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Housemade sodas bubble up

Flavor-forward soft drinks are making a splash, according to this article from Restaurant Business Online by Alia Akkam. Specialty soft drinks continue to lure customers away from traditional colas and other brand-name sodas, according to NPD Group, a Port Washington, N.Y.-based research firm. Restaurant operators also are smitten with housemade sodas in unconventional flavors because they both complement the menu and drum up sales.

Beverage  leader Starbucks jumped on the trend in June, unveiling a line of handcrafted sodas that are carbonated fresh at select locations. The three flavors—Spiced Root Beer, Golden Ginger Ale and Lemon Ale—are designed to pair with Starbucks’ food.

In New York City, Bubby’s two locations drive home its Americana concept through myriad soda-fountain drinks. “Soda is distinctly American, and so the soda fountain is important to our vision. We just want to do it better,” says chef-owner Ron Silver. “We make great burgers and cola from scratch, so that’s a good starting point to engage our guests.”

Classic flavors such as root beer and orange—based on vintage recipes—are served, but so are unique concoctions such as a sour-cherry phosphate or a currant sour, the latter pairing apple-cider vinegar and currant soda. Priced at $5 each, the sodas boost check averages. To add an interactive element, guests can invent hybrid sodas from the list of syrups. Bubby’s delivers these to the table in  single-serve bottles.

Crafting these syrups in house, says Silver, is cost-effective, because the team utilizes ingredients that would otherwise go to waste, such as citrus zests and peels, along with second pickings from the farmers market. “The whole process is flexible and easy to manage,” says Silver. “We store the syrups in large containers in the walk-in, then pour them into smaller containers to bring out front.”

While cocktails are a draw at Vernick Food & Drink in Philadelphia, beverage manager Vincent Stipo understands the importance of serving alcohol-free drinks as well. Two signatures are the Cucumber Smash, made with juiced English cucumber, vanilla bean, muddled lemon and mint over crushed ice, and a highball-style soda with juiced pineapple, yuzu, sparking water and basil salt. “Conceptually, we approach these in the same way we do our food—whatever’s fresh and in season—so integrating the sodas into our program is actually quite seamless,” says Stipo.

The sodas—priced at $5 or $6 instead of $3 for a branded one—are made to order, conserving storage space. They are printed on the menu, and trial is encouraged. “We point out the mocktail section if we notice that the guest hasn’t looked and is blind-ordering standard soft drinks. The servers are trained to discuss the flavor profiles and modify according to different palates,” he says.

Just like ordering “Bartender’s Choice” will yield a surprise cocktail at Vernick Food & Drink, a patron who orders a house special soda may be served a drink blending blueberry shrub, ruby grapefruit, fresh tarragon and small-batch tonic.“It offers an exciting outlet to those not drinking alcohol,” says Stipo.

Are Smartphones Ruining the Restaurant Experience?

Your smartphone is the scourge of restaurants. Customers snapping photos of food and dawdling on Facebook at meals have slowed down table service by an hour over the last 10 years, as an anonymous post on Craigslist’s “rants & raves” section recently alleged. The writer claimed that his restaurant, located in Manhattan’s Midtown East and serving “both locals and tourists,” had studied security footage from July 2004 and compared with a tape of a recent Thursday this month. The takeaway: Today’s technologically distracted diners take longer to order, longer to eat, and longer to pay—and then they blame the restaurant for the wait! “We are grateful for everyone who comes into our restaurant,” the aggrieved restaurateur wrote, “but can you please be a bit more considerate?”

In this article written by Alison Griswold from Slate, learn more about our phone usage habits and if they are ruining your restaurant experience.

In almost no time, the indignant andnow deleted Craigslist screed set the Internet alight. A post on Distractifytranscribing the entire complaint quickly racked up more than 750,000 shares and 2,600 comments. “Smartphone use in restaurants prompts Craigslist rant,” announced the BBC. “Cell phones slowing down service in restaurants. Wait times have doubled because customers are too busy with their screens,” blared the Daily Mail. “Why you should (really, seriously, permanently) stop using your smartphone at dinner,” proclaimed the Washington Post.

Tempting as it can be to take anonymous, unsubstantiated Craigslist rants at face value, we decided to do a little digging on this one. Let’s take a closer look at some of the specific claims made by the post about customers in 2014:

26 out of 45 customers spend an average of 3 minutes taking photos of the food.

14 out of 45 customers take pictures of each other with the food in front of them or as they are eating the food. This takes on average another 4 minutes as they must review and sometimes retake the photo.

