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.