Restaurant Marketing Tips

We've compiled our best advice on restaurant marketing, reputation management, and getting the most out of Tripadvisor.

Advice

The Ultimate Guide to Responding to Restaurant Reviews

The Ultimate Guide to Responding to Restaurant ReviewsWhether you have one or a few hundred, reviews play an important role in your business and your ranking on Tripadvisor. Download this free eBook to learn all you possibly need to know about reviews on Tripadvisor.

Learn the Ins and Outs of Responding to Restaurant Reviews

Did you know that reviews play a major role in where customers choose to eat? Or that a manager’s response could change a guest’s perception of a restaurant? We’ve interviewed countless owners and compiled some of our favorite best practices and real-world inspiration for positive reviews, negative reviews, and everything in between.

Knowing how to respond to reviews is a great way to build trust, rapport, and loyalty with your customers. It is also a great tool for showing your guests what your hospitality is all about.

In this comprehensive eBook, we will show you:

  • How to effectively respond to reviews
  • How to create management responses that show guests you care
  • How to build a strong online reputation
Read the bio.Last Updated: 6 March 2020

Why Every Restaurant Should Manage Their Menu Online

Why Every Restaurant Should Manage Their Menu Online

Why Every Restaurant Should Manage Their Menu OnlineWhen a hungry customer is searching for a restaurant online, they’re looking for what they crave: “pizza,” “salad,” “Thai food” or whatever it is will satisfy their hunger.With their wallet in hand, they’re ready to...

5 Tips to Keep Your Restaurant Busy All Year Round

5 Tips to Keep Your Restaurant Busy All Year Round In a seasonal industry, keeping your restaurant busy all year long is a challenge. We’ve put together a few tried-and-true marketing tactics you can use to combat the off-season blues.

The restaurant world is a seasonal one. Whether you’re a waterfront summer destination or a bustling après-ski bar, there’s going to be times of the year where you have plenty of customers coming through the door — and times where that’s not the case.

To keep your restaurant busy all year round, you have to promote it all year round.

That means incorporating marketing into both your dry seasons and your busy ones. Marketing can often fall by the wayside as a lower priority, but neglecting it only makes it more difficult to draw in new customers later on. Imagine that your marketing efforts are like a cyclist conquering a hill — you must pedal consistently, one foot after the other, to reach the top. You can go faster or slower if you want to, but pausing entirely will mean an even more taxing restart.

Marketing year-round also helps you get ahead of your competitors and could mean diners less familiar with your area earmark your restaurant for a future visit. By building a consistent promotion plan across the year, you can make sure your restaurant is always top of mind.

Here are a few workhorse marketing tactics that you can use anytime:

Advertise Your Restaurant

The best way to build up demand for your restaurant at any time of year is to advertise consistently. Especially if your restaurant is in a more seasonal location like in a ski resort town or by the ocean, you’ll want to make sure that you let folks know that you’re open in the offseason and that you stand out in the crowd during the busy periods.

Online advertising is a particularly good channel because it’s easy to dial up and down your efforts, just like speeding up or slowing down your cycling pace up the hill. Dialing up and down in this case means experimenting with different audiences and advertising channels to see what works best for you.

Create Partnerships within Your Community

Your restaurant’s success largely depends on its location and the community that you serve. Another way to keep your restaurant busy year-round is to work on building partnerships with members of the community, especially other businesses nearby.

You could:

  • Put flyers at the nearby laundromat, dry cleaner, or other local store
  • Ask nearby hotel concierges or apartment/housing complexes to recommend your restaurant
  • Contact office managers to set up catering or delivery opportunities at local offices
  • Work with nearby universities or colleges to create apprenticeships or a student discount
  • Market yourself as a charity partner for local non-profits as a way to spread the word
  • Participate in local versions of restaurant week or other government-sponsored campaigns
  • Offer your space as a co-working area during the day

Hold an Event or Participate in a Pop-Up

Another way to get your restaurant busy is to hold an event or pop-up tasting at another location. This is a great opportunity to get creative based on your average customer — if you’re a family-friendly spot, you might want to try a kids character meal or an arts and crafts event, but if you’re more of a date-night destination, think about a wine tasting or special prix fixe menu for couples.

You could also try:

  • Themed events celebrating specific holidays, like Mother’s Day or the New Year
  • Giving customers a peek into the kitchen with cooking or baking classes
  • Wine or beer tastings
  • Experimenting with a meal outside of your normal offerings, like a special brunch
  • Movie screenings, live music, or theatrical performances
  • Games, like trivia night or poker tournaments

If the events go well, you could expand into more recurring event offerings, like corporate luncheons, birthday parties, or wedding receptions, which would bring in additional revenue for your business.

