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I don’t know how many people can remember when Sunoco had gas pumps that you dialed in your octane. And if you do remember you are at least as old as I am. For those of you that don’t know what I am talking about please let me explain. Back in the sixties the Sunoco gas stations had gas pumps that had a dial on them they essentially gave you five grades of gasoline, I think I remember the highest setting to be 260. I didn’t know then what that meant, but as I grew older I learned that was the highest octane. For those of you that still don’t know what I am talking about let’s just say that back then higher was the best. We had a good, better, best mentality in just about everything we did. If you still don’t know what I am talking about, 9:00 pm is way past your bedtime and it doesn’t matter anyway.
Well my story goes like this… My father who was an Ironworker who ultimately went on to walk the high rise steel on the World Trade Center worked nights at a Sunoco while he was between jobs to make ends meet. In those days a customer never pumped their own gas. My father worked nights pumping gas at a Sunoco station. In those days, Sunoco had a promotion that gave customers premiums for buying gas. The premiums were golden coins and people collected them like crazy. I always knew that every time my father came back from pumping gas he would have a pocket full of the precious (to me) golden coins. In my young mind they were just like gold and whenever a customer did not want theirs they would give them to my father. I imagine now that most people collected them to give to their kids just like my dad gave them to me. It’s amazing to think how special those silly coins were to me as I am sure they were to a lot of kids just like me. That my friends was a gimmick based on what was essentially a worthless piece of metal and I guess it must of driven a lot of purchasing decisions. By the way, Sunoco’s next largest competitor was a brand called Esso and they gave away tiger tails, another worthless trinket that no doubt influenced the buying decisions. Marketing people today would probably say that those trinkets helped create loyalty towards those brands, or heavily influenced the purchasing decision. It could not increase the frequency of the purchase, you had to burn your gas out before you could come back for more.
Later in my life the friendly folks at McDonald’s implemented their legendary Monopoly game. If you can remember that it’s probably not bedtime yet but you are getting close. So for those of you that don’t remember or were too young to remember I will explain. The game worked like this…every time that you made a purchase at McDonald’s you could earn a paper Monopoly piece and when you collected all the pieces you could win the game. The whole deal produced a tremendous surge in traffic to the stores and McDonald’s sales soared.. What made it even more interesting is that the pieces came out in sets and became increasingly more valuable and the really important pieces became more rare as the game went on. Even more compelling was the fact that if I can remember there was only going to be one big winner and that was worth about $1,000,000. Psychology majors would tell me that people loved the thrill and excitement and were motivated by that. My marketing friends would probably tell me that this promotion created repeat visits as well as scores of first time customers.
In either case, all of those businesses are still around today so something must have worked, if not the promotions.
Now that gets me to Foursquare…so let’s see how that works. I run around from one place to another collecting silly little badges on a screen. They mean absolutely nothing but, like my little golden pieces of tin from Sunoco they must mean something to somebody because people are collecting them. Foursquare also has a social component that alerts your friends and followers whenever and wherever you check-in. You also can become the “Mayor” with frequent visits to a venue whether or not it is a business. Being Mayor has earned me two paper hats, one from Burger King and one from Long John Silver’s which was a really cool pirate hat. I also got to be the Mayor of my 7-11 and they asked me to work the “graveyard’ shift because the person that was scheduled had “checked in off the grid”, people who are active on Foursquare know what that means. It seems to me that he only people that don’t know where you are the businesses that you are checking in to and spending money with. Really a pretty peculiar deal when you think about it.
Foursquare players get increased point values for frequency of visits as well as number of unique venues that they check in to. So at its core, customers earn points and badges for frequent visits as well as points for unique visits. And so far nothing for the business that I am aware of. It appears to me that Foursquare is growing fans to Foursquare not the businesses and places that users “check-in” and comment about. Is Foursquare one big database in the sky? Are they collecting the patterns of their users and planning to sell that information at some later point. Is Foursquare some sort of Nielson like concern building some new demographic data that they will later sell to businesses?
