Saturday, 19 October 2013

How to Increase Repeat Customers at Your Bar or Restaurant !!!

group at bar Bringing in new customers is important…but what’s even more important? Turning those new customers into repeat visitors! So how do you make sure that your customers will return again and again? Read on for a few tips.

1. Keep it consistent.

When customers come in to your restaurant, they want to know what to expect. Will their food taste like it did last time? And will the portion sizes be the same? Make sure customers can depend on you to provide a reliable experience.

2. Offer a loyalty program.

When you reward customers for each visit or purchase, they’re likely to come back. Give customers a punch card or swipe card and offer a reward like a free meal for every ten visits or purchases. If customers know there’s a free meal on the horizon, they’ll be back.

3. Try games.

If customers have something fun and social to look forward to, they’ll be back week after week. Consider offering trivia games. Encourage customers to form teams and bring out their competitive sides. You can turn your bar or restaurant into a weekly hang out spot!

4. Utilize social media.

Social media can help you form a more personal connection with your customers. If they like you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter, they’ll have up close and personal access to your news, updates, and offers. Encourage customers to come in by posting frequent updates and invite feedback by asking (and answering) questions.

5. Offer Buy-One-Get-One deals.

Buy-One-Get-One offers encourage customers to bring in friends, and this can turn one repeat customer into two repeat customers!

6. Avoid general discounts.

Although specific offers can be a good way to increase repeat customers, offering general coupons (like $5 off any meal) doesn’t do much to increase customer loyalty. This may bring in new customers, but you want to encourage customers to come back often and pay your regular prices. Customers who only come in for a deep discount may not necessarily be back when that discount isn’t around.

7. Provide great service.

This is one of the most important things you can do to bring in repeat customers. Diners may forget many details of their meal, but they never forget terrible service. Make sure you’ve trained your servers and hosts to provide top-notch service by being as friendly and helpful as possible. Servers and hosts should remember customers’ names and make them feel welcome.

8. Encourage honest feedback.

If customers feel like they can engage honestly with your restaurant, they’ll be more likely to tell you if something goes wrong. And while complaints might not seem so great on the surface, remember that many customers who don’t tell you about a problem go home to complain about it to their friends. When a customer tells you about a problem, you can fix it right away and ensure that they come back again.
Sure, new customers are important, but building a loyal customer base is what separates a successful bar or restaurant from an unsuccessful one. By following these tips, you should be able to turn your customers into repeat business!

How to Boost Your Bar and Restaurant Sales through the Winter Months !!!

restaurant winter With winter quickly approaching, now is the time to strategize about how to boost your bar or restaurant’s sales during this off-peak season. While the festive holiday season makes it a prime time for celebrations and private parties, you still can’t ignore the fact that when temperatures freeze up so do consumers’ spending on dining out.
In order to stay ahead of your competition during these slower times, you’ll need to think outside of the box, even if it means doing things differently than you would any other time of year. Here are ideas to help your bar or restaurant boost sales through the winter chill.

Feature heartier entrées, soups and stews on the menu:

When creating your winter menu, think about all of the delicious warming foods that people love to eat when the temperatures drop. Homemade soups, stews and classic comfort foods will be sure winners with your hungry and cold patrons.

Cater to takeout customers:

With shorter days, long work weeks and the challenges that cold weather brings, many hungry consumers opt for the comfort and convenience of takeout. Cater to them by offering curbside takeout service or home delivery. You may also consider offering customers the ability to place their orders and pay for the bill right from your website or Facebook page.

Make the most out of holiday rush times:

Give your customers every reason to dine at your restaurant during the holiday season. For instance, offer holiday lunch specials that appeal to busy holiday shoppers on the go, and remember to make the most out of your banquet space for large groups or company parties.

Give your marketing and promotional activities EXTRA love:

Every restaurant will be fighting for their piece of the holiday season market share, so it’s especially important to make sure that your brand is front and center when things slow down. Need some inspiration? Consider these tips for marketing your bar or restaurant in 30 minutes or less.

Put a festive spin on your bar menu:

There’s nothing like a bourbon, Irish coffee or glass of red wine to warm you up inside. Don’t miss valuable opportunities to add to your customers’ tabs with alcohol. Get creative with winter cocktails. Here are some fun ideas to help you get started.