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How This Café Trains the Best Staff

How This Café Trains the Best StaffTaking the time to train your employees and empower them can help your business in more ways than one. Here’s how Mississippi's Starfish Café trains the best staff.

Training the best staff — and creating a restaurant culture that empowers them to be the best — isn’t just good for your restaurant. It’s good for your bottom line. The average turnover for American restaurants in 2018 was as high as 75%. That’s real money you’re losing, too — according to a recent study from Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, losing and replacing an hourly employee can set you back $5,864. With a 75% restaurant turnover rate, that means losing up to $428,072 annually!

Welcome to Starfish Café, Mississippi

Take a trip to the state of Mississippi and you may stumble upon Starfish Café — one of the not-so-hidden gastronomic gems of the south. But what makes this little eleven table café so amazing is not just the great food. It’s also a job training program that prepares people coming from tough situations with life and kitchen skills for a bright future in hospitality.

Owner Diana Fillhart started her experience in the restaurant industry at age fourteen and never left. When she opened Starfish Café, passing on her hard-earned knowledge to her students became a way to pursue her passion.

The Starfish Method

One of the most important things, she says, is developing an understanding of all areas of restaurant operations. Says Fillhart, “We cross train intentionally so that everybody has a respect and an understanding for both [front and back of house].” This teaches staff how the whole restaurant works together regardless of what task they're working on that day.

After that, Fillhart uses reviews to emphasize observing and proactive hospitality skills. Says Fillhart, “It’s a training opportunity for our staff to talk about looking at issues from the customer’s vantage point and seeing what we can do to respond to what the customer wrote. It helps us teach them that a roving eye will always save you and other good practices about being aware and responsive.”

Reviews are a great way to get customer feedback, which can be used to train and motivate your staff. There are many ways to encourage guests to leave a review, but one of the most effective is simply training your staff to ask them at the end of their meal. Teaching them to do this is also a great way to encourage them to engage and connect with their guests.

If you ask Fillhart, the key to her program is hands-on experience. “We use: See it. Do it. Teach it,” says Fillhart. “If they see how you want it done, and then they begin to do it, the next thing you want to do is give them the opportunity to teach it. Because if they can teach it, they know it, they own it, it’s theirs.”

If you are working on training the best staff, Fillhart recommends emphasizing for them to: “Always be proactive with a customer, because they just want to know that you see them and they’re valuable.” For owners, she recommends having processes in place for staff to be successful: “[That way], you know they will be able to be successful — so that you can be successful.”

Last Updated: 16 August 2019

How to Create a Restaurant Marketing Plan

How to Create a Restaurant Marketing Plan Learn how to create a restaurant marketing plan in no time with our tips.

Why You Need a Restaurant Marketing Plan

71% of surveyed restaurant owners told us that they want to do more to promote their businesses, with more than half reporting they spend less than 10% of their time on marketing.

Time Spent on Marketing by Country

The good news? You can do a lot to promote your business without spending a ton of time. No one started a restaurant because they love marketing. But with a restaurant marketing plan in place, you’ll be able focus your efforts where you’ll find the greatest return to drive more diners to your restaurant, build your brand, and increase buzz without taking time away from managing the rest of your business.

Step One: Know Your Diners

The first step to any good marketing plan is to know your diners.You probably already have a great sense of this based on your original business concept. Gut check yourself with a few key data points:

  • Deep-dive into your reservation books to get a sense of the average table size. This will help you know whether a typical diner is part of a big group, on a date, or flying solo.
  • Talk to the chef and your bartender to see your most popular dishes and drinks and any trends on taste. Are your diners gravitating toward adventurous ingredients or the tried-and-true classics?
  • Then, do a little old-fashioned observation. What are your diners like? How do they dress, act, talk? If you don’t have a roster of regulars, walk the floor and feel out the vibe in the room. Strike up a conversation with folks at the bar. Getting to know your diners will help you figure out how to draw in new diners and what will resonate with them.

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Turn Excellent Reviews Into Restaurant Marketing Magic

Turn Excellent Reviews Into Restaurant Marketing Magic Turn your reviews into marketing for your business with these creative restaurant marketing ideas from real restaurants around the globe.

Make Your Reviews Work Harder

Your hard work and great food have earned you well-deserved positive reviews. Now it’s time to make those words of praise work for you by using them in your restaurant’s marketing materials.

