Category Archives: Restaurant tips and tricks

5 Ways to Improve Your Yelp Listing

Yelp can be an intimidating place for business owners. Reviews can make or break a restaurant. Still, many restaurant owners still avoid Yelp— even though we know that whether you create a listing or your guests do, you can’t avoid Yelp any longer.

The good news is that Yelp can be an invaluable tool for improving your reputation and finding new patrons, even if you do end up with a few negative reviews. These 5 simple steps will help you to conquer your fears of facing your Yelp page.

1. Ensure your business profile is complete

Yelp has a “Free Tools” section that every business owner can use to set up a business page. This allows you to provide information like hours of operation, address, photos, and whether or not you take reservations. This also allows you to see analytics related to your yelp visitors and improve your marketing efforts.

2. Don’t forget about mobile!

Yelp offers a free mobile app called “Yelp for Business Owners.” This app allows you to manage your Yelp page from anywhere. You can quickly respond to guest complaints, comments, and questions. A fast response reassures prospective guests, and also shows that management is responsive and truly cares about their guests.

3. Make the most of Yelp’s advertising features

Yelp’s business goal is to provide accurate and helpful reviews and information so that lots and lots of people use the Yelp website and app, and so that restaurants pay to advertise on Yelp. Ads push you to the top of search results and can be a great investment for a new restaurant. Yelp also provides Yelp Deals — prepaid vouchers for discounted meals. This can bring in new guests and show them how great you are.

4. Reach out to your vendors

Vendors most likely know your restaurant really well, so they can provide thorough, insider information in their reviews. They don’t have to leave a review as a “guest” either. Speaking about the integrity of the owners can be enough to convince new guests to give your restaurant a try.

5. Respond to your customers

Whether it’s a positive or negative review, responding to a guest can be an effective goodwill-building strategy. Thank guests for their loyalty. Address concerns or complaints. Five minutes a day should do the trick.

Yelp, like all crowd-sourced reviews, can attract the good, the bad, and the ugly. One bad review will not bring down your business, the same way one great review won’t be the thing that brings in tons of new traffic. A good Yelp strategy requires consistent and ongoing attention. Used correctly, it can help attract and then turn new guests into guests for life.

Does your POS system help you drive business? Download our free POS checklist to see if you’re getting the most out of your POS system.

Why You Should Work with a Local Point of Sale Company

Purchasing a point of sale (POS) system is an important investment that will have a direct impact on how efficiently your business operates. You will probably spend a lot of time researching options that work best for your business, looking for the features and functions your business needs, and matching prices to your budget. You will focus so much attention on the perfect POS solution, do you also research the best place to buy your POS system? The answer is a resounding YES!

Get a Free Point of Sale Solution Consultation
Courtesy of your friends at Essential

There are a many reasons why working with a POS professional is smart. Let’s review three.

Location, Location, Location
A POS provider that is in close proximity to your business can only benefit you in the long (and short) run. The POS provider that’s nearby can make in-person visits to show you the technology you are going to purchase. They can answer questions and put to rest any doubts you may have about this new technology. When you choose a POS provider with an office nearby, you’ll get an accessible partner that’s ready to spring into action whenever they’re needed. When something goes wrong with your POS, having the ability to call on a local technician can help minimize your downtime and loss of any sales.
Additionally, local POS providers typically offer training, support, making them a one-stop shop for all of your POS needs. This is an important point to consider for small businesses that don’t have an in-house IT staff.

Accomplished Integrators
POS systems can be more valuable to your business if they integrate with the rest of your store systems and technology. Integrated systems offer a number of benefits including greater accuracy by eliminating the need to re-enter data and allowing systems to communicate with each other, making processes such as order fulfillment and inventory management easier. A POS provider experienced in working with your industry or market will understand your business needs and how to provide an integrated system to address them.

Cost vs. Value
Don’t make the mistake that many small businesses do; chasing the lowest upfront POS cost with online companies. If the deal seems too good to be true, it usually. Many small businesses end up with increased support costs, high credit card processing rates, and integration issues with a POS system they purchased at a “special deal” online.

