3 reasons why a tablet ordering system will ruin your restaurant

Introducing a tablet ordering system in a restaurant may seem like a perfect option – it could eliminate communication errors between the guest and the kitchen, reduce time to pay at the end of meals, and give guests the opportunity to learn more about the food and history of the establishment. But nothing is ever as perfect as it seems. Below we have outlined 3 reasons why a tablet ordering system will ruin your restaurant.

1. Cost. There are 3 major costs associated with tablet ordering systems. First, the cost of labor will increase because server tips will decrease. Restaurant operators are responsible for paying employees minimum wage if they are not making the required amount through tips. Second, the initial cost of the tablet computers – training, insurance, and the devices themselves. Third, there must be a reserve of cash for lost, stolen or damaged property. Most restaurants are a haphazard environment, with plates getting dropped, glasses being broken, and salt shakers mysteriously disappearing. Tablets will break, get stolen, or be otherwise damaged and it is important to prepare in advance.

2. Damaging the Brand Experience. When a restaurant uses a tablet for ordering, they are no longer known for the unique cuisine, exceptional staff, or tasty drinks. Articles and reputation surrounding the restaurant focus on one thing – the tablet. The tablet is something a restaurant operator cannot control (will it break?, what happens if it gets a virus?, what do we do if the internet connection fails?, etc.). A restaurant operator can control the staff that is hired and the quality of food and drinks. The brand experience can also be harmed at the individual level. For example, if an entire table is forced to share one tablet to complete the order, it can make the ordering process longer and irritating, especially if one of the guests cannot make up their mind.

3. Unpredictability. Guests have no way of knowing how busy the kitchen is, and on a busy Friday or Saturday night, multiple orders coming into the kitchen at the same time could bog down the kitchen for the entire night and ruin many guest’s meals. The tablet also cannot answer every question a guest has, and cannot predict the needs of the guest like an experienced server. Assuming the tablet ordering system is accompanied by a smaller staff making less in tips, the experienced servers will be much more difficult to attract.

7 Trending topics for Restaurants in October

What should your restaurant be blogging about? Here are 6 options: http://blog.swipelyworks.com/restaurant-marketing-ideas/6-things-your-restaurant-should-be-blogging-about

Having trouble with Twitter etiquette? 5 tips to help you decide what’s right and what’s wrong: http://blog.swipelyworks.com/restaurant-marketing-ideas/5-quick-tips-restaurant-twitter-netiquette

iPads for ordering becoming more popular at restaurants: http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/story/2011-09-20/ipad-restaurant-menu-ordering/50482900/1

Brand extensions from TV chefs – watches, jewelry lines, cooking supplies, restaurants and more! http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/kitchen-royalty-134887

Resurrection of classic flavors – Brooklyn Gin from pre-prohibition is back:  http://uncrate.com/stuff/brooklyn-gin/

Top 50 restaurants for Foodies in the US: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/opentable-diners-reveal-the-top-50-restaurants-for-foodies-in-the-us-130262703.html

How Steve Jobs influenced the restaurant industry: http://www.qsrmagazine.com/news/steve-jobs-left-legacy-unlikely-industry

Where to promote your Skinny/Low-calorie Menus

Social Media:

Restaurants are using skinny and low-calorie menus to attract more women and social media’s largest user population is women so it seems like a match made in heaven to promote using social media. The goal of the social media campaign is to raise awareness to a large population of the new menu options.

It is important that the person managing your social media, whether outsourced or managed in-house, uses language that is consistent with the brand. Thinking of the brand as a character can illustrate this more clearly. For example, a brand that emulates George Clooney will have a completely different voice than a brand that is more in-tune with Bugs Bunny.

Social media can also be used to gain guest testimonials. When Kona Grill debuted the Skinny Cocktail menu, guests posted on their Facebook page things like, “Oh MY GOD thank you thank you thank you for the skinny cosmos! SO freakin’ excited to go to Kona tonight,” and “HEAVEN to a dietitian!”

Traditional Media

Focus on social media is increasing, and it is tempting to let traditional media initiatives decrease. However, the opportunities magazines (online and in print) provide are essential to build trust and reinforce promotions. An ad featuring a promotion is a great occasion to let the potential guest know what they should expect when dining at an establishment. The language, imagery, and layout used in an ad should mirror the experience of the restaurant. For example, referring to a margarita as a “marg” conveys that the restaurant is more casual. Lifestyle photography can be used to target specific age demographics, and subconsciously clues the viewer in to the types of people that a restaurant is targeting.

