Friday, 1 November 2013

Poll Results: Time within which customers expect delivery orders to reach them !!!

The first poll I ran on this blog received 43 responses in about a week. Moving forward I am planning to run a poll every month and collect some emprical data on customer expectations, industry persepctives.

POll 1 Question:
If you order food for home delivery, what is the reasonable time in which you expect the food to be delivered to your home?

Though the sample size is small to make firm conclusions, it is apparent from the above data that 45 minutes is the maximum a restaurant business can take to deliver food to the customer's door-step, after the order has been placed, to create a good customer experience. This is not a easy thing to do consistently, especially during busy times (weekends).

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Let this diwali burn all your bad times and enter you in good times !!!

O Ram! The light of lights, the self-luminous inner light of the Self is ever shining steadily in the chamber of your heart. Sit quietly. Close your eyes. Withdraw the senses. Fix the mind on this supreme light and enjoy the real Deepavali, by attaining illumination of the soul.

How To Develop A Great Customer List !!!

If your restaurant is deciding to have a special event how do you reach your favorite customers and invite them? If you are stuck, it is probably because you have not developed a customer loyalty list. Here are 3 ways to develop and nurture a great customer list.
  • Ask Them- Don’t simply just put out an email sheet requesting emails. Verbally ask your customers would they like to be a part of the loyalty program. Offer them great offers and inside promotions if they join. For instance we encourage our customers to set up rewards for customer’s birthdays and anniversaries. This is great because it rewards them and makes the customer feel appreciated.
  • Maintain- Don’t just collect customer information and let it sit. All relationships must be maintained. Whether it is sending them a bi weekly newsletter or monthly coupon. Maintain a relationship when you don’t need your customers most, vs. a forced relationship when you really need them.
  • Don’t Abuse- Do not share your customers information with other companies. You may think that your customer may like the business down the street from your restaurant however your customer may not. Sharing information is a HUGE no no. Also be cognitive HOW MANY emails you send a week. I stress this because it you will be surprised how many loyal customers you lose because they are annoyed with too many emails. Do not abuse them. Send no more than 2 emails a week.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

3 Ways to Grow Your Restaurant Customer Base with Facebook Timeline !!!

Facebook Logo Change

Today’s lesson is on how to grow your page with three new features – Messages, Build Audience and Tagging.

1. Messages – the new reservation?

With the new Facebook Messages for business pages, your customers can contact you privately through your page.
This new tool (located in the top right when you click Admin Panel) is huge for restaurants because it gives you a personal, yet Facebook-friendly way to answer questions about your menu, promotions or even to take reservations.
MustHave - Someone on your team to handle customer messages. Facebook automatically turns this on with the Timeline switch, so be sure to turn it off if you won’t use it. It’s a check box in your Admin Panel > Manage > Edit Page > Manage Permissions.

2. Build your audience (or likes).

If you have a page with less than 5,000 likes, you’re in luck. You can use some cool tools under the new Build Audience feature. Here’s how it works:
  • Import your email contacts. You can import as many as 5,000 email contacts with the new Build Audience tool. To access this, click Build Audience > Invite Email Contacts. You can import from your email account or upload a list of addresses.
  • Invite your friends. Do you have lots of Facebook friends? Use the Share Page tool under Build Audience to ask them to support your business page.
  • Share your page in a group. If you are still trying to move fans to your page from a Facebook group, you can use the share page feature under Build Audience to invite them in a couple of clicks. Don’t forget to share your business page with any networking or charity group you are a member of to promote your business.
MustHave - Don’t do this too often. It’s enough to share your page to announce a new menu orgift certificate promo that benefits your favorite charity.

3. Enable tags for more customers.

Whether it’s music on the patio, happy hour or your Easter brunch, your customers are documenting moments on Facebook with tags (Facebook’s way of identifying people and places). Here are a few ways your customers may use tags:
  • Check-ins - Your customer can “check-in” at your restaurant  with their mobile phone (like our team did in Las Vegas last week) to let their Facebook friends know where they are. And they can “tag” anyone they’re with.
  • To share a photo - Your customer may take a photo at your Easter brunchMother’s Day meal or Cinco de Mayo celebration and tag it to share it with their friends and family on Facebook.
  • To let someone know what they’re missing - Your customer may tag a friend who couldn’t make it to girls night out or to your annual BBQ.

