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Appetizing picture of burger and fries

Menu change can be daunting.

 

But using LTOs (limited time offers) can provide a culinary playground for adding innovation without the commitment. Successfully executing an LTO offers a potential sales lift of as much as 20%, and can bring back old customers while enticing new ones.

 

LTOs are an opportunity to offer your customers a new experience while giving your operation a great testing ground and increasing your marketing opportunities.

 

So, how do you make LTOs work for you?

Start with Purpose

First ask yourself why you are you adding an LTO. If you don’t know what you want from it—new customers, increased check size, acceptance of bolder flavours on the full menu—how will you know it was successful?

 

Shalit Foods Business Development Chef Kira Smith reminds us that to be successful, “You really have to do LTOs mindfully.” The seasoned chef, who works directly with operators to integrate new and engaging ingredients and menu items, understands the formula to win big.

 

Smith remembers a Mini Cheesecake Dessert Parfait a casual chain in Western Canada used as an LTO that was so tasty it moved from temporary to the permanent menu. Why did it work? “It fit with consumer interest, was easy to execute, was within their back-of-house capabilities…and was profitable,” she notes.

 

“There’s no point in doing an LTO if you can’t do it well,” Smith stresses. “And it must be profitable. Because what if it is successful? If it can't be done profitably don't add it.”

 

Plan and Execute

“For an LTO to be successful, an operation must plan in advance,” notes Kyla Touri, corporate chef, Canada, for Unilever Food Solutions. “Operators must also be attuned to trending menu items, product/ingredient availability, and, most importantly, maintaining their brand image.”

 

Push at the boundaries acceptable to your customers’ preferences by experimenting with bold flavours or new cuisines. Change doesn’t have to be crazy. Start smaller and work up to bigger flavour experiences. 

 

There is more than just the food to consider. LTOs also offer important marketing possibilities. Think of them as conversation starters: at the table or counter, online, via social media, and business to business. Plus they’re an opportunity to increase engagement with your customers and employees. Ensure the message about your LTO is clear and consistent across all your communication channels. 

 

Expect to increase the pantry list, add to the skillset and push the kitchen’s ability to execute the LTO. Your entire team needs in on the plan to ensure consistency without compromising the existing full menu.

 

Get the Timing Right

The frequency with which you implement LTOs will depend on your operation. However, at a minimum, Tuori suggests, “Every season. This timing gives an opportunity to plan properly and execute.”

 

Customers are programmed to search for change seasonally. So a seasonal LTO naturally allows for use of local and seasonal ingredients that might be too expensive to use on a full menu.

 

LTOs need a defined end date. “There is power in scarcity,” says Kira Smith. Use your customers’ fear of missing out to your advantage and time your LTO. It doesn't mean you can't make it a permanent addition – adding an LTO to the full menu gives you yet another conversation starter.

 

Talk and Listen, Measure Results

As you wipe your brow and flop in a dining chair on the final day of your wildly successful LTO, remember you aren’t finished yet. Due diligence is necessary. Was all the extra work worth it?

 

Talk with your customers and your front and back of house employees. They will have something to say. Listen and learn from their observations. “If you are communicating about your LTO, which you should be, you have to follow up,” Smith advises. Listen to the praise (and criticism) and respond.

 

Consider using a social media survey to ask your customers for their feedback. Offering a gift card to your restaurant will sweeten the incentive for them to volunteer useful comments – and come back for another meal.

 

Finally, return to the original purpose of your LTO. Did it meet your criteria? If not, what didn’t work? How would you do it differently next time? If you did meet your goals, pat yourself on the back and then start planning the next one. And if you won BIG going off menu, you might need to change your old menu after all. Now are you ready for the playground?

 

A seasonal LTO naturally allows for use of local and seasonal ingredients that might be too expensive to use on a full menu.

 

Top tips to roll out a successful LTO

  • Give your LTO ample planning time as you may need to source new ingredients, plan for menu changes, and pay for advertising.
  • Consider using customer comment cards, then focus on providing something new that people want.
  • Utilize social media and your restaurant’s email marketing as a tool to promote your limited time offer.
  • Keep it simple. LTOs don’t need to be complicated; the easier they are to describe, promote and sell, the better.

 

Article by Cherie Thompson

 

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Frozen ProduceFlanagan Foodservice Blog Frozen Produce

By Alasko Foods

 

 

When it comes to nutrition, fruits and vegetables have always been the go-to in terms of healthy eating. Tried and true, their combination of practicality, taste, and nutritional benefit are second to none. However, frozen rather than fresh produce has several unique benefits which make them a clear choice for the resourceful restaurant operator.

 

Here are five reasons why:

 

1) Always in season

Frozen fruit is actually richer in nutrients on average than their fresh counterparts, according to a study by the University of California-Davis.¹ This is because of its enhanced preservation through a unique freezing method. Companies like Alasko, which utilize IQF (individual quick freezing) technology, do so because it locks in freshness, flavour, colour, and taste.

 

Individual quick freezing takes single pieces of food and, as the name suggests, freezes them individually at extremely low temperatures. This prevents the formation of large ice crystals that conventional freezing would cause, and preserves the high-quality state that the food is currently in.

 

IQF fruits and vegetables are always in season, simply because that’s the state at which they are frozen in.

 

2) Always available

Thanks to worldwide sourcing—which market leaders such as Alasko benefit from due to their extensive global supply network—it is feasible to obtain the best possible product from whichever region it happens to be currently in-season. Using IQF technology, the produce that ends up in your recipe and menu items is as fresh as it was when picked.

 

3) Convenience

Frozen produce has a lot more potential to it than meets the eye.

 

Rather than having to peel, chop, and prepare a fresh fruit or vegetable, IQF produce is frozen in a state that is ready to use. Simply toss fruits in a blender to make a smoothie, chop them up and make a salsa, or incorporate them into a smoothie bowl. Easily mix vegetables into a stir fry or casserole, or into a dip.

 

The possibilities are extensive!

