Fun Fact: On Mother’s Day 2011, more than half of the shoppers surveyed by the National Retail Federation said they wanted to take mom to a restaurant to celebrate, which was an estimated spend of $3 billion.
Author Archive | Kasy Allen
Weddings have classically been known as a formal affair with rooms filled with round tables, elegant place settings that include seating cards, and a wedding cake large enough to be seen by everyone. And even though a few wedding parties still opt for a more formal setting, there are many that have ventured over to the social side. The idea is to add “foodertainment” to the mix – a perfect blend of culinary visual appeal and taste that allows for guests to mingle, instead of being locked at a table.
From drinks and finger foods to late night munchies, here are a few wedding catering trends that we hope to see more of this wedding season.
1. Creative Beverages
There’s definitely never a lack of alcoholic beverages at most weddings; in fact, the majority of us go for the wedding, but stay for the party afterwards. Drinking and mingling with friends and loved ones always makes for a perfect night, but when a little fun is brought to the mix, what can go wrong? A few fun beverage trends we’ve seen at recent weddings include a bloody Mary bar, bubbly bar (make a custom glass of bubbly, which includes fruit juice and fruit slices), specialty cocktails and a variety of draft brews.
But don’t forget the guests that prefer not to divulge in alcohol for the evening. We’ve also seen an increase in hot drink stations and water infused stations.
Lastly, when serving food, try recommending a paired beverage – a nice shot of Hefenweizen always goes great with salty finger foods.
2. Finger Foods & Small Plates
It’s easier for guests to mingle when they don’t have to sit at a table as they dine, which is why we’re guessing there’s been a huge increase in finger foods and small plates at weddings. When the caterer offers to walk the room with plated food that can be easily grabbed and munched as guests carry on conversation, the night seems to flow much better – which sets even Bridezilla at ease.
3. Food Trucks & Picnics
We love this trend, it marries simplicity with great food where you least expect it. If you would have told us a few years ago that food trucks would be making their way into weddings, we would have likely laughed, but the only thing laughable about this new trend is how much it encourages people to have their own laughs.
Yes, it’s informal, but how fun and easy is it to have a food truck for dinner and another for dessert. Spread out some beautiful linen on the grass (or on tables) and the entire event can be picnic style.
Farm-to-table isn’t just for residents anymore. In fact, Lyons Farmette, located in Lyons, Colorado, has seen an increase in weddings that want to take place at the farm (and the wedding party has no issues mingling with the wandering farm animals). But it’s not just about farm animals here, the culinary experience offers guests the freshest ingredients, while also being able to entertain guests with special dietary needs – vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, and other allergies.
Think about a table in the middle of a farm surrounded with the rustic beauty that the land brings – it’s hard not to fall in love with the setting and food, even if it does involve a few goats and chickens.
5. Chef Stations
A lot of what attracts people to finger foods and farm-to-table trends is seeing the masterpiece of food on the plate. It’s not just about the food, it’s an interaction that involves all of the senses, and getting food prepared right in front of you helps improve that experience. Chef stations offer a great way for guests to be able to ask questions as they watch their meal being prepared. They also get restaurant quality food that is served hot and fresh.
For those brides that still want a sit down dinner, there are always meals that can be served family-style to encourage guests to keep the chatter going. Family-style catering delivers meals to the table in big dishes that are then passed, and helps to boost guest interactions.
As a word of caution, having big dinner plates and bowls on a table takes up a lot of room – the bride should remember to keep the centerpieces small so the table doesn’t get too crowded.
7. Dessert Bar
Sorry wedding cake lovers, brides are keeping the social train moving right on through dessert time. We’ve seen some interesting dessert choices lately, like smores bars, frozen yogurt bars, fondue bars, and other extravagant dessert buffets.
But cakes aren’t entirely out the window. We’ve also seen cake pops, rice crispy treat cakes, cheesecake bars, and mini-cakes.
8. Late-Night Snacking
Once dinner is done, it’s time to dance the night away, but all of that drinking and dancing leads to late-night munchies. We love seeing that more caterers are offering to entertain the night-owls of the group by serving late-night snacks, like mini pretzel bites, sliders, meatballs, and other fun finger foods. And don’t worry about going over the top; keeping it simple is perfect for this hungry bunch!
9. To-Go Bags
Bless those that are able to rock-the-night-away, but not all guests can stay up into the wee hours of the night to experience those late-night munchies, so opt for helping to cater for guests on the go as well. Think of easy-to-pack foods like trail mix and cookies. You can have the food pre-packed or setup buffet style so they can dip up their own grab-bag.
