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Restaurant patio with plant on table

Get Ready for Patio Season!

 

Whether you are seating 10 guests or more in a physically distanced space, creating an outdoor patio environment that is just as good as your indoor guest experience should be the key focus throughout your patio planning.

 

The space may be temporary, but guests’ experiences are long-lasting and so are their memories, so it is remains critical to a restaurant brand’s overall success to invest sufficient planning and development to create a seamless dining experience.

 

By being thorough in designing and executing your perfect patio experience, you will be in an ideal position to attract diners.

 

Daniel Lemin, Strategy & Analytics Lead at Convince & Convert, says, “When choosing a restaurant, GenZ and Millennials are 99% more likely to rely on social media and online reviews than are GenX and Boomers.” By being thorough in designing and executing your perfect patio experience, you will be in an ideal position to attract these diners.

 

Seasonal patios often pose many challenges for restaurateurs. Should you install heat lamps for cooler nights? What’s the seating plan? How do you schedule wait staff for patio season? What patio trends make sense to your restaurant brand?

 

There are many considerations in how you approach your patio to ensure it is “the place to be seen” this summer with many Instagrammable moments. To create this winning formula, you must consider important factors from an operational perspective as well as the details of the atmosphere.

 

What you serve inside, you serve outside

Be prepared for your kitchen to handle the extra capacity. Consider your current equipment capacity, the amount of space in refrigeration and storage, as well as your team’s skill level. A streamlined offering or change of purpose for the area is a better option than having your customers wait an extra 30 minutes for food because you cannot execute to expectations.

 

Stock up!

From plate ware, glassware and cutlery to napkins, to-go containers and chopsticks, all items need to be stocked up to support the additional seats to service. Be prepared by ordering in advance, as suppliers tend to get busy with patio orders as spring approaches.

 

Need more staff, but how much?

Calculate the number of shifts per week this will add to your front-of-house schedule and determine the date your new staff need to be hired and trained by. Then work back from that date to allow for enough time for hiring and training.

 

TIP: Hire gradually over a few months to alleviate the pressure of mass training to allow new staff to get comfortable and ready for patio season. It does incur higher labour costs on the front end, but will pay off with greater productivity and less turnover throughout the summer.

 

Your patio design, décor and overall outdoor experience are the fun part of the planning process, and also what define your patio as a place to be and shared on social media.

 

So, what are the “rules” of patio design?

 

Know the laws

Each province and municipality has different laws on what restaurants can serve, how they serve it, when they serve it, and where they serve it. Some local laws prohibit outdoor bars while others require partitions or café barriers around sidewalk seating. Educating yourself on local laws and obtaining permits sounds about as appetizing as a spam and prune salad, but it’s a crucial part of the process. Punishments violating local laws and not having proper permits can range from a citation to fines or even closure. Before you start building your outdoor patio, research your local laws and be sure to obtain the proper permits.

 

Design your seating plan

Your gut instinct might be to place as many tables and chairs in your patio design as possible. After all, more tables mean more customers and more revenue, right? Not necessarily. Make sure you have ample space between tables and chairs for both servers and guests to manoeuvre through your restaurant’s outdoor seating, struggle free. A cramped floor plan can take away significantly from the patio experience and have a negative effect on sales.

 

As well, ensure your patio can take advantage of a view if you have it with as many seats possible. Obviously, these will be in high demand and the more you can take advantage of the view, the more you can mitigate potential customers being upset. If a view is not part of the patio experience, use high walls to create a more intimate experience. Some of the best patios are ones in parking lots that have used this strategy to make you feel like you are in an oasis.

 

Find appropriate furniture

TIP: Do NOT reuse your interior table and chairs for your patio.

 

A patio requires patio furniture made of durable materials that can hold up to the wear and tear of the outdoors. Look for furniture that’s weatherproof and easy to clean. If space and storage are an issue, opt for stackable chairs. Additionally, make sure your patio furniture jives with your restaurant’s décor and atmosphere. For example, if you run a high-end restaurant, you may want to reconsider outfitting your patio with foldable plastic chairs.

 

Patio pitfalls

When serving outdoors, you must be prepared for whatever Mother Nature has in store. You’ll need solutions for keeping bugs away, providing shade from the sun, keeping your diners warm on cooler evenings, and of course what to do in case of rain! Your weather preparation plans can significantly add or detract from the outdoor dining experience.

 

Patio perfection

Acceptable restaurant patios have these basics and essentials mastered, but great restaurant patios take it a step further. Give your outdoor seating a personal touch to distinguish yourself in the market. Enhance your diners’ experience with food and bar specials, live music or yard games. A restaurant patio that’s well planned, unique, and full of character can quickly turn those one-time customers into regulars and boost profitability. And remember, 35% of Canadians prefer to visit a restaurant or bar when going out with family and friends – far ahead of the second-favourite option, outdoor activities, selected by 23% of Canadians (Source: Restaurants Canada-sponsored poll). Canadians will come if you build your patio the right way.

