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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.

 

Visit 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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Server packing take out food wearing gloves

What does the future hold for foodservice?

Here are 7 top trends to keep you on track

 

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

 

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

 

1.Diversity & Inclusion (Operations)

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

 

BACKGROUND

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

 

Base: 1,000 consumers ages 18+


Source: Technomic Canadian Omnibus consumer survey data

 

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

 

2. Safety Stays Top of Mind (Consumer)

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

 

BACKGROUND

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

 

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

 

3. Post-Lockdown Buzz (Global)

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

 

BACKGROUND

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

 

Base: 551 and 701 consumers ages 18+


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

 

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

 

4. Investing in Technology (Operations)

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

 

BACKGROUND

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

 

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


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

 

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

 

5. Going Dark (Menu)

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

 

BACKGROUND

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

 

6. Thinking Local (Operations)

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

 

BACKGROUND

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

Base: 355 consumers ages 18-73


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

 

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

 

7. Off-Premise Escalates (Operations)

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

 

BACKGROUND

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

Base: 1,000 consumers ages 18+


Source: Technomic Canadian Omnibus consumer survey data

 

Visit chefconnexion.com for more great articles

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Schneiders Canadian Farm-Raised Pulled Meats

Three sandwiches with schneiders pulled meats on buns and toppings

 

 

Made with Natural Ingredients

 

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

 

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

 

Features

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

 

 

Looking for some inspiration?

Patio Pulled Chicken Flatbread

 

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

 

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

 

Get the Recipe

 

 

 

Piri Piri Pulled Chicken Wraps

 

Schneiders pulled chicken piri piri wraps on a wood background

 

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

 

Get the Recipe

 

 

 

Italian Beef Sandwich with Goat Cheese & Red Peppers

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Get the Recipe

 

 

 

Contact your sales representative today for more information.

 

 

 

 

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Using Instagram to stay connected during COVID-19

A hand holding a hash tag sign on a yellow background

 

If you’re not on Instagram, you don’t exist. That’s the hard truth. The social media landscape has quickly become the dominant marketing tool for restaurants to connect globally and directly with existing and potential customers. No biggie, there are just around 1 billion of them.

The “gram” user, combined with Instagram algorithms, continues to challenge restaurants to push creative limits, in order to achieve Follows, LIKES and Comments.

What are some social media tactics your restaurant can employ to develop impactful social campaigns?

 

START WITH A MONTHLY PLAN

Take the time to plan out your key messages and posts for the upcoming month by developing a social media content calendar. Your goal should be to support and highlight initiatives within your restaurant operation that set your brand apart, while reinforcing key brand messages.

PUT YOUR BEST POST FORWARD
During COVID-19, Instagram can be a powerful tool to stay in touch with your loyal customers, to let them know what you're doing:

how you've changed your menu for takeout and delivery
strategies you've put in place to retain staff
gift cards and other loyalty promotions to keep customers engaged while your restaurant is closed to eat-in dining

 

TIMES TO POST
Social media reporting suggests that the social guest is most engaged in the early mornings, lunch and dinner hours, and later in the evening. These moments tend to be when we are taking a "break," which results in spikes in social media activity. Instagram for businesses also provides effective reporting on your social guests' most engaged days and times per day. Utilize this data to identify the optimal days and times of when to post.

#HASHTAG IT!
Hashtags can make or break the effectiveness of your content strategy by how relevant they are to the content you are posting. Digital users can follow hashtags to collect content on their feed that is of interest to them. The goal is to use hashtags that will place your content on the feeds of your target guests. Popular hashtags are identified in the "TAGS" search bar on Instagram by the number of times they have been used in a post.

Follow these five top tips to develop a list of hashtags relevant to your brand content:

  1. Research what competitors and the foodie community are using as popular hashtags.
  2. Identify 30-50 hashtags that align with your menu offerings and location, and are popular, and reference them selectively within your content calendar.
  3. Post hashtags that match the photography or video content you are sharing.
  4. Post the hashtags as a "comment" to your post, versus within the post.
  5. Post between 15 and 30 hashtags from your list per post.