The partnership you develop with your POS provider can also provide value by allowing you to focus more on your business, and not trying to manage your technology needs.
Because your POS system is a great investment, you’ll want a technology partner who is just as invested in the success of it as you are. Working with a top-notch POS provider is one way to maximize your technology ROI and minimize total cost of business ownership as you can keep your costs as low as possible by not having to look elsewhere for service and support.

Choosing an industry-proven POS partner is just about as important as picking the right POS system itself and you should view your provider as your trusted consultant. It’s a partnership after all.

5 Quick Ways to Bring Customers to Your Restaurant after the Holidays

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the end of the year. Pockets are light and bellies are full from the Holidays. That doesn’t mean your restaurant should sit empty until people are ready to get back out to enjoy your tasty creations.  Here are 10 quick ways to get people back into your restaurant after the Holidays.

Birthday emails
Birthday coupons aren’t just for the likes of Starbucks and Chipotle.  Independent restaurateurs should also tap into this market.  Every year, I get an email from Starbucks on my birthday. I’m given any drink on the house. It’s the perfect way to start my birthday morning.

I’m very surprised that most other restaurants don’t do this.  They’ll offer free birthday items after I’ve walked in their doors, but an email reminder would really get me in their door.  Don’t forget, birthday customers travel in groups. If you offer a free drink or entree, you’ll get the additional business of friends and family who come along for the celebration.

Send offer emails
You can also send special offers, like buy one drink, get one 50% off or half-off appetizers to entice new customers to come in.  Email marketing is perfect for attracting new customers, but it’s also helpful in keeping your current customers.  Look into services like Mailchimp or Constant Contact.  They’re inexpensive and user-friendly.

Live music
Bring in some local talent on the weekends to entertain your customers. Get your guests involved by asking them to vote for the band they want to hear on your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram page.

Grand re-opening event
If you’ve been open for a while, host a grand re-opening. It’s a simple way to remind people about your restaurant and encourage new people to try out your restaurant. Think about offering a deal on a sampler platter so they can taste test several dishes.

Join the local chamber of commerce
Yes, we know restaurateurs are too busy running their business to attend the many Chamber of Commerce events in your area, but just about every community has a chamber of commerce that promotes their local businesses.  And, they’ll do it for free.  Not only can you network, but you can also offer to cater or host chamber events.

We’re in the digital age and it’s now even easier than ever before to promote your business electronically. Collect email addresses wherever you can. When you’re at a local tasting event, business meeting, or trade show, make sure you have an email sign up sheet.  Have a business card drop bowl at your door.  Also, don’t forget to collect email addresses on your website. You can create a signup form easily on your website with little help from a web designer.  Reach out to your trusted restaurant technology provider, they should be able to assist or point you to someone who can.

 

Your Restaurant’s Food Pictures Suck

 

 

 

 

 

In today’s “insta-world” it is absolutely necessary for all restaurants market themselves online.  Of course you’ll need website and some kind of social media presence like Facebook and Instagram. You might event think about sending out email marketing campaigns to current and prospective customers.

The key factor that these marketing strategies have in common is that they have to be attractive. Other than the accuracy of information, the most important part of a restaurant website is that it must have great images or photography. When you show customers the tasty food you offer, it has a direct impact on their perception of our restaurant.

Potential new customers come to your website seeking your contact information, reservations, directions, and most importantly, your menu. Visitors will look for mouthwatering pictures that can tell them what the dining experience will be like. They will also be making judgements about your restaurant before even stepping one foot in the door

Some people use stock images on their websites during the design process, and sometimes this is a good thing as there are image providers that offer inexpensive, high quality images. Unfortunately, the biggest downside to using stock photos is that that the images are very generic and may not fully show those little details and nuances that make your restaurant and menu stand out from others. The result is an appealing looking, but generic website. Restaurateurs should consider investing in a professional photographer to take high quality pictures of the food you prepare. We know the cost of opening and maintaining a restaurant can increase daily, so if there’s no budget for a professional photographer, remember that we live in a day and age where nearly everyone has access to high quality cameras at a reasonable cost. If your restaurant is using poor photography then the potential customer is going to associate that with your brand. A blurry, poorly lit photo of your dinner entree could translate to a loss in sales.

