Tuesday, September 30, 2014

More higher-income households good news for restaurants

Household income remained stagnant in 2013, as the real median household income of $51,939 was essentially unchanged from its 2011 and 2012 levels. However, growth in the number of higher-income households may be a positive sign for the restaurant industry, according to the NRA’s Chief Economist Bruce Grindy. His Economist’s Notebook commentary and analysis appears regularly on Restaurant.org and Restaurant TrendMapper.

Household income remained stagnant in 2013, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. Real median household income was $51,939 in 2013, essentially unchanged from its 2011 and 2012 levels.  In addition, 2013 median household income stood 8 percent below its recent cyclical high of $56,436 in 2007. 

But looking inside the numbers, there are some positive signs for the restaurant industry, as the number of higher-income households rose for the second consecutive year. The number of households with annual income above $75,000 numbered 42.3 million in 2013 – up 3.7 percent from a total of 40.8 million in 2011. In other words, there were 1.5 million more households with income above $75,000 in 2013 than there were in 2011, after adjusting for inflation.   

The growth of the last two years came on the heels of a sharp decline in higher-income households during the Great Recession. Between 2007 and 2011, the number of households with annual income above $75,000 plunged 5.1 percent, or 2.2 million households. 

At the same time, the number of households with annual income below $25,000 soared 14 percent, or more than 3.7 million households. In addition, the number of households in the $25,000-to-$49,999 income category jumped 9 percent between 2007 and 2011.

As the economy improved during the last two years, the number of households with income below $25,000 remained steady, while households in the $25,000-to-$49,999 income bracket declined 1 percent. With growth being realized in the upper brackets, this suggests that households are moving up the income ladder as the recovery continues to firm. 

While the recent growth is a move in the right direction, the number of higher-income households still remained 700,000 below the record high reached in 2007, when there were 43.0 million households with income above $75,000.

The potential implications for the restaurant industry are significant, as higher-income households represent the majority of spending in the industry. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, households with incomes of $100,000 or higher are responsible for 36 percent of the total spending on food away from home, while households with incomes between $70,000 and $99,999 account for 18 percent of industry spending.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Allergens focus of final lesson of National Food Safety Month

As September comes to an end, so does the 2014 National Food Safety Month, but food safety should be your focus every day as you run your restaurant. Each week in September, the Louisiana Restaurant Association has covered an important topic from ServSafe food safety and sanitation training course, using the theme, “20 Tips for 20 Years of National Food Safety Month.”  

Fifteen million Americans suffer from food allergies, so it is important for foodservice personnel to understand what the Big 8 are, how to avoid cross contact and how to identify an allergic reaction. The final lesson is about allergens and the Big 8.

A food allergy results when the immune system mistakenly attacks a food protein (food allergen). While more than 160 food items can cause allergic reactions, just eight of those accounts for 90 percent of all reactions. These eight foods are known as the “Big 8.” They are: tree nuts, peanuts, soy, egg, milk, fish, wheat and shellfish.

Cross-contact is the transfer of an allergen from a food containing the allergen to a food that does not contain the allergen. One of the most important ways you can keep guests with food allergies safe is by preventing cross-contact. Read steps to avoid cross-contact here.

The NRA and the LRA partner to offer ServSafe Allergens, an online, interactive 90-minute training course to assist restaurateurs and foodservice personnel in understanding and communicating the risks associated with serving guests with food allergies. The course is just $22 and can be accessed here.

Finally, there are six key symptoms of a food-allergic reaction. Below is a quiz you can do with your staff. The answer key can be found at www.foodsafetymonth.com.

Don't touch your face after cutting a jalapeño and other advice from Alex Guarnaschelli

The daughter of a cookbook editor, Alex Guarnaschelli grew up surrounded by food. Today, she's executive chef at The Darby in New York City and a regular judge on the Food Network's "Chopped." She shares her story for First Job Friday.

Q:How long have you worked in the restaurant industry?
A. Twenty-three years.

Q. What was your first job in the industry?
A. I worked at Larry Forgione's "An American Place"  in the pantry/pastry section. I made a lot of peanut butter ice cream and wrapped a lot of Camembert cheese in phyllo dough.

Q. What are the lessons you learned from your first restaurant job that have stayed with you throughout your career?
1. Never wipe your face right after cutting a jalapeño.

2. When you start something new, take it slowly. It's better to shuck one oyster perfectly in five minutes than 10 badly in two minutes.

