Operating in ‘The Now’ with Mobile Technology

By Brian Harris

mobile-shopping-in-store.jpgIn a previous blog post about Omnichannel retail, I suggested that retailers have to “start thinking mobile” because that’s where their customers are moving. However, I also explained how it doesn’t mean that every retailer suddenly has to overhaul their business model and start handing out 3D glasses. In other words, keep doing what you’re doing—but do it with your mobile customers in mind.

The results of a recent study by the National Retail Federation’s Shop.org division and Forrester, provide some data to back this up. Forrester forecasted that in 2016, direct online sales totaled 11.6% of total U.S. retail sales ($394 billion), but digital touchpoints impacted an estimated 49% of total U.S. retail sales. This is great news for many of our retailers, particularly those in the convenience and restaurant industries, who rely heavily on foot traffic.

Here are some of the study’s other key findings that support the idea of using mobile technology in “the now”:

  • Customer service topped the list of new initiatives retailers will invest in over the next year (confirming that flashy virtual and augmented reality are not the priority… for now!)

  • 45% of retailers surveyed said mobile initiatives transformed their overall digital customer experience

  • 54% of retailers say mobile is one of their top initiatives in 2017 (followed by marketing at 46%, site merchandising at 42%, and omnichannel efforts at 22%)

  • Smartphones made up 47% of online traffic among retailers surveyed

NRF Vice President Artemis Berry noted that retailers have found “that even modest investments in mobile initiatives can result in huge returns.” And I especially love this quote: “This is no longer a new way to reach customers, but it has certainly become a highly effective method and one that boosts the level of customer engagement across the brand.”

Again, there’s no need to reinvent the digital wheel, but better that you hop on the mobile train now before it’s too late.

Forrester Vice President and Research Director Fiona Swerdlow adds that today’s customers are empowered with information and technology. “To grow, retailers know they have to operate with a customer-obsessed mindset to deliver the experiences that consumers now expect at every touchpoint,” she says. “It’s about having all aspects of the business—stores, mobile, merchandising, customer service, fulfillment and more —work together to deliver total value to your customers wherever they are, at any time.”

If how to optimize the retail industry was presented as a dissertation, I think Swerdlow just gave us the thesis statement. That’s what it all comes down to -enabling the various parts of your business to work together in real-time.

Empowering Your Employees to Communicate  

Working at Zenput is interesting because I, along with many of my coworkers, also happen to be regular customers of many of the major retailers we serve. We help major retailers that collectively serve millions of people—including their own employees, past and present. That’s what I’d like retailers to take into account when they’re proactively considering technologies that are a “natural fit” for their businesses. Your customers use mobile, your employees use mobile… so why not invest in the mobile technology that can improve your business?

Think of the various components Swerdlow discusses and what you might accomplish if you had a real-time solution to address these needs:

  • Stores - from external maintenance to internal equipment, gain the ability to report store conditions as they change, in real time.

  • Merchandising and Fulfillment - From out-of-stocks to the new promotion delivery that never came, report it in real time. Take a photo and share it with your network to confirm the latest marketing execution.

  • Customer Service – On store visits, allow your managers to observe and report on customer service best practices. It could be included in a simple checklist of whether employees are dressed appropriately for work, use courteous language, and offer customer assistance. And this goes beyond playing “big brother” on managers—it allows an organization to celebrate those employees who go out of their way to make a customer’s day easier.

Are you ready to use mobile technology to improve your business?

Learn more about how Zenput helps retailers increase their execution by scheduling a demo.

Topics: Retail, Restaurants

5 Musts for Every Restaurant Inspection

By David Mostovoy

restaurant inspection photo.jpg

When a city’s health department decides to inspect restaurants, they can cover a tremendous amount of ground in what seems like a relatively short amount of time. For example, the Philadelphia Department of Health inspected nearly 500 restaurants, delis and other eateries between Nov. 9 and Nov. 21. Good news for local restaurants: they only found a few serious offenders.

In today’s click-bait world, restaurant health inspection stories seem to be on the rise. The Business Journal publications are especially in tune with the latest reports in various municipalities across the U.S. Some of these journals make it a point to publish the findings as they’re reported. Years ago, if a restaurant was cited for an offense, it could make the paper, but then eventually it would go away. The restaurant would fix the problem, reopen if it had closed, and life would go on. In today’s news environment, bad publicity has a permanent home that’s just a quick search and a click away. It’s imperative for restaurants to not wind up on the “naughty” list anywhere because it can do irreparable damage to their brand.

