March Madness basketball

March Madness in Restaurants

March Madness begins this year on Selection Sunday, March 12th. With games running Thursday through Sunday until April 3rd, restaurants will likely see an increase in sales during this period of time.  Customers flock to restaurants and bars to watch teams play for the college basketball championship. Michigan’s own Spartans and Wolverines are on the bubble, but likely candidates for the tournament this year. March Madness gives customers the excuse to get out, enjoy great food and watch basketball, regardless of their team’s outcome in the tournament. Restaurants must prepare for this increase for the month of March.

When catering to your customers during March Madness, remember that all ages will come out to root for their team. Ages ranging from children to adults to the retired will be out eating while enjoying the games.  According to the National Restaurant Association, 20% of viewers plan to watch March Madness at a restaurant or bar. However, this has nothing to do with a customer’s favorite team. This implies that basketball viewers will watch the games all through the tournament, regardless of their team’s success. Fans will more likely choose the restaurant based on the size of televisions and options on the menu.

What to Serve for March Madness

Customers want to eat food that does not take much work. Fans will want to focus all of their attention on the game. Looking away from the tv for just a few seconds runs the risk of missing a big play. Serve your customers food they can eat with their hands. Pizza, wings and nachos are great options for finger foods. When watching these games, fans tend to eat without nutrition in mind. Any sort of fried food tends to grab the attention of the basketball fan. Also remember to have plenty of drink options. While customers will likely order alcohol during the game, beer is the most popular. Beer sales increase by 20% during March Madness.

Remember that some customers may leave your restaurant upset because of the outcome of a game. While you always want your customer happy, your restaurant can win from a team’s loss. Both pizza and dessert sales increase after a fan watches their team lose instead of win. When a customer appears upset from the games result, offer them your dessert menu.

Customer retention for March Madness

Since March Madness runs several weeks, make sure your restaurant is one that customers will come back to every week. Start by holding a tournament challenge the day of Selection Sunday. By posting these brackets, as well as who is leading, at your restaurant. Customers will want to see where they stand, therefore urging them to return every weekend. In addition, give the top 3 a prize. Let the winners choose between gift certificates, dinner specials or other restaurant prizes.

Customers are also more likely to return to a restaurant if they know there are food and drink specials accompanying the game. In fact, this accounts for why almost 35% of March Madness customers choose a specific restaurant.  Most importantly, make your customers feel welcome.  Encourage your customers to wear and support their favorite team, making them feel right at home. Especially in Michigan, encouraging March Madness viewers to support the Spartans and Wolverines will likely draw a crowd.

This month, remember that your restaurant will likely see an increase in sales for March Madness. Customers will likely flock to restaurants that have great deals for the games, in addition to available tv’s to watch the games. Serving easy finger food, great beer and dessert options will keep your customers happy. Regardless of the team they support, remember that March Madness is a win for restaurants everywhere.

Serving Meat-Free Lent Meals

Although not a holiday, Lent brings major changes to the restaurant industry. During this 40 day period, menus see an increasing amount of fish and seafood. Lent is the period observed before Easter, where Catholics and many Protestants follow restrictive diets. During this time many “give up” foods such as chocolate or junk food, these are up to the individual. The practices started to honor Christ and experience suffering, just as Jesus suffered for his people. In addition, many Christians practice the act of not eating meat on all Friday. Without meat, Lenten Fridays have been deemed as Fish Friday.

Lent Menu Options

Especially as we transition into warmer weather, many fresh inspired dishes include fish. With a variety of fish to choose from, the options are almost endless. Smoked salmon and almond crusted tilapia are very popular among consumers. Also consider a seafood twist on common meat dishes. Try a seafood lasagna or a shrimp pad Thai to allow customers to order their comfort dishes without the meat. Vegetarian meals are another option for those foregoing meat. As vegetables increase in popularity, so do vegetarian dishes. Portabella burgers, falafel and ratatouille are just a few dishes to highlight as a vegetarian entrée.

For those who do not want to change their menu for the Lenten season, consider only highlighting these dishes on Friday. Create specials for Friday nights that do not contain meat. Consider using key words to describe your meatless dishes in order to attract all customers. Words like “organic” and “natural” appeal to most everyone in 2017. When purchasing fish and seafood, locally sourced seafood will entice any trendsetter, regardless of their Lenten practices. Using organic and natural produce will have the same effect on customers.

