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Managing guest expectations during times of constant change through effective communications tactics

 

Social media icons on a tablet

 

Keeping your guests informed and up to date about what to expect when dining at your establishment has never been so critical to the success of your foodservice operation. The restaurant industry remains in a state of constant change, and to maximize the allowable dining capacities, you need to up your communications game.  

 

Start off by keeping these key questions top of mind for a more tactical approach to your communications: 

  1. What do guests want to know right now about my restaurant?
  2. How will the message we’re communicating make them feel?
  3. Where and how do they want to receive messages?
  4. How will they respond and how can our team be ready?

 

Transparency is a Winning Tactic

First and foremost, a transparent and authentic approach is critical in achieving effective communications that will leave your restaurant guests feeling comfortable, safe and informed about the NEW dining experience at your establishment. Be first to share your health and safety procedures, operational changes such as seating and team updates, and menu modifications, so guests know upfront what to expect without having to ask. This tactic will help to demonstrate that your team takes the changing circumstances seriously, you’re informed, and you want to provide the best guest experience. 

 

 

Consistent and Timely Information is Key for Restaurant Marketing

In a recent poll, 59% of respondents shared that they use Google to find out information about a restaurant, while 41% use Instagram.

 

Reservation booking platforms, search engine listings, your website, social media, and review websites all share pertinent information about your restaurant that informs guests decision-making. The information listed on these digital touch points must to be current and consistent for maximum awareness. There is nothing more frustrating for a guest than showing up to find a closed restaurant, when online it says it’s open. 

 

Here is the key information guests are looking when they search; be sure to keep it updated:

  1. Health policies and procedures
  2. Hours of operation and seating times
  3. Menus 
  4. Reservation system 
  5. Takeout and delivery options
  6. Specials 
  7. Contact information

 

 

TIP:  Help reduce email inquiries, direct messages, and phone inquiries by providing a few frequently asked guest questions and up-to-date team responses on your website, Facebook, and Google Business page! 

 

 

Focus on the Fun

It’s easy these days to overuse the pandemic in our communication, however when the time is right, focus on the new and exciting things happening at your restaurant to entice guests back in to dine and continue to take out. New menu items, improved service, seasonal drinks, revamped décor and design, weekend events, and special occasion celebrations are all things to communicate that will remind guests of why they should choose to dine with you versus a competitor.  Promote what you’re best known for, and feature it on all of your communications platforms! 

 

 

Get Even More Social

Social media is your simplest and quickest way to share what’s happening at your establishment with guests, and to spark two-way communication. Up your posting to daily, and share the unique brand experiences that will excite guests the most. With health and safety top of mind for diners, ensure your photography and video content showcase your team following the proper procedures, in order to resolve any guest concerns; transparency is absolutely the best policy. When boosting your social media presence be prepared for increased guest inquiries through direct messages and comments, and have a plan in place to respond within less than 24 hours. The FAQs and responses are also a useful tool when responding on social media. 

 

 

Land in the Inbox

Whether you send monthly emails or have never sent email communication from your brand, now is the time to get in the inbox. You’ll be fighting for space, however email communication is a great tactic to provide more detailed information for guests to help keep them informed of your weekly or monthly happenings. E-newsletters should be short and sweet, with a catchy subject line, and include hyperlinks either back to your website or a direct email for more information. Utilize email communication to feature operational and safety news, menu features, and special events.  

 

 

 

TIP:  Can’t afford a graphic designer? Try Canva at no charge for a well-designed branded e-newsletter you can create in no time. 

 

Guests are eager and excited to get back to in-dining, and the most effective approach to filling your seats is to communicate timely and accurate information that sets a clear guest expectation. Your brand can’t over-communicate right now; it’s time to get loud!

 

Written by Kate Engineer and shared with permission from chefconnexion.com

 

Visit chefconnexion.com for more great tips

 

 

 

 

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Where there’s smoke, there’s fire: how to add smoke taste to your menu

Smoke on a black background

 

Our love affair with the scent and flavour of smoke is primal, evoking memories from deep within us. Canadian diners continue to be enchanted with all things smoke.  

 

Gone are the days where customers only want smoky flavours associated with BBQ. Smoke continues to waft across menus. Although proteins (both animal and plant-based) continue to dominate the smoky spotlight, this delectable flavour profile now permeates salads, desserts and even drinks.

 

Go all in with in-house smoking or utilize the flavour packed offerings from Canadian suppliers who know their smoke. Fan those delicious smoky flames and ignite your menu.

 

Not fizzling out

 

Smoking and smoke flavours have been around for millennia, but restaurant customers still can’t get enough as smoke continues to waft through menus across the country.

Technomic’s foodservice industry intelligence platform tracks flavours and preparations on menus. And they see smoke!

 

Among the foodservice establishments Technomic tracks, 45% of operators have menu items featuring smoke flavour or smoke preparation methods. And depending on the segments, the rate is even higher. Food Trucks – 75%, Upscale CDR – 68%, Fine Dining – 66%.

