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Downsizing the Menu to Upsize Restaurant Revenue

Woman in restaurant holding menu

 

Downsizing the Menu to Upsize Restaurant Revenue

 

Once a necessity during the tumultuous year the foodservice industry has faced, now smaller streamlined menus are here to stay. And with good reason. Trimming and slimming down your menu adds well deserved money back to your bottom line, benefiting both you and your customers.

 

Long before COVID-19, if you remember back that far, Technomic had already acknowledged simplification of menus. Their Canada’s Shrinking Menus 2018 report noted that restaurant operators had been gradually cutting back on their menus since 2013.

 

Technomic reported that operators were being strategic about how and where to spend their money while dealing with the labour issues in the Canadian workforce.

 

Their Post-Pandemic Playbook continues the same macrotrend, stating labour issues already felt in foodservice pre-pandemic could be worse as former employees find other opportunities.

 

They also predict that many operators will likely focus on menu items that are revenue and profitability drivers, post-crisis.

 

Simplifying the menu makes good business sense: assisting cost control, reducing labour costs and keeping customers happy.

 

Cost Control

Smaller menus naturally use fewer ingredients. A tighter food inventory provides operators with many cost-control options without hurting menu quality.  In fact, menu quality will naturally improve.

 

James Keppy, corporate chef for Maple Leaf Foods, is busy helping operators streamline menus and promoting value-added ingredients to help chefs in their kitchens.

 

“Operators need to do a few things well. No one can afford to have their menu be a book anymore,” says Keppy.

 

“Inventory items need to be reduced so that they can be controlled and better utilized in multiple applications across the menu. This inventory reduction affords little to no waste.”  

 

Technomic’s State of the Canadian Menu 2021 report agrees and suggests operators adapt products to various dayparts, mealparts, menu categories and ordering options. They state that menu streamlining will be a necessity for operators amid and after the pandemic, sticking around as a long-term trend. Multiple applications increase efficiency on several fronts, from labour to storage to spending.

 

Fewer ingredients mean you will be ordering larger quantities of your staples, allowing for bulk purchases and economies of scale.

 

The time it takes to manage inventory decreases from counting to reordering. With a tighter handle on inventory, food waste is also significantly reduced.

 

Consumers continue to look for customization when ordering. A smaller menu can still accommodate these requests. Operators can rethink well-performing ingredients and use them strategically in their offerings. But that also means eliminating poorly performing ingredients.

 

Keppy agrees. “If there are inventory items present that are costly but show low sales on the menu mix, they are a drain on your resources in both money and storage.

 

“Menu items and their ingredients that travel well are important. Maple Leaf Pulled Pork and Beef can be customized by individual operators with their seasonings and sauce and will keep their heat for delivery. These products can be used for sandwiches, build your own tacos, and for mac and cheese topping.”

 

Labour Costs

Relying on menu fundamentals is key, according to Technomic’s State of the Canadian Menu 2021 report. Operators scaled back their menus to focus on core items. Smaller SKU counts helped operators reduce operational complexity by streamlining their menus, reducing waste and staffing needs, and increasing speed of service. 

 

“Smaller menus factor in labour. This could lead to the elimination or doubling up of stations in the kitchen,” says Keppy.  

 

With fewer items on the menu, it is faster to train new employees — front of house and back of house. Wait staff will have more comprehensive menu knowledge and can effectively upsell and educate customers. Kitchen staff can quickly become experts on recipes, leading to faster service and higher quality dishes.

 

Additional benefits of having fewer moving parts, people and ingredients are increased efficiency and minimal mistakes — everybody wins in this scenario.

 

Happy Customers

Everyone wants to be happy. Smaller menus help your customers get there. It is easier for your customers to understand who you are and what makes you awesome if they aren’t getting lost in your menu.

 

Visually, the menu will be more appealing in print and online. The physical menu will have white space and room to move, taking advantage of menu psychology theories. Plus, the digital menu will be simpler to scroll.

