Guest Data Analytics Solution

Fishbowl, a inventory management software company, has launched its Guest Analytics solution. This will allow operators to structurally stream guest data from several sources and be analyzed and acted on in an integrated marketing eco-system. Data sources include POS (point-of-sales), loyalty, email, social, online ordering, reservations and guest satisfaction.

Fishbowl President & CEO Dev Genevan states, “Attracting and retaining loyal guests has never been more complex in the hyper-competitive restaurant space, increasingly, restaurants recognize the challenges posed by their silos of guest data and the need to turn that data into actionable insights to enhance the customer experience. Our next generation platform is built on leading edge technology that allows us to consume any form of data and apply industry-specific analytic applications to enable our clients to understand their guests at an in-depth level, regardless of touch point. Through the integration of Guest Analytics with our email, SMS, social, promotions management and guest acquisition solutions, we make it possible for our clients to efficiently act on those insights.”

For more information on the Fishbowl Guest Analytics platform and the different analytical modules, click here.

Home Cooking to Home Business

On Saturday, February 7th the Institute of Culinary Education will be teaching a strategy session on how to convert your home cooking into a home business. If you are feeling the urge to turn a culinary passion, hobby, or avocation into a business, this three-hour session will be a quick way to strategize and help get things started for you. You will cover the following much-needed information to help get you started:

  • Define Your Concept: What are you selling and how are you selling it?
  •  Relate to Your Customers: Who will buy what you sell? – Check Out the Competition: Learn from others.
  •  Legal Dos and Don’ts: The regulations, laws, and rules, health department, company structure, dealing with landlords, etc.
  •  Where to Begin: What steps are needed to get going? – How to Find Help: What can you do and what help do you need?
  •  Determine a Budget: What are the profits? How much can you make?
  •  What Will Life Be Like Afterward?

This is an invaluable class and a unique opportunity to get the perspective of ICE’s Director of Culinary Management, Stephen Zagor—a veteran restaurant consultant, educator, and former entrepreneur who has helped numerous students get into the business of food. The course tuition is $90, and will be hosted on April 25th as well as next Saturday. To register, click here.

TOKLAS Event: Business Plan Workshop

On Tuesday, February 24th, the Toklas Society will be hosting a two part workshop led by TaraPaige Group founder, Tara Berman. The event, entitled The Plan: Business Plan Development for Restaurants and Food Stores, will take place at General Assembly at 10 East 21st Street. If you have an amazing idea, you are successful in your craft and you are ready to start your own company, this is the workshop for you.

Join Tara Berman for a walk through of the must haves for a successful business plan and how to enhance and tweak it for your enterprise. A business plan solidifies your business operations, proves your business model and provides future investors with a blueprint for your enterprise. The second session of the workshop will take place Tuesday, March 10th. The admission for two sessions is $40, and has a 40 person capacity, so hurry to RSVP here!

Welcome June In Cobble Hill

Attention Cobble Hill residents, there’s a new wine bar in town! June opened last week in the space that used to house the Van Horn Sandwich Shop. The space, which had been vacant for quite some time, was redesigned and redone by the design team ‘hOme,’ and now has a 1920’s Parisian vintage look and feel. Tom Kearney is the new co-owner, who directs the menu at The Farm on Adderley. Kearney opened June last week with the partner at Rucola and Fizcarraldo, Henry Rich.

Kearney states, “I wanted to do a wine bar that wasn’t just charcuterie and cheeses.” The small plates menu includes Tokyo turnips, apple brioche and pork meatballs with nigella seeds and polenta. The extensive wine list was put together by Nick Gorevik with glasses starting at $8 and some bottles that go above $100. The bar will also be hosting events with wine producers for guests who would like to learn more about wine. For the time being June is open only in the evenings, but come spring Kearney is hoping and expecting to expand the hours; this will also mark the opening of the restaurant’s backyard area!

June is at 231 Court Street and can be reached at 917- 909-0434. Check them out here!

2015 Restaurant Industry Forecast

The National Restaurant Association has forecasted total restaurant industry sales of $709.2 billion for 2015. This is a 3.5 percent increase over 2014. According to the NRA, 2015 will also be the 16th consecutive year where employment in the industry will be accelerated compared to overall employment growth.  14 million individuals will be employed in the industry this year as the second-largest private sector employer, which represents about 10 percent of the total workforce in the nation.

