Updated Fact Sheet for US Department of Labor Wage Exemptions

Restaurants must comply with all pay definitions and exemptions

By Sarah Ann Noel - November 20, 2019

Effective at the first of the year, the US Department of Labor has revised regulations within the wage and hour division that directly affect definitions of pay and applicable exemptions.

"The new overtime pay for exempt employees rate has been long debated and the increase by the Department of Labor (DOL) is a modest increase," states National Restaurant Consultants CEO Richard Weil. So while the changes are not a surprise to any restaurant owner or employer, now businesses must prepare to execute. "The reminder for all operators is to make sure you are in full compliance as of January 1, 2020 relating to functions and duties of exempt staff and that your compensation meets the new thresholds."

The updated regulations, which can be reviewed in this fact sheet, have been held in contention throughout this year's wage debate; but restaurant owners should be aware, not only of the official changes listed here, but the fallout changes after the new regulations take affect.

"There is news that Illinois will be eliminating the tip credit, with Maryland and Virginia possibly following suit," explains David Kincheloe, National Restaurant Consultants president, adding that, without a tip credit, even with increased wages, minimum-wage restaurant employees could end up losing money from their current earning levels. 

Additionally, this will change expectations for new managers.

"It creates a problem for companies looking to promote from within as most shift leaders would be taking a pay cut to take an entry level manager position," says NRC consultant Jared Flowers.

Restuarant owners and managers are advised to understand the full breadth of the changes, as well as how it will create internal and hiring changes within their restaurant and management structures. National Restaurant Consultants are kept abreast on all legistlative and regulatory changes and are experts in implementing new expectations within existing businesses. If you need assistance budgeting and structuring staff as these updates take hold, contact a restaurant consultant today.

National Restaurant Consultants for Menu Development

Why placing an expert on your menu design is crucial for business success

By Sarah Ann Noel - November 12, 2019

When you're in Seattle, you probably expect to eat sea food. Down in Nashville? You're looking for some southern home cooking. There's nothing better than some cajun-something during a trip to New Orleans, or some barbecue from Kansas City (or Texas, depending on your taste). 

Of course, it makes geographical sense that certain parts of the country incite a craving for certain genres of food. But the same reasons why that work--seasonal motivators, natural resources, culture and tradition--can drive a good menu anywhere. A menu should reflect more than just a region, based on a number of factors, and it just so happens that our restaurant consultants are experts in menu development.

Your restaurant's menu design can affect both the guest experience and they're likeliness to revisit or recommend, as well as your restaurant's earnings. Somtimes, it's as simple as designating your audience's favorites: comfort foods, hot ticket items, or something unexpected that they can count on when they visit you. For example, 55 percent of people claim they would order breakfast when it was offered all day long on a menu.

Mostly, when it comes to creating a cravable menu, variety and change are important. While consistency is key in creating a brand, menu updates are important to hold your customers' attention. More than 30 percent of restaurants report updating their menus monthly, and 24 percent do seasonally. 

Crafting seasonally-driven menus is healthier, and this is something that matters more and more to restaurant patrons. 61 percent of people said that they would choose a healthier restaurant option now, whereas two years ago, they' wouldn't have considered it. 

Seasonal menus are also better for the environment, drawing on resources local to your restaurant's region and not forcing food out of season. 51 percent of diners polled said that they would be more likely to visit an eco-friendly restaurant, just based on efforts toward sustainability and conservation.

The good news is, contrary to some rumors, writing an environmentally-friendly menu can actually save you money. Remember, shaving off a few cents per dish can equal large savings at the end of a budget term. These days, restaurants are finding small ways to make big changes, for the environment and for their budgets. 28 percent of restaurants are repurposeing their food trimmigs; 25 percent are composting; and 26 percent are offering a variety of portion sizes on their menus, appealing both to the eco-friendly and the health conscious. 

Recognizing and acknowledings trends is an important part of menu development and running a restaurant business that succeeds in this economic climate. Our restaurant consultants are informed of trends but have decades of experience in best business practices. The two combined mean that we can help you acheive a menu that is fresh, appealing, and not only saves you money, but makes you money. 

Photo by Tayla Brand on Unsplash
Stats via Toast

Restaurants Give Back

National Restaurant Consultants recommends fundraising and charity for your community this holiday season

By Sarah Ann Noel - November 7, 2019

The sun sets earlier and temperatures are dipping to harsh overnight conditions here in mild Denver, not to mention in eastern cities like New York and northern towns with lake effects, like Minneapolis and Chicago. The nights are cold and long, and this should be enough to draw our attention to those in need. Fortunately, these weather changes align with the holiday season, not too far in front of us now, when people open their hearts and search for ways to give.

