Saving Money with Cloud Kitchens

Technology, competition, customer needs, and evolving conditions today have led to the development of cloud kitchens.

More and more of your restaurant customers are demanding online delivery. They want convenience and safety. Due to this, cloud kitchens, often known as ghost kitchens, are rising in popularity every day. (tweet this)

In this article, we look at saving money with cloud kitchens, and how you can benefit from this trend. First, let’s look at this innovative business model.

The Cloud Kitchen Model

The cloud kitchen is a delivery-only restaurant with no space for customers to dine in. You are only dealing with online food orders that customers place through your website, mobile app, or an online food aggregator like Door Dash or Grubhub.

You rent space to run your kitchen out of. And you only need to hire the staff you need to make and package the food.

Many restaurateurs are benefiting from the cloud kitchen because you are spending less money on a brick-and-mortar space, and you have more flexibility.

With the cloud kitchen, you can launch multiple brands all using the same kitchen. For example, you may have a restaurant selling Italian foods, one selling Indian food, and another one selling Greek cuisine.

The cloud kitchen allows you to use the same kitchen and infrastructure to run several brands at once.

Bottom line, instead of adding multiple cuisines to one menu, you can create three different restaurants from the same delivery only kitchen.

Why Open a Cloud Kitchen?

Many restaurant owners began exploring their options as restaurants across the country were closed due to the pandemic.

Others just wanted new options for delivery, or they wanted to explore other restaurant ideas.

In addition, more and more people are choosing delivery instead of dine-in options, so the cloud kitchen allows you to reach more customers than you would from your brick-and-mortar restaurant.

The cloud or ghost kitchen is a great way to leverage the power of online ordering and delivery. You also save money, especially if you don’t have a physical restaurant.

Cloud Kitchen Savings

You can save money with cloud kitchens in several different ways. Your savings come on property fees, staffing, and typical in-person restaurant costs. Let’s uncover the specifics:

Your overhead cost is lower. You no longer need a storefront.

You can explore new menu concepts quickly, keeping the good and ditching the unpopular. When doing this, you don’t have to print menus or update them.

Your cloud kitchen can not only sell from your website, but you can sell from aggregate delivery services. This allows you to reach many more people than you could on your own.

It’s quick and easy to set up your cloud kitchen. You don’t have to look for a great location, and you aren’t looking for signage and inside décor. You don’t have to buy tables, chairs, and dishes. You simply create your menu, get set up to sell online, and start cooking.

You reach more people because your offerings are only online. You can serve unique populations outside your target market.

How Can Your Restaurant Shift?

If you own a restaurant that didn’t previously offer delivery, or at least not very much of it, you can try your hand at the cloud kitchen.

First, you need to figure out how you’ll get your food to your customers. Will you do it yourself? Will you farm it out to online food aggregators? Or will you do a combination of both?

This is the first question you have to answer.

Next, you want to look at your menu. You might want to start several cloud kitchens, or you might just want to concentrate on one at the start.

You also need to come up with delivery pricing. Know what you’ll charge for a delivery fee, and how you’ll handle tips for your drivers.

If you go the route of a food aggregator like Grubhub or Doordash, you will be more visible to new customers. Do remember, though, that you’ll have to pay a fee to use these services. So, shop around and see which one is most used in your community and what their fees are.

Then, you can decide which best suits you and your customers.

How to Staff Your Cloud Kitchen

Yes, you will be saving money with your cloud kitchen when it comes to staffing, but you still do need a handful of staff working with you.

While you don’t need any wait staff, you do need people who are skilled in the kitchen. You want to trust them with your food preparation because without your brick-and-mortar restaurant, all your customers will know you for is your food.

Your food must be perfect because that’s what your customers will solely judge you on.

If you have multiple brands operating out of the same cloud kitchen, you may consider several different chefs, each handling a separate brand.

Most cloud kitchens can run with several cooks and a couple of helpers.

How to Advertise Cost Effectively

You don’t have a physical location, so you want to really build your online presence. This starts with your website and social media pages.

You can build both of these and save money because you aren’t purchasing signage and in-restaurant marketing.

Do keep your website updated and have links on your website so customers know where to order from your kitchen.

Final Thoughts

With the cloud kitchen or ghost restaurant, you have the advantage of being able to optimize your menu for customer demand.

Without a physical in-person location, you can adapt and adjust your menu as your customers demand it.

In addition, you waste less food, work only when it’s busy, and you can serve a larger audience.

As an added bonus, you can also save money because you can even share your cloud kitchen with others. Don’t forget you can also run multiple ghost restaurants from the same kitchen as well.

The pandemic has vastly changed the restaurant industry. For many restaurants across the United States, the cloud kitchen offers new opportunities and an option for success with definite savings.

Automated Kitchens: What to Know About This New Trend

With the Covid pandemic in 2020 and even in 2021, the restaurant industry found itself having to adopt new ideas and look deep into the future.

The new reality of life during and post Covid has led many restaurants to re-imagine how the do business. With this comes a focus on innovation and new technologies.

The newly imagined restaurant of today might find itself looking to automated kitchens. In this article, we look at what you need to know about this new trend.

What is an Automated Kitchen?

In the restaurant kitchen, you’ll find many types of automation. Up until now it generally referred to gadgets.

In today’s world, it refers to restaurants using robots to cook and prepare the food. These robots are precision instruments that are set to cook according to a chef’s plan. They are ultra-sanitary and often quicker than a human. (tweet this)

Oftentimes, the trend in automated cooking may refer to a robotic arm in the kitchen that flips burgers or assembles a pizza.

Basically, the automated kitchen takes some, if not all, of the human component out of the restaurant kitchen.

The automated kitchen can save on labor costs, human error, and cleanliness.

Now let’s look at why you might want to incorporate this trend into your restaurant business.

Automated Kitchens Save Time

Having an automated robot or two in your restaurant kitchen saves on prep time and cooking time.

