Restaurant Briefing Just another WordPress weblog Wed, 27 Aug 2014 11:48:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Panelists’ Bios: 2014 American Express Restaurant Trade Program at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen Mon, 14 Jul 2014 19:26:21 +0000 admin SEAN BROCK
Chef Sean Brock attended Johnson & Wales University and worked in acclaimed restaurants throughout the South before accepting a position with the Neighborhood Dining Group as executive chef of McCrady’s in Charleston in 2006. In 2010 Sean opened Husk, also in Charleston, followed by Husk Nashville in 2013.

Sean won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast in 2010, and was a finalist for Outstanding Chef in 2013 and 2014. He hosted season two of Anthony Bourdain’s The Mind of a Chef on PBS, and his first cookbook will be released in October 2014 by Artisan Books.

Michael Chiarello is an award-winning chef and owner of critically acclaimed Bottega restaurant in the Napa Valley and Coqueta in San Francisco. Michael graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and was named Chef of the Year by FOOD & WINE in 1985, just three years after graduation. His culinary style combines his Southern Italian roots and the influence of his Italian family of butchers, cheesemakers and ranchers with the hallmarks of Napa Valley living.

Michael is also an accomplished winemaker, author, TV personality and creator of one of Napa’s leading lifestyle brands, NapaStyle. His seven cookbooks have received critical acclaim from the IACP and the James Beard Foundation. Michael has been a national television host for over a decade on PBS, Food Network and Cooking Channel, winning an Emmy for his show Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello. He has appeared as judge and mentor on Lifetime’s Supermarket Superstar and Bravo’s Top Chef, and as a contestant on Top Chef Masters.

Born and raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Tom Colicchio made his cooking debut at The Quilted Giraffe and Mondrian. He later opened Gramercy Tavern and Craft. Tom owns Craft, Craftbar, Colicchio & Sons, Riverpark in New York; Craft in Los Angeles; Craftsteak in Las Vegas and Foxwoods; and ‘wichcraft sandwich shops. Most recently he opened Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton and Heritage Steak in Las Vegas.

A 1991 FOOD & WINE Best New Chef, Tom is also a five-time James Beard Award winner and author of three cookbooks. He has served as head judge on Top Chef since 2006 and as executive producer for A Place at the Table, a documentary directed by his wife, Lori Silverbush.


Steve Dolinsky is a 12-time James Beard Award-winning food journalist. He is currently ABC 7 Chicago’s food reporter, hosting the channel’s Hungry Hound segment live each week. He was previously the executive producer and host of Good Eating, a weekly show on CLTV, and a reporter in Michigan, Iowa and Illinois.

Steve blogs about food and wine at, writes occasionally for the travel sections in the Chicago Tribune and The Globe and Mail and reports on food for Public Radio International’s The World. He has also written for Michigan Avenue magazine, Chicago Reader and The Huffington Post.

In 2004 Steve started Culinary Communications, a food industry-focused media training company that works with chefs and other industry professionals outside of Chicago.

Steve volunteers for numerous charitable organizations in the Chicago area that focus on hunger relief, including Share Our Strength and Meals on Wheels.

Mitzi Gaskins is vice president and global brand manager for Marriott International’s global luxury hospitality brand, JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts, which encompasses 64 properties in 26 countries. Founded in 1984 as a tribute to founder J. Willard Marriott, JW Marriott is a luxury brand that represents beautiful properties in gateway cities and distinctive resort locations around the world. Gaskins is responsible for the overall development and execution of the JW Marriott brand positioning, and the implementation of product and service in all of the portfolio’s hotels globally.

A veteran in the luxury and full service brand space, Gaskins served as a corporate finance and business analyst for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. prior to joining the JW Marriott team. Before joining Marriott International, she held positions of increasing responsibility within the business and marketing disciplines with Accenture, Delta Airlines and Apple.

In 2009, close friends Josh Harris and Scott Baird co-founded The Bon Vivants, a nationally recognized hospitality, design, and creative group. The Bon Vivants have garnered acclaim for their bar programs at the two-Michelin-star rated, fine dining restaurant Quince in San Francisco; the pan-Mexican high volume restaurant Comal in Berkeley, added to the 10 best restaurants in 2012 by San Francisco Chronicle; Food Network Star Tyler Florence’s restaurant Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco; Esquire Magazine’s Best Bars in America – the San Francisco cocktail bar 15 Romolo; acclaimed food writer Pim Techamuanvivit’s Union Square Thai restaurant Kin Khao, and, the UK–styled gastropubs Againn, and Againn Tavern in Washington D.C. and Rockville, Maryland, respectively.

