Holiday Gift Card Promotions, How Are They Working for You?, Hospitality Consulting, IRHC Group

holiday gift card, gift card promotionTis the season of gift card salesRestaurant News predicts that at least 81% of consumers will purchase some sort of gift card this holiday season.  With statistics like this, it’s time to take a close look at your gift card promotion and make sure it is working for you in the long run. One way to make the gift cards work for you is to think of them not only as a great way to generate some much needed income during the holiday season, but to help supplement your business during the slower months.

With so many options out there, how can you reign in those Christmas gift card sales?  For example, many restaurant chains offer an additional gift card after purchasing a specific denomination of gift cards, i.e. $20 free gift card with the purchase of $100.00 worth of gift cards.  What the consumer learns when receiving their free $20.00 gift card is this card is only valid until the end of the following month.  This can help promote some much needed traffic to a restaurant when they are typically slower in January and the beginning of February.

Gift cards are now treated like cash in many states, meaning they have no expiration date.  The reason the above promotion works is because you are giving the additional gift card as an incentive, not as something that was purchased.  It’s quite genius and works well for the companies who use this promotion.

With gift card sales accounting for approximately 35 – 40% of total sales of a business for the year, it makes sense that your company has an aggressive gift card program in place this season.

Need help coming up with your own gift card program?  Please contact our team of consultants at IRHC Group today.

For more restaurant branding and hospitality management tips, please subscribe to our blog or find us on Facebook.

IRHC Group is a hospitality consulting firm that offers restaurant consulting services, hospitality consulting services, retail consulting services, workshops and seminars.  Our Hospitality consultants have achieved proven success in the restaurant, retail, hospitality and hotel/resort/casino industries.


Tagged , , , , , , ,

The Top Food & Drink Trends for 2013 – International Restaurant & Hospitality Consultant Group

Local sourcing, healthy kids’ meals to be top menu trends; onsite barrel-aging, food-spirits pairings to be top drink menu trends

Artisan products, local sourcing and culinary creativity are trendy on restaurant menus and our new research shows that to also be true behind the bar, Increasing recognition of mixology has elevated restaurant drink menus to a new level that allows bartenders to showcase their skills in blending textures and flavors similarly to how chefs approach food in the kitchen. This is good news for today’s increasingly sophisticated and adventurous consumers, who have a wider variety of alcoholic beverages from which to choose when dining out.”

Steak salad







What’s hot chef survey – top 10 menu trends for 2013:

  1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
  2. Locally grown produce
  3. Healthful kids’ meals
  4. Environmental sustainability as a culinary theme
  5. Children’s nutrition as a culinary theme
  6. New cuts of meat (e.g. Denver steak, pork flat iron, teres major)
  7. Hyper-local sourcing (e.g. restaurant gardens)
  8. Gluten-free cuisine
  9. Sustainable seafood
  10. Whole grain items in kids’ meals

Kiwi Martini







What’s hot bartender survey – top 10 drink menu trends for 2013:

  1. Onsite barrel-aged drinks
  2. Food-liquor/cocktail pairings
  3. Culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients)
  4. Micro-distilled/artisan liquor
  5. Locally produced spirits
  6. Locally sourced fruit/berries/produce
  7. Beer sommeliers/Cicerones
  8. Regional signature cocktails
  9. Beer-based cocktails
  10. Locally produced beer

When it comes to technology trends, just over one-quarter of the chefs (27 percent) ranked tablet computers, such as iPads, as the hottest technology trend in restaurants in 2013, followed closely by smartphone apps (25 percent), and mobile/wireless/pay-at-the-table (19 percent). Among the bartenders, two out of five (40 percent) ranked social media marketing and loyalty programs as the hottest technology trend in 2013, followed by tablet computers, such as iPads (29 percent), and smartphone apps (14 percent).

Visit the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot.  Hot Food List for 2013  and the Hot Drink List for 2013

A little about International Restaurant & Hospitality Consulting Group.  IRHC Group is an International restaurant and hospitality consulting firm. We are based in Orlando, Florida,  the Hospitality Capital of the World, and have regional offices in Las Vegas, London United Kingdom, India, Brazil & Dubai. We work across the world, specializing in concept creation, development, and turning around operational challenged businesses..