The robot is highly efficient and programmed to work quickly and accurately.

The automated robot can free up your staff to meet the customer service needs of your restaurant. Someone can oversee the robot in the kitchen to ensure all is working efficiently, while other staff provide excellent customer facing service.

Automated Kitchens are More Consistent

How many times have you heard a customer say the meal they ordered last week was better than the one they ordered on another day?

Consistency in your restaurant is vital to building a loyal customer base. Imagine that your specialty dish is what brings customers back time and again. Yet, occasionally it doesn’t taste as good as it usually does.

This hurts your brand and keeps you from building a loyal customer base.

With the automated kitchen, the robot is a machine that measures ingredients exactly and cooks the same way every time.

Each of your meals is also prepared the same way and tastes exactly the same each time it is made.

In addition, robots will always measure ingredients the same for each dish. They will never over or underestimate.

With the robotic algorithm, you are ensured consistency in your dishes.

Automated Kitchens are Often Safer

Restaurant workers are injured in kitchen accidents every day in the United States.

Whether it’s a burn, a knife cut, or a fall, accidents are a common occurrence in most restaurant kitchens.

When you use an automated robot in your kitchen, you might even end up with zero kitchen-related accidents.

The robot can work in any environment and not get hurt. They can even work in environments where human workers can’t.

If you’re looking to enhance safety and avoid hazardous working conditions, the automated kitchen may be the answer.

Automated Kitchens are Cleaner

The robot in the automated kitchen doesn’t need a hair net, apron, or even long sleeves. The robot doesn’t get sick or carry germs.

You can also sanitize the automated kitchen in ways you could never sanitize the human worker.

You can implement the most hygienic procedures in your restaurant’s newly automated kitchen that wouldn’t be possible normally.

Automated Kitchens are Trustworthy

You don’t have to worry about the robot stealing food to take home.

There is also little chance they will mess something up or be disloyal to you. The only issue you might face is a malfunction, and that’s easily fixable.

With the automated kitchen, you get rid of human emotions and temptations.

Automated Kitchens are Fast

While some restaurants are fast food or quick service, others provide fine dining. In any of these scenarios, the robotic automated process is quicker.

Robots can prepare your menu items very quickly. They have one sole purpose, and that’s to prepare your food. With humans, there is always some lag time. Someone has to use the restroom, others are messing around, and others may simply be slow.

What’s more, while people get tired, robots and robotic arms do not.

Automated Kitchens May Be Less Expensive

While it may seem like robots in the kitchen would be more expensive, they ultimately may not be for some restaurants.

Why? The automated kitchen is cheaper because you only incur the cost once when you purchase the robot.

It is cheaper to employee robots than it is to employ humans. The robot doesn’t cost to operate it, and you don’t have a weekly salary to pay.

In addition, since they are virtually mistake-free, you are saving on overages and costly human error.

Do be aware, though, of the high implementation cost and be sure you can earn back your investment.

Final Thoughts

So, is the new trend of automated kitchens growing quickly?

While it is a trend, and automation in the restaurant industry is here for the future, it’s hard to say whether your favorite local restaurant will incorporate automation in their own kitchen. (tweet this)

There are pros and cons to the automated kitchen. We’ve mostly discussed the pros of the kitchen robot.

The downside of this trend is losing the human aspect and taking jobs away from well-deserving Americans.

The question of today is whether the rise of automation in the kitchen will actually do away with the human workforce, and currently there is no strong answer.

Right now, automation is the helping hand in kitchens across the United States handling easy tasks like measuring drinks and flipping burgers.

Bottomline: robots will never have the personal touch.

Our guess for the immediate future is they will continue to expand and complement existing kitchens, but the majority of restaurants will continue to have a strong human presence.

7 Must-Know Restaurant Equipment Financing Tips

Are you opening a restaurant and need to add equipment? Or are you a current restaurant owner looking to upgrade or replace your equipment?

Either way, one of the biggest investments you’ll make in your restaurant is found in your equipment. So, how do you pay for these expensive items? While there are several ways to pay for your new equipment, we’re going to look at financing.

Here are seven must-know restaurant equipment financing tips.

#1: Prepare and Organize All Your Financial Info

Before you can meet with anyone or apply for equipment financing, you need to have all of your financial documents at the ready.

This means preparing your income statements, profit and loss statements, and your balance sheets. These should be accurate and include several years’ worth of information.

#2: Know Your Credit Score

In addition, check your credit score. Your lender will consider both your personal credit score and that of your business. They do this to decide how much of a risk you are before offering you credit to finance your restaurant equipment.

Some restaurant equipment financing companies only approve people who have good to excellent credit. If your credit is currently subpar, make a plan to improve it so when you’re ready for the financing you have a better chance at getting it.

It’s a good idea to also be aware of your debt ratio so you can be prepared to talk to your lender.

Finally, some lenders want to see that your restaurant has been in business for a certain period of time. So, before you apply for financing with a company, know their requirements.

If you pay your bills on time, have good credit, and can prove need, you have a good shot at obtaining financing. (tweet this)

#3: Plan Ahead

If you already own a restaurant, and you need to replace or buy new equipment, it’s a good idea to be prepared well in advance.

The last thing you want is to be caught needing new equipment and not having a plan in place.

By being prepared, you can estimate when you might need to replace certain items. Make a spreadsheet list of all of your current equipment, the age, expected life span, and when you expect to need to replace it.

This way you won’t be stuck paying more than you need to because you desperately need to replace an item.

Consider replacing items before they have reached their expiration date and begin to fail. This can help you plan for saving a little for a down payment (if it’s required) as well. This way you don’t have to finance the entire cost and incur unnecessary interest payments.

#4: Research Lenders

Shop around from various restaurant equipment financing vendors.

The goal is to find the lowest interest rate and the most agreeable payment terms to you.

For example, you might prefer a shorter loan time frame, or you may need a longer time frame.