9 out of 45 customers sent their food back to reheat. Obviously if they didn’t pause to do whatever on their phone the food wouldn’t have gotten cold.

27 out of 45 customers asked their waiter to take a group photo. 14 of those requested the waiter retake the photo as they were not pleased with the first photo. On average this entire process between the chit chatting and reviewing the photo taken added another 5 minutes and obviously caused the waiter not to be able to take care of other tables he/she was serving.

Three minutes to take photos of food? That’s a long time to take a casual snapshot or two. So is four minutes to take and review additional photos with friends, all while a presumably hot and delicious meal is sitting in front of you. “I think this is clearly a fake—the whole scenario is made up,” says Luke O’Neil, a food industry writer for publications including Slate who spent more than 10 years working in the restaurant business. “It seems like one of these things that’s designed to make a point.”

Smartphones have undoubtedly become a hot-button issue for the restaurant world in recent years. Some chefs have publicly decried phone pics and social media for ruining the dining experience, while others have banned the use of devices in their dining areas altogether. But is cellphone use really causing massive disruptions to restaurant service?

Roughly 30 percent of restaurant-goers take photos of their food, while 9 percent have paid for a meal through mobile.

“I haven’t noticed that,” says Patrick Duxbury, general manager at TAO Downtown in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. “We are a very busy restaurant—we service well over 600, 700, 800 diners a night—and I don’t necessarily think we’d be able to do that if smartphones were in our way.” As a common venue for celebratory dinners, birthdays, and bachelorette parties, TAO Downtown does take lot of photos, Duxbury says, but that’s “absolutely not” bad for the restaurant. “Those pictures go up on social media, some of them instantly on Instagram and Facebook, and it gets us out there,” he says.

Other chefs, waiters, and restaurateurs echo this sentiment. John Kapetanos, owner of Ethos in Manhattan’s Midtown East—the same neighborhood as the anonymous Craigslist poster—says maybe 10 percent of his customers ask the waiter to take a group photo; it’s a favor that takes less than a minute and doesn’t slow down service. Over the 12 years Ethos has been in business, Kapetanos says cellphones have added maybe five to 10 minutes to the average table time, but that he doesn’t mind as long as diners at one table aren’t bothering those at another. Jean-Marte, a waiter at a French restaurant in Midtown who declined to give his last name, concurs that taking photos of customers doesn’t slow his stride. He adds that smartphones can even be quite helpful when dealing with foreign tourists who don’t understand the menu. “It’s easier for them to go on the website or on Yelp, and they can show you a picture and say, ‘This is what I want,’ ” he explains.

In late 2012, food and restaurant consulting firm Technomic conducted a study of how consumers were integrating their phones into the dining experience. Roughly 30 percent admitted to taking photos of their food, while 9 percent said they had paid through mobile. “There’s no doubt that consumers are taking time to use their mobile devices in restaurants,” says Mary Chapman, director of product innovation at Technomic. “I anecdotally have not seen it impact timing, and really, if someone is taking pictures of your food and posting it, and your food is delicious-looking, it can only be good for your restaurant.”

Smartphones, in other words, might be a bit annoying, but on the whole restaurants agree that they’re more of a boon to business than a hindrance—and certainly not the impediment the Craigslist post made them out to be. “It’s just part of our lives now,” says Michael Scelfo, chef and owner of the recently opened Alden & Harlow in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “Back in the old days, if you wanted to pay with your credit card, someone had to physically go and carbon-copy it and write information on it. Now they can swipe it on their phone tableside. How much time does that save?”

Then again, the Craigslist post clearly hit a nerve with restaurant-goers and restaurant workers alike, perhaps tapping into a shared fear that the more time we spend with our smartphones, the less we make for each other. Even if our phones aren’t slowing down service, who really wants to be sitting at a table full of people who are too busy Instagramming their food and checking their Twitter feeds to have a conversation? That’s a reflection on us, rather than the restaurant. But it might just make people grumpy enough to blame the staff.

What do you think? Continue the conversation on our Facebook page.

Vegetarianism a rising trend on menus

In this article from Restaurant Business Online, learn more about the trend of vegetarianism and how you can implement ideal choices into your menu. Customers who seek a meatless dish for reasons of health, ethics or just because it sounds yummy on the menu, are very important people in restaurants today.

Interest in vegetarian menu options, especially among those who occasionally go veggie, has been rising in recent years. Although only 4 percent of respondents in a 2012 National Harris Poll by the Vegetarian Resource Group said they always eat vegetarian meals and never eat meat, fish or poultry, a sizable 47 percent said they eat at least one vegetarian meal per week.