 

It all makes sense when you consider that poutine appetizers, specialty burgers, sushi and even breakfast platters boasting this flavour profile continue to show growth. When you look at meal parts, desserts that feature smoke are showing an astonishing 33% growth.

 

Yes, smoke for dessert. And well beyond s’mores, banana boats and mountain pies. How about Smoky Banana Bourbon Bites, Apple Pie with Smoked Cheddar Crust or Smoky Spiced Chocolate Cake?

 

 

Blaze a trail  

Hanging out at the cottage, delighting in bonfires and watching grandpa at the BBQ are fond memories evoked by the smell and taste of smoke for Victoria Horton, sales and quality assurance for Horton Spice Mills.

 

“People love smoky flavours because of the memories. It reminds us of summertime, nice weather and social gatherings.” And who isn’t craving that right now? “The scent gives us a moment to reminisce, but the flavour is delicious and keeps us coming back for more,” she adds. 

 

“Operators should add smoky flavours for the experience,” Horton suggests. “And for the nostalgia.”

 

“Smoking meats and other ingredients takes time. It’s a low and slow process,” she reminds us. “If operators want to achieve dishes with smoky flavours without all the work and time needed, spices and seasonings can do the trick. Add them before, add them after, or both, to whatever you are cooking.”

 

Horton Spice Mills has a few items that can bring smoke to a dish without all the time and effort. How about a Smoky Salted Caramel Pear Tart using their smoked salt. Or a quick Portobello Mushroom Paprikash with smoked paprika.

 

“Our chipotle seasoning adds a hint of smoke and we have created a Smoked Montreal Steak Spice,” says Horton. 

 

All fired up

“Smoky flavours offer a sensory experience like no other,” says Steve Hutchinson, VP of marketing for foodservice for Parmalat/Lactalis.

 

“It’s a flavour adventure not easily replicated with in-home dining and can therefore make dining out an incredible experience. Operators who can create these unique smoky flavour experiences and link it to their signature dishes can keep customers coming back.”

 

Cheese and cheddar are top ingredients paired with smoke. Lactalis takes it a step further with Balderson’s Double Smoked Cheddar. Using it on the menu can impart intense wood smoke flavour, and the fact it pairs well with dark and amber beers, ales and lagers is a bonus.

 

Kick it up a notch higher and pair smoky appetizers with smoke-infused cocktails. A Manhattan, Bloody Mary or Martini will take centre stage when you add smoky elements – infused spirits, smoked ice cubes, smoking the glass or adding a smoked garnish. 

 

Smoke signals

“Differentiation and craveability are key to gaining new customers,” says Unilever Corporate Chef Kyla Tuori, who has been working with operators to help their businesses excel for the past 14 years.

 

“The flavours we associate with “smokiness” add complexity to so many recipes, craveable enough that they are now being incorporated into vegetables dishes,” she says.

 

“Smokiness in your dishes allows for simple, yet impactful, enhancements for a variety of cuisines. Adding smoke flavour, or the process of smoking can be introduced as a subtle background note or leading flavour.”

 

Not all operators have access to smoking equipment or the inclination to add another process to their busy kitchens. But there’s always another way.

 

Says Chef Kyla, “Unilever created the Knorr Intense Flavours Deep Smoke. This concentrated liquid seasoning allows you to easily add the rich smoky taste.” 

 

She also reminds us that yes, smoky is amazing but adding other flavours can further enhance your dishes. Knorr Citrus Fresh Flavour is a great example of a complement to smoky dishes but can also be used multiple places on your menu.

 

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Grab your ingredients, add the fuel of your imagination and creativity, stay true to your brand and add some major heat to your menu.

 

Written by Cherie Thompson and shared with permission from Chef Connexion. For more great articles and recipes visist chefconnexion.com.

 

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Take Steps Now to Make your Restaurant Staff Feel Safe

 

Waiter wearing mask and wiping down table

 

It’s a fact. Restaurants across Canada are on the brink of reopening, whether to patio dining, in-restaurant meals, or both. Diners are understandably excited to return to their favourite culinary haunts. But what about restaurant staff, many of whom have been furloughed for part or all of the pandemic? How safe is it for them to return?

 

As Jeff Dover, principal of fsSTRATEGY Inc., says, “Very few cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed as spreading in restaurants; this includes areas of the country where indoor dining has been allowed. In short, the restaurant industry was [already] doing a good job of keeping staff safe.”

 


“Very few cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed as spreading in restaurants. In short, the restaurant industry was [already] doing a good job of keeping staff safe.”

Jeff Dover, principal of fsSTRATEGY Inc.