Restuarants are uniquely positioned in that they are local businesses and also community establishments. Restaurants are the mainstays of neighborhoods, the meetings places for family and friends, which creates opportunity to unite people in a common goal. Have you considered how your restaurant might lead the charge in giving back this holiday season?

According to this blog post by Wiatt Marketing, Nearly nine-in-10 (88 percent) consumers say they would buy a product from a purpose-driven company; and 78 percent of Americans would tell others to buy products from purpose-driven companies. It turns out, what is good for the community--what is community-building--is also good for business. People like to be a part of something, and they like to know that that something contributes to the greater good.

Some restaurants find the best way to give back to the community is to allow fundraisers under their brand for schools and non-profits looking to raise money. There are a lot of recognizable establishments on this list of 53 restaurants that allow non-profit fundraising; but something even a small business could participate in to give back and to bring in new customers. Likewise, here is a list of restaurants that open up school fundraisers, especially important in urban areas or smaller towns where neighborhood living is close-knit and your restuarant could be just down the block from the local school.

Giving back isn't only just becoming a fundraising outlet. Your restaurant and its employees--or patrons--could more actively participate, especially during the holiday season. Spoon University devised a list of restaurants that give back in their communities, from food drives and food donations to donating time to Habitat for Humanity or fundraising for cancer research.

It could be as simple as passing out coffee on cold mornings, to whomever walks by and needs a warm-up and a smile to start their day. Restaurants are community institutions throughout the year; but let's get into the spirit of the season and reap benefits, yes, but also the joy of giving back.

Want your restaurant to plug into the community but not sure how to make it work? A restaurant consultant can help you refresh a business plan and your budget--you have more wiggle room than you think! Contact a restaurant consultant today.

Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash

Restaurant Trick-or-Treating

Why buying into Halloween is good for business

By Sarah Ann Noel - October 22, 2019

Every October around this time, children across the country are preparing their Halloween costumes for their best sugar rush of the year. While the excitement is the same, Halloween can look very different in Golden, Colorado compared to New York City, or from Indianapolis to Los Angeles. 

And while the city culture has a lot to do with how your town celebrates the holiday; and there are logistical factors to consider from neighborhood to neighborhood; last year, the Atlantic described a shift in trick-or-treating, away from door-to-door and house-to-house, and instead, focused on the business community. There are other factors to consider--safety, a decrease in sugar consumption; but it seems that the fewer housing neighborhoods that report trick-or-treaters, the more businesses have them showing up in droves.

What was once common practice in only urban centers is now becoming a tradition for even suburban areas--and your restaurant can not only participate, but maximize on this. Whether or not you're expecting trick-or-treaters at your restaurant, Fat Merchant has some tips on how to prepare for the holiday as a small business. It is a great opportunity to set yourself up as a neighborhood staple and a place of community. Invite your neighbors in for celebration, and even be the rallying force with decorations; specials; music--make it a party.

Candy-seekers or not, Halloween night is hectic for parents and families. In a lot of places, the weather has already turned cold, the evenings are darkening quickly, and there is a mad dash from school to wardrobe changes, then back out again for festivities. If your restaurant offers up warming, seasonal foods, you're bound to appeal to the families out making the most of the holiday. Delish offers up nearly 50 pumpkin recipe ideas that you could incorporate into your special Halloween--or fall!--menus.

Though it can be added work, special attention to the seasons and popular holidays always pays off in your business. For more ideas and tips on how to incorporate these seasonal practices, contact a restaurant consultant today. 
Photo by Ben Shan on Unsplash

Restaurant Payment Systems

National Restaurant Consultants takes a look at how consumers are paying for their food and drinks

By Sarah Ann Noel - October 18, 2019

When it comes to payments these days, almost everything is digital, especially considering the migration back into cities like New York, Chicago, L.A., and Denver, where everything is young, convenient, and cutting-edge. Our restaurant consultants know that the restaurant industry is no exception, and in some cases, relies heavily on alternative payment options to keep customers happy and returning.

Considering that a major portion of the restaurant industry's target market continues to be the millennial generation, appealing to those needs and interests remains an important barometer. 54 percernt of millennials prefer pay options at kiosk, where they can independently pay, tip, and authorize without the exchange of money or card. These kiosks are increasing in popularity as cash is less and less prevelant. Nearly 90 percent of purchases are made with credit cards; and the usage are still high--62 percent--even if it is a low-ticket item.

But the breakdown is more than whether or not your guest can run their own card. In some cases, restuarants are beginning to offer some alternative pay options, which were first popping up in both digital and brick-and-mortar retail spaces. Just over 30 percent of restaurants now offer a mobile pay option, and 4 percent even allow payments via Venmo. 

Just as spending habits are changing, so are tracking options slowly morphing. 50 percent of all consumers, including millennials, still want a paper receipt; but 36 percent are fine with going digital via text or email. And 14 percent of consumers skip the receipt altogether. 