Impart warmth and coziness through your décor:

Give your guests a respite from the cold with added touches, such as cranking up the fireplace, serving hot cocoa and eggnog and sprucing up your interior with holiday lights and decorations.

Enhance your bar or restaurant’s holiday scene live entertainment and special events:

Offer live entertainment and special events to heighten the holiday spirit. A few ideas… host a holiday party for your VIP guests, bring in Santa during Sunday brunch, or host live trivia games.

Be kind to your customers’ wallets:

The holiday season is an expensive time for most consumers, so they will likely be paying extra attention to how much they spend on dining out, especially after all of the holiday fanfare has passed. Think about ways to help your customers save a few bucks without it negatively impacting your restaurant’s profits.
While the seasonal trends of winter can pose difficulties for many bars and restaurants, seizing every opportunity to drive patronage through winter can make all of the difference!

Friday, 18 October 2013

Tori Tori restaurant !!!

A collaboration between mexico-based firm rojkind arquitectos and design workshop esrawe studio, construction for the tori-tori restaurant in polanco near mexico city is now complete.
Emerging from the ground like climbing ivy, the CNC routed facade appears to waver and curve. subtly different, the two layers of self-supporting steel are precisely
handcrafted and finished to generate a dynamic effect. The outdoor terrace allows guests to eat or drink amongst natural vegetation while the furniture has been specifically developed for a comfortable dining experience. a complete collection of tables and chairs were created to enhance each interior area connecting the atmosphere and function.
The facade’s pattern responds to the inside openings, filtering light, shadows, and views that will constantly invade the interior spaces. An atmosphere enriched by the spectrum of subtle changes. The interior receives and follows the exterior with subtle contrasts. Each room has its own nature and shows a clear relationship with its function.

A Food Business without the real estate !!!

Over the last 12 months, almost a dozen investors/well heeled folks have approached me to talk about a food business without the real estate. Essentially they want to explore the possibility of setting up a delivery only food business with a kitchen in a non-prime low cost location. This would make the capital expenditure significantly lower, make the operations easier (due to no customer footfalls in the real estate space).

While on a excel sheet this model looks reasonably attractive, I have been a little skeptical about this business model for the following reasons:

1) Buying food from a restaurant is a impulse decision. It is also typically not a "Necessity" but a "Nice" purchase - though it sometimes feels like a necessity given our hunger pangs. Because of this, reinforcing your existence becomes very critical - i.e. a customer sees your place everyday when he comes home and simply by seeing you everyday, he decides to try it out one day. Without a retail location, you don't get this visibility. So you will have to invest in extensive branding - bill-boards, flyers, etc. repeatedly. The cost of doing this is also quite high and may offset the rental savings to a large extent, atleast in the initial few months/years while your brand is being established.
2) Several customers like to visit a restaurant, try out the food and then start ordering food from there. With the above business model this option is not available. So they will have to be coerced to place a delivery order and try it out once - again this will require some marketing spend. This can be done by placing attractive offers during the initial few months to get customers to try it out.
3) The Real Cost of delivery is higher than it seems. My estimate is that the variable cost of delivery ranges between 15-20% of the order value - this includes the following costs: Staff, Vehicle fuel and maintenance, order taking and tracking system. While a lot of these can be optimized on paper, in reality streamlining delivery is not easy. In a discussion with a Domino's executive, he told me that they undertook a study to optimize the delivery process and the conclusion to the study was to have more delivery vehicles per unit.
The rentals for a restaurant in a high visibility location is typically 15-20% of the sales. So the delivery costs are not lower than the rental costs, but the initial capex and capital at risk is significantly lower.

Despite the above skepticisms, I think it will be worthwhile for folks to experiment with this format - and like I have mentioned several times, if your initial plan on paper requires "X" amount of funding, keep 2-3X handy to give you enough cushion and enough of a runway to try and take-off.

Restaurants offering a Single Product - Why I really like them?

I am a huge fan of restaurants which offer a single product - by this I don't mean just one item on the menu, but just one comprehensive and well designed product offering for the customer. I will give you a few examples of such offerings.
• Rajdhani ( - Gujarati/Rajasthani Thali
• Barbeque Nation ( - Kababs on the table and an Indian buffet
• Maiyas/MTR ( - Traditional Karnataka Meal
• Buffets in Restaurants

Why do I like such offerings?

• There is exceptional clarity to the customers on how much they are going to spend at the restaurant and what exactly they will get at the restaurant. So if you have a good product offering, satisfying customers and generating repeat customers/referrals becomes easier.

