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Restauranteur Blog

Restaurant Website Platform launches Parallel 38

Vincent Gisriel - Friday, February 28, 2014

We are extremely proud to introduce Parallel 38 - a new Mediterranean cuisine restaurant in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Justin Ross formerly of Zaytinya and Zola in Washington DC invested an entire year into to creating this warm and inviting small plate concept that takes his guests on a tour of all the incredible wines and flavors that the 38th Parallel has to offer. The food at Parallel 38 is designed to be shared with friends while sipping wine, craft beer or cocktails. Their menu consists of house made spreads, artisanal cheeses, cured meats, fresh seafood, rustic meat dishes and eclectic vegetables. Parallel 38 incorporated cork tiles and black board paint for the walls, an open kitchen and ceiling, local soap stone for the bar and reclaimed factory carts for the seating. The restaurant mixes industrial materials with warm accents from black leather and artist designed lighting to pull you in.

So when RWP was hired to design their website, we took all the elements that make Parallel 38 unique and brought them together. Our goal was to bring the great flavors and minimalist facade of the restaurant to the website. Because this is a new restaurant, we really wanted their guests to feel welcome when they first visit the site and make a reservation. A professional photographer was hired to capture the food and the decor perfectly. This horizontal responsive site will adapt to any size screen on any device. We also added a custom Twitter feed section to the homepage so that guests can stay current on all the happenings in the restaurant. Soon Parallel 38 will even offer wine tastings, cooking classes and gift cards for purchase online. Like all the websites that we develop, we used the Adobe Business Catalyst platform. This way when this restaurant wants to turn up the heat on marketing, they will be ready to cook.

We pride ourselves on clean, simple and intelligently designed websites. We hope that in your travels you stop by Parallel 38 (www.p38cville.com) and taste the amazing food and wine that they have to offer. For more information about Business Catalyst platform, contact Vincent directly at 301.537.8500 or email me directly at vincent@rwp123.com.

Automatic gratuity at restaurants is re-classified by the IRS

Vincent Gisriel - Monday, January 06, 2014

As of January 1, 2014, the Internal Revenue Service will classify the automatic gratuities that most restaurants add to a table of six or more customers as a service charge. Service charges will now be classified as taxable income just like regular wages and will be subject to payroll tax withholding.

So what does this mean for the employer and employees in the restaurant business?

Employers (restaurant owners) have pretty much decided to do away with automatic gratuity practices to avoid the nightmare of additional accounting. Employees such as bartenders, servers and bus persons are basically screwed because customers can get away with not tipping the correct amount on large checks. A waitress who did not want to give her name from a large restaurant corporation explains, "The only good part about taking care of large parties was that you always knew that you were going to be paid fairly for your hard work. Now that security blanket is gone and we will just have to take our chances. This is a just another example of how the rich continue to get richer and the poor stay poor."

Some restaurants have decided to add a suggested tip amount to each and every check that starts at 18% goes to 20% and even shows 22% to combat the recent changes. It will take some time to see if customers decide to do the right thing when it comes to tipping. And here is a quick reminder for anyone who doesn't know already, most bartenders, servers and bus persons are living day by day on the tips that you leave at your favorite restaurant. The tips are their salary.

Can Craig's List job listings find great employees for my restaurant?

Vincent Gisriel - Monday, November 04, 2013

Craig's List is certainly a great way to let the people know that your restaurant is currently searching for some qualified talent. For $25 or even free, a restaurant can throw up an ad on Craig's List and see what the universe throws back. The truth about hiring for the restaurant business is that you really never know the skill of your employee until you are in the weeds. People that apply for restaurant jobs always talk a big game, but it's not until the restaurant is slammed with customers that the truth comes out.

The next time you are in a busy restaurant sit back and pay attention to the person on the floor that is moving the slowest. I know what you're thinking, slow means bad. Not in this case, slow means good. Slow means that employee is in control, has experience and works efficiently. I'm not talking turtle slow, but when your server or bartender is collecting information from you in an relaxed fashion while fixing problems before they arise, then you'll know that you have the right person. There are exceptions to this rule but the employees rushing around and freaking out are not getting much of anything accomplished. Restaurant people that know what they're doing, understand the only way to get through a crazy rush is to take your time.