 

When all these items are considered in your patio planning, the result will be a patio experience that customers will remember and great word of mouth for your brand. With your operational overhead covered by your revenue inside, a well-operated patio can add 30% profitability on the additional revenue brought in. It can be very lucrative indeed to ensure these details are part of your plan to create the perfect patio experience!

 

Written by Sephen Hamelin and shared with permission from Chef Connexion.  

 

Visit chefconnexion.com for more great articles!

 

 

 

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How’s your mental health during Covid?

 

Chef with head down while preparing food

 

Even before COVID became part of our daily vocabulary, the foodservice and beverage industry had high rates of mental health challenges and substance use issues. It can be a stressful job at the best of times and the long, variable hours and fast pace make it difficult to always take care of ourselves. Burnout can take hold.

 

Running a restaurant in the midst of a global pandemic has ratcheted up the pressure, increased anxiety levels and created even more strain on our mental health. “The pandemic has made things worse in so many ways,” says Hassel Aviles, co-founder of Not 9 to 5, which she launched with executive chef and restaurateur Ariel Coplan in 2017. “This is everyone’s first global pandemic so we are all figuring it out as we go, but this has severe consequences.”

 

Through this challenging time, we’re all feeling extra anxiety, frustration, trauma and grief, she notes. Increased isolation due to physical distancing, job loss and business closures, financial insecurity, and a lack of sufficient support and resources are only piling on the pressure.

 

Aviles, who has worked as a bartender and server, knows firsthand the pressures and perils of the job. “Back then, no one was having conversations about mental health or addiction with staff.”

 

When Aviles and Coplan asked their hospitality community, 90 per cent said “yes” to experiencing mental health and/or substance use challenges. Their research and surveys over the last two years have revealed depression, anxiety, substance use, burnout and disordered eating as some of the top concerns.

 

There are some signs to watch for that can indicate someone you work with, or someone who works for you, might be struggling with their mental health:

  • Change in personality. You may notice sudden or gradual changes in the way that someone typically behaves or the person may just seem different.
  • Agitated. They seem uncharacteristically angry, anxious, agitated, or moody.
  • Withdrawn. They withdraw or isolate themselves from others.
  • Poor self-care. They stop taking care of themselves and may engage in risky behaviour.
  • Hopelessness. They seem overcome with hopelessness and overwhelmed by their circumstances.

Adapted from https://www.changedirection.org

 

“The best way for employers to ensure they’re paying attention is to create a working environment built on psychological safety,” Aviles says. “It means you feel you can be vulnerable with one another without experiencing any negative consequences. For too long, workers have been told to ‘check their emotions at the door,’ and this intolerance of vulnerability has created an environment of suppression.”

 

Restaurant staff having a discussion

 

Five tips for fostering psychological safety

  • Demonstrate engagement. Be present and focus on the conversation, and ask questions because you truly want to know the answer.
  • Role model. Practise active listening, and recap to show that you’re understanding and validating the thoughts and input of others. If something goes wrong, don’t place blame, instead focus on solutions.
  • Be approachable. Be available and build rapport by talking about life outside of work.
  • Involve your team. Seek the input, opinions and feedback from your coworkers, and acknowledge their input when you do make your decision.
  • Mistakes are okay. Encourage teammates to take risks, and demonstrate that making mistakes are part of the process, and they provide opportunities to learn.

 

Tips for improving workplace health

  • TIP: Acknowledge verbally and openly that no one is unaffected by this pandemic and its consequences, there is a lot of healing that comes from validation and feeling heard.
  • TIP: Practise active listening skills.
  • TIP: Rest, rest and rest. We are all exhausted, this experience is incredibly taxing on our bodies and minds.
  • TIP: Be extra gentle to yourself and others.
  • TIP: Triple down on a self-care routine, including nourishing yourself with a healthy balanced diet, exercise, sufficient sleep and social connection.
  • TIP: Make a list of activities that spark joy for you. Refer to it weekly.
  • TIP: Find safe ways to channel your intense emotions. These may or may not include anger, rage, sadness, frustration. Examples include rigorous exercise like boxing, art, singing, dancing, screaming, punching a pillow.
  • TIP: Avoid toxic positivity for yourself and others. An excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations isn’t healthy.

 

Aviles suggests creating a working environment where all team members are encouraged to seek help when needed, and have easy access to resources for mental health and substance use challenges. “It’s important to have an understanding of what supports are available including workplace accommodations, employee benefits and other means of support.”

