We’ve officially entered the fourth and final quarter of the year, and the holiday season is right around the corner. Like it or not, the Christmas decorations lined up at your local drug stores are a reminder that the year is wrapping up, and it’s time to make sure your business finishes strong. Whether this is the best or worst time of year for your restaurant, we urge you to take a look at some of the latest trends of emerging chains that are doable for even the smallest of businesses. From consumer needs to operational updates, these are the ideas transforming the restaurant industry—and can transform your business too.
Start simple with menu updates
When is the last time your menu got a face-lift? Menu items come and go seasonally of course, but giving your customers more options year-round is easier than you might think. Chains like Chipotle, Bibibop, and Pokeworks have taken something as simple as customization and have turned it into a trend so popular, it’s now almost expected as the norm by consumers around the country. These fast-casual eateries have mastered the art of dissecting their dishes and allowing customers to piece them back together into a trendy build-your-own bowl or plate however their hearts—and taste buds—desire. This simple idea has become a money-maker for many because it not only provides customers with exactly what they want, but it also brings them back again and again to try all the other combinations now possible.
Other chains, like The Lost Cajun, have replaced the traditional bread on the table with a sampling of their most popular items when their guests arrive. They’ve found that giving each table six 2 oz. samples leaves guests wanting more—and often leads to increased check sizes according to founder Raymond Griffin. It might not be the only reason for their upcoming expansion of 24+ new locations in within the next year, but we’re sure it has a lot to do with it!
Focus on customer needs
In addition to customization, consumers need options and alternatives. Whether it’s a dietary restriction or lifestyle choice, consumers today are more and more cognizant about what they put in their bodies, and restaurants like BurgerIM, Aroogas, and 110 Grill have taken note and adapted. BurgerIM, our fastest-growing new chain here in the US, offers more than just red meat for their patties—which can now be made with various proteins including salmon, lamb and falafel. Arooga’s has similarly catered to customers by offering plant-based alternatives to some of their most popular dishes containing meat. Those with gluten sensitives, intolerances, or allergies don’t have to worry at 110 Grill, where everything on the menu is available to be made gluten-free. They also have a designated allergy-free space in their kitchen to prevent cross-contamination.
Offering these alternatives is absolutely crucial for your business as it not only shows your customers that you care, but it also allows you to target a much wider pool of consumers—who probably struggle with orderings more often than not at restaurants.
Re-examine your systems and internal operations
In addition to menu updates, small improvements in management and staffing are also useful to help boost sales. Never underestimate the influence of a happy, well-trained employee on a customer’s experience! Maple Street Biscuit Co. is one company that’s revolutionizing customer relations by starting at the top. On top of training each employee to treat guests like family, they also hire “community leaders” instead of store managers, who are paid a portion of their unit’s profit in addition to their base salary. This model seems to be a recipe for success for the group of “community stores” who has 30 units across the US to date.
Another part of your staff that can be instrumental in increasing profits this year is your delivery team. The high demand for food delivery within the past few years has caused the birth of third-party delivery apps, who profit on restaurants and consumers by making a commission (about 10-50%) off of each order placed. Using these companies to complete delivery orders might be convenient, but wouldn’t directing 100% of the profit towards your own business and employees be even better? Having your own delivery team not only saves you money in the long run, but also ensures that your brand is being represented properly and accurately upon every single delivery. To add fuel to the fire, third-party delivery apps are often also partner with much larger companies, with whom they share your customers’ data and information with to better their own marketing efforts—not cool. Play it safe this year by putting a few extra dollars into your team of delivery all stars.
Lastly, don’t forget what makes you stand out
Watching trends among chains is extremely helpful, but don’t sleep on your biggest asset: the fact that you are a thriving small, local business. You’ve got something that chains will always lack. Use your advantage to help your community continue to flourish by partnering with other local businesses nearby. Use a local designer and printing company to get some tee shirts made to be sold inside of your business or on your online store. Love the idea of scratch-made desserts but don’t have a pastry chef in house? Partner with a nearby bakery to come up with a signature sweet dish. If you’ve got extra counter or wall space, stock up on locally made honey, hot sauces, or preserves that are available for purchase. Your community will appreciate any way to support local!
So, what new strategies will you implement over the next few months to better your business? Even the slightest updates make a difference, whether it’s an upgrade within your kitchen, your menu, or your staff. Leave a reply to let us know!