Featuring Tripadvisor reviews lends your marketing a sense of credibility. It’s a concept psychologists call “social proof,” which essentially means that humans look to see what others do before making a decision.

The fact that positive reviews from Tripadvisor drive business to your restaurant is a testament to the power of social proof. But the impact of these reviews need not be limited to browsers on Tripadvisor. We’ve put together some creative ways you can incorporate your reviews into your online and offline restaurant marketing to better persuade potential diners that your restaurant is the one they should choose.

Real-Life Restaurant Marketing Ideas

Use your restaurant concept to your advantage. This is where you can get quirky, creative, and truly you because you own the space. Think about using your built-in signage, sidewalk real estate, or your door and window spaces as places you can draw in passerby. Plus, it’s easy and free to request Tripadvisor-branded materials for your restaurant here.

Post Your Reviews Around Your Restaurant

Grab attention with a selection of your reviews as a flyer on your window next to your menu — simply let the reviews tell the story. Or, pull some of your favorite quotes from recent reviews and turn it into a piece of wall art on your patio or in your waiting area like this London pub.

Joke About Your Reviews

Have a bad review? Use your sense of humor to your advantage and aim for a few laughs — this approach could even go viral like this Irish cafe advertising the “worst salad one woman on Tripadvisor ever had in her life.”

Encourage Online Engagement with Creative Signage

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Take This Step to Start Building Your Restaurant Brand

Take This Step to Start Building Your Restaurant Brand What is brand? It's the feeling your business evokes. Take this step to find out what you're already doing and articulate it in a way in which you can market it consistently.

Start with Why

Marketing your restaurant requires getting to the why. With more restaurants than ever to choose from, why should someone come to your place? This is the start to defining your brand.

Your brand encapsulates everything about your restaurant experience. That includes your cuisine, but it also includes your hospitality, service, special events, dining room decor, and everything in between. Your brand will articulate what you're already doing that makes your restaurant special.

To get to the “why” in words, let’s start by thinking about the typical diner journey and how your current diners are coming to your restaurant.

The Typical Diner Journey

How Diners Choose

How diners choose a particular restaurant depends on the reason they’re going out in the first place, including whether they’re alone or in a group of friends or family. The same person may go out for beers with their friends at a local pub on Friday and pick an upscale Italian restaurant with a date on Sunday. Diners look for different things in a restaurant based on their specific circumstance. Eating alone as a business traveler looks very different from taking extended family out for a birthday celebration. So it’s no surprise that these different scenarios imply different ways diners choose where they’re going to go.

Increasingly, dining out is a spontaneous event. Often, a diner decides to eat out the same day or while on-the-go. Particularly when it comes to travel, a diner may plan their flights, hotels, and activities, but choose their dining more spontaneously.

Dining Alone vs. Dining in a Group

Let’s dive deeper into solo diners vs. group diners to learn what makes them tick.

The Top 3 Decision Factors While Traveling

Solo Travelers | Group Travelers

My Opinion | Review Sites Like Tripadvisor | Friends

When going it alone, diners choosing where they want to eat aren’t as influenced by friends or other people around them. In fact, 56% of people dining alone in the United States say they’re influenced by a site like Tripadvisor.

When a group gets together, it’s no surprise that group dynamics influence where they go out to eat. 77% of our group dining respondents in the United States reported that their friends had the greatest influence on their dining decision, adding a layer of consensus on top of the usual research online.

Who Is Coming to Your Restaurant?

Now that you know a little more about how different types of diners choose where to eat, it’s time to think about your specific restaurant customers. Start to build profiles of the typical customer that comes to your restaurant. You might have more than one, but try to distill it to no more than four or five types of people.

You’ll want to get a general sense of their demographics — age range, gender, whether or not they’re a parent, common occupations, and so on — and from there, go back to the why. Why are they coming to your restaurant, and what in particular appeals to them?

Ask yourself:

  • What kind of person comes to your restaurant?
  • Is your place a local college hangout or packed with families?
  • Are people mostly making reservations to dine alone or is it a place with lots of tables for larger parties of five, six, or seven people?
  • Is your place a planned, special occasion location or the kind of place with lots of casual walk-ins?

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Join the Farm-to-Table Movement with These Tips

Join the Farm-to-Table Movement with These Tips Diners are searching out establishments that support local farmers. Here's how your restaurant can join the farm-to-table movement.

What Does Farm-to-Table Mean?