3. If you're in charge, try to be as calm as possible. If you're not in charge, try to be as calm as possible.

4. Egg custards separate and overcook easily. Don't neglect them as they cook.

5. American ingredients have great regionality and deserve great respect.

Q. What was your first big break?
A. When Guy Savoy told me I could work the fish station at his eponymous Parisian restaurant.

Q. What helped you reach career success?
A. My parents' belief in me. Great mentoring and occasional kicks in the a**. Patience and hard work.

Q. Why is having and being a mentor important for restaurant/hospitality careers?
A. It was critical for me to keep my confidence up and my thoughts on track. I wouldn't have done half as much without those relationships. That, and reading cookbooks and eating out whenever possible were a great help.

Q. What advice would you give to those seeking out a career in the restaurant industry?
A. Be patient with yourself and the craft of cooking. It takes a lot of hard work, repetition and dedication. Cooking is manual labor with great fun involved. Try to enjoy and find that beauty in food.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Heartland introduces mobile and online ordering solution

Heartland Payment Systems, the nation's fifth largest payments processor and a leading provider of merchant business solutions, has introduced a feature-rich mobile and online ordering solution to help restaurants of all sizes remain competitive. Heartland Mobile and Online Ordering, in partnership with ToGoTechnologies, provides restaurateurs and consumers alike a convenient ordering experience that has previously been enjoyed only by large restaurant brands and their customers.

“Restaurants are looking for a competitive mobile ordering solution that will match the functionality that major restaurant companies are bringing to market, while minimizing the operational impact of adopting this new technology,” said David Gilbert, president of Heartland’s hospitality group. “Restaurants also want to respond to growing consumer demand as well-known restaurant brands engage in marketing activities to shift consumer behavior towards placing more orders via smartphones, tablets and computers.”

Heartland Mobile and Online Ordering automates the ordering process, saving restaurant operators time and money. The solution’s robust functionality reduces the manual processes of servers taking orders by phone, entering orders into a POS (point-of-sale) system and manually processing payments. As a result, restaurants see increased throughput of incoming orders and improved sales.

For example, Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe, a fast casual restaurant concept with 35 locations, has already seen thousands of its guests convert from manual to digital ordering through Heartland Mobile and Online Ordering, and the company expects to see a lift in sales and achieve cost-saving operational efficiencies as the solution is fully rolled out.

The technology used by Heartland Mobile and Online Ordering is powered by cloud-based customizable templates that allow Heartland to offer restaurants a competitively-priced and branded white label mobile app, advanced responsive web ordering, and a suite of reporting and analytics tools. In addition, options including takeout, delivery, curbside pickup, catering, order from the table and gift and loyalty are all built in, so operators can activate the features they want to grow their business. In turn, this extensive feature set provides users with convenient ordering and pay ahead options as well as opportunities for tailored engagement with their favorite restaurants.

Gilbert added, “Mobile applications that are easy for restaurants, their employees and their customers to learn and use is key to increasing engagement with these products. Partnering with ToGoTechnologies allows Heartland to bring beneficial technology to our restaurants and their customers.”

Heartland’s focus and expertise in the hospitality space, combined with ToGoTechnologies’ rapid speed to market capacity, valuable offering and agile product development roadmap, result in a strong partnership. Heartland Mobile and Online Ordering is now available through Heartland’s national sales force of more than 800 relationship managers.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

For restaurants, the high cost of doing business is food

The rising costs of coffee and protein-based foods, including bacon, eggs, ham and beef, are creating concern among industry experts and chains specializing in the breakfast day part who say the prices, historically, are higher than ever before.

Food cost pressures are building, said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the National Restaurant Association. “Operators have watched carefully what’s going on with staple breakfast items like eggs, bacon and coffee. Some will consider operational adjustments as cost pressures are sustained.”

According to the NRA’s monthly Restaurant Industry Tracking Survey, operators once again cite food costs as their top challenge. Last month eight in 10 operators said their average food costs are higher now than a year ago. Among family-dining restaurants, many of whom focus on breakfast, nine in 10 operators report higher food costs.

“Price fluctuations of commodities can have a significant impact on the operator’s bottom line, especially if the items in question are essential to a specific concept or menu. Breakfast has been a growing day part over the last several years, as restaurant operators explore new avenues to build business and more consumers live life ‘on the go’,” Riehle said.

John Barone, commodities analyst and CEO of MarketVision Inc., says prices eased over the summer but remain high, almost across the board.  A drought in Brazil this spring continues to drive up coffee costs, he noted.

