Coming up with an innovative idea to help boost traffic or ease operations is no easy feat. That’s part of why Restaurant Business calls out 50 of the greatest ideas we’ve seen throughout the year. A lot of those we honored were business-smart moves, be it a clever design feature, wise marketing maneuver, tech-forward initiative or creative menu item. And we hope the list will spark a few of your own “oh yeah” moments.
But not every idea that pushes businesses forward has to be mind-blowingly new or groundbreaking. We asked the Restaurant Business staff about the ideas they’d like to see in restaurants. What would make them—some very active restaurant patrons—up their visits to one spot over another?
There certainly were a few ideas that caused considerable debate (the biggest: whether pictures belong on menus). But for the most part, our list is made of solutions to common customer complaints such as slow service, missing connectivity or a lack of anticipation of guests’ needs. Some of these ideas we’ve already seen in the market; others we haven’t. But here’s a look at the changes we hope we’ll see in restaurants soon.
A little more tech. Today’s diners always are connected, and our team is no different. So we’d like to see universal Wi-Fi and charging stations at every chair and bar stool. To aid in customer convenience, we want restaurants connected, too. That means servers equipped with tableside credit card processors—maybe even one with software that makes it easier to split checks for big groups?
Up the convenience. Not every idea to make dining out more convenient has to involve tech nowadays. Our team likes dark, intimate restaurants as much as anyone, but it can make reading the menu a challenge. What about strategically placed task lighting? Or, can you imagine a basket of those little magnifying glass-flashlight combos? Speaking of those small trinkets—as much as we love using our thighs to hold purses and coats off the floor, our team wants another one available at restaurants: purse hooks, both at tables and near bathroom sinks.
In the loo. According to our wants, restaurants should take a cue from hotels. More specifically, from the displays of free soaps and shampoos in hotel bathrooms. What about a basket of individual-sized supplies for restaurant patrons? The contents: stain remover, dental floss and lotion—again, all packed for one-time use.
Waitlist management. Bye, germy buzzers. With millennials—and others—attached to their phones, restaurants should be able to text when a table is ready. But being nosy, I also want to watch where I’m at on the waitlist. Instead of constantly having to ask the hostess, we’ve seen new waitlist apps that give the estimated wait, show the number of groups before you and have games to help kill time.
And, of course, dogs. Health code be damned, several members of the Restaurant Business team wish for pups to roam under their tables while they drink beers for under $5 at low-top tables (high tops suck for shorties, FYI).
3 great ideas that have been around
1. Extra Napkins
Runners place a basket of napkins on each table as they deliver food at the Egg Harbor Cafe breakfast-and-lunch-only chain.
2. Kids by choice
Red Robin divides some of its dining rooms into kid-friendly and kid-free zones.
3. Travel lotion to go
Along with a sign that says “compliments of the Wildflower,” the bakery chain has a display of travel-sized lotions in the bathroom for guests to take.