• Typically with such offerings, it will be difficult for the customer to NOT feel satisfied at the end of the meal. Out of the various dishes, everyone will like a few items, you typically can get unlimited servings of the items you like and of course you always have a couple of dessert options that will please the customer even if everything else was not that great. If customers leave your restaurant satisfied, it is really good for your business.

• Operationally it makes things a lot easier (This is a big one if you run/manage a restaurant)
1) There is no confusion with order taking and fulfillment. In a typical restaurant, communicating the orders to the kitchen, prioritising the food preparation, assembling the food for a table and serving the right order to the right table is quite a process - during busy times, the kitchen area is literally like a warzone.
2) Since the food is prepared in advance (i.e. the cooks don't start preparing the dish once the customer places the order), the customer gets the food quickly. No one really likes waiting for food in a restaurant - that is why even in a lot of fine dining restaurants, you will notice that they will serve complementary bread/nibbles immediately after the customer gets seated at the table to keep them happy till their order arrives. This is particularly critical during busy times, when your kitchen will invariably delay orders and frustrate your customers.
3) Billing once a customer has finished the meal is easier - no need to track specific orders for a specific table. This minimizes possibilities of errors, wrong billing and scope for any hanky-panky by the cashier/restaurant staff.
4)Menu Planning and Cost Control: This is another big one for me.
* Since you don't have a fixed menu, managing and controlling your inventory of raw material becomes easy.
* Within your broad concept, your chef can play around with the specific menu options, make changes easily (based on customer feedback) and have more scope for innovating. Running Food festivals/thematic events is easier - e.g. Holi Special, Diwali Special etc.
* Also with the way raw material costs have fluctuated over the last few years, a good chef can quickly remove high cost offerings and replace them with alternatives. e.g. If the cost of Capsicum goes up signifcantly, the chef need not buy Capsicum for that particular period, and instead prepare a brinjal dish that is aligned with the overall concept.

Hopefully I have convinced a few of you about this theory of mine.

Business Tip: I think there is fantastic potential in India for an All-Day Buffet Restaurant - in the lines of Ryans (, Old Country Buffet (, Cici's Pizza ( etc. in the US.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

The picNYC table

The picNYC table with grass table top brings the rural picnic into the urban residence!
Urban farming is a fast growing phenomenon where the typically rural practice of agriculture is brought into the city. The picNYC table goes one step further and brings the rural experience of picnicking not just in the city, but into the dining room.
The folded lightweight aluminum table top and legs form a stiff framework for the grass, soil and stones (needed for drainage). The picNYC table creates a surreal experience of nature in the city that literally transforms dining. Suddenly spilling water becomes a necessity instead of a problem, wine glasses need coasters not to prevent ring stains but to avoid tumbling.
Included in the rural experience is the maintenance of the grass. No table grass mower yet exists and the grass therefore needs to be cut by hand.
Based on the number of cuts, maintenance, usage, sunlight and season, the PicNYC table responds with a variety of colors to the conditions set by the owner. However, the color can always be reset to bright green since fresh sod is available year round.
Based on the concept of transposing natural experiences to the apartment, endless alterations are possible with flowers, herbs or even vegetables. Depending on the needs and green thumbs of the owner, the PicNYC table brings various degrees and qualities of the rural experience into the urban residence. As a consequence, the PicNYC table transforms dining into a feast at a new intersection of nature and city.
For Purchase enquiries please contact

FINK !!!

F!NK products are designed by Australian artists and most of the manufacturing processes occur in the F!NK studio. Each object is individually hand finished which results in an object embedded with its own unique charecteristics—more like a piece of art.
Founded in 1993 to manufacture beautifully-designed and innovative household objects, F!NK is not just a showcase for Foster’s internationally-renowned exhibition pieces, but a production house for the work of an increasing pool of young designers, and a name synonymous with spirited and distinctive Australian design.
F!NK fundamentally challenges the notions that functional is necessarily boring, and that useful and visually exciting are mutually exclusive. While embracing and reinventing the urban and utilitarian, F!NK is shamelessly unafraid of running with quirkiness and frivolity that captures the heart and imagination.

Marketing a Restaurant Business !!!