So really, what’s the deal with Foursquare?
Really good restaurant blog by Nancy White
July 20, 2010 | By Mark Brandau
Read more: http://www.nrn.com/article/us-restaurant-count-continues-fall?ad=news#ixzz0uUkwmgFp
The number of restaurants in the United States has fallen by 5,204 units, a 1-percent decline from the total number of eateries recorded in spring of 2009, according to The NPD Group.
Independent restaurants took the hardest hits, while chains kept their unit counts relatively stable, the market research firm’s “Spring 2010 ReCount” found.
ReCount takes stock of domestic commercial restaurant locations twice a year, in the spring and fall. In the fall of 2009, the industry’s unit count contracted 0.3 percent, or by 1,652 locations. The spring 2009 numbers were worse, with the industry losing a little more than 4,000 restaurants, comprising a 1-percent decrease in total overall locations.
For the 12 months ended March 31, the number of quick-service restaurants declined by 2,521 locations and the number of full-service restaurants fell by 2,683 units, resulting in a 1-percent decrease overall for both segments.
Within those sectors, independents fared worse than chain competitors, the NPD found. In fast food, chains lost only 164 net locations to remain flat for the 12-month period, while independent quick-service restaurants lost 2,685 net units, a 3-percent decrease for that time period.
Independent and chain full-service restaurants both logged 1-percent declines in unit counts for the 12-month time frame, with independent restaurants shedding 2,408 total units and chains dropping 275 net locations.
“It’s been a difficult time for the restaurant industry, with customer traffic down over the past year,” said Greg Starzynski, director of product development for NPD’s foodservice division. “The unit losses we’re seeing in our latest census are a reflection of the weakness in the industry with the greatest impact on the independent restaurant operators.”
NPD’s CREST research service reported that visits to restaurants in the United States declined by 3 percent for the 12 months ended in May 2010. Consumer spending at restaurants fell 1 percent in that same period, the first decline in dollars the firm has reported since it began tracking foodservice industry sales in 1976, NPD said.
Independent restaurants have suffered sales and traffic declines as prolonged high unemployment has weakened consumer spending in many areas of the country, creating less revenue from which operators can fund crucial investments in marketing or equipment.
The relative stability of overall chain restaurant locations reflects that, despite closures by brands like ESPN Zone, Fuddruckers and Uno Chicago Grill, other concepts are picking up the slack.
Five Guys Burgers and Fries, for example, is looking to expand outside the United States because it has sold out its development rights in the United States and Canada. According to Nation’s Restaurant News’ Top 100 report, Five Guys opened 171 locations in 2009. The chain reported last week that its newest restaurant, in Sacramento, Calif., brought its total system to 632 locations.
Wingstop, which recently reported its 28th consecutive quarter of increased same-store sales, plans to add 50 restaurants in 2010. The chain’s growth plans were a major draw to its new corporate parent, Roark Capital Group, which acquired the 447-unit chain in April.
Another brand, 88-unit Buca di Beppo, has announced plans to resume growth with four new restaurants in the Boston area. That chain had closed underperforming units after a sale to Planet Hollywood International in late 2008.
Contact Mark Brandau at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tasteful Design: Restaurant and Bar Design Awards
Tips from the T-list.com
In the world of design, there are bars, and then there are bars. The same goes for restaurants – at some places, the food is good, but the atmosphere is not so memorable. At other places, the atmosphere almost improves the flavor of the food and drink.
Just having completed its second contest year, the Restaurant and Bar Design Awards, are managed by an independent group of judges interested in nothing but the finest in eatery design and concept. The contest accepts entries from around the world, and winners stretched out as far as Thailand. The ceremony itself was held at the Victoria House in London, and was orchestrated by Cinimod Studios, who managed to make the event fully interactive for everyone in attendance.