 

4) Extended life

The disadvantage of fresh produce is that it needs to be consumed in a certain window of time before it starts to become overripe. This can put a lot of pressure for you to make use of it as quickly as possible. (Granted, frozen produce still has this window as well, but it is far lengthier—typically 24 months, as opposed to a week or so.²)

 

Simply take out the portion you need, and put the rest away where it will remain frozen and unspoiled.

 

5) Cost efficient

Using frozen fruits and vegetables minimizes your expenses in the areas of labour and food waste. Frozen produce is already cut, washed, and ready to toss in a recipe, and unused quantities can be put right back into the freezer. Even better, frozen produce can be less costly than their fresh counterparts.³

 

When it comes to the ingredients to put in your recipes, you are constantly faced with choice. Frozen fruits and vegetables have several benefits that are often overlooked in comparison to the alternatives. Whether it’s the heightened nutrition, convenience, or cheaper cost: frozen fruits and vegetables are definitely worth it.

 

For delicious IQF products to use in your next recipe, contact your Flanagan Foodservice sales representative or call our Customer Relations team at 1-855-FLANAGAN.

 

About Alasko

Alasko Foods is a leader in global sourcing of conventional and organic frozen fruits and vegetables, with a reputation for providing superior, world class service to customers across Canada, the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Committed to delivering the safest and highest quality products, without compromise, Alasko Foods will source, process, pack, label, brand and distribute the best fresh-frozen fruits and vegetables the world has to offer. Learn more at alasko.com.

 

References:

[1] Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture c 87:930–944

[2] U.S. Food & Drug Administration, 2015; Foodsafety.gov

[3] United Stated Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, 2016

 

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Close up butternut squash soup

 

Working with soup bases can save you time, labour and money. Two experts share their chef tips and soup-er recipes. 

 

A good soup base can be an immeasurable asset to the foodservice kitchen. It adds depth of flavour to dishes, can be built upon to create signature recipes and eliminates the cost of raw ingredients required to make a consistently flavourful stock.

 

There are many advantages to using a soup base as the platform for soup innovation:

 

1. Time- and labour-saving

Making the switch from scratch recipes to “speed scratch” recipes, including those using and building on a good soup base can mean significant time and labour savings for operators. “Scratch made stocks, and sauces derived from these stocks, can take hours of skilled labour,” says Kyla Tuori, corporate chef at Unilever Food Solutions.

 

“The cost of raw ingredients used to make a consistent flavourful stock can be a hassle, as well as the storage needed for these raw ingredients.”

 

2. Cost-saving

On the rising cost of labour across North America, Gerald Drummond, executive chef, North American Foodservice, Campbell Soup Company, says, “As minimums continue to increase, chefs and operators need to be creative in driving down costs while continuing to give customers creativity. It’s always a delicate balancing act.

 

3. Inventory-saving

“Having a good-tasting and well-balanced base helps the operator have greater variety on the menu while not increasing their inventory,” Chef Gerald continues. “It allows for the ability to offer multiple menu items while using the same product, as well as being able to stay relevant when it comes to food trends.”

 

4. Creative

What makes a good soup base? Beyond lending great flavour and aroma to dishes, Chef Kyla says, “a good commercial base is a concentrated product meant to be diluted to mimic a scratch-made stock (yet is also) so much more, and can be used for seasoning, marinating, and enhancing other scratch-made recipes.”

 

When it comes to which base(s) to choose, knowing what you want to achieve will help dictate what is important to look for. “Not all soup bases are created equal, or alike,” she continues. “With the variety of formats, ingredient decks, and (nutritional or special diet) claims, there is a base for every application and operator.”

 

5. Versatile

Beyond soup, many soup bases can be used in a variety of applications. Chef Gerald suggests turning a cream soup base into sauce for flatbread or pizza, Alfredo sauce for pasta or as a rich and flavourful base for chicken pot pie. “Powder bases can be used in their raw form for seasoning dishes,” says Chef Kyla. “Since these bases are often ‘salt first’ in the ingredient decks, they can add a lot of flavour where it may otherwise be lacking.

 

“Paste bases, due to their consistency and ‘ingredient/meat first’ ingredient decks, are great for rubs and marinades,” she adds. “They will adhere easily to the item that you are marinating and infuse it with flavours. Liquid concentrated bases can be used for seasoning dishes, marinating, glazing, and as a finishing enhancer. They are the most versatile of bases due to their consistency and flavour complexity.”

 

It's time to soup up your creativity in the kitchen, as well as your profit margin, with the addition of soup bases.

 

A simple way to make soups feel fresh

Garnishing is a simple way to make soups feel fresher, more premium and more delicious. Patrons perceive garnished soups as higher value, so you can charge up to 25% more!

 

Step up your presentation with these garnishing ideas using Campbell’s Signature Soups:

 

Beef Pot Roast

Add texture with sautéed garlic chips, crouton lardons, creamy aioli or horseradish. Sprinkle with minced thyme and marjoram for extra flavour.

 

Broccoli Cheddar

Go for the green with broccoli florets, green onions or chives. Add indulgence with sharp Cheddar cheese crisps.

 

Buffalo Style Chicken with Blue Cheese

Top with sour cream and minced chives. Or make it hearty with sliced chicken tenders, hot sauce and blue cheese crumble.

 

Chicken Corn Chowder with Sweet Peppers

Amp up the colour contrast with diced red pepper, fresh corn kernels or chopped chives.

 

Chicken Tortilla

Up the authenticity with tortilla strips, sour cream, queso fresco or avocado.

 

Classic Chicken Noodle

Garnish with chopped parsley or a parsley sprig for a pop of flavour and colour. Add rotisserie pulled chicken or fried noodles for culinary flair.

 

Harvest Butternut Squash

Amp up the flavour with toasted pumpkin seeds, butternut squash frites and a dollop of crème fraîche.

 

Hearty Beef Chili with Beans

Balance the spice with sour cream or shredded Cheddar. Brighten the bowl with scallions, green onions or chives.