All of the websites that we design for restaurants are on Business Catalyst and include a built-in online job application form. This way when you do place an ad out there to find help, you can link them right to your website. Once an applicant hits send on your application, it creates a specific workflow to your managers. Owners or managers are then emailed the application to review for an interview.

We don't know if Craig's List is the answer to restaurant hiring but it is the most effective tool for finding the most applicants in a short amount of time. Connecting future employees to a page on your website to fill out your application keeps all of your prospects in your email account and helps you stay organized. But remember, you won't know if that employee has what it takes to handle the pressure until they are thrown into the fire.

Restaurants can thrive from e-mail marketing

Vincent Gisriel - Tuesday, May 28, 2013

One of the most valuable pieces of advice we give our restaurant clients is to start using e-mail marketing to turn your restaurant customers into regulars. E-mail marketing is affordable and trackable. Which separates it from print advertising.

According to a study conducted by Living Social, “84% of restaurant operators consider restaurant-specific marketing e-mails to be effective in raising their revenue. Customers view restaurants that use online marketing as trustworthy and upscale. They also perceive those restaurants to be modern and popular places to dine.”

We come across restaurants everyday that need help with their e-mail marketing efforts. Restaurants are now looking for more than just a website, they need support and personalized service to back them up. We realize that restaurant owners or managers simply don’t have time to sit in the office and send e-mail marketing campaigns. That is why we created our 4-Course plan to help restaurants deliver monthly e-mail campaigns to drum up business and stay in touch with their regular customers. Contact us today at RWP123.com to learn more about what Restaurant Website platform can do for your restaurant.

Understanding the cash flow of a restaurant

Vincent Gisriel - Friday, March 15, 2013

The restaurant business is unlike almost every other business you can imagine. From the outside world, people often scratch their heads when they see the restaurant down the street closing their doors for good. They say, "We loved that place, the food was great and it was always busy. We don't understand what happened."

Most restaurant that fail run out of the CASH it takes to keep the business going. If the business owner does not understand the concept of restaurant cash flow from day one, the restaurant itself is doomed from the start. Put simply, cash flow is the amount of cash a restaurant has coming in versus the amount of cash going out.

Successful restaurants have discovered that cash flow should be monitored on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. To understand restaurant cash flow, you first must take into account what your restaurant owes for the week. By determining exactly what bills are due like rent, payroll and vendor invoices you can compare that with an estimate of upcoming sales. The key word here is ESTIMATE. That is why the strongest restaurants can always tell you how much money they pulled in last year on this day, explain special events and tell you what the weather was like. They keep a daily log so that they can estimate their cash flow.

Here are some of the major expenses that eat up a restaurant's cash flow:

  1. Payroll
  2. Rent, Mortgages or Personal Loans
  3. Vendor Bills
  4. Food Inventory
  5. The Unknown

Payroll is where most of the problems start when a restaurant is headed down the wrong path. You must pay your employees on time, every time for them to be happy and productive. They should be your first priority when it comes to paying bills.

We all know that when the rent or mortgage is due, it's due and must be paid on time. The same is true for vendor bills such as monthly phone service, Internet, electricity and water. Good cash flow days or not, they must be paid on time or these services will most likely be shut off.

Food Inventory is one of the hardest parts of the entire restaurant industry. The key to managing this is to keep your food inventory low while keeping your cash flow high. You really never know how much of one item you are going to sell in a week or how much will be left in the walk-in to spoil. So again, by keeping an extremely detailed account of how many NY Strip steaks your restaurant sold last year on this day, can really help when it comes to forecasting. The weather people on TV can't get the forecast right, so there are going to be unexpected slow days and nights due to crazy mother nature.

 Unknown expenses alway catch the unexperienced restaurant owners off guard. The restroom has a busted pipe, the freezer is down, the grill is not working on one side and we need to reprint the menus are all unexpected cash flow nightmares. Even though your initial business plan may have included a budget for repairs, maintenance and incidentals it never seems to end with these types of bills.

We have worked with restaurants all over the country and the most successful ones always say the same thing. "You must keep an emergency piggy bank fund for the restaurant" We know that this statement sounds easier to say than to produce. Thriving restaurants realize that by saving cash early on it prevents the need to scramble when things get tight.