“Coffee prices dropped 20 percent between April and July, but have regained most of that drop and look to be headed higher over the long term,” he said. “Brazil has a multi-year coffee problem. The bottom line is breakfast chains are really feeling the heat.”

Some larger restaurant companies were able to negotiate contracts before costs started climbing. Corner Bakery Cafe, right now is in a good position on its coffee contract, although that could end sometime next year, said Ric Scicchitano, senior vice president of food and beverage.

“We did a lot of forecasting and booking on the contract side to manage risk for all of 2014 and into 2015 as much as possible,” he said.  He said the company locked in a good coffee contract when it saw favorable prices in the last half of 2013, but will have to reset that contract for 2015. “We haven’t been exposed to the spike in prices, but I’ve been telling everyone that headwinds are brewing for next year because we don’t have positions to carry us all the way through 2015.”

Dunkin’ Brands, parent of Dunkin’ Donuts, indicated it is exploring the possibility of raising prices on its coffee beverages to offset the surging cost of coffee.

"We are currently holding conversations with our domestic franchisees about a modest increase in coffee prices,” spokeswoman Michelle King said. “We have not taken any significant price increases on coffee in the last several years and even with a modest increase, we continue to offer a great value to our guests every day."

Coffee isn’t the only commodity causing headaches.

Barone said prices on pork bellies, or bacon, are down about 20 percent from year-ago levels but remain historically high due to potential supply issues related to the outbreak of PEDv, or porcine epidemic diarrhea, which affects newborn piglets. Even after recent drops, the prices of ham and pork trimmings, or sausage, remain 30 percent higher than last year.

PEDv disease is expected to reemerge this fall, when the weather cools,  Barone says. “There’s really no end in sight because no one has any real information on when the virus will be under control or how much damage it will do to supplies.”

Dennis Lombardi, executive vice president of strategies for foodservice consultant WD Partners, says he expects more restaurants, especially small operations and independents, will update and re-engineer their menus to feature alternative items that aren’t as costly to serve.

“For independents, there really seem to be few choices available,” he said. “They basically can endure the higher food costs, change their menu prices accordingly, or update and re-engineer their menus, which they do three or four times a year anyway. A lot of the big chains are locked into supply contracts, which allow for more price sustainability.”

Scicchitano said his company is still in good shape regarding food costs, but 2015 could be another story.

“We took 95 percent of our risk off the table last December,” he said. “We’ve kind of been exposed to the cheese market a little bit, but for the most part we’ve been pretty insulated where pricing is concerned. I do think we have a little bit of a correction coming in some protein areas. I’m worried about that more than anything else ‑ and dried fruits and nuts. Those are the things that are going to keep me awake now for next year.”

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

3 real world case studies on Facebook ads

Do you ever wonder if Facebook ads really work?  Well here’s a helpful primer. Fishbowl Marketing’s SM3 team has worked with trusted clients on Facebook ad opportunities and learned what works best. Here are some short case studies on how and when Facebook ads make the biggest impact.

When opening a new location
This casual dine chain has been so successful with its original two restaurants; it decided to open a third location. But how to get the word out? Their Facebook page had plenty of fans already, providing a good base, but not all of those Fans would leave their favorite location in favor of the new one. Here’s what the SM3 team did on behalf of our client. In addition to posting updates on the construction of the restaurant on the Facebook page, running photo contests and gift card giveaways, the team also ran Facebook ads, targeting specifically those living in the vicinity of the  new location, and encouraging them to become a fan of the new Facebook page.

Within two weeks, after a $200 ad spend, the client had more than 400 new Facebook fans living around the new restaurant’s location. That’s 50 cents a guest!

When Targeting a Specific Audience
This high-end catering hall focuses on providing a memorable atmosphere for its guests’ most cherished memories. The client prided itself on its wedding banquets in particular. They wanted to reach out to local brides about their place. SM3 responded by running a wedding-focused ad for three weeks, targeting Facebook users in the community with a relationship status of “Engaged.” The client spent a total of $50.

The ad received nearly 3,000 impressions, resulting in 63 new Facebook fans and 95 clicks to the client’s website. Even if only 1 bride-to-be decided to rent the banquet hall, this client would easily recoup that ad spend, and then some!

When Pushing Online Reservations or Publicizing Big News
This restaurant had two goals when it approached Fishbowl– it wanted to publicize a recent 4 star review in their local paper and it wanted to leverage the good buzz to drive online reservations. The SM3 team turned a Facebook post which included the review into an ad, and included a link to the reservations page. The total ad buy was $50.