 

“Keep the menu easy to read and therefore easier to make a menu choice… especially if your customers are reading and ordering from a phone,” says Keppy.

 

Smaller menus increase the perception of quality over quantity and don’t overwhelm indecisive guests.

 

As ticket times decrease, customers get their orders faster, and that makes them ecstatic.

 

Gearing Down to Go Up

“Do what you are good at and what you are known for while still offering items that appeal to the general groups of meat eaters, vegetarian and vegans, healthy eaters and indulgent consumers. If you are a chicken place, offer fried, grilled and a plant-based version,” says Keppy. 

 

He also reminds us that “no matter what you offer, always consider the quality and appearance on the plate as well as in the takeout container.”

 

Shrinking your menu is all about dollars and cents, and just makes good sense. Your operation will be stronger, more focused and even better than before. Your customers will thank you, and so will your bank account.

 

 

 

Visit chefconnexion.com for more articles and expert advice

 

Written by Cheri Thompson

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flanagan Foodservice at 9:42 AM
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Does Restaurant Catering have a Future?

People enjoying a meal

 

Does Restaurant Catering have a Future?

 

Could catering help restaurants bolster their bottom line? The question may seem counterintuitive since catering, like other areas of foodservice, has been hard-hit by the pandemic. But restaurateurs who have weathered pandemic restrictions and public hesitancy about dining out may be considering whether or not to add a catering operation. 

 

The pros and cons of adding a catering operation

Glenn Whitehead, owner of Plant Matter Kitchen and Plant Matter Café in London, Ontario, says, “Adding any possible revenue stream is probably just good common sense, to be honest. […] If you own a business right now and you’re open, then offering whatever you can is certainly something that I would strongly suggest.”

 

Jeff Dover, principal at fsSTRATEGY Inc., a foodservice and hospitality industry consultancy, adds, “The pro is that catering is more profitable than the restaurant business. Some of the fixed costs that impact the profitability of restaurants are known. You know how many orders, of what, and at what time. It also makes use of kitchens and kitchen labour that are idle or have excess capacity during COVID.”

 

On the con side, he points out that pandemic gathering limits affect the size of events, decreasing demand for catering. And many businesses that used to have staff meals catered now have those staff working remotely for the foreseeable future. No staff = no office catering.

 

Is the future in event or office catering?

Which has a better future: event (e.g., weddings) or office catering? The answer depends on whether you’re looking at the short term or beyond.

 

Dover says he’d choose event catering because these contracts “are typically larger and can involve alcohol-generating additional revenues.” He also notes the pent-up demand for event catering. 

 

Public health restrictions, however, continue to restrict catering demand for such events. Whitehead is well aware of the pandemic’s impact on this part of his business. He catered hundreds of events before COVID-19 took hold, but that business dried up once restrictions hit. “Basically, we haven’t done a thing in a year,” he says.

 

Many variables influence when a hundred or more people will be able to get together again, Whitehead says. He doesn’t anticipate catering large events of any kind before mid- to late-2022. However, he does see opportunity in catering office lunches, especially in office towers where there are multiple businesses open with non-skeletal staffing.

 

Think of catering differently

 

Adding a catering operation requires fresh thinking about what catering means and how to plan carefully, especially as the third wave of the pandemic is making its presence felt in Canada.

 

Whitehead says, “Looking for other [revenue] streams is a critical piece to try to get enough sales to cover things and keep moving forward.”

 

Rather than the traditional weddings and conferences, foodservice operators looking to get into catering need to consider smaller-scale approaches that can generate revenues in the short term. In addition to the office lunch trade, options include catering meals for small gatherings at people’s homes and meal kits, both of which have become more popular during the pandemic.

 

Technomic, Inc., which provides insights to the foodservice industry, reports that for the second quarter of 2020 in Canada “45% of younger consumers, including Gen Zers and millennials, are buying more meal kits now from restaurants compared to before the pandemic.”

 

Whitehead says that with people being more cautious but also bored of cooking, restaurants can offer them more variety through items like meal plans and seasonal kits. “It’s a little bit less catering and more meal kits, but I would put it under that same category.”

