the same piece operated by a high-volume quickservice restaurant. “It’s like buying the car that grandma drove once a week,” Carbonara says.
8. How well does the equipment operate?
“Ask to see the equipment operate,” says Hockenbergs’ Schrack. “We’ll hook up any piece of equipment on request … It’s tricky to buy anything used online.”
Tip: Ask an authorized service agent to inspect the unit to ensure that it is in good operating condition, Carbonara suggests.
9. Is the seller reliable?
Work with sellers who want to establish a long-term relationship with you, Carbonara advises. “You want someone who is concerned that they’re putting their name and reputation on the line and wants to be good with you for a whole bunch of deals, not just this one.”
10. Does the equipment stand the test of time?
Look for equipment built to last, with brand names know for endurance, says Jameel Burkett, president of Burkett Restaurant Equipment & Supplies in Toledo, Ohio. For example, Hobart mixers and slicers can last for decades, he says, as can items like stainless steel tables and shelving, which have no mechanical parts that break.
Convection ovens and ranges tend to stand the test of time, Schrack says. But be wary of steamers, dishwashers, ice machines and other equipment that use water because they can develop lime buildup. If not maintained properly, aging refrigeration equipment can become energy-guzzlers and lose some performance FSTC’s Young says. “If the refrigerant has leaked, the unit has been overcharged or the coils are damaged, then that unit will probably not perform to spec.”
Just as this generation of coffee shops has made “venti” and “Frappuccino” part of the American vernacular, the newest foodservice coffee concepts are putting terms like “tasting notes” and “cold-brewed” on the radar.
Consumers’ growing interest in artisan craftsmanship has taken hold in the coffee category, as high-end independents lead a migration toward quality and as coffee drinkers express more interest in the sourcing and production behind their daily cup of Joe.
Observers expect mainstream coffee operators to continue to cater to those trends in the year ahead, but operators also will focus on staying relevant to the average everyday coffee drinker who is more interested in convenience.
Coffee continues to be an area of strength in the foodservice industry. Both bakery cafes and coffee cafes experienced 9.3 percent growth in sales from 2012 to 2013, according to Chicago-based Technomic’s Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report.
“Coffee cafes are a bright spot of the quick-service segment,” says Deanna Jordan, senior research analyst at Technomic.
Tastes and preferences within the coffee category are shifting, however, as many coffee drinkers — particularly Millennials — are looking at the brewed beverage in a new way. They are gravitating toward authenticity and quality, and placing a high value on attributes such as ethical sourcing and sustainability.
“It really speaks to the whole coffee culture that has developed in kind of the same way that wine has,” Jordan says. “I see that propelling the upscaling of coffee beverages.
“Independent coffee shops that cater to the ‘coffee culture’ are popping up everywhere.”
This so-called “third wave” of gourmet coffee shops includes small chains such as Intelligentsia, Blue Bottle Coffee, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, La Colombe and Philz Coffee. These operators, which often brew single cups to order and include tasting notes on their menus, are elevating coffee culture to a higher level, in much the same way that the second wave did in the late 1990s.
“I think the biggest story in coffee shops going into 2015 in the United States is the continued popularity of the third-wave movement,” says Elizabeth Friend, senior foodservice analyst at research firm Euromonitor. “These are places that focus wholeheartedly on the coffee itself: How it’s prepared, where it’s grown, everything about it. They are treating coffee like wine — something that’s brewed with care and precision.”
Their influence could result in a shift away from more indulgent coffee concoctions at more mainstream operators, Friend notes.
“Consumers are instead focused on different types of coffee and different roasts, so that’s where the energy is going in terms of new products,” she says.
The increasing consumer focus on quality and other attributes espoused by the third-wave coffee shops can be seen in some of the strategies of the mainstream coffee shops.
Data from Technomic support a shift toward higher quality. The firm in its recent Bakery & Coffee Café Trend Report found that 39 percent of bakery-café patrons would order a premium coffee instead of a regular blend if one were available. That percentage jumped to 47 percent among consumers aged 18-34.
The research also finds that more than a quarter of consumers — 27 percent at coffee cafes and 29 percent at bakery cafes — are more likely to patronize an outlet that serves organically grown coffee. A similar percentage of consumers expressed a preference for outlets serving “fair trade” coffee.
Mark DiDomenico, director of client solutions at research firm Datassential, says food purveyors in general, including foodservice coffee operators, “are looking at telling more of a story around the items they are serving.”
“Our big message for the past few years has been ‘authenticity,’” DiDomenico says. “Foodservice operators have been trying to get more authentic in what they are offering — things that have a regional style, that have some story behind them. This creates some excitement around the item.”
He cites hot sauce as an example, where restaurants are menuing specific flavors of hot sauce such as “habanero blend” or harissa.
