Mind your own business


Have you ever tried taking an exam without studying? How about cooking a dish from your favorite restaurant without following the recipe? Now imagine trying to run a business without knowing your competition. The underlying principles remain.

Understanding the competitive landscape within your market is a narrative that business owners and managers often overlook. It’s one thing to know your company inside and out; i.e. labor cost, cost of good sold (cogs), sales, etc. but taking a step back can give you a fresh perspective that will not only help your organization internally but also provide your customers with a better experience.

Know where you fall within your market. What’s your competition charging? What type of packaging do they use? What’s the average portion size? Average sale price? What type of ingredients are they using? Do they sell online? Do they use a co-packer? Is there new technology that can steam-line your process? On the surface some items are easier to recognize over others but once you scratch below the surface you’ll find the magic lies within the details. Don’t be afraid to get specific. Analyze the micro and macro trends. Look at the flow of traffic, the presentation of the product, or the logistics of the supply chain. It’s easy to become complacent when you’re riding the wave of success but never assume that’s the end-all.

Remember, this is continuous exercise that should be revisited every couple of months. We leave you with this challenge: every quarter go back and run a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) comparing you along with your top 5 competitors. Don’t think of this as a burden; try to have fun with it. Pick a night, bring a colleague or business partner and take a moment to enjoy your meal. If at the end it feels like a dead end, try to keep with it but be humbled at the fact that you now know your market better than your market knows itself.

McDonald’s Faces Wages Lawsuit in Wake of New Labor Laws on the Horizon


Photo source : Joe Brusky/Flickr

We all know about the infamous lawsuit against McDonald’s about the hot coffee. Well now, the chain has a new lawsuit on it’s hands; this one regarding employee wages. It is no secret fast food employees have been demanding better pay and fighting for an increase in minimum wage. Now, one franchise owner in California is facing a federal lawsuit claiming he cheated his employees out of wages and overtime. The employees are claiming the franchise owner violated labor laws by not paying them minimum wage, failing to pay overtime, and incorrectly recording time cards. McDonald’s has agreed to settle the case for $3.75 million. However, this case is bringing a different subject to light besides the unlawful treatment of employees. By McDonalds settling the case, they are perhaps taking some responsibility for the conditions in which the franchise runs. A separate case has also emerged with the National Labor Relations Board arguing that McDonalds should be considered a joint employer. To read more about the case click here .

How To Make Your Restaurant A Pokemon Go Hotspot!

pokemon go

As smartphone apps go, the augmented-reality “Pokemon Go” really is a monster. “Pokemon Go” has been downloaded to more than 15 million smartphones in less than a week, according to the analytics consultancy SensorTower, and restaurant operators are asking how they can capture them as customers as well as Pokemon hunters catch the little Pocket Monsters.

A restaurant operator can buy 30 minutes of heightened Pokemon action by buying Lure Modules and installing them at PokeStop locations. Here’s a seven-step tutorial on buying and using the “Lure Modules” that the developer Niantic is selling and experts recommend to draw customers’ attention:

  1. Make sure your location and your smart phone are near a PokeStop, which is designated by an elevated blue cube on the app that turns into concentric three-dimensional spinning circles as you near it.
  2. If your restaurant is within yards of a PokeStop, buy Lure Modules by first tapping the red and white ball at the bottom on the “Pokemon Go” app. That will take you to a “Settings” screen with options such as Items, Pokemon and “Shop.” Tap “Shop.”
  3. You are now on a purchase screen, and you can purchase PokeCoins through the iTunes or Google Play stores by scrolling to the bottom. A Lure Module costs 100 coins (99 cents). You can buy larger amounts such as 550 Pokecoins for $4.99 and 1,200 coins for $9.99.
  4. After the PokeCoins are purchased, you can by a Lure Modules for 100 PokeCoins or eight Lure Modules for 680 PokeCoins. Your purchase will show up among the Pokeman Go “Items.”
  5. During the period when you want to increase possible “Pokeman Go” traffic for 30 minutes, tap on the spinning “PokeStop” and click on the white bar immediately beneath its location.
  6. A screen noting an “Empty Module slot” will open and tap the white bar to install the module. Your location is a “Lure” spot when you see what looks like a mini blizzard of pink leaves. The Pocket Monsters will show up for you and others for 30 minutes.
  7. Let potential customers know you’ve made in investment by posting your alluring purchase to your Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat fans, such as Just Salad did in New York as seen in the tweet pictured above.