Based on our experience working with restaurant operators, these are the top 5 things to audit weekly in a restaurant:

  1. Food Safety/Cleanliness – Well, this may get a “duh” response since it’s a restaurant, but you’d be surprised with what turns up in some reports, especially when it comes to food that isn’t stored at correct temperatures. This is one of the most egregious offenses because it’s so simple to avoid, yet so costly to all involved parties if not appropriately addressed. It all comes down to working thermometers (for food storage and cooking of meats), adherence to food preparation guidelines, and adherence to proper cleaning procedures.

 P.S. If the food thermometer issue is a sticking point, you can use the BluTherm food thermometer to digitally record readings, which makes auditing process easier.

  1. Make sure employees are adhering to rules – Because that’s the reality: there are rules that are more than guidelines or suggestions. You may have heard this past week that Hawaii may become the next state (among just a handful) to require food handler certification at either a state or county level. If you are in one of those states, your restaurant audit needs to include employee records. Other routine tasks, that include cleaning and inventory management, must also be accounted for on a regular basis.

  2. Ability to report to management. How many times do you mean to send that email or follow up by phone, but something comes up and suddenly you’re pulled away from the task at hand? It happens to all of us. But not reporting issues as they arise in restaurants is where it can get dangerous or, at the very least, negligent. “If you see something, say something” needs to apply to restaurant operations and managers need real-time tools to confidently report any issues they encounter during audits.

  3. Restaurant condition – To the point of reporting any issues, part of the restaurant audit needs to address the condition of the facility. “Standing water” can appear as a note on a health inspector’s record because it can lead to mold, mildew and invite pests. Routinely check for leaks on the interior/exterior walls, ceilings and other permanent fixtures. Also be sure to check the lighting and utilities like gas and water.

  4. Ensure marketing materials are in compliance – Restaurant audits aren’t just about the nuts and bolts of the facility. Have the menus been updated to reflect the latest items? Is there signage in the store reminding customers of the latest promotion? Are prices accurate? The restaurant audit is the perfect opportunity to check these finer details, as they reflect on your brand.

Zenput is the mobile, cloud-based solution that helps restaurant operators gain location-by-location insight on key metrics and maintain accountability across the organization. Learn more about Zenput’s functionality for restaurant operators by clicking here. 

Topics: Franchise, Restaurants

5 Standards to Uphold for a Clean Restaurant

By David Mostovoy

clean restaurant.jpeg

What do you do when you haven’t been at a company very long and your CEO wants to go to a favorite restaurant that was recently flagged for unsanitary practices? Well, because the practices were well publicized, you go and hope they acted on the message. This was the awkward situation a friend of mine on the East Coast found herself in this past week. A restaurant in an upscale New Jersey town was one of the cited offenders, according to inspection reports that were collected and published on NJ.com. So there she was, trying to enjoy dinner, knowing that an inspector had recently discovered there was no hand soap in the kitchen restroom. Yikes!  

But it got worse when she realized her favorite sandwich shop not only lacked hand soap at the sink, but also had no visible thermometer in the reach-in refrigerator. Her favorite sushi destination had an unclean food prep service area and floor. At that point, she was ready to stop reading… but how can you?

Ignorance may be bliss if you’re the customer, but it’s not a happy-go-lucky time for the restaurant owner. It’s embarrassing to be called out for things that are easily recognizable and fixable. Health inspections aren’t a trivia game show with mystery questions—operators know in advance what officials look for prior to inspection. It’s time for smarter operations!

Here are 5 standards you should uphold in order to maintain a clean restaurant:

  1. Develop clear and regular cleaning procedures. Cleanliness is not only a safety issue—in some cases, it could impact the quality and safety of food. Check out this story of an employee in Eugene, OR, who starts off her day by cleaning the oven of a pizzeria.

  2. Make sure store-level employees understand and are constantly reminded of the importance of cleanliness. The general manager from the pizzeria in Eugene has a corkboard that keeps up-to-date with food handler cards, so she can check to make sure her employees’ cards aren’t expired. If they are, she hands them off to her kitchen manager to address the issue. The employees must be re-certified before returning to work.

  3. Start documenting progress. Documentation isn’t just a nice-to-have; it creates a vital paper trail that can be vital in documenting important information. And if you have the right tools, you can go paperless and have all information, including past audits and inspections, stored securely on the cloud.

