Looking for a fun way to woo guests back inside for dining? How about adding some game time to your menu? Increasingly, guests are bringing their “game face” to restaurants where they are expecting entertainment that goes beyond food and drink.
Kids’ games – such as paper placemats and crayons for colouring – have been around for years as a way to entertain the younger generation and keep them occupied while waiting for their meals. But what about the adults? How do you keep them engaged, ordering, and off their smartphones?
Many family restaurants, bars and sports-themed eateries already include active play on their menu, like such popular options as dart boards, billiards tables, trivia games, foosball tables, and more.
Games keep your guests engaged and may encourage them to linger longer – with more opportunities to upsell and increase check size. They also brand your restaurant as a fun venue and the place to be, plus games can help build a bond between staff and guests.
One restaurant offers a gaming option with a twist. Graffiti Market in Kitchener, Ont., a combination restaurant, microbrewery, market, coffee roaster and bakery, features highly interactive game play right at diners’ tables.
Ryan Lloyd-Craig, co-owner of the Ignite Restaurant Group, of which Graffiti Market is a part, wasn’t even thinking of games when he saw his first interactive smart table. “The idea didn’t come to me overnight. I was walking the technology section of the Restaurants Canada show and came across a gentleman standing on what looked like a giant iPad until I got closer and found that it was an interactive table made by Kodisoft (a tech company based in Ukraine).”
Lloyd-Craig’s original thought was not even about games but mainly about using the tables as a way for guests to order interactively, have food runners bring the items to the tables, and then have the tables function as a complete POS system. Other countries were already using the Kodisoft system successfully, but no one in Canada had tapped into combining business with pleasure right at the table.
Lloyd-Craig’s interest in the tables quickly evolved into something different from an ordering and POS solution. “The benefit of these tables is that you can visually see every item on the menu so it makes it easier to order, but their main appeal is keeping people engaged and entertaining them while waiting for their food. People are putting down their cellphones and actually talking to each other. That’s kind of neat.”
The tables offer a variety of gaming options. He started with a simple colouring application, then a doodling app after the first month, before adding puzzles for all age groups (from a basic jigsaw puzzle for kids), air hockey, Chinese checkers, and most recently, chess, all of which can be turned on or off depending on how busy the restaurant is.
The tables can also support advertising, both internal and external (for instance from sports businesses running commercials and interacting with guests), though so far Lloyd-Craig hasn’t tapped that potential.
Interestingly, far from encouraging guests to linger, guests using these interactive restaurant tables want to clear the menus and food off faster to get back to their games. Lloyd-Craig’s initial goal, in fact, was not to get diners to stay longer, but to realize labour savings from integrating ordering with serving and paying for a total POS solution – “any way you can save two or three per cent off the bottom line,” as he puts it. The restaurant hasn’t been open long enough for him to see these savings yet, but he has experienced a steady increase in sales since he brought in the game tables – and that means he’s already ahead of the game.
Not all games have to cost the earth for you to add. Take trivia. This option’s been around since Trivial Pursuit took off decades ago and has become a bar and casual restaurant staple. Trivia is a particular hit with Millennials looking for interactive experiences and can liven up slower winter months in any family-style restaurant. Companies like QuizRunners and Quizzholics design, create and can run your trivia games professionally. Who knows? Your eatery could become a stop on a trivia circuit.
Written by Jane Auster
Just when you thought you were getting the hang of social media and content marketing, along comes another digital platform to shake things up!
Although it may seem relatively new, TikTok began in 2016, and since then has become the fastest growing social media platform, with more than 1 billion people worldwide and an average of 3.2 million Canadians, engaging in the video platform monthly. That’s a BIG consumer audience that you can be tapping into, and similar to Instagram, food, drinks and recipe creation continue to be top trending topics.
Currently on TikTok there are more users generating restaurant content with a rise in hospitality brands beginning to utilize the platform. Let’s dive into 101 on how restaurants can utilize TikTok’s video sharing platform to generate buzz and reach more guests.