 

Loaded Baked Potato

Re-load with Cheddar, sour cream, bacon, green onions, chives or waffled fries.

 

Sautéed Mushroom and Onion Bisque

Add key ingredients like sautéed mushrooms, fried or diced onions or leeks.

 

Southwestern Vegetarian Chili

Top with fresh avocado and tortilla strips, sour cream and minced cilantro for authentic flavour.

 

Tomato Bisque with Basil

Add indulgence with sour cream, tomato concasse or fresh basil.

 

Vegan Vegetable

Add freshness with julienned carrots, diced smoked or sautéed tomatoes, and roasted red peppers in balsamic syrup.

 

By Alison Kent

 

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Smiling Flanagan Foodservice team at the annual spring show

Each spring, thousands of people gather at the Flanagan Food Show to visit, sample unique new products, network with industry leaders and get exclusive show deals on a selection of products.

 

It was our 37th year hosting the show, and this year's was amazing. There was a buzz of excitement in the air as members of the industry came together to celebrate and learn about all things foodservice.

 

Because there is so much to see and taste (everyone’s favourite part) in just one day, we’ve recapped highlights of the show for you.

 

We sampled new products, learned new trends from each presentation, and had the chance to chat with vendor reps about what’s new and exciting in the world of Canadian foodservice.

 

Food Show Products

By Jackie Oakes

I’m Jackie, Senior Marketing Manager at Flanagan’s. I was able to visit many booths on show day and wanted to share some of my favourite discoveries:

 

Tamper-Evident Carry Out Bags

Flanagan code: 504489

 

These bags protect food from being tampered with when being delivered.

 

Recently I heard a story where a third party delivery driver was helping himself to some of the food he was delivering. I am sure most drivers aren’t—but this stuck in my head so I was very pleased to see these bags at the show. It is a large bag that permanently seals when the food is packed. Once delivered, the customer simply removes a perforated area of the bag and takes their food out. 

Ralston Tamper Proof Bag at Flanagan Food Show

It has a write-on block allowing operators to identify the customer or order number.They also offer custom print the bags; minimum case order is 250 cases.

 

 

McCain Avocado Wedges and Root Vegetable Medley

Flanagan codes: 199024 and 193039

McCain Deep Fried Avocado and Root Vegetables

 

McCain actually had four new products that I enjoyed sampling, but I forced myself to choose my two favourites to share with you:

 

Avocado Slices

YUM! Menu penetration for avocados are up 32% over the past four years and this breaded avocado is a great appetizer or addition to a burger. This provides operators an easy way to handle avocado, which can be rather temperamental.

 

Root Vegetable Medley

A tasty, unique twist on a traditional fry.  Carrots, parsnips and beets are cut and lightly battered.  Presentation is beautiful on the plate!

 

 

Carole’s Cheesecake on a Stik

Flanagan codes:

Matcha Green Tea – 107921
California Almond – 107919
New York Classic – 107933
Belgium Chocolate – 107934

 

Well HELLO, cheesecake on a stick!

Delicious, only 190 calories each, and available in four flavours: Matcha Green Tea, California Almond, New York Classic, and Belgium Chocolate.

Carol's Cheesecake on a Sick arranged on a plate

This is the perfect product to allow your guests indulge, while not breaking the calorie-bank. Today’s consumers are time strapped and want convenient foods that are easy to snack on. This product would work great in a location marketed as an afternoon snack.

 

 

Mini Deep Dish Pepperoni Pizza Appetizer and Chicken Quesadilla Appetizer

Flanagan codes: 187791 and 187785

Brom appetizers

Brom Mise en Bouche was not a company I was familiar with before the show, and I was eager to try their appetizers. With more than 20 years’ experience in food manufacturing, their line of hors d’oeuvres and canapés were delicious!

 

My favourites were the pizza-style mini tartlet with pepperoni and cheese and the tortilla dough cone filled with chicken, strong cheddar, peppers and onions.

 

Strawberry Peanut Stick, Raspberry Chocolate Danish and Sweet Potato Bun

Flanagan codes:

Strawberry Peanut Stick – 107549
Raspberry Chocolate Danish – 107565
Sweet Potato Bun – 126150

 

Bridor Strawberry Peanut Stick

The Bridor story began in the 1970s, when Louis Le Duff moved from France to Quebec and couldn’t find a pastry to equal that in France. He opened in his first bakery in 1980 and has been developing high quality breads and pastries for over 30 years.

 

Bridor just launched a Strawberry Peanut Stick to mirror the attributes of a peanut butter and jam sandwich, which was scrumptious!

 

I am hard pressed to pick between that and the chocolate raspberry Danish. I was very excited about the sweet potato hamburger bun. The taste is very subtle, making this bun ideal for a pulled pork sandwich.

 

 

MadeGood Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip and Sweet and Salty Granola Bars

Flanagan codes: 

Chocolate Chip – 364538
Sweet and Salty – 364539

Made Good Granola Bars and Snacks at Flanagan Show

Made Good has a great story, leaning on healthy food as well as being an inclusive company. Half of their employees—from management to production—are women. Newcomers to Canada and people from under-represented groups enjoy a sense of belonging at MadeGood.

 

With one full serving of vegetables from six different sources, the vegan granola bars are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which can help contribute to a healthy digestive and immune system. 

 

Wings' Uncooked Ramen Noodles

Flanagan code: 119450

What is great about this traditional ramen noodle is that the product comes pre-portioned in a case of 24. Each package is 100 grams. It can be used in soups or as a cold noodle salad.

 

Here is a Ramen Chicken Noodle Soup recipe using the product:

Ingredients

4 bundles Wing’s Ramen Noodles
5 L chicken broth
1 inch ginger
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 tbsp. canola oil
2 tbsp. Wing’s Soy Sauce
1 tbsp. sugar
1 carrot cut into match sticks
2 hard-boiled eggs, cut in half lengthwise
2 green onions, chopped
4 tsp. sesame oil

 

Preparation

In a large pot, bring chicken broth and ginger to a boil then reduce heat. Simmer for 10 minutes.


