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Archive for November, 2007

Creating a Memorable Culinary Event

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Behind-the-Scenes Secrets for Profitable Participation in Food and Wine Fetes

September 2007

By McCall Mastroianni

When it comes to culinary events, there’s more to making a good first impression than simply showing up and serving food samples. With the increasing popularity of food and wine-related happenings across the country, restaurants must go the extra mile to connect with customers’ palates and personalities. Some Georgia restaurateurs share secrets to help you get more bang for your buck.

Cooking Up Conversation

As the Atlanta Director for Share our Strength and former director of marketing for Fifth Group Restaurants, Amy Crowell believes interacting with guests on an individual basis helps participating restaurants stand out from others in the room and creates the opportunity for personal connections with potential new or returning guests. “While everyone can’t be like Norm from the TV show �Cheers,’ guests like to feel warm and welcome where they dine,” she says, “and any chance to create that connection is an opportunity to create a guest that will visit often. A business card with the manager’s name and a personal invitation goes a long way. You can never underestimate the power of a personal connection.”

Roy’s Managing Partner Joshua Fan always tries to attach a story with the food:

“You might forget what you ate at my table, but you’ll remember the story I tied to it. A great example of this is a cocktail on our menu, the 1988, which was our opening year in Honolulu. Guests might not remember what was in the cocktail at Roy’s, but they will remember it was named after the year we opened.”

For Managing Partner Barb Pires of Metrotainment Bakery, talking to guests at events enables her to explain what products her bakery provides. “It opens up a whole new avenue of sales,” says Pires. “We sell a lot of cakes, especially wedding cakes, to people who try the mini desserts at an event.”

Ta-da! at the Table

Steve Bales, creative director for Bold American Catering, works hard to make Fifth Group Restaurants’ tables look stunning at culinary events. For the recent Chocolate! event on June 21 held at Villa Cristina to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Bales used a white backdrop and then added green by utilizing all live foliage to really punctuate Pastry Chef Gary Scarborough’s chocolates. As for decorative elements that stand out in a crowd, Bales recommends, “Color! Color! Color! But not a lot of different colors.”

“Monochromatic is big and it just works, and, quite frankly, it’s easy,” admits Bales. “White on white is always my favorite because the colors of the food really pop and look so appetizing. It’s also fun to use glass and acrylic vessels as accents,” he adds.

Crowell counts on eye-catching florals, standout dishes, delicious food aromas and good signage to make a table stand out.

“If a restaurant is going to invest the time and money to participate in an event, it is important to serve something that is really delicious even if it means it costs a bit more per person,” suggests Crowell. “With only one bite to impress a potential new guest or remind a previous guest why they need to come back, it is a waste to serve an inexpensive dish that doesn’t pack a lot of flavor. It should be something memorable and representative of your restaurant.”

At Share Our Strength’s 2007 Taste of the Nation event, Nan Thai Fine Dining cooked dishes on-site in front of guests rather than beforehand so attendees could see and smell the food being prepared for an added sensory experience.

Roy’s takes a different route for making sure that guests linger longer. “We do anything to keep the eye moving,” says Managing Partner Joshua Fan. “We like to have a lot going on, as long as it all fits with our theme. We’ll display some of Roy’s cookbooks, fresh Hawaiian flowers and some colorful marketing materials along with our food offering. We try to keep the guests visually stimulated for as long as possible so they’ll stick around our booth long enough to remember us,” he adds.

Metrotainment Bakery, owned by Metrotainment Caf�s, stands out all on its own as generally the only establishment that just serves desserts, which always appeals to the sweet lovers.

“People enjoy our bite-sized mini desserts,” says Pires. “They can still hold their wine glass while eating them.”

Marketing Made Easy

When preparing for off-premise events, help marketing materials can help attendees get a better understanding of what the restaurant has to offer its diners.

“Most guests that attend culinary events are looking for restaurants to add to their list of favorites,” says Crowell. “Marketing materials that are rich with photos are very helpful, as is inviting guests to join an email database and sending personalized follow-up emails after the event inviting them to come into the restaurant.”

Fan keeps it simple and relies on menus as a great way to explain Roy’s offerings without having to read through pages of marketing materials, while Pires displays menus, awards and photo albums with pictures of the bakery’s work.

“Our materials are also a form of cross-marketing for the other Metrotainment Caf�s restaurants,” says Pires. “If an event is in Alpharetta and someone expresses their love for the dessert but doesn’t want to drive so far, I let them know that we deliver to any of the Metrotainment restaurants. We do $1,000 worth of business in delivering to our restaurants on Fridays.”

Pires believes culinary events are successful for Metrotainment Caf�s because the company makes it extremely easy for guests to visit the restaurants at a later date by giving out information on where they are, what they do and where they deliver.