We are highly specialist and stay close to our expertise in food service operations, restaurants, casinos, hotels and leisure.

We differentiate ourselves from our competitors by always beginning with, The Guest Experience, The Employee Training Experience, and the Brand Experience are given the upmost priority when we approach a project. We have opened and managed over 350 restaurants across the US, Middle East, Asia and Europe, and developed 66 concepts.

Our unique experience provides rare capability and expertise for our clients, given our ability to bring together some of the advanced food and restaurant concepts presently found around the globe. We retain the knowledge, experience, and ability to take account of regional considerations such as local demographics, culture and tastes, therefore, our skill set becomes invaluable when developing uniquely differentiated concepts adopted for integrated markets.

The IRHC Group team has consulted with some of the world’s most eminent Chefs, and upscale restaurant groups, in addition to working with clients in: entertainment, casual dining, fast casual dining, resorts, theme parks and travel. In each project we have been involved in all areas of the business, and have delivered programs and plans that have targeted the elevation of concept positioning, product and menu, operating standards, infrastructure, and overall quality. Our larger clients  include:  Darden, Brinker, Hard Rock Café, Planet Hollywood, Universal Studios Orlando, W Hotel, Hilton Hotels, Le Meridian Hotels, Loews Hotels, Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos, ExxonMobil, Walt Disney Hotels and Resorts, TGI Friday’s, McDonalds amongst a very broad range of smaller yet very dynamic restaurant and hotel groups.

Tagged , , , ,

How Social Media Affects your Restaurant Business

As Restaurant owners and managers, we hear all the time about the importance of social media, but how does social media affect your business?   Most of our customers are internet savvy, so the best way to reach them is where they already are.  We will briefly run down a few social media channels and how you can best represent your brand.



It is important for your business to have a presence on Facebook, but it is equally important that your social media posts and engagements are outlined and scheduled.  Don’t leave this task to your hostess or server because they are on Facebook all of the time and know how to use it.  Your postings should be scheduled to coincide with restaurant specials or events happening in your area.  Make it fun!  Are your employees involved in a local charity?  Let your customers know!   What is your customer’s favorite menu item?  Use polls to engage your customers and find out the answer to this question.  The more you engage your customers, the more brand loyal they will be.   It is also fine to post impromptu happenings and special announcements (a couple celebrating their anniversary in your restaurant, etc…) As long as you have your strategy planned out each month, you will be able to gauge what your customers are thinking about your restaurant and your product.  If this sounds too overwhelming and the thought of posting on Facebook makes you break out in night sweats, it’s okay to hire a professional company to take care of your social media marketing services for your Facebook business page.

Foursquare – Check-In

What is Foursquare and how does it work?  Foursquare is a unique and fun social media tool where you can find recommendations for things to do in your area and friends to join you along the way.  Foursquare users can download a free app to their smartphone and “check in” to a certain location or business.  You can connect with friends who are already on Foursquare and see where they are and what they recommend.  Based upon your location, Foursquare can offer personalized recommendations just for you.  Are you starting to see how your business can benefit from this?

Businesses can benefit from Foursquare by customers who post reviews about their place of business.  These “check ins” and “reviews or tips” are immediately shared with their Foursquare friends as well as your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Many businesses offer perks to their customers who “check in” to their location as an incentive.  For example, Chili’s Bar & Grill offers free chips and salsa to anyone who “checks in” and shows their server the check in screen on their smartphone or iPad.  Another restaurant, Lime Fresh Mexican Grill, offers 3 different check-in specials and encourages guests to leave a tip (recommendation). Pretty ingenious idea, huh?   The word spreads pretty quickly about the businesses offering incentives for check-ins. Would you like to find out more about Foursquare for your business?  Visit


Online Reviews

Are these so important?  What if your company doesn’t have a page on Yelp, Urbanspoon, or  Does that mean you are safe from the dreaded bad online review?  Think again!  Customers can write a good or bad review about your restaurant regardless of whether or not you have an account set up.  The reviews are out there for all to see, so it is best if you keep on top of it.