“We are going to see that seep more into the coffee world,” DiDomenico says. “Rather than just dark roast, we are going to see Jamaican Blue Mountain dark roast, for example.
“People, especially Millennials, are looking for some specific marker on the foods and beverages they consume that tells them something special about it.”
DiDomenico notes that iced coffees also are still growing and becoming more popular.
“I think there is so much to do there,” he says. “[Operators] can just keep rolling through flavors and recipes, and keep the consumer engaged.”
Coffee drinkers also remain committed to convenience, and that is playing out in the coffee-shop segment in the form of increasing mobile-app functionality and a promise of delivery in 2015 from at least one of the major players.
“Despite the fact that the focus is still on the coffee, and the experience, and maximizing the value of the experience, at the other end we still have this much larger consumer trend, which is having everything on demand all the time,” says Friend of Euromonitor. “We are seeing this in the coffee shop as well, where people want everything included in that mobile app — they want to be able to pay, they want their loyalty included in that mobile app, they want to order, and they want it delivered if they can.
“These are sort of two polar opposite trends we see happening at the same time in the same space.”
Read the original post on Nation’s Restaurant News
State lawmakers in California introduced a bill Tuesday that would require large food and retail employers to schedule workers at least two weeks in advance, or face penalties for last-minute staffing changes.
Known as the “Fair Scheduling Act,” Assembly Bill 357 was introduced by State Assembly members David Chiu, D-San Francisco, and Shirley Weber, D-San Diego. As introduced, the bill would apply to food and retail employers with 500 or more employees. It is designed to address the growing number of employers implementing “just in time” and “on-call” scheduling practices to minimize labor costs.
The bill is the first of its kind at the state level, and aims to improve working conditions for part-time and low-wage workers, who often struggle with issues like child care, balancing shifts between two jobs, finding transportation, and pursuing education and training.
“Without fair and predictable work schedules, more and more Californians, particularly part-time and low-wage workers, are struggling to plan for basic life necessities, like child care or a much-needed second job,” Chiu said in a statement. “California can lead the way once again by providing for fair scheduling for the men and women on the front lines of an increasingly unequal economy.”
The lawmakers said the Great Recession has fundamentally changed California’s workforce. The state now has the largest percentage of hourly workers in the country.
Last year, Chiu, who served previously on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, introduced a similar bill there, which takes effect in July. That bill affects employers with more than 20 employees, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
AB 357 would require large employers to pay penalties if shifts are changed with less than two week’s notice. What those penalties would be remains to be seen. The meat of the legislation is yet to be determined, and the bill is seen as a placeholder for further development.
Matt Sutton, vice president of government affairs and public policy for the California Restaurant Association, declined to comment on the specific legislation, given that details are not yet available.
The restaurant industry is expected to vigorously oppose attempts to further regulate scheduling, which is often based on unpredictable factors that likely won’t be addressed with a one-size approach.
“We’re staffing based on customer demand and foot traffic,” Sutton said. “Even the weather could be an issue. None of that is predictable.”
Contact Lisa Jennings at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you getting what you paid for from seafood suppliers? If your fish is mislabeled or short-weighted, you could be the victim of seafood fraud. As a result, you could be losing money and/or perpetuating the fraud by inadvertently deceiving your guests. In this article from the National Restaurant Association, learn more about seafood fraud and how to ensure your restaurant is protected.
Seafood fraud can occur anywhere along the supply chain, says Lisa Weddig, secretary of the Better Seafood Board, which works with restaurants, retailers and manufacturers to report suppliers that commit economic fraud.
The most common issues of seafood fraud are menu mislabeling, species substitution and short weighting. Menu mislabeling occurs when a restaurateur or retailer markets one species as another, such as serving tilapia but describing it as grouper. Similarly, species substitution occurs when a supplier sells a fish under another name, such as labeling a box of various types of snapper as red snapper.
Short-weighting occurs when a supplier adds moisture, water or another additive to make frozen fish appear to weigh more. For example, a supplier might include the weight of the ice glaze with the weight of the fish, Weddig explains.
“I slack mine out in water, put it in a perforated pan and weigh it,” says former NRA chairman Ken Conrad, president of Libby Hill Seafood. “I count every piece and weigh every piece.” If you order 1,000 pounds of seafood a month, and your weight is off by $1 a pound, you’re losing $1,000 a month, Conrad says.
Here are more tips to avoid seafood fraud:
• Use the FDA seafood list to see the common, acceptable market and Latin names of seafood, Weddig suggests. Conrad prints the list and compiles a booklet for staff to consult in each of his restaurants.
• Unsure you’re using the right terminology? The Better Seafood Board will review your menu for red flags, Weddig says.
• If you run out of a fish, just say you’re out. Don’t try to substitute, Weddig says.