Meanwhile, slice chicken thighs.


Heat canola oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat and add chicken.
Once chicken pieces are fully cooked and have a nice sear, add Wing’s Soy Sauce and sugar. Continue frying until chicken evenly coated.


Boil Wing’s Ramen Noodles in lightly salted water. Drain, and portion into serving bowls.
Add chicken broth to noodles, and arrange chicken, carrots, egg, and green onions on top.


Drizzle with sesame oil and serve.

 

Serves: 4

 

I’m Katrina, Marketing Specialist at Flanagan’s.

 

There were so many delicious new products showcased on April 10 at our Kitchener show that I had trouble keeping my summary concise. These were my favourites:

 

Katrina Couto of Flanagan Foodservice

 

 

Beyond Sausage by Beyond Meat

Flanagan codes: 

Original Brat – 177000
Hot Italian – 177002
Sweet Italian – 177004

 

Walking into the show, the Beyond Meat booth was high on my list of vendors to visit. I was so excited to try the Beyond Sausage and it did not disappoint.

 

Though I’m not vegetarian, the Beyond Burger has been my A&W go-to order since it was released. The Beyond Sausage has the same attributes as the burger in that it has a similar texture and taste to that of its animal protein counterpart.

Beyond delicious.

Beyond Sausage Meat at Flanagan Food Show

 

 

Wow! Factor’s Sangria Cake, Reese Peanut Butter Blondie, and Vegan Chocolate Torte

Flanagan codes: 

Sangria Cake – 104169
Reese Peanut Butter Blondie – 104154
Vegan Chocolate Cake – 104175

Variety of Wow Factor Cakes at Flanagan Food Show

Wow! Factor was another booth I didn’t want to miss. I featured the Reese Peanut Butter Blondie in an issue of our New Product Newsletter shortly before the show, and I had to try it for myself.

 

Wow! Factor has released five unique new products for spring 2019, and these products were three of them.

 

The Reese Peanut Butter Blondie tastes exactly as you’d imagine a Reese candy would taste in cake form. In other words, decadent.

 

Their Vegan Chocolate Cake is comprised of mostly plant ingredients, and the Sangria Cake is heavenly, fresh, and chock-full of summer berries.

 

Cavendish DeliverCrisp™ Fries

Flanagan code: 193130

This year, Cavendish debuted their DeliverCrisp™ fries; a skin-on, straight-cut fry that maintains its crispiness for 30 minutes while en route to your customer’s door. 55% of restaurant delivery occasions are incremental orders, and right now French fries are the fastest growing food item in delivery. No matter what serving container these are packaged in, DeliverCrisp™ fries are designed to provide an unprecedented hold time.
Cavendish Deliver Crisp Fries

 

 

 

Fully Cooked Chicken Wings

 

Even better: this product qualifies for Brand Points Plus, and until June 30 you can earn 5 bonus points for each case purchased!

Flanagan code 164494

Reuven International featured their new Fully Cooked Wings (exclusive to Flanagan!), and they were incredibly tasty as is, without any seasoning.

 

These wings are prepared straight from your freezer to the fryer and ready in less than five minutes. Because they’re fully cooked, you eliminate any food safety concerns and minimize fryer oil degradation.

Rueven Fully Cooked Wings

 

 

KIND Bars

Flanagan code: 164494

Peanut Butter & Dark Chocolate – 177000

Almond Sea Salt & Dark Chocolate – 177002

Almond & Coconut – 177004

 

Kind, indeed. KIND bars are all about simplicity. With no artificial sweeteners or added sugars, these bars are nutrient-dense without compromising flavour.

 

Speaking of flavour, the three that were featured at the show were delicious; Peanut Butter & Dark Chocolate, Almond Sea Salt & Dark Chocolate, and Almond & Coconut.

 

Kind Bars - Dark Chocolate nuts and sea salt

 

 

 

The Deals
Flanagan Team promoting truckload deals at Flanagan Show

Once again, we had a Truckload Deals section in the centre of the show floor that featured one-day-only deals on select products. Flanagan customers placed their orders on the spot, and saved anywhere from $0.50 to $18.00 per case (or portion, depending on the product).

 

Products with deals included Grille & Galley Gourmet steak, Redpath sugar, Gay Lea salted and unsalted butter, High Liner seafood, and a variety of smallwares.

 

Though the Truckload Deals were one-day-only, show pricing applies for six weeks past show date; reach out to your Territory Manager for more information or call Customer Relations at 1-855-FLANAGAN.

 

Thank you to all guests, vendors, presenters and staff for another wonderful show season. We look forward to seeing you in 2020!

 

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7Shifts

Iphone showing 7 shifts software and logo

As a teenager, Jordan Boesch was a “sandwich artist” at a popular quick-service restaurant, an experience in a family business that eventually spun itself out as 7shifts, a North America-wide company he founded in 2014.

 

“My dad ran Quiznos locations, and I worked for him. I understood early the pains of managing and running restaurants firsthand,” Boesch says.

 

At its most basic, 7shifts is a labour management and communications platform with a mobile app for restaurateurs which provides tools for controlling labour costs and scheduling staff, among other functions.

 

Save time and money at your restaurant

Summary

  • 7shifts saves your restaurant considerable time and money
  • The software helps your employees provide shift feedback

Details

Those experiences inspired 7shifts and its on-boarding platform with a support team and live-chat link which can help restaurants get started with the program and use its full capacity and value. “We’re self-serve and simplified. Along with the machine learning, we have differentiated ourselves in the scheduling and labour management market,” Boesch says. 

 

While 7shifts is not a revenue-driver for restaurants, it saves them considerable time and money, according to Boesch. He notes that saving $10 is the same as making $10, so restaurateurs shouldn’t only be in revenue mode. “The platform gives managers a chance to see if they are going to go over or be under those labour and budget targets in real time,” Boesch says adding that the system assists with forecasting sales and predicting costs. 


On the other hand, it also helps employees communicate with managers and provide shift feedback too. 

