Category Archives: Industry News

Online Restaurant Reservations | Booking Online Reservations | Central Restaurant Products

As millennials buying power continues to grow, many businesses are adapting to accommodate their preferences.  This is a generation in search of convenience, opting to do what they can with a click of a button on their phone without having to speak to anyone. This includes quickly making restaurant reservations, whether last-minute or planning a special occasion.

For many small businesses, building a website advanced enough to allow for online reservations can be a daunting and costly endeavor.   Some restaurants may have the ability to manage their own reservations; but, they may also be in search of new ways to market to a broader group of diners, or just trying to get their name out there more.

We wanted to break down a few of the bigger players in this space to give a high-level overview of what they offer.  One option isn’t better than the other. It all depends on your personalized business needs.

Open Table

According to OpenTable’s site they offer restaurant marketing, data analytics, training, support and more for restaurants who sign up.  Some compelling stats of the reach they can offer your business include:

  • 21 million diners find restaurants through OpenTable each month
  • Their diners have spent more than $16 billion at partner restaurants
  • OpenTable diners write more than 850,000 reviews each month

Their app is user friendly, allowing a potential diner to search by location, time and day and then expand differently.  You can also select a restaurant based on recommended options, cuisine type, and more.

Open Table

Open Table’s Mobile User Interface

Outside of the breadth of restaurants on OpenTable, potential diners may choose to use this reservation option over others because of the perks of booking through their site or app.  Each reservation offers points that a diner can cash in for gift cards to OpenTable restaurants or Amazon.  This could potentially sway guests away from making the reservation directly on the restaurant’s website, opting to use OpenTable instead.

Open Table Rewards

Open Table Rewards

OpenTable offers two different package options: GuestCenter or Connect.  Connect is their standard offering that features “more covers without the table management.” GuestCenter, on the other hand, is a cloud based service that runs on both Apple and web-based products, marketed as their premium level of service.

This chart from their website makes it easy to compare the pros between the two:

Open Table: GuestCenter vs. Connect

Courtesy of www.opentable.com

Additionally, there is a $1,295 set-up cost when you start with them.  OpenTable allows you to accept reservations through their website or through your own website via a widget.

You can find more information on all OpenTable can offer here.

Yelp

Yelp bills themselves as a better restaurant booking system at a lower cost.  The stats they offer are:

  • 92 million diners seated in 2016
  • Number one most frequently used site for finding restaurants
  • Save, on average, $800 for every 1,000 online reservation

Yelp officially got in to the online reservation game in 2014, having already acquired SeatMe in 2013, leveraging the 95 million plus who use Yelp monthly. They went on to acquire Eat 24 in 2015, and partnered with NoWait, a company that helps diners skip the waiting time, in 2017.

They offer a single standard plan cheaper than the OpenTable options. There is a flat monthly fee for service and that’s it. No set-up fee, no individual reservation fee, no hidden fee.

Yelp Reservations

While the pricing is more affordable, the ability to search based on open tables on a specific date and time is not yet available. 

To use, a potential diner searches by area and selects the restaurant to view availability.  This can be a drawback to someone looking to make quick reservations.

Yelp also displays restaurant reviews front and center. This is a nice experience for potential diners to see, but if a restaurant has less than stellar reviews through the Yelp service, it may not be the best option for them.  It also shows the most recent review below the star rating.  If a restaurant has several great reviews, but your most recent one is negative, it will unfortunately be the review potential guests see until a new review comes in.

Like OpenTable, you can accept reservations through Yelp or through your own site with their widget. You can find more information on what Yelp could offer your restaurant by clicking here.

Resy

Resy is a complete restaurant reservation and waitlist system, boasting:

  • 80 million diners seated
  • 8% global no show rate
  • 2,000 venues live
  • 160 global cities

Like Yelp, the cost structure on Resy is based on a flat fee; however, they offer more plan options ranging from $189/month to $899/month.Resy

The search functionality allows users to search by date and guest count, and will show open time slots right on the search result page.

The downside of using this option is the reach.  Since the service is only available in select cities, you are not reaching as many potential diners.  It also curates the results, so your restaurant may not show in all searches.  This is done with the potential diner in mind based on what they search and book; however, this can present a challenge in acquiring new customers.