You can try to negotiate with your lenders as well. Remember, it never hurts to ask.

#5: Consider Used Equipment

When considering restaurant equipment financing, don’t forget to look at the prices of used versus new equipment.

Because these items are often major capital expense, they are expensive, and you want to look for ways to save money when you can.

Oftentimes the used equipment is of great quality. Perhaps it was only used for a short time, so the quality is exceptional. This will help you save money in the long term.

If you’re buying used equipment, consider the following:

Inspect the used equipment very carefully. If it’s cosmetic, and back of house, it’s not necessarily a problem. If you’re using it in the front of the house, make sure you can repair any cosmetic issues. As far as how it works, consider having an expert come in and inspect the equipment if you don’t know what to look for.

Ask for a copy of the maintenance records. This way you can see all the repairs that have been made as well as any regular maintenance. If the seller doesn’t have these, you might want to walk away from the purchase.

Get all the warranty information from the previous owner before purchasing. Depending on who you purchase it from, you may be able to get a warranty for 60-90 days. If there is still existing warranty left on the equipment, it may be transferable to you. The goal is simple to learn about any warranties and obtain the paperwork.

#6: Research Your Vendors

If you’re buying new restaurant equipment and financing it, research the equipment vendors.

Check their online reviews, ask other restaurant owners about particular vendors, and check prices from their competitors.

Your best bet is to deal with reputable vendors only. They usually have better warranties, and certainly have better customer service. (tweet this)

#7: Don’t Overspend

Just because you got financing for your restaurant equipment purchase doesn’t mean you should overspend.

Make sure that you can actually afford the loan you’re approved for. Some restaurant owners may take on too much debt when they don’t really have to.

So, once you’re approved for financing, be sure of what your budget allows. Just because you got $100,000 in financing doesn’t mean you have to or should spend it. Have a budget and stick with it.

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons to apply for restaurant equipment financing. They include:

Depending on the lender, you generally self-secure the loan. The restaurant equipment is the collateral, so if you default on the loan, the lender takes your equipment as repayment.

Generally, these types of loans aren’t as strict as perhaps a home loan or a car loan. Equipment financing is secured by the equipment, so more people will be approved for this type of loan.

Most restaurant owners only take a loan for exactly what they need.

The turn around from financing to purchase is usually fairly quick.

Finally, remember that going into debt is always a risk. Before you take on restaurant equipment financing, be sure that you can afford the payments.

If you can, you’re on your way to improving your restaurant and your bottom line. And, once the loan is paid off, you’ll improve your credit score.

Increasing Your Restaurant Delivery Profits

Did you know that more than 60% of consumers in the United States say they order food for delivery once a week?

For most of your restaurant customers, delivery is an expected service. Today’s diners want convenience. They don’t want to worry about going somewhere to pick up food – they want you to bring it to them.

Yet, offering delivery can be expensive for restaurants. To help you capitalize on the delivery trend, let’s look at increasing your restaurant delivery profits.

Partner with a Delivery Site

One way you may increase your profits is to partner with a delivery site.

Doing this lets you find more customers near you and reach a larger audience. When your customers use delivery sites, they may be looking for a restaurant that serves a particular type of food. If you fall in that category, you’ll show up in the list.

Using delivery sites exposes you to more potential customers by increasing your visibility. (tweet this) While you will have to pay a commission rate to the delivery site, you may be able to increase your profits with the sheer volume of sales.

Offer Online Ordering

Another way to boost your restaurant delivery profits is by allowing your customers to order online for delivery.

This eliminates the extra step for your customers of having to call the restaurant and place the order. It also virtually eliminates the chance of a mistake on the part of your staff when taking down the order.

What’s more, your online ordering system can offer additional items to customers, helping increase the order total with the up-sell.

Online ordering is a terrific way to increase your delivery profits because it provides your customers with an easy, quick way to order food from your restaurant.

What’s more, more restaurant customers prefer ordering from your website online than using a delivery service platform.

Decrease Your Food Delivery Costs

The expenses involved with delivering food from your restaurant can eat into your restaurant delivery profits.

You can increase your overall profit margin by reducing some of your expenses. Here are a few areas to look at:

Do your research and make sure you have enough delivery drivers on hand but not too many. Having too many around eats into your profits. But do be careful as your customers don’t want to have to wait hours for their food to be delivered.

Train your staff well so you don’t incur high delivery driver churn rates. When you have to train new staff on an ongoing basis, that is a costly expense.

Cut down on your delivery packaging. Make sure food can be delivered warm and in good shape but be careful as over-packaging is costly.

Watch your third-party commission fees on delivery sites carefully.

Know what to charge for delivery. You don’t want to charge too little for how far your drivers have to go.

Find good insurance to keep your rates low. Search around to find the best deal.

The same holds true with your mechanic. Find a reputable one you can trust that keeps costs low to maintain vehicles if you’re using your own.

Control Your Labor Costs

As with any part of doing business, labor costs are generally the most expensive.

And with most restaurant jobs, turnover is usually high. You have an opportunity here to keep labor costs low and increase your staff retention rate.

To do this, concentrate on your employees’ pay and training rates. If you hire the right people who are a good fit for your company culture, they will stick around longer.

In addition, you want to do what you can to motivate your drivers and improve employee morale. You’ll see more productivity, and again, they will stick with your restaurant longer.

Remember, happy employees pay it forward, and that means the end result is happy customers.

Provide Excellent Customer Service

Your diners may be eating your food at home, but the expect the same service, the same portion size, and the same quality of food as they would if they were dining in.

They want their food to be delivered when you say it will be delivered. They also want their food to arrive in as close to the same condition as if they were eating inside your restaurant.

Test out your packaging. Make sure if works for each item you may send home. For example, do your soup containers leak? You can always shrink wrap them to prevent spills. If your customers are ordering drinks, leave out the ice so it doesn’t melt and ruin the drink.