 

Aviles and Coplan have created an online course to educate and train hospitality industry workers to better identify, understand, and respond to mental health and substance abuse challenges. They call it CNECTing, which stands for Change Needs Everyone Coming Together. “We chose this name because connection is essential to make a positive impact and change in our industry,” Aviles says.

 

Important Resource: Digital assets for the CNECTing course are available here.

 

Learn more:

  • Mind the Bar Foundation provides information and support resources for those in the hospitality industry who are struggling with depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide, substance abuse, addiction, or workplace harassment.
  • The Full Plate offers free resources and services designed for all hospitality workers.
  • Wellness Together Canada was funded by the Government of Canada in response to the unprecedented rise in mental distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • United States-based #Fair Kitchens is working to create a healthy kitchen culture based on open communication, passion, support and teamwork. More than 50 Canadian foodservice and beverage operators have already signed on as friends.

 

Visit chefconnexion.com for more expert advice

 

 

 

 

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Server packing take out food wearing gloves

What does the future hold for foodservice?

Here are 7 top trends to keep you on track

 

Hindsight is 2020, as the old expression goes. Certainly, as we rounded the corner in 2019, the prospect of a bright new year was uppermost in our minds.

 

Who could have foreseen a pandemic that would upend every aspect of foodservice? But there is a resilience in the industry and a sense of optimism that once we return to some semblance of normality, or at the very least, a new normal, restaurants will shine once again. To get a better read on what’s in store for foodservice, we turned to our data partner, Technomic Inc., to take a deeper dive into the trends for 2021:

 

1.Diversity & Inclusion (Operations)

Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 spurred calls to action for foodservice companies to fight for social justice and equality. As a result, businesses across the supply chain are committing to working harder to produce meaningful change. We’ll see more conscious efforts to hire, mentor and promote (especially in leadership positions) minority races and ethnicities, as well as women. There will also be an uptick in internal antibias training, partnerships that support minority organizations and donations to social justice-related causes.  

 

BACKGROUND

Stat: Nearly half (46%) of consumers report that it’s important to them that restaurants are engaged in social justice – consistent across all generations. In addition, more than two-fifths (42%) of consumers, including 59% of Gen Zers, express that it’s important to them that restaurants support the Black Lives Matter movement.

 

Base: 1,000 consumers ages 18+


Source: Technomic Canadian Omnibus consumer survey data

 

Example: Uber Eats waived delivery fees for consumers ordering from Black-owned restaurants throughout 2020.

 

2. Safety Stays Top of Mind (Consumer)

As the pandemic rolls into another year, consumers will continue to prioritize safety when making restaurant decisions. They’ll favour operators who earn their trust by always executing strict sanitation and social distancing protocols, such as proper food handling, rigorous restaurant cleaning and limited indoor seating. This will lead to more touchless digital menu boards, contactless ordering and delivery options, pre-packed and grab-and-go items, tamper-proof packaging, and high-quality air filtration and ventilation systems.

 

BACKGROUND

Stat: Nearly two-fifths (38%) of consumers think restaurants could do a better job promoting their safety and sanitation protocols.

 

Base: 1,000 consumers ages 18+
Source: Technomic Canadian Omnibus consumer survey data

 

3. Post-Lockdown Buzz (Global)

In anticipation of a vaccine, operators across the world will innovate highly buzzworthy products to attract guests back into restaurants and stand above the competition. This is a tactic we’ve seen Asian markets employ during a previous easing of lockdown restrictions. Compelling menu development will include inventing wacky mashups and next-level collaborations, expanding into new mealparts and dayparts, and investing in product improvements.

 

BACKGROUND

Stat: Most consumers agree that they are likely to visit a fast-food (65%) or fast-casual (71%) restaurant that they don’t typically patronize if it has a unique limited-time offer.

 

Base: 551 and 701 consumers ages 18+


Source: Technomic Ignite consumer data featuring the 2020 Canadian Future of LSR Fast Food & Fast Casual Consumer Trend Report

 

Example: Woodhouse Brew Pub launched a modern take on nostalgic TV dinner trays with its “Hungry Friends” reheatable meals. (Toronto)

 

4. Investing in Technology (Operations)

COVID-19 has motivated both consumers and operators to quickly embrace foodservice technologies that offer contactless and/or touchless aspects, including mobile apps, ordering kiosks and digital menu boards. Operators will test more advanced technologies in the coming year as consumers continue to prioritize safety and convenience. On the horizon innovations will include more GPS tracking, voice ordering via an AI assistant, facial recognition systems and drone delivery to provide frictionless off-premise services, as well as greater investments in robotics to maximize labour efficiencies for both back and front of house operations.

 

BACKGROUND

Stat: Nearly a quarter (23%) of consumers 18-34 strongly agree that if available, they would be interested in having items delivered via innovative delivery technologies (e.g., drones, self-driving robots, etc.).