How is your restaurant managing the shift in payment options? And how are you tracking your methods against the customer experience? Our restaurant consultants are experts in the guest experience, and we're up-to-date on the latest technologies that improve convenience and efficiency on both the guest and the business sides. Contact a restaurant consultant today.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash; all statistics via Toast.

Jared Flowers Slated for Culinary Masters Charity Brunch & Golf Tournament

National Restaurant Consultants is pleased to participate in important community and charity events

By Sarah Ann Noel - October 9, 2019

National Restaurant Consultants firmly believe that part of opening a restaurant is opening your business to a community; and using this position, it's important to give back. At the end of this year, near our Arizona offices, our restaurant consultant Jared Flowers will participate in  the Culinary Masters Charity Brunch and Golf Tournament at the Arizona Biltmore Golf Club.

Playing alongside Brett VibberDavid Duarte, Tamara Stanger, Cory OppoldChristopher SmithFlip IsardPeter McQuaid Jr., and Brian Neil, Flowers will golf with the Scott-Foundation Thought & Service Leaders to support Scott Foundation Culinary Programs. Additionally, Chef Brett Vibber of Cartwright's Modern Cuisine & other Culinary Masters will serve brunch on the greens, working with Scott Foundation teens, passing along their culinary wisdom with real-life experience.

There will be contests and prizes at each hole, including golf foursomes, gift cards, sports memorabilia, and vacation packages.

If you're in the Phoenix area, tickets are available for purchase at $150 per player. The event will be held on Saturday, December 7, with a scramble beginning at 8 AM. Tickets and details available here.

It's an honor to have one of our restaurant consultants recognized at this event that serves one of our business communities. Good luck, Jared!

Photo by David Goldsbury on Unsplash

National Restaurant Consultants Adds Robert Brickles

Brickles brings 30-plus years of experience to our agency

By Sarah Ann Noel- October 2, 2019

National Restaurant Consultants is pleased to bring Robert Brickles on to our team of expert restaurant consultants. Robert Brickles is a proven innovative restaurant leader that has over 30-plus years of extensive experience in building restaurant brands and cultures that are enthusiastic customer centric and sales driven while building repetitious positive performance results. His particular strengths and talents are in building an organizations’ financial performance through methods that include overall restaurant economics, process and performance replication, and organizational transformation into franchising.  

Mr. Brickles has been instrumental in the aggressive growth performance of several national and global corporations, such as with McDonald’s, Boston Market, Dunkin Brand, and Quiznos among many others.  He is considered to be an industry expert on behavioral change and performance improvement through innovative training and measurement techniques.  

Specifically, Mr. Brickles successfully redesigned McDonald’s Hamburger University Global mid-management curriculum, and as a consultant for Dunkin Donuts, he implemented several training and strategic management initiatives that helped overhaul their labor management and service practices.  He has re-engineered Boston Markets financial economic operating performance and has had direct line operational responsibilities for 1200 plus restaurants. Most recently he built a franchise ready restaurant concept that opened 8 stores in 18 months with a return on investment ratio of 2.5 to 1. 

Not only has Mr. Brickles been instrumental in assisting corporations with operational turnarounds and development, service hospitality improvements, profits and loss performance, facility design and training, but he has also assisted in the modernization and development of several industry practices... 

Mr. Brickles’ talent and understanding of the restaurant industry has led to many varied experiences which have provided him with a strong base and thorough knowledge of what is necessary to create  strong and profitable, as well as nationally recognized restaurants and brands.  


The Hamptons in the Off-Season

National Restaurant Consultants takes a September food tour of Montauk and the Hamptons

By David Kincheloe - September 23, 2019

If you're somebody in New York City, you make your way out to the east end of Long Island at some point during the summer--the "season". The point is as much to be seen as it is to see (and taste); but if that's not your scene, then the Hamptons (or any place, for that matter) in the early off-season is ideal. Post-Labor Day, these pristine tiny towns close up their summer mansions and space is once again made for the locals.

Our restaurant consultants spent a few days "out east" two weeks ago, and though there was only so much time (and stomach space), were able to visit several spots of note around Bridgehampton, Sag Harbor, and Montauk. 

In Bridgehampton, pop in to Pierre's for a morning juice and a French pastry. The bakery shares owners with Almond, which is an excellent stop (and hopping, even in the off-season) for cocktail hour or dinner. For a more relaxed atmosphere and a delicious take on New York style pizza, pull up a seat at the bar at World Pie. For a fun treat and taste of old New York, stop by the Candy Kitchen, a true old-fashioned soda fountain. And just around the corner from downtown is the delightful Wölffer Vineyard, offering an array of wines and charcuterie. 

Sag Harbor is a perfect place to pass a late morning or afternoon, with many lunch and dinner options. During our brief pass through, this visit, we opted for cocktails at Baron's Cove, a hotel and restaurant on the bay. The happy hour menu is enticing and there was live music on the patio.

