Saturday, December 20, 2008

Theme Nights, Live Entertainment.. Flamenco, anyone?

Recently I had the joyous and unexpected opportunity to dine at a swank Virginia restaurant, surrounded by a packed house.
There was a raised wooden platform smack dab in the middle of the dining room; I assumed it was construction in progress, and really didn't let it rise to the level of discursive thought.  

Lo and behold, as I worked on my ginger-crusted sole, the lights came up on the 'construction,' and there emerged three players:  one man with a well-worn acoustic guitar, and two women in colorful Flamenco garb. The stamping of rhythmic feet, the 
provocative guitar strings, the flicking hand-fans and ecstatic shouts, all conspired to lift the atmosphere to electric excitement. Oh! That's why the place was packed!!

Consideration of adding entertainment and 'themes' - or both! -to bring a good restaurant to a higher level of notoriety is something YOU can do on your home turf, no matter how great or humble your establishment may be. 

The recession stings, and people are looking for 2-fers, ways to get out of the house, ways to leave their troubles behind for a few hours. What better way can you think of than combining your great cuisine with bright entertainment or a fetching theme?

There are plenty of entertainers these days who are happy to get the exposure, and who will not insist on onerous fees to perform. Local people are the best, for as we know, the community is what will get us through. Themes? It can be anything that adds life, color or excitement. We've heard of soup night.. put out 4 tureens buffet style, and let your patrons sample them all, no limit. 

What about networking night?? No kidding. A special night each month, and a special menu for the local business crowd to schmooz, hob-nob and share their business cards. And let's not forget travel night, where your guests are regaled with film, photo and story from other guests and your local travel agents. The list of themes are endless, subject only to the limits of your imagination.

Start small, test the waters, play it all out on a Tuesday or Thursday.  Pick your least trafficked day and go for something a bit different. Try out various ideas, and let it morph and evolve naturally. It may not work for you, that's a possibility we concede in advance.  But on the other hand, what would it be like if a backwater of an evening became your top-producing night?  Those crowds will tell others, and for you, the economic gloom times could become economic boom times.  It's possible.. others are doing it all over the United States and Canada.

Your restaurant IS the local gathering spot.  Let's add some value-added and scintillating fare to our already wonderful menu, let's get the word out through the local paper, circulars, signs in the window and an email blast, and give people another reason to pack your house.  

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hollywood buzz all over new Clear Spiral Menu Covers

Continuing to defy trends, the clear spiral menu cover is making records as the menu cover of choice these days.  

Yes, casebound product in exotic and luxurious finishes is still in high demand, and will probably always be so. But- especially in trendsetting bistros in the glitz capitals of America- these crystal clear covers are emerging in force.

The appeal stems from an old-fashioned idea: keep the attention on the menu, make the eclectic fare transparent- literally and figuratively. When you have clients who may be close to the 'jaded' column, it's best to wow them with elegant simplicity, and keep it an open book. 

Apparently, surprisingly and somewhat counter-intuitively, the clear spiral menu cover is filling that hungry void as we speak; they are being recognized as the vanguard of the contemporary eatery's menu presentation.

Practically speaking, the covers are easy to keep clean, simple to change the menu within, and extremely affordable to augment and replace. The center spiral spine can be clear- which is certainly a big choice- or in a variety of colors. Spiralled menu covers lay flat.  

They are practical in another way: you can order them with as many pages as you need, and the vendor will spiral them for you.  

Clear spiral menu covers are now available from a variety of well-known menu covers vendors. A decent offering can be found at top-rated  

Upgrade your look today, with the covers that are sweeping the excitement venues from Hollywood to the Riviera, and join the club.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Microfiber Cleaning Cloths make deep-cleaning a greasy kitchen a snap.

Every restauranteur knows the feeling.  You turn on the bright lights, bring out the buckets, and set the crew to work, and you pitch in yourself.  Three hours later, you give it a grade: B+.  It's good, you won't get into loggerheads with the Health Dept., but you know you wish you could just get it one notch up.

Microfiber cleaning cloths are one of those unsung miracles of the lab that made it into common usage in the work-a-day world, and has become a must have for those in the know. Surprisingly, not too many know of the capabilities and benefits of this amazing fabric.

Microfiber cloth is just that- it's a dense weave of fibers that are hard to see with the naked eye. The miracle is that this structure will clean- even without water or cleaning agent. With water and cleaning agent, it cleans like nothing else.  It holds much more liquid than comparable-weight rags and cloths.  Additionally, it can be used scores of times and still get the job done.

Here's one of those products that costs a little more than a song, but will clean a commercial kitchen from top to bottom without excuses.  It will work anywhere there's a dirt, grease or grime condition in your restaurant, and your staff will thank you. 