In addition, leave a place on your online ordering form to ask customers if they want utensils and napkins. Don’t assume they do. Why? You may irritate customers who are living earth friendly.

If you have items that absolutely don’t transport well from restaurant to customer’s home, your best bet is to leave them off your delivery menu.

Add Group Ordering Options

A unique way to increase your profits is by adding a group ordering option to your website. This lets you cater to larger groups.

They don’t have to pay multiple delivery fees, and you’ll get bigger orders while increasing your profits.

Institute a Rewards Program

A loyalty program is the best way to encourage repeat orders. (tweet this)

You can decide how you want to offer it, but one popular way is for customers to earn one point for every dollar they spend.

Then, once they reach a certain amount, they get a free item from your restaurant.

You can use the email addresses you gain from online orders to market your rewards program to current delivery customers. This encourages them to come back and order again.

Final Thoughts

If you want to increase your restaurant delivery profits, you basically need to sell more meals for your delivery service while decreasing your delivery expenses.

You can do that with the tips in this article.

Always communicate with your customers. Tell them when to expect their food and stay true to your word.

Your overall goal is excellent customer service. This starts with your team and extends to your out of house diners.

Provide high quality delivered food that arrives on time. Pay attention to your expenses. Train your staff exceptionally well.

You will then find you are increasing your restaurant delivery profits each month.

Why Customers Love Smaller Menus

When it comes to the restaurant menu, many restaurant owners tend to think bigger and longer is better.

While this may work for a few select restaurants, we want you to know smaller menus are often better for you and generate more revenue.

What’s more, in this article, we look at why your customers love smaller menus. Let’s look at the many reasons you may want to consider moving toward a smaller offering on your menu.

Small Menus Make Decision Making Easier

Did you know that many of your diners have a hard time deciding what to eat when visiting your restaurant?

The psychology of choice says that your customers want assistance with their purchasing decisions. This holds true when they’re trying to decide what to eat.

Some people feel overwhelmed by too many choices. They often want a little help. By providing them a smaller menu, you make it easier for them.

In addition, the Covid pandemic led many restaurants to shorten their menus. Those same restaurants are deciding to keep those small menus because their customers like it, and it’s easier for them to manage.

Finally, smaller menus fight decision fatigue. This is a real syndrome for some people. How? When you offer too many choices, they are unhappy when they choose one because they continue to second guess that choice.

Small Menus are Customer Friendly

Your customers don’t want to flip through a 10-page menu. It’s confusing and overwhelming.

It can take them extra time to plow through a long menu. Then they start to feel bad that they are taking up your server’s table for so long.

Overall, a longer menu is frustrating for your customers and can create feelings of frustration.

Imagine the diner with a limited amount of time. They want to quickly browse your menu. They certainly don’t want to spend 15 minutes trying to decide what to eat.

Your customers like smaller menus because they are customer friendly. Provide them what they need, and you’ll have loyal, brand ambassadors who are satisfied customers. (tweet this)

Smaller Menus Define You

With a smaller menu, your customers know just who you are. Your brand is easily identifiable, and they’ll think of you when they’re craving the dishes from your downsized menu.

It’s easier to define your restaurant concept with a smaller menu. If you’re confused about how to shorten your menu, ask your wait staff.

They can tell you more about the dishes your customers like and those they don’t. Then, ask your customers why they like certain dishes.

This will help you decide what to shorten so you can define your overall restaurant concept.

For example, if you are an Italian restaurant, you certainly don’t need to offer a cheeseburger.

Be proud of who you are. Craft your menu as it aligns with your concept. Your dishes should only be the ones that showcase who you are and define your vision.

Smaller Menus Mean Faster Service

Another reason customers like smaller menus is because they can generally get their food faster.

Kitchens that prepare multiple dishes from a 10-page menu are often chaotic, overworked, and terribly slow.

When you streamline your menu, your kitchen is better able to handle the busiest hours.

Smaller menus are easier on your kitchen staff, your stove, and your storage spaces.

The most efficient restaurants are the ones working hard to cater to their customers and provide excellent customer service. Remember that efficiency and an improved customer experience go together.

Smaller Menus Equal Better Trained Staff

When you have a smaller menu, your servers are better trained and better equipped to talk about your options.

Your servers also have a better chance to have tasted all of your items when your menu is small. This gives them first-hand experience to share with your customers who want a little help deciding.

You’ll also find that servers can remember your menu when you have fewer items on it. They are then more familiar with the dishes and again can make better recommendations.

Smaller Menus Improve Consistency

You want to ensure your food is prepared the same way every time. If your customer comes back every week for your vegetarian lasagna, you want to be sure it tastes the same, and has the same consistency and portion size.

With a smaller menu, it’s easier for you to provide a higher quality of dishes every time.

Smaller Menus Showcase Quality

You can’t be everything to everyone, and your customers know it.

So, when you provide a smaller menu, you let your customers know that everything on it is high quality. They know instantly you love each of the dishes and are proud to serve them.

Your customers see your quality with a defined menu. They know you are focused on specific dishes and doing them perfectly.

In other words, with a small menu, they know everything on it is your specialty.

Smaller Menus Reduce Waste

Many people today are concerned with sustainability and waste.

They don’t really want huge dishes that have to be thrown away. They also will like the idea that you have less waste in your kitchen as well.

A small menu reduces waste because you can keep better track of your inventory and lose less food.

Let your customers know your smaller menu is dedicated to less waste. This helps improve your brand loyalty.

Final Thoughts

Consider the overall experience of your customers. Then consider your absolute best dishes. These are the ones you’re known for.

Those are what should land on your menu. Oftentimes smaller and shorter menus are better. So, why not stick to the dishes that define your restaurant?

This can mean as many as you want, but certainly not a five or 10 page menu.

Don’t forget, you can always offer a limited time special menu on occasion when you want to try something new!

Let your customers eat what you want to serve them. This way they are getting the best of your restaurant, and they’ll keep coming back for their favorite dishes time and again.

