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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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POS Systems & Scheduling Software: Where Do I Start?

POS Systems & Scheduling Software: Where Do I Start?Employee scheduling software, in its most ideal form, is meant to save you time while making schedules easy to implement and even easier to access and understand. The most intuitive software gives its user the ability to streamline scheduling, quickly summarize information in reports, and integrate with POS systems to correlate payroll data. When searching for the holy grail of scheduling systems it’s not uncommon to trip over those that are lacking in this respect or that, finding a handful of features you like in a system coupled with a handful more that are missing.

Well we’ve done the research for you and have found two quality scheduling software providers that we guarantee can make your life less complicated.

ShiftPlanning Easy to use, extremely versatile, and jam-packed with features that make the process not only intuitive, but fun, ShiftPlanning brings a little bit of everything to the employee scheduling table. From its cloud-based operation and free desktop platform to the extensive reporting and exporting capabilities this affordable software is the complete package. The combination of free 1-on-1 training and schedule integration make using the service and troubleshooting problems a breeze.

For a reasonable monthly fee (or an adjusted annual rate) you can create and manage schedules, print or analyze reports and trends, and process staff payroll from the comfort and convenience of a tablet device or desktop computer. No additional downloads or software required.

The mobile components of ShiftPlanning come at no additional cost and add value to the overall offering. From any mobile device employees can access a number of staff-centric features including viewing upcoming shifts and clocking in and out (time clock feature is IP-based to avoid employees clocking in and out while not on location). From the employer seat, and with the use of a tablet, all ShiftPlanning features are available which means you can be out of town or home sick and still manage your schedule on the fly.

When it comes to clocking in and out ShiftPlanning gives you the ability to get creative and have some fun with your employees. The biometric time clock feature, paired with any webcam, takes a picture each time someone clocks in or out. This not only helps employees enjoy clocking in with a funny face but also gives you proof that no one’s clocking in or out for anyone else. Plus, the time clock function of ShiftPlanning is completely online so there’s no need for expensive equipment.

One feature that helps ShiftPlanning stand out in the sea of scheduling software is the fact that the service is offered for free to non-profit business with volunteer employees (and 50% off annually for non-profits with paid employees) – just one way ShiftPlanning goes above and beyond when it comes to service and satisfaction.

Noteworthy Specs:
–   14 day free trial (full version)
–    Full mobile access
–    SMS text schedule reminders
–    Unlimited employees
–    Calendar sink
–    POS system integration

TimeForge Another contender for the title of strongest scheduling software on the market, TimeForge Scheduling secures its position by offering comprehensive setup and scheduling integration on top of around-the-clock help desk support.  With a $1 per employee pricing structure and the ability to customize which features you need and which you don’t this scheduling solution is perfect for restaurant’s small and large.

As co-founder Anthony Presley puts it, “TimeForge is awesome!” The company works with owners and managers to help solve and avoid real world issues that face restaurants all over the country. Ranging from human resources to scheduling, attendance, and daily logs, TimeForge has a specific product offering that easily takes care of the essentials. Not certain one of the products is right for you? The software’s free trial lasts 10 days and gives you full access to everything (TimeForge Max) so you can test drive some features and make a confident decision.

Keeping focus on TimeForge Scheduling, the service is ideal for the fast-paced, no-room-for-error world of the commercial restaurant. The service is fully hosted, meaning you don’t have to download a thing, and cloud-based data storage ensures you never lose your information.  Once you’ve got things set up and running smoothly, SMS text message reminders as well as e-mailed schedules let employees know about upcoming shifts and shift changes. The mobility of the application gives your staff the ability to log in from any computer or mobile device, which means no more “I didn’t know I was scheduled” excuses.

An outstanding feature that benefits smaller restaurants and businesses is that TimeForge Lite is completely free for up to 24 employees. That means as long as you’re staff consists of under 25 people you can use the Lite version of the service and it won’t cost you a penny. Granted, TimeForge Lite does not include the autoscheduler or text message notifications, but for many small eateries already struggling to find quality restaurant equipment and supplies for less the missing features aren’t necessary.

The system’s ability to integrate with web and POS systems, paired with a 24/7 help desk and free set up support, makes TimeForge easy to implement and even easier to manage.