  4. Track the progress of locations to see which stores are clean, which stores aren’t, and why. Communication is key. The point isn’t to dishearten or shame restaurants into submission. It’s to keep customers satisfied. By educating foodservice employees and encouraging managers to develop effective procedures, restaurant operators can keep their customers consistently coming back for more.

  5. Have the ability to follow up on and fix issues at individual locations. What was the point of conducting an audit in the first place? Health inspectors in my friend’s NJ town and elsewhere will return to make sure restaurants are making progress. When it comes to health regulations, restaurant managers need to follow up once a directive is given. It’s not enough to assume these problems have been resolved. Again, documentation and communication is critical.  

The Takeaway

Creating, distributing, and collecting a baseline audit for cleanliness can be a time-consuming process without the right tools. With Zenput, restaurant operators can create a mobile form, edit, and send it out to the appropriate employees as needed. That form is automatically distributed to employees’ mobile devices, and when they answer each question, the results are aggregated in an easy-to-read dashboard. Moreover, a senior manager can set up real-time notifications of any unsanitary condition discovered during the audit. To ensure accountability, the auditor can upload a photo of a problem and the senior manager can follow up with that store to make sure the issues were resolved.

For more examples on how Zenput helps restaurants uphold standards and clean kitchens, visit Zenput's website or request a demo.

Topics: Restaurants, restaurant cleanliness

The Evolution of Drive-Thru Dining

By Brian Harris

drive thru pic.jpg

Time for a trivia question: Drive-thru dining has evolved parallel to which two technologies?

This is a trick questions where you might first think that the answer is the evolution of the car. But if you think about it, a Model-T could roll through a drive-thru at the same rate as a 2017 Ford Focus. There’s still a human handing a bag of food to a driver through a window—something that hasn’t changed throughout the decades and probably won’t change anytime soon.

The real answer is cooking/kitchen technologies and digital signage. Preparing food quickly and efficiently, and making sure the order is right are the two factors that, together, continue to be the fulcrum of change (or stagnancy) in the drive-thru industry. The companies who really want to win this game invest in their kitchens and digital signage to improve transaction times and order accuracy. The biggest winners are the companies that have spent their resources integrating these technologies to streamline the customer service experience. These companies understand why customer satisfaction and loyalty is pivotal to the future of their brand.

OK, so if an operator is not innovating but still has 60% to 70% of its business rolling through the drive-thru, they don’t have to be too concerned, right? … Wrong!

Burgers-and-fries operators should be very concerned about the entrance of popular fast-casual players into traditional QSR territory. A good example is the Panera Bread drive-thru I recently saw on the edge of a college campus. The researchers behind the 2016 QSR Drive-Thru Study were surprised to see that total transaction times increased slightly over the past year. They were just as surprised by data that showed made-to-order chains like Panera were very close to the transaction times expected of more traditional QSRs.

If you’re the burgers-and-fries operator, here’s your “uh-oh” conclusion from this study: “If these [fast-casual brands] start to use the technology that speeds up total transaction times, they will be within a few seconds of most of the traditional operators.”

Check your rearview mirror because the competition is approaching!  

Areas of Improvement

Let’s return to those slightly elevated transaction times. Researchers also noticed a dip in service times when the numbers of cars in the drive-thru line starts to grow. The data suggests operations start to fall apart as volume starts to peak. Operators have the data and technology to anticipate the uptick in traffic, so there’s seemingly no reason why the line should start getting long. So why does it?

What the data doesn’t always account for is the human factor. Is the staff prepped and ready to go? Are they carrying out best practices in the kitchen throughout their shift? Is your digital signage and intercom in the drive-thru functioning properly? If it’s not, has anyone noticed? These are just some of the questions a sales sheet can’t answer. But they are questions your managers can answer by regularly auditing locations.

One such solution comes from Zenput, a mobile solution that can help drive-thru operators discover and resolve issues that can hurt their business. Auditing isn’t a “gotcha” game between restaurant employees and management. Rather, it’s a way to gain actionable insights to address real concerns at the store level, improving customer service, boosting team morale, and improving sales.

Learn more about auditing a drive-thru operation with Zenput by downloading our free drive-thru audit guide.

 

Topics: Restaurants, drive-thru

Food Delivery: The New Frontier

By Vladik Rikhter

DRU-dominos-pizza-robot-640x360.jpg

It’s a pizza company! … It’s a tech company! … It’s Domino’s!