Farm-to-table describes a food movement based on local, sustainable, and seasonal ingredients. The turn of phrase is meant to evoke idyllic scenes of suntanned farmers plucking plump blueberries straight off the branch and using them that evening for their pies. And while that image makes a lot of diners feel good, it’s not exactly what farm-to-table actually means in practice. So what does it mean for your restaurant

To label yourself farm-to-table requires sourcing your ingredients from local suppliers and changing your menu to take advantage of fresh, in-season ingredients. If your restaurant doesn’t fit this model, you might still consider sourcing locally given the benefits to the environment and your cuisine.

Why Farm-to-Table Benefits Your Restaurant

Sourcing locally and sustainably reduces environmental impact and helps boost local farmers by giving them a market to sell to. But there are also distinct benefits to your bottom line.

As the concept becomes more mainstream, many consumers believe farm-to-table is fresher, more nutritious, and better quality. While farm-to-table has always been the way of most fine dining establishments — beginning in the mainstream with Chez Panisse in 1971, at least in the United States — even fast-casual concepts like Chipotle and Sweetgreen have built their wildly successful business models on farm-to-table, charging a premium for fresh ingredients and displaying the names of their suppliers on cheery blackboards above the menu.

Investing in farm-to-table and marketing yourself as such — will help you tap into a broader customer base, especially younger diners more passionate about environmental issues and the farm-to-table movement.

The best part? The less time it takes for food to travel to your restaurant, the better it will taste. Using higher-quality ingredients in your menus will only make your food taste better — word-of-mouth will follow.

How to Get Started with Farm-to-Table Dining

Define “Local” and Showcase It

Before you even think about your menu, do some research about your area. You probably already know what the top local dishes or ingredients are — think artichokes in Rome, piri piri chiles in Cape Town, or limes in Oaxaca. Then, use those local ingredients as the star of your menu.

Experiment with local ingredients for your classic dishes. If you’re based in New York City, you might be surprised how swapping from imported ingredients to local ones can lift your cuisine to new heights — not to mention cutting down on costs.

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Why Every Stage of the Dining Experience is Social

Why Every Stage of the Dining Experience is Social There’s no shortage of beautiful meals and restaurant façades on social media. We’re digging deeper into why every stage of the dining experience is a social one, online and offline.

Discovering New Restaurants

When potential diners are trying to decide where they’re going to eat, they consult many resources — often within the same search — including friends, review sites like Tripadvisor, and food media. What do these all have in common?

Since diners have limited time and money to spend on any given experience, they want to make it count. And they often use multiple sources of information to research and validate their selection. More consumers than ever trust online review sites and social media for recommendations on where to eat both near home and while traveling.

The vast majority of surveyed consumers share that their dining decisions are based on online reviews, with up to 72% in some markets also noting they have been influenced by restaurant photos. This holds whether it’s for locals or travelers — an average of 78% of our respondents across the U.S., U.K, France, Spain, and Italy used Tripadvisor to research local restaurants, while a whopping 85% of the same respondents used Tripadvisor while traveling.

Dining Invites Connection

One of the main reasons people dine out is to connect with other people. Think about your patrons and what they care about. If you don’t know, spend some time observing their behavior — or ask them!

Does your typical diner need quiet and private ambiance or are they seeking a high-energy place to mingle? When you design your experience, think about the ways the space can either connect or separate your diners. Your setting, atmosphere, technology, and noise level can all impact whether or not diners can enjoy being with their dining companions.

“Some places I want to visit because I want to Instagram a particular food item.”...

How Diners Choose Where To Eat

How Diners Choose Where To Eat

How Diners Choose Where To Eat We’ve put together everything you’ve ever wanted to know about how diners choose where to go out to eat in this free downloadable eBook.With 51% of consumers dining out at least once a week, demand for restaurants is at an all-time high....

How to Improve Your Tripadvisor Restaurant Ranking

How to Improve Your Tripadvisor Restaurant Ranking Tripadvisor’s Head of Restaurant Products, Gerard Murphy, breaks down exactly what goes into Tripadvisor restaurant rankings — and what you can do to improve yours — in this short video. Watch below or read on for a transcript.

Here at Tripadvisor, we help hundreds of millions of diners search for restaurants just like yours. And we want nothing more than to recommend great restaurants to diners and to connect restaurant owners with potential customers.

Part of that secret sauce of what makes Tripadvisor great is how we rank our restaurants. It’s based on three qualities of your reviews: ratings, recency, and relevance. We’ll walk through how all three of those work.

Ratings

Ratings refers to the number of reviews you have on Tripadvisor. We want to showcase the restaurants with the most four and five bubble reviews for potential diners. All other things being equal, a restaurant with more five bubble ratings will rank higher than one with lower bubble ratings.

