The importance of the 4 walls

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Often when talking to restaurants, you hear the same thing, ‘I want to keep everything within the 4 walls’. ‘The 4 walls are the most important part of our business’.

What exactly does this mean?

The 4 walls refer to ‘inside the building’. Essentially a restaurant is aware that inside of the building they have a direct influence on each individual’s experience. They can make changes on a dime, personally get to know people, and show how much they appreciate the guest’s business.

3 ways to use the 4 walls to your advantage

1. Have your managers interact with as many tables as possible

Any seasoned restaurateurs knows that interacting with every single table is borderline impossible. However, making an effort to have upper management speak with as many tables as possible is a crucial task which is often overlooked. Through guest interactions, managers are able to pick up on subtle things that may not have been so obvious. They can see how much food people are eating, and what their reactions/moods are. It allows the team to identify problems before its too late.

2. Use a tool that gives you feedback/comments before your guests leave

When thinking about how to collect data and comments from your guests, look into a tool which allows you to use the information in real-time. If you have real-time feedback about how your guests are feeling you can use to that your advantage while they are still in the restaurant. For example, if you identify an upset guests before they walk out, you can potentially turn around the experience before they have a chance to get on yelp, tripadvisor, or tell other friends.

3. Train your staff to look for guest cues

One of the most successful ways to ensure that no guest leaves your 4 walls unsatisfied is to train your staff to look for cues. Often times, a server or bartender can tell based on facial expressions, and comments as to how satisfied a particular guest is. If you create a culture which encourages staff to proactively pick up on cues and act on them, it will lead to more satisfied guests.

 

The 4 walls are the most important part of your restaurant because that is where the majority of the experience occurs. By understanding your guests experiences within the 4 walls you have an opportunity to create a long lasting relationship where guests return for years.

When I Work Guest Blog Post – 7 Creative Ways To Bring New Customers Into Your Restaurant

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7 Creative Ways To Bring New Customers Into Your Restaurant

Restaurants seem to come and go like the weather. One minute they’re thriving with customers non-stop, and the next they’re barer than a maple tree in December. So what’s the key to success for the restaurants that are still standing after years and even decades? The answer is simple: keep the customers coming.

 

The problem is, with the increasing number of options—and often increasing rent prices—you may be finding it hard to stand out from the other guys. You can’t lower your prices any more without having to lay someone off, and the threat of closing looms week to week. You’re confident in your menu, so what gives?

Here are a few ways that you can help freshen things up at your restaurant without compromising on what you do best. Give them a try, and get ready for a change in weather.

Make an E-Offer They Can’t Refuse

For starters, get online. That theme will come up more than once in this post. The best way to develop your “personality” as a restaurant is going to come from your presence online. That starts with getting the word out on a site that people are already browsing.

With companies like Groupon, LivingSocial, and the myriad other deal sites thriving online, e-coupons are one of the fastest ways to earn new customers. For couples looking to try a new spot, an online coupon can be the perfect selling point on why they should try your restaurant,

 

At the very least, they’ll be seeing the name of your restaurant on a popular site, helping to strengthen your brand recognition. At best, you’ve gained a few new regulars.

Embrace The Reviews

Good, bad, or indifferent, online reviews are here to stay. The Yelp monster is very real for a lot of businesses, and a couple of bad reviews can really begin to spoil business if not handled properly. Our suggestion for bad reviews online? Embrace them!

 

Bolt Barbers—a barber shop in Los Angeles and Las Vegas—had been getting quite a number of seemingly uncalled for negative reviews online. Instead of backing down, or caving under the pressure of Internet outrage, they took a much more confident approach and made their bad Yelp reviews a gimmick:

 

More than a year later, the shop is still thriving and gaining a loyal following of people who love their contrarian attitude. Sometimes a little self confidence is all you need.

Broadcast Football Events—And Not Just the American Ones!

Have you found that you have a lot of “football” fans in your area? One of the greatest challenges for European and South American Soccer fans living in different parts of the States can be finding places to watch their favorite clubs play live. That’s often because games can be broadcast at as early as 4am here in the U.S.