The event itself was decidedly modern, as were both the entries and the winners. The entrants are judged in eleven categories, with one winner selected in each – with no double dippers. Categories include Best Independent Restaurant (London’s Galvin La Chapelle), Best Independent Bar or Club (Newcastle’s theCut), Best International Bar (The Tote in India), Best Lighting (Thailand’s SOUND), and others.
Finally, the photography of the competitors is mesmerizing. Concepts abound which, at initial investment, must have been undoubtedly expensive, but important for articulating a particular restaurant’s unique sense of ambience and culture.
For the design auteur, the contest meant an assemblage of important designers and restaurateurs. For the everyday restaurant-and-bar-goer, the contest means new places to visit, catalog, and judge against your own standards.
Does your restaurant currently furnish your guests with nutritional information? The big question is whether you should if you are not already. Recently, Panera Bread offered calorie counts for every item posted on their menu boards, do you think that is a competitive advantage for them?
I have been researching to different platforms for restaurants to obtain nutritional information for their guests. In an effort to help independent restaurants I have been working dilligently to understand the benefits of these two programs. Fortunately both platforms are very effective and unlike so many of the programs that are offered to restaurants these actually add value to the restaurant.
I believe the need for restaurants to provide nutritional information is increasing. It is being fueled by a variety of factors not the least of which is Obamacare. Additionally, local governments and municipalities are dilligently proposing menu labeling laws and companies are promoting wellness programs. Has anybody seen Michelle Obama and the anti-obesity campaign that she is promoting for the children of the US?
Did anyone see all the Chef’s at the Whitehouse? http://www.whitehouse.gov/videos/2010/June/060410_LawnChefs.mp4
Obamacare will require it for for chains exceeding twenty units I think that many restaurants have dismissed the idea when they realized it did not apply to them. I think that many are missing a tremendous opportunity when competitors fully embrace the implementation of nutritional information in their operations.
I am always looking for innovations, processes, and products that benefit the independent restaurant community and researching both of these platforms has been very interesting. I am going to say emphatically that I am not compensated by either company for endorsing or testing their products.
Would you like to know who they are and what I have discovered?
Top tech trend for 2009:
Mobile apps The killer tools for fast
casual ordering and loyalty. By Jennifer Litz
The smallest to the largest fast casual eateries started logging
onto mobile ordering solutions for customers in 2009, and the
momentum will continue as many more begin to use these onestop
solutions to help customers find, order and pay for their food.
After all, convenience is king in our increasingly smart-phonebased
“With a mobile app, you have the opportunity to make
things simpler because you can identify the user a lot more
accurately than you can (on the Web),” Jeff Scott, editor of
app-rating Web site 148apps.com, said. “(You can tie) phones
to an account, so when a user has entered his credit card info, you
don’t need to ask for it again. An iPhone can also tell your location.
You probably can’t get the accuracy of an apartment number,
but you do have the closest cross streets, which they ask for a lot in
Scott urges fast casual operators and developers to take
advantage of push notification, which can alert app owners to
“Let’s say the local baseball team has a big away game
starting in three hours. You could push a notification timed right
before the game to your app owners, when people are looking for
food to take along the way. There are all kinds of things you can do
like that to push out special offers and one-time deals.”
Early industry adopters have shown the app advantage in
motion. Industry leader Chipotle Mexican Grill was one of the
earliest adopters in the segment. The company made
its ordering application available on the
Apple App Store in August 2009, after a
false start earlier in the year (the server
had been overwhelmed by customer
response, and crashed). The revamped
and much-praised mobile ordering app
gives iPhone and iPod Touch users the
ability to create their Chipotle order,
place it at the Chipotle location of their
choice and also pay for their food directly
from their device. Using location-based
technologies, customers also can quickly find
the nearest location.
“With over 40 million iPhone users and a high consumer demand
for delivery and takeout meals, mobile ordering is a tremendous
opportunity for restaurants,” said Joseph Gagnon, chief executive
officer of ordering solutions provider Exit41. “We expect our
mobile applications to become an increasingly important way for
consumers to order food from their favorite restaurants — and a
significant portion of our business in 2010.”