Since the restaurant business typically targets end-consumers as customers, it is critical to create a “PULL” for customers to try out your restaurant. So from a marketing perspective, you will need to think like a FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods)/Consumer services company. The trouble is that implementing a good Marketing plan costs a lot of money (when you look at absolute amounts required). Like in most businesses, you will want to allocate a portion of your revenues as marketing expenses – say 5-10%. For a FMCG company like ITC, their revenues for each of their products run into several hundred Crores – so 5-10% of such a large amount is substantial and lets them do some great things with their marketing budget. For a Restaurant business your annual revenues will typically be 1-2 Crores per annum per unit. So, unless you have a large number of units (like say Dominos Pizza), your marketing budget will be very small in absolute terms. So realistically, you cannot use some of the same marketing options that the larger players and other FMCG/Consumer services companies use, but will need to efficiently reach out to your target customers and create the “PULL” factor.
The biggest and the best marketing investment a restaurant business can make is by picking a great location that has very high levels of visibility. We have already beaten to death and even more the topic around the “importance of location”. This is just another nail in the same coffin.
The second best marketing for your business will come from “Word of Mouth”. You need a lot of your customers to talk about/recommend your restaurant to their friends. If you have read the book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, you need a lot of connectors and mavens to visit your restaurant, like your restaurant and then spread the word as much as possible.
As a restaurant customer, if you look at the number of new restaurants you have made a decision to try out – i.e. it does not include new places you go to because you are invited there by someone else, I can bet, without doing any kind of research or surveys, that over 50% would be because of its location –
1) You are in the area, the place looks like something you want to try out, or
2) You keep seeing the place so often (it is in your neighbourhood or in an area that you frequent) that you almost feel bad not to check it out.
The remaining 20-30% would be because a friend (someone you trust or someone in your circle who is considered a foodie) recommended a certain place.
So that leaves the other 20% or so new restaurants, which you have visited, to other marketing initiatives that have caught your attention – maybe an ad or a flyer or a review you saw.
If you get the drift of what I am getting at, 80% of your marketing impact will come from your location and “Word-of-mouth” referrals from customers who have visited you. So if you don’t get these two right, whatever else you try will make absolutely no sense and the results will leave you disappointed.
So in reality the remaining marketing options we are talking about are like the cherry on top the cake – they can help improve the number of customers visiting your place by a bit, but will probably not turnaround your business by opening the floodgates.
One caveat to the above theories: When you are launching a new restaurant, a number of these marketing options mentioned below may help drive the initial traffic to your restaurant and may be quite effective.
The secondary marketing options that are available to you and those that restaurants typically tend to use.
  1. Advertising in Newspapers – Paid Ads
  2. Advertorials in Newspapers – Paid articles written about your restaurant in a newspaper
  3. Just Dial and similar Directory Services
  4. Bill Boards
  5. Restaurant Review websites such as,
  6. Online Menu and Order enabling services such as
  7. Flyers in the Newspaper
  8. Deal Websites such as Taggle, Snapdeal, Koovs, DealsandYou, Dealivore etc.
  9. SMS marketing providers such as mGinger.
  10. Google Adwords

How does the Restaurant Industry in China compare with the industry in India? !!!

This single piece of data below from YUM Brands (the owners of the brands KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell) will illustrate why China is an Elephant and India is, well, a baby elephant. 
The total for China above is from their Q1 earnings release. When you add the individual numbers, it comes to 4647. The missing 2 are probably Pizza Hut Home Delivery units.

According to YUM Brands, as stated publicly on their website, "We Consider China to be the greatest Restaurant opportunity of the 21st century" -
YUM added 168 new restaurants in China in Q1, 2012. The equivalent number for India is about 25. 
YUM has also created a local Chinese brand - East Dawning (Chinese food QSR). They also acquired a restaurant chain "Little Sheep" in 2011. The 300 Little Sheep restaurants are not included in the numbers above. 
Both China and India are fast growing markets, but it looks like despite the already large size, China is galloping faster than India and is on the way to become a Restaurant Industry Dinosaur. According to YUM's CEO, "We believe our new unit potential in emerging markets is the best in the restaurant industry and we’re still on the ground floor of growth".

Monday, 14 October 2013

Kitchen Area in a Restaurant !!!

While designing a restaurant space, the normal tendency would be to maximize the number of "Covers" (industry term for seats) and minimize the space required for the kitchen area. What exactly is included when we use the term "Kitchen area" in a typical restaurant.