Over two weeks, the ad reached 6,700 local restaurant enthusiasts. 27 guests clicked to make reservations, and the post itself generated above average engagement (i.e. likes, comments and shares).

With the right marketing plan in place, Facebook ads can turn a good campaign into a great one. Relatively little ad spend can provide substantial ROI – but you have to know what works and how to have the biggest impact.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Proper hand washing focus of #FoodSafetyMonth Week 4

The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA), in partnership with the National Restaurant Association, brings you the National Food Safety Month Week 4 lesson: Personal Hygiene, or more specifically, proper hand washing.

Last week, the LRA Education Foundation arranged for Pam Williams, a chemist with Auto-Chlor Systems, to provide a proper hand washing demonstration to the ProStart I and ProStart II classes at Grace King High School in Metairie.

Auto-Chlor Systems Chemist Pam Williams explains the proper hand
washing techniques to two ProStart I students. 
“Why is it important to properly wash your hands?” Williams asked. “When preparing and serving food, it is the most important thing you can do to reduce the spread  of infection and illness caused by harmful germs, viruses, fungi, protozoa and bacteria.”

Williams’ lesson included an overview of the three most common foodborne illnesses spread easily through unclean hands. “Bacteria are microscopic and some types that can cause food poisoning through cross-contamination by way of the hands are E. Coli, Staphylococcus Aureus and Salmonella,” she explained.

E. Coli illnesses and even deaths are becoming more and more common in the news. It is bacteria found in the lower intestine of people and animals and according the Centers for Disease Control, it can be spread by adults who do not wash their hands carefully, specifically those handling or surrounded by infants and toddlers.

Staphylococcus Aureus is a group of bacteria found on the skin, hair, and in the nose and throat of people and animals. Staphylococcus can cause food poisoning when a food handler contaminates food and then the food is not properly refrigerated.

Salmonella is a group of bacteria causing infection in the lower intestine and causes food poisoning when someone contaminates raw or prepared food with bacteria from hands and is then eaten. Some sources are raw, uncooked or unpasteurized foods such as undercooked chicken, unpasteurized milk or juice, raw fruits and vegetables.

After her presentation to the ProStart I class, Williams took two student volunteers to the hand washing sink and demonstrated the proper way to wash your hands. She then provided each student with a sample of GloGerm to rub on their hands and they were then charged with washing them using the proper method. After the students washed their hands, the lights were turned off and Williams and the rest of the class turned a black light on the volunteers’ hands to see how well they washed. The black light showed them where germs and bacteria still resided on their hands.

Since the ProStart II students had completed the first year of instruction and many of them are studying to become ServSafe certified, the GloGerm effect was less jarring. 

Here is an activity that you can do with your staff. The answer key can be found at www.foodsafetymonth.com under Activities.

This year’s theme is “20-Year Anniversary: Top 20 Tips,” highlights the best of best practices, or the most important aspects of serving food safely to the American public. 

Fall into the season: 10 restaurant marketing ideas for Fall

Technically, Fall is here. The kids are back at school, and while the weather in Louisiana is still warm, here at the Louisiana Restaurant Association we’re hopeful we can breakout the jackets and scarves sooner rather than later. Now what’s your Fall marketing plan?

Here are our top 10 ideas to pack your restaurant this Fall:

1. Football and other fall sports
It’s football season! Bring crowds to your place by sending out schedules announcing what games you’ll be showing when. Promote your restaurant as the place to celebrate before and after the game. Offer special take-out deals for customers hosting their own viewing parties. And while football is king in most many towns, don’t forget about the other sports fans!

2. Columbus Day
Columbus Day is Monday, October 14 and many will have the day off from work and school. Promote brunch or lunch specials – and don’t forget about Sunday specials.

3. Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest runs from late September to the first week in October. Have a great beer selection? Ask your customers which is their favorite with a Facebook Poll. Then during Oktoberfest, select the favorite as a special.

4. Kids in Costume Eat Free
Kids Eat Free’ if they’re wearing a Halloween costume! Why limit kids to just one night to show off their costume? Host a “kids eat free night” on the Tuesday or Wednesday before Halloween to increase traffic and create guest loyalty.

5. Halloween Photo Contest
Put together a Facebook Halloween Photo Contest. Encourage guests to post a picture with their best Halloween costume. The winner gets a restaurant gift card!

6. Pumpkin and Apple and Squash, oh my!
So many great foods are in season during Fall. Is your famous pumpkin pie back on the menu? Have you created a pumpkin spice martini? Let your guests know about new seasonal menu items and cocktails.