Why Tags Matter to Your Business

Everyone that visits your Facebook page gets a personalized view. They will see a “Friend Activity” box on the right side of your page. If their friends are actively sharing tags or comments about your business, this builds your credibility.
We see this is a great opportunity to grow your customer base and number of page fans, especially establishments with a frequent customer base such as barscoffee housescafesor any restaurant with daily specials.
MustHave - You have to allow photo tagging on your page to maximize this business driver. Simply go to Admin Panel > Edit Page > Manage > Manage Permissions and check the box that says “People can tag photos posted by your page name.”
Next Steps: Don’t forget to check out our Facebook page to see how we’re making the most of Timeline and check out how you can make your menu more Facebook friendly.

How to Get First Time Customers Through Your Door !!!

Restaurant The number of people trying new restaurants has dropped since last year. Thus, making it harder to attract first time customers. With less money in their wallets, people are sticking with who they know and trust. Your restaurant will have to fight and scratch to attract and win over the hearts of new customers. No one said it was impossible, you just have to cast out a few lines and wait for them to take the bait. However, once they do, the most important part is keeping them on the hook and not letting them get away.

Leave a Good Impression

Like many instances in life, first impressions mean a lot. According to Restaurant Hospitality in a survey of 7,000 customers, only 11 percent reported trying a new restaurant in the last 90 days. Chances to win over a new customer may not come too often, so when you have that chance you have to nail it. Also, 40% of these customers reported trying the restaurant because of recommendations by family or friends. Give your customers a reason to spread a good word around about your restaurant.

Coupons or Deals for First Timers

Lure them in and then finish the job. You can’t force customers to walk through your doors, but you can persuade them. Give them a reason to try your restaurant. Offer a coupon or special deal for first time customers. It could be a coupon customers print off themselves, or a walk in special. Offer a free appetizer or 20% off. Most importantly though, you have to seal the deal once you have them at your table.

Social Media Presence

News and information travels faster than ever with social media at the world’s finger tips. Your restaurant should have a presence on the most popular and widely used social media sites. Have a Twitter feed that you post to daily, or post pictures of your food and restaurant on Instagram. Not only will this let you announce deals and information about whats going on at your restaurant, it will allow others to comment on and spread the information you share. This could catch the eye of potential first time customers, and give them a chance to read some good words about your business.

Monitor Review Sites

Restaurant review sites are extremely popular today. Many customers get their information from sites like Urbanspoon, and Yelp. Watch and monitor sites like this to see what is being said about you. Remember, negative comments are not always a terrible thing. Take any criticism as a chance to improve your business. Sites like this are a great tool for customers to find good deals and restaurants. However, they can also be a great tool for a business to learn how to make improvements.

Offer a Unique Selling Point

In this industry you can’t assume that guarantees of good food and services will bring crowds of new customers. As part of your marketing technique, your restaurant should offer a unique selling point to intrigue new customers into trying your restaurant. For example, Chipotle uses a stance of “integrity” in their business with respect for the environment and proper care of the animals that are used in their food. Even if your business is offering some of the same dishes as other restaurants in the area, give customers a notion that your business is offering something new to the dining experience.

Psychology of Color

The colors you choose in your marketing may not seem important in the grand scheme of things, but believe it or not, colors may impact everything from what you are saying about your business to the impulses of potential customers. Know your target customer and what the colors you use say about your business. For example black expresses a stance of sophistication and elegancy while blue shows trust and reliability. Also know the effects your colors could have on your customers. Did you know the reds and oranges used by many fast food restaurants have been shown to persuade customers to eat quick and leave?
The restaurant industry is rough and tough place to thrive in. Customers are not as likely to go out on a limb to try something new. You’ve got to give customers a reason to give you a shot. But remember, standing out and attracting customers is only half the battle. Once they have decided to see what you have to offer, you have to delight them with your business.

