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Stay on the cutting edge with technology and marketing news and trends hot off the presses right here.

QR Codes: Does Your Restaurant Need One?

QR Codes: Does Your Restaurant Need One?

Regardless of what industry you’re in, participation in mobile advertising is becoming necessary to remain competitive with today’s smart phone technology. QR codes [quick response codes] are one way restaurant owners can quickly spread the word about their services, promotions and news.

What is a QR Code?QR Codes: Does Your Restaurant Need One?

A quick response code is a two dimensional barcode originally designed for the automotive industry. QR codes have become popular in a variety of industries due to its large storage capacity compared to standard UPC barcodes. A standard QR code consists of square dots arranged in a square pattern on a white background. These codes can store virtually any sort of data.

QR Codes Benefits:

Quick response codes can be put on virtually any sort of advertising; including posters, banners, napkins, disposable cups and menus. In addition, QR codes can be placed on billboards, buildings, flyers, taxi cabs, subways, trains and buses.  These codes can be used to provide a variety of information, including pictures, videos, menu items, promotions, events and coupons. Customers access the content from QR codes through smart phone apps like Red Laser and Barcode Scanner.

Restaurants that embrace mobile advertising will thrive in today’s electronic society. QR codes are free to set up so no matter what size restaurant you own QR codes are another tool that will set you apart from the competition.

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Join the Conversation: Managing Your Restaurant’s Online Reputation

In the fast paced world of write-what-you-will-when-you-want internet blogging, reviewing, and all around tom-foolery, you’re able to find varying opinions on just about anything. From bashing faulty restaurant equipment to condemning an establishment’s service, it would seem that opinion makers particularly enjoy targeting the restaurant world. Inhabiting an industry that’s so inherently subjective, restaurant owners need to be in the know when it comes to how customers, and the public in general, view and talk about their eatery. Not monitoring your online reputation, or worse yet ignoring the opinions you do uncover, can lead to customers not coming through your doors and eventually those doors closing for good.

Join the Conversation: Managing Your Restaurant’s Online ReputationSocial media, review sites like Yelp, and literally any random person with a voice wanting to be heard, can be both an excellent way to spread positive feedback or negatively criticize a restaurant for poor quality. With 84% of American consumer’s decisions affected by online reviews being on top of the pulse in terms of watching what people say about you is crucial. Here are a few tips for staying ahead of the naysayers and building relationships with your optimistic fans.

Actively listen. All too often people are just waiting for their turn to speak rather than actively listening to what’s being said. If you take this approach when reading negative, or even positive, reviews you can really miss the message and come across as ignorant and inattentive. Open up those ears and take it all in, one disgruntled customer at a time, and realize that the opinion surrounding your restaurant can’t and isn’t molded by your hands alone.

Start with the social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ and branch out to more specialized review sites like Yelp, UrbanSpoon, OpenTable, and the likes. Additionally, you can comb the entire internet with Google Alerts and have it scour the web for mentions of your restaurant’s name. The tools are out there, you just need to use them.

Interact. If you’re not responding to your critics and formally thanking your fans you should be. With an internet era that’s all about conversation it takes more than listening to truly understand where consumers are coming from and what they’re expecting in regards to your restaurant. Make sure to create a dialogue with both your critics and your regulars and let them know that you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say.

Just remember to follow a few common-courtesy rules during the conversation and you’ll be in good shape:

  • Don’t insult people
  • Avoid acting defensive
  • Don’t pat yourself on the back

Have a voice. Instead of letting those who talk negatively about your restaurant form your online reputation you need to take action and do more than simply notice the public. Saying Join the Conversation: Managing Your Restaurant’s Online Reputationthank you can go a long way, but offering an alternative viewpoint for people to weigh when making a decision is important. Rather than letting your potential customers believe a non-flattering review they come across, use discussion and interaction to provide an inside look into how your restaurant operates. Offer blog insights and helpful tips (Facebook & Twitter are invaluable when it comes to spreading information) and you’ll be surprised how many people will tune in.

