Go Digital at Your Restaurant

    Published By: Leon Tuberman  -  Friday, December 15, 2017

    Many restaurants are expanding their offerings into digital media. They are doing this in several ways; creating a Web presence, increasing digital interaction within the dining room, and tapping in to social media.  If you want your restaurant to succeed in the modern era, you have to connect to your guests in as many ways as you can.

    Flat Screens for Casual Eateries

    The dropping price of digital flat-screen televisions means that they are increasingly affordable for just about every restaurant. That means you can replace any old models you have with larger, fancier screens and provide customers with a better viewing experience. Sports bars, family establishments, and fast-casual restaurants are perfect locations for flat screens, and they can help bring in additional business during big games.

    Touch Screens Make Connections

    Among the newer tech available to restaurants are touch screen tools. These are pretty pricey, but they can be used in many different ways. In a small business, a touch pad can be used as a register and connect to one of several credit card processing tools. In larger restaurants touch screens can be hooked together for use as entry spots, letting wait-staff place orders to the kitchen without having to enter physically.

    Touch screens on tables can be used for games to entertain children. They can also be used as interactive menus which will allow your guests to see what they are ordering, and perhaps tempt them to order something more. Surveys and feedback can also be part of your touch screen presentation. Just make sure that you get a system that won’t work outside of your restaurant, or the screens may start to walk off.

    Web Pages

    If you don’t have a professional webpage yet, you are wasting time and losing business. It takes very little effort to set up a good webpage, and without one you can’t connect to people online. Use your webpage to keep guests up to date on specials, changes to the menu, and contact information.

    If you are smart and offer take out, you should also make it possible to order directly from your webpage. This saves the customer the hassle of ordering by phone and speeds up your service. Not everyone wants to spend time sitting at restaurant dining tables just because they don’t want to cook.

    Social Media

    The final way to connect digitally is social media. Choose Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or all three for that matter, and start posting. Don’t overwhelm your contacts, but make an effort to be in touch at least weekly. This is a great way to stay at the forefront of their minds and increase their return visits which keep your restaurant dining chairs full and profitable.

    Staying on top of digital trends in the restaurant business is an important part of marketing as well as attracting guests. Talk to your restaurant supplier for both the equipment and ideas for how to use it.

    Creating the Customer Experience

    Published By: Leon Tuberman  -  Thursday, December 14, 2017

    No matter how you decorate or who you put in the kitchen, the final factor in a successful restaurant is the customer experience. All the disparate elements, the restaurant chair and tables, the cuisine, and the service come together in that moment when the food hits the table. That moment is what touches the customer most. As a restaurateur you must always look for ways to make improvements to make that second shine.

    Minimalist or Over the Top?

    For some diners a minimalist set up is perfect. They want to focus only on the food, not the surroundings. That means that the tables, be they bar tables or booths, should be a backdrop against which the food is presented. The furniture is just a canvas that awaits the dishes. Nothing unnecessary is on the surface and the artwork and colors of the space are muted, unassuming, and subtle.

    For those who want the space to be part of the experience, then colorful linens, bright dishes, and plenty of art are common. Choosing your theme can take a bit of planning, and that is an area where you can expect help from the professionals.

    Even if you do want your restaurant to be lively, doesn’t mean you want it to clash. Talk to your restaurant supplier if you are unsure of how to create a cohesive look. You don’t want cheap feeling silverware to sit beside elegant dishes or your guests will experience confusion.

    Budget Concerns Play a Role

    Whether you are creating a simple or ornamental space, your budget will help to determine what you buy. Sticking to one pattern or a simple selection of dishes will help you save money.

    For example, Noodles and Co. uses primarily bowls for serving their concoctions. By minimizing their selection to a couple of bowls and a couple of plates, they have reduced the need to constantly pick something different to serve in saving both time and space. Keep in mind that sturdy pieces can still be elegant and will survive the inevitable knocks and rough handling better than those which are more “delicate.”