In January of 2013, The Bon Vivants opened their highly anticipated Trick Dog in San Francisco’s Mission District. Trick Dog successfully shifted the cocktail from center stage making room for artfully crafted drinks to become more normalized and part of a fully integrated and thoughtfully executed bar experience. Recipients of a James Beard Nomination in 2014 for Outstanding Bar Program, and Nightclub and Bar Magazine’s “Small Wonder Bar of the Year”, Trick Dog has made its way to “Best of” lists across America ranging from Food and Wine to Playboy. It is the only establishment of its kind in the Bay Area to be reviewed by and receive 3 Stars from long-time San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer who wrote, “To me, a three-star review signifies best-of-class, a place that could stand up to a similar restaurant anywhere in the Bay Area of the U.S.”

The Bon Vivants are also founders of the national charitable event series Pig & Punch which to date has raised over $70,000 and coordinated over 3000 volunteer hours of labor for charter schools in the US and with their national team, continue to work with international liquor clients on flavor development, activations, education, and trade-marketing.

Stephanie lzard is the executive chef/partner of two Chicago restaurants, Girl & the Goat and Little Goat. She was named a FOOD & WINE Best New Chef in 2011 and earned a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes. Stephanie was the first woman to win Bravo’s Top Chef (season 4), was recently appointed to the Macy’s Culinary Council and named celebrity chef for the CMT Artists of the Year event.

Stephanie’s first book, Girl in the Kitchen, was released in 2011. She recently launched a line of sauces and rubs called The Flavor, By Stephanie Izard.

Follow her at or on Twitter @StephAndTheGoat.


Chicago native Charles Joly is an award-winning food and beverage professional. In 2012 he was named beverage director at the Aviary in Chicago, a partner venture with chef Grant Achatz that was awarded the 2013 James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program. Charles was also named American Bartender of the Year by Tales of the Cocktail in 2013. Formerly chief mixologist and founder of the Drawing Room and EGM for Three Headed Productions, Charles has opened and overseen seven venues in three different states and has developed one of the most respected beverage programs in the nation.

As an active United States Bartenders Guild member, Charles has won some of the most prestigious cocktail competitions both nationally and globally, becoming one of the most decorated bartenders in the field. He continues to travel the world studying spirits, cocktails and culture while sharing his passion with the beverage community wherever he may be.

James Beard Award winner, 1996 Best New Chef and Relais & Chkeaux Grand Chef Barbara Lynch is regarded as one of Boston’s—and the country’s—leading chefs and restaurateurs. Barbara opened her first restaurant, No.9 Park, in 1998 in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. By 2010 she had opened seven other concepts around Boston: B&G Oysters, The Butcher Shop, Stir, Sportello, Drink, Menton and 9 at Home.

Barbara’s first cookbook, Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition, was published in 2009 and received numerous accolades, including a prestigious Gourmand Award for Best Chef Cookbook in the United States.

Danny Meyer is the CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, which includes Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, Jazz Standard, Shake Shack, The Modern, Cafe 2 and Terrace 5 (at The Museum of Modern Art), Maialino, Untitled (at the Whitney Museum of American Art), North End Grill, Union Square Events and Hospitality Quotient, a consulting business. Danny, his restaurants and chefs have earned an unprecedented 25 James Beard Awards.

Danny’s first business book, Setting the Table, examines the power of hospitality in restaurants, business and life. An active national leader in the fight against hunger, Danny has long served on the boards of Share Our Strength and City Harvest.

Kimberly Patton-Bragg is a nationally recognized cocktail expert with 20 years of industry experience. Her original cocktails have appeared in publications such as Imbibe, The New York Times, Nightclub & Bar, Saveur and the Times-Picayune. She competed on season 3 of Absolut’s Search for American’s Top Bartender on NBC and recently participated for sixth time in the CAP program at Tales of the Cocktail, the industry largest convention.

Kimberly honed her skills at Danny Meyer’s Blue Smoke and Jazz Standard in New York City before relocating to New Orleans, where she has served as president of the U.S. Bartender’s Guild’s New Orleans Chapter, created the cocktail program at Dominique’s on Magazine and Clever, been a guest bartender at the Swizzle Stick Bar and John Besh’s Domenica, and hosted immensely popular Cocktail Boot Camp with the General nights. Currently Kimberly is the bar manager and tends bar at Tivoli and Lee in The Hotel Modern. She also produces events and provides spirits education for Glazers, the region’s largest spirits distributor.

A successful chef, restaurateur and author, Jonathan Waxman has graced such prestigious kitchens as Chez Panisse in Berkeley and Michael’s in Los Angeles. Jonathan later opened his own restaurants in New York City, James – described by The New York Times as a “culinary comet” – as well as the famed Washington Park. Today Jonathan is the chef and owner of Barbuto in Manhattan’s West Village. His first cookbook, A Great American Cook, was published in 2007 and his second book, Italian My Way, was released in April 2011.

He participated in two seasons of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, where he earned the nickname Obi-Wan Kenobi and was referred to by the Los Angeles Times as “the Eric Clapton of chefs.” Jonathan works closely with many charities, including City Meals on Wheels and Alex’s Lemonade Stand. He lives in Manhattan with is wife and three children.

