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50 Great Ideas

50 Great Ideas

22. Taco Tuesday test

Every week, Woodhull Public House in Yarmouth, Maine, offers a new taco, allowing customers to be the official tasters and decide if the item will join the menu permanently.

50 Great Ideas

28. Support surcharge

An optional surcharge on customers’ bills at Daisies in Chicago helps pay for workers’ health insurance, adding up to about $100 a month per employee. The restaurant pays the rest, which helps recruit and retain talented employees.

In a package targeted at part-time employees, Chipotle announced it will award crew members bonuses of up to a month’s pay over the course of a year. The quarterly bonus program, which awards bonuses equal to a week’s pay to staff on teams that meet certain sales, cash flow and throughput targets, is designed to help attract and retain top workers.

Upscale-casual chain Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants rewards general managers and executive kitchen managers with free BMW leases for three years based on their ability to develop staffers. At a time when good labor—especially at the management level—is hard to come by, the program encourages managers to develop and mentor quality employees and build new leaders, even as they work on the day-to-day business.

“Social media needs to be personal. I’ve seen voices that don’t match the brand,” said Donnie Madia, partner of One Off Hospitality in Chicago, at the National Restaurant Association Show. The in-house social media experts for the multiconcept operator develop feeds for each individual concept, following the three C’s: consistency, content and community.

Customization options continue to expand. Jose Andres’ Mercado Little Spain in Hudson Yards in New York offers a gazpacho bar displaying several varieties in pitchers set on ice. Customers choose their variety, it’s poured into a cup and they get a choice of garnishes.

Inspire Brands, the parent company of Buffalo Wild Wings, Sonic Drive-In and Arby’s, fired up a new website that details the chains’ economic and social impact on each state where they operate. The site shows how much its brands donated to philanthropic causes state by state and nationally, as well as how many jobs are provided and recently created in each state by its restaurants, how much economic activity is generated, how many franchisees are located in the market and how many restaurants have been built.

Third-party delivery drivers are the in-person representation of a restaurant brand, even though they don’t work for that concept. So restaurants should think about winning those drivers over: Make them feel welcome and treat them as guests, said Skip Kimpel, VP of IT for Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, at the Restaurant Innovation Summit.

To deliver the same customizable experience that Naf Naf Grill offers guests for individual orders, the chain provides a setup guide and other tools with catering orders. The setup guide includes a layout map, indicating how the customer should organize proteins, toppings and more in the serving area. The chain also provides tent cards to place in front of each item on the build-your-own, buffet-style serving.

As consumers’ call for convenience continues, operators are finding ways to meet those demands. Chipotle is experimenting with Chipotlanes, or drive-thrus for mobile orders, while tech-forward Cava is similarly testing a drive-thru lane for orders placed online or via the chain’s app and scheduled for a select pickup time. Cava opened its first drive-thru in April and is expanding the test.

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