 

He has always offered a meal plan service, with clients who come twice a week to pick up several days’ worth of assembled meals. “They don’t have to do anything but heat them up,” he says, “so that’s certainly an option that I think will continue to grow.”

 

Tips for adding a catering operation

Operators exploring adding a catering operation should think about the following considerations.

 

  • Investments — The equipment you need depends on the type of catering you’re doing. Dover suggests you may need smallwares for preparing and transferring food, and equipment to reheat or finish food on site. Whitehead advises you keep any investments to scale.
  • Menu — “Play off your existing menu,” he says, “because every time you add or change something, you’re adding to your food costs [and potentially] everything else, like labour.” Dover suggests you select menu items that travel well, and you should also consider special diets.
  • Marketing — “Try to get the word out without investing too much money, effort, or energy,” Whitehead recommends. He suggests marketing through social media and flyers attached to pickup and delivery orders.
  • Feedback — Improve your catering efforts based on the feedback you receive, Whitehead advises. 
  • Adaptability — If there’s one thing we know about the pandemic environment, it’s that restrictions and rules can change with little notice as the situation evolves. Factor flexiblity into your catering operation. 

 

Written by Marlene Cornelis.

 

Visit chefconnexion.com for more expert tips

 

 

 

 

 

Flanagan Foodservice at 3:07 PM
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Food Photography: Make your Meals Look Great

Lady holding iphone taking picture of chicken and mushrooms

Food Photography

Make your meals really look good enough to order

During the pandemic, the need for outstanding visuals to sell your food is even greater than before, when competition was already fierce for food dollars. That’s where professional-looking food photography comes in.

 

Consider food photography being worth not only a thousand words, but a thousand dollars in revenue for your restaurant brand. In a digital world that’s easily influenced by visual storytelling, this is the impact that high quality styled food images can have in attracting new business to your restaurant.

 

According to the TripAdvisor “Influences on Diner Decision-Making” survey from 9,500 international diners, 60% of respondents from the US reported that online photos influence their dining decisions. The impact of online photos proved even higher in Spain at 72%, followed by Italy with 67%, France with 64%, and the UK with 52%. This is definitely something to keep in mind when trying to attract tourist (and other) diners.

 

For restaurant brands large and small, the importance of capturing high quality, well-planned menu photography remains the same – HIGHLY IMPORTANT! And during the pandemic, the need for outstanding visuals is even greater.

 

So, when is using a phone to take your restaurant brand’s photography a good idea?

For chefs or restaurateurs, if you have basic photography knowledge and understand lighting, angles, product positioning, shot styling, and are tech-savvy with the latest editing applications, then go for it! 

 

TIP: Scroll through Instagram to find inspiration and shot examples to guide your photoshoot.

 

However, if you are like most of us, with little photography expertise beyond selfies, and even less time to spend in this area, and if you want to put your best visual face forward, here are some other solutions to create a professional profile at reasonable cost:

 

1. Hire New Talent

Aspiring photographers or recent photography graduates are a great place to start as they need projects to build their portfolios and often have very affordable rates. Try posting a free ad on jobsites like Indeed.com and on your restaurant’s social media pages to attract résumés.  

 

2. Find the food influencers

A food influencer is an Instagram user with an above average following who focuses on curating and sharing food and restaurant-related content that produces user engagement to influence consumers’ decision-making. 

 

These are savvy photographers and editors who are always on the lookout for new content to curate! 

 

TIPS:

  • Find and follow Instagram influencers whose content relates to your restaurant brand. For example, pizza places should find influencers who curate and post content about pizza.
  • Invite influencers to your restaurant to taste the menu and enjoy the overall brand experience. If you put on a great show, they will likely take LOTS of photos!
  • Get the photos! Discuss if you can use their photos to post on your digital platforms. NOTE: Some may request a fee per image.
  • Give credit where credit is due. Social media etiquette is always giving photographers or curators credit for their photos by tagging them in the post. This helps to promote their skillsets and personal brand in return for photo use, which sometimes is enough to eliminate fees. 