 

Here are a few Facebook posts from The Olde Ship Restaurant in Santa Ana, CA:

Even if you aren’t allowed to serve alcohol, you can open up your restaurant extra early for special football match viewings, and serve breakfast. Make it a special event that the whole community can be excited about. It’s something different, totally uncommon, and sure to be a hit amongst soccer buffs pining for the true fans’ experience.

Start a Cooking Class

If you’ve got a kitchen staff you’re truly proud of, a cooking class can be one of the best ways to showcase your talent to a whole new set of potential customers. Cooking classes are an exceptionally popular idea for couples and friends looking to try something different—but often they’re inaccessible and far too expensive for beginners.

Host a cooking class that’s low-key, beginner friendly, and shows off the best of your menu. It will get your “students” excited about what’s going on in your kitchen and create a whole new enthusiasm for what you’re making!

Go Local

In the world of mass production, questionable practices and corporate suspicion, going local can be a great way to build roots in your neighborhood. Source your ingredients from local farms and producers, and instantly gain credibility in your community.

When you value the people that are working hard around you to make a living, they’ll love you right back. Neighbors know how important local sourcing can be for the community, and it’s a great way to promote not only relationships, but great food, too!

Go Corporate

And if you’re not as close to the farm, but you’re right around the corner from some skyscrapers, corporate partnerships can be a surefire way to stir up new business.

 

Large companies are often looking for good companies to cater in-office lunches, holiday parties and product launches. If you can create relationships with the big guys, you could have a whole new outlet for your business.

Reach out to businesses in your neighborhood with the prospect of catering their next corporate lunch. You’ll be surprised to see how many companies are itching for your great food.

Get On Seamless

You don’t deliver? Well, now you can. If you’re serving a major city, Seamless may be the best way for you to reach customers of all kinds in a snap. Seamless is an online-based delivery service where customers can create their entire order in just a few clicks—and have someone pick it up in a flash.

 

Getting your restaurant on Seamless can mean reaching demographics you’d otherwise totally miss. From hungry college students just looking for a snack, to young paralegals working a case late into the night. It’s a solution that doesn’t require adding on personnel or spending extra cash to get started.

Whatever you do, remember this: no matter how great of place you’ve created, you’re nothing without your customers. Go the extra mile in doing creative things to get people excited about your amazing restaurant. Then once they’re in, they’ll see the greatness you knew was there all along.

Chad Halvorson is the CEO of When I Work, an employee scheduling app that nearly half a million people in over 50 countries rely on for employee scheduling, time clock and communication. When I Work uses an innovative blend of collaborative communication technologies, including the web, mobile apps, text messaging, social media, and email, to make teams more efficient, more accountable, and better prepared. Most traditional workforce management software is clunky, cumbersome and difficult to install and maintain. When I Work is a simple, intuitive, mobile-first solution that owners and managers can implement and start using in five minutes, not five months—no IT required.

How to Spice Up Your Monthly Gift Card Drawing

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Gift cards are a great way to guarantee future business – they serve as a constant reminder of your restaurant and ensure your brand is at the top of your guest’s mind. If your restaurant does a monthly gift card drawing, here are some tips that can help take your drawing to the next level:

  1. Advertise Your Drawing in More Than One Way: The business card fishbowl is a great way to build an email database. But are you collecting all the emails you can? Consider adding a question on your comment cards that asks for an email and mentions that providing one will enter them into a gift card drawing. Also, put up a couple of fliers (or table tents) that advertise your gift card drawing. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how many more email addresses you’ll collect!
  2. Create a More Interesting Reward: Since so many restaurants conduct gift card drawings, it can be difficult to make your drawing stand out from the crowd. Instead of doing a generic $50 monthly gift card drawing, consider offering different types of rewards. For example, consider offering an entree / week for a year to one lucky grand prize winner each year. For your monthly drawing, consider changing the reward every month. For example, one month can be a $50 card, the next could be a private dinner for 2 with the chef, and the next could be tickets to a big game.
  3. Send a Monthly Email With a Picture of the Winner: Once you have selected the monthly winner, shoot him / her an email asking for a picture in exchange for the reward. In one of your emails, include a picture of the winner with a description of what he/she won. This way, your guests will know that you’re picking a monthly winner!