 

“If I had to bundle it all together, I would say that we’re not only a platform for managers but also for employees to help them be more engaged with their work place.” 

 

Eliminate scheduling chaos 

Summary

  • 7shifts operates in 20-plus countries and services more than 250,000 restaurant pros around the world
  • With different offerings tailored to your business, their software pricing ranges from free–$70/month

Details

The family business was the crucible: Boesch saw up close the chaos that is the typical hourly-worker scheduling process. “There were always a lot of sticky notes and papers everywhere, and hand-written notes about shift-trading and when people could or could not work. It got me thinking about improving the situation.”  

 

Starting with a small program that uploaded an Excel schedule to a website so employees could download it, 7shifts evolved over time to where it is today.  
 
Saskatchewan-based and primarily serving North American restaurants, the company operates in 20-plus countries and over 7,000 restaurants—everything from single- and multi-unit independents to large corporate franchises. 

 

“We can tailor our software precisely to a restaurant’s needs. We’re mostly used by independent restaurants and growing franchises,” says Boesch. They charge from free (basic platform functionality for restaurants with 10 or fewer people) to $150 per month at their premium offering.

 

Schedule the right people at the right time 

Summary

  • It's not a matter of scheduling more people, but the right people at the right times
  • Match shifts with employees who work well together
  • Work less on scheduling, and more on working with staff and driving sales for your restaurant
  •  

Details

Labour management is a central focus of 7shifts, and Boesch stresses it’s not a matter of just scheduling more people; it’s a matter of scheduling the right number of people at the right time. 

 

“We draw on historical sales data from a Point of Sale (POS), and we look at weather patterns and seasonality. We look at all these variables that could influence how much labour you would need to service the demands of your restaurant at a particular time. We build that out for the restaurant, and they can make adjustments as needed depending on the insights.” 
 
Behind the scenes, machine learning—the algorithms and models used by computer systems which continuously improve their performance over time—takes place, as it does in most of today’s technologies. The company draws on their own in-house machine learning team and data science team, which optimizes for the various efficiencies as they relate to weather and seasonality, but also the skill level of staff members.

 

Boesch points out that that one result is good for employees and for the business in that it can match shifts with people who work well together, as well as account for availability and vacations. “From this, we’ve gained a lot of traction and adoption in the industry because it means managers work less on scheduling and more on working with staff and driving sales for the restaurant.”

 

Reduce turnover rate

“If $5,000 worth of meat disappeared from your fridge, you’d probably be checking cameras, yet operators have become almost complacent and see high turnover as normal.” 

 

Summary

  • Better manage your employee life-cycle in your restaurant (hiring, training, scheduling, retaining)
  • 7shifts saves between 1 and 4 percent on overall labour costs as a percentage of sales
  • Reduce time spent scheduling by 80 percent

Details

At the same time, the platform helps managers better manage the “employee life-cycle” in the restaurant – hiring, training, scheduling and retaining. Employee turnover in restaurants is the highest of any private industry in North America, according to Boesch, and it has continued ramifications for restaurants. 

 

“Restaurants are now starting to look more closely at turnover rate and its costs from a macro-level. It’s quite expensive, ranging from $3,000 to $5,000 when you lose an employee and upwards of $20,000 when you lose a manager,” he notes. “If $5,000 worth of meat disappeared from your fridge, you’d probably be checking cameras, yet operators have become almost complacent and see high turnover as normal.” 
 
Boesch says that 7shifts saves between one and four percent on overall labour costs as a percentage of sales: a restaurant doing $1 million in sales will save between $10,000 and $40,000 annually. 

 

“The ROI for 7shifts is substantial in just being able to help operators schedule better,” he says, adding that some of that is saved by preventing early clock-ins that quickly add up. 

 

The platform can also reduce the time spent scheduling by 80 percent. 

“It takes some of the work out of the manager’s hands and gives employees the responsibility of determining the shifts they can work. The manager is involved only when approval is needed.” 

 

7shifts features a free labour cost savings calculator on its website:

 

Graphic showing a sample of 7shifts restaurant labour savings
7shifts can also assist management with labour regulations and compliance where they apply.

 

For instance, regulations in some areas stipulate that scheduled employees who report to work only to find they have been given fewer than three hours, must be paid three hours at their regular rate of pay. 

 

The “7punches” time-clocking system makes it easy for managers to reconcile the time worked with payroll requirements. The platform runs a report for hours worked, then notes all results showing fewer than three hours. This can then be manually adjusted in payroll to reflect the appropriate payout. 

 

Restaurants and cloud technology 

Is 7shifts itself a shift in approach that restaurants should consider? Boesch thinks so. 

“It’s becoming more common that restaurateurs are using technology. It has largely been an industry that’s slow to adopt technology, but that’s also meant that there is a lot of technology companies with a lot to offer the industry,” he says. Boesch sees that trend continuing as a younger demographic of restaurateurs and food-business operators enter the industry. “Cloud-based technology is where they are going to look first. It’s an exciting trend, and I think it is going to grow.” 

 

As we roll into a new year, Boesch says it’s a good time to think strategically about the next 12 months. 

 

“Think about how you engage staff and manage your labour. Doing things the same way could mean leaving dollars on the table.”

 

Learn more about 7shifts at 7shifts.com.

 

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people in busy restaurant enjoying a meal

Upselling: on the one hand, it might seem like you are being pushy; on the other, think of it as an education process and one that gives your customers information about menu items they may not be thinking about (or were afraid to ask about).

 

The sooner your wait-staff recognize the value of upselling and can upsell with sincerity, the sooner your bottom line will be healthier. Another bonus: your staff will be happier when their cheque average increases along with their tips.

 

It’s a question of psychology as much as anything else. People are shy, timid, and can feel guilty when it comes to ordering dessert after a meal. When you ask them point-blank if they’d like dessert, it leaves them with an easy “yes” or “no” answer. It will be much harder for them to refuse a server’s pleasant story about a dessert told with a wink and a smile. For example: “I love our chef’s chocolate mousse cake. It’s made for chocolate lovers. People have said it has changed their lives.”