 

Base: 1,282 consumers who ever order off-premise


Source: Technomic Ignite consumer data featuring the 2020 Canadian Delivery and Takeout Consumer Trend Report

 

Example: Swiss Chalet updated its mobile app. The chain’s new version of its mobile app features an updated interface where guests can save their favorite items, collect coupons in the Coupon Wallet, opt in or out of receiving silverware with their order, tip ahead and more. It also includes a “giving” feature where customers can gift Swiss Chalet meals to friends and family.

 

5. Going Dark (Menu)

Operators will increasingly look to black and deep purple ingredients in 2021. All of these ingredients provide a wow-factor colour when featured in food and drink, and some also have either umami flavour profiles or immunity-boosting benefits (due to their anthocyanin-rich capabilities). Ingredients to watch include dark berries, such as saskatoon serviceberry and blackcurrant; purple corn and potato; black salt, kale and gnocchi; activated charcoal cocktails; squid ink beyond pasta dishes; and ingredients in ashes, such as ash-covered cheeses, onion or leek ash, etc.

 

BACKGROUND

Example: RGE RD’s Purple City cocktail with Park Distillery vodka, Hanson Distillery cherry rye, maple saskatoon berries and plum bitters (Edmonton)

 

6. Thinking Local (Operations)

Movements to support Canada’s economy will grow as borders remain closed and small businesses continue to struggle. We’ll see operators increase their sourcing from area suppliers and visibly promote these collaborations on menus. At the same time, community-minded consumers will actively seek to patronize restaurants where their money also helps support local farmers and other purveyors. Driving this effort will be distributor partnership with local suppliers and producers that help spread awareness of their products and fulfill growing patron demands.

 

BACKGROUND

Stat: Approximately two-thirds of consumers (67%) say they are more likely to purchase and/or are willing to pay more for food and beverage that is locally sourced.  

Base: 355 consumers ages 18-73


Source: Technomic Ignite consumer data featuring the 2020 Canadian Generational Consumer Trend Report

 

Example: The Pickle Barrel celebrated Ontario farmers by rolling out LTOs featuring local ingredients, including rainbow trout from Manitoulin Island and corn from Waterford

 

7. Off-Premise Escalates (Operations)

Off-premise services have served as a lifeline for operators throughout the pandemic. But as consumers grow accustomed to the perks of these occasions (i.e., convenience, speed and contactless experiences), operators are hedging their bets by incorporating off-premise into their long-term strategy to offset future dine-in disruptions. We’ll see an uptick in new and remodeled stores that emphasize takeout, delivery, drive-thru and curbside pickup, as well as new and upgraded technology to make these services seamless and distinctive.

 

BACKGROUND

Stat: Approximately a third of consumers say they plan on ordering food and beverage for takeout (38%) and delivery (31%) more in 2021 than they did in 2020.

Base: 1,000 consumers ages 18+


Source: Technomic Canadian Omnibus consumer survey data

 

Visit chefconnexion.com for more great articles

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What’s the true cost of proteins?

Cooked steak on white background

Centre-of-plate proteins are some of the most expensive ingredients. Implementing strategies to lower food costs without sacrificing quality and presentation can help your bottom line while feeding creativity and inspiration in the kitchen. Selecting less expensive cuts, marinating with creative sauces, creating soups and stews, and choosing sides that complement well while providing exceptional value are just some of the ways to tame the food cost beast.

 

Contribution to margin 

Rather than deciding what proteins to use based solely on food cost percentage, consider contribution to margin by subtracting food cost from your selling price. “By working from a contribution to margin calculation, operators can more clearly see how customers might choose one item over another if the value isn’t strong enough on price point,” says James Keppy, national culinary chef, Maple Leaf Foods. “It also illustrates how paying attention to pricing can make the difference between making a sale or not, and to your overall sales and profit margin.”  

“Do you go to a lower grade or a smaller portion?” Keppy asks. “Does it have to be a 10-ounce steak or could it be an eight-ounce? If you go to a smaller cut, then you can add protein with chick peas and lentil options. And by keeping your sides flexible, you add ability to respond to food cost pressures.” 

 

 

Fresh vs frozen

No surprise, fresh product is time-limited. Frozen cases offer more flexibility since you can take out as many bags as you need without fearing that the rest will spoil. This flexibility enables you to plan ahead, forward buy, and more accurately assess your needs.

 

Remember that markets dictate price, and by understanding the fluctuations, operators can gain maximum pricing advantage. Supply and demand pushes steak prices up during grilling season; hips and chucks begin to rise in August based on future bookings for delivery in October.

 

The AAAs have it

According to meat experts, a well-aged AA program will produce higher value steak than a lesser-aged AAA program. A quality product depends on proper aging, but if you age AA and AAA beef in the same ways, the AAA will offer a consistent, flavourful and juicy product.