    First Impressions

    The first moment a potential guest walks in to your establishment you want them to experience something. There are many ways to do this. You can create a spectacular lobby area or install seasonal bouquets on a weekly basis. Of course a spectacular host or hostess is always a good idea, too. If you feel you have become jaded by constantly seeing the entrance, ask a friend or family member to come in and offer suggestions. Insist that they be honest, or the exercise is pointless.

    How Far Can You Go?

    There are some restaurants that have turned their tabletop into part of the culinary experience – from edible dishes to eating off the table. Others have minimized to the point that nothing appears on the table until it is in use and is immediately removed once its use is finished. Feel free to find your own ground when designing your customer experience.

    Restaurant Furniture Helps Create a Fast Casual Dining Experience

    Published By: Leon Tuberman  -  Wednesday, December 13, 2017

    When you sit down to a meal, the type of seating you encounter often dictates the kind of experience you have. No one wants to sit long in the plastic bucket seats or stools presented at a fast food eatery – they are too uncomfortable. Conversely, if you sit down in a well upholstered, velvet arm chair, you are in for the long haul.

    For the fast casual niche, you need something that is just comfortable enough, but not so relaxing that people lose their “get up and go” and stay put instead.

    Other Restaurants in the Category

    In order to give you something to compare with you can consider Panera, Chipotle, and Pei Wei Asian Diner. These restaurants give you something more than the typical fast food, with an expanded menu and actual dining sets at which to sit. If you are familiar with these eateries, you know that each has a very different style. Panera has many standard tables but also offers nooks with easy chairs. Chipotle is a very industrial setting and Pei Wei has traditional seating with an Asian flare.

    Booths Work, Too

    You don’t have to go with traditional tables if you are shooting for a fast casual style. Booths for restaurants, especially those with a bit more room, are great for people coming and going. Many barbeque places use this setup and it provides that casual feel with plenty of preset space for sauces, paper towels, and other accessories.

    Other Ways to Speed Service

    Among the many ways casual restaurants are speeding their customer’s experience is by moving some functions away from the sales counter. Self-serve sodas, silverware, condiments, and so forth allow people to customize these aspects of their meal while saving you on waste and time. It lets them get everything ready for when their entrée arrives and they can be on their way as soon as they finish eating, as they have already paid.

    Keep Some Special Elements

    Just because you are providing speed doesn’t mean you have to forgo the good stuff. Skip basic breads and go for ciabattas. Offer home-made soups or easy-to-customize salads your customers can enjoy. Incorporate the flavors of each season with a few menu items that change regularly. Give some of your dishes an international flavor and you will attract more customers who will appreciate the variety.

    Another thing that many guests enjoy is a pairing menu. Soup, salad, and sandwiches all intermix nicely. Let diners pick two or three out of a limited menu for lots of options, plenty of speed, and a meal that is flexible in size. With all the ingredients ready to go, getting food on the plate is quick and the variety makes it a bit more personal.

    Keep in mind all the different aspects that go into making a fast casual restaurant successful; a degree of comfort, quick service, and good food. If you have questions about the physical set up, talk to your restaurant supplier for ideas.

    To Fill Your Restaurant Dining Chairs, Use Social Media

    Published By: Leon Tuberman  -  Tuesday, December 12, 2017

    Social media can both intimidate and frustrate restaurateurs. It is clear that no restaurant can survive any more without an online presence, but then how do you go about promoting your restaurant properly? Here are a few things to keep in mind as you expand your Internet exposure.

    The Right Tool may be Many Tools

    You don’t want to limit yourself to just one form of social media. These tools are best used in tandem since different individuals use different services. The goal of any option is to meet certain objectives. For example, a Facebook page is great for keeping guests up to date on changes in menu, chefs, or for sharing news. It encourages guests to share their favorite dishes or best experiences.

     A Twitter account requires you to be much more succinct, so it is ideal for announcing specials or offering coupons for specific days or events. You can let your employees or kitchen staff Tweet on your behalf from time to time. This establishes a more intimate relationship between your guests and your staff. Together they connect you to a larger group of potential diners.