Getting press is also a great way to communicate new promotions to a target audience. Most magazines provide editorial calendars months before the issue is scheduled to print. Restaurants can use this with skinny or low-calorie promotions by finding topics that relate, like weight loss, healthy living, or women-targeted issues, and contact the magazine to be featured.


Restaurants should focus on selling the skinny and low-calorie menu items to guests in the store. Place the promotions on table tents, train servers and bartenders to suggest the new menu items to guests, and use menu inserts to ensure that the consumer will purchase the new items. For more on how to use table tents, please click here.

Do you need help with promotions for special menus? Please, contact us!

Test stores and limited time offerings

When adding new offerings to the menu, we suggest testing first. Some brands test by adding items in specific stores first, while others engage in a company wide limited-time offering, and then permanently add the most popular and profitable items to the menu.

Many companies test using both of these methods, deciding which to use based on the product being tested. The major difference between the two is that when introducing items into specific stores first, items are usually added to the regular menu and promoted through traditional and new menu outlets. When a restaurant opts to offer a limited-time menu, the menu is actually a promotional item with new items, not a menu.

Using test stores

Some brands use test stores in very rural areas, so word of mouth doesn’t spread too quickly about their new menu offerings. Others use test stores in large markets to gain a larger perspective of new items. When restaurants use test stores, they are usually looking for 4 things:

  • Can the kitchen keep up with demand?
  • Will the new product sell? Are people making special visits just for the new item?
  • How can new items be made utilizing existing ingredients, and minimizing new ingredients necessary?
  • How do new items affect restaurant profitability?

Limited-time offerings

Limited-time offerings (LTOs) are a great option for seasonal products and to react to guest feedback. Use table tents to showcase LTOs when testing out new drinks or desserts, and menu inserts to promote the LTOs that are meal based.

Companies also use LTOs to bring back popular items and gain sales and create hype. McDonald’s offers the McRib as a LTO, and incorporates the offer into a larger marketing strategy. In 2005, McDonald’s started the “McRib Farewell Tour” while simultaneously creating a petition website to “Save the McRib”. McDonald’s made the McRib something special, and engaged their customers to join a cause with the LTO.

It is important to consider the impact of a LTO on the brand. The LTO must be aligned with the menu design, while at the same time serving as a marketing piece, and matching the rest of the marketing collateral. In the end, all print and digital pieces surrounding the LTO should be a hybrid of the brand marketing collateral and the printed menu.

Do you need help planning a limited time offer or test menu? Please let us know, we’d love to help!

The Skinny trend in menu items

Low-calorie drinks have been rising in popularity since 2008 when Bethenny Frankel debuted her “Skinnygirl Margarita” on her reality show. Since then, restaurants, grocery stores, and coffee shops have adopted sugar-free, fat-free, and low-calorie items.

Know your market

These skinny items are targeted towards women and an older target market and the items are proving very popular among both  demographic segments. Incorporating low-calorie options in a drink menu can encourage guests who wouldn’t normally order a cocktail to indulge, resulting in a higher tab and, if they drinks are priced correctly, higher profit.

When introducing skinny menu items it is important to expand on the target market that is present, and not try to market to a completely new audience. While skinny drinks are requested frequently at many popular chain restaurants like Kona Grill and Yardhouse, guests at the local sports bar  may not be as eager to order skinny drinks. Remember, when you try hard to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.

Coors learned this the hard way in 1993 with the addition of Zima. Coors spent 50 million dollars targeting a virtually nonexistent demographic – men of legal drinking age that did not like the taste of beer, and instead preferred a wine cooler-like beverage. Had Coors spent their time and money targeting the true consumer of Zima, women, the beverage could have been much more successful.

Not everyone will like it

Starbucks was one of the first brands to incorporate “skinny” options in their drinks. When you order a skinny latte at Starbucks, it comes with non-fat milk and sugar-free syrup. Naming these drinks “skinny” caused some backlash because some found the term politically incorrect. Starbucks maintains that the drinks are “focused on the idea of taking better care of oneself.”