An award-winning TV personality, chef, food writer and teacher, Andrew Zimmern is regarded as one of the food world’s most versatile and knowledgeable people. As the creator, host and co-executive producer of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern, Andrew Zimmern’s Bizzare World and Bizarre Foods America, he travels the globe exploring food in its own terroir.

Andrew won the James Beard Award for Best Television Food Personality in 2013 and 2010, and Best Television Program on Location in 2012. He is the author of The Bizzare Truth, Andrew Zimmern’s Bizzare World of Food and Andrew Zimmern’s Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild & Wonderful Foods and is contribution editor at FOOD & WINE.

Andrew’s food truck, AZ Canteen, debuted last summer. In 2013, he launched a line of cured and cooked meats alongside meat purveyor Pat LaFrieda.

Andrew serves on the board of Services for the UnderServed and The National Youth Recovery Foundation. He resides in Minneapolis with is wife, Rishia, and son, Noah.

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The Big Deal About Big Data Fri, 04 Jul 2014 15:33:21 +0000 admin “Big data is the most important trend of our time,” declares Mike Lukianoff, Principal, Czar Metrics. He adds that it’s not just a trend about data, or even technology. It’s about how information is gathered, shared, and used – including by businesses. Mike and other data experts/consultants to the restaurant industry see this revolution ultimately transforming the way that restaurants understand their customers and interact with them.

The trend isn’t just about data to be sure, but data – and lots of it – is at the foundation. Data now stream around us – from computers and mobile phones, sensors and systems in TVs and cars, transactions, buildings, transportation systems and manufacturing, social media exchanges – really, from almost everything and everyone. The amount of data is so vast and exponentially growing (since 2002 it has increased 27,000x) and its creation so fast (90% in the last two years) that it boggles the mind. In fact, that’s one of the definitions of “big data” – it’s not comprehensible by humans. Data scientists are finding more efficient ways to capture and process the enormity of it all, but what is happening is more than a technical revolution; it’s a business revolution. Disparate data from multiple sources can be, and is, turned into actionable information. A number of business intelligence firms are connecting the digital dots – helping companies, including restaurants, harness data about customers to guide menu and pricing decisions, select sites, execute personalized marketing programs, and provide experiences to guests based on past interactions and preferences.

“The digital revolution has come to brick-and-mortar businesses and no industry has the potential to lead and benefit more than the restaurant industry.” – Mike Lukianoff, Principal, Czar Metrics

Mike cautions that data by itself is nothing – it needs to be transformed into useful information – and that bigger amounts of it aren’t necessarily better. “What’s important is the quality of the data and the analytics behind it. Ultimately, you have to be able to use it.” Sameer Mungur, Founder and CEO, Zipscene, agrees. “We are moving into a world where there is so much available data, but you have to determine what data is relevant and be able to unlock it. That’s how you leverage it to understand your customers – what motivates them to dine with you and what they want when they do – and to make decisions about your business.”

Both Zipscene and Czar Metrics do that heavy lifting – mining, analyzing, and helping restaurant clients act on data. They collect data from third-party sources such as social media profiles and interactions, the use of mobile apps and websites, demographics, etc. – along with data more within a restaurant’s reach such as transaction history (including time of day, day of week, etc.), digital promotions, coupon/offer redemptions, reservations history, email lists, loyalty programs and clubs, online ordering, guest satisfaction surveys, etc. Zipscene not only aggregates the data into one place, but the data is matched to individuals to create customer profiles. Every transaction, both online and on premise, is then tracked and analyzed to enrich those profiles, which can be used to deliver relevant, personalized offers (emails, push text notifications, etc.) at the right time and place and through the right channels – and to deliver customer experiences that are meaningful.

Relevancy of communications is the marketing goal. “Messaging to customers has to be in the context of what’s relevant to them, at the point of decision making,” says Todd Michaud, Founder & CEO, Power Thinking Media. Relevancy is also a way to transition from the offer-based messaging that Todd says plagues the restaurant industry, a point echoed by Sameer. “Many of our customers want to get away from discounting, which can be done by speaking to guests on a level that motivates them other than price.” It’s work, yes, but “the laziest thing in marketing is marketing on price alone,” adds Mike. “The sweet spot is when marketing isn’t just about promotion, but about meeting a need.”

How much work? All three experts emphasize that restaurants can start small before going big with data. “You don’t have to leap to one-to-one marketing,” says Mike, who advises restaurateurs to start by getting into the mindset of using what’s already available to them, making the most of the simplest data. “The reality is that you already know something about your customers – when they are hungry or thirsty, their genders, ages, what they order when they dine, how frequently they dine. Build a customer database populated with information like this and then use it to draw customers back in. If you’re not effectively employing data you already have, then you’re not ready for the next big wave.” Sameer also sees the benefits that can come from taking baby steps. “Start by putting customers into certain buckets based on what you know about them – you are going to come up with clusters that are driving sales. Then design a marketing campaign that speaks to them. Even if you just segment customers based on their order history, for example, and do an email promotion based on that, you’ll see the click-through rates go through the roof.”