How to Price Daily Dinner Specials for Best Results

One of your diners’ favorite lines to hear from their server is, “Would you like to hear about our specials?”

You know that offering your customers specials is a terrific marketing tool. It increases customer loyalty and retention. It’s also a great way to try out new menu items to see if your diners like them.

What’s more, offering daily dinner specials gives your revenue a boost as daily specials attract more diners.

Yet, it can be hard to know where to go with pricing. In this article, we look at how to price daily dinner specials for the best results.

Create a Recipe Costing Card

The only way you can know how to price your specials is to create a costing card. You must know exactly what those specials cost you to create. 

A recipe costing card is key to your success. You can’t know what your menu items generally cost. This can’t be a rough estimate.

If you want profitability, you need to create your costing card for each one of your dinner specials. This means costing out every item that lands on the plates of your daily dinner specials.

Once you know what it costs, you can build upwards to create a profit. Here’s what you need to include:

The cost of each item on the dish

The weight and cost of each ingredient – this is a ratio based on how much you use in your recipe

The menu price

The recipe costing card not only helps you make a profit, but it also helps you control portion sizes while minimizing waste.

In addition, the recipe costing card can help you determine what your customers are actually purchasing. This should also go into factoring the cost of your daily dinner specials. So, you want to update these cards regularly.

Take Staff Costs into Account

When you price daily dinner specials, not only do you need to factor in the cost of each item, but you also need to consider staffing.

For example, if your daily dinner special is a hamburger, it needs someone to flip it. How much does it cost you for a cook to flip and watch the burger and then plate it?

Labor costs should be factored into your pricing, so you ensure you hit your budgeted costs.

Now that you have some tips on how to price daily dinner specials, let’s dive into what your customers think your specials actually are.

Know What Your Customers Want

For some of your customers, specials are discounted meals. Many diners will visit your restaurant thinking they’re getting a daily deal or a discount. For example, you may offer $5 hamburgers on Mondays with $1 French fries.

In the eyes of your customer, that’s a special deal.

For other customers, specials are something you offer in addition to your regular menu. Customers want to order your specials because they want something different and unique.

This might be a chef’s special, or something made with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.

The take-away here is knowing your audience and marketing your specials in the appropriate manner. In fact, your specials may be a little bit of both of these perceived notions of “specials.”

Whichever way you go, make sure to market the special correctly so your diners understand your pricing.

Offer the Right Specials

When considering how to price your daily dinner specials, you also have to know your customer base. You need to know what they’re looking for and what they want to eat. (tweet this)

For example, you may offer a vegetarian lasagna as a creative special. But if people come to your restaurant solely for your meat offerings, that isn’t going to be a great special for you.

Know what your customers want and meet them there. Provide them with the right specials at the right price, and they just may come back night after night.

Know Your Bottom Line

Another tip when pricing your specials is to consider which specials would be most beneficial to your bottom line.

In other words, what specials are going to delight your customers while also providing you with the largest profit margin.

Promote Your Specials

You can also consider your marketing costs when pricing your specials because it’s important you market these daily dinner specials.

For the best results you want to promote your special in the following places:

Put signs outside your restaurant and in your windows. This helps catch passers-by.

Advertise specials on social media. This won’t cost you much at all and can really help you get some traction on your specials. You can also advertise the price as well to entice customers.

Use your restaurant’s email list to advertise your dinner specials, too. These folks are already your customers, and they want to dine with you. By telling them about your daily dinner specials, you increase your daily traffic.

Host small events to promote your specials. For example, add some live music to make it fun and festive.

Final Thoughts

Just because you offer a daily dinner special doesn’t mean you can’t make money on it.

By using the pricing strategies included here, you can make money on your special menu items. They are special, and their price should be, too.

You don’t want to eyeball the daily dinner special and simply throw a price at it. It’s imperative you know what the items cost before you start considering the special pricing.

Create a plan for your daily dinner specials so you actually make money on each one you sell for the best results.

Your daily dinner specials will help you increase loyalty while creating a community vibe. With different specials each day, your diners will come back multiple times in one week, thus increasing your revenue.

At Restaurant Engine, not only do we create great, responsive websites, but you can count on us to create a website that highlights your daily dinner specials. We help you edge above the competition by using mobile-friendly design with a terrific user experience. Ready to take the plunge and create a new website? Get your free website consultation today!

5 Tips for Financing a Second Restaurant Location

Your restaurant is highly successful, and the time has come for you to think about opening another location.

If your customers are asking for another location across town, and your wait times are so excessive you’re turning people away, a new restaurant can be in your sights.

It’s really exciting to ponder opening another restaurant, so can you just dive in? You actually need a plan and one that includes financing.

Let’s look at seven tips for financing a second restaurant location.

#1: Research Your Costs

Before you know how much you need to finance, you first need to know an estimate of your costs. (tweet this)

When it comes to your second restaurant location, consider these:

Cost to purchase, lease, or rent the restaurant spot

Security deposits and/or down payments

What it will cost to build if you’re building new

The cost to renovate the restaurant with fixtures and equipment

Cost to purchase dishes, tables, chairs, and any décor

The cost for inventory

Upfront costs for staff

Marketing costs to promote your new location including your grand opening

New point of sale systems

Phones, computers, packaging for carryout and delivery orders

As you begin your expansion preparations, you want to specifically outline these items. You can also consider increasing these amounts 10-20% to account for any overages.

#2: Look at Funding Types

Now that you know the costs to open a second restaurant location, you can start looking at financing options.

You need capital to open your next restaurant. Will you fund it yourself; will you take out loans; or will you look for an investor?

If you decide to take out a loan or find an investor, you do want to be sure the books for your current restaurant are in order. Your restaurant should have a positive outlook, and you don’t want to owe a lot of money.

If you take out a loan for capital and renovation, check around and look for the best interest rates.

If you’re looking for investors, make sure you put together a rock-solid business plan that also includes numbers for your current restaurant.