As you monitor the effectiveness of your social campaign, be aware of spikes in your engagement when certain hashtags are used in your posted content, to identify your top-performing hashtags.
 

UTILIZE APPS

Developers are launching innovative useful social media content editing, organizing and
publishing apps on a monthly basis to support small businesses in managing digital campaigns. We recommend downloading a few different apps to test them out and understand which will be most effective in supporting your social media goals.

Using Instagram and Facebook to build a community of engaged brand advocates can seem intimidating, until you realize what makes them work. Implement these tactics to see what a powerful tool social media campaigns can be for your restaurant business.

 

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

 

 

Learn more about Brand Points Plus

 


By Kate Engineer
Kate Engineer’s agency, Fervid Communications, was recently acquired by The Fifteen Group Inc., a restaurant consulting company with offices in Toronto and Vancouver.

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Brand Points Plus logo with hand reaching for a take out order

Making Food Delivery Easy

Turning to Takeout

 

by Jane Auster

This post was written by Jane and the Brand Points Plus team.  If you're not a member, this is an amazing, no-cost loyalty program.  To learn more click here.

 

Flexible restaurant operators are converting from eat-in to takeout during the COVID-19 pandemic. And whether they're fine dining, QSR or casual eating establishments, they're finding it's not as hard as you may think to revamp an eat-in operation. Also, according to infectious disease specialist Isaac Bogoch, the risk of contracting the virus from takeout and delivery is "so extraordinarily small" – good news for consumers and restaurant operators alike.

 

Here are the top takeaways to ensure your takeout is a success:

 

Make ordering and payment a snap. Many diners, especially Millennials, are already conversant with online and app ordering. Make sure your web and app menu allows for easy ordering and that you're capable of receiving text message orders and app orders from mobile devices. Then add a pre-payment option to make the whole process seamless. Companies like cloud-based commerce platform Lightspeed POS Inc. have set up special resources during the crisis to help restaurants who are converting operations to takeout and delivery.

 

Change up your restaurant layout. Without the need to provide tables and chairs for traditional eat-in dining, you can easily convert that space into takeout/delivery work stations. Think assembly line in the way you organize your takeout operation.

 

Revisit your staffing. There's no doubt you will not need the same number of employees as a full-service restaurant requires. But you will want to retain as many as possible to keep you up and running professionally and prepare for a return to more normal operations. Now is the time to redeploy your talent. You'll still need cooks (short order especially), cleaners, order takers and payment processors, delivery staff, and quality control personnel. You may also need a person assigned specifically to answer customer questions about your menu, takeout and delivery options, payment, and so on.

 

Carefully consider your menu. Not everything on your regular menu will be suitable for takeout and delivery. A takeout menu is more a snapshot of your full offerings. Confine your takeout to top sellers (as long they're not too elaborate or time-consuming to prepare), dishes that will transport well in takeout and delivery, and entries that will still give you a good return on investment.

 

Use the right packaging for the job. No one likes to pick up or receive soggy, leaking, messy or unattractive food packages. Companies like W. Ralston, Novolex and Polar Pak feature packaging specifically for foodservice operations that include takeout and delivery, and also packaging that's size-appropriate. “The packaging a French fry requires for travel is different than a pasta dish. And packaging will also depend on the miles or time it needs to travel,” says John Veder, director of innovation - paper for Novolex North America. Also consider packaging that can be easily reheated without having to be transferred to other dishes.

 

“With takeout, the customer is in control of when that food is consumed,” says Veder. “For delivery, the customer is at home, waiting. Their expectation is that the food is ready to eat. Not soggy. Not cold.”

