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Make your restaurant mouth-wateringly irresistible with great food photos

CNN has a great blog post by Derrick Chang on taking mouth-watering photos of food. This is critical for restaurant marketing. Customers respond to images of food. Having no images, boring images or sloppy images of your restaurant are missed opportunities — or worse, active turn-offs to browsing potential customers. 

  • Start with great looking food.  Not everything looks good in pictures. Pay attention to colors, contrasts, and moisture (seriously, no dried out veggies). And please arrange the plate nicely. Brown stew in a bowl 30 minutes from the pot isn’t going to look good.
  • Pay attention to lightEven without fancy lighting you can take great food pictures. Avoid flash which can be harsh; natural light is often best. Experiment with time of day, move from table to table. Keep at it until the light is warm and bright. 
  • Get in close. Food details including texture bring the item to life. Don’t be afraid of your camera’s macro setting to get right…up…close.

And now two of my own tips:

  • Use them. Once you have your best pics — and only use your best — post them on Facebook, tweet them, pin them, post to Foursquare and Yelp.  Create social media contests by asking customers to guess the menu item. This isn’t art, it’s marketing.
  • Refresh them regularly. Taking great pictures of food can take a little time but is a great investment. New images are instantly engaging to customers and can help your website and social media profiles. I recommend a few new pictures every month, especially when you release new menu items. 

Need some inspiring examples? Check out our Pinterest boards on food styling and restaurant design.

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Most intimidating soda fountain. Ever.

Most intimidating soda fountain. Ever.

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Three Metrics to Beat Sales Fatigue for Restaurant Operators

We talk to many restaurant operators. All of them are suffering from sales pitch fatigue. The steady flood of daily deals solicitations, loyalty program offerings, and social/local/mobile ad listing opportunities has taken a terrible toll. The problem is that there are some pretty good services on the market; tools that can really help a restaurant attract, engage, and retain customers. The key is moving quickly to separate the worthwhile from the worthless.

There are three numbers every restaurant operator should know cold. In combination, these three numbers make for fast and fairly accurate assessments. Adopt this quick analysis technique for restaurant sales tool decisionmaking, and I bet 95% of sales pitches can be cut off in 5 minutes or less. The three metrics are:

  1. Trial Volume (the number of new customers generated by a program)
  2. Retention rate (percent of new customers who become loyal) 
  3. Frequency of purchase (number of times a loyal customer dines with you)

Since you already know your gross margin per customer (right?) and you can apply your sniff test to the sale person’s assumptions, you can easily compute the value of a program.

Gross Margin x Trial Volume x Retention rate x Frequency of spend.

If this number looks great relative to the program cost and other things you can do, you have a winner. If not, move along fast.

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NRA Trade Show Report: Better Tech, Happier Customers, Fatter Margins

Most years there is a dominant tech solution at the NRA Show. Not this year. This year we saw a range of technologies clustered around a common theme: guest experience.

Wait list management apps, tablets for table top ordering, customer guest loyalty solutions. New solutions for old problems — not just incrementally higher-tech versions of the same solutions. Rajat Suri from E La Carte, a tabletop ordering tablet company, said it best: The modern concept of the restaurants started in Roman times and has barely changed. But change is coming.

The new tech and what it does are fundamentally different from the last generation’s tools: less expensive, more functional and easier to use and maintain. This means for the first time restaurants are not swapping cost elements; they are replacing heavyweight legacy tools for margin-enhancing, operationally better solutions. I’ll repeat to make sure you didn’t miss it: margin-enhancing, operationally better solutions.

Technology and hospitality are no longer separate. Through deep integration, we’re seeing restaurants improve the guest experience in ways we never imagined before now. The restaurant you grew up in and trained in is not the restaurant you can run today, and is definitely not the restaurant you will run in a few years. And this is a good thing.

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Before, During and After the National Restaurant Association Show. Six Tips to Make it Pay Off

The National Restaurant Association trade show is massive: 58,000 attendees, 1900 vendors, more than 135 educational seminars. And away from the convention center are hundreds of other events- receptions, parties, seminars…. Months of things to do crammed in to four days.

It is easy to get overwhelmed and waste time running around. To take full advantage you need a plan. I spent years as an exhibitor and now more as an attendee. Following six easy tips can make the difference between wasted time, money and energy and a business-defining event.

Before

1. Have a Focus.  Well before the show figure out what is most important to you. Are you primarily there to meet new vendors? Learn about trends? Build a personal network? Use this focus to make schedule decisions before and during the show.

2. Make a Schedule. Make appointments with the people you most want to see; don’t assume you’ll find them on the convention floor. Know when the important seminars are. If you don’t, you will miss opportunities. 

During

3. Ask Questions. Collecting brochures from vendors is nice, but then you are only learning what they want to tell you. Ask questions while you them there, and you’ll learn what you want to know.

4. Write things down. Take a break every hour to write notes to yourself or your team. What did you learn, who did you meet? This is especially important for business cards: “wants info kit”; “like our logo”. Otherwise you’ll end up with a jumble of cards and no idea who wanted which information. 

