11. Digital drive-thrus
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.
10. Social media-savvy valentines
Around Valentine’s Day, Corner Bakery Cafe created shareable cards highlighting certain menu items. The cards, with messages such as “I Ham Yours” and “Avacadon’t Ever Leave Me,” were shared across multiple social media platforms. “We really drove guest engagement via social during this time,” said CMO Donna Josephson during the National Restaurant Association Show.
To make the popular breakfast option feel and even sound more like a dinner spot, Black Bear Diner launched a nighttime-only menu of four homestyle entrees, with additional options on the weekends. After 4 p.m., servers sport different uniforms, lights are often dimmed and restaurants play what headquarters describes as “ambiance-setting evening music.”
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.
Diners at Del’s Hideout in San Diego receive call buttons upon ordering at the counter. The push-button technology features a GPS device that quickly notifies servers via a smartwatch if a guest requires attention. Del’s three-button system allows guests to easily order another round of food and beverages, request the bill and more without the hassle of waiting in line or having to flag down a server.
“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.
Mexican fast casual Moe’s Southwest Grill moved to simplify delivery orders, limiting the menu to the most popular items and reducing the ingredient options to 12 from the 21 available in-store. Moe’s also eliminated sides from the delivery menu and got rid of tacos, because corn tortillas didn’t hold heat.
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.