7. One for You, One for Me
Get folks in the giving mood with a One for You, One for Me Facebook Sweepstakes. Customers will “Like” your Facebook page and provide their email address, and then be entered for a chance to win a prize.

8. Check in Deals
Bring in new business by utilizing check in deals on Foursquare, Yelp and Groupon Offers. All of these sites provide tracking and you can see when guests “unlock” and redeem your deal.

9. Holiday Catering and Party Space?
Do you cater? Or have a private dining space? Many corporate holiday parties and events are beginning to be planned now. Make sure your guests are aware of your capabilities and encourage them to make their holiday plans early.

10. Gift Cards
Early and often is the name of this game.  If you offer gift cards for your restaurant, let your guests know in all your promotional efforts including in-store material, on email, Facebook, etc.

This content was provided by National Restaurant Association partner Fishbowl.

Friday, September 19, 2014

NRA & employer community launch initiative to restore traditional work week in Affordable Care Act

The National Restaurant Association along with organizations representing hundreds of thousands of employers and tens of millions of employees are launching the More Time for Full-Time initiative.

The initiative, which includes the International Franchise Association, the National Restaurant Association, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the National Retail Federation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Rental Association, the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, the National Association of Convenience Stores, the National Grocers Association, and the National Association of Theatre Owners, will highlight the negative impact the 30-hour work week definition in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has on employees and employers, and urges Congress to restore the traditional definition of a full-time employee to 40 hours per week through bipartisan reform. Returning to a traditional 40-hour definition would benefit employees through more hours and income, and employers would gain the ability to focus on growth and expansion instead of restructuring their workforce.

The launch includes a video, which will be featured on the new website moretimeforfulltime.org that highlights the challenges workers and employers face as a result of the 30-hour work week definition.

“As the nation’s second largest private sector employer, restaurants provide opportunity to a workforce of over 13.5 million employees,” said National Restaurant Association President and CEO Dawn Sweeney. “The restaurant and foodservice industries are attractive to millions of Americans looking for flexible work schedules. As the current health care law stands, the artificially low bright line of 30 hours as full time, forces employers to limit that flexibility, stifling opportunity for expansion and job creation to the detriment of our workforce. Raising the law’s definition of full-time employee status to more traditional standard operating practices will alleviate the burden placed on restaurant operators. They can then continue to provide flexibility to their employees, grow their businesses and continue to be job creators.”

“As all Americans have known for decades, 40 hours represents the widely-accepted definition of a full-time work week. Unless there is a statutory change to the definition of a full-time employee in the ACA, there will be fewer full-time jobs, more part-time workers and fewer overall hours available for Americans to work,” said International Franchise Association President & CEO Steve Caldeira. “This initiative will bring greater focus to the negative impact this law is having for workers and employers and hopefully move us closer to the bipartisan reform we need.”

“The More Time for Full-Time initiative provides an honest look at how the new definition of a full-time employee under Obamacare is affecting men and women who work hard every day to care for themselves and their families,” said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association. “This short-sighted change greatly limits workers’ ability to maintain the flexible work schedule they seek in the hotel industry. Returning to the traditional 40-hour work week would restore opportunities for hard-working Americans, and allow hoteliers to better meet their employees’ needs.”

New research shows restaurants practice sustainability

The National Restaurant Association recently unveiled new research that shows a substantial number of operators are implementing sustainability best practices into their businesses.

The survey of 1,000 full service and quick service operators found that nearly three quarters of operators recycled used fryer oil, fats and grease. More than six in 10 recycled their cardboard and paper, used compact fluorescent lighting and bought products made of recycled materials. About three in 10 installed faucet aerators to conserve water.

“More operators are looking at ways to increase efficiency – environmentally and fiscally,” said Scott DeFife, Executive Vice President, Policy and Government Affairs, NRA. “Restaurateurs today know a lot more about how sustainability can reduce utility costs and, in some cases, increase profitability.”

Key findings determined that:
  • 74 percent recycled their used fryer oil, fats and grease
  • 66 percent recycled cardboard and paper
  • 63 percent used compact fluorescent lighting
  • 61 percent purchased products made of recycled materials
  • 48 percent installed low-flush toilets or waterless urinals 41 percent purchased products that can be composted
  • 29 percent installed aerators on faucets
  • 22 percent donated leftover food to food banks or similar organizations
  • 17 percent composted food waste
Through its Conserve initiative, the NRA provides sustainable tips, tools and best practices for the food service industry. Learn more at Restaurant.org/Conserve.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Consumer mindset may be improving

In a sign that consumers may finally be shaking off their recession mindset, retail sales trended steadily upward in recent months.  Eating and drinking places were among the sectors posting the strongest gains, and the outlook remains positive for the months ahead, according to the National Restaurant Association’s chief economist Bruce Grindy.