Because you know what it takes to open a restaurant, it should be easier the second time around to get prepared.

#3: Check Out Equipment Loans

When financing a second restaurant, you can look at specific loan types as well.

The first loan type to consider is the equipment loan. If you’re starting from scratch in the new location, you may need to add a lot of expensive equipment.

If this is the case, you might look at a small business equipment loan. With this loan, you get a lump sum of capital. You’ll pay this back with interest over a specified period of time.

The collateral for this loan is the equipment you purchase. You’ll find that this loan is generally self-secured. This means you’re more like to be approved and get larger loan amounts while paying much lower interest rates.

Finally, you can often set a longer repayment period for equipment loans.

#4: Look at Commercial Loans

If you’re thinking about purchasing a second restaurant location, it’s time to look at a commercial real estate loan.

Just like the equipment loan, you are taking out this loan for a specified purchase. The bank then uses the actual restaurant property as collateral for your loan.

You’ll generally find good loan terms for your commercial real estate loans. While banks are good places to check, don’t forget the Small Business Administration where you may find quite long repayment terms.

#5: Credit Cards are an Option

Another way to finance your new restaurant location is with your own credit cards.

While this isn’t the ideal way to move forward, you could use your credit cards for smaller purchases.

When doing this, though, you want to make sure your business credit cards at least offer 0% financing for 12 months or more. This means if you pay it off during that time frame, you pay no interest at all.

#6: Check out the Business Line of Credit

Another tip for financing a second restaurant location is to ask your bank for a business line of credit. This is similar to your credit card.

Once you’re approved, the bank opens a line of credit for you. You will most likely have a spending limit. You will also have to pay on this loan every month before you can take out any more credit.

This can be a good option when you need an open line of credit. This gives you the ultimate in flexibility.

Because this is unsecured debt like a credit card, make sure you can manage it well. It is generally more expensive, and you’ll pay bigger rates than with a traditional loan.

#7: Investors May Help

Another way to secure financing is by taking on investors.

For many restaurants, this is a good option.

If you’re going this route, you do want to understand your investors will most likely gain some control over your restaurant and your way of work.

If you’re willing to do this, research your investors and write a contract that serves you both well.

Final Thoughts

With thousands of restaurants in the United States, if you have a winning recipe for success, it’s time to open another.

Now that you’ve got seven tips for financing a second restaurant location, you’re ready to begin.

Securing capital and financing for your new project is vital to your success.

Be sure to weigh all of your options to find out the best one for you. It may also work out that you can use a combination of financing options.

Whichever way you go, research your potential financial providers. Try to find ones that are familiar with the restaurant industry.

This way, they know what to expect. They might understand how your business is seasonal, that some times are slower than others, and your profit margins won’t always be the same.

Ultimately you want financing that works for your restaurant. A good partner is key, and this is where your research comes in. (tweet this)

When interviewing potential funders and applying for financing, ask them as many questions as they ask you. Find someone who is reputable and reliable as you finance a second restaurant location.

Saving Money With Square for Your Restaurant

Every day across the United States, people are using Square to run and grow their businesses.

The same holds true for restaurants as many are using Square as their POS (point of sale) system and payment processor.

Why are so many people using Square? It’s simply because Square saves them time and money.

Because we care about you saving money with Square for your restaurant, we’re going to break it down for you and highlight what makes it a potential point of sale system for your restaurant.

What is Square for Restaurants?

Square appreciates that restaurants have special needs, so they created a separate solution specifically for restaurants.

Their POS system allows you to manage credit card payments, take online orders and pickup orders, track your tables, customize your floor plans, and more.

In addition, you can also manage delivery and pickup orders which ensures you’re meeting the needs of your customers.

Additional features of Square include:

Management of your front of house with order entry, seating, mapping of tables, and more.

Additional management for the back of the house including menu management.

Customer relationship management – with this feature you can save payment methods, customer information, and order histories. This allows you to later market to your customers.

Offline and online payments, check splitting, refunds, coupons, and more.

Management of your employees including their time sheets, logins, order assignments, and permissions.

Daily sales reports, labor costs, employee sales reports, sales by product/category, and much more.

You’ll also find Square Payments inside the POS. This makes it incredibly easy to take payments with very reasonable pricing.

Square for Restaurants is entirely based in the cloud so you can rest assured your information is safe in their secure servers.

What’s more, you can use Square whether you’re connected to the internet or offline.

In addition, starting at $599, you can have someone help you with the implementation of Square for your restaurant.

Now let’s look at the pros and cons of the various versions of Square for Restaurants.

The Pros and Cons of Using the Free Square Version

As with anything, there are definite pros and a few cons when using the free version of software. By weighing them, you can decide if Square is really capable of saving you money.

The Pros:

There is a free plan. It includes unlimited devices and users. All you pay for is the payment processing.

It’s easy to use.

You can use it at multiple locations.

You have access to table and menu management.

There’s also an order manager and an auto gratuity feature.

You get access to customer service during specified hours.

The Cons:

The free plan doesn’t offer 24/7 support, but the paid plans do offer it.

You don’t have access to as many analytics with the free version.

You need your own iPad or iPhone to get started. You can also buy a Square terminal.

When it comes to using Square as a credit card processor, you will pay 2.6% plus $0.10 per credit card transaction. Online payments are at 2.9% and 30 cents per transaction.

The Pros and Cons of Using the Paid Square Versions

Square offers a Plus version for just $60 per month which is really reasonable and most likely saves you money.

In addition, you pay $40 per month for every POS device you add.

The Pros:

You get everything in the free plan.

You get a 30-day free trial.

The credit card processing fees are the same as the free plan.

You can expect 24/7 customer support.

Management options include seat management, the ability to reopen closed checks, course management, real-time order updates, kitchen performance reports, and a floor customization plan.

You get full analytics reports which helps you manage your restaurant better.

Accept payments at the table.