 

Make delivery easy. "Delivery was a growing market segment prior to COVID-19," says foodservice principal Jeff Dover of fsStrategy Inc. "Restaurants have been adjusting delivery menus to include products that hold well and working on takeout containers that hold the food well. Increasingly, they are looking for tamper proof containers. If a restaurant hasn't worked through this yet, they may want to think about it before going full delivery. If they don't normally do takeout or delivery, they will need to get the packaging."  

 

If you're new to delivery, you may want to partner with an established foodservice delivery company like Uber Eats, DoorDash, Foodora, or Skip the Dishes. Uber Eats has announced that the company is waiving its normal delivery fees for customers who order from independent restaurants and allowing restaurants to receive payment daily instead of on a regular billing cycle in order to help their cash flow. Door Dash has said it will be not be collecting service fees for the first 30 days for a new restaurant client. Restaurants who partner with delivery services also benefit from the online exposure on food delivery sites.

 

Do it yourself? Some restaurants are choosing to do their own delivery by training their regular waitstaff to become delivery door-dashers. In the short term this is a great way to continue employing front-of-house staff. But don't forget to check your insurance to make sure your staff are covered for "other" employment within your operation.

 

Plus, ask yourself these questions:

 

What kind of vehicle will you need? Motorized, bike delivery, or via public transit?
What's your radius? How far are you willing to travel for your customers? During this difficult period, literally going the extra mile will make a huge difference and help retain loyalty.


How's your branding? What kind of branding will you use to stand out? The big food delivery companies are able to advertise themselves through their distinctive, logo-ed carry-on packaging. Like the big guys, your new visual identity as takeout and delivery food providers matters. Consider branding your takeout packaging with your company logo and tagline or marketing messages. Market and promote the service on your website as well.

 

Ramp up your social media. Never has your social media been more important. It's your direct conduit to customers, a way to let them know that you are still in business and you value their patronage and support. If you're adding takeout and delivery, you need to spread the word. Social media such as Instagram, Facebook and other community pages can let people know you are open and active. Don't be afraid of doing something different and a little crazy on your Instagram. Get personal, do a virtual meal in your restaurant and film it, sing an aria outside your restaurant and post to your Instagram.

 

You may also want to create an old-fashioned paper flyer with your takeout menu and have a staff member deliver it to your local area. Sometimes old school is the best school. The point is to communicate as often as you can with customers to keep them close. And don't forget to thank them. They want to help.

 

Get creative. Some clever restaurants are throwing in extras with customers' takeout and delivery orders. Have any logo-ed t-shirts on hand? Send one with each order. Do you make any branded food items for sale, such as jams? Add one to each order. A restaurant in Toronto is even offering to throw in a roll of toilet paper to food orders made through Uber Eats.

 

 

 

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Due to recent events, delivery and pick-up orders are increasing rapidly. In challenging time such as this, how can you make sure your restaurant is top of mind for customers? Here are some ways you can stand out amongst your competition and encourage customers to continue to order from your restaurant.

 

Old Fashioned Drive-In Restaurants

Who can forget the experience of an old fashioned drive-in restaurant? When customers would drive up to a restaurant and eat in their cars. Since customers visiting your restaurant can not come in and sit, why not deliver food to them instead? However, make sure your servers are taking proper precautions to wash their hands, sanitize after each meal delivery and keep social-distancing.

 

Create A Loyalty Program

Everyone loves to earn points and win free stuff! Most of us have changed our shopping, eating, and travelling patterns to earn points for our purchases. Therefore, having a loyalty program is a no brainer! The eventual winning of a prize has a lot of influence on people's spending and drives repeat sales! We recommend a digital loyalty program, especially these days, since customers won't be able to present a card physically.

 

Get Personal With Personalized Messages

Something playful that restaurants can add to take-out orders is the option to include a personalized message; offer this option during the time of ordering. The customer can decide what message they wish to send out if they are ordering for family or friends, or they can request funny jokes or pictures. It is an easy and low-cost way of adding some fun into food delivery. Also, you can encourage customers to share their personalized messages on social media with a specific hashtag. This is a great way to promote the restaurant as well as showcase food orders.