Whether you choose to take your own photos, or use a trained photographer, understanding how to make your food look its best from the kitchen preparation to the final shot can help to achieve your desired look.  

 

Your website and social media channels might be the first experience and interaction potential guests have with your brand. You have one chance to attract business from that first impression.

 

This is why it is so important to put your best shot forward!

 

TIPS:

  • Select menu items that are unique to your brand and also present well.
  • Decide on a consistent element to your brand photography. Whether it’s a backdrop, tabletop surface, or prop, this helps to define your brand.
  • Go for natural lighting. This means shooting near windows. If your restaurant interior is dark, then rent lighting and reflectors to achieve a natural lighting affect to avoid the “flash.”
  • Develop a shoot schedule and shot list. This should outline:
  • The item details, or combination of items. Consider the kitchen and bar prep time when arranging the shot list.
  • Which dishware and glassware the items will be shot in.
  • The angle of the shot and lighting details.
  • What props or people will be featured in the shot.
  • An example image of the final look you are trying to achieve.

Consumers will search your website and scroll through your social media channels to read reviews and look at photos of your menus and space before deciding whether or not to book a reservation or order from your restaurant. Those visuals may mean the difference between choosing your place…or the eatery down the street.

 

 

 

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

 

 

For more expert advice click here

 

 

 

 

Flanagan Foodservice at 2:39 PM
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Restaurant Retention and Hiring Strategies

Staff wanted sign hanging in window

Hiring restaurant employees:

Make the most of retention and hiring strategies during the pandemic

The perennial challenge of staffing in the labour-intensive foodservice industry has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Widespread staffing shortages as restaurants reopen, coupled with serious financial losses due to long periods of closures and restrictions, mean savvy foodservice operators are looking for effective retention and hiring strategies that won’t break the bank.

 

Understanding the Issue

Objective analysis of a problem’s root causes is the first step to finding solutions. While some reasons for staff shortages are beyond your control, be open to the possibility that your own practices may be a factor. For instance, ongoing government support programs may be one reason foodservice staff aren’t flocking back. But telling staff that their colleagues who haven’t returned would rather collect a benefit cheque than work could backfire: finger pointing may be part of your retention problem. 

 

There are many nuanced reasons that many have chosen to leave the foodservice industry — or perhaps your establishment — including:

  • Pandemic downtime that led to reflection about career and life priorities, with some workers choosing to retrain online or start businesses from home.
  • Safety concerns about serving the public and/or taking public transportation to work in a pandemic that’s now in its worsening fourth wave.
  • Childcare shortages or the need to stay home with children who are schooling remotely.
  • Your wages, benefits, advancement opportunities and workplace culture may be less attractive than the competition’s.

 

But What About Cost?

Some retention and recruitment strategies come with a price tag. Assess that against the costs of losing valuable employees you’ve already invested in and operating short-staffed. You may find that you can’t afford not to implement some of those strategies.

 

The cost of turnover can run to several thousands of dollars per departure, based on hiring process and training costs, lost productivity, and other factors. In pandemic times, turnover cost cuts even more sharply. Without enough staff to run your restaurant, tables may sit empty; some restaurateurs have even had to cut back on operating hours or close altogether. 

 

 

Which Comes First: Hiring or Retention?

It may seem counterintuitive, but think about retention before hiring strategies. Why? Because the reasons your staff want to stay are also why people want to join your workplace. A poor reputation in the job market due to high turnover has a chilling effect on hiring; being known as a great employer attracts applicants.

 

The pandemic created a seller’s market in real estate, but when it comes to foodservice jobs, it’s a buyer’s market. Job seekers have their pick and so do your current staff — retention is more important than ever. 

 

 

Retention and Hiring Strategies


Pay Increases

In addition to providing competitive starting wages, consider implementing pay ranges with increases at set intervals. On a four-step scale, the starting rate could be followed by three incremental increases every six months to a year to encourage employees to stay.