• Find a reputational supplier. If you’re just starting out or looking for a new supplier, call better-known, established restaurants in your area to find out whom they buy from, says Bart Farrell, food and beverage director, Clyde’s Restaurant Group. Then go visit their plants unannounced.
Farrell has been buying the majority of his seafood from the same supplier, Congressional Seafood, for 15 years. Clyde’s and Congressional established a multi-prong quality control plan, which includes strict procedures from cutting to packing to shipping. An employee signs off on each step to ensure quality, and the product undergoes a final check before shipping. That ensures the correct cut, count and weight for each product; otherwise, Clyde’s would send the product back.
Farrell also receives a copy of the seafood supplier’s quarterly Sanitation Inspection Audit and makes announced and unannounced visits. If you find trustworthy and reputable suppliers, they’re unlikely to risk their reputation and pull a fast one on you, he says. Otherwise, they stand to lose a fair amount of business.
• Consider working with suppliers who belong to the Better Seafood Board. Members are committed to preventing seafood fraud and providing products that are accurately labeled for identity and weight.
• Buy fish with skin on or whole fish when possible. “It’s a good way to avoid surprises,” Farrell says. After a fish is skinned and filleted, it’s difficult to tell a cod from Pollock, especially for someone not trained, Conrad says.
• When buying fillets, train employees to properly identify commonly marketed species during receiving, the FDA recommends. “Frozen fillets tend to look alike, unless you really know your fish,” Weddig says.
• Be skeptical of extra-low prices or incredible deals that are outside the norm. When someone offers you something that sounds too good to be true, “something’s fishy,” Conrad says.
• Confirm the species sold to you is the same as what was sold to your supplier, the FDA recommends.
• Train staff to check the product against labels, invoices and purchase orders, the FDA suggests.
• Establish procedures for weighing, taking temperature and notifying the chef of abnormalities with the product or inconsistencies with the label, invoice or purchase order, Farrell advises.
• Train employees to double check weights. For example, thaw shrimp before checking the quality and consistency, Farrell recommends. Make sure the slacked weight is the same as the packaged weight. Make sure they understand the procedures to check the weight of frozen seafood, which could influence the final weight, Weddig says.
• Familiarize your kitchen team with new offerings, starting with your chefs. When Clyde’s adds a new fish to the menu, the chefs work with it to develop new recipes. Then they spend time the prep team and cooks so they understand what the new fish should look and taste like, and most importantly, how to cook it properly.
• Contact the appropriate state, local or federal agency if you have any concerns.
A coalition of restaurant, retail and franchise groups has expressed confidence that they could push changes in the Affordable Care Act’s definition of full-time workers in the new Republican-led House and Senate.
Industry groups seek to revise the ACA’s definition of a full-time workweek from the current 30 hours to “the more historic standard of 40 hours per week,” said the National Restaurant Association, which noted that there are 7.5 million hourly workers at U.S. restaurants and bars.
The workweek definition has been a longstanding priority for industry groups. The ACA’s current “employer-mandate provision” requires certain companies with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees to provide healthcare coverage to their full-time employees and dependents, or potentially be penalized. The ACA defines an employee working 30 hours a week as full time.
“It is a good sign to the industry that one of our issues is among the first issues that this Congress will address,” said Scott DeFife, the NRA’s executive vice president for policy and government affairs, in an interview Tuesday. “That’s an important signal to the industry that there is hope we can make some changes to mitigate the impact of the law on restaurant operations.”
The NRA is working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the International Franchise Association and a number of other retail groups to affect the ACA changes in an umbrella campaign called “More Time for Full Time.” Link: MoreTimeForFullTime.org
House members are scheduled to vote Thursday on an ACA workweek bill, H.R. 30, to raise the definition to 40 hours. The House passed the bill, introduced by Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., twice last year, but it was not considered in the Senate.
This year, however, a companion bill in the Senate, sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., was reintroduced Wednesday.
Jack Crawford, the NRA’s new chairman, and president and CEO of the Ground Round Independent Owners Cooperative, appeared with Collins and Donnelly at a press conference in Washington, D.C.
“With a workforce of over 13.5 million, restoring the definition of a full-time workweek to the traditional 40-hour model is critical now more than ever,” Crawford said in prepared remarks. “As it stands, the 30-hour definition under the current healthcare law forces employers to restructure our workforce and unwantedly reduce employee hours.”
Robert J. Green, executive director of the National Council of Chain Restaurants, a division of the National Retail Federation, on Wednesday expressed his group’s “strong support” of the House legislation.
“H.R. 30 aligns the Affordable Care Act’s current definition of full-time work — 30 hours per week — with the definition found in most other workplace rules — 40 hours,” Green said. “The 40-hour workweek is a time-honored American tradition ingrained in our laws and culture; the ACA’s 30-hour per week threshold is a peculiar, restrictive and detrimental provision of the law.”