Customer research. Knowing your customers is the key to providing them with the best service possible and exceeding expectations. In line with actively listening, once you’ve established a conversation it becomes easier to cater to needs and discover trends. If you see social media and active response as an opportunity to know customers better than they know themselves (in terms of what flavors suit their fancy) you’ll be miles ahead of your competition.

Monitoring feedback and staying in-the-know when you’re being talked about is easier than ever. Whether you’re trying to attract a new customer or attempting to turn a bad experience into a second chance prospect taking the initiative by managing your online reputation is step in the right direction. Granted, living up to a positive reputation requires dedication, but learning the habits of your customers is satisfying when you can take them from trying your food through having their expectations exceeded. Often satisfied customers are more than happy to help you spread a positive word!

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Instagram: A Social Media Must For Food Service

Instagram: A Social Media Must For Food ServiceIsn’t it ironic, after years of striving for flawless, lifelike images of the highest achievable resolution, people are still drawn back to vintage photographs with light-leaked softness? There is just something about the tones and hues of the snapshots that add character and personality to even the most ordinary day-to-day events in life.

That is the perception Instagram hit the ground running with and they were dead on. Since launching in October 2010 Instagram has captured 80 million+ registered users, 4 billion+ uploaded photos, 5 million+ photos per day and they are still growing beyond belief. And it’s obvious that among those millions are chefs, restaurants and foodies who are using the app to connect with their fans as another social media avenue.

Instagram is mainly used as a personal mood board but there is, however, a fraction of chefs and restaurateurs out there using the app for much more. The cleaver tool becomes an outlet to show off food porn including new menu items, fancy cocktails, tasteful desserts, customer and employee candids and artistic close ups.  Below are a few great example of how Instagram is being used in the Food Service industry to inspire and reel in fans.

Food trucks can also greatly benefit from Instagram. Take daily portraits of your ever changing and creative menu – the tasty food items themselves, not the chalkboard menu – as well as snapshots of private events. You can also mix in some silly photos of staff, hanging out at home with a decadent cocktail in hand or researching new fancy flavors. It’s truly the personalization that lures fans in. They become more invested in your brand when you let them into your personal life than if you were just a random food truck they only came in contact with once a week.

A neat feature Instagram encompasses aside from 18 filters is the sharing option. You can share your photos taken through Instagram on Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, Flickr and foursquare. Sharing your photos is a great and easy way to let existing social media fans know you are present on Instagram. In addition, when posting a picture, don’t forget to geotag, hash tag and call out other users in your photo’s description (ex #Tequila tasting with @mgpatter0106 at Zolo Grill). Again, easy ways of letting fans find you.

Lastly, customers, friends and family have the option to engage with you through the app. Similar to Facebook, users can comment and “like” your photos. In fact, if they really dig your picture, they can tweet it to their followers – BONUS!

In the end, the technology is there for your taking. You can use it for your personal photo album or a soft-filtered glimpse of your restaurant and workings of your business. Just remember that is it a fun, free way to connect with your fans and it’s not going away anytime soon!

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Followerwonk: Why it’s Great For Your Restaurant

Followerwonk is like a pet gopher. This mega tool digs deep into your Twitter data and reveals everything you could ever care to know about your Twitter world. Use it to track your follower gains and losses, compare Twitter accounts, do global searches in Twitter bios, and analyze any account’s followers! Soon enough, this tool will be able to make you hot cocoa and crumb cake because it pretty much does everything!

Do you want to search Twitter bios to target and connect with anyone?

Followerwonk has a unique bio search function that allows you to find potential new customers, friends, talent or even competition. Let’s try a search!

Let’s say I am opening a new Vegan restaurant in Denver, Co. I want to see if I can reach out to Denver based Vegans so I’m going to click “more options” to get a location based search field.

Followerwonk: Why its Great For Your Restaurant

Voila!

Now you can sort the list by criteria such as tweets, following, or followers. This is a good way for restaurants to find customers, future employees and content developers within a specific niche. Then you can start an outreach campaign!

How to Compare Twitter Users:

Compare Twitter users to see whose followers or followed accounts overlap. Use this to see if you are missing any customers in your niche. You can also use the overlapping metrics to see how you stack up against influencers in your business. Let’s search!