This has not been lost on the industry. Meatless/vegetarian menu items are a hot trend, according to 57 percent of the chefs who took part in the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot 2014 Culinary Forecast. Overall, it is a top-ten trend in the main dish/center of the plate category of the survey.

In fact, there is a small but colorful niche of creative, chef-driven vegetarian cuisine that rises to lofty levels. For example, the hospitality consultants Baum + Whiteman cited the $185-per-person, all-veg menu at Grace in Chicago as an example of the high-end tasting menus they predict will be hot in 2014.

Thus in the same dining room you may find individuals who are devout vegetarians alongside those who are ordering meatless today but may relish a New York strip tomorrow. It is wise to include some trendy and flavorful plant-based dishes on the menu to please all comers. There is ample inspiration to be found in global and regional cuisines that make inventive use of produce, beans, nuts, tofu, herbs and spices.

Demand for the flavors of the Mediterranean Rim is focusing attention on meat-free dishes like hummus and similar bean spreads and dips and garlicky Italian escarole and cannellini beans. Operators may also piggyback on the growing vogue for Mexican and Latin American cuisine with dishes like Cuban black beans and rice, baked bean chili with tofu and kale and spicy ancho bean burritos. Also appealing are regional American favorites spun off with meatless recipes, such as Southern Hoppin’ John and New Orleans red beans and rice.

Increasing interest in gluten-free eating and the carbohydrate-avoiding Paleo diet—the most searched-for diet of 2013 according to Google—has made protein a trendy nutritional component. While protein-packed regimens are often heavy in animal products, operators can invite vegetarians to amp up their protein intake from plant sources such as beans, peas and lentils. They provide high-quality protein along with complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber and many nutrients, plus are gluten-free.

Food preferences of vegans and vegetarians

In this article from Restaurant Business Online, learn more about the food preferences of vegans and vegetarians and how to offer popular menu choices for these guests.

Vegetarian cuisine is moving mainstream – there’s no denying that Meatless Mondays were only the beginning. Going one step further to a vegan diet – no meat, poultry or fish as well as no eggs, dairy foods and other animal-derived products such as honey – is gaining momentum as well, driven by health, animal welfare and environmental concerns.

This lifestyle trend is not only growing, but doing so globally. For example, 2.5% of Americans, 2% of Britains and nearly half a percent of Dutch identify themselves as vegan.

But what are they buying when they leave the house and what does it mean for those restaurants that want to serve them? A national telephone poll of 2,030 respondents, including vegans, vegetarians and those interested in vegetarian meals, was commissioned by the Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) and Harris Interactive to answer this question.

  • 77% of vegans and 70% of vegetarians said they would buy a vegetarian dish containing leafy greens such as broccoli, kale, or collards
  • 80% of vegans and 61% of vegetarians said they would buy a vegetarian dish containing whole foods such as lentils, chickpeas, or rice
  • 53% of vegans and 58% of vegetarians said they would buy a veggie burger cooked on the same grill where meat is cooked, if the grill is cleaned first
  • 54% of vegans and 54% of vegetarians said they would buy a vegetarian/vegan deli slice sandwich in Subway
  • 25% of vegans and 40% of vegetarians said they would buy their favorite dessert containing sugar, if the source of sugar isn’t specified
  • 3% of vegans and 26% of vegetarians said they would buy their favorite dessert containing sugar whitened through a bone char filter, if bone char is not in the sugar
  • 2% of vegans and 5% of vegetarians said they would buy a meat alternative grown from animal cell DNA obtained ten years ago, which does not currently involve the raising of animals

With the rise in popularity of vegetable dishes even among non-vegetarians, a stronger focus on these menu items should be taken into consideration.

While the majority of vegans and vegetarians are clearly looking to eat healthier, they aren’t always looking for a meat substitute. Clearly, it will also take a great deal of effort to convince consumers to buy meat grown in a lab setting. A plant-based meat substitute may stand a better chance of acceptance.

4 Tips to Increase Sales on Fourth of July

To close or not to close: a question that many restaurant owners debate when it comes to the Fourth of July. If you’ve decided to stay open, you might as well do your best to try and get in some extra business during the holiday. After all, with a day devoted to America, good food and cold beer it only seems right. Check out these last minute tips from Exakt Marketing.