Gift cards drawings can be a great way to generate buzz and to collect guest email addresses. Following these suggestions can help you spice up your gift card drawing and, ultimately, generate higher levels of guest engagement and retention.

How Important is Guest Engagement?

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We’ve all had an experience before when a restaurant employee goes above and beyond the call of duty to provide an exemplary dining experience. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to occur all that often – in fact, it occurs so infrequently that when it does happen, we want to tell everyone we know about it. For restaurants, this presents a huge opportunity – the opportunity to stand out from competition and create truly memorable dining experiences.

Just how big is this opportunity? According to a recent study[1], only 43% of restaurant guests know an employee’s name by the time they leave. This means that more than half of restaurant guests have no name to associate an experience with – this “dehumanization” of the dining experience makes it much more difficult to create a memorable dining experience. These 43% of restaurant guests who remember an employee’s name are 57% more likely to recommend that they will “for sure” recommend that restaurant to their friends.

Any restaurant can make progress toward improving guest engagement. If you’d like to improve guest engagement at your restaurant(s), consider having your GMs stress the importance of the following with servers at your next stand-up or all-hands meeting:

  1. State your name at least twice during the dining experience – preferably when you first introduce yourself to the table and when you check on the table after their food arrives
  2. Ask your guests their name – after you introduce yourself to your guests, say it’s great to meet you and ask them for their name. Then, refer to them by name for the rest of the meal.

Having your servers follow these simple steps will improve guest engagement and ultimately lead to more repeat business.


[1] http://restaurant-hospitality.com/consumer-trends/better-guest-engagement-boosts-repeat-visits

3 Helpful Tips on How to Use Guest Feedback

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Over the past couple of years, we have visited many restaurants that collect feedback from their guests. In fact, almost every restaurant we’ve been to has tried to collect guest feedback in some way. If you’re already collecting feedback, congrats! You’re halfway to being a truly guest-centric restaurant. However, collecting feedback is just half of the battle – what you do with that feedback is what really counts. We’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks that are sure to make your guests truly vested in your restaurant’s success:

Send a Personal Email to All Guests Who Have Negative Experiences

There are few things worse in life than spending money on something and then getting something you don’t like. Since experiences are always in the eyes of the beholder, your guests are always right. Even if complaints are unwarranted, it’s important to address all negative comments immediately so that guests don’t go online and post negative reviews for the world to see.

With that in mind, get in the habit of sending emails to all guests who voice negative experiences on comment cards at least once / week. At the end of the day, a little bit of effort will go a long way toward improving your guests’ satisfaction.

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Update Guests Who Leave Helpful Comments

If a guest leaves you a direct comment that you find helpful, send them a note back! At the end of the day, every guest wants to feel like their favorite restaurants understand them and listen to their input. If a guest goes out of their way to give you some helpful feedback, make sure you keep them in the loop instead of letting their comments go unrecognized.

Share Amazing Comments with the World!

If a guest leaves an amazing comment, why not share it with the world? It’s a very easy process – just share your positive comments on social media and post them to your website! Then just sit back, relax, and watch your guest engagement increase. Check out Cameron Bar and Grill Raleigh’s Twitter feed for an example.

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These are simple practices that don’t take a ton of time or effort to implement. If you’re using a digital feedback provider, the process for following these steps is a little easier. However, even if you’re using paper cards or receipt codes, you can still implement these processes. Your guests will appreciate it and, at the end of the day, you’ll stand out from the crowd.