I doubt Domino’s will pick up a motto that infringes on DC Comics, but that’s essentially what they’ve become—a superhero among companies that handles delivery themselves. Think about all of Domino’s innovations in food delivery over the past decade, as highlighted in this recent Eater articlethat declares Domino’s “the Best Delivery Startup in America.” When it comes to investing in technology, Domino’s has always been a company that got it right.

One of the great paradoxes of Millennials is that they are social media whizzes but antisocial because they are always on their phones. Domino’s foresaw the importance of on-demand and online ordering well before their competitors did.

Domino’s continues to set the bar high for companies who want to maintain control over their food quality by delivering their food themselves. Keep in mind that Domino’s is no spring chicken—it was founded in 1960! While newer pizza companies may be touting the craft pizza experience, Domino’s is still the go-to pizza delivery service for the pajama crowd. With Domino’s introduction of new chatbots, visitors don’t even have to talk to a human or go to the Dominos ordering website to order a pizza—just message the chatbot to order your pizza. Some of these innovations haven’t been perfect upon rollout, but considering Domino’s strong market position, they don’t need to be. Domino’s may be learning what works as they go along, but at the end of the day, they own their own process.

Here’s the reality: the third-party food delivery space is becoming crowded. There will be few winners and many losers. With Amazon, Google and UberEats now moving into the space—not to mention the expansion of GrubHub’s turnkey service—only the best will survive. So the question is: Where does that leave foodservice operators?

There are two possible scenarios
  1. Companies like Domino’s rely on third-party delivery companies to deliver their food
  2. They continue taking ownership of their own food delivery

Restaurant delivery isn’t for everyone. We know from our experience working with foodservice operators: delivery workforces are difficult to maintain.  

But if you offer delivery and you’re serious about becoming better at it, you have to become more serious about technology. You also have to become more serious about what’s going on in your stores. Domino’s can offer a pizza tracker because they’ve got the process for making a pizza down to a science. Even if you’re not at that level of tech, are you able to address problems in real time? Something as basic as an ingredient shortage or a failure to implement a new promotion can really hurt your bottom line.

Zenput is a mobile solution that helps foodservice operators gain valuable insights about their businesses in real-time. Whether you are exploring food delivery or looking to improve your current operations, Zenput can help you identify exceptions, timely address problems, and improve your restaurant operations. Zenput already helps the 5th largest Domino’s operator in the U.S. manage daily tasks and improve store productivity. Find out how Domino’s franchisee Hismeh Enterprises uses Zenput by checking out this case study.

Related

Wanna ‘Pizza’ Your Restaurant Competition? Customization and Technology Are Key

What Restaurants Considering Third-Party Delivery Need to Consider

Performing Regular Delivery Driver Audits Protects Employees and Customers

Topics: Restaurants, Delivery

Restaurant Cleanliness vs. Customer Service: Which Is More Important?

By David Mostovoy

food_restaurant_.jpg

As a mobile solution provider in the foodservice industry, we've seen a clear trend in the food industry: that the public is concerned about both quality and food safety issues, especially with the proliferation of review sites and social media like Yelp, Google+, and Facebook. If a consumer has a bad experience, they will go on a site like Yelp and make that experience known to the world. As a result, restaurants must be increasingly concerned about the quality and safety of their food. Here's why that is now more important than ever:

Everyone remembers Chipotle’s difficult year in 2015, when the brand faced a multi-state E.Coli outbreak, followed by a norovirus attack in Boston. It was a big financial blow to one of America’s biggest food chains. According to CheckIt’s report, “The Financial Impact of Getting Food Safety Wrong,” Chipotle started 2016 as no company wants to—with a 44% drop in share price and a loss of $11 billion in value. Analysts have speculated it may take years for Chipotle to rebound.

It’s a sobering reality: if getting food safety wrong can be this devastating for a brand like Chipotle, one of the most popular chains in the nation, imagine the implications for smaller, lesser-known brands.

Why can’t restaurants rebound faster? It all comes down to consumer perceptions. CheckIt conducted a survey among UK consumers and concluded that cleanliness and food hygiene ratings have more influence than customer service when it comes to deciding whether or not to return to a restaurant.

Here are other key findings from this report:

75% of respondents would either never visit a food outlet implicated in a food poisoning/hygiene incident, or would only visit one if its management changed hands. 61% of respondents wouldn’t visit a restaurant of any sort that had a food hygiene rating of 2 or less (on a 0 to 5 scale, with 5 being the highest). 66% of respondents rated unclean or dirty premises as the first or second reason for not returning to a restaurant. 57% cited a low hygiene rating, and just 16% cited slow or poor service.