 

Tip Distribution

Is your tipping policy — or lack of one — a source of staff dissatisfaction? You may not be ready to build gratuities into menu costs, but tip sharing could address compensation inequities between front- and back-of-house staff. 

 

Benefits

Jeff Dover, principal at the foodservice consultancy fsSTRATEGY Inc., says health and/or dental benefits can be cost effective for small operators. “Benefits are important and, given that many restaurants don’t offer them, can make a restaurant an attractive place to work. Help with childcare is very beneficial as well.” Dover says paid sick days are timely given the pandemic. While some employees may treat them as vacation days, there is a pressing need for employees not to come to work sick.

 

Referral Bonuses

“Referral bonuses are becoming more prevalent,” Dover adds. Not only are they attractive to current staff, but he says they work well too. “New hires are more likely to stay if they know someone, especially if that person has stuck their neck out to recommend them.”


Offer ongoing training and development for staff who’d like to learn new skills, rotate through different jobs, or advance into leadership.

 

Ongoing Training

Training isn’t just for new hires. Offer ongoing training and development for staff who’d like to learn new skills, rotate through different jobs, or advance into leadership. Ask what they’d like to learn more about to keep it timely and meet their needs.

 

Establish Career Paths

Communicate the career paths in your establishment. Dover says, “Teaching people what it takes to get promoted and helping them do so is great for retention.”

 

Prioritize Staff Health and Safety

Health and safety is top of mind these days. Make it a topic at all staff meetings, reviewing protocols to bolster employees’ confidence that they and their co-workers are doing the right things the right way for safety. Be proactive about discussing mental health, and consult industry and community resources to address any issues.

 

General Culture

Is your culture rigid or flexible? Do schedules take staff needs into account? Are minor repairs and interpersonal issues addressed quickly to minimize day-to-day work frustrations? Do you communicate openly with your team? Do staff feel safe bringing forward concerns? Do you offer open recognition but private criticism (constructive, of course)? Never underestimate the retention and hiring power of your staff feeling supported and heard.

 

Think about recruiting online, offering applicants the choice of submitting traditional or video résumés, and conducting Zoom interviews.

 

Hiring Strategies that Reflect the Times

Asking applicants to drop off paper résumés can be off-putting for a digital-savvy labour pool. Trendy speed-dating-style hiring fairs are problematic during the pandemic. Think about recruiting online, offering applicants the choice of submitting traditional or video résumés, and conducting Zoom interviews. If you want to meet in person before making the final decision, use those tools to shortlist candidates.

 

Use Your Website for Hiring

Your website is an important tool in your hiring process. Amina Gilani, co-founder and COO of Sociavore, the independent restaurant website platform and Brand Points PLUS partner, says: “Use the Sociavore job creator tool to create customized job listings and generate mobile-friendly application pages right on your restaurant website. You will receive virus-screened application packages directly in your email — no third-party recruiting website required. Accept and manage application submissions all from one dashboard.”

 

Go Social for Recruiting

You work hard to build your social media accounts, so why not harness them for recruitment? Your followers just may want to work for you or refer candidates to you, so let them know you’re hiring and link to your website job listings.

 

Signing and Retention Bonuses

Signing and retention bonuses can sweeten the deal for potential new hires. 

 

When it comes to hiring and retention, Dover says, “The best thing you can do is make your restaurant a great place to work. […] Treat employees like a valuable commodity (which they are), and do what you can to keep people happy. […] Make your restaurant a place where Gen Z wants to work. They want to work for a company whose values align with theirs, so be environmentally friendly, address social issues, etc. Get the staff involved in implementing programs. If you nail this, you will have a way easier time than other restaurants finding and retaining staff.”