NRA President and CEO Dawn Sweeney recently stated in a press release,”Our nation’s restaurants continue to be an essential part of Americans’ daily lives and play a vital role in every community across the country; although operators will continue to face a range of complex challenges in 2015, the restaurant and foodservice industry remains a fundamental driver of the nation’s economy, while providing valuable careers and opportunities to 14 million Americans.”

Below are a few opportunities and challenges for 2015 as seen by the National Restaurant Association:

  • Operators will continue to face challenges including food costs, building sales volume, the economy and recruiting and retaining employees.
  • Average wholesale food prices jumped more than 5 percent in 2014, which represented the fifth consecutive annual increase. During the last five years, average wholesale food prices rose roughly 25 percent. Operators can expect to get pricing relief on several of the major commodities in 2015, including dairy and pork.
  • With the economy steadily improving and the jobless rate decreasing, restaurant operators are finding that the competition for employees is intensifying.
  • Labor costs will remain a concern in 2015. Challenges with Affordable Care Act implementation and minimum wage increases have made a significant impact on restaurant bottom lines, as typically one-third of restaurant sales is spent on labor.
  • Consumers continue to have substantial pent-up demand for restaurant services: 38 percent of consumers say they are not eating on the premises of restaurants as frequently as they would like; 41 percent say they are not purchasing takeout or delivery as often as they would like.

Overall, the NRA 2015 forecast has a positive outlook. To read more about the challenges, opportunities, consumer trends and workforce outlook, click here.

Ten Fast-Casual Challenges

According to Nick Vojnovic, president of Little Greek Restaurant (a fast-casual, Greek-themed, multiunit concept with an American influence based in Tampa, Florida with 19 locations in Arkansas, Florida, and Texas), the fast-casual category will be seeing constant change and challenges in 2015. Below is a list of what Vojnovic considers to be the ten most challenging aspects the fast-casual industry will be facing in the year ahead.

1. Real estate. Real estate will be becoming tighter and tighter. Landlords are in a position where they have the upper hand; it is not a black-or-white scenario. “Will landlords kill the golden goose by charging more than operators can bear?” Strong negotiating skills will become a very important tool this year.

2. Technology arms race. New social media tools may emerge this year, and the existing ones are constantly changing. Social media has the potential to have a direct return on investment and sales. Fast-casual operators will have to closely monitor trends and be smart with allocating resources accordingly.

3.Private equity dollars. A good example is the growth in the fast-casual burger and pizza categories. “How many more of these concepts can the industry handle before it bottoms out?”

4. Obamacare. While there wasn’t a clear or strong impact in 2014, the impact it will have in 2015 is still unknown.

5. Fuel prices. Fuel prices have being going down significantly but we know they must start going back up at some point. As a positive for the industry, lower prices boost consumer disposable income. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will have to jump in to protect pricing at some point which will have an impact on the industry.

6. External threats like terrorist attacks and natural disasters. “These are “black swan” scenarios and are all but impossible to predict.”

7. Labor costs and joint employer mandates. The possibility of returning to a tight labor market is real and it could occur throughout 2015. It could be influenced by the new immigration deal, or joint employer rulings could also take place with unpredictable consequences.

8. Credit card fees. Credit card fees take a pice of an establishment’s profits. Realistically, taking into account today’s technology, this will not change. While usage continues to dramatically increase, expenses are failing to drop. The industry will need to find a way to ‘bypass this draining.’

9. Commodity prices. This year we saw prices go up for shrimp, limes, avocados and beef. Other foods will also see climbing prices this year that operators cannot predict.

10. Shrinking margins. “As an already extremely tight business model gets squeezed, which chains will not survive 2015? Industry players will have to run, not walk, to survive.”

The way to take in these challenges is not to be skeptical or gloomy, but simply to emphasize that industry leaders shouldn’t take things for granted or take a back seat. No matter how successful the concept, there will always be challenges. The operators who adapt and watch for these obstacles will be the success stories in the coming year.

