The Restaurant Group Blog

Today’s Restaurant Consumer Demands

Is Your Menu Meeting Today’s Restaurant Consumer Demands of Online Convenience, Healthy Options, and Price?

Restaurant Consumer Demands

As you analyze your business and forecast of the trends for the remainder of 2017, there are several questions that you may be asking yourself. As restaurants have a greater and greater online presence with delivery services and online ordering as well as increased concern about healthy diets and where our food comes from, knowing what market factors to focus on and what trends in your customers’ behavior to focus on can be a tricky matter. One key question is, is your menu meeting today’s consumer demand?

Some of the most important factors according to forecasted 2017 trends include robotization, the growing focus on whole food ingredients, and a balance between convenience, novelty, and price.

Technology 

Customers are looking for convenience. Increasingly,  this is taking the form of app and online menus, being able to order ahead while still customizing orders, and even delivery services like GrubHub and DoorDash. Additionally, consumers frequently turn to review sites and restaurant websites to decide which restaurant to visit. It is critical to establish an online presence. At a minimum, you need a site that is mobile-friendly, easy to follow, and functional. However, you will also want to ensure that your business has online reviews, and, if it’s in your business model, is accessible to customers through those online delivery services.

Health

Whether it’s a fad,  a temporary trend, or a long-term move towards whole foods, fresh ingredients, and healthy options, most consumers are increasingly educating themselves about nutritious options, healthy alternatives, and organic or non-GMO ingredients. This can impact your food costs as the healthiest, freshest ingredients are often the most expensive. If you focus on a market that cares about these healthier options, knowing how to plan based on an operational analysis is critical to reducing food waste and additional expenses.

Price

Being concerned about the bill is not a new trend for 2017. But increased uncertainty has led to many middle- and lower-class customers thinking about cheaper alternatives and cooking at home when possible. Though upper-middle class and upper-class patrons are not expected to be as affected, be sure to keep in mind how price increases are noticeable and can drastically impact consumer behavior. Depending on your business model, cultivating alternatives and additional options can help keep the menu price the same while giving your customer the convenient options and customizations they crave in order to make sure your business continues to profit and grow.

The restaurant business is constantly changing and our consultants at TRG can help you react to the shifting preferences and consumer trends throughout the rest of 2017 and beyond. Please contact us at TRG Restaurant Consulting  if you’d like to learn more about how the restaurant business as a whole is evolving and what we can do to work together and make your restaurant thrive.

 

Use Customer Tracking to Keep Up with Local Consumer Trends

Customer Tracking

You’ve opened your restaurant, eagerly awaiting the first trickle of customers to start streaming in. They start showing up, singly, in pairs, or in large groups, and they seem happy with the experience. But when they leave, you may never see them again. If you aren’t keeping track of your new customers, you could be missing a serious cog in the revenue-making machine.

Customer Tracking Helps You Understand Your Consumers

Gone are the days of consumer complacency. These days, your customers want the best you have to offer. But offering the best isn’t as simple as it sounds – what exactly is “the best”? How can you improve the restaurant experience? What kind of customers like to frequent your place, anyway? Keeping track of your customers, through loyalty programs, social media, or even simple feedback cards, provides an invaluable understanding of your consumers.

Customer Tracking Heads off Dissatisfaction

When you know what your customers want, you are less likely to receive complaints. And when you have good feedback mechanisms in place, such as a Facebook page and even an email address where they can directly reach you, you are more likely to appease unhappy customers before they leave negative feedback and for a locally owned restaurant, negative feedback can mean the virtual death of your online reputation.

Customer Tracking Reminds Hungry Consumers That You’re Open

Customer tracking is a two-way street; it allows your customers to interact with you, and it allow you to reach out to them. Simply asking for customers’ email addresses can allow you to periodically send them alerts when you have a new menu item, a special is going on, or hours of operation are changing. Send these emails out at just the right times and to just the right customers – think late Friday afternoon for families, and Monday at happy hour for college students and you will begin to see an increase in the amount of repeat business at your restaurant.

Without Customer Tracking, You Can Only Rely on Chance

Customer tracking gives you the boost your restaurant needs to thrive. Without it, you are an island floating in the ocean of chance, just waiting to see what the next wave will bring. Get personal with your customers, and they will have a reason to keep coming back to your place of business.

 

For assistance with your restaurant contact a TRG Restaurant Consultant.

Restaurant Consumer Trends 2017 Mid Year Review

Restaurant Consumer Trends 2017 Mid Year Review

Restaurant Consumer Trends 2017

Now that we’re halfway done with 2017, it’s time to take a look both backward and forward at trends dominating the restaurant industry. Here’s what we’ve noticed is both hot and not in 2017:

Comfort food revival is more important than ever. Consumers are highly interested in modern takes on classic fare. More people are getting back to the “roots” of traditional-style foods, but this doesn’t mean they want Mom’s boring old meatloaf! Farm-to-table is also playing heavily into the equation as today’s consumer is more conscious about their food sources than ever before.

The attention span of your customers is getting shorter than ever. All restaurants want to reach out to their consumers, but your time may be counted in milliseconds rather than actual seconds these days. Rather than relying on email marketing, which is likely to be sent to a spam folder, consider switching customer engagement to text-based communication.