Here at Restaurant Website Platform, we understand the cash flow patterns and challenges of your business. That is why we have structured the pricing of our custom restaurant websites to benefit you, the restaurant owner. With every website we build you also get monthly support from us to keep your website current and save you time and money. Our upgraded plans offer in-depth Internet marketing support and online reputation monitoring on review sites for restaurants at extremely affordable monthly rates.

 You won't have to come up with thousands of dollars to have an amazing website that can compete with any restaurant on your block. We want you to keep that cash fund handy so you can succeed. Our websites are $500 for design and development and start as low as $199/month. Contact us at 301.537.8500 or vincent@rwp123.com to talk about how we can help your restaurant.

Why does my restaurant need a new website?

Vincent Gisriel - Thursday, February 28, 2013

That is the number one question that we hear everyday at Restaurant Website Platform. So, we thought we would take a few moments and answer that question the best way we know how.

In today’s market, it is not enough for restaurants to have a old static website and that is precisely why we’ve developed an “all-in-one” website business solution for restaurants. We understand that there are many factors that make a restaurant successful. A great Chef, a friendly reliable staff both front of the house and back, competent management and delicious food sold at a smart price point. These are all key factors that can make or break a restaurant. And don’t forget, a reasonable rent with a desirable location. But your location on the Internet and the way that your restaurant is perceived online is crucial to your survival in this extremely competitive market.

How many times have you searched for something on the Internet and come across an outdated website? When we say outdated, we mean drab, lifeless and without the proper information designed in an attractive easy to navigate format. Did you as a consumer click to the next choice on Google or stay on that outdated website? We’ll bet that you skipped right over that outdated website. Our platform can help guarantee that you won’t be one of those restaurants wondering why diners skipped over you and are eating at the packed place across the street.

Most of your diners will visit your restaurant’s website well before they ever walk through your doors. Sometimes we feel like a broken record when we stress this point but it is simply a FACT. Your website should be a welcoming experience for your future diners and pleasurable learning process. By tempting your future guests with mouth-watering menus, professional photos of your food, and a snapshot of your restaurant’s ambience, you can hook them right then and there.

  • An outdated website won’t help your restaurant attract and retain customers in just a few seconds.
  • An outdated website won’t include a mobile version that adapts to smart phones and tablets to provide your future diners with the information they are searching for in a flash.
  • An outdated website won’t track where your customers are coming from and record the key words that they are using to search for you.
  • An outdated website won’t record your customers spending habits in a sophisticated Customer Relationship Management system.
  • An outdated website won’t build a list of your customers so that you can use E-mail Marketing to turn them into regulars.
  • An outdated website won’t sell Gift Cards online or sell tickets to a cooking class or wine tasting until they are sold out.
  • An outdated website won’t automatically report daily to the major search engines so that diners will find you and not the other guys.
  • An outdated website won’t keep your customer’s engaged in an interesting weekly Blog that lets them interact with the chef, the bartender or even the owner.
  • An outdated website won’t let you make a simple price change on your menu without learning code or picking up the phone.

Bottom line, an outdated website won’t do a lot of things, but, a Restaurant Website Platform will. We design elegant websites for restaurants that are simple to navigate yet have plenty of power under the hood. Not only have we developed all the tools that your restaurant will need to stay ahead of your competition but we’ve built them all on one single platform. Give us a call at 301-537-8500 to get started.

Why custom designed websites for restaurants are better than templates

Vincent Gisriel - Tuesday, February 05, 2013

We were recently hired by Luna del Sea located in downtown Baltimore, MD to develop and maintain a new platform website. As always, we did our normal research and soon discovered that Luna del Sea’s current website had been built unsuccessfully on a very commonly used restaurant website template. After a bit more research, we found other restaurants that were built using this same template. We call that a cookie cutter website. This is a trend in the website development community and although it may work for a doctor’s office, school system or law firm, restaurants are different animals. Every restaurant should have it’s own brand identity that represents their concept clearly to potential customers.

A restaurant’s website should be a preview of what the diner is about to experience once they walk through the doors. The menu, the staff, the ambiance can all be represented by a professionally custom designed website. Well, that is exactly where we can help. Restaurant Website Platform takes the time to get to know each and every restaurant that we take on as a client. We started out as restaurant people, so when it comes to understanding the needs of a restaurant owner, we have an advantage over advertising firms that have never bussed a table.