Do You Know Your Food Waste?

Did you know that the average restaurant in one year creates more than 50 tons of food waste?

Talk to any restaurant owner, and you will likely find that food waste is one of the top concerns when it comes to revenue loss.   A 2013 study conducted by Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), on behalf of the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, indicated that more than 84 percent of the food waste generated by surveyed U.S. restaurants ended up in the landfill.  Only 1.4 percent was donated, while 14.3 percent was recycled, and most of that was reclaimed as cooking oil.  On average, that translates to 15.7 percent food loss across the industry, or 3.3 pounds of food waste per $1,000 of company revenue.

Reducing waste makes good business sense for a restaurant.  The first step in reducing waste is to measure and track the amount, type, and source of the food and packaging waste.  Maintenance of a daily waste logbook can help food establishments (1) save money by reducing over-purchasing and disposal costs, (2) lessen environmental impacts, (3) support efforts to eliminate hunger, and (4) increase tax benefits by donating food.  It would be best to assemble a team of employees who prepare the meals (because they are familiar with the amounts of ingredients used in the dishes) and clean the dishes (because they are familiar with the type and quantity of food left over by guests).

Pre-consumer kitchen waste, which could be caused by incorrectly prepared food, spoiled food, trim waste, or simply overproduction, constitutes an estimated 4-10% of purchased food, and becomes waste before it ever reaches the table.  There are solutions for reducing this portion of food waste, such as donating to a food bank and creative re-use of certain foods (e.g., making day old bread into croutons).

Post-consumer waste after the meal relies heavily on consumer preference.  Some people take home a doggy bag and others send it back to the kitchen trash.  Garbage left over after dining represents the food not eaten, as well as disposable packaging such as plastic plates and cups.  Promotion of extra-large servings of food has been used as a marketing gimmick in the United States, and has backfired, leading to increased food waste.

In the kitchen, the easiest way to sort waste is by using different containers.  Categories may include meat, fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, glass, paper and plastic.  A large number of categories provides a clear picture of the type and quantity of waste and brings more recycling options.  The sorted waste should be measured at the end of each working shift, to compare how much food a restaurant sells and how much food is wasted.

Action items to reduce food waste

  • Identify the restaurant menu items that have the most leftovers, and consider reducing the portion size of these menu items to reduce waste and food cost. In addition, purchase ingredients in smaller packages if you are not using the inventory timely.
  • Conduct inventory in the restaurant on a regular basis so that you can identify the need for new purchases in due time – not too soon and not too late.
  • Purchase high-quality kitchen equipment such as specialized knives that can help to lower food waste when peeling fruits and vegetables, or cutting meat and filleting fish.
  • Invest in new dinner service; plates and glasses with smaller volumes will reduce portions.
  • Handle fruits and vegetables properly by cleaning them and storing them in a suitable container to extend their lives.
  • Rotate the food in the refrigerator and warehouse on a regular basis; set the foods that should be used first in front of the food that is newly stored.
  • Encourage your local restaurant to sell half portions of food if the serving size is too big.
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How to Use the Waste Logbook

Pre-Consumer Food Waste should be tracked every day.

  1. Track pre-consumer food waste at the time of discard. Record waste on the logbook immediately prior to placing it in the trash, compost or garbage disposer.
  2. If donating food to a food bank, record all food donations on the waste logbook immediately prior to donation.
  3. Record the type of food and the reason why it is being discarded on the logbook. These are the two most important pieces of information that will reveal opportunities for change.
  4. Record how much is being wasted according to weight or portions.
  5. Chefs and Managers should review the prior day’s waste logbook at the beginning of the following day’s shift.
  6. The Top 5 waste items should be discussed with the kitchen team at a pre-shift meeting. Ask the team for ideas to reduce those items.
  7. Review progress on the Top 5 items every week until the amounts drop.

 Post-Consumer Food Waste should be tracked once a month.

  1. Use a logbook to track the total weight of the trash (or another standardized metric such as number of trash cans or number of trash bags).
  2. Keep a record of total weight or count of post-consumer food waste in an Excel sheet or automated tracking system.
  3. When measuring post-consumer waste, always do so on a busy day and track subsequent measurements on the same day of the week. With this approach, you will have comparable data.
  4. Make sure to look at the food in the garbage and note any trends. There may be items that customers do not like which should be removed from the menu. In other cases, you may find portions need to be adjusted to avoid waste.