Remember those internet savvy customers?  Before a guest visits your restaurant, they are researching your menu online, scanning online reviews and browsing photos of your restaurant.  Chances are, your customers have a perceived expectation of what their dining experience will be like before they ever walk in the door.  This gives you a huge opportunity to raise the bar and show each guest personalized attention, based upon the knowledge a guest can learn about you online.  Remember, most folks won’t write an online review if their visit was mediocre.  Their experience either has to be a great disappointment or a stellar and memorable experience for someone to take the time to write a review.   Please take note!  You should respond to reviews about your restaurant, good or bad.  It shows potential customers that you truly care about a guest’s experience at your establishment.  Think of it like this.  If you had to choose between 2 restaurants to visit, would you choose the restaurant with many positive online reviews or would you choose the restaurant that no one has bothered to write a review about?

For more restaurant branding and hospitality management tips, please subscribe to our blog or find us on Facebook

Ken Hoffman is an International Restaurant and Hospitality Consultant and Professional Speaker. He has been in the hospitality business for over 35 years.

Small Screen Producer is an interactive digital media agency developing targeted, branded, content marketing strategies. We specialize in creating interactive media solutions that are not only searchable and socially shareable but virally engaging.


Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Increase Revenue & Maximize Profits without Reducing Guest Repeatability – Sound too Good to be True? Not with Us!

Rising Profits - Successful BusinessOur Revenue Management Programs are Created Specifically for Restaurants, Retail and Hotels. The Process is Demand-Driven Pricing Methodology that is designed to Maximize Profit and Increase Revenue without Reducing Repeatability.

Driven by proven state-of-the-art statistical modeling, IRHC uses a proprietary analytical process that enables us to identify prices that yield optimal gross profit without negatively impacting customer traffic. IRHC consultants use sophisticated statistical inference to analyze demand patterns and determine specific trading relationships between products.

International Restaurant & Hospitality Consultant Group

 Our Process

  1. Built from the store to the brand – An objective, quantitative approach to pricing that enables you to uniquely manage the long-term brand value on a micro level by letting the consumer set the right price
  2. Based upon your chain’s experience – Our method includes analysis of historical purchase behavior, the various pricing initiatives, commonly held beliefs and other strategies that have been put in place through the years. We also incorporate product trading relationships in your menu.
  3. Models unique to your Brand – IRHC provides chain specific modeling. We understand that each operation is unique.
  4. Set  Price on High Demand, High Return To Net Items– for each individual product
  5. Ensure Pricing is Optimized– Compare to completion and track PMIX trends.

Price - Demand chart

For more Revenue Management information, contact your Restaurant & Hospitality Consultants at International Restaurant and Hospitality Consultant Group today.     Toll Free: 1-877-259-9196

Tagged , , , , , ,

Restaurant Consulting Tip – More Restaurants Go Local & Go Organic… A Win-Win for Local Suppliers and Customers Alike

Fresh organic vegetablesMore restaurants have returned to the earth by showcasing fresh or local foods as maximum quality and good local neighboring.   For example, McDonald’s new ad campaign emphasizes local farmers and ranchers. Similar efforts have been seen from Chipotle, Wendy’s and Dominos Pizza.  Some of the Big Steak and Seafood Players like McCormick and Schmick’s, list on the daily menu, the supplier and geographic location of commodities and proteins Including, Produce, Dairy, Chicken, Beef, Seafood and Breads. “This is a major leverage point and the guest is giving restaurants credit for shopping local “says Ken Hoffman, CEO of International Restaurant & Hospitality Consulting Group.*  When customers didn’t mind or care where their product came from, it seemed as though every day you could turn on the news to hear of another recall or e-coli outbreak of foreign products such as produce, orange juice, apple juice, seafood, poultry and beef.  To prevent instances like these, the support for the local farmer and all local homegrown suppliers will continue. People want high quality food and their food source protected. The Food Safety standards in the US are much higher than most of the third world countries importing food into the United States.  As you would read the label at the supermarket and decide what the best products are for your family, we should also demand to know where our food supply at the restaurant comes from. If your local or chain restaurant does not let you know where there ingredients come from, you may want to find one that does.

The Next Big Tidal Wave to Hit the Restaurant Industry will be organic foods. If you don’t believe people want to eat foods that are healthier, safer, don’t contain pesticides or are cage free, then look at the increase in organic food revenue over the last few years.  The Sales of organic food and beverages have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to $29.7 billion in 2011. Sales in 2011 represented 9.7% growth over 2010 sales. Experiencing the highest growth in sales during 2011 were organic fruits and vegetables, up 15.8% over 2010 sales and over 25% increase in the last couple of years alone.  “This will be another record breaking year for the organic food industry and we could see The Organic business grow to $50 Billion in the next couple years” says Ken Hoffman.  Many restaurant chains have change their paradigm on organic food and have come to International Restaurant & Hospitality Consulting Group to retro fit menus, recipes and  help them source out organic local products.