 

Working with chicken? Test for yield.
Do your due diligence and carry out a proper yield test on your raw chicken breast to see cooking loss against a competitor, Keppy recommends. “The loss can be significant if you are buying an inexpensive frozen chicken breast. Protein is reduced by the amount of water that is added and that water is purged out leaving a smaller cooked product.”

 


 

“It is the sign of a good cook who can prepare tougher cuts.”

James Keppy, national culinary chef, Maple Leaf Foods

 


Lesser cuts can mean more profit

Offering a skirt steak or top sirloin in place of tenderloin, or a chicken thigh instead of chicken breast can make a great meal with even more flavour, Keppy says. “It is the sign of a good cook who can prepare tougher cuts. Depending on your operation, a value-added product may be the best answer because of the staff savings, portioning and hold times that can balance off a raw product with labour, cook time and waste.”

 

Celebrate the story

Canadian meats are among the best in the world. By proclaiming place of origin on menus, operators can build pride and customer loyalty.

 

Quick tips

TIP: Build a feature menu item. Try offering a mix grill with three smaller servings of protein like a three-ounce chicken breast, a small dinner sausage, and three-ounce piece of steak.


TIP: Work your seasonings. A cheaper cut marinated and seasoned properly can show off your talents as much as a top cut.

 

 

Visit chefconnexion.com for more great articles

 

 

Written by Lawrence Herzog

A writer, photographer and broadcaster for 30+ years, Lawrence Herzog is an experienced and accomplished communications professional with a specialty in foodservice and tourism. He was editor of Flavours magazine and contributing editor of Your Foodservice Manager magazine.

 

 

 

 

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Server handing a customer take out while wearing a mask

 

How are servers – and other restaurant staff – connecting with guests now that they have to wear face masks and avoid contact? And how do guests know when servers are smiling?

 

The personal touch is a key part of the restaurant experience, but new safety protocols have upended that experience. Servers need to work extra hard to create that feeling of welcome. Has the thumbs-up become a new form of communication between servers and guests to signify satisfaction? Or has “eye talk” become the norm? And how are operators training staff to replicate the warm, welcoming feeling of the “old days”?

 

“Smiling is part of service,” says Jeff Dover, Principal at fsStrategy Inc. “So, with masks, eye contact is important.” Masks can be adapted, he adds:


Top Tips

  1. Customize the mask with a smile on it or something appropriate to your brand –have some fun with it and turn it into something positive.
  2. “I have seen masks with clear plastic in the mouth area allowing for smiles.”
  3. Have staff wear a pin or button with their picture on it (smiling and friendly of course).
  4. “The first customers (are) comfortable dining out and looking forward to it,” he adds. “The next wave will include diners that are a little tentative and worried. Service, as we perceive it, will change.”

Changes to server communication need to be part of a bigger strategy of letting guests know what you are doing to keep them safe.

 

Here are other tips from Dover for servers adjusting to the new restaurant normal. Many of them, you have probably already instituted:


Top Tips

  1. Don’t pre-set tables. Bring sanitized salt and pepper, cutlery etc. after guests have been seated.  
  2. Have sanitizer in the dining room at all server stations.  
  3. Make sure servers sanitize regularly – after placing orders, etc.  
  4. Offer wrapped plastic cutlery for those who request it (many won’t take you up on it if you have regular cutlery, but the offer will be good for those a little uncomfortable and will show all customers you care about their health.
  5. Use disposable menus. Servers should make a point of letting guests know that menus will not be used again.  
  6. Have your menu available online and mobile-friendly for those who don’t want to touch menus.

“…it is about making people feeling comfortable dining again,” Dover says. “I also think thanking them for coming back and supporting your business will go a long way and be appreciated.

 

 

 

About the writer

Jane Auster is the editor of ChefConnexion.com. She has been a foodservice writer and editor for more than 30 years. Jane was the editor of Your Foodservice Manager, a national magazine for professionals in the foodservice and hospitality industry in Canada, and FoodBiz.ca digital site. She was also an editorial consultant and managing editor for the relaunch of Flavours magazine.

 

 

Visit chefconnexion.com for more articles

 

 

 

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Two-Bite Protein Snack!

 

Egg Solutions 2 Bite Egg Bites

We are so excited about this delicious 2-bite protein snack!

 

On-trend, these products will help operators develop and capitalize on the all-day breakfast and snacking trends.  There is virtually zero labour - just heat and serve!