When you get Restaurant Website Platform to develop a custom website, you can be sure that your restaurant’s website will stand out from your competition. We come in contact with restaurants everyday that need help with their websites and marketing strategies on the Internet. So don’t let your restaurant identity be cookie cutter, give us a call.

Restaurants should use their website to hire stellar employees

Vincent Gisriel - Wednesday, January 09, 2013

We have applied to a few restaurants over the years and the one piece of advice that we always give restaurant employees is to interview the restaurant manager in the same fashion that they interview you. Restaurants need talented people to exist. By showing that you have as many questions about their business as they have about your experience, shows that you know the restaurant business. Managers always want to grill you on every restaurant situation that they can imagine, so grill them back. By asking these four key questions, it can turn the table on any interview and earn you instant respect.

  1. What are some of the reasons that made you want to come work for this restaurant?
  2. How often do you seek employees to fill this current position?
  3. Can you briefly explain the management style of your restaurant?
  4. What type of benefits does your restaurant offer your employees?

The other side of the restaurant hiring scale is the management side. Some restaurants consistently complain about the quality of their staff and never take credit for their own poor hiring practices. We see the ads on Craig’s list where the restaurant never advertises their name or location because in their mind, that shows weakness. This is simply not true.

Great restaurants understand and admit that there are going to be times that they need to hire great employees. Jim Sullivan, the chief executive and founder of Sullivision.com, a website that provides leadership programs for the restaurant industry has powerful ideas on this subject.

He preaches, “That 80% of all turnover in restaurant staffing is due to poor hiring practices. Your managers should be trained to only hire qualified, nice people who are being hired for a long-term position. You can’t train someone to be nice, but you can teach them something new every shift.” Mr. Sullivan also believes that, “A restaurant should never lower their standards of the type of employee they hire just to fill a position. This will always come back to bite you in the ass. Set high standards for your employees and create a welcoming culture with a thin rulebook. If you can’t trust the people that are working for you, then they shouldn’t be working for you.”

Every restaurant wants to attract the best employees in the market. Restaurant websites these days should do more than advertise their menus, give their location, and talk about the owners. Advertising a job opening online through a website can open the door to a new batch of talent.

By positioning your website with a portal to take applications online, it will increase your ability to find excellent prospects. In the design of your website, your restaurant can explain the job, the daily requirements of that job and your restaurant can explain what sets them apart from the competition. Giving specifics like, we offer a daily Family Meal or Comida to potential employees will speak volumes about your commitment to taking care of your staff. With our Restaurant Website Platform, your restaurant can create an online portal to find the greatest employees in your area. Allowing potential employees to submit an application directly through your website. Use your website to find the best employees in the market by making them understand that not only do you care about them but that the restaurant would never be successful without them.

For information on our affordable restaurant websites and our website support and maintenance packages contact me directly at vincent@rwp123.com.

Restaurants should understand the importance of family meal

Vincent Gisriel - Monday, December 10, 2012

When you‘re in the restaurant business, it’s easy to forget about the outside world. You roll into work and your reality instantly becomes how many people do we have on the books tonight? This goes for the chef, the kitchen staff, the bussers, the servers, the bartenders and the managers. This week we will show that restaurants that provide a “Family Meal” to your staff, can create a better working environment.

So, how many people do we have on the books tonight?

For the front of the house, this means how much money they will walk with. For the kitchen, it is entirely different animal. The number of guests a restaurant is expecting on any given day or night, means how many hours of preparation, organization and communication so that all of the back of the house is ready for the unavoidable mayhem that is getting ready to be unleashed upon them.

Being organized as a team, front of the house and back of the house, is the best action a restaurant can make to insure a successful day and night. The best restaurants in the business understand that staff meetings seldom work. The most successful restaurant groups use a formula that is bullet proof when it comes to motivating and educating their staff. It’s called the Family Meal or Comida.

If you care about your business and your employees, there is one thing twice a day that you, as a restaurant owner can do to show your gratitude. Cook them something great to eat and let them gather to enjoy it before the shift. By taking care of the people that make your business work, you emphasize how much you care.

By bringing together both back of the house and front of the house at the same table, it shows that every single person on board in your restaurant is equal and extremely important.Think about it this way, all the waiters usually hang out with waiters, all the cooks usually hang out with cooks and the bussers usually stick with the bussers in most restaurants on the planet.