Recency

Recency refers to the number of new reviews for your restaurant. While older reviews still count toward your ranking, newer reviews better reflect the current experience of your restaurant. This is great news for restaurants, because no matter what your ranking is now, you always have a chance with newer reviews to improve your ranking. All other things being equal, a restaurant with more recent reviews will rank higher than one with older reviews.

Relevance

When someone is searching for a place to eat, they don’t just search for restaurants in a city. They search for dinner or pizza or pad thai in a city. Because of this, you don’t have just one ranking for your restaurant. You have many rankings on all kinds of criteria, from meal type to cuisine type and everything in between.

Take the Brick Alley Pub in Newport, Rhode Island, for example. It’s ranked 11th overall in Newport, but it’s ranked fifth for lunch, second for hamburgers, and sixth for American food. So why does it rank higher for these sorts of cuisines and meal types than its overall ranking? That’s because there’s a higher percentage of four or five bubble reviews that mention lunch, hamburgers, or American food.

When you think about your ranking, think about what kinds of dishes and cuisines you’re exceptionally good at and see where you rank on Tripadvisor for those categories. This is a much better indicator of how likely someone will find your restaurant than your overall ranking.

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5 Restaurant Trends You Should Know for 2020

5 Restaurant Trends You Should Know for 2020

5 Restaurant Trends You Should Know for 2018 We asked restaurant owners like you what they're focusing on in 2020 and beyond to bring you these top trends.The restaurant world is constantly changing. Americans now eat out four to five times a week, on average. And...

5 Ways to Embrace “New” Hospitality

5 Ways to Embrace “New” Hospitality

5 Ways to Build Your Restaurant BrandBuilding your brand means extending your hospitality online. Here's our take on how hospitality is changing — and how it impacts your restaurant.Hospitality (n.): the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests,...

Get the Scoop on Restaurant Branding from America's Top Ice Cream Parlors

Get the Scoop on Restaurant Branding from America's Top Ice Cream Parlors Here are five branding tips you can learn from America's top ice cream parlors.

There are few treats as delectable and satisfying as an old-fashioned ice-cream cone. But what about the parlors that serve them? On Tripadvisor, you can find the best ice cream parlors in your location.

What are their secrets to success? After scouring the reviews of the best ice cream parlors around the United States, I have a few ideas.

Embrace local ingredients when possible - and don’t keep it a secret

The stars of the show at Woodside Farm Creamery in Hockessin, Delaware, are the cows grazing next to the ice cream parlor. The cows don’t just supply milk for the ice cream; they also provide undeniable proof that Woodside uses local ingredients.

Customers love it. “It doesn't get any better or fresher than this. You can sit right next to the cows that made the ice cream,” wrote one reviewer.

You don’t have to build a livestock grazing field next to your restaurant to prove your ingredients are fresh. Instead, highlight on your menu that you work with local farms. If it goes with your decor, hang  photos of these farms on your walls. These pictures could also be used on your social media channels.

Even a few potted herbs can communicate that your restaurant embraces fresh and local ingredients whenever possible.

If your restaurant has a legacy, promote it

The story of Dietsch Brothers Inc.goes back to 1937. And everyone in Findlay, Ohio knows it.

"The Dietsch Family has been around for generations and the quality has not changed,” wrote one Tripadvisor reviewer.

Even reviewers from out of town who weren’t familiar with the restaurant’s legacy raved about its long history of using quality, homemade ingredients.

How did they know? Everything about the Dietsch Brothers’ brand conveys its small town, in-the-family-for-generations appeal. The restaurant’s story is featured prominently on its website. Its interior is pleasantly old-fashioned and decorated with the parlor’s original signage. You’re also likely to find a Dietsch brother wiping down tables or serving up sherbet.

A company’s greatest tool is its story. What’s yours?

If you need help coming up with a story, embrace your area’s history

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is home to one of the most important battlefields in American history, as well as one of the best creameries in the country, the Sunset Ice Cream Parlor.

Here the history of the 1863 American Civil War Battle of Gettysburg is told in ice cream flavors named after the competing sides: Rebel Yell for the south, and Yankee Hurrah for the north. The restaurant is decorated with American flags. Reviewers said the parlor’s quaint storefront and friendly staff only added to its small-town, old fashioned appeal.

If you’re looking for help coming up with your restaurant’s story, take inspiration from your city’s history. Is there a well-known site nearby that you could name a dish after? Or a famous person from your city whose photos you could feature on your menu?