17 Surprisingly Awesome Beer Cocktails for Your Bar Menu !!!

beer cocktails You might stick to liquor when making mixed drinks, but don’t forget about beer! There are tons of delicious, refreshing beer cocktails that will impress your customers. Try looking at beer as a great mixer instead of just a solo drink and try out one of these awesome cocktails.
1. The Black Velvet. Add one part Guinness to one part sparkling wine and you’ll end up with a simple-yet-delicious cocktail.
2. The Michelada. Combining beer with Worcestershire sauce and a mix of ingredients that includes cayenne and paprika might seem strange, but that’s what gives the Michelada its unique kick.
3. Hangman’s Blood. Gin, whisky, rum, port, brandy…what isn’t in this drink? A variety of liquors combined with stout makes this one potent drink.
4. Black and Tan. Okay, so this one’s just two different beers, but it’s a classic. Combine Guinness with a pale ale and you’ll end up with this favorite.
5. Sweet Blonde. Combine Franziskaner, Chimay White, and Hornsby Cider to make this refreshingly fancy cocktail.
6. Beermarita. For those times when you want both a beer and a margarita, you can combine beer, tequila, and frozen limeade concentrate.
7. Lambic Sangria. What’s better than sangria? Sangria with beer in it!
8. The Cure. You can class up Miller High Life by adding fresh lemon juice, fresh ginger, and ginger liqueur.
9. Snakebite. Lager, hard cider, and black currant liqueur combine to make a cocktail that goes down dangerously smooth.
10. The Luchador. If you’re a Clamato fan, try mixing up this Mexican-inspired beer cocktail.
11. Panache. Try going one step up from the typical shandy by mixing French lemonade with lager.
12. Beer ice cream floats. Why not reinvent the classic children’s favorite for a more adult audience? Combined with an espresso or chocolate flavored beer, a beer ice cream float can be a rich (and boozy) treat.
13. The Broadway. Perfect for Fall, this drink combines cranberry syrup, club soda, and beer.
14. Beer Bloody Mary. If you’re tired of the typical vodka bloody mary, why not give beer a try?
15. Beerly Legal. Cutesy name aside, this mix of tangerine juice, orange aperitif, and beer is sweet, light, and refreshing.
16. Guinness Cream Soda. This grown-up version of the classic cream soda uses vanilla and ginger liqueur.
17. Steamroller. Beer, whiskey, and some fruity flavors combine to make a delicious drink.
Next time you’re looking for a new drink to whip up, try impressing your customers with one of these amazing beer cocktails!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Building a Great Seasonal Menu !!!

Creating a great seasonal menu is time-consuming and costly, and this is the biggest reason that so many great restaurants avoid a seasonal menu. Businesses focused on the bottom line tend to stick to a specific formula for success, sometimes at the expense of an evolving menu. But a seasonal menu shows guests that the kitchen truly cares about providing a unique dining experience.
A seasonal menu can only be the product of an expert Chef with the time and resources to put together a one-of-a-kind menu. Seasonality should be a part of every kitchen because of the nature of commodities like produce and proteins. A kitchen willing to create a dedicated seasonal menu signals to foodies and lovers of great dining that something special is happening in the restaurant.
While building a seasonal menu depends on the specifics of the region and time of year, there are a few steps that should be followed in each case. This template can ease the burden and turn building a seasonal menu into a cost-effective venture for any restaurant.

The Concept

The most valuable commodity for creativity in most kitchens is time, and this is no exception when creating seasonal dishes. A chef needs time to consider seasonal ingredients, work with vendors, and think creatively about different elements that stand out. He also needs to be able to work with a Sous or other kitchen staff to brainstorm for ideas and flesh out entree components.
The creative spark often begins with a single ingredient that speaks to the Chef. However, it also helps to have colleagues nearby to challenge inspiration and work to create a dish that will appeal to a wide audience.


The Chef or Kitchen Manager should usually work with vendors and local produce growers to get ideas, cost out products, and even learn about what ideas are working in other restaurants in the area. A vendor rep can be a great resource, especially for the Chef working to create a new seasonal menu for the first time.
A seasonal menu might start out with a few dishes that are the product of real inspiration. However, a well-rounded tasting menu needs every component of a multi-course experience. Strong vendor relationships can help fill in the gaps with ideas about seasonal availability.

Testing and Tasting

Too many chefs fail to prepare their dishes and get enough feedback from staff. Many chefs work best when alone, especially in a small kitchen. This can be an effective mindset most of the time. But new and seasonal entrees comprising a tasting menu should be carefully vetted; first by the chef alone and then with the help of trusted staff members with discriminating tastes.
The idea of tastings is to decide what works, what does not work, and how to tweak a dish to improve it. The chef should absorb suggestions and be willing to take another crack at it, if necessary. Tastings tend to provoke ideas and educate the staff, and they are really what menu development is all about.