 

Watch this video to learn more:

 

Egg Solutions Two Bit Egg Bites on a plate

 

 

3 Crowd-Pleasing Flavours:

  • Bacon & Cheddar
  • 4 Cheese
  • Red Pepper & Spinach Egg White

 

Product Numbers:

110157 EGG SOLUTION EGGSOL EGG BITE BACON CHEDDAR IW 80/1EA

110158 EGG SOLUTION EGGSOL EGG BITE FOUR CHEESE IW 80/1EA

110159 EGG SOLUTION EGGSOL EGG BITE RED PEP & SPINACH IW 80/1EA

 

Available in microwaveable heat ‘n’ go single-serve formats!

 

 

 

 

 

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Person typing on a laptop giving a one star review online

What They're Saying "IS" Word of Mouth Advertising

 

Over the last decade, like burning wild fire, word of mouth advertising has erupted into a fierce, influential, and potentially detrimental digital landscape called online reviews.

 

Platforms like Zomoto, Yelp, Dine, Trip Advisor, Facebook, and Google Reviews have given public opinion an open forum to share their restaurant dining experiences on a global scale. If, and how you manage these digital guest reviews can make a significant impact on your brand’s reputation and business success. So, not only is the guest’s review influencing whether or not potential guests will come and dine with you, but so is how you respond to the online review, and what your total star rating is.

 

How to effectively manage online guest reviews

Managing your online review profile can be your most influential marketing strategy, second only to social media. It requires a plan with daily dedication and management consistent with your restaurant guest service standards. I’ve termed this strategy “Digital Guest Relations,” and this is your opportunity to increase your conversation rate of digital guests (visitors) into actual guests. Customers are willing to spend 31% more on a business with excellent reviews, so set that as your objective.

 

  1. Begin by identifying around the three most critical online review platforms, by reviewing where the most review activity is taking place by guests. Ensure the number you commit to is manageable on a daily basis, as ideally you are responding to each review within 24 hours to maintain an above average response rating.
  2. Where possible, claim your online review profile page and update your profile with photography, menus, hours of operation, contact information, descriptions of the service level, and any other key details that set your restaurant brand apart.
  3. Train a senior team member or members on how to use the platforms. Many of the platforms have phone apps, which are useful in responding to guests in a timely manner on the go.
  4. Develop a response strategy that your trained team members can use as a guide, with example situations and responses, to maintain consistent guest service standards.
  5. Train wait staff, bartenders and floor managers to encourage positive guest reviews in the restaurant during service. In a recent study, 68% of consumers indicated they will leave a review if asked (BrightLocal), and a half-star rating increase translates into a 19 per cent greater likelihood that a restaurant’s seats will be full during peak dining times (UC Berkeley). This guest touch point might also uncover dissatisfaction with a guest’s experience, providing another opportunity to turn a potential negative review into a positive experience.

You can go even one step further by incentivizing the guest with a complimentary dish or discount as thank you for their time and feedback. This can be really effective to retain your regulars and encourage repeat business.

 

Only 13% of consumers will consider using a business that has a 1 or 2 star rating

 

Good to know: Add a personalized touch to each response in addition to using the guest's name. Remember, potential guests are reading your responses too!


How to come back from negative online reviews

I recently supported a restaurant client who experienced the wild fire destruction that negative online feedback can cause. A guest had found a worm in their dish, snapped a picture of it, and posted it online with a detailed reenactment of the situation from their perspective.

 

Within two days the negative review had spread to 200 additional guest comments, with the majority of the comments supporting the guest, and a community now claiming to boycott the establishment.

 

The restaurant had experienced a loss of over $50,000 in just 48 hours, and was in panic mode, as the wild fire continued to burn. What was lost from the one-sided online review were the facts:

 

  1. This was the first and only time this had happened in the 10 years of being open.
  2. Management had apologized profusely and did not charge the table.
  3. The food and safety inspector was brought in immediately and found that their recent shipment of organic cabbage was the source of the problem, and it was quickly removed. Being organic, the cabbage is not sprayed with pesticides and therefore attracts insects.

The biggest concern was that although the restaurant was given a clear report to continue operations, no one was listening. So, we took immediate action, were honest and transparent both publicly and digitally:

 

  1. Developed a lengthy and thorough apology to the guest and the public incorporating the “facts” and posted in online.
  2. Posted images of the health and safety report to be as transparent as possible.
  3. Followed up with a highly successful guest appreciation weekend event for the entire community.

Within seconds, the wild fire went out, as guests appreciated the transparency of the response and learning all the facts. The online community began to advocate for the restaurant brand, recognizing that sometimes, just sometimes, mistakes do happen and the customer isn’t always right.

 

Moral: it is possible to come back from negative online reviews when brand authenticity is paired with transparency.

 

Good to know: First and foremost – be prepared to respond to ALL guest online reviews. Not just the good, and not just the bad.

 

Another effective approach is to take the conversation offline, by encouraging the guest to contact management directly to resolve the matter. Restaurant guests will continue to post their experiences in the digital space, which is becoming the first touchpoint potential guests have with your brand before they walk through your front door.