1. Catering – If your restaurant has the capacity for catering, the Fourth of July is a great holiday to attempt to push that business. Most people are gathering with friends and family to eat, drink and be merry. Take the load off for the host and suggest cooking for them! If you offer American staples like burgers, wings and BBQ you’re at an even bigger advantage. I’d recommend putting together a quick flyer that can be distributed in the restaurant as well as incorporated into your restaurant marketing strategy (social media, email blasts, etc).

2. Delivery – Do you deliver or work with delivery services such as Doorstep Delivery or Take Home Delivery? If so, try flyering a few local apartments (if they allow it) a day or two before the Fourth with your delivery menu. This tactic targets those “last minute” planners who won’t realize they don’t feel like cooking until the day of…

3. Social Media Special – Use social media to announce an exclusive special only available to those who see it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any platform that you and your restaurant marketing company see fit. Make it fun and require customers to use a “secret phrase” to redeem the free item. (Ex. Anyone who comes in on the Fourth of July and says “Uncle Sam sent me” gets a free beer!) Don’t giveaway the bank though – pick a menu item that is low-cost and easy to prepare. This not only brings in some extra business but it also allows you to measure how much of an impact your announcement on social media has on your sales for the day.

4. Involve the Staff – The staff might not be too happy knowing that they have to work on the Fourth of July but try to get them involved and excited! Allow the staff to dress out of uniform and wear anything American themed (that’s appropriate, of course). You can also get staff excited by executing a friendly staff competition. Have the staff create a Fourth of July themed drink (or use a current menu item or special) and the staff member that sells the most of that item that night gets a small cash bonus (or a desirable prize). If your staff is made of up entrepreneurs then it shouldn’t be too hard to get them excited. More business affects their wallets too!

Facebook Partners with Constant Contact to Include Restaurant Menus on Pages

Last month, Facebook and Constant Contact announced that restaurants can now upload menus through SinglePlatform from Constant Contact to Facebook pages. SinglePlatform helps businesses showcase their most important information everywhere local consumers are making decisions online.

As a result, Facebook users can both find and “like” a restaurant, in addition to view its menu to help them decide if they want to check it out. Considering that 78 percent of online local-mobile searches result in offline purchases, this is a major benefit to restaurants promoting their businesses on Facebook’s 1.23 billion active users.

For restaurants already using SinglePlatform and located in the U.S. or Canada, their menus featured on SinglePlatform will automatically appear on their Facebook business page. For others, restaurants can upload their menus in PDF format to their Facebook page to take advantage of this new feature. (Here’s how)

In a blog post about the announcement, Pete Chen, VP and general manager of SinglePlatform from Constant Contact wrote, “With this update, restaurants can take advantage of the size and influence of Facebook’s audience to attract potential new customers that search for places to dine. Facebook makes it very easy to find new restaurants (if you click on the Facebook search bar you will automatically see an option to search “Nearby Restaurants”).

Now that you have added your menu to your restaurant’s Facebook page, here are some tips to further leverage this feature to your business’s marketing advantage.

1) Send out an email blast inviting fans and customers to check out your restaurant menu on Facebook.

Let your opt-in email subscribers know to check out your menu on Facebook, giving you a good reason to connect with them and increase social media engagement on your Facebook page.

2 ) Cross-promote your menu on Facebook to other social networks:

Promote the menu on your Facebook page with your other social networks to expand its reach to more audiences. Using a free service like bitly, you can shorten and custom-brand your URL and track response rates.

3) Share updates to your menu with customers and fans:

If you have updated your Facebook menu or added a new item, let your customers and fans know about it. Doing this gives you multiple opportunities to stay connected with your Facebook page community.

4) Spark conversations about your menu with your Facebook fans:

After your Facebook fans have had the chance to view your restaurant menu, ask them what they think about your menu. Facebook’s polling feature is a useful way to garner feedback about your menu from both potential new and existing customers.

5) Share photos of your menu items from Facebook on Pinterest and Instagram:

Posting your menu on your Facebook page gives you more reasons to sell the menu with pictures. Post new food and drink photos from your menu on your Facebook page and cross-promote them on Pinterest and Instagram, as well.

Article provided by Buzztime.

For daily tips, ideas, and concepts for your bar or restaurant, please visit

Recipe of the Week: Watermelon and Squid Salad

Try a refreshing twist on this seafood dish by adding the flavor of watermelon and squid for a unique and delicious taste!