The Cons

Restricted to Square’s payment processing.

Limited options when it comes to hardware.

Square also offers a Premium plan that offers customized pricing.

Square Add-Ons

With all Square for Restaurants plans, you can find many available add-ons. With these add-ons, you have so much more than a POS and payment processor. Let’s look at them:

Square Team Management

You can also schedule, manage, and pay your staff right from Square. The essentials are free, and if you want to upgrade it’s $35 per month/location.

Features include:

Setting employee schedules.

Customize team access.

Create and customize shift schedules.

View individual performance and sales analytics.

Pay your staff if you integrate with Square Payroll.

Allow your team to clock in and out at the register.

Your team members can also view and adjust their schedules in Square. They can see their hours worked, their timecards, and even their estimated pay in the mobile app.

Square Online

With this feature, you can also take food orders online.

You can allow your customers to schedule take-out, delivery, or curbside pickup.

This is a great feature because it integrates with your in-house Square POS.

Square Payroll

With this add-on, not only do you get access to full-service payroll, but the system will handle your automated tax filings of federal, state, and local payroll taxes, too.

You can also add employee benefits in Square Payroll.

The fee for this add-on is $29 per month and $5 per employee.

Square Loyalty

For just $45 per month, you can add a customer loyalty program right in your Square POS.

According to one source, retaining just 5% more customers can increase your profits by 25% to 95%. Don’t forget it costs five times less to keep a current customer than to get a brand new one.

So, you can see the monthly price is really worth it and saves you money in the long run.

Square Marketing

This add-on is just $15 per month, and it helps you grow your business.

Square Marketing is email marketing software. With it you can design custom emails, set up automated drip campaigns, and view analytics right from your Square Dashboard. (tweet this)

This feature saves you money because you don’t have to add an email marketing service provider outside Square. These generally cost much more than $15 per month.

A bonus is you can not only target new customers, but you can reach out to regular customers and even customers who’ve lapsed.

To Conclude

With Square for Restaurants and even with the extra add-on prices, you’ll find you’re saving money with Square for your restaurant. (tweet this)

This is because everything you need is in one place. The pricing is set up for your success, and you don’t need to buy extra software for things like payroll and marketing.

6 Ways to Reward Your Hardworking Restaurant Staff

Did you know the benefits of team building are far reaching?

When you have a restaurant with high employee morale, that trickles down to your customers. That in turn creates loyal customers and improved profits. (tweet this)

The benefits to you and your restaurant start with great employee benefits. Working day to day in the restaurant business is tough work both physically and emotionally.

By rewarding your staff, you build a strong business that continues to grow on the strength of your team.

Everyone appreciates a good thumbs up. Here are six ways to reward your hardworking restaurant staff.

#1: Celebrate Birthdays

You can do this on the person’s actual birthday, or you can have a birthday month celebration for all the birthdays in one month.

Either make them a cake or buy a cake and put it in your break room. Let everyone know it’s the person’s birthday and their special day.

You can also throw in a small gift as another token of your appreciation.

This is a great team building exercise and provides something for your staff to look forward to on an ongoing basis.

#2: Provide Concert Tickets

Combine this incredible employee benefit with goal setting.

One idea would be to base the free concert tickets on the best employee attendance.

For example, you would offer the tickets to the employee who showed up on time and ready to work the most times in one month.

Restaurant employees are notorious for being late and calling in sick. Reward your team members’ loyalty with free concert tickets.

You’ll find this leaves your restaurant in great shape with staffing as well. Do just make sure it’s a concert they want to see.

#3: Offer Matching Tips

This is definitely an intense way to reward your hardworking restaurant staff.

Because it’s costly, you don’t want to do this all the time. Once per month is a good option.

So, on this one day, offer to reward your restaurant staff by matching one team member’s tips for the day.

This is a great way to not only build your team and employee morale, but it’s a friendly competition for your staff. It encourages them to offer the highest quality of service in order to get the highest number of tips.

#4: Give Them Swag Bags

This is a great idea when you’re onboarding new team members. Give them a basket/bag filled with branded items such as T-shirts, hats, fleece jackets, masks, and aprons.

Not only does this make them feel welcomed, it’s also great marketing.

Occasionally, throughout the year and at the holidays, you can provide smaller swag bags for your team members.

For example, if several members of your staff had to deal with a particularly difficult customer, or if there were several really busy shifts in a row, hand out swag bags.

This might be a small bag with some candy, movie gift certificate, or small gift card.

Consider this expense part of your marketing budget. Remember that happy staff equals happy customers. A restaurant with high employee morale is one that provides great customer service.

#5: Have Team Parties

Everyone likes free food. Several times throughout the year, schedule time for a party with your team.

This can be challenging for a restaurant, but your customers are sure to understand if you give them enough notice.

For example, you might close early on a weekday night when you aren’t as busy. Bring in dinner for your team from another local restaurant or caterer so they aren’t working on their special day.

Treat them as well as you would your customers. This gives them a place to get to know one another outside the work environment. They can relax and connect with one another which is a great way to solidify your team.

You can have these team parties anytime, but don’t forget to throw them a few holiday parties as well. Even though giving up time during December isn’t a great idea for your restaurant, consider having your holiday party in January when things really slow down.

The goal is to get creative and make time for your team members. Celebrate their hard work and let them know how much you appreciate them.

#6: Name a Menu Item After Team Members

Finally, our last way to reward hardworking restaurant staff is to name a menu item after them.

Now, this might be a permanent drink or food item on your menu. Or it might be a monthly or weekly special that you name after a team member.

You can also get super creative with your employee named specials. Simply challenge your chefs, waitstaff, or bartenders to come up with their own twist on one of your menu items.

Then, create a competition around these dishes and either let your employees or your customers choose.

This instantly makes them feel proud to be mentioned on your menu. What’s more, they are sure to head to their own social media platforms to highlight your dish.

So, this is a win-win for both of you.