Be aware of pitfalls

When deciding to incorporate skinny options into a menu, it is important to keep in mind that there may be a higher cost for sugar alternatives, fresh fruit and fruit juices, and specific liquors. As with any addition to a product line, be sure that skinny options are aligned with the brand. Earlier this month, all Skinnygirl products were removed from Whole Food’s shelves because the ingredients were not up to the brand’s standards.

When ordering skinny cocktails keep in mind that the recipes were created with great care, and that the bartender may not be making them exactly as the recipe calls. Be aware of portion sizes. Bethenny Frankel’s Skinnygirl Margarita packs only 100 calories… per 4 ounces (most drinks are at least 8 ounces).

If you’re looking to add skinny or low-calorie items to your menu please contact us!

7 Trending Topics for restaurants

  1. It’s 2011, and most restaurant websites need to catch up. Here is an in-depth article on why restaurant websites are stuck in 1999: http://www.slate.com/id/2301228/
  2. While you’ve (hopefully) jumped on to social media, remember to look past “likes” and “followers” and measure your influence on social media. Jill McFarland takes a deeper look at restaurant social media here: http://www.jillmightknowjack.com/2011/08/restaurants-social-media-good-bad-and.html
  3. Find out how important color is to the success of your restaurant with this post on color psychology: http://itsmyingredient.com/2011/08/04/restaurant-color-psychology/
  4. One thing you can learn from the world’s best cocktails: they all have stories. Find out what else you can learn here: http://www.thebarblogger.com/what-you-can-learn-from-the-world%E2%80%99s-best-cocktails/
  5. It’s hot in Phoenix, and we can barely see the glimmer of cooler weather on the horizon. Try out the 5 best cocktails in the city to cool off: http://www.citysbest.com/phoenix/news/2011/08/03/best-summer-cocktails/
  6. The best of the 11 trends for restaurants in 2011? Frugality fatigue. Be ready to celebrate, because your guests are ready to spend! http://www.fesmag.com/index.php/news/foodservice-news/item/5118-technomic-identifies-11-leading-restaurant-trends-for-2011
  7. Add “send out email newsletter” to your calendar, because with these 7 tips, your newsletter will be ready to go! http://blog.commlog.com/2011/08/02/aug-2–email-marketing-tips-for-restaurants.aspx

Table tent uses

The table is the point of purchase (POP) in most restaurants. This makes the table tent a valuable piece of advertising real estate. A table tent narrowly  targets  a restaurant’s market – the guest has walked through  the door and is sitting at a table, prepared to spend money. From a restaurateur perspective, it can be difficult to decide how to use this marketing tool. We’ve outlined a few options for table tent usage.

  1. Food and drink promotions. Table tents are a great way to introduce or test new menu items without reprinting the entire menu. Many table tent options are designed to make changing out specific promotions easy and quick.
  2. Dessert. Put the idea of dessert in a guests mind right when they sit down, and keep the idea in front of them their entire meal. The guest is more likely to order a dessert if they are constantly reminded of the sweet treat a restaurant is promoting. This works especially well during slower times to entice guests to spend more when restaurants aren’t as focused on turning tables quickly. Need more information on spending per minute? Click here.
  3. Advertise events. Restaurants can also use table tents to communicate when happy hour times, lunch or late-night specials, or special events are happening throughout the week, month, or season.

A few things to keep in mind when using table tents:

  • Great photography sells. If a brand frequently uses photography in advertising, email campaigns, and the menu, it is cost effective to use the same images in table tent materials, in addition to helping align the table tent design with your overall brand.
  • Captive audiences. People look at table tents when they sit, after they have ordered or if they need something to keep them occupied. This is why drinks and dessert are great options for table tents – drinks are ordered throughout, and dessert is ordered at the very end.
  • Guests have time to look at table tents, they can read copy, and refer back to it; such as a call to action to join your social media pages. Copy can be used to give more details, but needs to be used with caution in order to prevent overwhelming the guest.

Do you need help with table tent design? Contact us to get started!

Let’s face it, people don’t like blue food

If you’re designing a restaurant there are certain colors to stay away from, and blue is one of them. Blue and purple are associated subconsciously with toxins and spoiled food. Why? Blue foods are not commonly found in nature, with the exception of blueberries and a few other rare foods. Our ancestors regarded blue as a warning color, indicating the food was poisonous.