In a sign that consumers may finally be shaking off their recession mindset, retail sales trended steadily upward in recent months.  According to preliminary figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, total retail and foodservice sales rose 0.6 percent in August on a seasonally-adjusted basis, their seventh consecutive monthly gain. 

Overall, August retail sales stood 5 percent above year-ago levels, which represented the strongest 12-month gain in more than a year.

Eating and drinking places were among the sectors posting the strongest gains in recent months.  Restaurant sales totaled $47.7 billion on a seasonally-adjusted basis in August, up 0.6 percent from July and the strongest monthly volume on record. 

The August performance also represented the sixth increase the last seven months, and each of the monthly gains were at least 0.4 percent.  Overall, eating and drinking place sales were up 7.1 percent in the 12 months ending August 2014, their strongest 12-month gain in more than two years. 

Elsewhere, auto dealers (+9.5 percent), non-store retailers (+7.1 percent), drug stores (+8.1 percent), building supply stores (+6.7 percent), and sporting goods and hobby stores (+4.8 percent) all registered positive year-over-year sales growth, which suggests that consumers may finally be coming out of their shell. 

Looking forward, the positive underlying fundamentals suggest that we will see continued sales growth in the months ahead.  Despite the speed bump in August [please link to 9/5 notebook], national job growth is on a positive trajectory, and consumer confidence is at a seven-year high. 

In addition, gas prices are down $0.25 since the end of June, which puts additional disposable income in the pockets of consumers.  This typically benefits discretionary sectors like restaurants, in which a large proportion of the growth is driven by cash on hand. 

Read more from the Economist’s Notebook and get additional analysis of restaurant industry trends on the newly revamped Restaurant TrendMapper (subscription required).

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A picture's worth a thousand words—Intro to Instagram for newbies

In the spring of 2013, Facebook purchased a little photo sharing application called Instagram for the impressive sum of one billion dollars. Why did they spend so much? Because more and more smartphone users are choosing to share their experiences via photo-sharing apps. For example, taking Instagram pictures of meals has become a huge part of the restaurant experience for many millennials. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. What will pictures of your restaurant say? 

Instagram is an online photo, video, and social networking service. Consumers use it to post media they’ve created with their smartphone cameras and edited with special digital filters. Like Twitter, Instagram is a great way for friends to share information, such as recent meals, in a concise and easy-to-digest manner. What does that mean for your restaurant? Imagine running a promotion where you give a discount to anyone that “Instagrams” a shot of one of the new desserts on your menu. A potential guest could be flooded with appetizing pictures of creams, cakes, and pies, all singing the praises of your menu. It’s the best marketing money can’t buy – personalized recommendations from the friends your guests trust.

In short, consumers have taken to Instagram in droves.  How can you as a restaurant marketer leverage this consumer activity?  One of Fishbowl’s SM3 Social Media and Email Specialists, Casey Manning, has come up with the following pieces of advice for newbies:

Discover Your Audience. Search Instagram regularly to see if your restaurant has been mentioned. You’ll see what appeals to your guests quickly – after all, they wouldn’t want to share unless they have something to say! 

Promote the Positive. When you find someone posting a picture of your restaurant with a positive comment, it’s always a good idea to share those good feelings on your social media. Link the post on your Facebook or Twitter. Potential guests love to see a spontaneous display of enthusiasm. Take advantage of the free marketing! 

Encourage with Contests and Prizes. Use Instagram for brand promotion by creating contests and rewards. Consider Instagram the digital, visual cousin of the essay contest – offer a free meal or a discount to the one person who can capture the “essence” of your restaurant in an Instagram picture. Come up with scavenger hunts that encourage guests to explore your restaurant and your menu. The possibilities are endless – and you can use the resulting pictures to promote yourself!

Want to learn more about Fishbowl’s approach to helping restaurants grow their revenues? Call Amy Plumley at (703) 836-3421. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

LRA honors 12 Restaurant Legends at Mr. B's Bistro in New Orleans

Twelve Mr. B's staff members receive the LRA
Restaurant Legends honor for their long-time
service to the restaurant, totaling 335 years. 
Since its inception in 2006, the Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) has named individuals across the state with 20 or more years of service at one establishment, Restaurant Legends. Collectively, these individuals have nearly 4,000 years of service to their places of employment, their customers and communities.