You can find more information on what Resy could offer your restaurant by clicking here.

Restaurant Sustainability: Best Practices

Today’s restaurant goers care more than ever about where their food comes from, responsible business practices and social responsibility.  In short, they care about restaurant sustainability and they speak with their wallets.  Sustainable practices are not only good for the environment, they can also save you money.  With this in mind, we took some time to scour the web for the easiest ways to improve restaurant sustainability and have aggregated the best ones for you!

Restaurant Sustainability: Best Practices

  1. Source Local: According to lightspeedhq.com, “purchasing food from a local vendor or farmers’ market means that the trip to your restaurant is shorter and less gas has been used on the journey”.  In addition, this supports local farmers and suppliers, and customers view this in a positive light.
  2. Cook What’s in Season: Openforbusiness.opentable.com suggests changing your menu four times a year (once for each season) and rotating new dishes in every six weeks or so to accommodate ingredients with short growing seasons.  In addition, if you can grow it yourself, do it!
  3. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: This is a very simple way to not only cut costs, but to improve your restaurant sustainability.  According to buzztime, you can: buy kitchen and bar mats made from 100% recycled materials; recycle wood boxes, cardboard and glass bottles; and opt for beverage and takeout containers made from recycled paper or compostable materials.
  4. Recycle Fryer Oil: You may not even have to go anywhere to do this.  According to starchefs.com “there are biofuel companies across the country that will pick it up and convert it”.  The win is two-fold here.  You recycle your old oil, and you provide a cleaner source of fuel.
  5. Don’t Waste Ice: It takes energy and water to make ice, so don’t just automatically refill ice bins.  Starchefs.com suggests waiting until the bins get truly low, and only adding as much as needed to get through.

These tips are among the easiest to implement and can begin having a positive impact on your sales and reputation in the community.  Little steps add up and make a big difference over time, so keep it up!

 

Tuesday Tip: Revisit Common Food Safety Practices this Fourth of July Holiday!

Happy Fourth of July!

As we celebrate our nation’s independence over this holiday, it is common for restaurants to experience increased volume. As Restaurant.org points out, it is always important to follow proper food safety, but this increased traffic provides an opportunity to revisit some basics. Here are a few quick food safety tips via Restaurant.org.

  1. Keep food out of the temperature danger zone

With this increase in volume, there is a tendency to bring out large quantities of ingredients to make prep time quicker. However, it’s important to make sure these ingredients don’t fall below the danger temperature mark. To avoid this, only pull out limited quantities. Shop our large selection of food prep thermometers here.

  1. Double-check sanitizer concentration levels

Any surface in which food comes into contact with must be cleaned and sanitized. When there’s need for quick table turns, this sometimes gets overlooked. Assign someone on the shift to check sanitizer levels every hour. Shop cleaning supplies here.

  1. Wash your hands

This may seem obvious, but it is the most important element of good food safety, and the easiest way to reduce the risk of cross contamination. The faster we work, the less inclined we are to slow down for handwashing. Keep all sinks stocked with soap and reinforce this importance with your staff. Shop soap and restroom supplies here.

Stainless Steel Faucet

Stainless Steel: What You Need to Know

If you saw our recent Tuesday Tip on the differences between stainless steel and aluminum foodservice equipment and supplies, then you’re already a little familiar with a few of the classifications of stainless steel. I wanted to take an opportunity to expand upon these classifications (five in all) and overview a few areas from series to gauges you are likely to come across when researching stainless steel equipment.

Stainless Steel Classifications

1. Austenitic

Austenitic stainless steel is a very common type as it’s one of the most weldable. It’s used for a plethora of industrial and consumer applications, and can be divided into three groups: chromium-nickel (300 series), manganese-chromium-nickel-nitrogen (200 series), and specialty alloys.

2. Ferritic

Another common type of stainless steel, ferritic steel is comprised of iron-chromium alloys. Qualities include good conductibility and formability. Some common types of ferritic steel include 409 and 405 series used in mufflers, kitchen counter and sinks, exhaust systems, etc.

3. Martensitic

Martensitic steels include series 403, 410 and 420. This steel is similar to ferritic steel, but contains more of a balance of Chromium and Nitrogen.