The 3 Habits of Operationally Successful Restaurant Organizations

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Ever wondered what makes the truly elite restaurants successful? How are organizations as large and complex as McDonalds and Chick-Fil-A able to achieve such high levels of consistency and operational excellence? These 3 strategies set great operationally efficient organizations apart:

Setting Goals and Monitoring Progress

What is the highest overarching goal for your organization? Is it to achieve $1.5M in per location sales? Or are you looking to successfully open 5 new stores next year? Whatever your goal is, pin it on your wall to make sure it’s the first thing you look at everyday. Next, pick out 5 goals that will help you achieve your overarching goal. These goals should be “stretch” goals – difficult but achievable. For example, let’s say you want to take per unit sales from $1.4M to $1.5M in a year. How could you go about doing this? Maybe make one of your goals to get your servers to offer appetizers and desserts to at least 90% of your guests. Then use a tool like Tuee to assess whether your servers are doing this. Another one of your goals could be to improve your social media presence. If so, how many followers do you want to have? How many times / day should you be posting to achieve that goal?

This simple goal setting and monitoring process can help turn your organization into a results-drive model of efficiency.

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Building a Culture of Accountability

How can you make sure that the people in your organization are held accountable for their jobs? Sure you can set up job descriptions and evaluations, but that’s just the tip of the spear. Consider doing the following to create a culture of accountability:

  • Use a shift scheduling service like ShiftZen to ensure that servers are held responsible for showing up on time for scheduled shifts. By doing this, you can ensure that your servers communicate their schedules to your managers and that your managers are always in the know about who is scheduled to show up. This solution in particular will hold your staff and managers accountable for shifts and will save everybody involved valuable time.
  • Mandate that each staff member gets a certain number of comment cards filled out per shift. This will ensure that your staff knows they are being held accountable for their performance
  • Implement a 360 degree feedback program where staff can periodically rate the managers and GM and where the managers / GM can rate corporate. This will ensure that every level of your organization is held accountable for their performance.

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Training and Enforcement

Even if you embrace the two philosophies listed above, nothing will truly work unless you properly train your staff and enforce your training periodically. The most effective restaurant organizations have training teams that have standard processes for how to train staff. How long after a table is seated should you wait greet them? How often should you check in at a table? Do you know the menu thoroughly? All of these questions and more should be answered over and over again during a server’s initial training.

In order to enforce these habits, make sure you have a weekly “all-hands” meeting that is never canceled for any reason. This meeting should be used by the GM to ensure that key metrics are consistently being achieved. In addition, this time should be used to resolve any guest complaints and address any important action items for the coming week.

 

Running a restaurant organization is tough, but following these 3 strategies will ensure your organization is on a path to success.

Email Collection – Critical For Your Marketing Strategy

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Most restaurants have some type of email database. Either through business card fishbowls, paper comment cards, or eclubs, most restaurants have at some point collected email addresses. However, very few restaurants place a high level of importance on collecting email addresses. If the average restaurant does approximately 70,000 covers per year, why is it unreasonable that restaurants should be collecting at least 5,000 email addresses per year?

The reality is that although most restaurants collect emails, most don’t place a high level of importance on email collection. In fact, many restaurants spend more time figuring out how to get new guests in the door rather than focusing on retaining current guests and getting them to come back more often. Before you consider investing in a Yelp ad, a newspaper ad, or a Groupon, think for a moment about how much those forms of advertising cost. Then think about this – emails cost less than once cent to send and if you send them right, you can get nearly half of your emailed guests to open and read them.

Joe Welsh is a restaurant marketing expert and runs his own restaurant marketing firm. According to Welsh, “Emails are tremendously valuable for restaurants. If I talk to a restaurateur with few email addresses, one of my first recommendations is to suggest ways to collect more.You can never have enough and email collection should always be a key part of a restaurant’s marketing strategy regardless of how many emails you have.”

 

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Guest relationship management, like customer relationship management, is a philosophy. In service based industries (like restaurants and hotels) much emphasis needs to be placed on delivering a high-quality guest experience. Everybody can think of a time when they’ve had a truly stellar experience in a hotel or restaurant – that time when a member of the staff went above and beyond the call of duty to deliver a truly remarkable experience.