“It sounds overwhelming to understand every customer, but it’s really not with the right tools.”– Sameer Mungur, Founder and CEO, Zipscene

The amount of data will only continue to grow, something that many find overwhelming – including consumers, by whom incorrectly targeted or blanketed communications are increasingly ignored or met with disdain, says Mike. “A lot of business people I talk to are frightened by data – how to get it and manage it,” says Todd. “But it’s really not as big and scary as they would think. And there are plenty of providers who can help. The reality is that targeted customer communications are going to drive sales. If your competitors get there first, maintain relevancy, and your customers defect, it’s hard to get them back. I really think it’s a land grab.”

Mike predicts that while larger companies are the first to adopt big data tools, evolving technologies will level the playing field for smaller businesses, such as fine dining restaurants. “Fine dining has been in tune with individual customers’ likes and dislikes for years – not because they had the technology but because they have the instincts. These tools may even give them the edge.” Sameer adds, “The restaurant industry as a whole has always had a strong focus on customer experience. Imagine having tools that will help.”

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Engaging Email Fri, 04 Jul 2014 15:33:03 +0000 admin Contrary to what some believe, social media has not eclipsed email as a way to connect with customers – far from it. According to a recent McKinsey report, 91% of all U.S. consumers use email daily and the rate at which emails prompt purchases is estimated to be at least three times that of social media. In fact, Scott Shaw, CEO/Founder, Fishbowl (provider of digital marketing platforms for restaurants), reports that email is more important than ever. “Email continues to be the ‘go-to’ marketing medium for restaurants that want to talk to their customers one on one on a regular basis, sending information and offers based on their interests and purchasing profiles,” says Scott. Simms Jenkins, CEO, BrightWave Marketing – an email marketing-focused agency and author of The New Inbox: Why Email Marketing Is the Digital Marketing Hub in a Social & Mobile World, agrees. “At the end of the day, email drives revenue and engagement more than anything else and the return on investment is high. Plus, that’s where people are – they’re on email.” What some experts consider current email marketing “musts”:

SEGMENTATION “Email is all about segmentation today – doing better, smarter marketing using email messaging based on recency, frequency, and spend, all of which can be captured by technology,” advises Scott. Janet Hall, VP, Marketing, Fishbowl, says that customizing the look and tone of emails based on the unique segments of your list (gender, age, location, prior purchases, click-through behavior, etc.) is key. A recent e-Marketer study reports that segmenting customer email lists increased open rates 39% and lowered unsubscribes by 27% on average.

“Email is going to deliver far more revenue per user, so use social channels along with your loyalty program to build your list and send exclusive, targeted offers via email.”
– Simms Jenkins, CEO, BrightWave Marketing

RELEVANCY Email message volume is soaring. Consequently it’s essential that email content is meaningful to the recipient. “Personalizing emails – using the person’s name in the salutation – is a given, but you can’t stop there,” advises Simms. “The content needs to personalized as well.” Restaurants are catching up to retail, using data to send smarter, more relevant emails, says Scott. Open rates or click-throughs can be used to customize content. With the proper tracking software, restaurants can email bounceback offers to guests who redeemed a coupon, or reminder offers to those who have not yet redeemed. According to Scott, one client with 100 stores recently saw additional revenues of $1MM due to simply reminding guests that they had three days left to redeem a birthday offer. One casual dining chain drove a 2% systemwide sales lift by targeting inactive eclub members who had not visited in six months.

FREQUENCY Simms says that frequency is one of the most debated topics for which there is no right answer. “Sending too many emails has the biggest impact, causing customers to emotionally or literally unsubscribe.” Fishbowl reports that 54% of email subscribers unsubscribe because emails are too frequent; 49% because content is “boring”; and 25% due to irrelevant content. Simms adds that automated emails – welcoming those who sign up, birthdays, anniversaries, and re-engaging those who haven’t been in for a while – are no longer a luxury; they’re a must for a well-rounded and effective email program. “Because there’s so much email activity these days, it sometimes takes sending an email two or three times before it’s opened, read, and acted on,” adds Scott. “Because of this, there’s more ‘re-targeting’ of emails today – i.e., resending the same email a second or third time if the first email is not acted on (offer redeemed, reservations made, etc.).”

ADAPTING TO MOBILE “Almost half of every hour spent on a smartphone is on email, so it’s crucial that emails display well on mobile devices,” says Simms. A 2013 BlueHornet email marketing survey reported that 80% of consumers delete a mobile email when it doesn’t look good and 30% unsubscribe, up from 18% in 2012. Using Responsive Design, which automatically displays content for optimal viewing and navigation across a wide range of devices including smartphones, is important, according to Janet, who adds, “People don’t want to read too much content on their smartphones, so copy must be concise and graphics limited to ensure downloading is fast.” Intriguing, brief subject and header lines are more important than ever.

