Coyle’s Top 10 Takeaways from the 2012 NRA Show!
Coyle Hospitality Group attended the National Restaurant Association Show this weekend in Chicago at McCormick Place. Our team members–including our President, Managing Director, and Restaurant Specialist–spent the weekend getting the scoop on the newest innovations, hottest trends, and upcoming strategies in the restaurant industry. After numerous events, seminars, and educational sessions – Coyle brings you a recap of all you need to know from the three day show.
After three action packed-days at the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel show, Coyle presents you with our list of the top 10 key takeaways from the show.
10. The NRA wants to help you!
Complete with educational seminars in all areas of the industry, online resources, general support, and more, the NRA is committed to helping its members succeed. The organization is constantly conducting research and studies dealing with current and relevant struggles that exist in the industry. Not to mention, we hear a few people end up attending the annual convention they put on.
9. Step up your non-alcoholic beverage program.
New coffee and tea products were a trend at the show this year, with new offerings in all categories including hot tea, iced tea, green tea, black tea, and white tea. Another example that is relatively new to the market is Coca Cola’s “Freestyle” machine, a new soda pop machine being installed in all types of restaurants. Coke’s “Freestyle” gives guests a chance to interactively experience and select from 100 different flavor options, and it adds a new dimension of guest satisfaction thanks to its collaborative nature. Make sure you are offering products other than regular sodas, coffees, and teas to ensure that you stay on the same page as other restaurants.
8. Know your brand and stick to it.
If you don’t brand yourself, someone else will, and your business could head in a negative direction. It is important to let your guests tell your brand stories, but make sure they are positive ones. Once you establish your restaurant(s), stick with your concept, and only make moves in relation to your brand. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to innovate wherever possible; rather, you should keep your overall brand goal in mind and align any product or service with that goal. If your products and services are too distanced from your brand, guests will be confused, and this type of misunderstanding leads to inconsistent service and lower guest loyalty at your restaurant(s).
7. Make food safety a priority.
After a lecture on building consumer trust, Coyle learned that building trust with your guests starts with building trust with your suppliers, educating your employees, and encouraging employees to care. Once you have employees that care about the well-being of your guests, you can educate them on issues such as food safety and teach them how to prevent negative guest experiences such as food-borne illnesses. Let’s just face it: food poisoning is nobody’s friend.
6. Innovate by using the classics.
In an interesting seminar outlining menu innovations, one way to enhance creativity that people often rule out is to start with something simple, such as a favorite comfort food. Then, take that item at its core, and use it as your culinary blank slate to dress it up however you wish. Bring in new and different flavors from regions all around the world to create your own spin on the item. This is a fun and easy way to impress guests with your originality.
5. Become more involved with your supply chain.
As you know, many factors can be linked back to your supply chain: food-borne illness outbreaks, overstocked ingredients, and more. One way to better manage your restaurant is by really tracing your products back to your supplier. Make and maintain good relationships with your suppliers so that you can always get your deliveries, even in tight squeezes. You need your suppliers to know that you care for them. In turn, they will care about you and your business.
4. Loyalty programs help you now more than ever.
Coyle heard loyalty programs mentioned in almost every lecture we attended at this year’s show. Many discussed linking them with social media–which is a great idea–but it became apparent that, in general, loyalty programs have several benefits. First, your guests will see added value in becoming a “loyal” member of your restaurant. Second, you can learn from your guests by tracking their spending, dining frequency, ordering habits, and other behaviors. To take it a step further, once you have won a guest who is now “loyal”, you can draw from their thoughts and opinions for new promotions, ideas, and concepts. Guests appreciate feeling wanted by their favorite establishments. So, be sure to consider developing a loyalty program, and let your guest’s be heard.
3. Social media is a must at this point.
The number of users on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram grows everyday, as do the types of social media tools and platforms available. Social media is beginning to dominate consumer time, thought, and opinion. The best way to manage how you are viewed by your guests or your potential guests based on your social media is to be proactive and find ways to invite, engage, and reward guests. While giving away free items and discounts doesn’t hurt, don’t be afraid to give your restaurant a personality. Your social media activity should reflect your restaurant’s brand and convince guests to go into your establishment–whether as new visitors or as repeat guests. If you haven’t tapped into the social media realm yet, it is better to be late than never.
2. Know your Competition.
One piece of advice Coyle heard this past weekend was to visit your three biggest competitors’ restaurants, stand around, and see what they’re doing to attract their guests. That resonated with us, because if any industry knows it best, the restaurant industry knows how fickle the general public can be. One day, Restaurant X is the hottest thing since parmesan truffle fries. But the next day, Restaurant X barely has 15 covers at lunch. There is no reason you can’t observe your competition and gain insight into what is working for them. It is also helpful to ask your most frequent guests where else they dine and who they think your main competition is. Involve your guests and learn from them to better understand who your competition is and what you can be doing differently to be more appealing.
1. Know your guest.
Drawing on the point above, people are fickle. Knowing your guests helps you create guest loyalty, spread positive word of mouth, and receive favorable reviews–and this is just the beginning. All of these points trickle down to increased awareness and buzz about your business. And once you know your guests, appreciate them. The people coming into your restaurant are spending their hard-earned money to sit down, relax, and enjoy a good meal–and hopefully a beverage or two as well. When they walk through the door, they are trusting that you will deliver what they came for. Therefore, you need to know what they expect, anticipate their needs, and exceed their expectations. Do this, and guests will leave raving about their experience and wanting to return with friends and family at another time.
For more information about how Coyle can help you achieve your brand goals, please contact us online or call us (646) 825-5554.