People are visual creatures and what we see can leave a lasting impression, especially when it comes to food. Since the Internet cannot relay the taste or smell of your food, people are going to judge the quality based on the pictures you show. Better pictures can result in better engagement, and if you post some quality images on social media with links back to your website you’ll start to notice an increase in web traffic, and ultimately food sales.

 

6 Reasons to Play Background Music in Your Restaurant

Have you ever been in a completely quiet store – with no music playing in the background? What did you think? If you are like most people, you probably felt uncomfortable, and after browsing around for a bit, you quickly left, and headed toward a friendlier, more welcoming store.
On another note, have you ever left a restaurant because the music was far too loud or unpleasant? Did it make you feel anxious and stressed?
Music is a key, and underrated detail in a store’s retail business: The right music has the potential to put people in the right mood. It can attract customers, increase sales, and add revenue. Here are six reasons why playing the right music will benefit your restaurant:

1. Differentiate your brand
Are you a carefree, laid back brand? Do you run family-friendly restaurant with a warm atmosphere? Are you a edgy and energetic food truck? The tempo, loudness, style of the music you play can subliminally communicate your restaurant’s personality to customers, even before they enter your door.
Music is such an effective way to communicate your restaurant’s image and it’s often enough to hear notes streaming outside to realize your business personality. Imagine that you are in the mood for an authentic Mexican meal with your family. You hear loud rap music playing as you reach for the door. You might change your mind about the restaurant choice or at least question how likely they are to serve authentic cuisine. If you have been thinking about tweaking or re-branding your restaurant’s image, music can be a powerful way to help achieve your goals.

2. Build the right ambiance
Music plays a big role in creating and enhancing your business atmosphere. Research shows that the music you play affects not only the restaurant environment, but also patron moods and feelings.

3. Create a private space
By concealing the sounds of voices, background music helps create a personal space for customers, giving them privacy as they enjoy their meals and conversations with friends or family.

4. Make the food taste better?
While there has not been a study that has made this conclusion, some researchers have noted that people seemed to enjoy their meal more when they were able to listen to sounds they thought were more pleasant.

5. Shorten wait times
Music can affect people’s perception of time. A busy restaurant with long wait times will feel shorter if there is good music playing in the background. It’s the same principle behind the melodies played while callers are put on hold. When people are entertained, they are less likely to get bored – and likelier to return.

6. Increase productivity
In-store music is not only for the customers, employees and managers benefit from it too. An effective music strategy can be a great tool to boost staff morale, concentration and productivity. Studies suggest that people tend to work faster, and complete their tasks more accurately and when listening to music.

In-store music can be a big point of differentiation for your business, as well as a key element in your customers’ dining experience. If you need help picking the right tunes for your business, contact your local restaurant technology provider to see the many music options available.

Best Practices for Securing Your Restaurant

As a restaurant owner, protecting your employees and customers is probably one of the most challenging parts of your job. Drawing customers into your restaurants for increased business must be balanced with the concerns of crime, loss, liability, food safety and security.

Restaurant owners and managers should consider a proactive approach to their security program. From quick serve and fast casual to fine dining, four best practices can be taken to protect against losses and increase the safety of employees and customers in the restaurant environment:

1: Complete a Risk Evaluation. A thorough risk evaluation from a local technology provider will help give an objective review of your existing security plan, identify vulnerabilities and pinpoint opportunities for areas where you can efficiently reduce risk. The risk assessment should be completed by a knowledgeable and reputable provider for each and every location.  Be sure to discussing typical concerns like restaurant entrances, food product storage areas and cash POS stations, you should review areas that may need monitoring, like vendor delivery areas and ventilation system access. Review crime statistics around your business to help you determine the potential for the rate of crimes in your area, as well as what crimes are common. Determine nearby businesses, including those businesses with that are not similar to yours that might be more likely to attract a customer base that could potentially increase the crime rate.