By weaving your city’s story into yours, you’ll make it easier for customers to remember you over the competition.

Educate your customers

Martha's Dandee Creme serves towering cones of pistachio and raspberry-flavored ice cream from a roadside stand 15 minutes outside of Glens Falls, NY. Because Martha’s changes its menu daily, several reviewers mentioned they check the parlor’s website to see which flavors are on tap before making the trip out of town.

The lesson here: customers like information. They want to know what they’re getting into before they trust you with their time and money.

List your menu online. This is easy to do directly on your Tripadvisor listing. You can learn more about how to post your menu here.

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How to Build an Allergy-Friendly Menu

How to Build an Allergy-Friendly Menu Consumers today expect restaurants to accommodate dietary restrictions, whether they're gluten-free, dairy-free, peanut-free, or something in between. Here's how you can adjust your menu to make sure every diner can enjoy eating at your restaurant.

63% of Americans last year said they were actively trying to eat healthier. Healthy, allergen-free, and sustainably sourced food has all become part of the mainstream and consumers have come to expect alternatives on your menus.

There is a wide range of menu items that you can, and should, offer these niche customers. The availability of safe, wholesome options will expand your customer base, and make your business stand out in a sea of chicken tenders and fries.

Meet the Demand for “Gluten Free”

Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder in which the body has an extreme reaction to gluten, is on the rise. In most parts of the world, the prevalence of Celiac disease in a healthy adult population varies between one in 100 and one in 300. In the U.S., it's close to 3.5% of the population. People diagnosed with this malady face a challenge when dining out. Gluten can be found in foods containing flour, or any grains of wheat, rye, barley, or oats. People with Celiac cook with starch alternatives found in corn, potato, and rice. They can also eat meats, fish, eggs, dairy, and produce. They must be cautious of foods prepared with bread crumbs or breading, batter, and certain sauces.

According to the food delivery website GrubHub, gluten-free restaurant orders have climbed nearly 60 percent in the past year in the United States. Among the top five most frequently ordered “g-free” menu items are pizza, sandwiches, and burgers. Coincidentally, these are also among the most popular kids’ menu items.

Gluten-free recipes are as close as your nearest internet connection, and many reputable sources, such as the Celiac Disease Foundation in the United States and the Coeliac UK organization in the United Kingdom, have pages dedicated to kid-friendly foods like pancakes, macaroni and cheese, quesadillas, meatballs, and a variety of desserts.

Options for Customers with Peanut Allergies

More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies, and about 1 in 13 children have at least one allergy. A food allergy results when the immune system mistakenly targets a harmless food protein – an allergen – as a threat and attacks it. Peanuts and tree nuts such as almonds, cashews, and walnuts are at the top of list of most common allergens. Peanut allergy symptoms can range from a minor irritation to life-threatening anaphylaxis.

When serving people with peanut allergies, what you don’t offer on your menu is more important than what you do. Safe foods are those with absolutely no traces of peanuts or peanut oil in any of the ingredients, nor in the food preparation area or on serving utensils. For recipe ideas, search sites such as peanutallergy.com, allergykids.com, and allergychefsinc.com (available in English). You’ll find baked mozzarella sticks, veggie pizza, cookies, and more. You can also utilize sunflower seed or soy nut butter for a safe version of “PB&J.”

Selections Suited for Lactose-Free Customers

Milk allergies and lactose intolerance are different, but with both, dairy products should be avoided. Milk is another top food allergen, causing sufferers skin irritation and hives, wheezing, vomiting, and in severe cases, anaphylaxis. Lactose intolerance is primarily gastrointestinal; causing bloating, stomach aches, and nausea.

There are many dairy substitutes out there, like soy-based yogurt, coconut milk, and dairy-free margarine. Therefore, you can still prepare popular kids’ dishes, like pizza with soy cheese, and rice milk “ice cream.” Also, vegan foods are dairy-free, so vegan “hot dogs” and similar products are fair game. Websites like godairyfree.org, kidswithfoodallergies.org, and theveganmom.com (available in English) provide a multitude of recipes. 

Healthy Substitutes for Familiar Foods

Even though the majority of Americans claim they want to eat healthier, they still gravitate toward familiar items they know and love. Meet them in the middle with twists on no-fail, recognizable selections. Consider multi-grain waffles, turkey burgers, and apple or sweet potato fries. You can broaden the appeal of naturally sweet fruit smoothies by offering them with not only a dairy base of milk or yogurt, but also soy, coconut, almond, or rice milk.  