Going Local and Organic can equal, a Win for the Restaurant, A Win For The Guest and A Win for Local Business.

For more restaurant consulting advice, contact International Restaurant and Hospitality Consulting Group.

* – Ken Hoffman is an International Restaurant Consultant and Speaker

Tagged , , , ,

Retail Sales in 2012 Projected Lower than 2011 Numbers

Retail store consultingOrlando — A report released Monday by the National Retail Federation said that retail industry sales growth for 2012 is forecasted at 3.4%, a pace slower than 2011’s 4.7% growth.

Though retailers ended last year on a strong note with holiday sales rising 3.9% over 2010, the bad news was that the traffic count was down 3.1%. “It is mission critical to get more people in stores, raising prices is a short term fix to a long term problem”, said Kenneth Hoffman CEO of IRHC Group a leading advisor to the retail Industry.

Many factors will continue to influence the expected slowdown in consumer spending, but none remain more challenging than the unemployment rate and lack of newly created jobs especially in the Western and South East parts of the US.

Are you challenged by lagging retail sales?  Contact International Restaurant and Hospitality Consulting Group for your free 10 point Retail Operations Assessment.

Tagged , , , , ,

Restaurant Consulting Tip – Food Cost continues to Weigh on the Restaurant Industry in 2012

Food Cost FormulaIn 2012, Food costs will remain a huge challenge for the restaurant industry, with wholesale domestic food price inflation running at 8.4 percent — the highest it’s been in three decades. Operators won’t be able to pass on high costs on a one-to-one basis, so the focus will remain on driving out costs, while hopefully growing sales.

Intense pressure from customers to keep down prices make restaurants think creatively about how to cope with higher food costs. Things like dollar menus, smaller portion sizes and working with lower-priced ingredients allowed restaurants to keep prices from skyrocketing last year.

But the future looks expensive. The latest USDA commodity price forecast predicts 2012 beef and chicken prices to increase by 9% and 5%, respectively (and this comes on the heels of double-digit price increases for many food items in 2011. There are many other arenas in which food prices are expected to rise. The USDA recently predicted a 13% total drop in peanut production from last year, due to heat and drought. Chocolate and coffee prices also are anticipated to rise dramatically: A sharp decline in cocoa production in Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire could drive up prices; and severe weather, changing rainfall patterns and new pests have impacted coffee production.

One of the main things a restaurant owner can do today is to ensure they are maximizing profit and reducing cost is Restaurant Revenue Management.  IRHC Group uses an analytical process that enables us to identify menu prices that yield optimal gross profit without negatively impacting customer traffic. International Restaurant & Hospitality Consulting Group’s Restaurant Revenue Management System uses sophisticated statistical inference to analyze demand patterns and elasticity and determine specific trading relationships between products. Contact us today for a Free Consultation.

Tagged , , ,

Does your restaurant provide good service?

A few full service casual restaurants are trying to come up with “gimmicks” to create a sense that you are receiving good service.  For example, Chili’s, a popular chain restaurant now has 2 servers per table.  Is this is supposed to mirror fine dining establishments where you have a front and back waiter?  Instead of trying to be more than what they are, they should follow the basic rules to good service.  There are several basic rules to good service, but an important aspect is to “treat your entire station as 1 table”.  Without practicing this simple step, you could have 4 servers per table and a guest still not receive good service.  How could this be?  The idea of treating your entire station as one table ensures that you are constantly looking at your tables whether making eye contact with a guest or physically walking past to see whether the table is in need of something.  It makes more sense to get refills for all of your tables at one time than to make 4 to 5 different trips to 4 to 5 different tables.  What tends to happen with the 2 server per table method is that each server has their own dedicated station, but are supposed to come by and see if their partner’s table needs something.  This often results in no one coming by and checking as they think the other server did it.  In these difficult economic times, it is important to have excellent customer service as well as an excellent product to ensure continued success.

What methods does your restaurant take to ensure good service?

