Looking for a fun way to woo guests back inside for dining? How about adding some game time to your menu? Increasingly, guests are bringing their “game face” to restaurants where they are expecting entertainment that goes beyond food and drink.
Kids’ games – such as paper placemats and crayons for colouring – have been around for years as a way to entertain the younger generation and keep them occupied while waiting for their meals. But what about the adults? How do you keep them engaged, ordering, and off their smartphones?
Many family restaurants, bars and sports-themed eateries already include active play on their menu, like such popular options as dart boards, billiards tables, trivia games, foosball tables, and more.
Games keep your guests engaged and may encourage them to linger longer – with more opportunities to upsell and increase check size. They also brand your restaurant as a fun venue and the place to be, plus games can help build a bond between staff and guests.
One restaurant offers a gaming option with a twist. Graffiti Market in Kitchener, Ont., a combination restaurant, microbrewery, market, coffee roaster and bakery, features highly interactive game play right at diners’ tables.
Ryan Lloyd-Craig, co-owner of the Ignite Restaurant Group, of which Graffiti Market is a part, wasn’t even thinking of games when he saw his first interactive smart table. “The idea didn’t come to me overnight. I was walking the technology section of the Restaurants Canada show and came across a gentleman standing on what looked like a giant iPad until I got closer and found that it was an interactive table made by Kodisoft (a tech company based in Ukraine).”
Lloyd-Craig’s original thought was not even about games but mainly about using the tables as a way for guests to order interactively, have food runners bring the items to the tables, and then have the tables function as a complete POS system. Other countries were already using the Kodisoft system successfully, but no one in Canada had tapped into combining business with pleasure right at the table.
Lloyd-Craig’s interest in the tables quickly evolved into something different from an ordering and POS solution. “The benefit of these tables is that you can visually see every item on the menu so it makes it easier to order, but their main appeal is keeping people engaged and entertaining them while waiting for their food. People are putting down their cellphones and actually talking to each other. That’s kind of neat.”
The tables offer a variety of gaming options. He started with a simple colouring application, then a doodling app after the first month, before adding puzzles for all age groups (from a basic jigsaw puzzle for kids), air hockey, Chinese checkers, and most recently, chess, all of which can be turned on or off depending on how busy the restaurant is.
The tables can also support advertising, both internal and external (for instance from sports businesses running commercials and interacting with guests), though so far Lloyd-Craig hasn’t tapped that potential.
Interestingly, far from encouraging guests to linger, guests using these interactive restaurant tables want to clear the menus and food off faster to get back to their games. Lloyd-Craig’s initial goal, in fact, was not to get diners to stay longer, but to realize labour savings from integrating ordering with serving and paying for a total POS solution – “any way you can save two or three per cent off the bottom line,” as he puts it. The restaurant hasn’t been open long enough for him to see these savings yet, but he has experienced a steady increase in sales since he brought in the game tables – and that means he’s already ahead of the game.
Not all games have to cost the earth for you to add. Take trivia. This option’s been around since Trivial Pursuit took off decades ago and has become a bar and casual restaurant staple. Trivia is a particular hit with Millennials looking for interactive experiences and can liven up slower winter months in any family-style restaurant. Companies like QuizRunners and Quizzholics design, create and can run your trivia games professionally. Who knows? Your eatery could become a stop on a trivia circuit.
Written by Jane Auster
Just when you thought you were getting the hang of social media and content marketing, along comes another digital platform to shake things up!
Although it may seem relatively new, TikTok began in 2016, and since then has become the fastest growing social media platform, with more than 1 billion people worldwide and an average of 3.2 million Canadians, engaging in the video platform monthly. That’s a BIG consumer audience that you can be tapping into, and similar to Instagram, food, drinks and recipe creation continue to be top trending topics.
Currently on TikTok there are more users generating restaurant content with a rise in hospitality brands beginning to utilize the platform. Let’s dive into 101 on how restaurants can utilize TikTok’s video sharing platform to generate buzz and reach more guests.
Since launching, the platform has continued to attract a younger audience with more than 50% of global users being under the age of 34, 41% of them aged 16-24, and in Canada 60% of users are female. Even if this core audience doesn’t represent your average customers, it is still worth having them connect with your restaurant brand for future business, and keep in mind, the other 50% are 35 and over. These audience profiles are critical to developing effective TikTok content and messaging.
TikTok videos can range between 5 and 60 seconds in length. One of the most exciting benefits for restaurant brands is that unlike other social platforms that are driven by highly professional and polished content, TikTok is popular for videos that are fun, creative, authentic, personalized, and humorous. As you get started, forgo hiring a professional videographer until you understand if this platform is right for your brand. However, invest in a phone camera adjustable tripod that allows you to set up shots from many angles, and provides some additional lighting. Prices range from $30-$200, and tripods can easily be sourced through Amazon.ca.