Noteworthy Specs:
–    Fully hosted
–    Cloud based data storage
–    Video tutorials
–    Customizable pricing structure
–    TimeForge Max includes Scheduling, Attendance, HR, and Sales

Quality scheduling software goes hand in hand with a reliable point of sale (POS) system. Scheduling and managing your employees is one step in the escalator ride that is a successful restaurant, and another essential step is being able to confidently track your daily, monthly, and yearly sales. Investing in an excellent POS system is investing in the future of your eatery so it’s crucial to shop around and find the system that does what you need it to.

Here’s a quick look at some of the better systems on the market today:POS Systems & Scheduling Software: Where Do I Start?

Gotmerchant Easily the most impressive system with an extremely attractive pricing structure, Gotmerchant POS hardware is backed by lifetime technical support and is completely free. Yep, you read that right. From the touch screen monitor and micro computer to a cash drawer, barcode scanner, receipt printer, all the necessary software and a few extras you get everything for free. Where other companies charge upwards of a few thousand dollars for just the hardware, not to mention operation and transaction fees, Gotmerchant gives you the system and only charges you for the service.

At an exceptionally reasonable $59 a month, plus $59 a quarter, you get a complete POS station with a lifetime replacement warranty, professional on-site installation, and 24/7 technical support. Need two, five, or even ten full systems? Not a problem. Each complete system is 100% free, and all you need to pay is the separate operation fees each month and quarter. You simply can’t beat the value for the price.

On top of the standard features like debit and credit card processing and receipt printing you get a handful of additional features that enhance the system’s functionality. With your package Gotmerchant provides 50 free custom gift cards and lets you sample the gift card service for 60 days (after which it’s $9.95/month and $0.15 a swipe). Additionally, free menu programming, an internet-based back office component, and more than 75 built-in reporting options give you full control of your POS operations.

Keeping up with the times, Gotmerchant has also recently updated their system to include tableside ordering via iPads. For a monthly wireless charge and small fee for operation of each device (you supply the iPad) your servers can impress customers and streamline the ordering process.

Noteworthy Specs:
–    Free hardware & software
–    Lifetime replacement warranty
–    Overnight shipping of replacement parts
–    Live software demos

POS Nation The variety of individual components added to an easy-to-use “Build a System” website feature makes POS Nation like a buffet of quality equipment and software. Whether you’re looking to equip a salon, grocery store, quick service eatery, or a restaurant POS Nation has an assortment of system essentials that you can choose from.

Pole displays, fingerprint scanners, and mobile POS all bring an extra element of professionalism and sophistication to a bare-bones POS system. Ensure your system works for you rather than against you by combining the components you need while excluding the ones you don’t. Not looking to put your system together from scratch? POS Nation offers all-in-one options that are customized and streamlined for individual industries.

On the software side of things, POS Nation has a number of different packages, ranging from Quickbooks to Aldelo, Microsoft RMS, and much more, for you to choose from. Also easily shoppable by industry, the software options available have their own beneficial payroll and reporting functions. Just like your hardware, picking and choosing what software your system needs is essential.

Simply put, shopping POS Nation is like shopping a number of different POS suppliers in one place. The hardware offering alone is comparison shopping from the comfort of one website. A POS system is an investment, and it’s wise to not buy the first system you see. Luckily, POS Nation has a little something for everyone and makes the shopping process almost effortless.

Noteworthy Specs:
–    Custom programming
–    2 year manufacturer warranty
–    Comprehensive Build a System feature

The General Store If POS Nation were the large chain store of POS systems on the block then The General Store would be the tried-and-true Mom and Pop place on the corner that’s still going strong. With over 20 years of experience in retail software and POS evolution The General Store has been building and regularly perfecting their own system. Cost effective and reliable, the system that The General Store continues to improve, according to their website, “rivals major retail chains in its power and flexibility.”

Inventory management is simple and intuitive with The General Store software. An unlimited number of items can be entered into the system, and up to 10 price levels, multi-unit pricing, barcode printing capabilities, and stock status reporting all help make supervising your stock easy. Additionally, sales tracking for both cash and charge customers, as well as total system integration and a detailed ledger balance sheet let you map your finances from start to finish.

The General Store’s hardware is built to last and designed to perform. Barcode scanners and printers, cash drawers, the computer and monitor, data collectors, pole displays, and receipt printers have all been perfected to benefit the overall package of their POS system.