Tagged , , , ,

Follow Up – Restaurant Guest Surveys – the New Trend?

As a follow up to our recent blog post – Restaurant Guest Surveys – the New Trend? – we contacted both Outback Steakhouse and Chili’s Bar & Grill’s corporate office to see exactly what is done with the information received.  In addition, we asked if a guest had a bad experience and you learned about it from the survey, was the customer contacted?  Outback Steakhouse promptly replied to us.  Here is their response:

“Thank you for contacting us. The survey results (including comments) are put into a report. The restaurants, regional managers, and home office all have access to these reports. Your name and information will not be on any of your comments unless you submit it with your comments. You will not be contacted unless you request to be contacted, which you will then need to include contact information.”

I was impressed with the timely and friendly response I received from Outback.  Unfortunately, as a consumer, when a guest completes a survey indicating they had a bad experience at your restaurant, Outback could be viewed as uncaring by it’s policy of not responding unless directed to by the consumer.  No where on the survey did it state that I would only be contacted regarding my survey or my experience if I wanted to.

Chili’s Bar & Grill gave this response.

(crickets chirping)

Well, I think their non-response speaks volumes.  Maybe this is why their parent company is trying to unload them from Macaroni Grill, On the Border, etc…  This shows a complete lack of customer care or they are simply over their heads.  You decide.

The moral of this story, if you ask for your customers feedback; listen to it and respond immediately if appropriate.

Tagged , , ,

Restaurant Guest Surveys – the New Trend?

Restaurant Guest SurveysHave you recently dined out at a full service restaurant and given a survey code to go online and give your feedback?  Restaurant chains such as Chili’s, Outback Steakhouse, Buffalo Wild Wings, to name a few, ask you to complete a survey for a free bloomin’ onion (Outback) a free order of 6 wings (Buffalo Wild Wings) or a chance to win $1000.00 (Chili’s).  What are these restaurants doing with this information?  What if you have a legitimate complaint?  Is the survey a form of double check to ensure their customers do not “fall through the cracks”?   My family and I recently visited Chili’s and Outback, and completed their survey.  In both instances, we received inferior food quality and service.  In both instances, staple items at these 2 chains had become victim to the 3 known restaurant sins; reduced quality, reduced portions and increased prices.  To be fair, the service was better at Outback, but the service at Chili’s was non-existent.  In both instances, the restaurants were not busy.  In both instances, the server was made aware of the problem.  In both instances, no manager came to the table or was anywhere in site.  In completing this survey, was my voice to finally be heard?  Apparently not… in both instances, no one from either restaurant contacted me regarding my visit to their establishment or my feedback that was given.  Outback did give me a code for me to write down and use on my next visit for a free Bloomin’ Onion.  Chili’s gave me a chance to win a $1000.00… still waiting for that one.

So what does happen with this information that the restaurants receive?  I do believe that some restaurant companies use this information.  For example, in the survey completed for Outback, I raved about their sister company, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, who seems to always do everything right.  From the moment you walk in the door until the time you leave, they are usually very predictable in giving you good to excellent service, good to excellent food and a good value for your money.  I posed the question to Outback, how is it that Carrabba’s can have a better steak than you do and they are an Italian restaurant, not a “steakhouse”?  Since my survey was submitted, Outback has added a “wood-fire grill option” (just like Carrabba’s) as well as their “classic” version of their steak. I do not think that my one survey or suggestion changed their minds, however, I think that many other consumers feel like I do; they are tired of getting poor value for their money and they are speaking up about it by not returning to these establishments.  Maybe this is an indication as to why Outback Steakhouse has decreased guests counts for the last several years, while its sister company is doing much better.  Here is Chili’s 10K filing quote as how they see their business, “The Global Economic Crisis continued to adversely impact our business and financial results in 2011.”  How is the global economy to blame for a bad product, bad service and no follow up?

The moral of the story is, when running a restaurant, be consistent.  Offer exceptional food at a quality price with a dose of great service.  When your customers speak, LISTEN TO THEM, especially when you asked for their comments in the first place.

Ken Hoffman is CEO of International Restaurant & Hospitality Consulting Group, a worldwide leader in Restaurant, Retail & Hospitality Consulting.  Contact them today for a free consultation of your restaurant, retail, hotel or resort’s performance. 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: