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.
5 things restaurants need to do now to prepare for the holidays: http://www.businessinsider.com/five-things-you-need-to-do-right-now-to-capture-holiday-sales-2011-10
5 things restaurants need to consider before rebranding http://smartblogs.com/restaurants/2011/08/31/5-things-restaurants-should-consider-before-rebranding/
Yelp’s Star System Serves Up a Tasty Dish: http://dailycrowdsource.com/2011/10/23/community/yelps-star-system-serves-up-a-tasty-dish/
The importance of smart phones in bar/restaurant social media efforts: http://www.thebarblogger.com/the-importance-of-smart-phones-to-your-social-media-efforts/
3 food truck marketing gimmicks that actually work: http://blog.swipelyworks.com/food-truck-marketing/3-food-truck-marketing-gimmicks-that-actually-worked#more-1397
A drink made with a power drill? Yikes! http://eater.com/archives/2011/10/19/jose-andres-makes-conan-a-drink-using-a-power-drill.php
Groupon targets upscale market: http://www.internetretailer.com/2011/10/27/groupon-goes-upscale
Heinz and Coke let you customize packaging: http://www.contagiousmagazine.com/2011/10/heinz_coca-cola_john_west.php
If you’ve been in the restaurant industry for an extended period of time, you’ve likely heard of the “secret” or “mystery” shopper. The shopper or shoppers come in and grade a restaurant on everything – from the host’s friendliness, to whether a manager stops by the table, to whether the server is knowledgeable and tells them their name. After their dining experience, the shoppers turn in a form relaying their experiences to the hiring company. The company then processes the information, and sends it to the restaurant, which in turn reviews the form (which itself can be a long process down the chain of command from corporate to district managers, to store managers to shift managers) and then contacts the staff member that served the shoppers. This process is drawn out to unnecessary lengths.
A few questions to ponder: Is this timeline acceptable? Is a secret shopper program even worth it, when the majority of experienced servers can pick out a secret shopper within the first 5 minutes of interaction? By the time the feedback returns, does the employee in question even work at the restaurant anymore?
Enter in 4G mobile phone networks, high speed internet, and social media, and the timeline for customer feedback is much shorter. A guest can write a review from the table on Yelp from their phone, or they can be tweeting or updating their Facebook status about everything that is happening. The best part is that restaurant managers and staff have an opportunity to correct a potential problem as it occurs, and establish a personal relationship with guests by monitoring these forms of media.
The key is to utilize the instant feedback available, and stand out from the crowd in your social media responses. Don’t just type a response – when someone checks in on Foursquare, find them in the restaurant and thank them for dining with you! Monitoring the correct channels also enables managers to address issues with staff (positive or negative) immediately or at the end of the shift in which they occurred. Events are still fresh in everyone’s mind, and ways to correct or compliment are relevant.
This past Wednesday, we partnered with the Arizona Technology Council to present a panel of branding experts to discuss building a brand experience like your favorite restaurant. Our panelists included Kate Unger, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Kahala, a franchising company (owners of Cold Stone Creamery and Blimpie brands, along with 12 others); Deborah Topcik, Director of Marketing for Z’Tejas, Inc. which owns and operates 11 restaurants in six markets; and John Banquil, Regional Manager for Ling and Louie’s Asian Bar and Grill. Below, we have have posted 19 takeaways to recap the event.
Cold Stone Creamery is launching with International Delight – ice cream flavored coffee creamer sounds amazing!
Take advantage of product placement opportunities like Cold Stone Creamery did with Ryan Seacrest. Ryan sent out this tweet: On the way to @kimkardashian’s wedding…traffic so bad on the 101 I had to stop at cold stone creamery…coffee lovers in my belly…I will quick change in the car…I always keep a suit in trunk!
“We’re comfortable with our food – we want to make sure our staff is doing the right thing for our brand every time” – John Banquil, Ling and Louie’s Asian Bar and Grill
On social media…
“Our Taco Time stores are individually branded towards their communities. It was difficult to do, but well worth it, and fit in with the original store.” – Kate Unger, Kahala
“The Ling and Louie brand is about relating everything back to Ling and Louie, including the servers we hire and the way we communicate.” – John Banquil, Ling and Louie’s
“Make sure there is added value to discounts. Your discounts should not be telling the discount story.” – Deborah Topcik, Z’Tejas
“Always stay ahead.” Kate Unger, Kahala on frozen yogurt in Cold Stone Creamery.