Paying attention to calorie counts is big. More customers than ever are paying attention to calorie counts, and since May 2017 there have been rules requiring that restaurants disclose these counts. Customers are paying attention to these and many do make purchasing decisions based upon estimated caloric daily intake. So make sure that you tell the chefs to not go heavy on the oil!

Healthy kid’s menus. Along with healthier eating for Mom and Dad, healthier eating for Junior is in as well. You’re finding this evidenced in everything from apple slices instead of fries and oranges on the kids’ dessert menu. Just like parents are paying attention to their waistlines, they’re also keeping an eye on their kids’.

Keeping on top of restaurant consumer trends like these is vital to our industry. We like to stay on top of it all – and so should you!

Restaurant Renovation Pt 2: Creating Your Design Concept

restaurant design concept

In Part 1 of this two-part post, we talked about how to decide if your restaurant is ready for a face lift. If you’re still reading, congratulations! You’re ready to modernize your business. Don’t start picking out paint chips and fabric swatches just yet, however – the best renovation plans are only complete with a fully formed restaurant design concept from the very beginning.

Who is My Clientele?

So you’ve decided that your current design doesn’t work for the crowd you’re hoping to attract — but who, exactly, are you trying to attract? Families? Businessmen? College students? Tourists? Every design and menu decision that you make has to be centered around your target clientele, so make sure you clarify exactly who that is before you go any further.

What Do I Want to Accomplish?

Making more money and attracting more customers are rather vague as far as goals go. Instead, consider things like, do you want to completely re-do the vibe of your space, or do you only have the budget to freshen it up a bit? Do you need to strengthen your brand image, or re-create it entirely? Clearly define your goals now, and your plans will roll much more smoothly later on in the process.

What Do My Current Customers Like?

In undergoing a renovation, you run the risk of losing customers who don’t like what you’ve done with the place. It may be a good idea to run an opinion poll for a few weeks at least before you start getting into the nitty-gritty of your renovation. You may be able to incorporate things that your current clients like, and get some ideas of things that new customers may want to see as well.

Who Am I Working With?

Unless you are one of the rare restaurant owners who can also contract a renovation project, you will be working with others to get your restaurant in shape. The right design team can make all the difference to the end result. Our dedicated designers at TRG Restaurant Consulting will listen to your goals and desires to help you design a space that meets your needs, and that your customers will love.

Beverage Trends 2017: Coffee

Beverage Trends – Coffee

Beverage Trends Coffee

Are You Offering Fresh Coffee?

Is your drink menu full of only standard options and written in at the bottom of your menu corner? If so, you may want to consider adding in coffee, or a few coffee options, to join the growing market of restaurants that feature coffee as an all-day option and has a growing customer base of people stopping in to get a drink and a snack or to do some work at your tables.

A sort of Starbucks phenomenon is taking place in a wide variety of restaurants. Consumers aren’t always looking for a full sit-down meal or even a meal through the drive-thru window. A lot of the time, especially if your restaurant offers free Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi with purchase, what customers really want as a place to sit down with or swing by for a hot coffee, a cold coffee, or any sort of the numerous customizable drinks that have become increasingly popular. While coffee is still predominantly associated with breakfast and business offices, it is increasingly a universal drink  that can draw in a crowd — especially if you offer novelty, convenience, or both. Customers are looking for hot coffee for their commute, a cold drink for the afternoon, or sometimes even a late-night pick-me-up for when office hours or studying stretch out. Being the local restaurant or the reliable franchise that offers what your customers are looking for consistently can go a long way to not only retaining customer loyalty but bringing in customers looking for a snack or a quick meal, too.

It used to be that drinks accompany a meal. But with new trends, new consumer behavior, and increasing numbers of people working on the go, it’s turning out that everything else may be accompanying the drink. If you are looking to expand or want to further capitalize on this market of busy coffee drinkers, our consultants at TRG can help you devise new business strategies, start an operational analysis, and see where your business can grow now and in the future. Please contact us at TRG Restaurant Consulting if you have any questions or want to talk to a consultant.

Virtual Restaurants and Delivery Service

Virtual Restaurants and Delivery Services

Virtual Restaurants and Delivery Service

 

It’s six pm on a Tuesday, and after leaving work you’re sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic amid a cacophony of beeping, honking, and expletive-laced language, wondering what to have for dinner. Seven years ago the options would have amounted to cook your own dinner, dine out at a traditional restaurant, or order from the same revolving stack of pizza or chinese food menus. But this is 2016 and the delivery landscape has changed.

These are the days of Grubhub, Foodler, UberEats, Munchery, and more. The technological advancements of the last decade have affected the culinary scene with the same fervor as transportation, finance, and hospitality, resulting in a widened array of dining options for consumer and deepened selection of business ventures for chefs and entrepreneurs.

What makes these dining options and business ventures so unique and attractive? For consumers, who were previously forced to choose quality or convenience, the pros are clear. No longer is the decision to order delivery equanimous with a high-fat, high-sodium often sub-par meal delivered by a pimply high-schooler who hasn’t yet realized the importance of standing up straight or enunciating.