Here's the key takeaway: Customers would rather put up with bad service than eat at a dirty restaurant.

Preventing What You Can Control

The study offers clear and convincing evidence that consumers take restaurant cleanliness seriously. It also illustrates the importance of preventing the issues that you can control.

Streamlining the process of gathering information and reacting to issues with restaurants’ food safety is vital in fostering an environment that puts food safety above all else. With a mobile solution like Zenput, restaurants can create food safety audits to check for things like:

  • Clean counters and floors
  • Proper cleaning protocols and procedures
  • Appropriate food safety temperatures (compliant to HACCP)
  • Functional kitchen appliances
Zenput makes building and distributing audits and tasks, and gathering data on these types of audits simple. Audits can be distributed, completed by field-level employees, and data collected in a fraction of the time doing the same would take with paper forms. Once the audits are submitted, managers have access to a centralized dashboard with the data from every submission. Managers can pinpoint submissions, filter by users and locations, and set up tasks to be automatically assigned to employees when certain conditions are met.

Real-time solutions really work. Take a closer look at Zenput’s task and operations management solution here.

Topics: Restaurants

Starbucks vs. McDonald’s: A Fair Fight for Breakfast Dollars?

By Joe Skupinsky

mc-donalds-starbucks-breakfast.png

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of breakfast, it was the age of dicsovering if premium works better over value in a crowded industry.” How do you like my intro for “The Tale of Two Retailers”? I’m no Dickens, but I can’t help but compare McDonald’s All-Day Breakfast with Starbucks recently announced brunch test.

If you missed the latter news, Starbucks is testing a “Weekend Brunch” menu in select markets. As you may have guessed, the menu is offered only on weekends. The program began in late August in 78 Starbucks stores in the greater Portland and Seattle area. Brunch foods, including Belgian waffles, baked French toast, and quiche made from cage-free eggs, can be ordered from about 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. or until the food supply runs out.

Testing brunch is yet another way Starbucks is trying to move past its just-a-coffeehouse image. Starbucks has also experimented with selling wine and beer to attract diners during the evening hours. Recently, the company also made separate commitments to stock Megpies artisan tarts and Bantam mini stuffed bagels, which appeared on the hit TV show “Shark Tank,” across thousands of locations. What do all of these items have in common? They’re premium upsells intended not only to drive customer traffic but drive profit margins.

And then there was the McDonald’s strategy…

Can Value Still Save McDonald’s?

In late July, McDonald’s Corp. reported weaker-than-expected same-store sales growth in its second quarter. All-Day Breakfast has been credited with driving sales earlier this year, so this was a sign that the menu could be losing some momentum. Business Insider also reported on unintended consequences of the All-Day Breakfast menu and McPick 2 menu, which allows customers to choose two items for $5. According to one analyst, customers may be “exploiting” the promotions to trade down to cheaper menu items, causing average values for lunch and dinner to fall and therefore dampening overall sales growth.

It’s not just analysts being critical of McDonald’s strategy. Franchisees have expressed their disapproval in a recent survey. "I am very alarmed about the discounting push. I have never seen the corporation be so aggressive with discounts,” one franchisee wrote. “The regional marketing teams are adding numerous other discounts to the McPick 2, primarily breakfast items. They are encouraging, quite literally, everything being on sale. This is a very hard cultural adjustment for me."

What’s the solution so that discounts don’t cannibalize sales growth? According to the same analyst, McDonald’s must lower labor costs and turn to automation. We already see that happening with the gradual rollout of self-ordering kiosks with premium offerings at some McDonald’s locations. It shouldn’t be about replacing employees with machines. Rather, automation should be about freeing up current employees to do other tasks, including properly executing menu items and ensuring accuracy of orders.

The Takeaway

There are many changes happening in both the quick-service and fast-casual restaurant segments. As the industry moves forward with technology and innovation, companies will need to have a solid grasp of restaurant-level insights as they pertain to basic operations. For instance, if a fresh beef patty is introduced to more McDonald’s stores (it’s being tested), are the right sanitation protocols being followed? Are fresh ingredients stored at the right temperatures? And as McDonald’s works to expand the All-Day Breakfast menu, franchisees must remember customer service is still crucial, especially for a financially fragile company.