SOCIAL INTEGRATION Scott recommends using social channels – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr – to drive email enrollment. An example, he says, is adding a tab on Facebook with a link to an email sign-up page, along with an incentive (i.e, appetizer or dessert). He says contests/sweepstakes can be a great email acquisition tool. Fishbowl created a sweepstakes for a client that led not only to an increase in subscribers by 453%, but Facebook fans as well. Sweepstakes participants had to both “Like” the page and provide an email address (via a button added to the Facebook page). Information about the sweepstakes was posted across all social channels.

METRICS It’s key to know your open and click-through rates. Historically, email measurement has been only open rates, but now, according to Scott, technology allows measuring results all the way through to restaurant visits. “For example, we can measure how many people use a welcome offer and measure their first year spend, if they’re dining when redeeming offers.”

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Facebook Dominates Fri, 04 Jul 2014 15:32:49 +0000 admin The National Restaurant Association’s 2014 Restaurant Industry Forecast includes interesting information about the rise of digital marketing, including social networks’ adoption by consumers and operators. With so much attention on restaurants’ use of channels such as Twitter and Instagram, it is worth noting that Facebook still dominates – by a large margin. Nearly all operators (99% in fine dining, 97% in family dining, 96% in casual, 93% in fast casual, and 90% in quickservice) report they currently use Facebook. (Twitter is the next most popular, but the penetration is typically about half of what it is for Facebook across segments, with the exception of fast casual, in which 78% of operators are using Twitter.) What’s more, operators indicate that they are likely to continue to predominately use Facebook – again by a large margin, with the exception of fast casual.

“Facebook has been around longer than Twitter or Instagram. It’s got more history with the industry and operators have more familiarity with it,” hypothesizes Annika Stensson, Sr. Manager Research Communications, National Restaurant Association, about Facebook’s dominance. “Facebook is also more versatile in that it’s far easier to share things if you have more to say than 140 characters’ worth, and you can use it to link back to your website, run promotions and contests, etc. From a user standpoint, Facebook definitely has the widest reach, with people logging in from their computers, tablets, and mobile devices.”

So, while the social network landscape will continue to evolve, Facebook is currently part of almost all restaurants’ marketing efforts. But are restaurants using the channel to its best advantage to promote their brands, engage and communicate with guests and potential guests, and drive traffic? Some ideas:

MAKE YOUR PAGE INFORMATIVE – including address, phone number, hours, the restaurant’s story and cuisine, menus, payment methods, etc. Link to your website and, if you have one, link to your mobile app. As with other online channels, contact information must be consistent with other online listings to help your page come up in searches, and accurate to create a good map of your location on your Facebook page. For Facebook Pages tools, click here

CONSISTENTLY POST A MIX OF ENGAGING CONTENT Engagement is essential on Facebook. When your posts are popular, relevant (meaning they inspire frequent clicks, Likes, comments), and recent, this increases what Facebook calls EdgeRank. Higher EdgeRank means Facebook will feed more of your posts into fans’ Timelines. Interesting content – updates with stories about the restaurant, your team or your suppliers; kudos to staff members who go above and beyond; questions and quizzes, photos and videos, daily specials and promotions, links to relevant information, etc. – all engage fans and encourage them to take action. Visuals play an important role – they say a lot about your restaurant and its food and are something people love to share. Facebook research shows that posts with pictures draw 120% more engagement than those without them. For more info on EdgeRank Checker, click here

“We want Quartino’s Facebook page to give people a feeling of what it’s like to be in the restaurant, how lively and exciting it is. We post daily – fun facts (i.e., the bathroom tiles are the same tiles used in the New York City subways), as well as links to recipes, and lots of food photos, including the mosaic of food shots in our Timeline. We ran a contest all about the World Cup and encouraged our fans to take photos of their Quartino pizza and upload them using the hashtag, #QuartinoPizza. Additionally, we handed out postcards with the hashtag so users could find out about the contest both online and offline. I curate our page and comment on fans’ shares, plus respond to all comments and questions.” – Allana Mortell, Quartino Restaurant Social Media Specialist, Gibsons Restaurant Group, Chicago, IL

CONSIDER CONTESTS – including photo contests involving your food – as another way to engage Facebook fans. Contests (and prizes) incent people to provide their email addresses, check in at your restaurant, and comment on your posts. There are apps that will create and run contests and it’s important to familiarize yourself with Facebook’s guidelines.