Auctions Add Awareness

Many culinary events are held in partnership with a local or national charity, giving guests the opportunity to bid on auction items while giving restaurants another chance to impress attendees. As an event organizer for a non-profit association, Crowell knows that if restaurants really want to stand out and make their presence known, being a part of the live auction is a great way to do it.

“The best auction items are ones that guests typically can’t buy because they raise the most money and bring the most attention to the restaurant,” explains Crowell.

“Some great ideas include a �day with the chef’ experience and special �off menu’ dinners where the chef discusses likes/dislikes with the guest ahead of time before preparing a special multi-course tasting menu. A gift certificate or dinner at the restaurant is always appreciated, but the �life experience’ items are more exciting for everyone involved.”

Metrotainment Caf�s finds that when donating coupons and gift cards toward meals or desserts at events, they are rarely redeemed. Instead, the company offers more unique and useful items such as a wedding cake worth $500 or a gift basket with plates, napkins, breakfast breads and dessert items.

For charity events, Fan always tries to offer a Roy’s experience as opposed to just a gift card. “We will auction off a private cooking class or an evening where the chef will come to the winner’s home to cook dinner or even a table for 10 at our next wine dinner,” he says. “Someone who wins a private cooking class with a Roy’s chef is much more likely to talk about that experience than someone who just comes in for dinner.”

For gift bags, Crowell suggests anything dimensional such as a gift card or signature chocolate bar as opposed to something that is just paper like a menu. “Most restaurateurs have told me that guests spend just about the same on dinner even with a gift card-they just tend to upgrade by buying a better bottle of wine or an additional course with their card,” says Crowell.

The ultimate gourmet gatherings call for the utmost attention to detail, from gabbing with guests to garnishing a table display. Although dining patrons may have already seen Georgia restaurants’ flair for fine food, the flair for finishing touches and enticing extras are raising the bar for culinary celebrations to come.

McCall Mastroianni works for Melissa Libby & Associates, a PR firm with several restaurants among its clients. She can be reached at (404) 816-3068.

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Email Marketing Best Practices

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

October 2007

By Kelly Morgan, Fishbowl Marketing

Email has become such an integral part of our lives that using it as a restaurant marketing tool is a no-brainer. These best practices can move your customers from behind the desk chair to your seats for less money than other marketing strategies.

To start, you need to know about SPAM, the law and your customers. SPAM is unsolicited email that usually boasts illegitimate offers. The CAN Spam Act of 2003 requires unsolicited emailers to provide an opt-out mechanism, a valid subject line and a legitimate physical email address to their recipients. To avoid legal concerns, use a permission-based email campaign to target your customers. Provide online and in-store signups for your customers, gaining permission to gather their personal information. This allows the offer to be more relevant and set yourself apart from spammers.

Once customers have opted-in, create subject lines for your messages that creatively entice and reward them. After all, this is a medium millions of people interact with every day, so make it pop. These are the first words your customers see. Clearly indicate who you are and what you are offering in a catchy way. Customers know you aren’t spam and will eagerly click through.

Another key to email marketing is using unsuspicious sender addresses. Again, if your customers recognize you, they are more likely to click through, thus saving you from the spam and trash folders. Also include your restaurant’s main address and phone number. If your customers have any questions, regarding your restaurant or your offer, you can easily be reached.

Finally, make email content worthwhile. Take full advantage of their attention and offer something substantial-free appetizers, seasonal promotions or event invitations. Be creative and concise, emphasize with words, not spam-worthy capital letters, exclamation marks or excessive dollar signs.

Ultimately, practice makes perfect. Email marketing is no exception. In 2005, email returned an impressive $57.25 for every dollar spent on it, proving that this tool really gets results. Use these best practices and maximize your return.

For more information, contact Fishbowl Marketing at 800-836-3421 x 130 or visit www.fishbowl.com.

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Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

Making Employee Recognition Worthwhile and Meaningful

November/December 2007

Debby Cannon, Ph.D., CHE
Director
School of Hospitality
Robinson College of Business
Georgia State University

Everyone likes to be recognized.  When evaluating how to recognize your employees, always consider what the employees will find meaningful and worthwhile rewards. The classic “Employee of the Month” dedicated parking space for workers who mainly use public transportation is an example of a business where managers are clearly out of touch with their employees.  Determining the structure and process of handling employee recognition is not an easy task and is increasingly challenging with a diverse workforce that spans several generations and numerous cultural and ethnic backgrounds.  As restaurant owners and managers, we do want to reward employees who have met and exceeded established goals and expectations. Not only is it a perk to the recipients, but other employees will be motivated to heighten their contributions to the business in the near future as well.