Actually, You Should Still Have Chicken Tenders

Chicken tenders are a tried-and-true stand by, and many parents depend on them appearing on the children’s menu. Sometimes, they’re the only reliable source of protein in their child’s day. However, you can offer them baked instead of fried, or with breading alternatives. Challenge your chefs to get creative with crushed almonds, whole-wheat flour, cornmeal or corn cereal flakes, or gluten-free all purpose flour mix. 

Make Sure Potential Diners Know You're Allergy Friendly

Whether you've recently changed your menu or have always offered allergy-friendly and kid-friendly options, make sure potential diners can find your restaurant. Once you've claimed your listing — which is free and easy to do here — you can update your details to show that your menu will satisfy picky eaters and diners with allergies alike.

To make changes:

  1. Log in to the Management Center.
  2. Choose "Cuisines and Amenities" under the "Manage Listing" tab at the top of the page.
  3. From there, update your cuisines if needed by clicking the "Edit Cuisines" box. You can choose categories like Healthy or Vegetarian, for example, in addition to traditional cuisine types like French, Italian, or Barbecue. Make your selections by ticking the boxes next to the category you wish to select.
  4. Once you've made your choices, click the orange "Ok" button.
  5. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click "Submit" to make your changes live on the site.

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5 Ways Restaurants Can Cater to Solo Diners

5 Ways Restaurants Can Cater to Solo Diners There are rarely any meal deals for solo diners and few places where a high quality meal is not synonymous with “date places." Yet, solo diners deserve more options than street food, cafeterias, and takeaway. Here are four ways restaurants can cater to single diners.

Today’s diners seek out great culinary experiences, whether or not they have dining companions. And while you might wish for more revenue for that particular table, a solo diner is a golden opportunity for hospitality. Says restaurateur Danny Meyer in his book Setting the Table, “Solo diners have a straightforward agenda: to treat themselves to a gift of quality, contemplative time, and to do so at our restaurant. I consider that the ultimate compliment, and I’m also hoping that today’s solo diner will host tomorrow’s party of four.”

Without other people at their table, an individual diner will likely be much more aware of your staff, your food, and the atmosphere of your restaurant. If a person enjoys dining at your restaurant solo, they might be more likely to recommend your restaurant to others, to become a regular, or to review your establishment on Tripadvisor, LaFourchette, Yelp, or Facebook.

There are a few simple ways that restaurants can not only be more welcoming of individual diners, but can also better attract them, all without risk of losing groups or couples.

Why single diners may have issue with common dining experiences

For some travelers, eating alone in public is awkward and riddled with potential for social insecurities. They have nowhere to stare without looking rude but are simultaneously assuming everyone is staring at them and judging them for eating alone. For many, home or abroad, eating alone is terrifying, and is even worthy of its own name: solomangarephobia.

Learn how to talk to single guests

It’s condescending to ask a single diner if they are a party of “just one.” There is no need to add the ‘just’. Instead of “Just one?” a simple, more harmless alternative would simply be “Right this way.”

Each solo diner has his or her own preference for conversation. Many are out alone because they are comfortable alone, but others use this time to chat with strangers and make new friends. Do not feel the need to entertain or overly converse with the solo diner. They will do that themselves if they choose, but feel free to follow the diner’s lead if you do have a moment for a quick dialogue exchange.

Utilize social media to bring in solo adventurers

I’ve found that there are two types of solo diners: the adventurer and the comfort lover.

The former comes to your restaurant because he/she wants to try something new. The latter comes because it’s familiar and, when forced to eat alone, will choose to do so in a comfortable setting.

For the adventurer, word of mouth is golden. You can capture their attention with discount sites, which provide a great excuse for diners to try new restaurants simply because there is an available deal. Consider offering deals that are suitable and attractive for individuals and not just for couples, such as a free drink with order of an entrée or half-priced appetizers when you check in on Facebook.

Provide entertainment

Live music makes any restaurant automatically more comfortable for a solo diner in the evening. Anyone can watch a live band alone without looking out of place, and your diner no longer has to worry about being in the spotlight just because he or she is alone.

Not only that, but live music provides your diner with something natural to focus on. Rather than staring at other guests or down at their place during their meal, the traveler can experience some local culture with their local cuisine.

If live music isn’t an option, consider creating a small library of books, hosting a poetry reading, or providing another sort of entertainment that can focus the energy of your room. Getting creative with events or other marketing isn’t just good for solo diners — it can bring in traffic even outside of peak-season times.

