As restaurant brands deploy digital ordering, the stakes are high. Done well, digital ordering enables a brand to foster greater customer loyalty, grow sales and create a win-win-win for customers, operators/franchisees and the brand itself. Done poorly, digital ordering can damage valuable customer relationships and result in operators/franchisees losing trust in the brand.

In my experience as the Founder & CEO of Olo.com over the past nine-and-a-half years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with more than 150 brands to operate digital ordering programs that today serve more than 7 million customers. In that time, I’ve learned that there are many critical components to a successful digital ordering program. Here are my top 10 tips for a successful digital ordering implementation:

1. Make sure that all key departments are in the boat before you set sail. Digital ordering requires participation from IT, operations, marketing, and training, as well as executive buy-in from the c-suite. (read more…)

This post is sponsored by Coca-Cola.

Specialty beverages offer foodservice operators a low-cost way to drive margins, differentiate themselves from competitors and satisfy consumer needs.

Using ingredients they are likely to already have on hand, operators can generate excitement around the menu and raise their check averages with a variety of offerings that strengthen their own brands.

Specialty beverages are among the fastest-growing categories in foodservice, and their multifaceted nature can speak to consumer preferences for both health and indulgence, and also allow for personalization and customization.

We talked to Thays Morgan, senior manager for strategy, planning and development for the full-service restaurant channel at Coca-Cola’s foodservice division, about how operators can leverage specialty beverages to grow their business.

Why are specialty beverages so important to foodservice operators?

When we look at the specialty beverage categories — teas, lemonades, limeades, shakes, smoothies and even sparkling sodas and specialty sodas — they are forecast to have double-digit growth over the next five years. (read more…)

Restaurants with a sustainability plan have an advantage over the competition in several ways. Making an effort to protect the environment and prevent food waste helps restaurants make a connection with customers by showing that they care. Taking steps toward a sustainable operation is also good for the bottom line — energy-saving appliances, composting and on-site gardens can all help restaurants save money. With so many benefits, implementing a sustainability plan might seem like a no-brainer, but it can be a daunting task for busy restaurant owners who don’t know where to start.

To help restaurants get on the path to sustainability, the National Restaurant Association started the Conserve program, which aims to help restaurants become more efficient and engage with customers about the topics they care about. SmartBrief interviewed Conserve Program Director Jeff Clark about how the program has evolved and why restaurants shouldn’t wait to move forward with a sustainable business strategy. (read more…)

Tight economic times, trends toward healthier dining and new seasonal flavors may drive us to change our dessert habits at times, but Americans still want to indulge in after-dinner sweets and, when they do, it’s most likely they’ll be having something chocolate. More than two-thirds of restaurant menus boast at least one chocolate dessert, with vanilla a far-off second at about 40%, according to Datassential, and many restaurants are seeing that old classics with new twists, as well as desserts that offer guests a different way of dining, are trending with consumers today.

There’s evidence that eateries are innovating in the area of chocolate, even as they downsize the menu. Restaurant menus were 2% smaller in the third-quarter of 2014, compared to the same period last year, and dessert menus shrank 3%, according to Technomic.

“The overall trend of downsizing menus means restaurants are focusing on the highest-reward items, the ones with the highest margins or the biggest sellers or the ones with the biggest buzz, and that’s certainly true with desserts,” said Technomic restaurant industry watcher Mary Chapman. (read more…)

America’s foodies have educated themselves about different cuisines and exotic ingredients through travel, food TV shows, social sharing sites and even old-fashioned word-of-mouth, and the most adventurous among them are fueling the rising popularity of chefs’ tasting menus. Paradoxically, the more they know, the more many want to be surprised and delighted rather than dictate each course.

Chefs Andrew Kochan and Tim Lanza bought Philadelphia’s Marigold Kitchen this year from founder Rob Halpern, who spent five years building a following for the eatery’s tasting menu. The partners are carrying on the tradition Halpern started, along with Chef Keith Krajewski and General Manager Christopher Albert.

“We’re doing the same thing as the previous owner, it’s something bold and unique, but we have tweaked it in our own way,” said Lanza.

Marigold Kitchen offers a 14-course tasting menu for $90 per person, with seasonal offerings that change at least four and as many as six times a year, Lanza said. (read more…)