When doing a search you will need to compare at least two Twitter users. You can look at either who they follow or their followers. When the results load you will see a breakdown of their followers/followed and an awesome bubble graph.

Followerwonk: Why its Great For Your Restaurant

 

From here you can click on any of the categories to get a report of shared followers or unique followers. You can also click “follow” next to users that you are not currently following. Make sure to pay close attention to to the influence, tweets, followers and following sort options to ensure you are not following spammers or nonactive accounts.

Followerwonk: Why its Great For Your Restaurant

The bar graphs at the bottom of the page help you see things like influence and activity on Twitter. It’s a great way to see how competitive your competition really is in the Twittersphere.

How to Analyze Followers:

Analyze any account’s followers/followed to see a treasure chest of data. You can look at metrics on influence, gender, location, languages, and much more. Let’s go!

Type in the Twitter account you want analyze (in this case it’s @NoochVegan) and choose whether you would like to look at followers or who they/you follow. The first thing you will see is a map of the world. This map is interactive and can show you the geotagged locations of your followers/followed. It’s a great way to get an idea of where your audience is hailing from.

Followerwonk: Why its Great For Your Restaurant

After you track down your followers like James Bond; you can check out a plethora of other metrics displayed on interactive pie charts.

Followerwonk: Why its Great For Your Restaurant

Each section of this delicious data pie can give you insight into what accounts exist in each range. Just click on the section you want to look at and you will get a comprehensive report of the followers in that data set.

Followerwonk: Why its Great For Your Restaurant

You can also check out when your followers are most active on Twitter. The graph is based on GMT (Greenwich Mean Time), but if you hover over the bars you can see your local time. The last thing that makes my eyeballs spin with radness is the word cloud report.

Followerwonk: Why its Great For Your Restaurant

Followerwonk also allows you to track gains and losses of your followers. You can see which followers put you on a pedestal and those who drop you like it’s hot by unfollowing you.

Unfortunately Followerwonk can’t pull historical data on your account so you can only see the losses and gains for the time period Followerwonk has been tracking your account.

In a few days after joining you will be able to see your daily followers, gains, losses or days without change.

The Twitter analytics that Followerwonk returns is insane. From searching Twitter bios and comparing users to analyzing and tracking followers you can optimize for social growth in no time. It’s never too late to connect with new influencers in your niche. Followerwonk is such a great tool for restaurants who are on Twitter. If you’re restaurant is not on Twitter yet, well then, that’s a whole other story…

For more on how to use Followerwonk check out this awesome video from SEOMoz – They acquired Followerwonk in August and believe me, they know their stuff!

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Oktoberfest: What is it?

Oktoberfest: What is it?Oktoberfest is the world’s largest people’s fair where over 6 million people from around the world visit Munich, Germany for a 16-day festival to drink beer, eat “wursts” and join together in song. The celebration is most famous for its heavy liter steins of beer but there is more; dance around with locals, sing with the Bavarian bands, gawk at traditional costumes and get an enormous plate full of German hospitality.

Oktoberfest started when Crown Prince Ludwig, was married to Princess Therese of Bavaria on October 12, 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the happy royal event. The fields have been named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s meadow”) in honor of the Crown Princess ever since, although the locals have since abbreviated the name simply to the “Wies’n”.

Horse races in the presence of the Royal Family marked the close of the event that was celebrated as a festival for the whole of Bavaria. The decision to repeat the horse races in the subsequent year gave rise to the tradition of the Oktoberfest.

The horse races ended in 1960 but that has not stopped people from attending. There is quite the lineup of events that lure people in from all over the globe. Since 1950 there has been a traditional opening ceremony which includes a 12 gun salute and the tapping of the first keg of Oktoberfest beer at 12:00 pm by the mayor of Munich with the cry “O’sapft ist!” (it’s tapped in the Bavarian language). The Mayor then gives the first beer to the Minister-President of the State of Bavaria.