Finally, it's an environmentally and economically sound alternative to paper towels and the over-use of cleaning agents.  Win, win, win. 

Monday, November 24, 2008

Chilly spots in your restaurant dining room? ECO-heaters make them disappear.

Here's a terrific new product that will keep your patrons toasty this winter season.  It's the ECO-heater, and it is the perfect addition to your creature-comfort list.

The ECO-heater heats an entire room on the cost of four 100-watt light bulbs.  If it's a bigger room, you can easily add another.  ECO-heaters use convection technology.
They are thin-designed, and snuggle up to the wall of your restaurant's dining room.  They can be painted to match your decor, as long as you use a latex-based paint.  Because there's a small gap between the heater and the wall, an upwards draft is created that insures a cycle of 
efficient heating:  cool air is sucked up through the gap, and warmed air rises and spreads and sinks throughout the room.  90% of the heat comes from the back of the panel, while about 10% radiates from the front.

ECO-heaters can be plugged in, or they can be hard-wired by your electrician, so no unsightly wires will show. 

Not only will the ECO-heat augment your current heating system, it will in fact allow you to even turn it down.. saving you a good deal of money over the course of a season in the process.  Or, you may just wish to turn your ECO-heaters on during peak cold spells to remove all trace of a chill from your dining room, and insure that your patrons are cozy and happy.

You can find the ECO-heater by typing in ECO-heater at Google, Yahoo or MSN.  They are currently going for US $119.95, and if you are looking for more than six, you can ask for a lower price from your selected vendor.  It never hurts to try.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Emailing Will Keep Your Restaurant Full

In the good old days, your ambience was sufficient to bring in the crowds, they stayed for the good food and your gracious servers, and they knew where to return to without a reminder.

The good old days don't have to be gone, if you take the time and lend some effort to smart steps to make sure their interest is undeterred by leaner times.  There are a bunch of great ways to maintain and boost traffic, but perhaps none better than a well-managed email campaign.

Email is a most welcome communication if it's a reminder of time well spent.  Not all email is spam or considered intrusive.  If you take care about how you go about it, the perception will be positive, and the results can be substantial.

It's highly unusual for restaurants to maintain email lists of their clientele.  It's too much like merchandising, too much like hawking.  Your patrons would never respond to a pitch in an email.. or would they?

An email is more than a reminder.. it's an invitation, and that's the way all your communiques ought come across.  "Old friend, Tupper's is having a party this Friday night, and our chef is preparing a Scottish Lamb Roast that's never been seen on this side of the Atlantic.  We'd love for you to join us.  Let us know that you are coming, and your first glass of wine is gratis."

There's not a single reason on Earth that your email can't be gracious, short and sweet, classy and dignified.

Ok, it's a thought.. but where do I get the names?  Check through your online reservations, and you'll find hundreds upon hundreds of bona fide names- people who came and would come again but for an invitation to do so.  Begin to gather emails from your diners.  Ask for their email as they are finishing up dessert, and let them know the purpose.  Yes, we absolutely intend to contact you by email a few times a year, but we promise it's just between you and me, and we promise it will always be about something good, new and delicious on our menu, or something special that will be happening.  

Half will decline, but half will say:  Sure!   Why not??  You can place a simple card on their restaurant placemats with a space for a name and an email.  The card can also reiterate that you won't share their email address with anyone.. not for love nor money, and you mean it.  (And you must keep your word!)

Designate an internet savvy person on your staff to manage your list and your campaign, and use a hosted web service that makes list management and bulk emailing simple and very cost-effective.  You can find them easily by Googling "email management."

You may have your reservations about this strategy now, but as you will soon have new reservations by the score that plainly come from your diligence in emailing, your concerns will fly out the window and a convert you will be.  Happy emailing!


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Clear menu covers span the spectrum.

Once upon a time, clear menu covers were simply the low-cost alternative for the short-order diners that dotted the American gastronomic universe. They were plain and they were clean. They were all-American too, in that they represented the American character: utilitarian yet transparent. They didn't call attention to themselves, but let the obvious goodness of what was on the menu shine through and speak for itself. 

Well, the diners of North America still employ these workhorses of the menu cover landscape.  The quality is better than it used to be, and the cost is hardly a consideration.

But now- we hear from the menu covers' suppliers themselves- that clear menu covers are all the rage in trendy bistros, high-brow burger and wine establishments, and 24-hour West Coast eateries.  How come, when there are just so many great menu covers' styles for all budgets and culinary modes out there?  The answer is "plain."  The same honest American features our working-class diners valued in decades past are those in high demand by the new breed of restauranteur.  