Since launching, the platform has continued to attract a younger audience with more than 50% of global users being under the age of 34, 41% of them aged 16-24, and in Canada 60% of users are female. Even if this core audience doesn’t represent your average customers, it is still worth having them connect with your restaurant brand for future business, and keep in mind, the other 50% are 35 and over. These audience profiles are critical to developing effective TikTok content and messaging.
TikTok videos can range between 5 and 60 seconds in length. One of the most exciting benefits for restaurant brands is that unlike other social platforms that are driven by highly professional and polished content, TikTok is popular for videos that are fun, creative, authentic, personalized, and humorous. As you get started, forgo hiring a professional videographer until you understand if this platform is right for your brand. However, invest in a phone camera adjustable tripod that allows you to set up shots from many angles, and provides some additional lighting. Prices range from $30-$200, and tripods can easily be sourced through Amazon.ca.
TIP: Natural lighting always produces the best video and photography results. If your restaurant space is darker, then it’s worth the $100 to invest in softbox lighting and reflectors to achieve the best shot. This type of portable equipment is available at photography stores as well as Amazon.ca.
TikTok’s unique in-app content creation features have set the platform apart, as the creative opportunities are endless yet they do take some time to master.
Start creating simple and fun video content that showcases what your brand does best.
Here are additional tips to effective posting, and growing your TikTok reach:
Stay tuned for TikTok 102 for restaurants, to learn how to leverage influencer campaigns and advertising best practices.
Written by Kate Engineer
Here comes summer and, once pandemic numbers are under control and dining opens up widely, it will be time to get your grill on. Customers are raring to get back to outdoor dining, and nothing entices more than the smells wafting from a BBQ grill.
This year’s BBQ hot trends include flat plate grilling, high-end buns, layering, non-meat (plant-based innovations) grilling, and sauces and spices that take old favourites and present them in new and exciting ways.
There’s nothing like cooking over live fire to really ignite the taste buds. If you have that option at your operation, you’ll be able to bring out the flavour in any number of grill dishes — from vegetarian to meat and fish.
Burgers are here to stay, even with more Canadians choosing plant-based options.
Nearly four in 10 Canadians eat at least one burger a week, and men eat even more burgers than women, according to data from Weston Bakeries, which studies burger-lovers’ habits.
Here’s what really turns on burger lovers looking for a premium burger experience:
The patty (63%)
The bun (21%)
Condiments and cheese (3% each)
For many Canadians, a burger is naked without cheese. Not surprisingly, cheddar is the cheese champion at 47%, followed by mozzarella at 35%, Swiss at 33%, and Monterey Jack at 25%. Sliced is chosen by 63% and shredded by 17%.
Meat-topped burgers are trending… and going beyond bacon. Beef burgers are getting piled high with pulled pork, ham and beef brisket for a really meaty experience. They’re marketed as an indulgent, and ultra-savoury meat-on-meat combination.
Most Canadians like it simple and classic when it comes to buns, however new and exciting formulations are adding abundant new bun-opportunities. Here’s what Canadians traditionally look for:
Sesame seed buns (31%)
Cheese buns (22%)
Garlic bread buns (19%)
Onion buns (18%)
Whole wheat and multigrain buns (16% each)
Innovation is certainly coming to buns. According to Technomic, which collects data from the Top 500 restaurant chains, the fastest growing buns are potato buns, sesame seed buns, and brioche. Even ciabatta buns are beginning to have their moment on the grill.
Beef still reigns as burger king followed by chicken, fish and turkey. Eight out of 10 prefer a grilled beef patty. But new grill contenders are ready to take their place. Think seafood skewers and grilled fish.
Salt and pepper remain the most popular burger seasonings, however garlic salt, Worcestershire, peppercorn, and Cajun flavours are all gaining in popularity.
Diners love barbecue, and that’s helping to propel burnt, charred and toasted flavours, Technomic reports. Smoky flavours are no longer limited to just meats and cheese but are also being paired with contrasting flavours such as sweet and spicy to add complexity. The espelette pepper, originating from the Basque region of France, helps deliver that smoky, sweet and mildly hot flavour that makes plancha-grilled food an exciting new trend.
The fastest growing condiments are chipotle aioli, garlic mayonnaise, honey, marmalade and jam, especially savoury flavours like bacon jam and pepper marmalade.