By Laura Lake, About.com Guide
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the President of an international food chain and discuss social media. He understood the importance, but like most executives wasn’t sure how to turn social marketing into social commerce. I was happy to share with him some of my thoughts and ideas. We discussed the restaurant and entertainment industries that are doing it well and how he could use it to increase traffic and create brand awareness as well as customer loyalty.
Why does social media work well within the restaurant and entertainment industry? That’s a question that has an answer that is somewhat obvious. The reason social media works well is because we attend restaurants and entertainment districts to be social and interact. Those who enjoy these venues also enjoy social media.
There are many ways that social media can be turned into social commerce and I’m going to share with you a few of them.
You can use social media to:
•Engage and interact with existing customers and patrons.
•Introduce events and new menu items as well as specials.
•Gain feedback on menu items and events.
I often receive the question, “Laura, I understand social media is important, but how does it make me money?” I hear you. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, social media takes time to turn non-revenue producing activities into revenue producing activities, but it can and it does happen. Consider the following things that social media can do to help in saving time, money and resources therefore increasing revenue:
1.Gaining feedback and insight on service, events and menu items
2.Promote events or new menu items and specials
3.Encourage trials by offering specials and discounts
4.Using employees as your own brand ambassadors that spread the word about your brand
5.Having a direct dialogue with your current customers and potentially reaching new ones
6.Updating customers and your community on new projects, such as new openings or remodels
7.Increase excitement and foot traffic by sharing information, such as contests and giveaways
8.Use social media to connect with your franchises and create an online support community
10.Monitor reputation and provide complaint resolutions
Let me give you an example of a how a small local bar experienced success using social media. I was talking to the manager and I asked him “what’s your slowest night?” He responded by telling me Tuesday was his slowest night. I could understand that. I said what if I could fill this place up with people on a Tuesday night and it didn’t cost you a dime? Of course, he jumped at the opportunity and by using social media we filled the neighborhood bar with 40 people on a Tuesday night and I’m sure he would tell you it was the best Tuesday night he has had since they opened.
There are many things you can use social media for, but the ultimate goal is to move it into a social commerce for your business. This will take time and effort, but it can be done and be successful. It’s a mistake to overlook the opportunity that social media brings to the entertainment and restaurant industry. As I left our meeting I saw the glimmer in his eye and could tell he had that “a-ha” moment!
I discovered today that many of my independent restaurant friends are being talked about all over the internet. This entire social media deal is off the hook, mind boggling, confusing, and potentially the biggest pain in the butt that independent restaurants may ever face.
So many restaurants have established a presence in the social space using Twitter and Facebook and are busy trying to talk and listen to their fans, friends, followers, and everybody else in the space that has anything to say that somehow appears and or sounds to be relevant to the restaurant biz.
As they jump over the Farmville fences and dodge the Mafia bullets they can become beleagured trying to figure out what their customers are saying about them. Ocassionally, they even stop for a drink, a gift, accept friend requests, join fanpages, and read profiles. And every now and then, they stumble accross a comment about their restaurant. Alas, comments about your restaurant and they are positive, wow it’s all worth the effort, or so they think.
Did you know that there are sites on the internet like openTable, yelp, menupix, etc. where your guests are encouraged to write their own reviews? Do you know what they are saying to the world about your restaurant?
So now on top on your Twitter and Facebook you can add openTable, yelp, urbanspoon, and menupix to find out what is being said about your restaurant, right? There has to be a better way to mange this Pandoras box!
Yesterday, I discovered GuestPulse from InsideHospitality and what a discovery it was. Did you know that GuestPulse will find everything that is being said about your restaurant? GuestPulse can collect everything being said about your restaurant from virtually anywhere on the internet. They can provide a valuable resource for you to monitor what is being said about you.