4. Duplex

Duplex steel has a microstructure of equal amounts of ferritic and austenitic steel and usually contains around 25% chromium and 5% nickel. Duplex steel has a high yield strength and a greater resistance to corrosion cracking, and is primarily used in chemical plants and piping applications.

5. Precipitation Hardening

This type of stainless steel is characterized by it’s ability to be hardened by a solution and aging heat treatment. These are comprised of chromium and nickel.

Stainless Steel Gauges

The gauge is the thickness of the stainless steel. The lower the number of the gauge, the thicker and more durable the stainless steel. Common types of gauges are 18, 16, and 14. A 14 gauge worktable is much less susceptible to denting than an 18 gauge table.

The gauge of many types of stainless steel equipment and supplies, most notably stainless steel flatware, will include two numbers and may read something like 18/10, 18/8, or 18/0. This refers to the percentages of chromium and nickel, respectively, in the stainless steel alloy. Unlike how the lowest gauge is thicker than the higher gauges, the higher the nickel percentage has greater resistance to rust and corrosion.

Common Stainless Steel Series

The series of stainless steel relates to the the classification of stainless steel listed above. Some common types of series you are likely to come across include 200 series, 300 series, and 400 series.

200 Series

200 series stainless steel contains 16-18% chromium, 3.5-5.5% nickel, 5.5-7.5% manganese, as well as smaller doses of sulfur, carbon, phosphorous, and nitrogen. 200 series usually refers to austenitic stainless steel, and is used in a variety of applications such as automotive parts, clamps, cookware, food service equipment, kitchen utensils, sinks, etc.

300 Series

16-18% chromium, 6-8% nickel. 300 series is also an austenitic classification of stainless steel, offering good levels of conductibility and high strength with solid corrosion and oxidation resistance. It’s used in a variety of industrial products.

400 Series

10.5-11.7% chromium and varying, but relatively low, degrees of nickel, carbon, manganese, silicon, sulfur, phosphorus and nitrogen. Contains titanium. Designed primarily for the automotive industry, in particular exhaust systems.

Have anything to add? Let us know in the comments!

You may also enjoy our blog on types of applications for stainless steel equipment.

Chef in kitchen with professional restaurant equipment

Foodservice Industry News Week in Brief: June 2, 2017

Friday has finally arrived!  Start your weekend with the latest foodservice industry news and Central-exclusive content for the week of May 29-June 2!

Foodservice Industry News

  1. Restaurant Business Online: 50 Twists on Iconic Sandwiches
  2. National Restaurant Association: 7 NRA Show Standouts for Healthful Menu Options
  3. Nation’s Restaurant News: Burgers at Quick Service Become Less Popular as Price Climbs
  4. Bloomberg Businessweek: America’s Fastest Growing Restaurant is on a Roll
  5. CNBC: This is Denny’s Ace in the Hole as it Ventures into Delivery
  6. Restaurant Hospitality: Snail Comes out of the Shell and onto the Menu
  7. Delish: The 55 Most Delish Ice Cream Cakes
  8. FESMag: 10 Foodservice Trends for 2017 and Their E&S Implications
  9. Business Insider: Burger King’s Most Bizzare Menu Item is “Back by Popular Demand”
  10. CNBC: McDonald’s Delivery to be Available in 3,500 Restaurants by end of June

Central Blogs

  1. Tuesday Tip: Choose the Right Knife for the Job
  2. Grilled Nachos: A Summertime Favorite

Central Promos

The new catalog has arrived! Want the latest version? Click here to request a copy!

Visit CentralRestaurant.com to view current promotions, or click the links below.

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The NAFEM Show 2017

That’s a Wrap – Our NAFEM Recap

Another NAFEM (North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers) is in the books! We had a great time walking the floor and learning more about new trends and designs that are making a splash in the world of foodservice. We got to catch up with some of our biggest vendors, as well as meet potential new ones, and discover innovations to better enable us to continue fulfilling our purpose – to equip people who feed the world.

Here’s what was hot at this year’s show.