With these approaches, the menu contains trendy and enticing dishes for both the meat eaters and Lent observers. When your menu includes meatless dishes that taste delicious, everyone will enjoy these options. Remember to market these dishes to both the Lenten observers and those not following dietary restrictions. In addition, those restraining from meat from Lent will only do so on Fridays, so make sure to keep plenty of traditional meat dishes on the menu. When your restaurant includes trendy meat-free meals, customers will return with the satisfaction of knowing you can provide for their dietary needs.

Mardi Gras

Celebrating Mardi Gras with Food

Mardi Gras has roots in Christianity, Roman paganism and French history. The Romans celebrated fertility with the beginning of spring, but early Christians transitioned the festival to mark the prelude of the Lenten season. These Mardi Gras Creole foodcelebrations continued through the Middle Ages in France. As the French explored the New World, they settled and named the land “Point du Mardi Gras” to commemorate the celebration. This location is known today as New Orleans. Although a two-week celebration, most festivities take place the day before Lent, otherwise known as “Fat Tuesday”.  Hundreds of years have passed and Mardi Gras ranks as one of the most celebrated festivals in the United States.  Along with traditions such as masks, beads and parades; Mardi Gras is also famous for its delicious food.

Traditional Mardi Gras Food

Cajun and Creole foods dominate Mardi Gras menus. These cuisines mix traditional French foods with the meats, vegetables and grains available in Louisiana. Dishes like gumbo, crawfish etouffée and po’boys demonstrate how these cuisines come together to create the flavors people love. Often named the child of bouillabaisse, gumbo combines different meats, vegetables and broth to create a stew-like dish, served over rice. Gumbo has become one of the most popular dishes served during the celebration. Crawfish etouffée is also a stew, combining the Louisiana shellfish with a more French style cream cooking. A po’boy combines the cuisines by setting fried shrimp (a southern favorite) in a hearty slice of French bread.

While these dishes are most famous, other Cajun and Creole dishes gain popularity during Mardi Gras festival. For those unable to make the journey to New Orleans, restaurants everywhere can serve up traditional Mardi Gras dinners.  Consider creating a dinner special for the celebration, or the week leading up, highlighting these traditional flavor-filled New Orleans meals.

 Mardi Gras beingnetsMardi Gras Desserts

In addition to savory foods, Mardi Gras celebrates through drinks and desserts as well. Native to France, beignets made their way to New Orleans.  Similar to donuts, these fried puffs of dough are sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and generally consumed with coffee. In addition to beignets, serve King Cake; the most traditional Mardi Gras dessert. King Cake combines brioche bread with cinnamon date filling, topped with icing and purple, green and gold sprinkles. According to tradition the cake holds a baby figurine. Whoever holds the slice that contains the baby will have good luck for the coming year.

To drink, serve Milk Punch. This simple drink is popular in both New Orleans and the Deep South.  king cakeShake milk, bourbon and vanilla with ice for a delicious cold drink. Top with cinnamon or nutmeg for a little extra kick. Beignets, King Cake and Milk Punch can all be found on a variety of Mardi Gras menus.

Although Mardi Gras celebrations and parades take place in New Orleans, any restaurant can serve traditional New Orleans food. Create a special menu featuring Cajun and Creole foods to highlight these unique New Orleans flavors. Consumers are very likely to splurge on this notorious “Fat Tuesday”. Create a delectable dessert menu as your customer will feel less guilty about ordering something sweet. This Mardi Gras, make sure your customers know they can celebrate with their favorite New Orleans foods at your restaurant.

customers at a restaurant

Generational Preferences in Foodservice

Every American falls into a generational category; the generation dependent on the individual’s birth year. Alive today range from the Greatest Generation, the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Gen Z. Generations form through common experiences and current events that shape the individuals in their age group. For example, the Vietnam War significantly impacted the Baby Boomers, while technology impacted their Millennial children. In general, generations each have certain preferences in which they base their consumer behavior. Scholars spend time studying these behaviors to assist the manufacturer or business owner. Different generational preferences include fashion, entertainment, language, work ethic, spending habits and even food.

The Older Generational Preferences

Restaurants must take note of generational preferences in food and dining out. However, Baby Boomers are usually the oldest generation eating out. The consumer’s generation heavily influences the choice of when and where to eat out, as well as what to purchase.  Many factors influence these preferences including free time, finances and children. Baby Boomers usually dine at the traditional restaurants that sell comfort food. According to an article written by Rita Negrete, this generation also eats out at more full-service restaurant than any other. However, do not assume this generation has the largest bill. Generation X spends the most money on a night out. These individuals do not worry about menu price. This stat is likely due to the fact that this generation has a generally high household income with steady jobs. They also prefer restaurants that promote authenticity and upscale items.