I have cut and pasted the following directly from the GuestPulse site below without their permission, I hope they don’t mind. I am not compensated in any way for posting this, I am posting it because I see it as a valuable tool for my independent restaurant friends. Check out InsideHospitality, I think they really can help you manage your online reputation. They also offer 15 – 30 minute Webinars to help, I plan to get on one soon.
Why Choose GuestPulse™
to Manage Your Online Reputation?
We have ten reasons for you.
Reason #10 Our company is 100% completely Hospitality focused. This is all we do and know the industry like no other.
Reason #9 GuestPulse was conceived, designed and built from the ground up exclusively for the Hospitality industry.
Reason #8 GuestPulse scours over 50+ Million websites to find what anyone, anywhere is saying about you.
Reason #7 GuestPulse is your businesses Complete (ORM) Online Reputation Management solution.
Reason #6 Your guests are online and constantly sharing opinions about your brand. Discover what they’re saying and monitor the trends.
Reason #5 Communicate with your guests and influence their buying decisions. Become an active part of your own word of mouth and join the conversation.
Reason #4 Guest Pulse takes you further than any solution on the market. It starts with tailored and scalable services that help you attract new guests, drive sales, and grow your brand.
Reason #3 GuestPulse Is A Full Service Solution, we’re here to help you in managing your Online Reputation.
Reason #2 Completely custom designed solution for your unique operation and business.
Reason #1 Unparalleled Return On Investment (ROI).
Starting at $80 GuestPulse is priced so companies of every size can immediately begin seeing results and take an active role in their Online Reputation.
Why GuestPulse Is Valuable To Your Company
As you are aware, a good or bad experience can absolutely support or hurt your business. Often times, a guest will share their experiences with friends and family. Now, with the Web growing at a rapid pace, these comments can be seen by a large number of people (including potential customers) outside of the guest’s immediate online community. The result: guest feedback becomes more impactful and influential than ever before.
Put GuestPulse™ to work for you, and gain a partner who can help you leverage the power of social media. Not only can we quickly monitor conversations and easily segment them by influence/reach and tone — positive, neutral, or negative — we can empower you and your business to embrace and excel in your market and positively affect your guest satisfaction, sales, and bottom line.
“Simply Delighted Customers”
I recently had lunch at Burtons Grill in Virginia Beach and everything was absolutely awesome. I learned the phrase “Simply Delighted Customers” from something that I read, printed, copied and faxed to a restuarant owner many years ago. Probably before the internet as we know it today. The phrase has stuck with me ever since and I love to use it to describe exemplary service and the attitude that fosters such behavior.
While at Burtons Grill a customer came into the restaurant with his laptop. He asked the server/bartender if there was a table with a power outlet so that he could hook up his laptop. This very articulate young grad student (wish that I could remember his name or have it printed on the receipt) showed the guest to a table and pointed to the ceiling where a power outlet was visible. The guest promptly replied that the outlet was pretty high and the server replied no problem. In less than two minutes he appeared with a 10 foot step ladder and an extension cord.When the guest saw the ladder and the extension cord and the ladder he didn’t even look surprised although I can’t believe that he was not. Subsequently, the customer moved to the bar and the server plugged his laptop in behind the bar.
I never saw even the slightest bit of hesitancy on the servers face and nothing he did showed that he was even the slightest bit phased by the customer. He acted as though everything he did for the customer was just part of the deal.
I was really impressed by his actions and recalled how many times that I have heard the simplest of requests while in restaurants and can’t remember a time when I have seen someone so willing to serve the customer. How many times have you asked for something in a restaurant and been told “no” or “sorry”, or “that will be an extra $.25”? To see this guy in action really made me think about the difference between the really good restaurants and the mediocre.
My hat is off to the people at Burtons Grill, they know what it takes to create “Simply Delighted Customers”, when in Virginia Beach be sure to check them out, they really are doing a great job.