OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. -- Lots of creative thinking goes on in the restaurant industry, making it difficult to narrow down a collection of great ideas to just 50. CSP Daily News companion publication Restaurant Business came across hundreds of good ones in the 16 months since the last roundup.
Some were interesting but too familiar. Others were whimsical but did nothing to drive sales. What separates the "good" from the "great" here is an idea that differentiates a business and moves it forward.
Many may be adaptable to your convenience store and other foodservice operations. Here is a random sampling:
- Deliver a taste of catering. About six months ago, Chicago-based Roti Mediterranean Grill began sending boxes of its Petite Pitas to nearby office buildings as a teaser to its menu to gain new lunchtime clientele and spark future catering orders. Similarly Chick-fil-A sends mini versions of its chicken-and-biscuit breakfast sandwiches for all to try, hoping to boost awareness of its morning menu.
- Turning parking lots into modern-day pit stops. Tesla's decision to locate its supercharging stations--places where drivers of its electric cars can recharge in as little as 20 minutes--near roadside eateries is not only convenient for road trippers, its a traffic driver for the restaurants. Several Carl's Jr. locations in Arizona, a Kansas Applebee's and Harris Ranch Inn and Restaurant in California are just some of the select operators sharing space in or around their parking lots for the drivers.
- Supporting the "troops." Every March, Twisted Root Burger Co., based in Dallas, rolls out a Girl Scout Cookies milkshake. This year, the chain gave its whole 500-box order to one troop. To find its young partners, it ran a "Twisted Cookie Scout-Out" promotion via Facebook that tapped the local community, asking Scouts in its areas of operation to submit a video about why they love Twisted Root. The best video won the order, and the chain won the favor of not only the kids and parents but customers who voted online.
- Reward social-media shoutouts. Every week, a team at Firehouse Subs' corporate office trolls the web for customer feedback, culling top mentions of great service. Two to four times a month, an executive surprises a restaurant, telling the story of an employee's above-average service and then rewarding the entire staff with thank-you cards and $50 for each worker to promote team spirit as well as stellar service.
- Chipotle's pillars of throughput. In the third quarter of 2014, Chipotle Mexican Grill increased its throughput--something management has declared a priority--by six transactions during the peak hours of lunch and dinner, respectively, compared to the same time last year. The secret to its speedy success (the result of which is added sales), is a strategy Chipotle has dubbed the "four pillars of throughput"--four necessities for keeping the line moving efficiently. They are:
- A dedicated expeditor: Someone stationed just before the cashier to handle drink and side orders and bag to-go items.
- A linebacker: This person's sole job is to keep the ingredients on the line stocked, so other workers can focus on customer orders.
- Proper mise en place: The chain says it spends hours prepping its food onsite so each order can be ready in seconds.
- Aces in their places: This means staffing each position with its best employees during peak periods.
Click here to view the full list and to see if you agree with their picks.