Final Thoughts

It’s imperative you notice when employees are doing something right or going above and beyond in the workplace.

Now that you have six ways to reward your hardworking staff, it’s time to put your plan in place.

Show your appreciation through team building activities and positive reinforcement. You’ll find this instantly improves your employee retention. It ultimately encourages your team to provide excellent customer service as well. (tweet this)

Positive reinforcement not only increases productivity, but it also enhances morale. Team building activities reward your entire staff for a job well done. These activities also encourage teamwork and camaraderie.

Since employee turnover is high in the restaurant industry and can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, you can see how rewarding your team can also help you save money.

To conclude, don’t underestimate the power of the thank you. While this is a relatively small gesture, it’s easy to do, and it lets your employees know that you noticed.

You can send your thank you through text message, email, a handwritten note, a sign on your team bulletin board, or even just in passing.

Bottom line, reward your hardworking restaurant staff, and you’ll have better employee retention and better customer service.

At Restaurant Engine, not only do we create great, responsive websites, but you can count on us to create a website where eye can integrate Square. Ready to take the plunge and create a new website? Get your free website consultation today!

6 Ideas to Improve Your Carry-Out Customer Experience

Carry-out has been around for decades, but it’s taken center stage since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many restaurants find themselves pivoting to offer carry-out, and they are finding more and more customers are using this service.

To help you fine-tune your operations and get the most out of your takeout options, we look at seven ideas to improve your carry-out customer experience.

#1: Be Efficient

You want your carry-out service to run as smoothly as your dining room.

First, you want to staff your carry-out appropriately. You don’t want your customers to have to wait too long for their food. Have it ready when you said you would.

Your carry-out and pick-up area should be clean and neat. Your process needs to work smoothly from kitchen to the packaging to the carry-out counter.

It’s vital that you train your carry-out staff as you would your wait staff. Make sure they know the exact process for carry-out. They should also have extensive training on customer service. (tweet this)

Since the carry-out staff is likely the only people your customers will see, you want to note that the way they are treated defines your restaurant. Good customer service begins the second your customers walk in the door.

If they can’t find what they’re looking for, or they have to wait too long, they are not going to be happy.

It’s vital that you’re very efficient with your carry-out because you don’t want your customers waiting around imagining their food is getting cold.

#2: Offer Online Ordering

More than half of your customers don’t want to call your restaurant to place a carry-out order. They want to order right from their smartphones.

Make it easy for them to find your menu online and order straight from your website.

Make sure that your excellent customer experience starts right on your website. This is the first contact you have with your carry-out customer, so you want to make sure it’s easy and intuitive for them to place an order.

In addition, provide them professional photos of every menu item so they know what to expect.

Every touch point you have with your carry-out customer offers you the ability to improve your overall customer experience. That often begins with your website.

#3: Have a Separate Entrance

Improve your carry-out customer experience by offering your takeout customers a separate entrance with ample parking.

Many of your carry-out customers don’t want to get dressed to come into the main part of your restaurant, so don’t make them. With a separate entrance they can simply run in and grab their food.

You’ll find that your customers who are worried about Covid will appreciate this feature. You can take it one step further, though.

#4: Meet Your Customers at Their Cars

You can take your carry-out customer experience to another level by not making your customers get out of their cars at all.

Let them check in on your app, online, through SMS text messaging, or by calling you. Then have your staff bring the carry-out orders to your customers’ vehicles.

You’ll have a big win for this extra service. Do be careful, though, and train your staff on how to provide great customer service outside the restaurant, too.

They should take the food out in a timely manner, carry the bags so nothing spills, and thank the customer profusely.

#5: Ensure Accurate Orders

Another tip for improving your carry-out customer experience is order accuracy every single time.

Your staff only has one chance to get takeout orders correct. Wait staff can’t bring out a new order. Get it right, or you lose the customer.

To help, use your point-of-sale software and train your staff well. Train them to check and double check the orders. They should have a system for marking orders correctly.

Your carry-out staff is in charge of ensuring the food in the carry-out containers is just what the customer ordered.

In addition, make sure to include all sides, napkins, and utensils. If possible, have the staff run over the carry-out order with the customers before they leave.

There is nothing worse than getting home with the wrong order or less than the customer ordered. So, create processes that keep this from happening.

#6: Use the Right Packaging

This is very important to your carry-out customer experience.

We recommend you test different types of packaging with your menu items. For example, what works for spaghetti may not work for a burger, fries, and veggies.

Make sure containers are durable. Make sure they won’t break, and certainly ensure they won’t leak. Take care that food items aren’t touching one another.

Everything should also be packaged in the sack appropriately.

You can go one step further and look at sustainable packaging options, too. You’ll find your customers will appreciate to-go containers they can recycle.

Final Thoughts

  • Carry-out meals are big business for today’s restaurants.
  • Takeout options are here to stay. According to one survey, 66% of adults said they ordered takeout or delivery for dinner last week. (tweet this)
  • If you currently offer carry-out, or you’re thinking about adding it, you can expect it to continue to drive a significant portion of your business.
  • What’s more, you benefit because carry-out involves less overhead for your business. Not only do you have more tables to seat in-house guests, but you spend less on staff costs.
  • What’s more, your customers are overjoyed to be able to take your delicious food home. They don’t have to go to a fast-food restaurant, and they can order their favorites from you when they don’t feel like going out.
  • Plus, you save them time cooking at home or going out to dinner. Carry-out provides an easy opportunity for you to improve your customer experience offerings.
  • Don’t forget that when a customer leaves your restaurant satisfied with your service and their food, they are more likely to be your brand ambassador. They’ll share their experience with others who in turn order carry-out or dine in at your restaurant.
  • Provide a great customer experience and superb food, and you’ll have customers for life.
  • At Restaurant Engine, not only do we create great, responsive websites, but you can count on us to create a website that integrates seamless online ordering. Ready to take the plunge and create a new website? Get your free website consultation today!