“You have to make sure what you want to do as a corporation is what makes sense for franchises in their markets.” – John Banquil, Ling and Louie’s
“When people feel informed, they feel better about decisions.” – Kate Unger, Kahala
“There is a holiday for everything, and it’s a fun way to establish your brand through marketing.” – Deborah Topcik, Z’Tejas
“We want to be out of the box, out of the ‘wok’ if you will.” – John Banquil, Ling and Louie’s
“Cold Stone Creamery started in Tempe, at an ice cream shop that made ice cream creations on a cold stone” – Kate Unger, Kahala
“Blimpies was the first sub shop in the country, that’s where the tagline ‘America’s sub shop’ comes from.” – Kate Unger, Kahala
“Lance Armstrong started Livestrong at Z’Tejas in Austin – the first location, we benefited from it, but it was all chance that the launch happened there!” – Deborah Topcik, Z’Tejas
“It’s all or nothing with discounts – we stick to ‘not boring holidays’ to go along with our brand” – John Banquil, Ling and Louie’s
Special thanks to the Arizona Technology Council for setting up this event!
1. Be polite. No one wants to be the owner/manager/employee who lashes out at an unhappy guest. There are countless examples of letting anger take hold, but the results are always the same: it’s embarrassing, gets bad PR, and can ruin your brand image. The best thing to do when someone has a complaint, but has already left the restaurant, is to take the conversation offline, and privately message them and resolve the situation out of the public eye. If someone is still at the restaurant, approach the guest and see what can be done to rectify the situation.
2. Respond. It’s very easy to set up a social media account, use it for a while, and then ignore it for long periods of time. The problem with ignoring social media platforms is that guests can still be interacting with an establishment, and feeling like they’re being ignored. This result is the opposite of what social media should be! Try to always respond to check-ins and comments, even if it’s just a quick “thank you!” It’s a small step to lasting relationships with guests.
3. Consistent communication. When a company decides to set guest expectations with a Facebook or Twitter promotion, front-of-house staff members must know about the promotion. Brand equity is damaged at the customer level when a server is not knowledgeable or the kitchen is not prepared.
4. Facebook is not Twitter. Don’t use Facebook as an extension of Twitter or vice-versa. Take advantage of Twitter’s fast moving feed and Facebook’s new 5000 character limit and the ability to post photos and videos.
5. Last, be aware of current events. Understand trending topics and the purpose of hashtags. Do not be the next Kenneth Cole #Cairo debacle.
Social media is essential in promoting businesses and engaging with customers and guests. At first glance, social media may seem like a waste of time. Below we’ve outlined the 3 most popular sites for restaurant goers – Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare. We’ve also included Yelp, because we’ve noticed that the site is a growing concern for owners and managers of restaurants.
What it’s used for: interaction and conversation, real-time taste of consumer attitude, promotion
Overview: Twitter is a great resource for real-time interaction. Correctly monitoring Twitter results in a better understanding of the marketplace. Twitter allows users to search for topics and see what trending topics are in a specific area. It is a great place to interact with guests and join conversations that relate to the type of food or drinks served. For example, a sushi restaurant might search for #sushi, and find someone that is craving sushi in the area. They can then invite them in, establishing a connection with the guest. Restaurants can also use Twitter to announce and promote specials.
What it’s used for: relationship building, loyalty rewards
Overview: Guests can use Foursquare to check-in to businesses. Businesses take advantage of this by setting up specials, like free chips and salsa for every check-in or a free drink for the mayor. Restaurants can take advantage of Foursquare by monitoring check-ins and welcoming guests that have checked-in. Making a guest feel welcome and special increases the likelihood of them coming back again and again.
What it’s used for: promotion; conversation, photos, events
Overview: Facebook for business is helpful in promoting specials, posting images, and conversing with guests. One major benefit of Facebook is that restaurants can post things that people can look back on for months, like photos and comments. Facebook also allows users to create events and invite guests who “like” the page.
What it’s used for: reviews from guests; research from potential guests
Overview: Of all people who dine at a restaurant, a very small percentage post reviews on Yelp. It is important to monitor a brand through Yelp, but more valuable information about the way a restaurant is perceived can be obtained by talking to guests while they are dining. If a guest has an issue while dining and it is not corrected before they leave, they are leaving unhappy, and any review they write will reflect that. If a manager talks to the table and corrects the problem before they leave, the guests leave satisfied.
Do you need help making social media sites branded? Contact us, we’d love to help!
It’s difficult to create a purple drink that has that “fresh, just squeezed” appeal because purple does not occur naturally. Similar to how a painter mixes paints, purple can be made using the colors blue and red in drinks. You can easily create this color by mixing any red colored drink (fruit punch) with any blue colored drink (Blue Curacao) and then water it down with soda water to meet your shade preference. But beware, customers want fresh natural ingredients over purple food coloring any day! Purple is a difficult color to create in drinks, so we suggest saving the recipes for special occasions and promotions.
Are you ready to add new drinks to your menu? Contact us, we’d love to work with you!
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!”
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!
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:
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!