After

5. Follow Up. I am amazed at how many people make connections at trade shows and then never follow up. Even if there is no specific next step, a simple “it was great to meet you and talk about XYZ” can create a powerful connection.

6. Share with your team. It will make everyone understand why they covered for you while you were out, make them smarter about their jobs, and organize the team to take advantage of new opportunities.

The NRA show is huge but these lessons apply to all trade shows. I hope everyone really enjoys the amazing coming together of the restaurant industry, takes advantage of the opportunity.

Bonus Tip: Wear comfortable shoes and drink plenty of water!

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Better Restaurant Websites: 3 Dos, 3 Don’ts

For those of us who sit in front of a computer all day it can be hard to remember that much of the world does not. They stand in front of customers or pace around work sites. The computer is secondary to how they work.

Mobile is changing this. People who previously engaged tech briefly (if ever) at the end of the day are now consuming content and information continuously via their phone. We’ve blogged about this before. But while restaurants are learning to consume information via technology, creating engaging, helpful content is another story.

A study by Restaurant Science, a restaurant data provider, reports that only 5% of restaurants have a mobile-optimized website, and only 40% have their menu online.  TechCrunch has a good synopsis.  Get with it, people! Such a loss to not have quality restaurant marketing for such a vital channel.

A good restaurant website can be built in a day by following a few simple rules. Some quick Dos and Don’ts:

Dos

  • Contact info: It ain’t sexy but many site visitors just want to know where you are or ask a simple question - an address, map and phone number should be prominent. 
  • Menu: You should have a menu on your website and it should be up to date. If you have the holiday specials listed in February, you fail.  And no PDFs! Downloading a PDF is an iffy proposition. The menu should be regular text.
  • Content management: You should be able to update and change the content on your site easily. If it isn’t easy, you won’t do it.  And definitely make it readable on a phone.

Don’ts

  • Music. Many people search for restaurant info from their job. When your carefully chosen playlist launches automatically, they’ll get annoyed, close the browser window in half a second, and never come back. 
  • Flash: Flash was sexy in the 90s but is slow to load and unsupported by some technologies. Unsupported means visitors can’t see flash elements. It is like putting a big, expensive blank hole in the middle of your site. Bad.
  • Text: Be to the point and stop. You wouldn’t camp out at a table and chat up a customer throughout their whole meal. You’d make quick, warm contact and leave them alone. Same online.

These Dos and Don’ts should simplify your restaurant website, making it easier, faster and less expensive to build and maintain. It is easy to do online restaurant marketing right. So do it right.

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Welcome Deepthi Welaratna

This week, Deepthi Welaratna joined Ordr.in as Director of Marketing. She is responsible for all aspects of Ordr.in’s brand, communication and community engagement. We are thrilled to have her and humbled that she joined Ordr.in.

Frankly, while recruiting for the job we had a stereotype in mind. But as stereotypes are want to do, this one blew apart in the face of reality. Ordr.in didn’t know we needed Deepthi until I opened her resume and went “Oooooh.  Better.” She is the ultimate value added teammate.

See where Deepthi has worked here, learn more about her here, and follow her ramblings here. You will find a fun, thoughtful and dedicated person. A great partner and wonderful new colleague.

So much terrific stuff ahead.  We will get there faster and better with Deepthi on the team.

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Tesco Supermarkets: How New Thinking (and serious guts) Changed an Old Industry

Tesco Supermarkets was a distant #2 in South Korea with a fraction of sales and store locations compared to #1.  Traditional retail dictates they should add stores and try to grow each location incrementally. Simple math: stores * rev per store. But Tesco didn’t think traditionally. They blew up the model.

Korean shoppers have very little time for household chores. Grocery shopping was a necessary weekly pain, not a beloved ritual. But the grocery industry has always relied on the necessity of shopping. Except for Tesco. They focused on the pain. They created a whole new approach to grocery shopping that virtually eliminates the inconvenience and time required to shop at a traditional store.  Instead of asking customers to come to the grocery store, Tesco brought the grocery store to the customer.

Subway stations were wrapped with life-sized photographs of Tesco store aisles, each product QR Coded. While waiting for a train, consumers can snap QR code images and submit an electronic grocery order.  A distribution center receives the paid order and sends it out for delivery timed to arrive when the customer gets home. Consumer engagement with the new shopping experience is high- Tesco has a winner.

This is the kind of break the mold thinking that startups make. When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose. You have to think different to win. But Tesco is a multi-billion dollar company. Lots of careers at stake with such a massive investment in marketing, operations and service. Those executives could have lived happy corporate lives opening new stores and running weekly specials. Virtual stores in subways required guts. 

When faced with millions of entrenched assumptions about a market, it is more than easy to follow the established path. But the established path rarely leads to great breakthroughs. The iPad is not a better rotary dial phone. The virtual super market is more than a slightly better grocery store. Tesco focused on customer needs, even unarticulated ones. They changed the shopping paradigm and rethought distribution.  Boom. Breakthrough thinking led to breakthrough success.

A major tip of the hat for Tesco’s corporate courage and execution. They thought big and did great.