Today’s delivery scene offers a bevy of choices for the modern-day consumer who may prefer a wholesome, chef-prepared meal with fresh produce and locally sourced ingredients.

Business owners, too, cannot deny the appeal of a delivery-only restaurant – they cut down enormously on the initial investment and traditional on-going operating costs. No longer is interior decoration and design a concern. Nor is sourcing glassware, flatware, and plates. No POS system needed. Payroll is limited to kitchen staff, delivery staff, and some management.

That’s not to say traditional obstacles are no longer relevant, and in some ways, they are compounded. For an industry which is so heavily based in hospitality and customer service, how do restaurants right the wrongs without some manger face-time and a few comped beverages?

Expectation is oft-hailed as the root of disappointment, and in that sense traditional restaurants do a better job crafting the guests’ expectation. Subliminal cues in interior design and staff verbiage inform the guest as to the style and type of service and food, which can be challenging to replicate in the delivery-only format.

Additionally, the owner/operator needs to ensure prices cover their food, labor, and operation costs and still deliver perceived value to the consumer. While wholesome, honest ingredients and prep may go into the food, a “restaurant quality” meal entails more than just the ingredients themselves. Here’s where things like temperature and presentation come into play, as well as training the delivery person to assume more of a server-like or brand ambassador role.

The market is ever-changing and ever-expanding and we, as owners and operators, need to stay ahead of the curve, anticipating our consumer, customer, and guests wants and needs before they do. Delivery-only restaurants and commissaries present a formerly hard to come by opportunity for a lower start-up cost ventures, and offer great source of additional revenue stream for restaurants, but the traditional restaurant isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

For more insight on the delivery-only format and other market trends, reach out to us at TRG

2016 Beverage Trend Review

2016 beverage trends

We’re crazy about all things restaurants here at TRG. Forecasting trends, real time analysis, and review and reporting are our bread and butter as restaurant consultants. With the end of 2016 fast approaching, it’s time to take a look at some of the biggest 2016 beverage trends. No surprise, locally sourced ingredients tops the list (as we’re sure they will continue to), while thoughtfully composed mocktails have been a hit, and renewed fanaticism in Tiki has been a win on both sides of the bar. Read on to check out our full list of 2016 Beverage trends.

 

2016 beverage trends artisanal cocktails

Local and Artisanal Ingredients

The beverage world of 2016 has seen a continued move away from complicated ingredients, preparations, and presentations. Master mixologists with their overdone drinks are out, while fresh, simple, and local ingredients are in. Aside from local breweries and wineries, the likes of small batch tonic, ginger beer, and liqueurs have now made it to the big stage, and we couldn’t be happier about it.

 

2016 beverage trends cocktails

Mocktails

Long gone are the days of virgin daiquiris and margaritas as the only non-alcoholic cocktails options. Mocktails today are being crafted with equal attention to detail and composition as their boozy counterparts, utilizing savory elements such as herbs, as well as more premium ingredients like non-alcoholic falernum.

 

2016 beverage trends tiki cocktails

Tiki

Perhaps in attempt to pay homage to the cocktail kings and queens who paved the way,  bartenders today have gone tiki-crazy. A quick glance at the high end cocktail bars of San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and Boston show rifts on tiki-classics from the likes of Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic. With approachable flavors and ingredients, historical relevance, and eye catching presentations, Tiki drinks are a beverage trend here to stay.

 

2016 beverage trends OAC rum

Rum

Forget the spiced Captain Morgan handle you used to swig in college and make room for the new era of rums. A neutral spirit capable of many forms and expressions, today’s rums are on a broad spectrum with everything from Jamaican rum to Demerara rum and  AOC-protected rhum agricole. Complex and versatile, the past year has seen this once-forgotten spirit back in action.

 

2016 beverage trends draft cocktail

Draft Cocktails

Imagine being able to turn out a whole sleuth of good drinks – fast. Welcome to the world of Draft Cocktails. Bartenders prep and batch drinks prior to service so that a pull on the draft handle is all you need for a perfected composted cocktail. The advantages here are many, speed and efficiency topping the list, but be sure to keep an eye on things like proper scaling, dilution, and clean tap lines.

 

2016 beverage trends lower abv drinks

Lower ABV Drinks

Two martini lunches a la Don Draper are a thing of the past. Guests now are happy to enjoy sake, sherry, vermouth, and wine based cocktails and still be able to drive home. These are great bridges for non-cocktail drinkers, and a valuable tool for restaurants without a full alcohol license.

The Most Significant Restaurant Menu Design Trends for 2015

Regardless of the vast differences among the various industries in the U.S., be it restaurant design, technology innovation, new car models, or the latest fashion trends, the one thing that appears to be invariably constant year after year is change itself, especially when it comes to consumer choice and preference. But when it comes to restaurant industry trends, consumers are progressively uniting restaurants and dining to their personal beliefs and inclinations about where or how they choose to dine. This has led to the most reasonable corollary action currently facing restaurant management and executive chefs when it comes to restaurant menu design and restaurant consulting.

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