“We run monthly contests on The Firehouse Restaurant’s Facebook page posting questions about wine, food, or dining. To promote our Monday Courtyard Nights patio dining, we’ll ask, ‘Do you prefer eating indoors or outdoors?’ This not only engages fans, but gives us good feedback on patrons’ preferences. The question and the prize ($50 gift card for Courtyard Nights) are posted four times during the month. The winner is announced on our page and generally 100 people respond.” – Lindy Gervin, Marketing Assistant, Harvego Companies, Sacramento, CA

INTERACT AND RESPOND To encourage your fans to engage with you, it helps to engage with them. Respond to as many posts as you can and as quickly as possible – answer questions, address comments/concerns, and show your appreciation for those who post or comment, even if it’s a simple thank you. Negative comments are especially important to quickly respond to and resolve if possible. For Facebook help, click here

“We constantly respond to posts on our official MacKenzie River Pizza Co. Facebook page, as well as on our local pages. The majority of people post on our wall and we respond publicly, typically thanking them for positive feedback, attempting to make good if there’s been an issue, and answering questions. It’s the way we ran our restaurants before social media existed – being aware of what customers want and responding to their needs so that they have a great experience, or if an experience was less than perfect, we make a strong effort to win them back. When we comment on a post, about 50% respond back thanking us. If we want to discuss something further, we’ll ask a guest to call and 90% do.” – Erica Coffman, Director of Marketing, Glacier Restaurant Group, hq, Whitefish, MT

Ads can encourage page Likes and drive traffic to your website and, importantly, to your restaurant. A Facebook ad feature allows businesses to geo-target consumers based on zip codes, which means that you can blast an ad to people in your area. For more info on Facebook ads, click here

“We manage Facebook advertising for a number of our clients. We’ve found that Facebook having changed its algorithm in the past few months has meant that some of our clients are no longer enjoying the organic reach they once had, and thus advertising has become integral to their marketing plans. We do a variety of ads depending on their marketing goals – to increase Facebook Fans, customer engagement, reservations, and/or drive traffic to our clients’ websites. The good news is that it has been very effective toward reaching those goals, and it doesn’t require a big budget to make a difference.” – Heidi Hess, Email and Social Media Director, Fishbowl

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Watch the 2014 American Express Restaurant Trade Program Panels Fri, 04 Jul 2014 15:32:32 +0000 admin For the 25th year, American Express brought together some of the biggest names in the restaurant industry to share their experiences and advice. Watch videos of the rich discussions among many of those who shape the world of hospitality.

Led by Andrew Zimmern (Television Personality, Chef, Food Writer, Teacher) “Meet the Masters” panelists Michael Chiarello (Bottega, Coqueta), Barbara Lynch (Barbara Lynch Gruppo), Danny Meyer (Union Square Hospitality Group), and Jonathan Waxman (Barbuto) look back at their careers and share decades of experience – including business ups and downs and thoughts about having a vision, expanding to keep good people, minimum wage, and tipping. Watch now

Steve Dolinsky (ABC Chicago News, Culinary Concepts) moderated “The Evolution of Customer Loyalty” panel with Tom Colicchio (Craft Restaurants), Mitzi Gaskins (JW Marriott), Sean Brock (Husk, McCrady’s), and Stephanie Izard (Girl & the Goat, Little Goat) who share their strategies for knowing customers and inspiring their loyalty. Watch now

In “Shake It Up: Using the Bar to Drive Business” Charles Joly (Aviary), Josh Harris (Trick Dog), and Kimberly Patton-Bragg (Tivoli and Lee) talk with Steve Dolinsky (ABC Chicago News, Culinary Concepts) about cocktail trends and ways to use the bar to drive sales, as well as demonstrate how to prepare some of their favorite cocktails. Watch now

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High Income, High Anxiety Fri, 04 Jul 2014 15:32:16 +0000 admin TREND The recent recession has left an indelible mark on consumers, many of whom lost a sense of well-being along with net worth. Surprisingly, more than a third of Today’s Consumers who remain “financially distressed” (based on perceptions of their current financial situations, concerns about having enough money to meet financial needs, and feelings about personal financial futures) are considered to have high household incomes – between $75,000 and $125,000. This group of economically anxious consumers has made some gains in recent years but their mindset remains pessimistic, especially compared to their non-distressed peers in the same income bracket. In 2013, 54% said things were going very/fairly well with their personal financial situations, up from 35% in 2011 – but still much less than their high-income peers (92%). Roughly half feel in control of their finances, much less than their peers (90%). Only 20% currently describe themselves as financially comfortable vs. 76% of their peers. High-income, distressed consumers are worried and financially insecure in ways normally associated with lower-income consumers.

OPPORTUNITY These anxious consumers are a substantial group, representing more than a quarter of those with incomes between $75,000 and $125,000. They have the means to spend, but lack a strong inclination to do so – 77% say they’ll never spend as freely as before the recession. But these consumers are too important to the restaurant industry not to cultivate them as customers. Some insights and opportunities:

• Self-Esteem Not only do high-income distressed customers suffer the stigma of having lost money – perhaps proportionally more than their upper income peers, neighbors, and friends – they also feel left behind, alone, and ignored. This has impacted their sense of self-worth – 28% say there are many days they feel like a failure vs. 10% their peers, and 39% can’t remember the last time someone made them feel special. Restaurants can offer both respite and respect, which is incredibly important to this on-edge group who need to feel valued. They are hyperaware – thinking about and sensitive to the entire experience – of shopping or being in restaurants. Poor customer service is a deal breaker. They simply won’t be back – 89% say they would walk out of a store if they were getting bad service.