 

Written by Marlene Cornelis. For more great articles visit chefconnexion.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Flanagan Foodservice at 11:19 AM
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The Art of Food Plating

Steak and shrimp plated

The Art of Food Plating

Top tips to raise your plates to new heights

 

You don’t need a fine art degree to execute beautifully presented plates. Somewhere between Chicago restaurant Alinea’s Da Vinci-esque attention to detail and a cafeteria scoop and slap, there is a style of food plating that represents your very own establishment. Plating, like art, is personal and should tell the story of your menu.

 

Menus changed dramatically in the last year to cover losses from restrictions and shutdowns. Entire menus were downsized, menus became hyper-focused and the individual menu items remaining were squeezed to maximize profits. Has your plating adjusted accordingly? 

 

With a splash of art, a touch of math, and a dollop of common sense, you will be on your way to palatable plating. Follow these handy tips:

 

  • Find your focal point. All meals have a focal point. Likely the starting ingredient you used to design the flavour of the dish. Focus on that one ingredient, usually the protein, and build complementary flavours around it. Apply the same principle when plating.
  • Splash some colour. Plate colour should enhance the food. White plates are popular because they provide a blank canvas and great contrast for your dishes. However, a flavour-popping special’s ingredients that lean towards beige would benefit from a coloured plate instead.  Black dinnerware gives a negative contrast matching well with brightly coloured ingredients.
  • The colour of the ingredients can be adjusted for further visual appeal without compromising on design flavour, like using purple fingerling potatoes instead of white.
  • Mix up your texture. Offer different visual textures on the plate by mixing and matching to find a balance. Adjust textures while maintaining flavour. Hard, soft, smooth, grainy, fluffy, flaky and coarse.  
  • Find your best size. Choose plates large enough to accommodate food without overcrowding. Oversized plates offer a dramatic flair but can give the impression of too-small portions. The less on the plate, the more precision required as focus is tight.
  • Scale down. Perception of quantity increases if your portion sizes match the scale of the plates, bowls or platters. Simply put, smaller portions on smaller plates. Reducing portion sizes by 10 per cent but visually filling the plate is good for your bottom line. However, if your dinnerware inventory doesn’t contain the size you need and purchasing a new size is out of the budget, strategic placement and arrangement of smaller portions on larger dishes can still deliver.
  • Follow the rule of thirds. In food, the rule suggests placing the focal point to the left or right side of the plate. Go further and apply a well-used photography rule to your plates (or bowls or platters) no matter the shape or size to artfully showcase your focal ingredient.
  • Work the odd numbers. Although never scientifically proven, many chefs believe an odd number of elements, like shrimp or meatballs, is more visually appealing and gives a perception of more food. Even numbers typically require more precise placement for balance. 
  • Consider shapes. Consider the shape of the food and the plate.  Circles (dots of sauce, a timbale of grains, brussels sprouts) on a square plate add instant drama. Include height and depth.

Common Sense

  • Learn to fit in. How the dish reads on the menu should translate easily to the plate.  The customer shouldn’t be confused as the order is placed on the table. Plating must fit within the capabilities of the kitchen and skill level of staff.A poor choice of plate, its size and colour, can throw off a well-organized kitchen if it doesn’t have a logical place.
  • Watch the trends. Tightening and reducing portion sizes on menus is smart business.  Turn it up to brilliant by marketing your menu as nutritionally balanced to hit those customers craving healthy, tasty and beautiful food.
  • Make it a movable feast. Walk around with your plated meal. Does it move?
  • Step back. However beautiful your plate looks, it always comes down to how it “eats.” Sit in the diner’s chair and dig in. Is it the experience you were aiming for?

Remember:

  • Use a clean plate – no chips, fingerprints, scratches or markings
  • Plate quickly enough to maintain proper food temperature
  • Don’t let food touch the rim
  • Pick a focal point/ingredient
  • Ensure servers know the direction in which the plate should be served

Elevating your food with thoughtful plating gives a memorable first impression before your customers even take a bite. If they grab their cameras before their forks? Your food plating is a masterpiece.

 

Written by Cheri Thompson, originally posted on chefconnexion.com

 

Visit chefconnexion.com for more articles

 

Flanagan Foodservice at 1:06 PM
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