Zenput is a mobile software solution that creates a chain of accountability within organizations, allows senior managers to gain insights on basic store operations, and enables real-time communication to address challenges as they arise. To learn more about Zenput for restaurant operations, click here.

Topics: Restaurants

What Restaurants Considering Third-Party Delivery Need to Consider

By Brian Harris

restaurant-delivery.png

I recently came across a post on the website of a business loan provider. They must be in the food space because their post was about increasing restaurant delivery sales. The top two suggestions the firm offered, in this order, were: Online partnerships with delivery services and ensuring quality.

But based on the results of a recent Technomic study, I would have to reverse those in order of importance. Quality earns repeat customers and new customers. Quality is how you grow your business. Quality improves with better communication, and the restaurant is ultimately responsible for quality, even if you’re using a third-party delivery service.

Third-party delivery will make mistakes, but ultimately your restaurant is still on the hook.  This isn’t just my opinion—your customers are thinking it. Technomic’s study, “On Demand Delivery: Disrupting the Future of Foodservice,” confirms that even if restaurants have a formal agreement with third-party ordering portals and delivery services, the majority of consumers (76%) hold the restaurant at least partially responsible for any errors.

“This puts operators’ brand reputation at risk each time a customer orders delivery through these services,” said Melissa Wilson, a principal at Technomic. “Even if delivery is not a current strategic initiative, operators should educate themselves about and understand the dynamics of the third-party delivery market so they can put guardrails in place to maintain quality and brand reputation.”

Other than demanding the best service from your third-party delivery service, what can a restaurant do to minimize risk? Maybe it’s a matter of moving faster in food preparation. Or maybe it’s using better packaging that improves presentation.

Maybe we need to find out where to start!

So here’s a better question: When a delivery problem is reported, and you know it’s something the restaurant could have done differently, do you have a way of addressing it at the restaurant level?

For instance, if the wrong meal arrives or a meal is prepared incorrectly, does the restaurant have the ability to respond quickly?  Delivering a replacement meal or missing item might depend on the contract you have with a third-party delivery service. But maybe you should set a standard policy to email the person who files a complaint a coupon for a free appetizer or a percentage off their next bill. The restaurant that doesn’t respond loses customers.

And although mistakes happen, that doesn’t mean restaurants should write off third-party delivery services. The fact remains that third-party services are generating additional business for casual dining restaurants and other concepts that do not offer delivery. More than a third of third-party users (34%) reported ordering from casual dining restaurants and 14% had ordered from family-style restaurants that did not offer delivery on their own.

Here are more important insights from the Technomic study:

Chains on top

Chain restaurants are almost twice as likely as independents to receive delivery orders. Two-thirds of delivery orders either placed with a restaurant (69%) or via third-party service (66%) were from a chain restaurant.

Burger-happy

One in five third-party service users ordered a burger. Pizza is still king in restaurant delivery, but the fact that 20% of restaurants are comfortable ordering items that restaurants have previously feared delivering themselves bodes well for the industry. It’s a sign that users are taking advantage of the wider variety of options available.

These findings are further evidence that restaurants have to think more critically about quality and how it translates to delivery of various menu items. Moreover, chain restaurants have an opportunity to create a set of best practices that can be shared across their network.

Zenput is a mobile solution that can help share those best practices and track compliance. It also provides a means of communicating real-time insights at the store-level. To learn more about how Zenput helps improve restaurant operations, click here.

Topics: Restaurants

Is Less Really More on Fast-Casual Restaurant Menus?

By Joe Skupinsky

the-stand-menu.png

Mark Twain famously wrote, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).”

In the quick-service and fast-food industries, we continue to see brands that take the approach of the simplified menu. Think of some modern, successful chains: Chipotle, Shake Shack, Five Guys Burgers and Fries. All keep their menus to a few items. Even The Organic Coup, an organic chicken chain backed by Costco, plans to nest in the Seattle market by basically offering three variations of the same menu item: the chicken sandwich.

So it’s worth noting when you find an exception to this modern unwritten rule of menu curation. Meet The Stand, a Southern California chain offering more than 40 entrees, burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, salads, and more at each of its four locations.

“A lot of narrowly focused concepts have dumbed down their menu so much that it’s hard to get more than two people to agree to go to them sometimes unless it’s your once-a-month trip to Shake Shack or something like that,” CEO and Co-Manager Murray Wishengrad told QSR magazine. “We just felt that that strategy—although very common and certainly revered by customers and the financial marketplace—wasn’t what we wanted it to be.”