• Community and Charity These consumers have been stuck, both economically and socially; they’re out of sync with their financially stable peers. The isolation they feel extends to their communities as a whole – 59% don’t feel as close to people in their communities as they would like to; 74% think they should be doing more to help locally. These civic-minded consumers were likely once in a position to invest in the social issues that matter to them, but if they no longer feel they belong or have something worthwhile to offer, they may not know how to get started. What a wonderful bridge restaurants can be – make their purchases count by letting them know about the restaurant’s charitable giving and/or with promotions that link their spending to donations, expose them to causes and programs, and offer ways to get involved.

• Smarts and Savvy This group still sees themselves as being in the know, discerning, and a resource for others – 70% say family and friends often ask them for information and opinions on new brands and products vs. 58% of their peers. Special perks and access (think advance notice to a guest chef’s dinner, a taste from a menu item in development, insider knowledge of the arrival of allocated wines) will give them not only something to enjoy but something to talk about the next time their friends and families are looking for advice about restaurants. The cool factor of having inside knowledge is something money can’t always buy, a double win.

• Novelty and Change Trying new things – new sensations, experiences, products – makes this group feel better. More than half (52%) say they are usually one of the first to accept new ideas or try new things vs. 42% of their peers; 81% are more open to trying new brands than in the past vs. 65% of their peers; 79% would welcome more novelty and change in their lives. Nearly three-quarters are concerned about covering current expenses and so are cautious about spending (two-thirds report that a $100 purchase is a major event), but the drive to experience something new and different keeps them engaged in the marketplace. Renew and refresh your offerings regularly – specials, guest chefs, custom cocktails, ingredients with limited production/seasonal availability, customer-facing technologies, flavor profiles, even location (as in pop-up).

CAUTION You won’t be able to spot high-income distressed customers on sight – it’s a mindset. The important thing to remember is that there are undoubtedly more of them in your restaurant than you imagine. The ways to cultivate these consumers are solid practices for all customers – but they will have an especially powerful impact on this group.

Trend Source: The Futures Company, U.S. Yankelovich MONITOR

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Dining at the Bar Fri, 04 Jul 2014 15:32:01 +0000 admin Restaurants around the USA are discovering that customers are increasingly interested in dining at the bar, or at a counter, often for the entertainment value. Some are adding more seats at the bar to accommodate diners and others are creating counter seating around the bar and into the restaurant. While this type of seating often attracts a younger crowd, many are finding that it appeals to diners of all ages who want to feel part of the restaurant.

Kiley Efron, Proprietor, Taverna, Jacksonville, FL, says their 15-seat bar is very popular at dinner, especially on weekends with singles and couples, and sometimes even groups. “Our bartenders have to be extremely knowledgeable about food because we want dining at the bar to be a great experience,” she says. Kiley adds that the bar is a cozy space, and in order to give the bar guests a feeling of the restaurant, they hung a huge mirror behind the bar that allows guests to see what’s happening all around them. At lunch placemats line the bar to signal to customers that they can eat lunch there. Kiley says, “In the middle of the day some people feel they shouldn’t be sitting at the bar, but having placemats gives them permission to sit there.”

“We created counter seating for over half the restaurant because it’s fun – guests sit facing an open kitchen or looking at other parts of the restaurant. And the same menu is available no matter where you sit,” says GM Mike Donaldson, Little Cleo’s, Scottsdale, AZ. He says at some point all the chefs on the line have some interaction with guests sitting at the counter. “Our chefs like putting on a show and interacting with guests – it instills a sense of pride.” He says all ages like sitting at the counter, including some families with kids who enjoy the entertainment value. Many counter guests remark that they are surprised seeing all that happens in a kitchen, as they’ve never worked in a restaurant. He cautions, “The kitchen is on display 100% of the time, therefore, you have to have the cleanest, most professional sparkling kitchen. Chefs need to be polished professionals and be comfortable working in front of guests and talking to them.”

“More of our guests are interested in dining at our bars, rather than sitting at tables in our dining rooms. So we’ve added additional seats, which has resulted in a significant increase in revenue.”
– James Lin, Senior Vice President, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, hq, San Francisco, CA

“Our owner and chef wanted our small seafood restaurant to have an open kitchen with counter seating in order to mimic a sushi counter – with an emphasis on interaction between chefs and guests,” says Kristin Walker, GM, Bergen Hill, Brooklyn, NY. Kristin says that while younger couples are more open to counter seating, there are some older couples that frequently come in to sit at the counter because they love the experience. “Our chefs are so welcoming that guests feel free to chat and ask questions. It’s sort of a show and we’ve found the average check is higher because when guests see a dish being prepared that they didn’t order, they’ll ask about it, and then often add it to their order.” Kristin adds that due to the restaurant’s popularity, the bar, which was originally meant as a place to have drinks only, is now preset with table settings.