 

Know your menu and be suggestive

Suggestive selling is a sales technique that might encourage your customer to purchase an additional item (like a side or dessert) – it is used to increase purchase amount.

 

When it comes to dessert, customers may be a little more hesitant to outright ask, especially after a substantial meal. By prompting customers with dessert item suggestions, recommendations and personal favourites, it breaks that silence.

 

Effective suggestive selling means being knowledgeable about the food you’re selling. Does your staff know the menu as well as you do? Can they make recommendations that will result in a sale? It’s important that your wait staff try everything on the menu from entrées to desserts.

 

Recognize that guests attend your restaurant for an experience that they cannot recreate at home, whether it be your signature appetizer or upscale, fine dining atmosphere. In order to get this experience, customers are eager to talk to your restaurant staff to learn more about the menu and its special dishes; if your wait-staff delivers, therein lies the upsell.

 

When all is said and done, staff training is key, especially in light of more educated customers who refer to themselves as “foodies” and ask with confidence about menu details and for suggestions from staff. You do not want to get caught not seeming to know what the menu items are like and how they are prepared.

 

Of course, the wine list and beer and cocktail menus also require attention when it comes to server knowledge and upselling. If you have wine suppliers visiting your restaurant, take advantage; ask them to discuss their products and do some tastings.

 

Talk and get your just desserts

[Supersize Guest Cheques blog_cake image] Ah, desserts: they are the last impression—visual and taste—that your customer has of your restaurant. So upsell guests on dessert and make sure that what they buy positively dazzles on the plate.

 

It is also important to focus on plate presentation. It doesn’t have to be overly dramatic, but a brownie on a plate at a restaurant has to look much more enticing than what customers could eat at home. He suggests working with wait-staff a bit on plate presentations for desserts that add entertainment value.

 

As well, give your customers dessert menus at the right “dessert moment” – don’t include them with the food and beverage menus. Make sure wait staff are talking about coffees and special coffees with dessert as they are clearing the table at the end of a meal. It doesn’t need to be a hard sell, just a suggestion before walking away. When you return, the response can be surprising; you may see your dessert and coffee sales jump 20 per cent if your staff does this for each table.

 

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Smiling waitress holding a tray of glasses

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how delicious the food is, how ambient the room looks or how reasonable the prices are; if a guest walks in and some small behaviour rubs him the wrong way, he may never eat there again.

 

Everyone knows someone who has walked out of a restaurant and stated, “I can’t believe what just happened—I’m never going back!”

 

When people initially see a small piece of your restaurant, that’s all they know about your operation and your brand.

 

What should you do to make a good first impression for guests?

Have a meeting with your employees and create the following list: “Top Ten Reasons a Guest Would Leave Our Restaurant and Never Want to Come Back.” Then, brainstorm solutions and ways to prevent those problems. You can even site specific incidents from past customer problems. Once the list is finished, make copies for everyone and post an abbreviated list in the kitchen, the bathroom stalls, the break rooms and the smoking area.

 

What can result in a bad first impression for a restaurant? How do you avoid making those mistakes?

It primarily is because of one simple error: forgetting that the job isn’t about you. Some days a server will be stressed out or upset. (Hey, it’s part of the job!) But sometimes a server will “spill” his or her emotions on his customers instead of putting their emotions aside. The bottom line about first impressions in the hospitality industry? It doesn’t matter if you have a bad day, it only matters if the guest has a good day.

 

Differentiate between the things your employees should do to make a good first impression when seating, answering the telephone, and interacting with new guests at the table.

 

Seating guests

When seating guests, take the few seconds walking them to their tables to strike up a conversation. While doing so, the host may discover that there’s an anniversary or birthday to be celebrated. Wouldn’t it just the guest’s day if the waiter came over and said, “Happy 35th! My name is Jack and I’ll be taking care of you tonight”?

 

Answering the telephone

Anyone who answers the phone needs to know the entire menu, hours of operation and most importantly, directions on how to get to the restaurant from all parts of town. A good suggestion is to post directions on the host stand, or have an easy-to-grab reference available so hosts can avoid the “Let Me Find Someone Who Knows How to Get Here” trap.

 

Interacting with guests at the table

When a new guest comes to your table, it is best practice for servers to introduce themselves by name, or wear a name badge. Name tags are vital tools for service providers. A name tag makes it easier for customers to gain the attention of an employee from whom they need service should something arise.

 

Sigmund Freud said that a person’s name is the single context of human memory most apt to be forgotten. By wearing a name tag, you put customers at ease because they know your name. As a result, you are more approachable to them. A couple of chains actually teach their servers to write their names upside down in crayon on the tables, which makes an unforgettable first impression, not to mention keeps their names in front of guests during the meal.

 

If you want employees to connect with guests, they need to get to know them. The most effective way to establish a connection is by asking open-ended questions allowing the guests to share a little bit of who they are. An example could be as simple as, “what are you gentleman up to this weekend?”

 

Approachability is the key to making unforgettable first impressions.

 

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Back and white photo of happy people watching a game

The Super Bowl and food go together like, well, Tom Brady launching one to Julian Edelman. The big game is arguably the largest single sporting event on the planet. That translates to millions of dollars in business for the city and state where the game will be played, and restaurants in Atlanta, Georgia will get a nice, tasty piece of the football pie on Sunday, February 3. However, your restaurant can share in the party even if it is located in a different time zone and a different country.

 

Create a party around the game

Build a stadium atmosphere at your restaurant and reap the benefits. Perhaps unlike any other television spectacle, the Super Bowl is itself a “destination” for family and friends, not just an event, says Greg Fash, vice-president of marketing at Cavendish Farms. He says your restaurant should plan carefully in order to really boost your completion percentage.

 

“Restaurants are uniquely positioned to create the party around the game without the work and hassle of having the gang over to someone’s house,” Fash says.

