Food Brands Are Extremely Thirsty on Valentine’s Day


Happy Valentine’s Day. The #brands are thirsting for your love real hard, and they’re not afraid to show it. Food companies with millennial-focused marketing teams will take any opportunity to pull a stunt in hopes of going viral and drumming up some business. Here’s what’s going on in honor of this February 14.

Free wedding catering for lovebirds who get engaged at Panera Bread

The chain that is most famous for serving its soups, stews, and chowders inside hollowed-out loaves wants people to pop the question at one of its 2,000-plus locations. Those who do will be entered into a contest to have Panera cater their wedding for free. Bread bowls aren’t exactly typical wedding food, but for the five winners, cutting a major expense out of their big day would be a pretty good deal.

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Free For All? Not So Fast: Comping in the Restaurant Business


The diner on table 8 is a frequent regular, who always brings in new guests when she dines. So, you comp their desserts—Friends and Family discount. The couple at table 17 has an allium allergy, but the chef forgot about the chives in the potatoes; free entrée—Apology Comp. The owner’s sister-in-law is dining with her daughters–100% Owner’s Comp. And there goes $400 from that evening’s revenue.


That $400 can very quickly become five, six, or seven percent of sales that you’re letting go. Of course, there is reason—value, even—to discounting guests’ meals. But there needs to be control and accountability. Otherwise, your 10% EBITDA can quickly drop to only 4% or 5%. In this month’s Enterprise Insight, we will discuss three key steps in controlling discounts: first, defining comps vs. voids; second, budgeting for comps; and third, reporting and reviewing with management.


Comps versus Voids

This first tenet is simple: a void removes the item from gross sales, and a discounted item is shown positively in gross sales and then negatively in discounts. These different impacts call for different functions: if something was entered in error, or was ordered but never delivered, then this is a void. Anytime food or drinks hits the table but shouldn’t be billed to the guest should be comped, or discounted, from the bill. The primary reason being what we reviewed above: the impact on gross sales. If gross sales do not accurately reflect in totality what is actually served, then food and labor costs percentages will be inaccurate.


Budgeting for Comps

A key component to managing the amount you discount—ie, the difference between gross and net sales—is having a budget. Try to keep comps below 3% of gross sales. There are additional considerations, though: for example, if you have a marketing budget predicated on comping certain guests—writers, bloggers, industry—then include that, as well. So, if you want comps at 3%, but anticipate using freebies for marketing costs worth 2% of sales, then total comps should be 5%. This is particularly common when a restaurant first opens, and operators need to build buzz.


Reporting and Reviewing

As we just mentioned above, comps are often used for distinct purposes. This is why reporting and reviewing these figures with management is so important. If, as in the prior example, 40% of comps are meant for marketing purposed, but no one is watching, an operator won’t ever know that the bartender is just too generous, or the kitchen is making too many mistakes.


Thus, we recommend reviewing weekly, as we do with our clients: comps by type, comps by menu category, and if possible, where the comp types are used by category. For example, if you’re trying to build up your bar business, you need to review the current distribution of comps with management and then push them to using more Friends and Family discounts on drinks. If you notice too many Apology comps in the Food category, audit the kitchen operations, because something is not right. We recommend using at least the following types for reporting: Friends and Family, Apology, Owner’s, Marketing, Employee Meal, and Manager Meal. One for every reason. Then train the team accordingly.


To review: discounts have real value—both in functionality and cost to your business. Thus, it is important to establish the right parameters and protocol for usage, and then report and review the comps frequently. Otherwise, you can easily see a gap between gross and net sales that represents a gap in understanding your operations.

Can Restaurants Stop Harassment Before It Starts?


In October 2017, the Times-Picayune gave voice to the women who worked at John Besh’s New Orleans restaurants, where “male co-workers and bosses touched female employees without consent, made suggestive comments about their appearance and — in a few cases — tried to leverage positions of authority for sex.” In December, Eater NY broke the news that Mario Batali regularly groped employees and infused workplace conversation with sexual innuendo. A day later the New York Times detailed the many accusations against Ken Friedman of the Spotted Pig, with the impossible-to-forget recollections of what happened on the third floor of that restaurant in a space some employees referred to as “the rape room.”

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Rice & Gold’s Pricey $30 Pho Is One of the City’s Most Memorable


There’s not too much competition for the most expensive bowl of pho in town. While most Vietnamese cafes offer an all-in bowl of Saigon-style pho for $8 or $10, Nightingale Nine pours a premium Hanoi pho for $15, and so does Hanoi House at the same price. Even Bunker, an intentionally buzzy spot, demands only $17, or an extra $4 with oxtail. We have fine-dining Vietnamese restaurants, too, but these places offer it as an app. Thus the pho at Le Colonial comes in at $12, while that of Indochine is $13, both for smaller servings. This leaves Rice & Gold, which serves a bowl for $30, an open field to offer the priciest version in New York.

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Another Ambitious All-Day Restaurant Sets Its Sights on Williamsburg


Restaurateur Nate Adler, partner of enterprising East Village Basque restaurant Huertas, is jumping in the all-day restaurant game in Williamsburg with Gertie. Housed at 58 Marcy Ave., near Grand Street, Gertie is set to open in summer 2018, with a chef who comes from local favorites like Marlow & Sons, a spokeswoman for Adler confirms.

The restaurant, named after Adler’s Queens-born-and-raised grandmother, will be a restaurant open for breakfast to dinner. In addition to a 70-seat interior, the space will also have an outdoor patio and a community and events space downstairs.

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Yes, You Can Pay for a Bucket of KFC With Bitcoins


Kentucky Fried Chicken isn’t afraid to pull a tacky stunt in order to grab headlines and seem hip, so the chain is planning to accept everyone’s favorite cryptocurrency as payment for one day only. Today, January 11, at 3 p.m., KFC’s Canada branch will rebrand its $20 Bucket as the 0.0041 Bitcoin Bucket, “or whatever its ever-fluctuating value happens to be at the moment.” The bucket’s value will be tracked on Facebook Live, and bitcoin-trading Canadians can stop by KFC’s website and exchange their internet money for a bucket of tenders, which will be delivered between January 12 and January 18. This must be the first step toward Kentucky Fried Chicken renaming itself Kentucky Fried Blockchain.

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Amazon Prime Customers Can Now Order Delivery From Whole Foods


For those who enjoy high-end groceries but dread schlepping to over-crowded upscale grocery stores, an Amazon Prime subscription just became a bit more appealing. Prime customers can now order goods from Whole Foods for same-day or one-day shipping, and Whole Foods 365 products are available for two-hour shipping. Perhaps this added convenience for Whole Foods shoppers will soften the blow of the supermarket chain’s rising prices.

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