Restaurants Are Googling You!


Before you go to a restaurant, you probably look it up online for some reason or another. Maybe you’re making a reservation through the website or maybe you’re checking the menu. You might look at photos to see how fancy the place is or maybe you just need to look up the address. What if a restaurant were doing this to you?

Restaurants google the names of patrons who’ve made reservations more often than you might think. In 2010 the subject surfaced to the surprise, amusement and horror of restaurant goers and chefs alike. People were understandably alarmed, but most people didn’t seem to care. In a poll conducted by CNN, almost 40 percent of people were okay with restaurants googling them if it meant special treatment, and about 4 percent hoped restaurants would research them. Sixteen percent thought it was a little strange but could live with it, and 15 percent thought it was creepy. Four years later, the practice has grown further in the name of  offering bespoke and differentiated services. Justin Roller, the maître d’ at New York restaurant Eleven Madison Park googles every single patron that visits Eleven Madison Park. He looks for anything that can help make a customer feel special and at home. “If I find out a guest is from Montana, and I know we have a server from there, we’ll put them together,” Roller told Grubstreet. He doesn’t stop at cursory information either. “If, for example, Roller discovers it’s a couple’s anniversary, he’ll then try to figure out which anniversary,” Grubstreet reports.

Restaurants also take notes on customers after they’ve dined, to track preferences and habits, like if someone is a good or bad tipper. According to the New York Times, hundreds of restaurants record traits and preferences about their customers, like allergies, favorite foods and even if a customer likes to linger at the table.

Read more here.

The Persistent Rise Of Restaurant Takeout And Delivery


Pizza no longer dominates the delivery and takeout business. Consumers are increasingly ordering their favorite foods to be delivered or to-go, rather than dining in-store. And, in fact, restaurant delivery traffic outside of pizza has risen 33 percent since 2012. This presents a unique opportunity for foodservice and restaurant operators to shift their strategies and operating processes to take advantage of the delivery and takeout trends, rather than have their dine-in numbers and market share cannibalized by competitors who are focused on these services.

According to recent surveys, 51% of Americans use delivery services to purchase meals from casual dining restaurant and 26% order takeout or delivery at least once a week. These behaviors show little sign of slowing: digital ordering and delivery have been growing 300% faster than dine-in traffic since 2014. Third party delivery services, like DoorDash, Caviar and Grubhub are becoming major marketplace competitors, providing speed, ease of use, convenience and customized offerings based on customers’ previous orders. Furthermore, larger players such as uberEats, Amazon Prime and Google, are now entering this space and beginning to pilot their own food delivery programs.

Confidence in the future and growth trajectory of this space is strong. More than half a billion was invested in the food delivery sector in 2014 – almost 13 times the amount in 2013 – with more than a billion dollars invested in 2015. As for restaurants, partnering with third party delivery services is a seductive alternative, with research showing an increase in restaurant sales volume from 10% to 20%.

Read more here.

New Co-Working Start Up Is Partnering With Restaurants


New coworking start-up Spacious launched earlier this month by using DBGB Kitchen and Bar as a meeting and office space. They are now also adding L’Equipe in East Village and Public in Soho to their public work space portfolio. According to founder Preston Pesek, they plan to announce partnerships with restaurants in Williamsburg, Chelsea, Tribeca, Upper West Side, and even San Francisco and Los Angeles soon, but Pesek says they’re not targeting just any restaurant. It must be beautiful, and even though they won’t be serving food immediately, the menu must be delicious, he says. A good restaurant, he says, works perfectly as a good meeting space.

Besides being dinner-only restaurants, the restaurants involved with Spacious also need to be near public transit, be well-designed, and be big. DBGB has about 180 seats, and L’Apicio offers about 190. All of the eventual participants will have a minimum of 60 to 100 seats. Spacious members pay $95 per month to work in the spaces during the day, and restaurants are part of a profit-sharing partnership with the start-up.

Eventually, Spacious users will be able to order limited small plates at some of the restaurants through an app on their phone and pick it up themselves so as to avoid table service. “Most of the kitchens open early for prep work anyway, and it would be a way to showcase what they’re working on”, Pesek added.

Read more here.