In addition to the all clear vinyl menu cover, deluxe sewn menu covers- which are clear except for their stitched-edge bindings, and the new clear menu covers on colorful spiral bound spindles are making their way into the rough red-brick walled and polished wood-plank floored restaurants in urban, exurban and tourist-town locales.

Take a page from the past, and upgrade to clarity with out pretension.  Plus, it's a real money-saver in these recessionary times.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thought about adding organic entrées to your menu?

Those heart-healthy symbols next to menu items that were low in ugly fat, bad cholesterol and nasty triglycerides often became red flags to patrons.. not filling, not satisfying, not tasty, not worth it.

Yet, the flip-side was that those committed to their diet or their health regimen ordered them, and those that didn't at least appreciated the concern of the establishment's management.

Organic foods on the menu are the new option appearing everywhere. Unlike the unspoken reservations of your patrons for heart-healthy fare, organic foods have significant appeal in many ways.

Organic is perceived to be inherently healthy- no growth hormones, no pesticides, no preservatives, no chemicals to ingest. Often relatively local growers are involved, and this augers well about concerns for supporting local economies, as well as reducing non-sustainable cultivation practices, transportation costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Organic food is in high demand these days. Perhaps the main reason is that people have discovered a general truth: by and large, organic foods are simply tastier than their agri-factory produced siblings.

You don't have to convert everything on your menu to organic to wear the mantle of health-consciousness, sustainability and environmental stewardship. À la the heart-healthy offerings, a handful of thoughtful entrées will advance the mission well. Organic beef, poultry and fish- as well as organic vegetarian plates submit to the same recipes with which you are familiar, but they will glow with the implicit confirmation that you care about your patrons, and you care about building a healthier- and greener- world.

Many restauranteurs also discover that their margins for prepared organic offerings are better than for anything else on their menu. The time and effort that you take in the acquisition of organic justifies this additional profit, so consider making it so this year with a clean and clear conscience in every direction.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Coupons can meaningfully increase your restaurant's traffic.

Coupons for MY restaurant? It's unthinkable..

Coupons work for dog food, toilet tissue, peanut butter and glass cleaner. But for better restaurants??

Americans and Canadians are people who keep scissors handy- mostly for cutting coupons out of magazines, newspapers and coupon-centered publications. There's palpable excitement when you find a money-saving coupon for something you actually need.

But a coupon for an upscale eatery? Won't that lower my cachet, tread on my rep? These are difficult times, and with the taxpayer bailouts of the financial industry at gargantuan and historic proportions, times may get tougher. You need tools to get out ahead of potential traffic fall-offs. Frankly- it's the economy my friend- and people want to save money, save money and save money. Coupons are inexpensive.. and they work. Discretionary income is down, squeezed by inflation, the cost of living, and the shift of total expenditure to the purchase of energy and groceries.

Tips on good couponing: Make a meaningful offer- "One entree at full price, and the second at half price." Want to offer a free glass of wine? Make it specific, and increase the perceived value. "Free glass of Reserve Cabernet Merlot Franc 2004 Hawke's Bay- an impressive wine with bold flavor and robust character."

Don't bother with putting an expiration date on your coupon in the hope that will get people to act more quickly. That may work with staples, but with your clientele, give them the freedom of choice and respectable discretion. You can distribute coupons in a variety of ways.  One way is to let coupon-hunters find you!  Check out the savings concept at and see if it would work for you.

The touch of class is in the fine print at the bottom of the coupon: "You don't have to actually bring in this coupon.. just mention it to your waiter, or let us know when you call for reservations."

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Staycation is here to stay.. and it is benefitting restaurant owners from New York to California!

It's official..

We're taking fewer vacations and traveling less. The price of gas is high, and even wear and tear on the car is a consideration.

So what's a family or a couple to do for some R & R?

The Staycation is here just in time.

Of course, there's nothing new about Staycations. They've been around since the dawn of the 6 day workweek. A Staycation means a visit to the shore rather than a jet to Curacao, or even a train to Vermont rather than a cruise. Surprisingly, the wonder of less expensive vacationing is that they're often more satisfying, invigorating and relaxing than the more traditional.. uh.. fare.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, even with major brokerage houses falling in ruin, moderately priced and even four star restaurants are benefitting from the staycation paradigm shift.

"Well, we're not going to spend $4,000 on a week's vacation, so we might as well go to hell in a handbasket and spend $300 at the city's best restaurant."

Restaurant owners, at first jittery with talk of recession, and impending cataclysmic economic meltdowns, are beginning to see that their business is strong and vibrant. New patrons are showing up, and even the regulars are coming back regularly because everyone wants some familiarity in their routine. A place where everybody knows your name.