1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup Champagne vinegar
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 jalapeños, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest
2 tablespoons lime juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound baby squid, bodies and tentacles separated but left whole
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/3 cup chopped tarragon
1/3 cup chopped mint
1 small seedless watermelon (about 3 1/2 pounds)—halved, rind removed, flesh sliced 1/2 inch thick
Ground sumac, for sprinkling (optional)

  1. In a bowl, whisk the rice vinegar, Champagne vinegar, scallions, jalapeños, 2 teaspoons of the lime zest and 1 tablespoon of the lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Light a grill. In a medium bowl, toss the squid with the oil, orange zest, crushed red pepper and the remaining 1 tablespoon of lime juice and 1 teaspoon of lime zest; season with salt and pepper. Grill the squid over high heat until lightly charred, 4 minutes.
  3. Arrange the watermelon slices on a platter. Drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle with the tarragon and mint. Top the watermelon with the squid, sprinkle with sumac and serve right away.

Recipe from

Is it time to raise your prices?

Making sure the price is right for each menu item takes a lot of work. This article from the National Restaurant Association outlines 8 factors that determine whether it is time to raise your prices.

Making sure the price is right for each menu item is no game — it takes lots of work. Before adjusting your prices, consider the following eight factors:

1. Food costs. “You’ve got to know your costs before setting a price,” says restaurant consultant Linda Lipsky of Broomall, Pennsylvania. She recommends that food costs run about 33 percent of menu prices, on average. This can differ per operation, with fine dining restaurants typically posting higher food-cost percentages and casual pizzerias running lower percentages. The percentages also vary widely from item to item. “A soup could cost as little as 18 cents per serving to make, but you’re not going to sell it for 54 cents,” Lipsky says. Soups, appetizers, desserts and alcohol tend to have lower cost percentages than entrees, she notes. Consider your sales mix when pricing items.

2. Margins. Food-cost percentages are only part of the equation. “The biggest mistake I see operators make is that they rely too much on food-cost percentages and not enough on food-cost margins,” says Dennis Lombardi, executive vice president of foodservice strategies for WD Partners, Dublin, Ohio. Take an expensive item, such as lobster. If operators base their menu prices strictly on food-cost percentages, they might price the lobster too high to sell. If they determine they want, say, a $9 margin on entrees, they can price the lobster to sell with a profit.

3. Additional costs. Don’t forget to factor in your labor costs. The cost of baking and decorating a chocolate cake in-house — rather than buying it premade — is more than just the price of the ingredients. Include the price of any giveaways, such as bread and olive oil, and the cost of food waste and spoilage.

4. Volatility. Food costs can change at a moment’s notice — based on anything from world politics to weather conditions. While large chains might sign contracts that lock in prices, smaller restaurants usually don’t have that option, Lombardi says. “Give yourself a cushion for volatile items,” he notes. Limit items, particularly those with volatile ingredients, to specials or seasonal dishes, he advises. Lipsky recommends printing your menu in-house, so you can easily reprint it if your costs suddenly soar. “If your menu looks the same, your guests probably won’t notice the price change,” she says.

5. Competitor’s prices. When was the last time you dined at a competing restaurant? If it’s been a while, you’re missing crucial information that can help you set your prices. Find out what your competition offers and their price points. Don’t look just at online menus, Lombardi urges. Go in person so you can see the portion sizes, the preparation, the presentation—all factors that impact the value perception.

6. Menu mix. Lombardi recommends analyzing your menu composition by sorting the items into a matrix like the one below:

Low Margin High Margin
High Volume
Low Volume

Using this format, you can spot places to adjust prices, push sales or drop items. For example, can you increase the margin on a high volume/low margin item without losing significant sales? Can you increase sales of a low volume/high margin item by placing it more predominantly on the menu or giving servers a sales incentive? Remember: Different spots on the matrix play different roles in building your business. “You need a couple of items that are priced low enough to avoid the ‘veto vote’ from those in a group who want to go out but don’t want to spend a lot,” Lombardi says.

7. Ingredient adjustments. Before raising a menu price, consider whether you can make the dish for less, Lipsky recommends. Can you select a less expensive vendor, substitute similar but more affordable ingredients or make the portion size smaller? If none of these are feasible, you might need to raise prices. “But that doesn’t mean you have to raise the prices on your whole menu,” Lipsky says.

8. Historical data. Review your menu prices at least twice a year, if not quarterly, Lombardi recommends. Be sure to examine previous price changes, and see how they affected your bottom line before enacting your next set of changes.

To keep an accurate account of food cost and ensure you are making the best profit, sign up today with a MenuMax account. Our food cost and restaurant management tools provide an easy way to manage your back-of-house operation.

