I hope everyone’s holidays have been as lovely as mine, full of friends and family and food. Anyway, today I’m back from the break with another post. Since New Year’s Eve is quickly approaching, I thought I’d post about hosting a New Year’s Eve event at your restaurant. In the big city, it seems like every bar and restaurant hosts a New Year’s event — last year I went to a bar in my neighborhood with friends for drinks and dinner and spent quite a bit of money; if you play your cards right, your customers could be doing the same. It might be too late to plan a New Year’s Eve party at your restaurant or bar this year, but if you’re counting yourself among those who aren’t hosting an event in the upcoming days, it’s never too early to start planning for next New Year’s.
What do customers expect for a New Year’s event? Well, it depends a lot on what type of establishment you’re running. My favorite jazz club, for instance, offers a five course prix fixe menu, bottle of champagne, and live show for a (fairly hefty) cover charge. My local cafe offers drink specials and dancing. The restaurant/bar I went to last year had a DJ. Whatever type of establishment you’re running, a few things seem very important: alcohol, entertainment, midnight champagne (with countdown), and cover charge.
As far as alcohol goes, there’s no need for most restaurants to mark most drinks way down. If you have champagne specials, that’s probably enough. Night clubs and dancing venues, however, might be well served by offering table service specials with the cover charge — again, it depends on what type of business you own. No matter whether you’re a diner or a dance club, though, you should offer complimentary sparkling wine for your guests at midnight. If you don’t, no one’s coming in the door.
Entertainment, on the other hand, can be any number of things: live band, DJ, dance party, you name it. Use your best judgment — what demographic are you trying to appeal to? what seems appropriate based on your restaurant’s theme, ambiance, and decor? Be creative, but don’t be too outlandish. People want to dance, drink, and enjoy themselves. Nothing needs to be too fancy.
And finally we come to cover charge. I’ve been out and about for New Year’s a few times. Once, in college, we went to a night club, which definitely charged a hefty fee for entry, and even more for a VIP booth and table service. The restaurant I partied at least year, on the other hand, charged no cover fee at all and relied on drink profit and prix fixe menu sales to make their money. Give it a good hard think. Are you a restaurant where people will be reserving tables for their meals, or are you more of a dance/drink party spot? The difference should help you choose whether or not to charge a cover.
Anyway, I hope everyone has a great New Year’s — next year, you should all be throwing stellar parties. See you then!
Today we’re going to take a break from particular advice, tips, and tricks — instead, we’re going to talk about 2014’s food trends. Not necessarily restaurant trends, but trends about what people are searching for most online. Google recently released a list of the most popular items searched in various categories, and taking a look at what people are looking at might just give us an idea of what’s trending, what’s popular, and what should be on your mind as a restaurateur trying to cater to your customer base. Let’s run through them quickly. I’ll leave you to (mostly) draw your own conclusions, but if there’s interest we can always go more in depth next week.
First, beer and cocktails: despite the recent popularity of craft beer and microbrews, the most Googled beer brands are still the good old American standards like Budweiser, Miller, and Blue Moon, along with imports like Corona. (I promised I wouldn’t editorialize, but do keep in mind that this doesn’t necessarily mean your menu should be full of convenience store beers; the type of restaurant you’re running and the demographic you’re serving makes a huge difference.) As far as cocktails go, this most searched for are margaritas, martinis, sangria, mojitos, and mimosas — all classic, traditional drinks that any bar should be able to produce.
When it comes to actual food, kale and quinoa are so last year. The new number one hipster trendy foods are chia seeds and goji berries. If you’re customers are into ordering super foods, these are easy ingredients to incorporate in a variety of dishes, especially at breakfast time. The most popularly searched international cuisine was Chinese (yum!), followed by French, Indian, and Japanese. Perhaps this can get the creative juices flowing — what kind of fusion foods could you offer on your menu?
But when it comes down to it, what was the most important part of the Google statistics for us to consider? Well, simply: “restaurant” was still searched for far more than “recipe.” You needn’t worry — your customers aren’t about to stop eating out! I’ll be back next week. Until then, comment below or contact us here.