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But guest relationship management is more than providing a stellar in-person guest experience. Every point of guest interaction with your establishment, from social media to your website to your phone and email correspondence is part of the guest experience. Guest relationship management is about consistently delivering a stellar holistic guest experience.

If you own or work in a restaurant or hotel, you’re probably thinking “yeah great – that’s easier said than done.” After all, in service-based industries, there are an infinite number of issues that could arise at any point in time. When you consider that no two issues are the same and that every day has its new share of unexpected situations, “consistently delivering a stellar holistic guest experience” probably seems like the most challenging task in the world.

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And you just might be right. However, there is hope. Guest relationship management isn’t about being perfect all the time – it’s about doing the best you can at what you can control and immediately correcting issues when they do arise. It’s about marketing and operations working together to deliver both a great in-person guest experience and an ongoing guest dialogue that builds brand loyalty over time. When building your restaurant organization, make sure to include guest relationship management is an important part of your strategy. After all, in hospitality the guest is king and building strong relationships with your guests could mean the difference between success and failure for your business.

How do I advertise my restaurant affordably?

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Advertising. It is one of the keys to ensuring that your restaurant stays healthy and successful over time. The majority of your customers will be repeat, but building your customer base and awareness will only enhance your brand and allow you to access more customers. Advertising is one of the most effective ways to drive new customers to your restaurant. However, with all the different ways to advertise (social media, print, fliers, etc.) it is difficult to determine which is the most effective. The answer is different for every restaurant. However, if you follow these simple rules you should be able to determine which is most effective and enhance the ROI on your advertising:

  1. Set goals – Always have a specific goal in mind before you start advertising. Ask yourself: “What would be a successful outcome for this advertising?” Once you have a goal in place you can effectively understand what determines success and failure.
  2. Make sure you can measure the advertisement – One of the reasons most advertisements are unsuccessful is because there is no metric put in place to measure it. Often changes in revenue have nothing to do with the advertising. A good way to measure advertising is to tie a specific expiration or coupon back to your advertisement.
  3. Set a specific time to test your advertisements – Sometimes advertisements are not given the proper amount of time to show a return. Most advertisement need 3-6 months to be fully tested and to see if they are working.
  4. Run advertisements which only work when redeemed – New businesses like groupon and living social allow you to only pay for advertisements when someone actually purchases or uses one. This is great because it allows you to see the real return. However, be weary of too much discounting as it can really hurt your brand.

 

Advertising is a great way to grow your new customer base when used effectively. It should be balanced with an approach to reward repeat guests.

How do I hold my staff accountable?

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Despite their best efforts to control every aspect of the experience in the restaurant, owners and managers are under the mercy of their staff.  The kitchen determines the food quality, the servers determines quality of service provided. In actuality, you rely on your staff to make sure that every guest leaves your restaurant happy. How do you hold your staff accountable to your guests, and make sure that every guest leaves with the best possible experience?

Doing the following things could help:

2.Set Standards

Gather your staff together, and put together a list of “Standards or Rules” which will dictate their behavior. For many restaurants this can be seen as a set of core values. A good set of standards will embody what you expect out of your staff and will relay to them exactly what you want each customer to feel like before they leave your restaurant.

2.Set Goals

A great way to make sure the staff is accountable to your standards is to set goals for them. Goals will give the staff something to reach for. They should always be easy to understand and difficult to reach, but attainable. The link below shows the S.M.A.R.T methodology of setting goals.

S.M.A.R.T Methodology of Goal Setting

3.Regular Staff Meetings

Holding regular staff meetings allows you to keep your staff on target, and keeps them up to date on restaurant’s progress and goals. This will allow you to keep your staff  in the loop, understand their feelings about the restaurant’s progress and make sure that they are meeting the expectations you have set out for them.

Without a proper method to hold your staff accountable, you leave your restaurant at the risk of being run poorly and leading to customers leaving unsatisfied. Holding staff accountable requires a simple set of actions which take 5 minutes to implement, but must be regularly enforced. By setting standards and goals, and holding regular staff meetings you will ensure that the staff understands their role, expectations, and how to contribute to a healthy restaurant.