10 Fun Facts About Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany:

  1. It takes two months for construction workers to transform the fairgrounds from an enormous 100-acre asphalt expanse to a pulsating city of beer tents and food stands, roller coasters and carnival rides—and one month to disassemble it all.
  2. The festival grounds on located on 103.79 acres of land, there are 100,000 seats in festival halls and they use 2.8 million kWh of electricity (as much as 14% of Munich’s daily need or as much as a 4 person family would need in 52 years and 4 months.Oktoberfest: What is it?
  3. There isn’t a fee for entering festival grounds or beer tents.
  4. 6 million people visit the fairgrounds during the 2-week event and together they consume 6 million liters of beer, 500,000 roasted chickens, 120,000 pairs of sausages, 80,000 liters of wine, 50,000 pork knuckles, 30,000 bottles of champagne and a gazillion pretzels.
  5. You must be seated to order a beer unless you are in the “standing zone”. You also must order beer from the server responsible for your section.
  6. There are roughly 965 toilets and 1 km of urinal troughs at the fairgrounds.
  7. Last year’s lost and found had a mountain 4,000+ unclaimed items, including 260 eyeglasses, 200 cell phones, 2 pairs of crutches, 1 wedding ring and a set of dentures.
  8. The drinking age in Germany is 18 for hard alcohol and 16 for beer; therefore you may see some juvenile faces in the mix.
  9. An immensely popular gimmick and sign of affection, lovers and admirers gift one another huge gingerbread hearts (pictured on the right) that are often worn around the neck before being eaten. “Ich liebe Dich” is the most adoring of all the quotations, meaning “I love you.”
  10. In November 2008, Bavarian Anita Schwarz set a new world record when she carried 19 full beer steins (5 in either hand and 9 on top) totaling 90 lbs—a full stein weighs an average of 5 lbs—over a distance of 40 meters without any spillage and placed on a table.

Oktoberfest: What is it?Oktoberfest in the US.

Almost 20 percent of Americans can claim to have German ancestry. Therefore the traditional fall festival Oktoberfest is a popular event in many cities around the country. Oktoberfest in the USA roughly follows the same calendar as the one in Germany, and includes lots of beer drinking, oompah bands, and chowing down German food like bratwurst and knockwurst. Does that sound like a fun time to you? If you said “Jawohl!” (German for an emphatic “yes”), take a look at the following list of the most popular places to celebrate Oktoberfest across the USA.

Cincinnati – Cincinnati, Ohio, hosts the largest Oktoberfest in the United States with over 500,000 visitors a year. Six blocks of Fifth Street in downtown Cincinnati are closed for the weekend. Started in 1976, you can enjoy the festivities in 2012 from September 21st to 23rd. Highlights include the Running of the Wieners and the World’s Largest Chicken Dance.

Addison– Addison, Texas located just north of Dallas, hosts Oktoberfest from September 20-23, 2012. The Addison Conference Centre is transformed into an authentic Munich beer hall with a Texas twist. It is considered one of the most authentic Oktoberfest celebrations in the United States.

Chicago: Who can forget Ferris Bueller singing “Danke Schön” on a float at the German heritage parade in the film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?” Indeed, German roots run deep in Chicago, which makes it one of the best places in the country for Oktoberfest revelry.

Alpine Village, Torrance, Los Angeles – Southern California has been celebrating Oktoberfest at Alpine Village for 44 years. USA Today named it one of the best Oktoberfests in the world. It is held on seven weekends in September and Oktober in a 32,000 square foot tent. Located in Torrance, it is the most popular Oktoberfest celebration in Los Angeles.

Denver – Latimer Street in Denver’s Historic Ballpark Neighborhood is transformed for two weekends in September for this celebration of German culture. Over 250,000 people attend Oktoberfest Denver annually.

Pittsburgh: German heritage is very prevalent in Western Pennsylvania, so it’s fitting that the Pittsburgh area has a couple of Oktoberfest events worth checking out. The best known Pittsburgh area Oktoberfest festivals include the Pennsylvania Bavarian Oktoberfest, billed as Pennsylvania’s largest Oktoberfest, and the Penn Brewery Oktoberfest. Pittsburgh’s Penn Brewery hosts this event in its biergarten and brews a special Oktoberfest beer for the occasion.