If your restaurant includes a bar, with a wine list, beer list, and cocktail menu, you should be changing up your specialty cocktails with the seasons. No matter what vibe you’re going for — sports bar, live music venue, cocktail lounge, or fine dining — seasonally appropriate cocktails are bound to be a hit on your menu. My co-workers and I frequently hit the city after a hard day’s work, and half the fun is trying new things on different menus. Here are three winter cocktails to warm your customers:
Christmas Rum Punch
A festive recipe that isn’t for the faint of heart: bake six clove-studded oranges until they soften, place them in a punch bowl, then add one bottle of Jamaican rum and 1/2 cup caster sugar. Set fire to the rum, then stir in 1/2 gallon of apple cider to extinguish the flames. Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg to taste, then serve family-style or ladle into individual glasses.
For a true Manhattan — one of the world’s most famous classic cocktails — stir two parts rye whiskey, one ounce sweet vermouth, and two dashes of bitters with ice, then strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with an orange twist or maraschino cherry. If you want to get creative, you can change up the whiskey — bourbon instead of rye, perhaps? — the vermouth, or even the bitters. There are endless combinations. Personally, I prefer the classic version.
Most people drink amber liquors during fall and winter months — whiskey, brandy, cognac, and rum — but for those who want something different, this gin-based take on a martini will hit the spot. Shake two ounces of dry gin over cracked ice with one ounce dry sherry and one dash of bitters. Strain into a chilled martini glass.
Try these drinks out on your menu! Connoisseurs of classic cocktails will flock your way. I’ll be back on Wednesday. Until then, comment below or contact us here.
6. Holiday decorating. Every restaurant has sort of a baseline decor — the way your restaurant looks most days of the year, the overall theme and ambiance. But one way to keep things fresh and exciting, and therefore bringing in new customers for special occasions. Whether it’s Christmas lights on Christmas, Jack-o-Lanterns on Halloween, or hearts on Valentine’s Day, there are ways you can alter your overall look just a little bit to coincide with major holidays. These minor changes help your restaurant from feeling old or stale.
7. Host a fundraiser or charitable event. Be an active part of your community by hosting a holiday fundraiser, like a food, coat, or toy drive for the less fortunate. Nothing’s more irritating, especially in tight-knit communities, than a business that comes in and makes no effort to be local. So be local! Be part of the community! Give back, and your customers will repay you.
8. Be P.C. If you leave your house at all during December, it’s not news to you that retail workers and food servers rarely say “Merry Christmas” these days, and that’s probably for the best. Sure, your average customer understands the positive, warm sentiment of whatever you might say, but it’s not worth the risk of alienating customers who might be offended. Stick with a nice, neutral “Happy Holidays.”
9. Do something a little crazy for the holidays. Why not pull a fun stunt? Maybe your restaurant could be a haunted house on Halloween, or your staff could wear Santa and elf hats on Christmas. You don’t have to do anything too elaborate, but showing you have a sense of humor and run a fun restaurant certainly can’t hurt.
10. Advertise! No matter which of these tips you decide to follow, they won’t be all that helpful unless you advertise! Like always, you should take advantage of social media, online advertising, and advertising in more traditional means like the local paper, but the holiday season opens up a few extra opportunities — maybe you could advertise in the local theatre troop’s program for their holiday show, or in the food section of the local paper, which is always full of holiday cooking tips this time of year. Be creative! Just make sure you’re spreading the word.
I’ll see you next week. Until then, comment below or contact us here.
1. Send greeting “cards.” People love sending and getting cards on the holidays, so why don’t you send them one from your restaurant? It doesn’t have to be a traditional card (thought it could be!): you could send a postcard, an e-card, an email blast, you name it. Just make sure the message attached seems more like a greeting than a promotion or advertising, and consider including a signature from the owner so it feels personal.
2. Offer a birthday gift. Studies show that more than 50% of Americans eat out on their birthday. If you send them an offer for a free drink, free dessert, free appetizer, free whatever, you’ll put yourself in the running to be the restaurant that choose for that special occasion.
3. Sell gift certificates. Everyone enjoys giving gifts on special occasions and during the holiday season; offering gift cards for purchase allows you to take benefit from the giving spirit, and allows your customers to express their loyalty to your delicious food.