Turn your restaurant into a tourist destination

In this article from the National Restaurant Association, learn how to attract tourists this summer with these helpful tips.  Travelers spend more than $200 billion annually on food service in the United States, according to the U.S. Travel Association. On average, tourism accounted for nearly a third of fine-dining sales and almost a fourth of casual-dining sales in 2012, according to National Restaurant Association research.

Try these 10 tips to attract tourists:

1. Connect with concierges. “The concierge is the first person that hotel guests ask for a dining recommendation,” says Julie Zucker, director of marketing and promotions for Branded Restaurants USA in New York City. “We invite concierges for a meal so they can recommend us with confidence.” The company owns and operates three restaurant concepts, Big Daddy’s, Duke’s and City Crab.

Supervisors from San Antonio’s Mi Tierra Cafe & Bakery visit area concierges weekly, greeting them with baked goods and a stack of “Amigo cards” to give hotel guests. The cards, which feature the concierge’s name and hotel, entitle customers to free desserts. Mi Tierra tracks the referrals, rewarding a concierge for every 20 customers.

2. Plug into social media. As soon as tourists head into Las Vegas and “check in” to a location with Facebook, the ads for local attractions start. Among them is Blondies Sports Bar & Grill on the Strip. “That’s been a great tool,” says manager Catherine Pavesich. “We find it works better than the old-fashioned visitors’ guides.”

Branded Restaurants USA uses Twitter to get the word out. “We look for the Twitter handles that tourists follow and post there,” says Zucker. For example, she might tweet at #nycgo that Big Daddy’s is offering free milkshakes with a purchase.

3. Act as area ambassadors. Build your reputation as a restaurant that welcomes visitors. “We train our servers to talk knowledgeably about the area and the local culture,” says David Cortez, co-owner of Mi Tierra. Some team members are certified city ambassadors through a program a San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau program that develops customer service and area expertise. Similar Certified Tourism Ambassador programs are available throughout the country.

4. Team up for cross-promotions. Work with local theaters, museums and other area attractions to piggyback promotions. For example, Havana Central in New York City’s Times Square, which specializes in Cuban cuisine, found a natural partner in Broadway’s “In the Heights,” which is set in a Latino neighborhood. The restaurant promoted a 20 percent discount code for “In the Heights” and offered a dining discount to guests presenting their ticket stubs. “We also catered their cast party,” says founder Jeremy Merrin. “That was tremendous exposure for us.”

5. Become a “bus stop.” Havana Central brings in the tourists by the busload, usually at off-peak times. “We offer a prix-fixé meal at a discount,” says Merrin. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Building up the tour clientele took time, says Merrin. “Originally we would spot bus drivers on the street and ask them what tour groups they were with.” After some cold calls to tour agencies, the restaurant began to land tour groups. “One you get on their schedule they come back again and again,” he says.

6. Make time for timeshares. Mai Kai, a Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., restaurant that runs a Polynesian revue show, offers a bulk discount to a local timeshare. The timeshare company purchases vouchers for a fixed-price dinner and show, using them as tour incentives.

7. Manage your online reputation. Monitor what tourists say about your restaurant on review sites such as TripAdvisor. Respond to reviews, especially negative ones, so you control your reputation. For example, if a tourist tries oysters and dislikes them, restaurant staff thank him or her for dining at the restaurant. “Then we might say: ‘While we think oysters are great, they’re not for everyone. Next time you’re in town, let us know if you want something you don’t see on our menu,’” Zucker says.

8. Become a site to see. Tourists flock to Mi Tierra for its festive décor and strolling musicians, to Mai Kai for a tropical waterfall view and to Polynesian revue and to Big Daddy’s for pop culture memorabilia, such as an autographed photo of the “Bay Watch” cast.

9. Work with your local convention and visitors bureau. These organizations can help promote your restaurant through their websites, visitor centers and more.

10. Find out how the tourists found you. On their comment cards, Mai Kai asks guests how they heard about the restaurant. The responses help guide future marketing decisions.

Recipe of the Week: Banana Meringue Pudding

4 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
4 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt


    1 11-ounce box vanilla wafer cookies
    3 ripe bananas, thinly sliced
    4 large egg whites
    1/2 cup sugar


      Lightly whisk eggs in a large bowl just to blend. Whisk sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Gradually whisk milk into sugar mixture and heat over medium heat, whisking often, until very warm to the touch. Gradually whisk half of hot milk mixture into eggs, then whisk egg mixture back into milk mixture in saucepan.

      Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened and whisk leaves a trail in pudding (it should be the consistency of mayonnaise), about 4 minutes. Remove from heat, add butter, vanilla, and salt and whisk until butter is melted and mixture is smooth.

      Strain pudding through a fine-mesh sieve into another large bowl. Cover pudding with plastic wrap, pressing directly onto the surface. Chill until cool, about 2 hours.

      Spread one-third of pudding evenly in a 2-qt. baking dish. Top with half of cookies and half of bananas. Repeat layers one more time and top with remaining third of pudding. Cover and chill at least 4 hours.

      Just before serving, heat broiler. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat egg whites until foamy. With motor running, gradually add sugar. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until stiff peaks form.

      Spoon meringue over pudding and swirl decoratively. Broil until meringue is dark brown in spots, about 1 minute.

      Note: To check if your meringue is stiff, lift the beaters out of the bowl and upend them: The peaks should stick straight up.

      Do ahead: Pudding (without meringue) can be assembled 2 days ahead. Keep chilled

      Recipe from

      6 Ideas for Bars and Restaurants to Cash in Big this Father’s Day

      As Father’s Day 2014 swiftly approaches, this article from provides some useful tips and promotion ideas for restaurant managers to make the most of the upcoming holiday.

      National Restaurant Association (NRA) projects that 50 million Americans will dine out on Father’s Day this year (Sun. June 15). It’s also ranked as the third most popular holiday for dining out after Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

      NRA research also reveals that the most important factor for dining consumers when choosing a restaurant on Father’s Day is whether it is dad’s favorite restaurant, regardless of specials. With that in mind, hopefully your bar or restaurant is already on many dads’ top lists. But regardless of where you rank on the list, below are some sure-fire ways to boost profits on Father’s Day.

      Create a special pre-fixe Father’s Day Menu:
      Give dads something special on Father’s Day, beyond your bar or restaurant’s normal menu. When devising your menu think about what dads like to eat and drink. One idea is to play on the wine pairing concept, instead offering a pre-fixe beer pairing menu catering to your men clientele. But in addition to serving classic “guy food,” such as steak, burgers and potatoes, make sure you have options on the menu that everyone will enjoy.

      Be ready for an influx of kids:
      In most cases, dad will be enjoying his Father’s Day meal with his family, which means keeping kids happy must be an important part of your guest experience. For your guests with young children, make sure to offer plenty of coloring paper and crayons at the table and a fun kid’s menu.

      Encourage reservations:
      Encourage reservations to help minimize wait times for guests and get a better handle on what kind of business you can expect throughout the day and/or evening. This will ensure that you maintain consistent service and food quality, even during unusually high rush periods.

      Plan ahead:
      Father’s Day is one of those major holidays when you’ll need to be ready for a bigger than usual rush. So it’s important to think and plan ahead. For instance, have the kitchen staff prep certain foods ahead of time, where possible, such as potatoes, onions, ground beef patties, etc. Also, anticipate a full bar or restaurant by staffing accordingly. It’s better to be over-staffed then under-staffed on major holidays, such as Father’s Day.

      Hold a fun contest or giveaway:
      Give dads an opportunity to enter to win free tickets to the baseball game, movie theatre tickets, etc. Promote the contest on your social networks, as well, to use it as an extra way to drive patronage to your bar or restaurant on Father’s Day. Then take a photo of the winning dad to announce and congratulate him on your Facebook page, blog, etc.

      Boost sales with a Father’s Day gift:
      Honor and celebrate dads with a gift that their families can choose to buy in your restaurant. For example, The Porch Restaurant and Bar in Sacramento, Calif. will be serving a Jack Daniel’s paired dinner on Father’s Day with the option of purchasing a Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Engraved Bottle for $60.

      So for all of America’s bars and restaurants, cheers to a lucrative Father’s Day!

      2014 Consumer Trends

      Learn what consumers look for in a restaurant from this helpful video from the National Restaurant Association.