In a ceremony Monday, September 15, LRA President/CEO Stan Harris presented the Restaurant Legends honor to 12 recipients from Mr. B’s Bistro in New Orleans. With 335 combined years of service at Mr. B’s, these men and women exemplify the satisfaction of making their jobs a lifelong and rewarding career.  

Cindy Brennan, Managing Partner of Mr. B’s shares, “At Mr. B’s we are a family. We have grown up together and it is a pleasure to work with these fine men and women day after day. Their commitment and dedication have been a huge addition to our success.”

They are:
  • Stephen Archacki, waiter, employed for 29 years
  • David Boehm, maintenance manager, employed for 27 years
  • Ron Canedo, manager, employed for 22 years
  • Carlos Castillo, utility worker, employed for 30 years
  • Mitchell Dowling, receiver, employed for 28 years
  • John Charles “JC” Jackson, waiter, employed for 28 years
  • Merlene Jones, accounting/HR manager, employed for 38 years
  • Philip “Skip” Lomax, Jr., manager, employed for 33 years
  • Michelle McRaney, executive chef, employed for 22 years
  • Larry Sherman, manager, employed for 21 years
  • Jackie Washington, cook, employed for 25 years
  • Keenan White, food runner, employed for 32 years

Mr. B’s longtime General Manager Randy Stein adds, “I am honored by the commitment these individuals have to Mr. B’s Bistro. I salute them for their dedication, hard work, and their mentoring of others. Their years of loyalty and leadership have created a wonderful working environment." 

“We hope to encourage younger workers to follow the examples that each of these special men and women have set for the industry,” said Harris. “It is more than evident that Mr. B’s fosters a sense of pride among their employees, promotes from within and stresses the importance of jobs within the industry.”

Sunday, September 14, 2014

#FoodSafetyMonth: Week 3—Time-Temperature Control

Each week during September, the Louisiana Restaurant Association, in partnership with the National Restaurant Association, brings you another best-of food safety lesson from the past two decades as part of National Food Safety Month. This year’s theme is “20-Year Anniversary: Top 20 Tips,” highlights the best of the best, or the most important aspects of serving food safely to the American public.

This week’s lesson is Time-Temperature Control. According to ServSafe, the industry gold standard for food safety and sanitation training, the only way to reduce pathogens in food to safe levels is to cook it to its minimum internal temperature. This temperature is different for each food. Once reached, you must hold the food at this temperature for a specific amount of time. If a customer requests a lower temperature, you need to inform them of the potential risk of foodborne illness. Also be aware of special menu restrictions if you serve high-risk populations.

While cooking reduces pathogens in food, it does not destroy spores or toxins they may have produced. You still must handle food correctly before you cook it.

How to Check Temperatures
To make sure the food you are cooking has reached the right temperature, you must know how to take the temperature correctly. Follow these guidelines:
  • Pick a thermometer with a probe that is the right size for the food.
  • Check the temperature in the thickest part of the food.
  • Take at least two readings in different locations. 

Here is an activity that you can do with your staff. The answer key can be found at www.foodsafetymonth.com under Activities. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Lt. Gov. Dardenne kicks-off Tourism Town Hall series with meeting in Shreveport

Louisiana Restaurant Association members in the Northwest Chapter area of the state are invited to the first in a series of Tourism Town Hall Meetings hosted by Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014 at the Municipal Auditorium in Shreveport.

Restaurateurs will have the opportunity to provide input about the area’s tourism industry and its growth potential, opportunities for economic development and infrastructure improvement. Please feel free to share your thoughts, ideas and vision for the area’s tourism industry.
Information gathered at the meeting will be used to compile a report to guide Louisiana’s tourism industry in continuing its recent record-breaking impact on the state and to identify how the Louisiana Office of Tourism can provide a partnership for success.

Lt. Gov. Dardenne will host the second in the series on Wednesday, Oct. 15 at Vermilionville in Lafayette from 9-11 a.m. and the third on Tuesday, Oct. 28 at the Chennault Aviation Museum in Monroe from 1:30-3:30 p.m. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Gulf Council addresses red snapper sector separation

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council recently met in Biloxi, MS to discuss a number of fishery issues, including recreational red snapper sector separation and accountability measures.

During the meeting, the Council reviewed recommendations made by its Red Snapper Advisory Panel. Council staff also presented public hearing and public comment summaries, along with a revised Reef Fish Amendment 40 – Sector Separation document for Council discussion.

The Reef Fish Amendment 40 divides the recreational red snapper sector into two distinct components – a private angling component and a for-hire component.