 

But keeping restaurant staff safe and having restaurant staff who feel safe are two different things. Canadian Restaurant Workers Coalition has been petitioning provincial governments to improve restaurant workers’ protections like paid sick leave and overtime pay. As reported in the Toronto Star, Not 9 to 5, a non-profit providing resources for mental-health well-being among hospitality workers, recently introduced the Mind Your Health project. The project includes a certification program on workplace safety from a psychological perspective, along with an online survey to collect data on mental-health well-being among hospitality workers.

 

 

Where to start

“The key for me is to ensure that staff wear masks and, even more so, keep six feet apart when possible,” advises Dover. “When staff have to be within six feet (e.g., taking orders, picking up food), the time of exposure should be limited. One of the primary challenges is tight kitchen spaces such as a line with multiple stations not six feet apart. Redesigning the menu to have fewer kitchen stations will help keep the staff safe. COVID-19 is more likely to be transmitted indoors and in close spaces. Redesign your workflows to eliminate or limit such interactions.”

 

Sanitize regularly. Tables, work surfaces, and other areas, both front and back of house. 

Reduce staff sharing. For instance, kitchen staff should never share utensils at back of house. 

 

Change your menuing. Other changes will need to be instituted to ensure the safety of both your guests and your employees. Reusable menus, for instance, may become a thing of the past. Many restaurants, says Dover, are putting QR codes on tables to limit contact with shared items. “When guests request menus, they should be provided with a single use copy. Condiments should not be kept on tables and should be sanitized before use. Cutlery should be rolled and brought to the table after the guests are seated. Simple adjustments like these will assist in limiting the spread of COVID-19 for both guests and staff.”

 

Appoint a COVID-19 point person. “I recommend having someone responsible each shift to ensure COVID-19 prevention practices are adhered to,” says Dover. “This person could also be the go-to for questions about practices being employed to keep customers and staff safe.”

 

Organize vaccination days. A number of restaurant chains in the US have said they are providing pay for staff to get vaccinated and are even helping their employees to book appointments. 

 

Offer paid sick days. This is key, says Dover. “You don’t want staff to come to work when they are not feeling well. Take advantage of federal and provincial paid sick day programs if you can. Paying sick days will be less expensive in the long run than having your restaurant closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak.” Should you experience an outbreak, make sure you have records of which employees worked when, along with info on your dine-in restaurant customers and who served them. Contact tracing is key.

 

Ramp up your communication. Let your staff know what you’re doing to keep them safe, and then inform your guests of the steps you’ve introduced to keep them – and your employees – safe. “If you are able to pay sick days, I would communicate it,” Dover advises. “The restaurant chains in the States paying staff (I heard two to four hours) to get vaccinated received great publicity. We have seen in jurisdictions that have opened up that there is significant pent-up demand. However, not all staff will be comfortable working and not all potential customers will be comfortable in dining rooms. Communication on the safety practices being employed will help alleviate any such fears.”

 

Your restaurant safety protocols checklist

Employee safety, testing and validation will be key to successful restaurant reopening. Healthcare and foodservice workers may be required to validate their health status before handling food in the post-COVID-19 environment. Here are some protocols you should initiate to ensure the highest level of safety:

  • A Validated Body Temperature Check and Log for employees before they enter a place of work. These records will need to be maintained or even submitted to a higher authority on a regular basis, following the lead of most healthcare facilities.
  • Food Safe Certification (or comparable) for all foodservice workers. 
  • Face Masks. All food handlers (and maybe even service staff) will be required to wear a protective mask. Ensure you have masks available for all your staff.
  • Hand washing. Training in proper sanitary handwashing must be demonstrated and followed frequently.
  • Sanitary uniforms. Many restaurants require uniforms but leave them up to employee. Gone may be that favourite Che T-shirt as a uniform of choice, along with unwashed shoes, baseball caps, or cargo pants and shorts, as operators pivot to requiring uniforms laundered daily and professionally, and not left in staff lockers or change rooms. 
  • Work surface sanitation protocol and records. Sanitizing of work surfaces, equipment and documentation of all protocols is recommended.
  • HACCP enforcement. Temperature and travel logs must become second nature. HACCP (time temperature tracking) will become the most critical safety/sanitation issue in the future. 
  • New procedures for clean dishes, flatware and glassware. Flatware must be free of contamination before menu items are plated and delivered to a guest. Discuss with your chemical service providers how to ensure products and equipment are safe for staff and guests.
  • Health inspections. Develop a plan to interact more with your local health department. Involve chefs and managers to create a flow of information.
  • Focus on safe distances between employees. The typical design of a restaurant leads to the smallest amount of kitchen space to accomplish the job – leaving more space for revenue generation out front.
  • Seek opportunities for menu change or equipment location swap to increase safe distancing in the kitchen and service area. While 2 metre social distancing may not be possible at all times, plan to incorporate more space.
  • Rethink your staffing. Use the opportunity to rehire as many of your good staff as possible, but also consider adding new and better hires with more experience. Will you be continuing to offer delivery? Make sure you have the right staff for your right jobs.

 

Written by Jane Auster and shared with permission from chefconnexion.com

 

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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

 

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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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