    You don’t have to be in Constant Contact

    Some sites are best monitored rather than managed. For example, review sites require occasional answers from you, but they don’t need to have a constant barrage of responses and empty chatter.

    If someone posts a complaint, get on it quickly – a compliment can be allowed to stand or answered by a simple thank you. This lets your guests know that you are attentive without affecting the conversation. Sometimes silence is the best way to gain accurate information.

    Pinterest Promotions

    One of the gifts offered by Pinterest is that it is a photographic medium. You can make use of it to show off your logo, your dining room, and your menu. Each time your chef creates a new dish, post it here.

    It is estimated that diners spend about 16 minutes on the site each time they visit. They follow one post to another and 57% of them browse categories that relate to food and dining. With your images front and center you subtly encourage them to come and taste.

    Creating a Brand with more than Just Restaurant Furnishings

    Social media is a good way to establish a brand as well. Your employees can be brand ambassadors by spreading the word on their own webpages and social media pages. Promote and show off your new menu items both photographically and through tweets and posts. Create an impression of being welcoming and friendly and your brand will flourish.

    Don’t Neglect Other Online Tools

    It should go without saying that you should already have a website, and that it should be religiously maintained. There are few successful restaurants that don’t keep their patrons up to date; it is this sort of connection that gives you the opportunity to keep your restaurant at the forefront when your patrons are considering a meal out.

    It is certain that social media will continue to change and evolve. As it is one of the most powerful marketing tools you have, make sure to keep up.

    Serving an Older and More Diverse Customer Base

    Published By: Leon Tuberman  -  Monday, December 11, 2017

    It is not news to anyone that the baby boomers are aging and that they, of all people, still have the funds to enjoy dining out. By 2020, the Census Bureau projects that they will represent the fastest growing segment of the population.  In order to ensure your restaurant’s continued success, you must be prepared to welcome these guests.

    Anticipating and Older Clientele

    Restaurant dining sets which can accommodate an older clientele need to be both sturdy and comfortable. While these diners may be quite spry and active right now, with an anticipated lifespan of 80 years or more, it is likely that they will eventually need additional room in which maneuver. The most common recommendation is that you leave room for two people to walk side by side, anticipating the potential for a supporting arm.

    Other accommodations that should be considered are handrails around the outside of the lobby and seating that isn’t too deep. Even flooring and short pile carpeting are important as are clearly marked transitions between different areas. Floor finishes should not be slippery either.

    The most important adjustment may be as simple as increasing the space between each table. Additionally, you will need to increase lighting and consider some changes to the menu. In general, appetites decline as one ages, so smaller portions are a good idea.

    Expanding Your Menu for a More Diverse Population

    Not only will the senior segment be growing, the non-white population is also increasing rapidly as well. To attract such diners it is necessary to expand one’s menu to cater to these diverse tastes. By considering the flavors and dining styles of a wider range of guests, you reduce the chances of such diners going elsewhere for their meals.

    Restaurant Booths are Great for Family Dining

    When you want to attract families to your restaurant, consider installing booths. While it is true that families are more likely to require a bit more attention than couples, they also prefer to return to the same place over and over again. That means that if you make a good impression, they may very well become regulars.

    Families go out to dine together, so restaurant booths are ideal for seating them. Such seating allows parents to enclose young children so that they can’t escape into the restaurant and wreak havoc. Close seating also encourages conversation, making a meal out a real pleasure.

    Whether you choose to accommodate one growing segment of the population, another, or all, keeping on top of dining trends and the specific needs of each group is important. Not all your information needs to come from dining websites either. You can find a great deal of information on how to address the needs of older diners online, and you can use data presented by various studies to see where demographic trends are shifting.

    Preparing your restaurant to welcome as many guests as possible is needed if you plan to stay on top of your game.