Washington DC: The Nation’s Capital and environs has quite a number of Oktoberfest, ranging from beer bashes at local breweries to an Oktoberfest at Jessup, Maryland’s Blob Park, purported to be America’s first Oktoberfest.Oktoberfest: What is it?

New Orleans: If there’s an event that revolves around drinking, you can be sure that New Orleans will be up for celebrating. While New Orleans is not known for its Germanic culture, there are many pubs, clubs, and beer gardens where you can celebrate Oktoberfest in New Orleans. The biggest of these celebrations is at the Deutsches Haus, which celebrates with plenty of beer, schnapps, and chicken dancing.

Atlanta: There are a few places to celebrate Oktoberfest in Atlanta, the most interesting of which is an Oktoberfest party bus that takes revelers to the small town of Helen, Georgia, decked out to look like an authentic German village.

Americans love drinking, eating and dressing up so if you are not involved in an Oktoberfest celebration I recommend you jump on the band wagon. They are fun and a great way to connect with your community. Plus who doesn’t want happy customers in their establishment. Just invest in some Oktoberfest beer, liter steins, brats and you will be good to go!

References: funtober, Harrimon Travel Books, VistaWide

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10 Restaurant Marketing Tips That Will Crank Up Your Revenue

10 Restaurant Marketing Tips That Will Crank Up Your Revenue
After a year of dedicated blogging on The Back Burner, I took a minute to reflect recently about where the food service industry has been and where it’s going in 2010.  That reflection got me thinking: after a year and 350+ posts, what were the 10 simplest, most effective ways for a restaurant to boost their business?

Over the course of the last two months, I combed every resource and post I had and started putting together a list of the most effective restaurant marketing tips I could find.  Then I condensed them into a single article that was easy to read and even easier to implement.

I’m calling this article “10 Restaurant Marketing Tips That Will Crank Up Your Revenue,” and after two months worth of effort, I think it’s a pretty good practical guide for any restaurateur looking for easy, affordable ways to get more butts in seats in their restaurant.

This article is posted on The Back Burner’s sister site www.etundra.com and is free for anyone to download.  If you’re looking for a competitive edge for your marketing efforts, you need to download this article right away.

Download It Now!

Already read 10 Restaurant Marketing Tips?  Tell us what you think below!

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Restaurant Glassware: Use Style And Function To Sell More Drinks

Restaurant Glassware: Use Style And Function To Sell More Drinks

Every restaurant takes good food presentation seriously – after all, no one wants to eat something that doesn’t look absolutely delicious.  You carefully place garnishes, make sure the entrée has the proper color, and serve everything on a stylish plate with matching silverware.

So why aren’t you paying the same amount of attention to your bar presentation?  Top mixologists from around the country agree the glassware you use can be just as important as the drink inside the glass.  And just like that perfect presentation you obsess over in the kitchen, first impressions can be everything when it comes to selling drinks from the bar.

This is especially true for specialty drinks.  So many restaurants have introduced their own specialty drink menu that it isn’t even a hot trend anymore; it’s the norm.  However, you may not be maximizing your drink sales if you don’t have the presentation down right.

Consider two main factors when selecting restaurant glassware:

Style.  Everyone knows what the standard drink glasses look like.  Communicate the originality of your drinks by using glass styles that are a little different.  You can also differentiate your offerings by mixing up the style of glass you use for each type of drink.  The idea is to make the customer feel like they’re not just getting another mojito, they’re getting your special version that can only be ordered in your restaurant.

Function.  Thick stems and wide bases are key to the success of any good glassware.  Don’t let style get so out of hand that the glass doesn’t perform its basic duties properly, namely, holding and dispensing drinks!  Many bartenders also favor thick bases to their glassware because once it cools, it can preserve the temperature of the drink for a longer period of time.

Stocking up on a good variety of stylish yet functional glassware is just another subtle way you communicate to your customers just how good the drinks are in your restaurant.  And while true success lies in making a good drink, good glassware is part of the foundation for any successful bar.