More than half of the extra features The General Store has incorporated into its system were based on suggestions from existing users. Plain and simple, The General Store listens to the needs of their customers. It’s this commitment to perfecting their product that makes the company one to consider when picking your POS system.

Noteworthy Specs:
–    Online demos
–    Affordable, competitive pricing
–    Industry flexibility
–    Full accounts receivable support (The General Store Plus)
–    Online knowledge base

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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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Restaurants Need To Catch Up On Technology

Restaurants Need To Catch Up On TechnologyAt the National Restaurant Association’s annual trade show last month, a lot of restaurateurs were talking about the technology gap in the food service industry.  Big chains like T.G.I.Friday’s and Hard Rock Café have already begun to introduce digital gadgetry into their restaurants as a way to connect with younger customers.  And much has been written over the last year about how the battle for customers has moved online.

But despite these modest gains, food service as a whole lags far behind when it comes to incorporating technological advances into their operations and marketing.  That’s because until recently it was hard for restaurateurs to see the gains in sales that could be tied directly to investments in technology like interactive digital signage or a comprehensive website.

Now the time has arrived where restaurants that don’t make these investments are simply going to be left behind as the Millenium Generation gains more and more buying power and therefore preferences for restaurants with a strong foundation in technology go up.

Technology has the added benefit of improving the efficiency and capacity of your operation, if it’s leveraged properly.  The main problem restaurants encounter is justifying the up-front expenses technology upgrades entail, and this problem explains why many restaurants have not yet made the leap.

Does your restaurant need to catch up?  Check out the seven hottest technology trends in food service.

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Should Your Restaurant Have A Website?

Should Your Restaurant Have A Website?The short answer is yes, definitely.  As long as you build a decent site, it can’t hurt your marketing efforts and has the potential to be a big help.  Some of the things you can do with an internet presence for your restaurant:

  1. Get to know your customers.  A website is a great way to learn more about your customers.  Take surveys of visitors to your site or ask them to sign up for an email list and then ask for some general information as they sign up.  You can also include email and phone contact numbers, making you much more accessible to your customers.
  2. Use the website as a promotion tool.  Collecting customer information means you have a database of prospects you can market to directly.  Tell your web visitors about promotions and deals and then measure response.  Focus on what generates the most response and recycle the most successful campaigns back through your website.
  3. Start a dialogue with your customers.  An internet presence allows your customers to communicate directly with you quickly and easily, and allows you to respond just as quickly to their concerns and questions.  Use this dialogue to make your customers feel engaged in your business and use it as a tool to improve your operation.

Build A Good Website

More and more restaurants are building websites to advertise their business online.  As customers use the internet to find the information they need, it has become an imperative for the food service industry to go where the customers are looking.  Building a website can vary in price and quality almost as much as restaurants vary in price and quality.

If you’re planning on building a website for your restaurant, or already have one up, make sure you follow a few basic best practices that will ensure those marketing dollars are being put to their best use.

Some tips:

  • Don’t try to do the whole thing by yourself.  Your restaurant’s website is the first and sometimes only impression potential customers have of your business.  People spend enough time online these days to know an amateur site when they see one.  While it might seem like you’re getting away with getting a site up without having to pay for it, in the end you will pay because customers will notice.
  • Writing the content for your business’ site will probably end up taking up much more time than you think, so you might as well let someone who knows what they’re doing handle the design and building of your site.
  • Follow best practices for design.  Even if you do hire a designer for your site, familiarize yourself with design best practices for a restaurant website:
  • Don’t get too flashy.  Design elements like Flash players look great, but from a practical perspective, they don’t help get customers to your restaurant at all.  When someone lands on your home page, they want information and they want it fast.  Flash takes a long time to download and while it is pretty to look at, is not very informational.
  • Start with information first.  Most customers who are looking up your restaurant on the internet want information, not to know how great you are.  They’re looking for driving directions, a reservation phone number, and a menu.  So give them what they want – in clear and concise format – at the top of the home page.
  • Make navigation easier than easy.  A common trap is to create a complicated web of navigation buttons linking to what seems like incredibly useful information.  The problem is, your customer usually just wants to know a few basic things about you before they head back to Facebook, so make navigating around your site so easy it seems almost stupid.
  • Update content regularly.  Not only does regularly updated content make your site more visible to search engines, but regular customers appreciate new content on your site.
  • Make information on your site as printable as possible.  Customers want to be able to print information about your restaurant like directions, phone numbers, and menus.  Design pages with this information on it easy to print.
  • Connect your website to other websites.  After all, the web is called the world wide web because it’s made up of a series of millions of sites like yours connected to each other.  Many metropolitan areas have restaurant directories online that are free to join.  Also start a reciprocal linking campaign with related websites and even other restaurants to help raise your site’s visibility.
  • Keep building your site.  The internet can be a powerful marketing tool for your site, and it doesn’t all need to be built in a day.  Different restaurants in different markets that cater to different customer demographics will have varying levels of success with a website.  Start small and add to your site as you start seeing results.  The possibilities are really endless with what you can to use your website as a marketing tool, and as time goes on that tool will only become more and more useful.