Fun Fact: The celebration of Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican national holiday which celebrates the triumphant victory of the Mexicans over the French in 1862 at the Battle of Puebla.
Fun Fact: Daffodils were brought to Britain by the Romans who thought that the sap from Daffodils had healing powers. Actually the sap contains crystals that can irritate the skin.
Fun Fact: More than 100 billion pieces of junk mail are delivered in the United States each year. And we all know where the majority of junk mail ends up.
If you thought that throwing up a picture of the front of your restaurant and contact information made for a great website, then you my friend need to see what other restaurants around the country are doing to encourage diners to walk their way. Here’s a list of 10 things we’ve seen restaurants doing that keep guests coming back for more.
1. Food Photography
Give me pictures that make me say yum! If I’m hungry, I don’t want to see pictures of the outside of your building, or the employees at your restaurant, I want to see tasty dishes that persuade me to come on in and dine, or at least check out what else is on the menu.
I don’t know why this is such a big deal for restaurants, but there are two big things that restaurants do wrong when it comes to their menu: it’s not posted at all or it’s in PDF format. If I can’t find the menu on your website, my first thought is that you have something to hide… why would I want to even venture in your establishment if you’re too embarrassed to share your menu? And PDFs are bad news for your site. Mobile users hate downloading anything – it takes too much time – and that downloadable PDF is killing your restaurant’s style. And remember those search engines that you’re trying to compete in? Yeah, they can’t see PDFs, so you’re wasting your time.
Vesta Dipping Grill also has their menu in PDF format, just in case their guests want to download it.
3. Special Menus
If you haven’t noticed yet, more and more restaurants are paying attention to their guests that have allergies, which, of course, is a good thing. My son has tree nut allergies and can go into anaphylactic shock if he even touches a cashew or pistachio to his lips. Are you willing to risk his life and your business because you don’t think it’s important to have an allergy menu? I hope the answer is no, because you never know who’s going to walk through your door with allergies. Make sure you have special menus set aside and online for allergy guests – help people make a choice on where they should eat before they even walk in your door.
And don’t forget about our vegan and vegetarian friends, they also like to know that they have different options when visiting your restaurant – Chipotle got it right with this one page menu.
4. Calories & Diets
Speaking of menus, giving calorie count and other dietary information can help your health conscious guests learn more about the foods they choose. And don’t worry, showing big numbers doesn’t always have to be bad, people just want to know what it is they’re eating. Make sure to include an online calorie menu so that guests that are counting calories, fat grams, or sodium can find the dish that works best for them.
The majority of the things already mentioned can be figured out with online reservations. Let me clarify. If there are online reservations, perfect, I don’t have to call you and I can get everything done from my phone. I can also enter in any special information (that is, if you have a comment box available for me), like that we have someone in our party with food allergies, or someone that may need help finding suggestions for lower sodium meals. What if you knew that information before the party every arrived, and the server came to the table with the right choices without the party ever asking – I’d say you’re one step closer to creating evangelists for your restaurant!
Guests need to know your rules for groups of people. How many people are considered a group? Do you take reservations? Should I call ahead of time? Make it easy for groups to know what they should expect when visiting your website. Linger, a restaurant in Denver, makes it nice an easy with an inquiry form – of course the group could always call, but who has time for that anymore?
7. Happy Hour
Bring on the deals! One of the easiest ways to encourage people to come in during happy hour is to show them the deals. Don’t be shy, share it all, including food and drink specials, times, and any bonuses – like getting special promotions on social media. And believe me, your guests are smart enough to sniff out the deals, even if it means they’re standing at your front door and notice your competitors online happy hour menu is better than the one you don’t even have posted.
8. Social Media & Email Marketing
Speaking of social media, it seems these days everyone is dabbling in social media. But the true winners in the restaurant industry are the ones that keep us coming back for more. I’m a huge fan of Noodles & Company simply because they take care of their audience. I don’t mind listening to what you have to say if I get freebies once in a while, and you mix up that sales-speak with some fun content (hint, sign up for the Noodlegram to get some great deals throughout the year).
One of our Tundrites said they checked-in at Foursquare at a local restaurant here in Boulder called Harpo’s and ended up getting 15% of the table’s entire meal – do you think that they’re going to get return business out of her? You betcha, and she probably inspired new customers to head in as well!