Sight is the first sense evoked by food. If the color of the food is unappetizing, a food can be immediately rejected. Studies have shown that blue food makes people lose their appetite completely, and in some cases become sick. Just imagine eating a blue steak. Gross!

Quick sensory design tip: using blue in your menu design or restaurant’s interior may not be such a good idea! Restaurants that use blue in their theme may be more focused on the environment their guests are in than the actual quality of food. Modern Steak, which has a blue logo and blue tables is a trendy place to be seen in Scottsdale, Arizona. It’s reputation for food however, is not stellar. While many reviews focus on the “great ambiance” and “beautiful décor,” few elaborate on the quality of food. A well-known food blogger in Scottsdale wrote a review complete with pictures of Modern Steak. We have included some of his photos in this post, let us know what you think of how the food looks!

Some diet plans use the reaction to blue to their advantage. Put a blue light in the refrigerator or eating off blue plates.

When was the last time you ate something blue?


Useful Link: Rating Diet Plans

4 tips to increase profit with drink menus

  1. Define your liquor cost. Restaurants calculate  liquor costs many different ways – some include juices, garnishes, and Red Bull while others only account for beer, wine, and liquor. After you’ve defined what contributes to the cost of liquor, determine where you  make the most profit, and where you are losing money. A helpful tool is the BCG matrix.
  2. Educate your staff. Train your staff and give them the confidence they need to sell specialty drinks, wine, and beer. If your servers and bartenders can make a guest familiar with the taste of a new cocktail or type of wine, the guest will be more likely to venture out of their comfort zone and try something new. Your staff should be using the menu as a jumping – off point, and play off the descriptors in the menu. Remember, these descriptions should use words to paint a picture and engage the senses.
  3. Promote. Make it easy for guests to see what special drinks you offer. Instead of having a separate drink menu available upon request, use table tents and other visual aids to promote your money-makers. Force people to see your unique concoctions. If you are supporting a cause, create a specialty drink to create awareness and promote your brand. Ling and Louie’s in Scottsdale created a Second Base Cooler in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Along with a very cool t-shirt and menu this drink showed off their mad mixology skills, and shows how their very “not boring” brand uniquely supported a wonderful cause.

Another way to promote your yummy drinks is through social media. Post pictures, and see what people like and dislike. A photo of a happy hour margarita might just be what you need to get that extra business on Friday afternoons. You can also use social media to give guests a behind-the-scenes look into how drinks are made. Kai Restaurant at The Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa has a special section on their Facebook page: KAI-Tails – From our Mixoligist where they describe each new cocktail and how locally sourced ingredients creatively blend with choice spirits.

4. Placement and organization. “The menu is the heart of the restaurant. It embodies the restaurant’s demographics, concept, physical factors and personality,” (from this blog on menu design). Use your menu to create an experience with your guest before they even sip on your drinks. Incorporating tactile elements in menu design for a sensory appeal can help give guests a sense of the cocktails also.

Any tips or tricks you’d like to share?


How typography influences menu design

In a previous post, we discussed a little bit about how typography can impact a menu, but we barely scratched the service on the influence it has on the restaurant brand experience.

A menu’s typeface, when put to correct use, can be the window into a restaurant’s kitchen, environment, and even its culture.  It can form the impression that keeps your guest entranced by your brand after they are greeted and seated, but before they taste the food you have to offer. While it may be tempting to get fancy and elaborate with fonts and typefaces, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, your guest must be able to read the items on your menu. This means that when choosing a font it is best to keep the lighting in the restaurant and the age of your customers in mind. You should also try to avoid clutter by spacing items and sections so guests can process what is on the menu. Everything associated with your specific restaurant brand should target your niche market and reflect its needs and tastes, including the readability of your menu.

There is some debate on the perception people have when they have trouble reading a menu. Some menu engineers say that the harder a menu is to read, the perceived value of the items increases, with some restaurants going so far as to hand out reading glasses to patrons, while others have seen a sales increase that coincides with better legibility.  Identifying your brand and target audience will help with choosing a specific theme for your typeface.  Keep in mind that if you do choose a hard-to-read font, you do not want to cross the line from “difficult and intriguing” to “impossible to see, I’m not coming back.”


Have you seen any menus that are hard to read and deterred you from returning? We’d love to hear about it!