It is your job as a restaurant owner or manager to break down those barriers and make everyone understand the importance of each and every employee. Often times, whether you realize it or not, the most important person in the room of any restaurant gathering is the dishwasher. Without a solid, reliable dishwasher, the entire engine of a busy restaurant will always lock up and refuse to run.

So, Comida or Family Meal is a gathering of the entire staff, no matter how large or small to sit down and talk with each other like regular human beings. If the management staff wishes to address issues about yesterday, today or even tomorrow, those issues should be addressed after everyone has had something to eat. It is that simple, start treating your employees the way that you want to be treated and watch your business grow. We have many different types of restaurants as clients and the one thing that the successful ones always understand is that the employee comes before the customer. Without a happy employee, how can you expect to have a happy customer?

Collect email addresses and let your restaurant's website market to the regulars

Vincent Gisriel - Monday, December 03, 2012

There are many ways for a restaurant to collect email addresses and market to their guests. Your website should already have an area devoted to collecting email addresses. But in order to be a successful restaurant, owners have realized how important it is to maintain regular customers. A regular is an important piece of the marketing puzzle. A regular is your restaurant's ambassador that can attract new customers your restaurant can turn into regulars. By keeping these reoccurring guests happy and educated on what your restaurant is offering every week, you can insure a constant stream of new customers.

Every website that we build here at Restaurant Website Platform comes with our email marketing feature. This type of email database is more valuable than a Constant Contact or Mail Chimp account because it connects directly to the Customer Relationship Manager (CRM). We also design every client one email marketing newsletter template that matches their website or brand so that they can manage their own advertising campaigns and look professional. A poorly designed newsletter that looks sloppy will probably never bring you new business. But just like we tell every restaurant owner and manager, email marketing only works if you are willing to put in both time and effort.

These are just a few ideas on how your Restaurant can collect email addresses:

  1. Include an email address card in every check presenter that your server takes to the table. This sounds simple but this program is something that you as a manager or owner will have to monitor quite closely. These cards need to be replaced frequently and that means you will need to train your staff on the importance of this process. A manager needs to stress to servers and bartenders that by helping the restaurant market to regulars, this means more cash in their pockets. We have seen the most successful restaurants run a nightly contest for the server, hostess, or bartender that turns in the most “valid” email addresses at the end of the night. Their reward can be as simple as a free meal, a bottle of wine or even a gift certificate. The restaurant should also be willing to give the customer something for giving up their email address. Most of our clients offer a free desert or free glass of wine and others offer a coupon for a percentage off their bill on their next visit. These coupons can be sent to your customers via email, see it’s working already. Making sure you or your management team enters the email addresses into your database is the most important part. The worst time to tackle this task is at the end of the night when you are tired and trying to close the place down, so save this project for the morning or set aside a day every week.
  2. Join your local Chamber of Commerce today. Your Chamber already has a great list of email addresses and when you pay your membership fee they will normally share that list with you. Your restaurant should want to be part of the community and you can drum up more business by hosting Chamber of Commerce events.
  3. Put a fishbowl at the Hostess stand for business cards and do a weekly prize giveaway at the restaurant. You can get creative with the gifts or simply buy them lunch. Then every week announce the prize and winner in your newsletter. Everyone who puts a business card in the bowl should be added to your email database.
  4. Do we have your email address, Mr. Jones? Ask for their email address every time your customers call and make a reservation. This can be accomplished by simply asking your customers if they would like to receive weekly discounts that your restaurant only shares through email. Once you have their email address, your restaurant can advertise events such as cooking classes or wine tastings to create more regular customers. Believe me, they will want to give up their info.

Over the years, we have worked with and worked for many restaurants. Some restaurants truly understand the power of email marketing and some restaurants drop the ball. There are many types of people that open restaurants. Some owners simply build a restaurant, open the doors and think that customers are going to come rushing in. It just doesn’t work that way. Of course, there are some restaurants that have the greatest location in town and remain packed day and night. But for most restaurants, they must devote the time and effort of collecting email addresses so that their business can grow every year. So are you ready to start increasing covers with email marketing? Contact us at 310-537-8500 or info@rwp123.com and we can get started increasing your business.