4. Tie-in holiday specific promotions. It’s not enough to just know what holiday is coming up, you have to tie it in to your marketing! Limited time offers are a great way to take advantage of various holidays: a special prix fixe menu on New Years, a special meal for two on Valentine’s Day, a free glass of Champagne on Christmas eve — whatever tie-in you choose, it’s a great way to get in the spirit and bring in customers during the holiday season.
5. Throw a party. Why not throw a holiday party? If you’re the type of establishment that can support a party, it might be worth considering. Halloween, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve are all great opportunities to have a special themed party with a special menu, music, and drinks for your customers. Sell tickets or charge at the door — just make sure you spread the word beforehand!
I’ll be back with five more tips on Friday. Until then, comment below or contact us here.
Happy Monday, readers. Hope it’s less cold wherever you are, and less about to rain. (What is it with this weather?) I’m sitting down for lunch today with a giant, warm, delicious, comforting sandwich — an underappreciated menu item, sometimes — so I thought I dig through our recipe archives and bring you three sandwich ideas that might make a splash on your lunch or dinner menu: they’re quick, convenient, and good for eating in or taking out!
Buffalo Chicken Sandwich
When I was in college — which wasn’t all that long ago — it seemed like every single takeout menu had buffalo chicken items (subs, pizzas, you name it); it also seemed like every single college student ordered at least three buffalo chicken somethings per day. This simple but delicious buffalo chicken sandwich might remind your customers of pulled pork, but spicier and leaner and with the addition of creamy bleu cheese or ranch. It’s no wonder buffalo chicken is so popular!
Roast Beef Hoagie
I’ve posted our french dip panini recipe before, but I like roast beef so much I’m going to post this recipe, too! This one’s a little different: with mushroom sauce, green peppers, and onions soaking into the delicious roast beef and soft, chewy, warm hoagie, you really can’t get much more comforting than this and still have a sandwich. Delicious!
A weeknight childhood favorite that I personally like so much I still make them from time to time. Who doesn’t like a sloppy joe? Our recipe is warm, hearty, comforting, nostalgia-inducing, and so, so, so simple. It’s easy to make, easy to order, and sure to be a customer favorite for family dinners!
I hope you enjoy trying these delicious sandwich recipes on your menu — try rolling them out as specials, and if they’re as popular as I suspect they’ll be, then add them to your everyday menu! Show the simple sandwich some love!
I’ll be back Wednesday; until then, comment below or contact us here.
Today we’ll go through the final tips in this week’s posts about creating brand loyalty among millenials, perhaps the most important demographic to court in order to be successful as a restaurant. These young people have serious spending power, and if you can engender their loyalty now, you’ll have long term customers for…well, who knows how long.
Without further ado:
Treat sustainability seriously. How many times have I posted about sustainability? Whether it’s energy efficient appliances, locally sourced ingredients, or shelf stable food items as the backbone of your ordering, the point remains: today’s consumers really do care about the environment. It’s not an act. So, of course, it can’t be an act for you either! You should definitely boast about your efforts to be more sustainable — whether it’s overhauling your kitchen or using recyclable takeout containers — but make sure you’re following through. It’s not hard these days to find out what businesses are full of hot air. Say you take sustainability seriously, and then, you know, take it seriously.
Offer healthy options for everyone. If you’re an everyday restaurant, rather than fine dining, you might need to rethink your market. Are you courting the wealthy, or the healthy? Among millenials, the belief that everyone — regardless of socio-economic status — deserves access to healthy options is important. If you take serious steps with your menu to offer affordable, healthy options, your customers will thank you for it with their continued business. This is also a great thing to consider in your marketing: if you have a healthy, fairly priced menu, why not brag about it?
Be transparent. Have you ever seen episodes of restaurant reality shows where the hapless owners have lashed out against bad reviews on Yelp? Baaaad move. Being defensive and unable to admit to your mistakes is one way to never create loyal customers. Strive never to make mistakes, of course, but understand that you will, and that owning up to and correcting them is the way to guarantee you have happy customers.
I hope these tips have been helpful; I’ll be back Friday with a different topic. Until then, comment below or contact us here.