The Stand welcomes you and that friend in your group who always ruins your dinner plans with, “Eh, I just had that a couple of days ago.” They hope that customers will frequent locations multiple times per week. Rather than looking to Chipotle for inspiration, The Stand looks to The Cheesecake Factory, which has an extensive menu. The Stand is also differentiating itself from competitors by collaborating with local brewers to make custom brews. This sounds like one hoppin’ place, if you’ll pardon the beer joke.

Standing Up, Not Sitting Down

What’s your take on The Stand’s approach vs. the “less is more” approach? What does it mean for restaurant operations and growth? Only time will tell if the fast-casual segment sticks with the simple menu approach or sways back to longer menus.

Regardless, restaurants need to take a stand on menu strategy because it’s so fundamental to growth. Expanding a restaurant chain like The Stand and transferring an extensive menu to multiple locations is tough work that requires excellent communication. Offering new menu items and promotions across your locations is also an exercise in communication. That’s where Zenput can help. Learn more about our mobile solution for restaurant operations by clicking here.

See Also

Why Regularly Inspecting Your Franchise is Important
Menu Pricing Matters in Fast-Food Segment
Hidden Menus Build Customer Loyalty
Healthy Food Promotions: A ‘Must’ for Retailers
Restaurant Operations Lessons from In-N-Out Burger

Topics: Restaurants

The Rewards of Restaurant Employee Training and Culture

By Jennifer Hoffman

office-space-flair-1.png

When you think of the culture of your typical American casual dining restaurant, what do you think of? For a lot of people, myself included, it’s Jennifer Aniston’s character in the movie “Office Space.” If you haven’t already noticed, that’s a favorite movie for the Zenput team, simply for the fact that it holds universal truths about work environments, which we aim to improve.

There’s that scene where Aniston gets reprimanded by the restaurant manager for not wearing enough “flair”—the buttons that supposedly show her personality. According to the director, “Office Space” made TGI Fridays get rid of “flair,” because customers started making fun of the servers—the intersection of art and life!  It’s a silly idea that “flair” could improve a server’s mood or make a restaurant culture more fun. It reminds me of when a company has a “Fun Committee.” Just because you tack “fun” onto something, doesn’t mean your employees enjoy their environment.

We already know that the restaurant industry has high turnover. But it’s troubling when the latest statistics show that turnover rates have been pushing higher. An improving economy could mean more day-to-day, month-to-month operational challenges for managers.  It could also mean increased competition because consumers have more disposable income and restaurants are competing for their dollars.

Case in point in this market segment: Ruby Tuesday just announced the closure of 95 restaurants.

Managers in casual restaurants have enough to worry about lately. How can employee training and culture—the umbrella of employee engagement—improve? Can they improve to the point where turnover decreases?

Using Processes That Work

I recently read a fascinating account of Chili’s employee training procedures. This article was a genius pitch. Journalist Daniel Riley, who happens to be a former “Chilihead”, asked his former employer if he could go behind the scenes of the team that trains managers for restaurant openings. It’s a detailed account of what makes Chili’s successful today and, quite possibly, what has made this brand stand the test of time.

What I took away from the story was an affirmation of what I’ve learned at Zenput: Processes that encourage employees to think in “real time” and to think on their feet really do work. Implementing time-tested, best practices works. Following up on site to make sure best practices are being implemented also works. It all just works at Chili’s. They have a formula for success that’s just as flavorful as their Presidente margarita—and even that has a designated 25 shakes!

This is my favorite line of Riley’s article: “At Chili's, though, kids who start as dishwashers can wind up on an all-expenses-paid adventure to Malaysia because they did a simple job better than anyone else and had the right attitude about it the whole way. At Chili's, life gets bigger and better by fifteen new restaurants a year.”

And do you know the No. 1 fundamental of working at Chili’s? Everyone pay attention: It’s having fun!

Can you create an environment where people want to stay, if not for a career (like many do in Chili’s), but to return on their college breaks?

Recognizing good employee effort and rewarding that effort isn’t a new idea in this industry. But doing it in a consistent, measurable way is the true team effort—more so than an inspirational poster in the break room. Measuring the effectiveness of training can change a restaurant’s culture. And changing culture doesn’t just allow a brand to survive in a crowded market—it allows an organization to thrive.

Topics: Restaurants