 

Written by Kate Engineer, a hospitality communications expert.  Blog post was originally posted on chefconnexion.ca.  Visit the site for more great tips and recipes.

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Schneiders Canadian Farm-Raised Pulled Meats

Three sandwiches with schneiders pulled meats on buns and toppings

 

 

Made with Natural Ingredients

 

Like many, I've been enjoying Schneiders products for years.  I am happy to share that their pulled meats are delicious!  Convenient and something you can confidently serve your guests.  They are fully cooked (or perhaps I should say slow-roasted for several hours), and they don't come with any sauce which allows you to get creative and make them your own.  

 

One of my favourite features is that all the pork, beef and chicken are Canadian.  The sentiment to support local is higher than ever, make sure you let your customers know that you are purchasing Canadian farm-raised meats.

 

Features

• Canadian Farm Raised pork, beef, and chicken
• No sauce added - versatile
• No preservatives* or artificial flavours
• Fully Cooked - ready for use
• Convenient pack size
• Gluten Free
• Slow-roasted to keep flavour in

 

 

Looking for some inspiration?

Patio Pulled Chicken Flatbread

 

Schneiders pulled chicken with tomotoes olives and other toppings on pizza board

 

Tender Canadian pulled chicken served on a crisp herb flatbread with an artichoke and asiago base with peppers, tomatoes, olives, shredded cheese then finished with fresh arugula.  A great starter on the patio.

 

Get the Recipe

 

 

 

Piri Piri Pulled Chicken Wraps

 

Schneiders pulled chicken piri piri wraps on a wood background

 

Spicy piri piri seasoned Canadian pulled chicken wrapped in a grilled flour tortilla with lettuce, peppers and red onion, finished with a lemon vinaigrette and fresh cracked black pepper.

 

Get the Recipe

 

 

 

Italian Beef Sandwich with Goat Cheese & Red Peppers

 

Pulled beef sandwich with onions goat cheese and toppings on a white plate

 

Here’s a hearty sandwich that requires no cooking at all—but is loaded with flavourful ingredients and vibrant colours.

 

 

 

Get the Recipe

 

 

 

Contact your sales representative today for more information.

 

 

 

 

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Make your Drive Thru Safe and Tasty

 

Sign promoting Drive Thru on a black background

Have you opened a drive-thru to supplement income from takeout and delivery? Here are some key considerations to make sure you have the safest, cleanest window selling environment, from Paul Medeiros, Managing Director, Consulting, Technical and Retail Audit Services at NSF International.

 

PHYSICAL DISTANCING REMAINS KEY
Drive-thru employees may find the two-metre distance guide challenging, especially if drivers stop their vehicle too close to the window or if staff need to take the meal out directly to a parked car. Here are some ideas that may help keep physical distance working:

 

1. Ensure your bollards are properly positioned (and present) to help guide drivers away from the window. Attach a small flag (similar to the flags you see protruding from the side of bikes to keep cars away.


2. If your drive-thru window design doesn’t allow the installation of a plexiglass shield (like those in grocery retail), train employees to avoid leaning out the window or moving closer than necessary to the vehicle. A plexiglass is still the best bet, and all you need is around 12 inches at the bottom to slide through products.


3. Place signage at your drive-thru menu board, letting your customers know that you’re ‘keeping space’ and asking them to do the same.


4. Consider using takeout trays for all drinks as they reduce the risk of employees making direct contact with customers.

 

COMMON TOUCH POINTS FOR THE CONSUMER
Restrict payment to tap only, online payments or other ‘frictionless’ ordering methods. If cash is used, the employee needs to wash hands thoroughly after handling the cash and before touching other surfaces or items. The debit card machine keys also need to be wiped down between customers.

COMMON TOUCH POINTS FOR THE EMPLOYEE
Conduct a safely check and verify the drive-thru window automatic open/close mechanism is working. Manually opening and closing the window introduces a common touchpoint.

HANDWASHING 
Employees need to wash hands thoroughly after each customer order.

BAG HAND-OFF 
Even though your staff will wash their hands after each order, care must be taken to avoid hand contact. Bags are easier to handle in this case but takeout drinks and trays often result in hand-to-hand contact. Note: with all the extra handwashing, rotate employees often so that hands get a rest from washing.

GARBAGE HANDLING 
Most customers are very considerate, but some have taken to throwing out potentially dangerous items in drive-thru trash receptacles. The option of removing these (and posting accompanying signage) is an option, but could result in greater littering. The most common option is to make sure the employees who handle the garbage wear adequate PPE (gloves and apron) and that the garbage is double-bagged. Assume all garbage contains potentially harmful materials including used masks.