2: Install or Upgrade Your Security Technology. Based on findings from your risk evaluation, you may need to install or upgrade your security technology. The solution may include a combination of intrusion detection with monitoring and video surveillance. These solutions will help increase the profitability of your restaurant by reducing losses from false alarms or employees giving-away merchandise without charge to friends and family. Your chosen solution should allow you to have an audit trail of critical areas of your business and employees at all times.

Key components of your physical security program should include:

  • Intrusion detection system, back door alarms and motion detectors to protect from burglary
  • Video surveillance system with DVR and cameras placed to monitor entrances, the drive-thru, parking lots, POS terminals, food prep areas, and manager office
  • Public view monitors to deter crime, since criminals are less likely to strike when it is clear they are under surveillance
  • Appropriate security surveillance signage posted in plain sight at entrances and throughout property

3: Regularly Train Employees on Your Security Program. Training employees is a critical component of executing an effective restaurant security program. Employees must be trained regularly on cash handling policies, as well as how to handle security-related incidents, such as a robbery.

Installing cameras at various locations is the first step in monitoring activities, but your employees should be aware that they are being monitored. Instructing employees that you will be observing for incidents like cash theft, food and beverages, as well as passing free food items to friends and family, will help deter these forms of employee theft. Regularly training employees on the proper use of the security systems can ensure that employees, customers and assets are protected and help avoid false alarms. As you implement your plan and integrate your security systems, engage your employees in the plan. Soliciting feedback and support will communicate to your employees that they are valuable assets to the team.

4: Evaluate and Monitor the Effectiveness of the Security Plan As your security plan is implemented, it is important evaluate the effectiveness of that plan. Evaluate them regularly and consistently.  When actual security incidents occur, debrief and document the details for training purposes, and change your security plan as necessary. Security planning is cyclical, so it is important to regularly revisit your plan starting with step one. As your restaurant grows or changes, you will want to consider scheduling a product technology update with your security provider in order to ensure you are applying the most effective solutions available within your budget

Establishing an effective, proactive restaurant security program can increase security and safety for your employees and customers, while contributing to the company’s overall profitability. By applying these steps in your approach, you can help to protect against losses and keep your customers and employees safe and secure.

5 Ways to Prepare for Black Friday

 

 

 

 

The Holiday shopping season begins with Black Friday and that’s the best time for retailers to turn a profit. It’s hard to believe but Black Friday is less than 30 days away.  Get ready for hungry shopping crowds. This is the perfect opportunity for restaurant owners to nab new customers, increase sales, and establish a loyal clientele for the slow winter months.

Here are 5 tips to make this a happier, more profitable time for your restaurant.

  1. Develop a holiday plan with your chefs, managers, and servers. Be creative. Treat those weeks between Thanksgiving and the New Year like they are a long weekend.
  2. Staff awareness is important. Have a staff meeting before Thanksgiving discussing your plan, and the importance of customer service. Remind them that tips increase during the holidays because customers are generally in festive frame of mind.
  3. Control your portions to control those profits. Portions can be smaller during the Holiday.  Most people are more weight-conscious. This is a proven way to cut food costs and boost your profits.
  4. Promote your restaurant. Just because the streets are busy doesn’t mean your restaurant is top of mind. Facebook, email, and even old-fashioned check holder insert are easy ways tell customers about your Holiday promotions.
  5. It won’t last forever. You get five weeks. Then January is here. Belts get tightened, cash is low, and those credit card bills are due. The good thing.. people still need to eat. Create a couple of holiday bounce-backs — those little incentives to keep customers coming in after the holidays. Not only are they great to increase your customer count, they are essential to your cash flow.