The Younger Generational Preferences

The largest gap between generations in regards to dining preferences is likely between Generation X and Millennials. Millennials tend to dine out for the experience rather than the food. To Millennials, restaurants serve as a social setting more than anything else. A Bloomberg.com article speculates that the Millennials are the reason that last year, dining out sales passed grocery sales for the first time in American history. Millennials flock to restaurants that offer something unique or authentic and serve food boasting natural and fresh labels.  Millennials are one a larger generation, second to Baby Boomers, so scholars suggest paying close attention to their dining preferences. Generation Z, very similar to Millennials, enjoy restaurants that provide natural, unprocessed, or sustainable food. Scholars consider Gen Z the digital generation, they love online ordering and digital marketing.

Each generation has the ability to influence food trends, menu items and restaurant products.  Many studies take into account generational eating habits and describe important factors that influence these habits. Consider these studies when planning and creating menus and marketing pieces for your restaurant.

Cinco de Mayo meal

2017 Food Trends- Ethnic Cuisine

In our last “Trendy Tuesday” segment, we will focus on ethnic cuisine. Foods like tacos, spaghetti, and fried rice have been a mainstay in the United States for a long time. While these foods have gained popularity throughout the years, cuisines such as Mediterranean and Korean have taken center stage. As our country’s taste buds have developed, ethnic cuisine continuously trend upwards.

Multiple Ethnic Cuisine Trends

Although ethnic flavors have risen in popularity in the past century, Americans demand more. According to the National Restaurant Association’s annual trend list, authenticity ranks in the top ten. As ethnic flavors gain popularity, consumers demand authenticity. Customers no longer desire the American spaghetti, they demand the version an Italian grandmother would prepare for her family. Also included in the NRA’s list is African cuisine. African cuisine showcases simply, flavorful dishes including large quantity or rice, cooked meats and vegetables. Many African dishes are very transparent, a possible reason as to why Americans now flock to the cuisine.

Ethnic spices just missed the top ten, ranking 11 in the overall poll. Popular ethnic spices include harissa, curry, za’atar and turmeric. These spices all originate from Africa and the Middle East.  These spices could be the result of “migratory meals”. Food Business News states that as refugees from the Middle East and Africa make way to the United States they bring their food and flavors with them. Many of these immigrants have opened small restaurants showcasing their heritage. Americans cannot get enough of these flavors, certainly causing the upward spike in trendy ethnic cuisines.

Ethnic Meals and Dishes

The world is huge, giving way to a multitude of different ethnic meals and dishes. Although Americans know fried chicken as an American comfort dish, cultures across the globe render versions of their own. Perdue Foodservice claims that the Koreans, Indians and Japanese all have a different take on fried chicken. The Koreans fry ethnic cuisine- shakshukathe chicken twice, Indians sauté their chicken in yogurt sauce after frying and the Japanese deep fry bite size pieces. While these dishes all include fried chicken, each cuisine flavors the iconic dish to taste their own. Also growing in popularity among American consumers is the rise of ethnic breakfasts. Americans now desire ethnic flavors on breakfast menus including Spanish chorizo and Mediterranean shakshuka. These dishes put an ethnic spin on their breakfast favorites.  In fact, ethnic breakfast is so trendy; the NRA rates this 6 in their top ten trend list.

Ethnic cuisine wraps up our four week “Trendy Tuesday” segment. Encompassed into one large trend, ethnic flavors have segments of their own. As certain cuisines like African and Middle Eastern continue to grow in popularity, many ethnic breakfasts have made their way to menus. As the year continues, try adding ethnic spices and flavors to your menu. You will certainly be a hit to your trendy customers.

Valentine's Day

2017 Valentine’s Day Trends

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching and although not a national holiday, restaurants treat this day more special than most. Valentine’s Day is celebrated across the globe, with origination in Rome back in the 3rd Century. Although the legends of Valentine’s Day beginnings differ, today we have come to know February 14th as a day for lovers. Here in the United States, restaurants see this as a huge day for sales. The holiday is the second busiest day of the year in the restaurant business, only behind Mother’s Day.

Valentine’s Day Statistics

American’s spend $147 each year on Valentine’s Day, 7 million of that towards dining out. The average couple will spend $147 on February 14th. Singles spend money too. On this holiday single men on average $40 while single women spend an average of $71. This increase in dining from both couples and singles gives restaurants everywhere an extra $$$ on the bill than a usual night out. No matter the relationship status, Americans are willing to spend a few more dollars on this holiday than the average Tuesday. With such an increase in sales, restaurants must take note as to what customers want to eat.