 

Take Advantage of Social Media 

Social media is an excellent tool to build your business profile and attract new customers. With social media, you can create videos, promote new specials, highlight limited time offers, feature your employees, offer cooking lessons, interviews with the chef, and give a "behind the scenes" look to your customers. People are craving social interaction more than ever before and making your restaurant approachable is the golden ticket. 

 

Bring The Restaurant To Their Home.

Is your restaurant known for a particular theme or ambiance? Unfortunately, because restaurants patrons can not sit down inside, why not bring the restaurant to them? For example, why not try including a wine list pairing with the food they ordered, a tea light candle, labelled napkins or with each order include paper placemats and crayons for children. If your business includes toys for children at the end of the meal add the toys in as well or the breath mints they could have picked up upon exiting the facility. It is simple things like this that provide an extraordinary experience beyond just receiving a take out meal. Also, don’t forget to add in promotional materials to spark their interest in ordering again. Furthermore, you can create a contest and encourage customers to share their experience on social media and offer a reward such as a discount on their next order.

 

Special Limited Time Offers.

Offering a special limited-time offer is a great way to not only attract new customers but to retain them. This is a wonderful way to tempt people to try out your restaurant. Some examples of limited-time offers can be free meals for kids, 50% off desserts and special fixe prix menus on certain days. Also, you can leverage certain social media days such as, "National Peanut Butter And Jelly Day," this will create traffic to your social media. Here is a complete list of Annual Food Holidays for Restaurants.

 

Ordering take-out is one of the simple pleasures that is still available. Make your restaurant stand out amongst the competition by offering a loyalty program, personalized messages, unique experience, and limited-time offers. Become present on social media and increase traffic to your restaurant during this challenging time. Customers will remember you for it.

 

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Yes, you can deliver food during the Coronavirus pandemic. Here's how!

 

In an effort to prevent further spread of COVID-19 people will be social-distancing, and the demand for at home delivery orders will be drastically increasing. How can your business make sure that they are prepared to deliver food to customers safely? 

 

According to the CDC and FDA, COVID-19 cannot be transmitted through food. The possibly more significant issue is spreading the virus from food delivery driver to customer or vice-versa. However, your restaurant can deliver food during the pandemic as long as you take the proper precautions, here's how:

 

The health of food delivery drivers is a priority.

Any food delivery drivers who have been diagnosed with COVID‑19 should be individually asked to self‑isolate by management to avoid any further spread of the virus. As a business, it is in your best interest to remain transparent to customers on your policies regarding sick employees.

 

Follow foodservice best practices.

It is essential to keep up to date with restaurant best practices for food handling at this time. This includes ensuring proper sanitation of surfaces, food handlers and food preparation environments, and that all food is properly sealed in tamper‑evident packaging.

 

Invest in good packaging.

A few extra cents to buy the right to-go packaging will end up saving you in the long run by preventing damaged food and keep items fresh for longer. To stand out amongst competition, you can try trendy ECO-friendly packaging as well. Also, clear packaging allows food delivery drivers to check orders at-a-glance before leaving the restaurant and completing the delivery. This will avoid and confusion or mistakes.

 

 

Encourage customers to leave delivery instructions.

For the safety of your delivery drivers and customers it may be best for them to avoid 1-1 contact with each other. While the customer is ordering food, make a note to ask what their preferred delivery instructions are, and ask if it is possible to leave the food in an alternative location, for example placing food at the door.

 

Wash hands and keep delivery cars clean.

Hand washing is the most important thing people can do to protect themselves and others. Provide food delivery drivers with disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, as well as gloves to help them protect themselves and keep their vehicles clean of any germs. Germs can live on surface, instruments and packaging that people touch, including take-out containers and utensils for nine days. Other recommended hygiene practices include not touching your face with unwashed hands, as well as making sure to cough or sneeze into a bent elbow or tissue. 