To read the full article about these challenges for the fast casual industry in 2015, click here

2015 Restaurant & Foodservice Show of NY

The 2015 International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of NY will be held this year at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center at 655 W. 34th Street from Sunday March 8th to Tuesday March 10th. The Restaurant & Foodservice Show is the only all-encompassing event in New York for the restaurant and foodservice industry, making it THE one-stop source for everything you need to succeed in today’s market.

If you would like to travel to New York and stay for the entire duration of the show, there are a number of reduced hotel rates and travel discounts for your trip through Connections Housing. Educational seminars will be held at the Ferdinand Metz Food Service Forum as well as a great number of special events and pavilions.

If you are interested in exhibiting, click here for more information, forms and requirements. The three day pass to the show has an admission fee of $65 which grants access to:

  • The Exhibit Hall, featuring over 550 leading vendors
  • Live Culinary Demonstrations and Competitions
  • Ferdinand Metz Foodservice Forum education sessions
  • Special features including: Pride of New York, Japan Pavilion, Dessert & Coffee Pavilion
  • Idea generating events such as: The US Pastry Competition, Ultimate Barista Challenge, NEW Education Station and the Women’s Entrepreneurs Circle

A reduced fee of $45 will be available through February 6th, so go on and sign up! For an overview of the show and for more information on the exhibitors this year, click here

Three Fast Casual Must-Haves

During the past decade there has been a significant increase in the number of fast casual enterprises because of the changing habits of the consumer; this new generation of consumer values convenience above everything. The modern food consumer seeks out a smart balance of convenience, quality product, appealing aesthetics and of course, affordability. The guest wants an experience that is as close to a full-service experience as possibly, without the same price and time commitment. In order to distinctly differentiate themselves from their competition, fast casual enterprises need to offer 1) fresh ingredients, 2) five star customer service and 3) an inviting environment.

1. Fresh ingredients: The new generation of consumer values quality food, with a special emphasis on the choice of ingredients and how fresh they are. Consumers are also more aware about the cooking techniques and menu variety.

2. First-Rate Customer Service: Counter service should be available so that the guest can place an order quickly, and enjoy the experience longer. The consumer looks for an experience that is as close to full-service as possible, so the staff needs to meet this demand in as friendly of a manner as possible.

3. Inviting Atmosphere: Aside from looking aesthetically pleasing and modern, the staff needs to be as high-energy and outgoing with the guest as possible while still maintaining accuracy and speed.

To read more about the evolving nature of fast casual enterprises and how to keep up with the new consumer demands as well as some predictions for the future of fast casual, click here

Loco’l Tackling Fast Food

Chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson are very close to launching Loco’l, a unique way of doing fast food that uses high-quality ingredients at low price points, and still pays workers a decent wage. Roy Choy states, “We’re not trying to be Fast Food Plus and that’s exactly why the cornerstone of Loco’l is that we want to make a 99 cent burger.” Tartine Bakery’s chef Chad Robertson has been brought on to the project by Roy and Daniel in order to craft a koji burger bun, and the chefs have a spot already in the San Francisco Tenderloin neighborhood. Loco’l is now focusing on raising more capital to cover the rest of the location’s build-out. Below are some of the values of Loco’l:

Loco’l is a team of innovative chefs.
Loco’l is locally sourced.
Loco’l is using quality ingredients.
Loco’l is providing fair wages.
Loco’l is leveraging state of the art technology.
Loco’l is community based.
Loco’l is crazy.

The campaign launched on Indiegogo has raised $12,000 so far of the $150,000 goal. To check out the Indiegogo campaign, click here.

Grocery Stores As Social Destinations

Given that more and more grocery store customers are turning towards delivery services, Whole Foods has decided to add in-store dining and bar options. In the Chicago area, Whole Foods is undergoing a six-store expansion. President of Whole Foods’ Midwest region, Michael Bashaw, states,“Simply put, we’re looking for ways to make the places more appealing, if bricks-and-mortar (grocers) are going to survive, they must offer a compelling experience to customers.”

Whole Foods will be partnering with an outside operator, Raw Foods, to open an in-store location that features branded  raw foods and vegan dishes. There will also be a full-service bar and an expanded coffee stand that will hopefully cater to neighborhood residents and workers. Whole Foods is strongly attempting to diversify its supermarkets away from being solely a place to shop to more of a social destination.

To read more about the Whole Foods six store makeover in Chicago area, click here.