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6 Cool Ways to Use New Technology in Your Restaurant

6 Cool Ways to Use New Technology in Your Restaurant When you think of a restaurant you don’t normally think of modern technology. Usually these businesses are manually run and operated. Restaurant owners typically rely on outdated computers or old-fashioned books to manage their business.

Times are changing. In this day and age of cutting-edge technology there are far more efficient ways to compile information and manage your company. Apple’s iPad is a device that can help your restaurant jump out of the stone and make your operation much more efficient in the process.

The iPad can help you and your staff track and manage daily activity, helping to increase efficiency and profitability.

This technology is also attractive to your customers. People love what’s new and cool and by integrating iPads into your restaurant’s operations your business will be described in this way.

By employing iPads in your restaurant you can improve many different parts of your business including customer loyalty, inventory tracking and marketing.

Customer Loyalty Program

Go cardless with your loyalty program. An iPad in your restaurant will allow you to discard your current program and revamp customer interest in the process. Instead of burdening customers with the task of carrying around a loyalty card and bringing it with them every time they come in, allow them to simply enter their email address into your restaurant’s iPad to access their loyalty program. This will increase customer participation and also give your restaurant a more modern feel as a bonus.

Manage Your Budget

Bring your spreadsheets straight to your fingertips. An iPad will offer spreadsheet programs that you can use to manage your budget. Other computers will do this as well, but iPad is sleek and transportable which will allow you to work on the go. Make this information very easy to take with you to meetings, presentations or to your home. Budget information will also be very easy to transfer to other devices with an iPad.

Track Your Inventory

The iPad is a great device to use to compile information. Similar to managing your budget the iPad allows you to manage inventory information on the go. This can be very helpful for inventory. You can take this portable device with you while surveying the storage room. You can even take pictures of inventory items with your iPad and add them to the database!

Improve Your Menu

iPad provides you with the technology to make your restaurant’s menu more interactive than ever. You can take high-definition photos of menu items and display them to customers. This is a great way to improve customer service and satisfaction by displaying exactly what they are ordering before they make their final decision.

Take Customer Orders

Providing servers with an iPad to record customer orders is a great way to make your service more efficient. The device helps to eliminate the human error involved in the customer order process by allowing servers to send order directly to the kitchen. Also as mentioned earlier an iPad will allow your servers to display high-definition photos of menu items to diners as they make their final menu decisions. An added incentive to this is the modern presentation your customers will notice.

Improve Your Marketing

iPad will also help improve your restaurant’s marketing. It offers an easy way for customers to provide their contact information. Placing an iPad by the front of the restaurant gives customers an opportunity to sign-up for email marketing and promotions while they wait to be seated or place their take-out order. Give customers incentives to offer this information in the form of coupons, deals and specials.

Now is the time for your restaurant to integrate technology into its everyday business. This will improve your restaurants functionality and presentation. Invest in an Apple iPad today and help develop every facet of your restaurant’s operation.

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8 Restaurant Marketing Tips

In these tough times, restaurants can use all the free marketing they can get. If a pricey restaurant marketing consultant is not in your budget, read on to discover ways to get your eatery in the customers’ minds, without spending a dime.

1. Talk to your customers.  Ask how they found you. If it’s not your usual source, follow up to see if you can connect with that niche market.

2. Don’t play by the rules.  How about honoring one of your competitor’s coupons on a night with slow traffic? Or, offer a really attractive loss leader, one that garners you some serious buzz. Take a tip from the gas stations that offered gas for 10 cents a gallon at the height of gas prices—not only did they have lines stretching down the street, but they usually got free publicity from the local television news and newspaper.

3. Use technology.  Submit your web site to the search engines, start a blog, open a Twitter account and figure out how you can use it successfully. Don’t have a website? Why not? You can start a blog easily and for FREE with Blogger or WordPress.

4. Collect customers’ email addresses.  Used cautiously, email is a great, free way to speak directly to your customers and showcase your events. Just be sure not to spam your customers and make the subject line grab attention!

5. Get involved in the local community.  Make a personal difference. It’s good for both you and your business. Volunteer and encourage your staff to as well or donate snacks and drinks to local groups working on improving your community.