 

The health and safety of your food delivery drivers and customers is the top priority in times such as these. Make sure to take proper precautions to keep everyone safe. 

 

If you would like further advice on your safe food delivering options please contact your territory manager.

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Technology has made a huge impact on the behaviour of your customers and how they choose to enjoy their meals. 50% of Canadians now use their smartphone to order food and drinks. Having a presence on third-party delivery apps like Skip the Dishes or UberEats it’s not only convenient to your existing customers, it’s advertisement to potential customers who are debating where they should eat.

 

The apps themselves make it easy for you, too. Long gone are the days of complicated software platforms that are more hassle to use than they are worth. These apps have easy-to-use interfaces and make the process smooth and simple to receive your orders, coordinate delivery times, and accept payment.

 

Menu

Is your menu on ordering apps and your website up to date?

 

The biggest let down for a consumer is to discover that the food they want to order isn’t actually available. SkipTheDishes and UberEats make it as easy as possible to update menu items within seconds and as often as necessary.

 

It’s important to note that though your menu should be up to date on third party sites, your entire menu doesn’t have to be included. Choose a few easy and portable menu items—like sandwiches, soups or salads— and feature those as delivery options. You’ll still benefit from the brand exposure on the platform and the additional revenue stream while protecting the integrity of menu items that don’t travel well.

 

Delivery Charges

These are determined by you. Yes, you do want to make sure that you are covering your costs, but you also need to think strategically. If someone can order something similar from multiple restaurants, their decision will likely come down to cost and delivery time.

 

Remember, today’s consumers don’t have the same level of loyalty as previous generations and will easily switch to somewhere new if it means a more convenient experience.

 

Delivery Time

Skip the Dishes and UberEats allow you to set your own prep time and easily control the pace of your kitchen. You can adjust prep times whenever you need, such as at peak times or on days when you are down staff. UberEats will also adjust it automatically based on order volumes, time of day, and order size.

 

Ensure you stick to the determined delivery times as closely as possible. You don’t want a customer to be waiting longer than expected for their food to arrive, nor do you want their food to arrive cold because it was prepared too early.

 

Packaging

Don’t underestimate the art of good packaging! No one wants to have their order delivered only to find that something has leaked out of its container or that food has gone cold and soggy. Proper packaging is key to ensuring that your establishment’s eating experience transfers to the home. This is a reflection of your brand and your commitment to your diner’s entire experience.

 

Maintain A Strong Digital Presence

Don’t forget—your online presence goes far beyond the ordering apps themselves. Consumers are looking to a whole host of digital mediums when deciding where to order their food, whether they’re eating on or off-site. Making food decisions is usually an “in-the-moment” choice with over half of all dinner decisions being made day-of. Having a strong online presence is imperative to being selected when consumers are doing their last minute (and hungry) searching.

 

Here are some things to consider to ensure a seamless digital experience for your customers:

 

A Responsive Website

A responsive website will adjust in size to display nicely on a mobile phone without users needing to zoom in and out. Include your menu, contact information, and hours of operation. We love Squarespace and have a great post that breaks down (link to https://www.flanagan.ca/blog/8-Steps-to-Creating-Your-Restaurant-Website-on-a-Budget.htm) step-by-step how to get started!

 

Social Media

Social media continues to have a huge influence on food choices. Having an engaging social presence is vital to staying competitive and promoting your brand.

 

Highlight Your Hard-To-Replicate Dishes To Increase Delivery Orders

Consumers may feel that these items are more difficult to re-create at home.

 

A Google Business Page

When someone Googles your restaurant name, this is what appears on the right side of the desktop search results. This is free advertising in a high traffic place! 88% of all desktop internet searches are conducted through Google.

 

Use these tips to increase your digital brand awareness, create another revenue stream, and improve your customers’ online ordering experience.

 

To get started with Skip The Dishes click here and fill out their form and someone will get back to you.

 

To get started with Uber Eats click here 

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