 

He paints a larger picture of the gridiron gala: it represents a perfect opportunity, by virtue of its winter-time scheduling, for Canadians to get out and enjoy a warm and exciting diversion from snow and frigid air.

 

“It’s the first event to bring people together since Christmas and break mid-winter boredom,” said Fash.

 

“Everyone is looking for a bit of an escape in February without waiting for Valentine’s Day, and the Super Bowl is the perfect reason to look for good times with friends.”

 

Prepare your game plan

Like a good offence, customers are anticipating a Super Bowl atmosphere that is dynamic and energetic - an experience that they just can’t duplicate at home, according to Fash. Recognize before you start planning that expectations are high.

 

“Don’t disappoint. Engage and activate the experience from the minute they arrive. If possible, schedule additional service staff to manage any special entertainment that does not involve food and beverage,” says Fash.

 

Take a moment to select a theme around the game itself. Do some research into the location and see if there’s a food or beverage that is distinctive to Atlanta, Georgia—this year’s Super Bowl city.

 

Provide “close coverage” of your theme

If you pick a theme, engage customers immediately when they arrive and stick with it, says Fash.

 

“If you have premiums with the Super Bowl team logos, make sure they get them immediately and create a game-like atmosphere,” he adds. “Servers, signage and games need to be high energy and consistent with the theme you’ve chosen. Remember that people could have stayed home and watched on their own big screen entertainment centers. That, in part, is your competition.”

 

Fash suggests promoting the event in January, and if possible, give away door prize tickets and appetizer discount coupons that could be used at the Super Bowl party.

There are many variants of pools and games throughout North America focused on the Super Bowl. “Do your homework to understand if there is a local market preference, Fash says. “Build a contest around the game that might offer a discount for declared Patriots fans, for example, on a specific platter if they’re ahead at the quarter.”

 

Another approach may be to team up with local sports associations and other organizations that may be looking for new and clever ways to fundraise and raise awareness.

 

“A local team or association may be able to assist you in organizing the in-restaurant Super Bowl contests in return for a portion of the proceeds. Just make sure that you’re associating with adult teams or associations if the event includes alcohol,” Fash says.

Despite the food, for many customers, the game comes first.

 

It may not be enough to merely serve what is on your regular menu. He suggests special dishes that are specific to the game location. “You need to build a game-day menu. Like the famous television Super Bowl commercials, make the food memorable."

 

“But at the same time,” continues Fash, “recognize that people aren’t at a Super Bowl party generally to have big meals. They want fun food frequently. Offer appetizer specials every hour and focus on sharing platters. What is important is that you get people engaged and that you activate their experience.”

 

Appetizers and beverages are a natural fit with friends and fun. Create shareable appetizers that offer a variety of tastes and textures which—"and this is key," adds Fash—allows a restaurant to customize for the game and will encourage multiple orders.

“Work with your suppliers to feature, or even get support to sample, new and interesting appetizers that your customers may not have had a chance to try before. It gives the restaurant the opportunity to evaluate potential for new menu additions. Linking appetizers and beverage specials throughout the evening is a natural, of course.”

 

Regardless of the food choices, make sure your restaurant affords great sight lines for the fans (that is, your customers), Fash recommends strongly. “If you don’t have enough screens consider acquiring additional ones. It’s all about atmosphere.”

 

There is a caveat, however, he notes, and that is to know your clientele and decide whether you have to divide your space between rabid fans who want a loud and raucous “tailgate party” environment and those customers who will nevertheless enjoy the game but want the spectacle to be a little more low key.

 

But, ultimately, with the hype of the Super Bowl and 30-second television commercials going for somewhere around $3.5 million in the U.S., low-key is going to be hard to come by for this annual sports spectacle.

 

The Super Bowl by the Numbers

  • After Thanksgiving, the Super Bowl is the second largest day of food consumption in the U.S.
  • More than 150 million people will watch the game
  • 1 million: the number of residents and visitors that came through Super Bowl City, the 50th Mile and Super Bowl Experience in 2016
  • Economics studies pegged revenue generation at several hundred million dollars
  • 69 million lbs. of avocados (mostly in guacamole) are eaten
  • With 475 locations nation-wide (U.S.), Wingstop anticipated selling 5 million wings on Super Bowl Sunday
  • Spectators will drink more than 325 million gallons of beer and eat 90 million lbs. of chicken wings, 14,500 tonnes of potato chips and 4,000 tonnes of popcorn.
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Fine dining lamb dish

 

For many restaurants, February 14 is the busiest day of the year.

 

From high school sweethearts looking for as much of an impression as can be made with limited income to older couples who have gone to the same restaurant every year for the past several decades’ worth of Valentine’s Days, it’s a day for couples to go out and enjoy each other’s company.

 

“One of the big things with Valentine’s Day is that people usually go out to treat themselves and each other,” says Jackie Oakes, Marketing Manager at Flanagan Foodservice.

 

Most restaurants put in a bit of extra effort to attract customers for Valentine’s Day, and customers in turn recognize this and are more likely to revisit a restaurant that made them feel special.

 

Oakes says that the effort should start from the moment the customer walks in the door. “As customers arrive, have the hostess greet them with a glass of wine,” she says. “Have flowers or candles on the table to help set the atmosphere.”

 

When it comes to food, many restaurants already provide special Valentine’s Day menus, and with good reason. Couples are looking to make the dinner special—not only compared to what they regularly eat at home, but compared to what they’d normally eat at a restaurant. Spending a bit more than usual is common, and restaurants can take advantage of this by offering some more gourmet options, knowing that their patrons will be interested.

 

“It’s a very common day for indulgence,” notes Oakes. “Think outside the box and change it up with some variety.”

 

Surf-and-turf combos are a popular option with Valentine’s Day diners, though there’s still plenty of room for variety. Oakes suggests that only offering one combination of seafood and steak isn’t enough, as it doesn’t take into account the differences between your guests' eating habits.