6. Cultivate referrals.  When you thank your customers for coming in, remind them to tell their friends how much they enjoyed their meal. Word of mouth is THE most powerful marketing tool you have.

7. Speak with confidence.  People love a winner. Be sure your staff projects the same attitude.

8. Be honest.  Build your customers’ trust with everything you do. People recognize when they are being treated fairly and honestly and they tell other people.

Erin Martin is the Online Editor of MustHaveMenus, an online company that provides restaurants with an online Menu Editor and high quality menu
templates. She blogs her thoughts on menu design trends and restaurant marketing strategies at http://blog.musthavemenus.com.

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Why Fast Food Lunch Is Good For Your Restaurant

Why Fast Food Lunch Is Good For Your RestaurantOne restaurant that has been doing just fine during the economic downturn is McDonald’s.  Their combination of convenience and affordability has made the golden arches the restaurant of choice in tough times.

As consumers become more and more health and value conscious, restaurants have an inherent advantage over fast food chains during the lunch hour.

The one element holding you back from expanding your lunch rush is time.  People just don’t have as much time during lunch as they once did, and in an on-the-go society, a leisurely lunch just doesn’t realistically fit into most people’s agenda.

Chain restaurants like Applebee’s and Houlihan’s have effectively maximized lunch traffic with a simple formula: value – time = more customers.  In other words, the more value you offer in the shortest amount of time, the more lunchtime customers you’re going to see.

Both chains offer “speed lunch” promotions, where the customer’s meal is guaranteed on the table in 15 minutes or it’s free.  Servers place a timer on the table when the order is taken and after that, it’s off to the races.

Houlihan’s has made landing lunch on the table in less than 15 minutes and turning the table in 30-45 minutes an exact science, and any restaurant can benefit from their example.  Customers appreciate your restaurant accommodating their tight schedule and still delivering a quality product.

Here are some strategies to help you implement your own speed lunch promotion:

Cut down the menu.  You don’t want your kitchen staff prepping and cooking a variety of menu items when they’re on such a tight timeline.  Stick to your core offerings that have good margins (because you might be giving away a free one!) and are relatively easy to prepare.

Develop benchmarks for meal prep and service.  Houlihan’s requires that servers enter orders in 2 minutes or less after they are taken to allow the kitchen as much time as possible.  Servers are then given 2 minutes to serve the meal after it’s ready.  No matter how much time your speed lunch allows, make sure you have benchmarks so that you and your staff know when you start getting into the dangerous free meal zone.

Leverage POS technology.  More than likely you have already invested in a POS (Point Of Sale) computer terminal system that allows orders from the front of the house to be entered electronically.  A POS system is vital to the success of a speed lunch promo because it greatly increases the efficiency of transferring orders from servers to the back of the house.

If you already have a POS system, consider adding more terminals to reduce lines and distance so that servers can meet their order entry deadline.  If you don’t have a POS system, taking on a speed lunch promotion is going to be very interesting.  Investing in one not only helps the success of your speed lunch promo, it also improves efficiency across your restaurant.

Leverage restaurant equipment.  Before launching a speed lunch promotion, carefully analyze the cook times of the items you’re going to offer and make sure your staff can consistently produce under a given time limit.  Quick and efficient cooking equipment like steamers, broilers, and microwaves should be used whenever possible to make sure prep times stay down.  Food prep equipment like food processors and vegetable cutters are great ways to increase your kitchen staff’s efficiency.

Continue to analyze preparation and cooking techniques and look for ways to improve efficiency.

Make sure your staff is ready.  You may want to schedule extra staff for speed lunch promo days, especially when you first start out.  Evaluate staff performance and put teams together that operate well under the deadline pressure.  Keep top performing teams together so that familiarity breeds added efficiency.

A speed lunch promo is a great way to create lunch crowds in your restaurant.  And the challenge for you and your staff to perform can make it an exercise in teamwork that can have many unintentional benefits for your business, such as finding ways to increase efficiency and teamwork.

These new findings can be applied to the rest of your business easily, and while your dinner rush might have a little more time, the lessons you learned turning tables at lunch might help you make an extra buck at night too.

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