    Creating Value for Your Customers

    Published By: Leon Tuberman  -  Friday, December 8, 2017

    What does it take to create the kind of value that customers want to return to time and again? It takes good food at reasonable prices, good service, and sometimes a bit of something extra. For some eateries the introduction of value priced wines is the way to go. With bottles ranging from $10-$20 it is easier to encourage customers to include a bottle of wine with their meals, and it helps create that elusive “value” experience.

    Why Wine Values Sell

    The key to the success of your wine values is to find truly wonderful wine and let your staff explore the perfect pairings. Volume purchases will, of course, also save you money, and your guests will be able to afford to pick up the same wines elsewhere. This only encourages them to enjoy another drink when they return because most people drink a wine they enjoy over and over.

    Such wines also do well because they are good as well as affordable, but don’t fall into the category of “Two Buck Chuck” as many cheap wines do. Pick wines that score 90 points or more when rated by well-respected wine critics. It isn’t hard to find such options. Add a selection of local wines that fared well when evaluated and you can tack on the label of being a restaurant that honors the locavore ethic.

    Don’t Skimp on Comfort

    If you are serving wine, you definitely want to make sure that your restaurant furniture is comfortable because your diners are more likely to stay longer. This gives your staff a chance to impress the guests with their professionalism and helpful attitudes. There are few things I hate more than trying to eat a meal and enjoy some good wine while struggling against a sleeping posterior on a wooden seated chair.

    Provide Good Service

    The number one attribute that consumers desire when dining out is “good service.” Explain the difference between attentiveness and overwhelming the guests to your staff. Constantly having your glass refilled or being asked if “everything is alright” can be tedious and interrupts the flow of conversation. Too much attention is just as bad as not enough.

    Plan for the Next Trend

    One way to offer your regular guests value is to branch out into packaged food items they can pick up and take home. The majority of fine-dining operators expect this segment of their market to grow, so positioning yourself properly means you will be ready to go before others. Which meals can travel best? Can you offer frozen foods that customers heat at home when the mood strikes them?

    Not eating in the restaurant means lower expenses, and that small difference may be enough for a regular to pick up some items and take them home in advance.

    Additional Services Increase Value Too

    Wi-Fi connectivity, live music, conference rooms, and community boards all have the potential to add value to the dining experience you offer. Consider which audience you want to attract and incorporate a few of the things they are most likely to enjoy. Word will get around.

    3 Tips for Planning Optimal Outdoor Restaurant Seating

    Published By: Leon Tuberman  -  Thursday, December 7, 2017

    You have made the decision to open a patio area at your restaurant. Do you just head over to the local furniture-mart and pick up some patio furniture to accommodate your diners? Not if you want them to enjoy their experience and you want your furniture to last. Here are three things you need to consider as you set up your new eating space.

    Selecting the Right Pieces

    Long-term durability and comfort are the two most important factors when purchasing outdoor furniture. These pieces will be outside in the elements all the time. Whether they are subjected to hours in the hot sun or regular rain, you need them to be able to survive or you will need to constantly replace them.

    Since nothing looks cheaper than those white plastic chairs you find at the mega-mart, avoid them at all costs. Create a room on your patio, just as you do inside, and stick to your theme. This theme can be fun or formal, but it should be consistent. Wood is great for sunny regions, metal frames with mesh seats are great in rainy areas, and cushions always add to comfort, but need to be taken indoors nightly. Only you can decide if the extra effort is worth making your guests happier.

    Outdoor tables can be mixed and matched so you can accommodate a couple or even a group. Flat tables can be pushed together, but round tables are quainter. These decisions will be affected by your theme as well.

    Leave Some Breathing Room

    Part of the attraction of eating outside is the experience of being out in the open. If you want your diners to be happy, give them a bit more room than they get inside. This gives your wait staff plenty of room in which to move between the tables and also provides space for breezes to flow back and forth.