1) Cooking area - This means the area used for preparing the food - large commercial gas burners, tandoor, grill etc. depending on your cuisine.
2) Work tables adjoining the cooking area for preparing and keeping the final cooking ingredients ready. This could include veggies & meat cut appropriately, sauces, spices etc.
3) A Wash area that can be used for washing the cooking utensils & accessories and another wash area for serving dishes (plates, spoons, forks etc. - cutlery, crockery). In small restaurants, the wash areas for both tend to be combined.
4) A Small Store area - This is a dry area used to store the most commonly used provisions in the kitchen. Even if the restaurant has a separate larger store, the kitchen will need a small store or atleast a few storage shelves.
5) Pantry Area - This is the area where the juices, desserts, maybe even salads and other items which do not need cooking, are prepared.
6) Food Pick-up tables - Generally, you have a small table which is used to assemble the dishes to make it easy for the server/steward to come and pick-up the items and take them for serving to the customers.
7) Preparation Area - This could be an area used to cut meats, maybe have a grinder for grinding flour etc. In small restaurants, the same work table area is used for this. This would depend on your cuisine.
8) Staff Toilet Area: This, in my opinion is critical and a very basic need you need to provide for. A number of small restaurants do not provide this and you can see the kitchen staff using the customer toilet area.
9) Staff Changing Area: A small area for the staff to change to their work uniforms/dresses and hang their clothes and keep their personal belongings.
10) Space for keeping clean cutlery and crockery: This area can be provided for adjoining the kitchen or within the customer area in the form of "Side Tables" - The next time you go to a restaurant, you can see small shelves used to store plates, spoons, forks etc. Providing a space for keeping clean water glasses is also critical as these tend to be fragile and if you do not provide for it, you will end up with lots of breakage.
11) An area where the used cutlery, crockery and glasses can be kept for washing - This is a small area where the steward / clearing boy can leave the used the plates, cutlery and glasses for the washing staff to take and clean.

If you include all of the above, you will probably need 400-600 sft even for a small restaurant kitchen. Again, the exact space requirements would depend on the concept/cuisine. So please use the above as a broad guideline for the kind of space you would need.

Thinking Like a Customer: 10 Things A Customer Notices As Soon As They Step Into Your Restaurant

restaurant interior
You might think everything in your restaurant is great—your food, your staff, and your décor—but have you tried looking at it through your customers’ eyes? As soon as potential diners walk through the door, they get a first impression of your restaurant—and if it isn’t good, they might not be back. Luckily, if you try thinking like a customer, you can identify your problem areas and fix them.

1. Your host.

Your host is probably the first person your customers talk to at your restaurant. If your host is friendly, attentive, and helpful, s/he can help you make a great first impression. However, if your host is rude or inattentive, you can turn off your customers before they even order their food.

2. Your waiting area.

Do you have enough space for your customers to wait for their tables? Do you have seating for them? And do you have a television or something else to keep them entertained?

3. Your décor.

This is the first chance your customers get to see what your restaurant is all about, so your décor matters a lot. If everything in your restaurant doesn’t fit your brand, consider changing it so that customers aren’t confused as soon as they walk in.

4. Your bathrooms.

If your customers visit your restroom while waiting for their table, you don’t want them to be grossed out. If you don’t keep up the highest level of hygiene in your restrooms, your customers will be left wondering about the cleanliness of your kitchen.

5. Smells.

Ideally your whole restaurant will be filled with the delicious aromas of your food. But this isn’t so great if those odors are burnt or stale.

6. Lighting.

Is your restaurant too dim or too bright? Or, worse, do you have burned out bulbs? Your lighting can make a big impression on your customers.

7. Glasses or silverware.

Before your customers even place their orders, they’ll probably get drinks and silverware. If there are lipstick stains on the glasses or crusted food on the forks, customers probably won’t be excited to order their entrees.

8. Signs.

If you have any signs on your door, on your host stand, or anywhere else where customers are entering, make sure they look professional. A hand-lettered sign doesn’t exactly make a customer feel confident about the level of care you put into your food.

9. Cleanliness.

Are your floors covered in dirt? Are your windowpanes lined with dust? These are the sorts of things that will stand out to customers.

10. The noise.

Is your noise level appropriate for the type of restaurant you’re running? Customers expect a sports bar to be noisier than a French-style bistro.
By keeping these things in mind, you can be in control of the impression your customers get as soon as they walk in the door.