Valentine’s Day Dining Trends

Remember also, Valentine’s Day is not just for couples anymore. “Galentine’s Day” and single’s parties are cause to celebrate as well. However, couples and singles celebrate different. AaronAllen and Associates state that couples would rather have an experience on Valentine’s Day than receive gifts. A great way to incorporate this preference is giving your customers an amazing night at a restaurant. Fill their dining out experience with great service and food. Couples gravitate towards ethnic foods like Italian, French and Spanish cuisines. However, cuisine is not always the deciding factor on where to eat. 42% of diners will choose their favorite restaurant to celebrate this special day. Singles however, tend to order take-out or delivery. Eater states that  pizza, wings and egg rolls dominate their orders. Do not forget about dessert. Chocolate reigns supreme on Valentine’s Day as 50% of consumers prefer some sort of cocoa treat as dessert.

This February 14th, take both singles and couples into consideration when planning your restaurant menu. Remember to incorporate a great experience for those who dine in and a carry-out option for those eating at home. As diners flock to restaurants this year, remember your customer’s needs and you will have a very successful Valentine’s Day.

Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday Restaurant Ideas

Super Bowl Sunday Ideas

Just a few days remain before the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots face off in the biggest football game of the year. Super Bowl Sunday almost always guarantees a restaurant crowd every year. In addition, customers almost always plan to spend a little more money than usual. ShiftPlanning’s  David Galic weighs in on Super Bowl sales and restaurant deals, as well as how to attract a crowd. Galic even discusses how to attract both the stay-at-home viewers and the non-football enthusiasts.  Whether the Falcons or the Patriots score more points this Sunday, your restaurant will still be a success!

To learn more about restaurant planning for the Super Bowl, read here.

end food waste

2017 Food Trends- Food Waste Reduction

The third installation into our Trendy Tuesday segment will focus on food waste in restaurants. Reducing waste is both a top restaurant and top concept trend predicted for 2017. In simple terms, restaurant food waste describes any food or food product thrown out in the restaurant. This waste also extends to take-out, which ends up trashed if not eaten. The skins shaved off of the potato; waste. The leftovers you don’t take home; waste. The garnish on the plate no one eats; waste. This year, restaurants and consumers both look for ways to minimize food waste.

Food Waste Statistics

Food waste divides itself into two categories: pre-consumer waste and post-consumer waste. According to the organization, End Food Waste Now, pre-consumer waste includes trimmings, spoiled food or overproduction. In contrast, post-consumer food includes uneaten leftovers or returned food; essentially any uneaten food that has left the kitchen. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that Americans waste 30-40 percent of the food supply. This equals to about 520 million tons of food from Food Waste Reductionrestaurants each year. Bottom line for restaurants; food waste can kill profit. While some restaurants compost waste, the majority end up in landfills. One might wonder why Americans produce so much waste. Simply put, food waste went almost unnoticed until recently.

Food Waste Solutions

 

Anyone from the government to the consumer can help solve the wasted food problem. In fact, the National Restaurant Association has teamed with the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, or FWRA. This partnership strives to reduce waste by increasing donations and diverting unavoidable waste from landfills. Another resolution includes keeping track of tossed plated food, helping to control portions served. This may indicate your kitchen prepares too much food for consumption.  Other solutions include composting, storing food properly to ensure it does not go bad or re-purposing food.

An increasing number of restaurants have started to re-purpose food. In addition, “leftover meals” have helped feed soup kitchens, homeless and hungry. Turning scraps into meals are an easy way to re-purpose what would have become waste. For example, broccoli and cauliflower stems taste great mashed into soups or potatoes. Crusts or day-old bread also make a great crouton. One festival, Feeding the 5,000, partnered with an environmental organization and a Michelin-starred restaurant to reduce waste while feeding the hungry. This program turned many high-end restaurants’ waste from the previous night into enough meals to feed 5,000 for free.

As 2017 continues forward, think about ways your restaurant can reduce waste. While consumers love great deals on food, they now show concern about food waste as well. Many initiatives are in place to help reduce waste and restaurants and consumers alike can take action. For more information on this topic, and how you can help reduce waste, visit www.foodwastealliance.org.