Cost it Out

Costing out entrees is the backbone of new entrees. The top priorities are thoroughness and accuracy. Costs must accurately account for portion control. They also must include a plate/table wraparound or other device to accurately account for non-component costs (i.e. bread, butter, salt, parsley). Costs must be accounted for in relation to targets, and measures must be taken to get costs under a target cost percentage.
This is another instance in which vendors can be a great asset. When buying seasonal ingredients, do not hesitate to shop around for the best prices. In many cases, the hardest part of creating a new menu is getting ingredients at the lowest possible price.


Whether you are rolling out a single-night tasting menu or a long-term menu insert, be sure to account for all the details. This includes:
Menu printing
Line prep
Staff training
Staff tastings
Seasonal menu rollout gets easier with regular practice, so be aware of bumps in the road and do not be afraid to stick with it to get it right. A seasonal menu can be a great sign for the health of a kitchen and a business, and it is a great way to create buzz about the restaurant.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Hiring a Chef for your Restaurant Business !!!

If you are investing in a restaurant business, hiring the right chef is critical for success. Contrary to popular perception, most restaurant business don't need a chef who is a great cook (unless your aim is to do a Michelin Star restaurant - most of these restaurants tend to be chef owned and operated businesses). The primary role of a chef in most restaurants is not to cook the food, but to creatively design a menu, use ingredients that are easily available or ones that can be stored easily, train enough staff to consistently prepare dishes of the same quality quickly and present the dishes in a manner that customers expect.

So what you really need is someone who has spent 5-10 years in a professional restauarant kitchen, is very good in people management and knows business basics (costing, process improvements, managing the kitchen during busy times, wastage reduction etc.). Other than this the attitude and alignment with your operating style are important.

The role of the chef and the kind of person you need will also depend on what you are trying to do. If you are setting a stand-alone single restaurant, then the chef you hire can be extensively involved in the cooking process on a daily basis. But if your aim is to build a scalable restaurant business, then you need to hire someone who can set things up in a manner that the restaurant is be able to function as always even if the chef goes on a month long vacation.

A lot of the chefs nowadays are quite active in Monster, Naukri etc. You should be able to find resumes there. Another way is to ask some chefs you know to refer someone suitable for your business/context. A great poaching ground for chefs is young staff at the 5 star hotel restaurants - especially the Taj, the Oberoi and the ITC hotels. If you search hard enough, you should be able to find some young enterprising folks out there. For a restaurant chef, you should look at candidates who are currently at a Sous Chef/Junior Sous Chef level at these hotel restaurants.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Impact of increasing food costs on the restaurant business !!!

Over the last 3-4 years, food costs have consistently been spiralling upwards. Most food items are now atleast 15-20% more expensive than they were 3-4 years ago, with a number of products almost at double the prices (e.g. Paneer - I remember having bought Milky Mist Paneer at Rs.95/kg at Metro in early 2009. Today the price of the same is Rs.185). Same story with good quality branded ghee and several other products.

The impact of such high increases is severe on the restaurant business, especially the value for money affordable food joints. Let's assume a local north indian joint. If the cost of the raw materials for a curry was 38 bucks earlier, the joint could price the item at around 100 bucks. The net sale price would be 96 bucks (after taking out 4% VAT). So the food cost would be 40%. Now if the cost of the raw materials go up by about 20% = 45 bucks. To maintain the food cost @ 40%, the new selling price would need to be 117 bucks. Now it would not be easy for the affordable food joint owner to suddenly increase prices by 17-20 bucks. This is just for a 20% increase in the cost of the raw materials. Given the prices have gone up by over 40% on an average, the local affordable & VFM food joints are no doubt in trouble.

What do I foresee for the industry in the next year? 
I can see a lot of the VFM affordable businesses struggling to stay alive. The market will slowly start accepting increased prices, but a lot of the businesses may not be able to hold on till that happens. This is because of the high increase in the food costs, plus an equally high increase in labour costs. Rentals, utilities etc. have also been very high, but even there the increases over the last 3-4 years have been significant (e.g. LPG cylinders now sell at 1700 bucks. 4 years ago the prices were at the 800 bucks level). Most businesses can absorb high cost increases in one or two of the key factors. Today, all the cost factors are coming into play, and the prices can only be increased by so much and may offset one or two of the factors.

The ones who manage to stay afloat?
The businesses which manage to survive and sustain longer should be able to grab a larger share of the customer's wallet. While the increased sales will not lead to increased profits, it should help offset the increased cost of all the input factors.

So all the affordable VFM food joints need to get their seat belts on and survive the turbulence. As the famous dialogue in "The Dark Knight", the night is darkest just before the dawn. I sure hope that this is true for the restaurant business in India.