The Council, made up of state appointees and federal officials, had a lengthy discussion about sector separation, specifically Action 2 – Allocation of the Recreational Red Snapper Quota between the Components of the Recreational Sector.

The Council’s preferred alternative was originally Alternative 4, which would allocate the recreational red snapper quota based on average landings between 1996 and 2012. Federal for-hire and private angling allocations would be 47.1% and 52.9% respectively.

Public Comment Heard
After hearing public comment, the Council decided to change its preferred alternative to Alternative 7, which would allocate the recreational red snapper quota based on 50% of the average percentages landed by each component between 1986 and 2013 and 50% of the average percentages landed by each component between 2006 and 2013. The year 2010 was excluded from the percentage averages due to the Gulf oil spill.

The new preferred alternative would result in a federal for-hire allocation of 44% and a private angling allocation of 56%.

The Council is expected to take final action on Amendment 40 during its October meeting in Mobile, Alabama.

In June, the Council initiated a temporary rule to establish a recreational red snapper annual catch target using a 20% buffer to the recreational quota, after a recent court ruling found that National Marine Fisheries Service did not have adequate accountability measures in place to keep the recreational harvest of red snapper within the quota.

During the Biloxi meeting, held at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino, the Council permanently established the annual catch target and initiated an overage adjustment that deducts any overages from the recreational quota from the next year’s quota when red snapper is under a rebuilding plan. The Framework Action will be transmitted to the Secretary of Commerce for approval and implementation.

“I’d certainly like to see us figure out a better way to handle the red snapper issue in the recreational fishery,” said Roy Crabtree, Ph.D., the regional administrator of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service’s Southeast Region Office overseeing Gulf fisheries. “We have other issues with the recreational fisheries beyond red snapper. We have to figure out how to operate under annual catch limits and how to apply those to the recreational fisheries.”

Council’s Other Issues
Amidst all its work on red snapper, the Council did find time to address other pressing issues facing Gulf species.

The Council reviewed a framework action it initiated after the National Marine Fisheries Service announced a 2014 in-season closure for red grouper. The closure is the result of the 2013 annual catch limit being exceeded. The framework action aims to reduce the likelihood of future in-season closures by reducing the bag limit and/or establishing a fixed recreational closed season during the year to prevent the season from closing early.

The Council also reviewed a scoping document that considers modifying the red drum closure in federal waters to give offshore access to recreational anglers. A greater amberjack stock assessment was recently reviewed by the Council’s Scientific and
Statistical Committee, who determined that greater amberjack was overfished and experiencing overfishing and that the stock did not meet the 10-year rebuilding plan that ended in 2012. In order to address this issue, the Council reviewed a draft framework action that considers modifying the greater amberjack allowable harvest and other management measures. The document contains three management actions: 
  • Modifications to annual catch limits and annual catch targets; 
  • Modifications to the recreational size limits and closed seasons; and 
  • Modifications to the commercial trip limit.
The Council also received an update on the referenda requirements for Amendment 36 – Red Snapper IFQ Modifications. A referendum is required if it wants to consider auctions for IFQ shares. It agreed to move forward with developing a scoping document for Amendment 36, excluding any auction alternatives.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Restaurant industry ranks number one on this year's annual Gallup poll

The restaurant industry is regarded as the top business sector in America according to the results of the annual Gallup Work and Education poll released last week. Restaurants have remained one of the most highly viewed industries since Gallup started its annual poll of consumer perception of industries in 2001, re-claiming the top spot last held in 2007. In addition, this year’s poll recorded the most positive rating on record for the industry

“Restaurants are the beloved cornerstones of communities across the country,” said Dawn Sweeney, President and CEO of the National Restaurant Association. “From the local sandwich shop to the city steakhouse, the restaurant industry provides job opportunity to 13.5 million Americans and has become an essential part of our everyday lives.”

According to NRA research nine in 10 consumers say they enjoy going to restaurants and two in five consumers say restaurants are an essential part of their lifestyle. One half of all adults have worked in the restaurant industry at some point during their lives and one third of all Americans got their first job working in a restaurant.

As the nation’s second largest private sector employer, restaurants continue to be economic drivers, employing nearly 10 percent of America’s workforce.

In addition, more than nine out of 10 restaurants are actively involved in charitable activities. Collectively, the charitable contributions of the nation’s nearly one million restaurants are estimated to reach up to $3 billion each year.

The Gallup poll asks Americans to rate industries on a scale from "very positive" to "very negative." The computer industry is second to restaurants.