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Huge Money Saver Or Needless Middle Man? KlickKitchen Offers Online Ordering For Chefs

The website KlickKitchen allows chefs to source food products for their restaurant or commercial kitchen exclusively through the web.  Vendors upload their food products and restaurants log in and order what they need from the website’s catalog of foodstuffs.  The site is the creation of Jordan Glaser, formerly of the Institute for Culinary Education.  KlickKitchen contends that it saves chefs valuable time because the ordering process is streamlined and saves them money through reduced errors.

Overall, food service industry media has been very friendly to KlickKitchen, giving it positive reviews and repeating the company’s mantra: that their service will save chefs out there time and money.  But what do actual executive chefs in the real world think?  Surprisingly, there’s not much out there when it comes to talking about the KlickKitchen concept.  There was a spate of comments in forums that were started by people associated with the website last year, when it first launched.  Since then, there hasn’t been much, save for a QSR magazine reference in this month’s issue, which again repeated the mantra: this site will save you money and time.

After $300 in setup fees and a $30/month membership fee afterwards, it seems like KlickKitchen  had better be very effective at making your current method of ordering from food vendors more efficient.  Some have pointed out that they already order online from their food vendors.  Mostly, however, the food service industry seems pretty quiet about this website.

So what do you think?  Do you struggle with ordering errors and time spent trying to maintain your inventory?  Or do you find a third-party vendor like KlickKitchen to be just another middle man between you and your vendor?  Weigh in with your thoughts below!

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Is Restaurant Marketing Technology Getting Scary?

Is Restaurant Marketing Technology Getting Scary?

Don’t scan my eyes!

Mobile marketing is beginning to sound like the movie Minority Report, where pedestrians had their retinas scanned by computers as they walked by stores and voices addressed them by name and encouraged them to buy products tailored to their personal preferences.

That would be scary, but it’s never gonna happen to me, right?

Surely you’ve seen TV ads asking you to text such and such to a number and receive deals or promos.  The companies doing that kind of advertising get your number when you text, and use that to target you for future promos.

Seems like we’re getting warmer, Steven Spielberg.

Until recently, nobody in the food service industry was thinking about applying some of these new technologies to an old game: improving sales and customer retention.

That’s changing, and one of the agents of change is Fishbowl Inc., a technology-based marketing company for the food service industry.

The firm has built email and internet marketing campaigns for over 30,000 restaurants and is recommended by the National Restaurant Association.  They recently expanded into mobile technology marketing, where new marketing techniques have revolutionized how restaurants reach their customers.

Scotty’s Brewhouse in Indiana increased to-go orders placed on the internet by 500% with a two-for-one promo that went out via email and applied only to those internet orders.

Smoothie King chain restaurant locations offer a free smoothie in exchange for a text message from customers.  The cost of the smoothie is a fraction of the value of having that customer on an email and text list for future promos, and sales are up on promo days by 24%.

Jack-in-the-Box has even experimented with placing a small computer chip in special promo posters that communicates with mobile devices and alerts customers to local store locations and deals.

Maybe those retina scans aren’t that far off after all.

As marketing methodology improves using these new technologies, restaurants will be able to reach their customers in increasingly innovative ways.

Building email and text number databases of customers will help connect customers and businesses and allow restaurants to improve sales in slow periods and maximize customer retention.

Most importantly, restaurants can learn about their customers and cater more directly to their needs.  Knowing what customers want when they want it is half the battle in any service industry, and especially in the food service industry.

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