    Prepare for Weather

    To really enjoy the advantages of your patio, make sure to invest in awnings or shelters. The best of these are movable or retractable. This lets you accommodate guests outside whether you want to offer shade or protection from a light rain. Canopies come in a variety of sizes today, and many are designed specifically to shade large areas with a porous fabric that lets air through. Ideal for sunny climates, they are easy to put up and will last for years if taken care of.

    Attract Passers-by

    Perhaps the biggest boon your new patio will offer is the chance to attract new customers. If you set up your outdoor eating area well with comfortable café tables and chairs, an attractive theme and happy guests, all you need is to place a pedestal with a menu board nearby and people will flock to eat at your establishment.

    Call your restaurant supplier and talk to them about which furniture is most suitable to your climate and theme. In just a few days you can have your patio set up and ready to serve.

    Keeping Up with Restaurant Furnishing Trends

    Published By: Leon Tuberman  -  Wednesday, December 6, 2017

    It isn’t just food that trends on a regular basis – furnishings do as well. While there was once a time when you could enter a restaurant and have a pretty good idea of what kind of fare was served, today just about anything goes.  The new freedom in materials and themes means you can truly embrace your vision, however radical it might seem.

    No more Boring Walls

    Chances are if you enter a steakhouse, you will still find the décor to be dominated by wood; but elsewhere, color has taken off with considerable panache. When you venture into restaurants serving any other form of cuisine, you will find that every shade in the rainbow is represented.

    Colors can be uniform with walls, tables, seats and flooring all in white. Other eateries have dabbled with multiple hues of the same shade with different parts of the décor running from spring greens to emeralds and even deep greens that are almost black.

    Even wall decorations are frequently inspired by the restaurant’s theme; rolling pins in a bakery and living walls of plants in a vegan retreat.

    Unusual Themes

    Some of the more unusually themed eateries include those inspired by prisons, trains, and Hello Kitty. Diners eat their meals behind bars, in elevated dining car-inspired pods, or surrounded by cartoonish colors and seat backs molded into the shape of the famous cat.

    Even those restaurants that stick to wood have expanded to flowing shapes, sculpture-like features, and geometric patterns. It seems that anything an interior decorator can think up can make it into a restaurant somewhere.

    Matching Your Furniture Choices

    If you are going to make a bold statement with your restaurant dining sets, then you need to keep up with the trends. Asian interiors can include large tables, tatami mats, and traditional low tables. Steel and chrome are appropriate with a futuristic theme. Casual dining restaurants have turned to homey furniture, similar to what you find in your kitchen, or an industrial flare is common too.

    These are the kinds of pieces you can only get from a commercial restaurant equipment supplier. Commercial furniture is designed to withstand the kind of abuse your guests will dish out, intentionally or not, so don’t settle for residential pieces no matter how much they might seem to save you.

    Incorporate a Second Trend if Possible

    Ecological friendliness is another common trend that seems to be hitting every niche of the business world, and restaurants are equally affected. If you can include reclaimed materials in your design and still stay true to your theme, you are one step ahead of the rest. Make sure that you let your customers know what an eco-friendly pioneer you are; it will make them feel better about themselves too, and that translates into bigger profits.

    The new furnishing trends give you an opportunity to make your restaurant truly stand out. Grab this bull by the horns and ride it to success.

    Set Up for High Tech

    Published By: Leon Tuberman  -  Tuesday, December 5, 2017

    It takes more than just an Internet connection to get your restaurant ready for high tech clients. You have to take some time to consider how you want to present your new abilities and how you want people to use them. If you don’t believe me when I tell you that Wi-Fi can turn your business around, just look at the excitement over the partnering of Google and Starbucks. Let’s look at two ways you can enter the world of Wi-Fi friendly eateries.

    Create a Comfortable Environment

    How do you like to use your Wi-Fi? Chances are you don’t sit at the dining room table and work at your computer most of the time. Your customers won’t want to do that either. So, while you do want to have some restaurant dining sets for people who need more room to spread out, setting up your restaurant for comfort is a good idea. Booths for restaurant use offer privacy and your restaurant supplier can help you find some comfortable couches or easy chairs for the corners of the room.