RETURNED ITEMS 
Do not handle a bag or package after it has been given to a customer. If a customer tells you an item is missing from the order, hand them another.

COHORT STAFF 
Hospitals and nursing homes taught us long ago the value of ‘cohorting’ staff and patients. Cohorting basically refers to the segregation of people into ‘groups’ or ‘pods’ or ‘bubbles’ or ‘shifts’. By cohorting people and avoiding contact between cohorts, you minimize the spread of infection. If someone in a cohort gets ill, then only that cohort is affected. The food industry has been applying this concept as one way to address COVID-19 risks. This should serve as a reminder to all foodservice companies with multiple sites to make sure they limit their employees to working one site only. If possible, maximize employee hours so they are not incentivized to work multiple part-time jobs, which introduces them to various ‘cohorts’ and could increase both their risk and yours.

 

And two other tips:

• DRIVE-THRU SHOULD SUPPLEMENT TAKEOUT. Not everybody has a car so recognize you may be missing out on sales if you do away with instore/curbside takeout.

• CASH MAY STILL BE KING AT TIMES. Not everybody has access
to noncash payment options, so be prepared to have to handle some cash or deny
some customers access to food.

 

This post was shared in connection with Brand Points Plus, a FREE loyalty program for independent operators.  Easily collect points for amazing rewards, if you're not a member - we highly recommend you become one.

 

 

Learn more about Brand Points Plus

 

 

 

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100% Takeout

Lord Elgin Fish and Chips logo with pictures of fish and chips and burger

 

Lord Elgin Fish & Chips, a family-owned fish and chips restaurant located in Port Elgin, Ont., will be celebrating 40 years of serving the community this May. Owner-operator Mike Lemcke grew up in the business and, with his wife Janet, bought out his parents 22 years ago. The 3,500 sq. ft. restaurant with 145 seats appeals mainly to a family and seniors crowd.
 
Mike spoke to Brand Points Plus about how Lord Elgin Fish & Chips has been able to pivot quickly from dine-in with some takeout to 100% takeout:

What was business like for you before the coronavirus hit?

Winter is normally slow for us and we close for five weeks at Christmas, usually reopening the last week or two of January. We had just reopened and managed to get through February. Then in March just as business started to pick up, COVID-19 hit. Usually each month gets busier from March to June, then July and August are crazy busy, come September things start to slow down again, and each month from September to December things get considerably slower. Takeout sales generally varied from 15%-25% of our daily business.

When did you see the handwriting on the wall and decide to convert to takeout and delivery? 

We converted to takeout on the Tuesday the Ontario government mandated dining rooms to close. We still haven’t started delivery as we have set up a very safe pickup procedure that’s working well. If we see that people are no longer willing to pick up their orders, we will consider delivery. [Check out Lord Elgin's Facebook page to see how easy they've made it to pick up and go.] 

 

What was your first reaction when you realized you’d have to make this change?

We knew we could make the change quickly and just had to perfect the system. We had to adjust it a few times as we kept finding little things to change to make everything run smoother.

 

What steps did you have to take to convert your operation?

Five years ago, we developed a frozen battered fish product that customers can buy and cook in their oven. We have slowly increased the sales each year. This product has been very popular since restaurants had to convert to takeout only. We have added our homemade frozen fries to this product line temporarily.

What changes have you had to make to staffing?

We decided to lay off our staff and run the business with just our family of four. We have many kitchen staff who live with vulnerable people so they didn’t want to work. We decided to open only Thursday, Friday & Saturday, 12-7, to funnel as much business as we can into three days to limit our overhead. We took a few items off the menu with short shelf life to limit the amount of food waste.

What challenges have you faced in converting to takeout?

No real challenges, but we continue to rearrange the kitchen to make it more efficient for takeout. It has been interesting seeing how quickly and easily we were able to adapt to takeout only. Luckily, we already did takeout so we had all the packaging figured out already. We got the word out to our customers that we were switching to takeout mostly through Facebook and our big LED road sign. We make sure we attach a special thank you to each order for the support during this time.
 
Are your efforts bearing fruit? How have you measured success?

We are very happy with where we are at this point. Obviously, our sales are down considerably, but so are our expenses.

 

Lord Elgin Fish & Chips' top tips:

  • Trimming costs and limiting any waste is more important now than ever before.
  • Look at every little cost including how often you get garbage pickup.
  • If you find you are not very busy, reduce the days you are open.
  • If you have a product people want, they will come the few days you are open and you can reduce operating expenses.
  • Consider adding other items to your takeout menu

 

 

This post was shared in connection with Brand Points Plus, a FREE loyalty program for independent operators.  Easily collect points for amazing rewards, if you're not a member - we highly recommend you become one.

 

 

Learn more about Brand Points Plus

 

 

 

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