Green said the 30-hour definition led to “difficult and complicated calculations required for chain restaurant businesses to be in compliance” with the act’s requirements.
“The 40-hour full-time workweek definition in H.R. 30 will allow business owners to make rational decisions about staffing levels in their restaurants and will provide employees additional and needed opportunities to work additional hours,” Green said.
The timetable for the Senate’s companion bill remains unclear, the NRA’s DeFife said. “There are more procedural issues in the Senate that have to be worked out, but we hope those will be worked out shortly,” he said. “It’s more a matter of when and how, not if, in the Senate. It will happen.”
DeFife said restaurant operators have made changes in the workweek definition a top priority for their industry representatives in the capital.
“The 30-hour definition is so contrary to other parts of their operations in terms of workforce planning,” DeFife said. “And there is no other labor law that gears anyone toward 30 hours a week as full time. This arbitrary limit on hours for part-time to full-time is a barrier to management’s operation of the restaurant and to workers’ earnings.”
While President Barack Obama’s administration has indicated it would veto any ACA workweek changes, DeFife said bipartisan support in Congress would strengthen the industry’s arguments.
“The signal to look for is if we have enough Democratic support that the administration should take this issue seriously and work with us on making this change,” DeFife said. “This is not a fundamental thread to the core of the administration’s purpose for providing healthcare. This is a definition of full time that has had a lot of unintended consequences on workplace management and hiring that don’t have anything to do with healthcare.”
Published by Nation’s Restaurant News, written by Ron Ruggless.
Technology increasingly played a role in restaurant chain operations across the board this year, but one trend in particular stood out in 2014: mobile ordering and payment.Restaurant chains from Starbucks to Taco Bell rolled out or took the first step toward allowing guests to order ahead and pay via smartphone. Next year, no doubt, many more chains will go mobile in what for some could be a consumer-facing game changer.
Starbucks, for example, next year isplanning to take mobile ordering a step further by offering delivery in certain markets. Chick-fil-A’s mobile ordering feature will include the option of having food delivered curbside to the car in some locations.
Next year will be all about execution. The key will be in how well newly mobile chains adjust to the additional throughput pressures of balancing incoming digital orders with those from customers already in the store.
The launch of Apple Pay, the proprietary mobile payment system of Apple Inc., this year also marked the beginning of new era in mobile payment.
McDonald’s, Subway and Panera Bread are among the brands accepting the smartphone payment method, which is preloaded on Apple’s new iPhone 6. Independent restaurants also are increasingly accepting Apple Pay through the OpenTable reservation service.
Casual-dining chains moved into online ordering, with brands like Olive Garden, Johnny Rockets and Buffalo Wild Wings joining Applebee’s and Chili’s in putting touch-screen tablets in restaurants.
A common goal: Removing the “pain point” of waiting for the check at the end of the meal.
For some brands, however, the tabletop tablets also offered other means of incremental income. At Johnny Rockets, the tablets also serve as jukebox. Buffalo Wild Wings is offering sports content, video poker and trivia games.
Touch-screen technology was also explored at McDonald’s. After testing a build-your-own burger feature in four units in Southern California, McDonald’s this yearannounced the expansion of its Create Your Taste program to as many as 2,000 locations next year. The platform features touch-screen kiosks at which guests can fully customize a burger of their own creation.
Digital ordering technology gave pizza-delivery chains Domino’s and Papa John’s a big boost this year. Both chains say the number of orders coming in through various digital channels is rapidly rising – reaching 40 percent for Domino’s and 50 percent for Papa John’s this year.
The pizza industry in general has pioneered the move away from phone orders, training consumers to think first of turning to their computers or smartphones when in the mood for a pie.
As a result, brands are shifting to more responsive websites. Donato’s Pizza, for example, relaunched its website this year with a more responsive design that will optimize itself for use on desktop computer, smartphone or tablet.
Pizza Hut is reportedly exploring the use of eye-tracking technology on a tablet that it calls a “subconscious menu.” It watches where your eyes linger, eliminating the need for tiresome tapping on a screen.
Next up: menu boards. Wetzel’s Pretzels last month debuted new digital menu boardswith animation that features charming little blue bakers who open up a world behind the menu screen.
Watch the animation featured on the new Wetzel’s Pretzels menu boards:
As restaurant chains move forward with tech innovations next year, a likely theme will be the link to loyalty programs, offering brands a new opportunity to target their marketing efforts and collect data that will better drive results.
As Mark Mears, chief marketing officer for Schlotzsky’s, told Nation’s Restaurant News earlier this year, technology is not just about creating a “wow” factor.
“Rather, use the data, information and insights that technology provides to engage your guests on a more intimate, one-to-one level,” he said. “This will elevate your brand from a surface-level transactional exchange to a deeper, more relational level with your guests.”
Written by Lisa Jennings at email@example.com via Nation’s Restaurant News.