Restaurateurs often feel the heat from competing restaurants, who generate local traction by upgrading their interior or introducing new menu items. In response, it’s not unusual for restaurant owners and operators to feel the need to keep their restaurant feeling fresh, even when the budget is tight. Otherwise, patrons may lose interest and gravitate toward the newer location.
Fortunately, there are a variety of ways you can keep your restaurant feeling fresh, without breaking the bank.
Update your menu.
When modifying your menu, restaurants must be careful to find a balance between consistency and ever-changing freshness. Patrons may enjoy a rotating menu, but if one specialty item has received glowing acclaim and brings in new patrons consistently, it doesn’t make sense to take that item off the menu. Especially if local press highlights a food item, it’s best to leave that item on the menu. However, if a menu item receives little recognition and you often have to discard its ingredients, it’s likely time for a switch.
A good rule of thumb is to update seasonal menu items twice each year. Think about what people want during each season. Winter weather aligns with warm and hearty soups, whereas warmer weather coincides more with the smell of a grill. Will your patrons be coming from the beach, or wrapped in several layers due to the cold? Build seasonal menus around the expected weather — and the customer expectations in your specific climate.
In addition to pleasing customers, an updated seasonal menu can help avoid wasting ingredients. A good strategy if you receive an excess of one ingredient is to make various dishes that include that ingredient. For example, if you receive more salmon than you expect to sell, make multiple entrees, such as stuffed salmon, salmon piccata, a blackened salmon salad, and more.
A menu upgrade also presents a great opportunity to ensure each menu item has a specific, uniform portion size. Serving various sizes of the same plate can lose money for a restaurant and leave patrons with an inconsistent experience.
Purchase equipment from auction.
Restaurant equipment can be costly. Fortunately, auctions serve as a source to sell and buy equipment without paying the full retail price. There are a variety of restaurant-specific auctions, especially when using PCI Auctions. Restaurants can purchase items such as ice cream machines, ovens, racks, tableware, slicers, freezers, grease traps, carbonating machines, and shelving units at a discount price.
After registering on PCI, you enter the online auction and place bids on whichever items you have interest. If you win, you schedule a pickup day and receive your useful, discounted items. Auctions present an ideal way to upgrade your restaurant’s equipment without breaking the bank. Just be aware: your used equipment may not come with manufacturing warranties still in force.
Try out new technology.
A restaurant that dazzles with new technology is likely to impress patrons. While cool tech like digital menus are sure to provide a memorable experience for the consumer, the bulk of restaurant tech helps the management process.
For example, 57 percent of restaurants still schedule labor manually, even though the technology exists to manage and automate schedules. Consider making the restaurant’s labor management process more technological, ahead of any superficial tech additions. Team management software can help make scheduling easy and transparent, helping avoid a scarcity mindset by applying forecasting tools that plan for labor needs based on past data. Manual labor management is often a stab in the dark, whereas team management technology can make the optimal decisions for labor using data.
Restaurants that implement online scheduling systems experience a decrease in labor costs, more than paying for the cost of implementing the online scheduling system. And should see an increase in customer satisfaction as labor gets more efficient.
Additionally, restaurants can incorporate management software and RFID tags to track inventory, also resulting in decreasing costs thanks to a more efficient inventory.
Introduce a customer loyalty program.
Consumers may see a restaurant with fresh eyes when that restaurant offers a customer loyalty program. Loyalty programs come across as a “thank you” to the customer when the implementation is right. Millennials, in particular, are fond of loyalty programs, with many preferring to earn points for dollars spent.
Traditionally, restaurants have gone the old-fashioned route of providing customers with punch cards, punching a hole for each purchase until it reaches a certain number, at which point they receive a discount or free item. But introducing a credit card-based loyalty program should not be overly costly, especially if there’s a system already in place that logs customer purchases automatically, without the trouble of a membership card. Rewards Network manages just that type of loyalty program for restaurants all around the country, with marketing provided on a pay-for-performance basis.
Restaurants maintain a fresh appearance with rotating menus, new equipment, new technology and introducing customer loyalty programs. Fortunately, these additions are all affordable and within easy reach for most restaurant owners and managers.
Want to learn more about how Rewards Network promotes loyalty in a pay-for-performance model?