Enhanced Technology

Technological innovations have redefined the ways nearly all industries conduct business. From the mainstream use of smart phones to advanced computer systems that save us all time and money. This is especially true in the world of foodservice. At the show we saw our share of internet-enabled remote and programmable equipment that assists in automating cooking processes while providing that individualized experience customers expect. Examples include the abundance of new coffee makers and espresso machines that can be programmed to make that trendy, high-end latte in a fraction of the time (and price) as traditional espresso machines.

There were also plenty of innovations in the beer and wine scene, like this “Growler to Go” machine that allows users to hit a button and fill their own growlers.

 

Putting the Customer First in Food Preparation

Manufacturers continue to go out of their way to deliver new solutions to better enhance the customer experience. This year’s big focus was on color-coding supplies to prevent cross-contamination, accommodating guests with dietary restrictions. This includes tools for allergy-friendly food preparation. Be on the lookout for more purple products, like storage containers and cutting boards, that signify the product is may contain a popular allergen, like peanuts.

 

San Jamar unveiled their new bandage dispenser with blue bandages that standout more in food dishes than traditional beige bandages, making them easier to spot and keeping sanitary food prep practices the main priority.

More Environmental and Budget Friendly Options

Another trend in recent years is putting an emphasis on social responsibility and being conscience of energy consumption. This year, every category offered new products that provide high performance without consuming the amount of energy they used to. Such products include holding and transport equipment that can retain heat longer without a utility hookup, and green servingware options.

Water-saving options were also plentiful.

As a distributor, trade shows like this provide an incredible opportunity to network and learn more about what we can be offering to better serve our customers. But the benefits don’t stop there. NAFEM is a great opportunity for anyone involved in the foodservice industry. Meet with like-minded industry professionals, share stories, learn from the best, showcase your products and discover innovations that could transform the way you do business. The next NAFEM will be hosted February 7 – 9, 2019 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL. We hope to see you there!

Customer Rewards Cards

Customer Loyalty Considerations: Pros and Cons of Reward Programs

Any more, it seems nearly all types of businesses offer a customer rewards program. Often, the theory behind implementing a rewards program is to retain current customers, turn new customers into returning customers, and reward loyalty. Here, we outline the pros and cons of starting such a program, and offer some considerations for businesses thinking of implementing their own.

Types of Rewards Programs

There are three popular types of rewards program you’re most likely to come across in today’s market.

  1. The Frequency Program

The classic punch card style. The “buy nine, get the tenth free!” reward system created to inspire regular visits. The pros? It’s simple, low cost, and easy to set up and hit the ground running.

Cons? It’s one more card for customers to carry and remember they have. I don’t know about you, but my wallet is overflowing with these types of cards that I never seem to think about until AFTER I’ve made nine purchases and could get the tenth free, consistently forgetting to have my card punched. I know, negligence on my part, but it’s frustrating nonetheless.

The information you collect with this type of program is minimal. This creates hurdles in the way of future marketing efforts. One of the biggest benefits of loyalty programs is the ability to collect information to tailor promotional branding for your establishment.

  1. The Points Program

Spend more, earn more points, redeem for rewards! We all want that free flight or trip to Hawaii. And like the punch card style, it’s simple, easy to understand, and depending on the reward, can provide an awesome incentive to visit your business frequently. It’s easily customizable to reward customers with bigger prizes for making bigger purchases.

Cons? No instant gratification. Users must wait longer to collect prizes, and maintaining this program takes more effort and organization (keeping track of customers’ points and reminding them of where they stand and how far away they are for prizes).

  1. The Cash Back Program

Also known as the rebate program. Customers can earn money back depending on their purchasing behavior to spend on future purchases exclusively at your business. This has worked wonders in retail (think Kohls Cash), and certainly has a place in foodservice. Who doesn’t love free money, and earning money for purchases can make customers feel good about spending their dollars at your place. Requiring they return to spend their reward is a wildly effective way to turn new customers into regulars.

Cons? Like the points program, rewards take a while to build. This isn’t always a negative, though, as it incentivizes visitors to spend to earn. However, if customers visit infrequently, this type of program may have less appeal.

Bottom-Line Benefits

Loyalty programs have been shown to generate brand awareness and create profitability. It is six times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep one. Rewards programs have been shown to help with customer retention with a steady return on investment. If you are considering starting a rewards program, we recommend checking out this beginner’s guide to customer loyalty.