“We’ve been refreshing our restaurant bars and adding a few more seats to give more options to guests and, as a result, both beverage and food sales are up 34%,” says James Lin, Senior Vice President, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, hq, San Francisco, CA. “Dining at the bar means guests don’t have to commit to a full dinner and many like the informality and energy as well as the opportunity to engage with the personalities behind the bar.” James says that while millennials are probably driving the trend of dining at the bar, all demographics are enjoying it. “Be sure to hone in on hospitality and service behind the bar as well as to have the right personalities,” James advises. “Bartenders need to become part of the sales team and they need to be educated about food. Our chefs are working closely with our bartenders, often using some of the same ingredients.” Operationally, the more bar business you can do the better, he says. “We know that people tend to drink more when they eat.”

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Meatless Mondays Fri, 04 Jul 2014 15:31:44 +0000 admin “Our three-course, prix fixe vegetarian menu on Monday nights is extremely popular, attracting new customers who might not have known about Dovetail if they weren’t looking for a vegetarian/vegetable-based menu. Many have become regulars. This menu initially came from my desire to decrease dependency on meat in my diet four years ago. It has been a great creative catalyst – my palate is more sensitive and I’m able to identify more subtle flavors. Focusing on vegetables has led me to think outside the box about how we can fill diners’ plates and create beautiful, interesting, satiating dishes without a meat component. I’ve found that vegetarians are often so restricted in choices that they are always open to boundaries being pushed on vegetarian dishes.”
John Fraser, Executive Chef/Proprietor, Dovetail, New York, NY

“We have been offering a separate Meatless Monday Menu for eight years, primarily for environmental reasons. We’ve seen double-digit growth on Mondays year after year as not eating meat on Mondays has become more mainstream. The menu features 21 items, 16 vegetable dishes, as well as two tofu and three using tempeh, a protein substitute. We chose not to have an exclusively vegetable menu on Mondays so we could acquaint customers with other forms of protein. We frequently offer blind tastes of the tempeh dishes (Tempeh Fuego Burger, Tempeh Chili) at the bar, and as a result, many have become converts. Our staff is extremely knowledgeable about the environmental benefits of reducing meat consumption and they share information when guests inquire.”
Steve Robbins, Director of Hospitality, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, hq San Diego, CA

“”I discovered Meatless Mondays a few years ago during a trip to New York, and was thrilled to bring it to my restaurants. It’s been so popular among our guests and staff alike – especially at Tallulah’s – where our motto every day of the week is ‘eat your vegetables’. On the first Meatless Monday of every month, we donate a portion of our sales to a local nonprofit dedicated to feeding homeless and low-income families in our neighborhoods. By doing this, we can raise awareness about the food-based issues our community is facing while also reminding people that vegetables are delicious and a healthy and environmentally-friendly alternative to a meat-based meal.”
Linda Derschang, Owner, Tallulah’s, Seattle, WA

For a Meatless Monday marketing toolkit, click here

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Learning from the NRA Show Fri, 04 Jul 2014 15:31:29 +0000 admin The National Restaurant Association recently hosted its 95th annual hospitality trade show, attended by more than 60,000. According to the NRA, a total of 2,168 exhibitors covered more than 612,000 square feet of floor space, demonstrating new products and connecting with operators, and dozens of educational sessions were offered. “The NRA Show provides the opportunity for restaurant operators from all walks of life and backgrounds to learn from one another, and discover new products and services that solve their problems and provide better ways to do business. The energy and excitement this year could be strongly felt at every venue – and reflected the ongoing optimism among restaurant and hospitality professionals. The energy, vibrancy, and hospitality this industry stands for were evident around every corner and in every conversation,” says Sam Facchini, co-founder/co-owner, Metro Pizza and 2014 NRA Convention Chair.

Restaurateurs who weren’t able to attend can still benefit from the NRA Show’s educational programs. Nearly 80 of the sessions are recorded and available at Plus, the NRA offers key takeaways on

7 alcohol trends at the NRA Show

5 tech trends at the NRA Show

5 nutrition trends on the menu at the NRA Show

6 innovations from the NRA Show

NRA Show plants sustainability’s seeds

Additionally industry publications have published observations, including Nation’s Restaurant News:

Top 10 food and drink trends at 2014 NRA Show

NRA Show sessions emphasize importance of people

and Restaurant Business magazine:

Top 10 restaurant trends from this year’s NRA Show

Star Trek’ or just the next NRA Show?

Post-NRA Show attitude adjustments

For more information about the NRA Show, click here

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Jul/Aug 2014 Fri, 04 Jul 2014 15:31:06 +0000 admin Click here to download a PDF of this edition of Restaurant Briefing.

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