The following suggestions are offered, not as an exclusive list, but as a guide to stimulate ideas on making the most of your reward and recognition processes.

  1. Recognition does not have to be money or a material reward. The positive impact of a sincere and personalized “thank you” can be extremely meaningful – particularly when the appreciation comes from not only the direct supervisor but the restaurant’s general manager, or as appropriate, someone higher in the organization.

I recall a story about a hotel general manager who would religiously take every Friday afternoon to write a short, personalized thank you note to those employees who had made the previous week particularly successful – whether it was wowing a guest or coming to the assistance of a co-worker. Each note thanked the employee and also complimented the individual on the specific accomplishment performed. The notes were mailed to each employee’s home address. Not only did the employee get the thrill of receiving the note, he/she would typically have friends or significant others around to share in the excitement. This general manager was legendary throughout his company – for exceeding all of the metrics – average daily rate, occupancy, customer satisfaction scores and employee satisfaction scores. He truly enjoyed writing the notes which were a sincere reflection of his appreciation – not a motive to “drive” the numbers.

  1. Recognition should be frequent and not saved for monthly or quarterly events. Hopefully, finding employees “doing the right things” is a daily occurrence. If you are the head of an organization, ask your managers or supervisors; when was the last time you thanked an employee, applauded accomplishments in a pre-shift meeting or departmental meeting or posted a guest’s flattering letter?  Recognition starts at the top. Typically if this behavior is modeled by owners and top management, it will occur throughout the organization.
  1. Recognition should be tied directly to the company’s mission, standards and goals. Every owner/manager should regularly complete this statement: “Employees in my company are rewarded for  …..  “

The company goals and standards are the roadmap to the success of the business. Not only should recognized behaviors be tied to the mission, standards and goals, the connection should be clearly explained in the acknowledgement process.  

  1. Recognition is individualized. Understand your employees to make the most of recognition opportunities. You can purchase books or utilize the internet to list a thousand ways to reward employees.  These sources are only useful in expanding general ideas of how to recognize employees. The most powerful resource will be your knowledge, as a manager, of the employees who report to you. What are their hobbies? What are they passionate about?  What else is going on in their lives that would be important to consider in the recognition?

A trip to the zoo for an employee and his/her family; tickets to a local sporting event, play or concert; a paid day off during a working student’s final exams or $100 to go toward books for the semester- all of these could be memorable if the employees’ interests and preferences are targeted. The opportunity to attend educational and professional development programs is a perk that is appreciated by many employees who are trying to build their knowledge and skill competencies.

Sometimes the above activities are also more realistic for the working parent or student who cannot leave for the exotic trip to another city. Fortunately, most businesses that do offer the exciting “dream trip” as a major reward for contests such as “Employee of the Year” also provide the option of a cash prize. The trip for two to Hawaii sounds fantastic until the single working parent is faced with the daunting decision of which of the four children is selected to go and who stays home with the other three.   

Be aware of personal and cultural differences that can make employees uncomfortable in receiving “public” praise. A quieter approach may be greatly appreciated while still having a positive impact on individuals.  Keep prizes and recognition perks fresh and exciting.  Also consider partnering with other restaurants to exchange dinners for employee recognition.  Sometimes employees would rather dine at a new and different restaurant as a reward than the standard place where they work. Getting an employee’s perspective of another restaurant can be a learning experience for both employee and manager.

  1. Don’t limit recognition to only length of service.

Acknowledging years of service is positive but don’t limit your recognition program solely to length of service awards.  At a time when employee retention is a top concern among restaurant and foodservice operators, don’t ignore anniversary milestones. This is not the same, however, as performance recognition. Unfortunately, almost every business has the employee who quit years ago but remains on your payroll.

  1. Avoid the traps of entitlement. By now, someone reading this article has remarked silently or out loud: “Recognition? Rewards?  The employee gets a paycheck! That’s the reward.”  Recognition is important in enhancing the positive nature of the working environment and helping in retaining excellent employees. Yet, I warn against falling into the entitlement trap. The entitlement trap can sabotage your entire recognition process because employees who are only existing and not performing end up being recognized.  How does that happen?  An emphasis on effort and not results is one way. Another reason is an inappropriate emphasis on precedent that is not reflective of performance. “But we’ve always had a representative from this department on the star employee team” … so an employee is selected who is not really deserving of the honor.  Entitlement traps destroy the whole meaning of performance-based recognition. These traps can be avoided by properly planning and administering a positive, results-oriented reward system.

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5th Afternoon in the Country

Monday, November 5th, 2007

Presented by Serenbe Farm and the Atlanta Chapter of L Dames D’ Escoffier.

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