We're all curious about how others spend their days. We may wonder, "What does my doctor do when she's not seeing patients?" or "What does the person who serves me food do when they're not serving me?" For those of you who want to know what exactly an AZ delivery driver does with their day, we sat down with one of our very own drivers, Johan Enns.
Johan Enns is part of the amazing team of Flanagan's AZ delivery drivers, who help make sure food and supplies reaches restaurants and foodservice operations safely. With five years under his belt, he's no stranger to the ins and outs of the job. In a typical day, he can make between 10 and 16 deliveries, which takes him about 10-12 hours.
When asked what he likes about the job, Johan admits that he enjoys being out there on his own, and is happy to help out when needed. "Once you're out there and have gotten into the swing of things," he says, "it's easy to do one call at a time."
Enns also likes the amount of hours he works: 52-58 hours a week. “You get to go home and do things outside,” he said, noting that during the summer he has a boat so he likes to go fishing and hang out with friends on weekends.
“A lot of places know me and it’s nice after 5 years, you know how they want their product and how they want their products to come in and put away.” He goes out of his way to put product on shelves for their workers that may be difficult for others to put away and he has often been rewarded with lunch each time for his help.
He enjoys getting to know the people who work at his customers. Johan makes sure to be friendly, professional, and courteous when interacting with these people because it makes his job easier when they recognize him as someone who cares about their business as much as they do themselves.
When it comes to choosing oils for your kitchen, the key to increasing revenue and taste is quality and convenience, says Jeff Poulo, national sales director for Saporito Foods.
The company is a leading supplier of high quality canola, corn, sunflower and vegetable oils, imported olive and blended oils, shortenings, margarines and zero trans-fat high-performance frying oils to retail, foodservice and export markets.
“Quality and convenience are the most important factors to consider when choosing an oil to use and cook with. Whether you are cooking at home for your family, or you’re a chef in a busy restaurant cooking hundreds of meals, you want an easy to use, great tasting, high-quality oil,” says Poulo.
When it comes to High-Performance (HP) oils, Poulo says his company’s oils come at a slightly higher price point but provide better performance, which translates into better value. Specifically, HP oils last longer in the fryer, reducing cost per use and have less oil retention in food and less flavour transfer from one item to another.
Operators should be aware that olive oil has been affected by crop disease and production losses over the past two seasons, significantly reducing supply and causing a substantial increase in price. This has “led to an influx of poor quality, expensive, misrepresented products,” says Poulo. He advises operators to ask their suppliers how this has impacted their products.
Saporito Foods has a stringent quality control protocol in place with its European vendors to ensure the highest quality olive oil is delivered each and every time.
Here are some tips to help you get the best value and flavour from your oil:
There are a variety of choices in the marketplace, ranging from regular salad cooking oils and specially-handled oils to high-performance frying oils. This can make it difficult and confusing when trying to choose an oil, so price becomes the deciding factor. But the lowest priced oil may not be the best choice for your application or the most cost-effective solution.
With deep frying you may have a choice between one 16L container of oil at $20 and another type of oil priced at $18 — a 10 per cent savings. But, depending on the brand, quality and application, this may only be a perceived savings before the kitchen actually consumes the oil.
As a simple example, if the pricier oil is a higher quality product, and lasts four days in the fryer instead of three (as the lower-priced oil may), then there’s an immediate and identifiable savings of 25 per cent on a $20 outlay, dramatically reducing cost per use.
Also, if the higher-priced oil has even as little as two per cent better oil retention level (the amount of oil that remains in the food) that’s a savings of $0.40 per 16L.
One extra day in the fryer, or 25 per cent better performance on a $20 item = a $5 savings per 16L.
Two per cent less consumption due to better oil retention on a $20.00 item = $0.40 savings per 16L.
The lower-priced oil can actually end up costing much more than initially anticipated.
The lower-priced oil can cost your kitchen $24 per 16L ($18+$5+$0.40) rather than $20.
These are potentially sobering numbers for any restaurant operator and shows why outcome versus output of initial cash should be considered when making any purchasing decision for your kitchen, particularly when it comes to oils.
Written by Suzanne Boles.