      Recipe of the Week: Confetti Shrimp Cocktail Pasta Salad

      A colorful, zesty pasta and shrimp salad served ice-cold has the flavor of a Mexican-style shrimp cocktail for a very refreshing lunch or light supper. This dish is perfect to serve on the patio during the warm summer months. See more great recipes at

      13 ounces spiral pasta
      1 ripe avocado – peeled, pitted and
      2 teaspoons lime juice
      1 pound cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
      2 tomatoes, chopped
      4 green onions, chopped
      1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
      1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
      1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
      1/4 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
      1/4 cup chopped orange bell pepper
      1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
      1 1/2 cups vegetable juice cocktail
      1/4 cup olive oil
      1/4 cup ketchup
      1/4 cup fresh lime juice
      1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
      1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
      1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, or to taste
      1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
      1 clove garlic, minced
      1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

      1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil; cook the pasta at a boil until tender yet firm to the bite, about 8 minutes; drain and rinse under cold water until chilled
      2. Place avocado into a bowl and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons lime juice to prevent browning; cover and refrigerate.
      3. Toss cooked pasta, shrimp, tomatoes, green onions, red onion, green, red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, and cilantro in a large salad bowl until thoroughly combined.
      4. Pour vegetable juice cocktail, olive oil, ketchup, and 1/4 cup lime juice into a food processor; add horseradish, jalapeno pepper, hot pepper sauce, salt, garlic, and black pepper. Pulse a few times to mix the dressing, then process until jalapeno and garlic are chopped very small, about 30 seconds. Pour dressing over pasta salad and stir to combine. Cover salad and chill thoroughly in refrigerator, 2 to 3 hours; just before serving, gently stir in avocado.

      4 Surefire Ways to Increase Liquor Sales

      Increasing your liquor sales is one of the best ways to increase your bar’s profits. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be complicated—in fact, by following these tips and investing a little bit of time, you can definitely increase your bar’s liquor sales! Here’s how:

      1. Focus on your staff.

      Your bartenders make a huge difference—after all, they’re the ones who talk to and serve your customers. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your bartenders are perfectly trained. They should know how to perfectly make every drink your customers ask for, as well as how to suggest drinks to unsure customers. To take it a step further, your bartenders should also be trained in upselling. But it’s not all about business! Aside from knowing the ropes, your bartenders should also be friendly and able to hold a conversation with just about anybody. Rude bartenders definitely won’t help you increase your liquor sales, but personable, knowledgeable ones will.

      2. Use in-house marketing.

      How can your customers order your fancy new cocktails if they don’t even know they exist? Be sure to show off your drinks in house by using table tents, digital signage, or old-school chalkboards. And make sure your cocktail menus make your drinks sound appetizing—don’t just list the ingredients, but give customers an idea of what the drink tastes like. Don’t forget to use high-quality photos!

      3. Have specials.

      Give your customers a reason to buy more drinks! Create a specialty cocktail that customers can’t find anywhere else. And be sure to offer customers deals, like a great happy hour or another deep discount. You might also consider promoting a cocktail or beer of the month.

      4. Keep it clean.

      It doesn’t matter if you have the swankiest cocktail lounge or the darkest dive bar—being dirty won’t help you sell more drinks. Sticky counters, crumbs, and dirty glasses turn customers off. A sparkling clean bar makes all of your drinks look more appealing. And don’t forget about keeping things organized! Keeping your stock in order might not seem like a priority, but think about how much faster your bartenders can make (and sell) drinks when they know where to find everything.

      Increasing your liquor sales doesn’t have to be hard. By training your staff, using in-house marketing, creating specials, and keeping your bar clean, you can watch your liquor sales go up!

      Article provided by Buzztime.

      For daily tips, ideas, and concepts for your bar or restaurant, please visit

      Trusted by over 3,200 bars and restaurants in North America since 1985, Buzztime integrates trivia, card and sports games with in- and out-of-venue messaging and communication tools. With over 4.2 million player registrations on the Buzztime platform and over 52 million games played each year, Buzztime players spread the word and invite friends and family to their favorite Buzztime location to enjoy an evening of fun and competition.

      Memorial Day Margarita Grilled Chicken

      Try this delicious recipe to celebrate the unofficial start of summer from

      2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
      2 tablespoons coarse black pepper
      2 teaspoons garlic powder
      2 teaspoons onion salt
      1/2 cup margarita mix
      1/4 cup lime juice
      1/4 cup orange juice
      3 tablespoons tequila
      3 tablespoons triple sec
      2 tablespoons honey
      1 cup light olive oil
      6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

      1. Place cilantro, pepper, garlic powder, and onion salt in the bowl of a blender. Pour in margarita mix, lime juice, orange juice, tequila, triple sec, and honey. Puree on high speed until smooth, then reduce speed to medium-low, and slowly add the olive oil; blend until creamy. Place chicken breasts in a resealable plastic bag or glass bowl; pour marinade overtop and toss to coat. Refrigerate for 5 hours.
      2. Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat and lightly oil grate.
      3. Remove chicken from the marinade, shake off excess, and discard remaining marinade. Grill the chicken until tender and juices run clear, approximately 7 minutes per side.

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