• OpenTable and Square appear to be invading each other’s turf
• Better menu design + healthy choices = higher profits
• Roy Choi scores his own gig on CNN
• Cautious consumers do more restaurant window shopping
• Casual and midscale restaurants losing traffic
OpenTable and Square appear to be invading each other’s turf.
Mobile users and small businesses know Square as a credit card payment convenience; restaurants and diners know OpenTable as a reservations service. Recently, both companies announced plans to move beyond their traditional roles.
Square is offering a new service, Appointments, that will allow businesses to offer online booking. The service is expected to cost businesses $30 to $90 a month, depending on the size.
OpenTable, on the other hand, announced expansion of a pilot project that allows diners to pay for meals with their phones. It will be a free service for the company’s 31,000 restaurant partners.
Good for restaurants? Probably. Anything that makes it easier for guests to book a table and pay for a meal more easily can’t be bad.
To profit from encouraging healthier eating, consider retooling your menu design.
Brian Wansink, the Cornell professor best known for his studies on eating behavior, says menu layout and wording can heavily influence what people order. And if those healthier items have higher profit margins, well….it’s all good.
Wansink’s suggestions include substituting descriptions like “light and fresh” for “healthy,” selling half portions for 70 percent of the full-portion price and calling out higher-margin choices in bold type or boxes.
Kogi taco creator Roy Choi is filming a new show for CNN.
The chef arguably most responsible for the popularity of food trucks reportedly is working with the network on a show tentatively called, appropriately, Street Food. Choi announced the news on Twitter: “I got my own show&it’s from the heart on the biggest platform down2the smallest detail. #CNN #StreetFood.”
Details about the show remain scarce.
The CNN deal comes on the heels of Choi’s latest restaurant, Commissary, which opened in early August. It’s a rooftop restaurant located inside a greenhouse atop The Line Hotel in the city’s Koreatown. LAist, which provided a peek at the menu, described Choi’s veggie-focused concept this way:
“Each dish at Commissary is plated with a smattering of five different types of sauces, Choi's mother sauces, if you will: red (chiles, garlic, onion), green (garlic), brown (chiles, soy), yellow (onion, soy), and rainbow (nuts, garlic, chiles). Though the emphasis is on vegetables, there are hearty meaty options too, like thinly pounded pork schnitzel, succulent scallops, and steak served with hearty dose of brown sauce mixed with A1.”
Restaurant design is taking on more weight with cautious consumers.
Joshua Zinder, an architect and designer whose JZA+D firm has created restaurants around the world, says the dining public is gravitating toward restaurants that make their offering clear through design. “Many are revamping layouts so their chefs or best dishes are immediately visible to passersby on the street or in the mall, even before they enter.”
Why the pressure for transparency? “People are more cautious about where they eat and what they spend these days,” Zinder reasons. “More visibility helps them take the plunge.
Other trends on Zinder’s radar:
• Dessert rooms—guests retire to a different location, table or service format to enjoy dessert, coffee and drinks.
• More flex spaces that can be converted to private dining.
Restaurant unit growth has stalled; casual and midscale restaurants are taking the biggest hits.
The NPD Group says flat visits by consumers have stagnated development of new restaurants. The total count of U.S. eateries stands at 635,494, up a mere .8 percent over last year. Chains added 80 percent of those new locations.
Traffic to casual and midscale full-service restaurants suffered the most, declining 3 and 4 percent, respectively, during the year ending in June. The research firm projects overall guest counts to grow less than one percent for each of the next several years.