2017 Food Trends- The Rise of Vegetables

As food trends emerge, vegetables have become a mainstay in several dishes in restaurants. Several factors play into the growing population of vegetables and vegetarian meals. Vegetable DishMany Americans have become more health conscious, looking for ways to incorporate healthy living into their food. The cost and sustainability of meat has also played a factor in customers consuming less meat and more vegetables. In 2016, vegetables entered the food scene with a bang and will not disappear any time soon.

Vegetables in Diets

Many customers in today’s culture follow strict diets, but do not want to stop dining out. Especially true for Millennials, who consider themselves trend and diet followers, but also view dining out as a social experience. In fact, vegan or gluten-free food resonates especially well for this generation. For those who follow the paleo diet, vegetable noodles

Veggie Pasta

substitute great for pasta in many dishes. In fact, the National Restaurant Association lists this pasta trend in the top 25 overall. Cauliflower has also entered a variety of meals through the means of cauliflower rice and cauliflower pizza crust. For vegetarians and vegans, vegetables have always served as a main dish.  Vegetarian meals such as black bean burgers and eggplant parmesan are just a couple of these classics. Now with the growing vegetarian population, chefs have learned to love cooking without meat.

Vegetables in Ethnic Cuisines

In the United States, meat and potatoes are a mainstay; however taste bud curiosity has driven Americans to step outside the normal American cuisine.  Ethnic food has Greek Veggie Burgercertainly made its way into various restaurants, showcasing a variety of new dishes with a vegetable focus. With the rise of ethnic food, chefs have integrated many vegetarian meals on to their menu. These cuisines have taught American chefs and consumers that a delicious hearty meal does not need traditional meat protein. Many cultures do not even consider their dishes vegetarian, just delicious, robust meals. The use of various herbs and spices has taken center stage as well. The use of ethnic flavors intend to spice up vegetables, making sure customers do not miss the meat.

With the growing popularity of vegetables in American restaurants, look for ways to make customers want to come back for more. Whether substituting veggies for grains or going meatless; give customers plenty menu options in regards to vegetables. Trend analysts expect ethnic vegetarian cuisine and plant-based proteins to continue to grow in popularity in 2017. Explore different spices, play around with different recipes and you will find a vegetable-based meal the customer will love.

2017 Food Trends- Clean Eating

In the first segment of the four-week “Trendy Tuesday” segment we will discuss clean eating. Clean eating combines transparency, organic foods, and nutrition into one. This trend focuses more on wholesome eating rather than dieting. While many consumers have different ideas and guidelines regarding clean eating, the general idea follows a healthy lifestyle.

Clean Eating Defined

Customers crave clean eating, meaning they look for minimally processed and nutrient rich foods. A major component of clean eating is transparency; customers want to know what exactly they are eating. Transparency begins with the growing and raising methods of the product. Next, the manufacturing process put in to the product. Last, the preparation of the dish. Put simply, transparency lets the customer know exactly what they eat from farm to table. Organic foods often add to transparency clean eating in whole foodsas customers know the product contains no artificial additives. In addition to whole foods, customers are concerned about nutrition now more than ever. The clean eating lifestyle uses a great deal of whole foods; fruits, vegetables, whole grains and proteins, to give consumers the nutrients they desire.

Clean Eating Foods

As clean eating grows in popularity, many whole foods and drinks are also appearing on menus across the nation. Many customers search for protein-rich whole grains or legumes to receive protein in non-animal products. These plant sources; such as quinoa, farro and black beans, provide customers with excellent nutrition and when cooked from raw, contain only the ingredient itself. Another popular clean eating food item is coconut. Coconut has mainstreamed the US market for a few years now. In addition to coconut water, milk and oil, items such as coconut flour and sugar have hit the market. For gut health, fermentation is all the rage in today’s market. Fermented foods including miso, kimchi, sauerkraut and other vegetables are showing up on menus everywhere.

Clean Eating on a Menu

Restaurants can easily incorporate these food trends into their menus. Adding grains to a salad, or making a black bean burger easily integrates these plants into your dishes. A great way to add coconut into yourClean eating from the garden menu is through a drink. Adding coconut water to cocktails, or this year’s popular mocktail trend is a great way for customers to receive the many health benefits of coconut. In addition, consider adding fermented veggies to a shared plate or appetizer dish. Colorful fermented vegetables will also add a great visual appeal to a meat or cheese board.

Adding clean eating menu options to your restaurant will allow customers to follow food trends while sticking to their New Year’s resolutions. Stick with a transparent menu and train your wait staff on the ingredients in each dish. When possible, try to add organic or minimally processed ingredients to your restaurant’s grocery list. The more whole foods and clean foods used in your restaurant, the more customers will come back for more.