 

“Guests enjoy a variety of different meats,” she says. “Some may have the tenderloin steak, versus others who'd prefer a rib-eye. Proportionately, you can get a five-ounce tenderloin. Five ounces of beef is a lot. But when you put it next to a five-ounce lobster tail, that’s 10 ounces right there. That’s a lot of protein. Some will likely eat the 10-ounce or 14-ounce rib-eye plus the five-ounce lobster tail. For others, that’s just too much.”

 

At the end of the night, most Valentine’s Day diners will be looking for a little something sweet—even if they normally wouldn’t be. And more often than not, they’ll also be looking to share.

 

“Consider a special dessert menu for two,” says Oakes. “A very popular trend right now is mini-desserts. They’re a perfect solution for someone looking for a sweet treat to finish off their meal. They’re attractively priced, and customers enjoy sampling two or three different desserts.”

 

Even those customers who might opt to skip dessert could likely be tempted by a specialty coffee.

 

Beyond the menu, Oakes says that with Valentine’s Day competition fiercer than ever, restaurants can stand out from the pack by partnering with local businesses to offer holiday packages (think spas and theatres), providing strong advertising on outdoor signage and social media, and maybe even running the menu for a couple extra days on either side of February 14th.

 

“It’s one of the busiest days for restaurateurs and some people will shy away from the crowds,” she says. “Extending your Valentine’s menu for a weekend or a couple of days prior to the actual holiday can bring more people into your establishment. Make sure you get the word out. Draw as much attention to it as possible.”

 

Above all, though, it’s important for restaurants to remember that while they’re expecting the busiest night of the year, their customers are expecting the exact opposite.

 

For most Valentine’s Day diners, the night represents one of the few times all year when they can get away from the normal hassles of everyday life. Childcare has been arranged, other commitments have been set aside, and most couples are simply looking forward to a nice, slow-paced evening of enjoying spending uninterrupted time with their significant other.

 

The last thing they want is to feel is like they’re being rushed through dinner so that the restaurant can make more money by putting a second couple at their table. If that happens, it’s a sure bet that they won’t be back the following year—and neither will anybody they talk to about it.

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Female barista handing a customer their beverage

 

Opening a new restaurant requires good decision-making, the kind of decision-making critical to avoiding pitfalls along the way. Here are some of the most common missteps new owners make when opening a new restaurant.

 

1. Under-capitalization

The easiest way to set yourself up for failure is to get to opening day without a penny in the bank and still owing money for construction, inventory, etc. A successful restaurant is carefully thought out, and all aspects are important to its success – consistent brand, great menu, unique atmosphere and décor.

 

When you realize you are running out of money, you start to swerve away from the original game plan. New owners tend to cut corners on the brand and décor, cut back on staff training, drop the marketing program and withhold on the product.
 

2. Conceptualizing on “If you build it, they will come”

Today, being new and open isn’t enough. The restaurant world is a very competitive landscape. Guests need a reason to come to your establishment. Partnering with a marketing company (even if just for the opening) to execute a communications strategy is crucial. New owners will benefit from this, as it will help to generate the buzz and continue the narrative for your brand.

 

3. Taking possession of the space too early

Once you take possession of a space, you are on the clock with the landlord. Whether you have a fixturing period or free month’s rent is irrelevant—the clock has started and you are now into your fixturing period. You want to ensure that when you get possession, you are ready to rock. Contractors should be starting renovations on day one. This means you need your drawings done, your contractor selected (either by tendering process or other) and your building permit in place. All of this can take six to eight weeks.

 

When you negotiate and finalize your lease for the space, ensure your possession date is two months in the future.
 

4. Not creating a detailed business plan

A business plan helps you make certain the space is right for you. The business plan defines the space requirements, location, and how to profitability model is going to work. So many people start looking for a location without a business plan completed. For example, new owners might go out looking for a 3,600 sq. ft. space, when perhaps what makes the most sense (after flushing everything out in the business plan, is a 2,800 sq. ft. space.

 

Also, a proper business plan can help realistically plan out an opening budget and help avoid Pitfall #1.

 

5. Not conducting dry runs

Conduct as many dry runs as needed to ensure things are running the way they should. Remember that when you first open, every guest is critiquing you, even more than with an older restaurant. From the very beginning, it is fundamental to be delivering that 11 out of 10 guest experience.
 

6. Lack of staff before you open

Don’t hire what you need—hire about 20% to 30% more than what you need. Some staff will quit before even starting and in the first few weeks, some others will feel overwhelmed and not make the cut.

 

You don’t want to be left short-staffed one month into your opening.
 

7. Not overstaffing when you first open

The first few months of a restaurant opening are all about one thing—making guests happy! Set yourself up to make profit for the next 10 years, not a plan for only the first three months. Too many operators worry about controlling labour cost as soon as they open and end up delivering an exceptionally poor guest experience.

 

Overstaff…by a lot! Ensure that guests are wowed by their entire experience.
 

8. Printing expensive menus

New owners will make the decision to print very expensive menus before opening. If you are a new concept, remember that everything is “theoretical” until you open to the public.

Once you conduct the dry runs and when the doors open, you start to see how your menu plays out—pricing, kitchen bottlenecks, etc.
 

9. Overpricing menu items

You are being judged more than ever when you first open a restaurant, as you are new and untested. New owners need to remember that judgement is all about value and you need to ensure you are providing exceptional value.

 

If anything, underprice your menu (again, the first few months are not about making money). It’s easier to increase your price points a bit after three to six months than to be overpriced at first and try to win guests back who didn’t see the value in your offering.
 

10. Not hiring experts to help you

Opening a restaurant is one of the hardest things to do. However, hiring industry professionals is the best investment you can make to ensure you are a successful restaurant. This is one of the main reasons approximately 80% of new restaurants fail. It is imperative that you hire experts in the industry who will help you avoid falling into the pitfalls.

 

Article by David Hopinks. David Hopkins is the president of The Fifteen Group Inc., a consulting company dedicated to maximizing restaurant profits through effective sales generation and disciplined cost control management.

 

This article originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of Chef Connexion.

 

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