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The Ultimate Guide to Building a Restaurant Instagram Account

The Ultimate Guide to Building a Restaurant Instagram Account Instagram is a key part of any restaurant social media strategy. We spoke to the experts to learn the ins and outs of building an Instagram presence for your restaurant.

Since launching in 2010, Instagram has grown into a community of more than 1 billion monthly users. The photo-centric social network empowers users to share their lives, their adventures and, increasingly, their meals with friends, family, and strangers around the world.

To learn why this social media channel is so important to the restaurant industry, we sat down with several Instagram pros. Here are their tips on what to post, how to find followers, and how to embrace new services like Instagram business analytics and Stories.

“If you’re not on Instagram, you’re leaving money on the table,” said Teana McDonald, president of the 3E Connections, Inc. marketing firm.

The Ultimate Appetite Stimulant

We talked with a lot of people, and while they had different opinions on how many times to post per day or which hashtags to use, they all agreed on this: Instagram has changed the dining out experience.

“Before, it was a simple case of heading to a restaurant, checking out the menu, picking a dish and eating it. It was a pretty passive experience,” said Rafi Cohen, co-founder of the online ordering and restaurant marketing service Orders2me. “Instagram has brought the diner into the experience.”

The social media channel empowers customers to communicate with the restaurant, preview its menu, and even be a part of its marketing outreach by sharing photos of the food and staff.

It’s that last fact that makes Instagram a marketing goldmine for the hospitality industry, said Cohen. “Instagram has taken what people love to do and made it an excellent marketing tool for any restaurant.”

What to Share: Food, Staff and More

When starting an Instagram channel, you have to have a strategy. Your initial reaction might be to say your goal is to use Instagram to find customers, but that can backfire. Our experts said the last thing you want to do is make your feed a constant stream of promotional messages.

“Restaurant owners need to understand that starting an Instagram marketing campaign won't immediately generate sales,” said Cohen. “Rather, it's about building a community.”

Like other social media channels, Instagram generates awareness about your brand. It gets customers excited. They see the gorgeous photos you post, can check out your Tripadvisor profile to see what other travelers have to say and then — after reading all the positive reviews — decide to make a reservation.

Instagram is not a place to sell. Instead, it’s a place to build camaraderie.

Earn potential customers’ trust by bringing them into your kitchen with a video of a recipe test. Get them excited about a new menu item by sharing photos of a perfectly plated dish. Introduce followers to your staff with profiles of the people they’ll meet at your restaurant, perhaps the gregarious bartender or the server who can balance three trays at once.

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4 Ways to Use Restaurant Technology to Drive Success

4 Ways to Use Restaurant Technology to Drive Success Four mouth-watering examples of how consumer-facing technology is facilitating more engagement and spending at restaurants.

Family recipes handed down through the generations. Creative twists on old favorites. Local ingredients. Whatever your restaurant serves, don’t just focus on the food: increasingly, diners are seeking out restaurants serving up the latest technology.

Of course, that technology can’t just be about making things better for the restaurant. There has to be real value for your customers, such as adding convenience or solving common customer problems. Here are four ways successful restaurants are doing just that:

Online Ordering, Red Tomato Pizza

Red Tomato Pizza in Dubai recently introduced the VIP Fridge Magnet, which lets you order a pizza simply by pushing a button on the refrigerator magnet. That triggers a notification to the restaurant via your smartphone, and you receive a confirmation text that the pizza is being delivered shortly thereafter. You can even customize the toppings on your saved pizza so you can easily order your favorite choice without future extra effort.

Mobile Apps, Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut, with locations in nearly 60 countries, found another way to reach customers at home. In 2013, the international chain created an app for the popular Xbox 360 gaming console, and after just four months the app has generated more than $1 million worth of sales. Tapping into the abilities of the Xbox 360, hungry gamers can customize their pizza size, toppings and crust using the controller, voice controls or even the motion-tracking Kinect camera. Pizza Hut has called the app “a source of unbelievable growth,” which means you can expect more tech-driven experiments from the brand.

Virtual Sommeliers, Fleming's Prime Stakehouse

Catering to an affluent and onsite dining crowd, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar uses tableside iPads to deliver an immersive experience for diners. The Fleming’s WiNEPADTM app helps guests explore and learn more about the restaurant’s extensive wine menu. So instead of being intimidated by the choices before them, diners can browse details on their own, select their dining choice and see three paired wine options with complementary flavors or even get adventurous by playing Spin the Bottle to choose a wine at random. The app even mimics the brand’s décor, complete with a custom-designed case and color palette.

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