TIP: Natural lighting always produces the best video and photography results. If your restaurant space is darker, then it’s worth the $100 to invest in softbox lighting and reflectors to achieve the best shot. This type of portable equipment is available at photography stores as well as Amazon.ca.
TikTok’s unique in-app content creation features have set the platform apart, as the creative opportunities are endless yet they do take some time to master.
Start creating simple and fun video content that showcases what your brand does best.
Here are additional tips to effective posting, and growing your TikTok reach:
Stay tuned for TikTok 102 for restaurants, to learn how to leverage influencer campaigns and advertising best practices.
Written by Kate Engineer
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Operators exploring adding a catering operation should think about the following considerations.
Written by Marlene Cornelis.
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!
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!
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.
Marketing your restaurant brand successfully, meaning you’re actually experiencing a return on your marketing dollars, can often seem an insurmountable task.
It’s important to keep in mind that some of the most effective restaurant marketing strategies are designed to produce long-term results, as guests need constant visual reminders and communication about your brand to persuade their decision-making.
Instagram and Facebook have made it extremely easy to attract and gain new guests with targeted digital advertising. Set your ad objective to target audiences similar to who follows your social pages, and drive them right to your website for reservation bookings. You can track the results, and not only begin seeing your social community grow, but also your reservation bookings.
Create a seasonally inspired ticketed experience or event that requires guests to secure their spot in advance with a ticket. Not only does this guarantee a full house, but also allows you to manage the profit margin to increase your revenue, while creating a unique experience for guests. Try EventBrite for ease of ticket management.
Promotional marketing has a reputation of hurting the bottom line, but that isn’t always the case if planned strategically. There are many ways to maintain your brand experience and reputation, while offering a nominal perk to encourage guests to dine with you, and spend a little bit more. The objective with promotional incentives should be to increase the average check, by upselling the order on profitable menu items. Themed menu nights, pre-set menus, menu specials, alcohol features, and combos are all forms of promotional restaurant marketing that can increase revenue.
What better way to encourage sales than by giving someone a complimentary experience first! This marketing tactic allows you to communicate one on one the key selling features of the menu item or beverage, while making the guest feel special with a complimentary tasting. Work with your suppliers to create the experience and provide additional support and product, which will also reduce your expenses and increase your profit.
FACT: Customers are 93% more likely to purchase an upgraded bottle of wine ($10 more) when offered a sampling.
Why wait for the guests to come to you, when you can go to them? Pop-up carts, booths, and street activations can be very a cost-effective way of reaching a new audience and marketing your brand experience directly. Be sure to hand out a promotional piece, such as a complimentary appetizer or dessert card, to invite guests to your physical location to dine again!
Consider leveraging your most popular dishes, sauces, or made-in-house products that have the highest profit margin, and packaging them to go for guests to enjoy at home. This out-the-door form of marketing keeps your brand top of mind in guest homes, sparks word-of-mouth advertising, and provides your business with another revenue stream.
Most restaurant point-of-sale systems have built-in rewards programs that track guest’s information and dining history. The systems are extremely sophisticated, and often provide digital marketing opportunities to reward guests based on their dining behaviour and milestones, such as birthdays and anniversaries. Whether it’s a complimentary birthday dessert or points towards achieving a unique experience, be sure to maximize the preexisting marketing tools in your point-of-sale, or reservation booking systems, to encourage repeat business.
You know the saying – “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”? This rings true for restaurant competitors too! Over the last few years, as restaurants have struggled with new industry challenges, we’ve witnessed the birth of restaurant and chef collaborations with the objective of bringing unique experiences to guests and driving new business. Consider hiring a well-known chef to design your seasonal menu, or feature some unique menu items designed by another popular restaurant that serves a different type of cuisine, or collaborate on a pop-up to share costs. The ideas are endless, and with the right collaboration the results can be very positive for the bottom line.
When it comes to marketing your restaurant brand, Google Business is a tactic that many restaurant brands have still not tapped into fully. Google Business pages provide a platform where you can showcase images, post daily updates, create digital promotions for guests, link to your website and social platforms, and encourage guests to reward you with 5-star reviews. When a guest Googles your brand, your Google Business page is likely the first thing that pops up, which is why it’s so critical to manage this platform. The best part, all of the digital tools are free.
Let your website be the front door to your restaurant where diners can learn about you before they make a reservation. Your online strategy isn’t complete without one and sites such as the all-in-one platform Sociavore was developed for independent restaurant operators like you to be in full control of your brand, content, online ordering and reservation booking system. Your website attracts visitors and drives sales, so take control of your online presence. Book a Sociavore demo here.
Take your marketing efforts to a more profitable level by implementing one or more of these creative strategies for your restaurant brand.
Written by Kate Engineer, originally posted on chefconnexion.com.