9. Directions, Contact Information & Hours of Operation
For the love of the Internet, please don’t forget to put up your directions, contact information, and hours of operation. And please don’t make it an image where it’s next to impossible for me to do anything from my phone. Your contact information should be in plain HTML so that I can push your phone number and call with just one touch of my smartphone. And the directions should be linked to Google maps so that I can tell my smartphone to go straight to your location. This one sounds easy, but I’ve seen so many of you get it wrong.
Okay, I mentioned in the first post that when your guests are hungry they want to see good food pictures, but those that are really interested in who you are will want to be able to learn more about your story. How did you get to where you are today? Who are your Chefs? Do you source your food locally? Is your building historical? Do you have any special events that you put on? Do you give back to the community?
There are tons of great examples of content you can put on your site or in a blog, just remember who your audience is and make the content relevant for them.
Fruition Restaurant does a great job of sharing their farm to table story over at Fruition Farms, which is linked to in their main navigation.
Fun Fact: The IRS reported receiving 131,543,000 individual income tax returns in 2009. If each return were processed at the rate of one per minute (and that’s fast!), it would take more than 250 years for one person to do the job.
Fun Fact:A giant wheel of Cheddar cheese was given to Queen Victoria (1837-1901) for a wedding gift. It weighed over 1,000 pounds. A normal Cheddar wheel weighs 60-75 pounds.
Some of my co-workers and I recently had the privilege to tour the Ice-O-Matic factory in Denver, Colorado.
Now don’t go running off just yet, let me get one thing said up front: I know that factory tours, or even ice for that matter, aren’t exactly at the top of the list for must-do’s, but I think each of us learned something during that tour. Not only did we learn more about ice in general, but we also learned that Ice-O-Matic is filled with passionate people that love to share that passion with others – yes, even over ice – and believe that investing in an ice machine is more than just another piece of equipment in your kitchen.
Okay, So What’s With the Ice?
Of course we had to start the tour with a run through of ice and how the machines work. Among other facts, I think my biggest take-a-way was that I’ll never look at ice in my cup the same way anymore – cleaning and sanitizing is crucial with ice machines because ice is considered a food.
As a germ-a-phobe myself, I told our presenter that now I have yet another phobia to add to my list of foods to be scared of. He of course laughed and said, “Well, as long as that machine stays clean and the water is filtered, consumers of ice should be just fine, and the life-span of the ice machine is greatly increased.”
But it wasn’t just the cleanliness of ice that I was able to walk away with; we also learned a slew of information about the frozen water:
- Cube Ice: Bars typically prefer to serve up bigger ice sizes because it makes the beverage look more appealing – some bars even buy blocks of ice so they can cube it themselves. This style of ice is also preferred in hotter climates because it takes longer to melt. 75% of Americans prefer cube ice.
- Flake Ice: Schools, Universities and Healthcare facilities prefer flake ice because it can also be used for packing around injuries. Grocery stores prefer flake ice to showcase seafood because it helps prevent the meat from bruising, and it can be formed into shapes – think waves of ice.
- Pearl Ice: Known by most consumers as Sonic Ice, the food service industry loves this type of ice because it’s chewable and takes the flavor of the beverage. And believe it or not, 7 out of 10 people like to chew ice, and this is the preferred type to chew. This ice is also commonly used for merchandising and displays.
But What Does That Have to Do With My Business?
Buying an ice machine isn’t just about choosing the right type of ice. Our presenter was very insistent on making sure that each establishment looking to invest in a new ice machine was matched up with the right ice machine for them. It’s not about the biggest, or most expensive; it’s about ensuring that the average ice usage per day is met, while leaving room for future growth.
Okay, I’m listening, what else?
It’s also about knowing warranty details, like using a filter (and regularly changing it) can extend the ice machines warranty by 7 years! And because water taste, hardness, chemicals, etc. vary in different parts of the country, having a filter is crucial to ensure the safety of the consumers. And the good news is that Ice-O-Matic will send out reminders for when your filter should be changed – you’ll have to make sure to register the warranty though.
After our presentation, we were then taken to the factory where we were able to see exactly how each of Ice-O-Matics ice machines were made. Here’s a great video from the show “How it’s Made” so you too can see how they’re made:
Last April we put in place our own waste management
system, which evolved after studying our not so healthy
trash habits around the office. The result of this had us cutting down on our trash and ramping up our recycling and composting efforts. First, we installed composting bins to capture paper towels in the restrooms. Then we added recycling & composting bins next to the trashcan in our break room as well as smaller recycling cans at each cubical in the office. Finally, we educated our employees on where our trash is going and what can and cannot go into the different bins with the help of visual aids. Needless to say, the new green initiatives were well received by the staff at Tundra.