Restaurant Industry Insider 2/20/2011

Another week has passed and if you are reading this, you have survived the Valentine’s Day weekend.  Hopefully you all did well enough to negate any damage done to your sales by the recent snowpocalypse.  This week we had the nominees for the restaurant equivalent of the Oscars, a few major reports making news, and many companies filing earnings reports.  As always, I have done my best to keep on top of all of it for you.  Here is what I think managers should know about from the last week in restaurant news.

This week the semi-finalists for the James Beard Awards were named.  These awards cover a variety of areas and also include regional nominees.  They include my favorite chef, Jonathan Justus of Justus Drugstore.  Check out the list and make your reservations accordingly.

This week also featured earnings reports from some of the industry’s largest names.  Here are the highlights:

Bravo/Brio is down

PF Chang’s is up

Benihana is up

Denny’s is down

Red Robin is up

Bob Evans is down

Ruth’s is up

As a totally unsolicited and unsponsored recommendation, I find that The Street consistently provides the most accurate and informed analysis of the restaurant industry.  If you are not familiar with the site, check it out.

The big headlines in papers all across the country the reports released by Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROCU).  They released three studies last weekend highlighting the frequency of restaurant employees working while sick.  They have been doing these studies in cities across the country for a few years.  This information is terrifying to the dining public and is intended to serve as a call to action for restaurants nationwide.

12% Of Restaurant Workers Come In While Vomiting

Restaurant Workers Prepare & Serve Food While Ill

Minority restaurant workers get the shaft

Tomatoes have once again resurfaced as a hot topic.  A few years ago it was the salmonella scare.  This year it was a freeze that brought them back to headlines.  Restaurants are cutting back or charging more for tomatoes.

For most companies though, tomatoes are the least of their problems.  Here are a few articles from the last week alone that discuss how some companies are trying to cope:

Restaurants turn inventive to avoid increasing prices

US Casual-Dining Companies Explore Smaller-Format Restaurants

25+ years and counting: Restaurant veterans spill secrets to success

Hot Restaurant Tech: Coca-Cola’s Freestyle, iPad Wine Lists, and more!

And to conclude the week here are some miscellaneous items of interest from the restaurant world:

Valentine’s Day Restaurant Reservations Up: OpenTable

Venting to restaurants via e-mail

Corkage Etiquette in Restaurants

Diabetic’s discrimination lawsuit against restaurant is hard to swallow

I hope everyone is looking forward to a far more relaxing week.  When things slow down to normal again you have the opportunity to coast or to grow.  Looking at what is working for others is one of the best ways to help grow your customer base and your sales.  The recovery is imminent, but we are facing a spike in food prices that threatens to offset it.  Look at you numbers and see what you can do to maintain profit margins.  This is the time to put the systems in place to prevent a cold spell from ruining your recovery.

Tips²: Tips For Improving Your Tips, the new book from the author of The Manager’s Office, teaches the skills of exceptional servers that will increase customer satisfaction and dramatically improve restaurant sales.  This book is more than a server training manual.  It is the secret to teaching your staff to enjoy selling and give your guests the experience that will create raving fans.  To learn more about the book, visit  Use the coupon code “MANAGER” to save 20% at the checkout.

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About David Hayden

David Hayden is a restaurant marketing and training consultant based in Kansas City, MO. He writes a series of 9 blogs collectively known as The Hospitality Formula Network and is the author of "Tips2: Tips For Improving Your Tips" and "Building Your Brand With Facebook"

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