    Picking Your Server

    There are many options when it comes to Internet service. From basic download speeds to dedicated lines, the price ranges are significant. The more clients you have using your Wi-Fi connection, the higher your download speed should be. If you want to expand into the realm of hosting business meetings, you definitely need more speed rather than less. 

    Make an appointment to speak with the representatives of several Internet providers in your area. Compare their offers – not just speed, but additional services. How easy will it be to upgrade? What kind of security protocols do they offer your business? Will they help you to create a website if you don’t already have one?

    Protecting Your Investment

    Many businesses leave their Wi-Fi connection open at all times; while kind, it can limit accessibility for your guests. Others routinely change passwords. One café in my area changes the password every day and presents it on an easy-to-find whiteboard where it can only be seen from inside the establishment. 

    If you leave your network open and find that connection speeds are degrading, develop a simple to use password protocol.

    High Tech is the Wave of the Future

    There are so many ways you should connect to the high tech world in order to grow your restaurant visibility and ratings. If you haven’t created an account yet with at least a couple of the most popular rating sites, it is time to get moving on that too. Yelp, TripAdvisor, and UrbanSpoon all post regular reviews of restaurants around the world.

    You need to monitor your restaurant’s reviews and make sure to respond regularly.  With Wi-Fi available to you all day long, it is that much easier to keep on top of what people are saying about you.

    To remain competitive you need more than just great food in these financially challenging times. You must offer your clients every possible reason to walk through your doors and stay a while. 

    Restaurant Design; Form and Function Perfectly Blended

    Published By: Leon Tuberman  -  Monday, December 4, 2017

    It takes more than a flashing neon sign to announce your arrival on the restaurant scene.  In fact, many think that such a sign is nothing more than a sign of desperation. If you are targeting a classier clientele, then there are a few things you need to know about how to create the perfect space.

    Neon can be done Right

    Go for a completely unique look; don’t buy your sign at the local warehouse. Yes, it will cost a bit more to create something custom, but it is well worth the branding. You don’t have to buy such a sign new, either. Some of the best restaurants are “repurposing” local signs that are no longer in use. In Denver, the sign that hangs over Linger once graced “Olinger Mortuaries” and now reads “Linger Eatuaries.”

    Is Your Space Windowless?

    A real challenge for those who have opened a restaurant in the city, windowless walls make diners feel confined. Consider turning those walls into living art by filling them with plants. There are many setups that allow herbs to grow in vertical spaces; imagine your guest’s delight at seeing part of their meal harvested right before they eat it.

    Another option is to create a textured, well lit wall space that adds to the ambiance. Modern pieces can be echoed with sleek restaurant dining sets. Trump L’oeil murals can be enhanced with café tables and umbrellas. Just because your guests are inside doesn’t mean they have to feel boxed in.

    Be Choosy with Your China

    It can be tempting to skimp on your serving ware, but guests notice. Selecting cheap plates for pricey fare offers one of two messages to your diners; either you don’t care enough to serve your food on good china, or you are too cheap to do so. Either way, it creates a negative impression.

    Unless you are offering fast food, skip the plastic altogether. Talk to your restaurant supplier about your options and pick something that is attractive as well as affordable and resilient. Chipped plates are no more impressive than cheap ones. The goal is to create a cohesive, attractive experience with every meal.

    This concept carries on to your flatware and drink ware as well. Just last year it was “trendy” to serve drinks in mismatched glasses. Mason jars, water glasses, and even beer mugs were used for fine wines. The trend is thankfully over. So, if you don’t have the right glasses, get them and invest in flatware with a bit of heft.

    Fine Tune the Final Product

    If you are still not sure that you have things right before you open your restaurant or show off your new renovation, lean on your friends and family. Get a few of them together and give them a glimpse of your space and a meal. Ask them to share their feelings honestly. They will tell you exactly where you can improve and what you can change so that paying guests will have the experience you planned.

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