Montauk continues to be the burgeoning scene, and new hotspots continue to pop-up along old favorites. On this visit, we dined at Crow's Nest, which caters to seafood lovers, meat eaters, and vegetarians alike, with quite a bit of local fare. Wait times can be long, but you can stroll down the hill to the water for popcorn and drinks. 

Our restaurant consultants like to sample from a variety of markets and restaurant experiences so we can pass this expertise along to you. Contact a restaurant consultant today.

Create a Mocktail Menu for the Sober Movement

National Restaurant Consultants suggests non-alcoholic drinks with dry lifestyle on the rise

By Sarah Ann Noel - September 19, 2019

As the Millennial and younger generations continue to seek out improvements in their health, without wanting to sacrifice experience, our restaurant consultants have seen a rise in non-alcoholic beverages, endearingly termed "mocktails." While mocktails have long been available at bars across the nation, we've seen leaders in the mixology scene, such as Death & Co from New York City (now with locations in Denver and Los Angeles, as well) dedicate full pages of their menus to mixed drinks sans alcohol. These mocktails lack nothing in flavor or style, they're simply sober. 

Nation's Restaurant News recently published an article about the sober-curious movement--a migration toward dry living (and drinking!), for a myriad of reasons. For some, sober living is a necessity. Others abstain simply in support of those who must. The new sober movement brings in a whole new subset of consumers choosing sobriety because they think it is better for them. This mindset has gained momentum through social media. These are ten accounts specifically about sobriety worth taking a look at. 

As younger diners and drinkers make lifestyle changes, whether opting for veganism, cutting gluten, or, in this case, removing alcohol from their diets, they're not interested in missing out on the lifestyle aspect of "grabbing drinks". Happy hours remain important social and business time slots; and event planners are returning to a designated cocktail hour at weddings and other celebrations. 

From the perspective of the restaurant industry, our restaurant consultants think that this movement should feel like an opportunity for restaurant owners, not a concern. (Specifically, a few months back, we featured an organization called Ben's Friends that helps combat alcoholism in the industry, where it is an especially prevalent issue.) Encouring a dry life style is simply value added--reaching a new and growing market in a trending need, infusing menus with creativity and inclusivity. And there are outstanding mocktail recipes everywhere, like these from Delish.

Our restaurant consultants have enough experience to understand that trends and markets cycle. When the scales tip in one direction, it is always important to lean into the movement and find a way to offer guests what they want and need. This keeps your restaurant relevant. Our consultants are experts in top trends and menu designs--let us help you with your new mocktail menu! 

Photo by Lefteris kallergis on Unsplash

Social Media and Sales in the Restaurant Industry

National Restaurant Consultants analyzes sales and marketing predictions

By Sarah Ann Noel - September 9, 2019

Whether your restaurant is in New York City or Des Moines, Iowa; Denver or Pensacola, Florida; Los Angeles or Dayton, Ohio; the playing field is leveled when it comes to the Internet and social media. Your restaurant is no longer relevant only to the residents of your community, but across the United States and beyond. Social media, a much debated beast, has shrunk the world, for better or for worse, and our restaurant consultants believe its power can do more good for business than harm.

Even without our consultants' input, it seems business owners agree. More than 90 percent of restaurants are using Facebook and 78 percent engage their customers on Instagram. Instagram has skyrocketed in popularity for restaurant promotion since last year, when only 24 percent reported using it.More than 60 percent of restaurants either have or plan to pay for social media ads in 2019. That's not just an Instagram account--that's pushed content, paid for as marketing.

"Social media has been crucial for awhile to stay relevant with a younger audience," says Trevor Noel, owner of Wander Unlimited creative agency, which manages social media for many Colorado restaurants and businesses. "But now, it's expected among on age groups and people from all backgrounds." 

Social media allows you to present your restaurant, not just as a place to eat, but as an experience to be had. The punch line of many late night show jokes, it's important to point out the truth in Millennial perception and value emphasis: 78 percent of millenials say they would rather spend money on an experience, such as a restaurant or other activity, compared to purchasing an item from a store

Often, there is fear around social media and an Internet presence because of negative reviews and trolling. It can be daunting to navigate such direct communication, but it is necessary to pay attention to it. When dealing with negative online reviews or in-person feedback, 23 percent of restaurateurs reach out directly to the person who gave the feedback. 15 percent put the feedback to use when giving performance reviews to front-of-house or back-of-house staff.

"It's important to view it as a direct line to people who may not otherwise engage with your restaurant," Noel says, noting the benefit of such close interaction. While it opens chains of communication for complaints, it also improves the feedback process, making your restaurant better.

Our restaurant consultants can assist with social media and other marketing strategy. Contact a restaurant consultant today. 

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash