Episode 11 – Innovation and Inspiration for your Restaurant from the Sydney Fine Food Expo

The Fine Food Expo is Australia largest trade show for Restaurants and we visited yesterday to have a look for great ideas to help you with your Restaurant.  There are a lot of ways to save money, save time (especially important if it is your time you are saving) and ways to spice up your menu.  Your menu is one of your most important tools in sales and marketing.  We also look at one of the great tools you can use in costing your menu.  We’ve looked at this in the past, if you haven’t costed your menu yet, this is the easiest way to do it.

Right click here and save-as to download this episode to your computer.

Resources mentioned in this podcast

Morlife and their awesome Goji Berries.

Silver Chef for adding flexibility into your business plan

Cooking the Books

Robot Coupe for saving time in the kitchen

Creating a great culture in your Restaurant

Fine Food Australia

Podcast transcription on Episode 11 – Innovation and Inspiration for your Restaurant from the Sydney Fine Food Expo

James Eling: Hey, it’s James from Marketing4Restaurants and welcome to episode 11 of Secret Sauce, the restaurant marketing podcast. Innovation and inspiration from the Sydney Fine Food Expo.

James: Hey everyone. I have had an awesome day today. I’m recording this in Sunday night, the 20th of September, which is the first day of the Sydney Fine Food Expo. So, I’ve been out there all day talking to all sort of interesting people how restaurants can better market their business, and find new customers and turn them into repeat customers. So, tonight’s the first night. I wanted to get this podcast early, so we’re going to publish on Monday morning. So, there’ll still be three days for it to run. Give you a chance to have a listen to the podcast, get some ideas, and get yourself out to the expo so that you can have a look. And I want you to go and have a look and think about the things that you can do to work your menu, the experience that you create for your customers, because there are hundreds of ideas out here for people who are running a restaurant to be able to increase the margin that they make. Lots of really interesting things, so we’ll get onto that in a little while. First thing, an Instagram update.

So, as you know, we’re trying to get the hang of Instagram, we’ve been playing around with it for a little while. We started out doing some quotes of famous chefs, that’s gone alright. Let me just bring up Instagram now and have a quick look. So, I don’t think there’s been a lot of movement on what we were doing before. [As of this writing,] We’ve had 27 posts, we’ve got 8 followers, and we’re following 8. So, not a spectacular amount of traction there, which is something. So, we’re going to start coming up with some different types of content which I think is going to be interesting.

The update I would have for today though, is – so, what I’ve been doing is I’ve been taking some photos at the Fine Food Expo and just popping them up on Instagram. And I’ve learnt a couple of things that are actually quite interesting. First off, it’s not really about the photo. So, there was one photo that I took which I’m actually really, really proud of. It’s a photo of a couple of judges looking at some pies, the filter looking, they have a pie judging competition here, and the filter that I used, you know, I just really think – there was a lot of bright light there, so the bright light, the contrast between the blue and the yellow, I think it’s a great photo. We only had a few likes with that one. As opposed to I went up in the dome where the expo’s being held, I was able to walk up to a platform sort of overlooking all the exhibitors.

And I took a photo just basically to show how many people are here. And there’s heaps of people here for a Sunday, because I would have thought Monday’s going to be the busiest day because that’s probably the day that most restaurant owners have got off. There was heaps of people. I just wanted a photo to capture that. And that had 27 likes. So, that was the most popular photo that I’d put up for the day, which I think is really quite interesting. The one thing that I did put in there that I hadn’t put in the other ones is I’d put the hashtag Sydney. So, I’m wondering if it is the hashtag. I tried that in a couple of others, didn’t get that response. So, all I wrote was, “Big day out at #finefoodexpo, lots of #restaurantowners looking out for some #innovation #inspiration and #optimization ideas. Runs to Wednesday in #Sydney, great ideas for your #marketing with lots of interesting products to see.” So, as you can see, lots of hashtags. I tried not to go completely berserk with hashtags, I’ve seen some people who will then load it up with the 30 hashtags. I haven’t done that. So, not sure whether it’s hashtag Sydney, or marketing, or maybe even inspiration. So, I’m going to play around with that tomorrow, take a few more photos, and see how we go. Couple of things, this is the first time I’ve been using photos straight from my tablet. So, I’ve got a Galaxy Tab S, or S2 I think it is. Been really happy with that. I think the camera on really does quite a good job. Really does quite a good job.

Now, the other thing that’s been really interesting is in Instagram you can link it to post on your Facebook page, and I’m always a big fan of repurposing content. So, it’s pretty easy, the filters look pretty good. So, it’s kind of a no brainer to pop it up on Facebook. Had very little interaction on Facebook, but I’ve automatically got Facebook to share out to Twitter. And so, we’ve been picking up followers today by using Instagram. So, it’s gone from Instagram to Facebook to Twitter. So, I’ve actually used the content three times. Now, the really interesting thing about that is that when you share automatically from Facebook to Twitter, it just comes up with the first few sentences that you put in, of course, because you’ve got the 140-character limit on Twitter. So, there’s that. It goes out there, the picture doesn’t come through, so, you’ve actually got to go and share it separately for the picture to come through. So, this isn’t about the picture, it’s just people picking up on those hashtags. But we’ve been picking up followers today. So, that’s pretty interesting. So, we’ll keep on going, we’ll keep persevering, and we’ll keep having fun with it.

But yeah, it’s been interesting how we’ve been picking up Facebook followers. And it’s been interesting how probably the least exciting photo of the day that I’ve taken has had the most engagement. So, I’m going to investigate that and try and find out exactly what it was that came up there. I suspect it is going to be something like an inspiration hashtag. So, onto Sydney Fine Food Expo. I think the really big thing, and there’s a lot of ground to cover. I am probably three quarters of the way through. So, I got here at 10, left at 5. So, seven hours and I’ve still probably a quarter of the show to go through and there’s people that I didn’t get a chance to speak to today who I want to go back to. So, there is plenty to see. I think the really big challenge for anyone going to these shows – every time you walk past a stand, “What could I do with these people? What is their product? How would it work for my restaurant? What benefit can I get out of it?” Because I think talking to some of the people who are going by, some people tend to be a little bit close-minded and they’re looking for specific things, or they’ve only got a couple of hours so they’re sort of like speed walking through the show. There’s a lot of things out there.

When you start talking to people you think, “That’s really interesting. That could work.” So, I was talking by and saw a place that had some sort of chocolate product and I’ve been dieting lately so I’ve been trying to avoid things like chocolate, and then I realized it was More Life. I thought, “More Life.” We have those in our office. So, one of the perks of working in the Marketing for Restaurants’ office is we get a lot of yummy treats like from More Life. So, the one that the team liked the most is the chocolate coated macadamia nuts. They’re awesome. There’s chocolate coated goji berries, blueberries. The blueberries are a favourite, as well. So, I quite like the goji berries, because I think it’s chocolate which is nice and goji berries which is super awesome. All in one yummy little packet. So, I thought, “I’ll say hello to them.” And we got talking and they have big one kilo bags of goji berries.

And just talking to them and I thought, “Wow, you’ve got your muesli that you serve for breakfast for $5. What about if you put goji berries in it, give it a name like ‘Super Oxidant Super Food Muesli, how much more could you charge for it? And you put a handful of the More Life goji berries in it.” So, just 10 grams, a small handful. And so, goji berries, what’s exciting about them? So, I had a quick chat about them. Their goji berries have got five times the antioxidants of fresh blueberries. So, they’ve got the five times the antioxidants of fresh blueberries. Put that on the menu, have that little tagline in there, “Chocked full of antioxidants, five times more than fresh blueberries.” And you might want to put the fresh blueberries in there, as well. And I reckon that, for the 50 cents that you put in of the berries you could probably charge an extra $2 or $3 for your super oxidant muesli.

Now, it’s those little kind of menu engineering tweaks, there are hundreds of them at the Fine Food Expo. That was one of the good ones that I saw. The other thing that I thought, one of the big things is there’s a lot of items there that you can use in your kitchen. And I see a lot of places, particularly in the smaller kitchen where a lot of the food prep is done by hand, a lot of the cooking is done the old fashion way. And I realize why some people want to do that. But I think the big question that you want to ask yourself, “Is that part of my business plan? Or, am I just doing it because I’m old-fashioned?” If you’ve got a chef’s table then you want to be doing all of the cutting of the vegetables in front of someone, because you’ve got people watching you and that’s part of the show, part of the experience. And where there’s an experience, there’s margin. So, completely get that. But if you’re doing your prep work two hours before the customers come in and no one sees it, then you really want to get through your prep work as quickly as possible. So, I was just looking through their CL50 for veggie prep. And it’s a pretty neat little device.

Efficiency, you know, the big question you’ve got to ask is what are you paying your staff per hour to do all of your prep work? And if you’re doing it, I mean, if you’re the restaurant owner, that’s the most important time. You’re probably getting under paid for it. An hour of prep time that you can cut down on, if you can save an hour a day then what’s that a work? You know, six days a week? A month? A year? These sort of devices, they sort of pay for themselves. You’ve got the efficiency.

Safety, you’re less likely to have a knife injury in the kitchen. Presentation, they all look the same. Consistency in size for costing. You know, you’ve got it listed in the recipe, it’s going to be a two-meal thick cut of carrot, cucumber, whatever it is. So, you know from a menu costing point of view exactly what it is that you’re using. Because if someone new comes into the kitchen and they cut it a bit thicker then your costings have just gone out the window. You also get a better final product after cooking because they’re all the same size, they’ve all cooked through in the exact same amount of time. I’m always amazed that you don’t see more of these kitchen aids in the kitchen of a lot of typically your mum and pop type restaurants. I know often they’re a bit of an expensive purchase, but you’ve got to think about that time.

And particularly if it’s you who’s doing that prep, you’re the one who needs to be a little bit out of the kitchen, a little bit more working on the business. Is this one of those things that you can actually use to be able to get that little bit more time so that you can start working on the marketing, start working on the business plan, start driving the business forward. When you start investing the time like that, that’s when you get to spend more time with your family. Now, the interesting thing, I then was wondering around and I got chatting to the guys from Silver Chef. Now, it was interesting because I’ve got a photo that I’ll put up on Facebook a bit later, I’ll put some of these photos up on the show notes, as well, so you can get a flavour, particularly if you’re not in Sydney. Or, if you’re listening to this after the expo.

They’ve got a really cool thing on their stand where you can actually use one of the Oculus Rift headsets to go into a kitchen, and as you look around items there have got a little cross on them and as you focus on those it’ll tell you how much it costs and how much it would be per week to use it. So, the guys at Silver Chef what they do is they provide sort of a financing type product for kitchen equipment, restaurant type equipment. So, and they’re pretty big, I had a look when I came back to the hotel, I had a look. They’re a listed company on the ASX. They’ve got 10,000 customers in Australia, they operate in New Zealand and Canada, as well. They’re going into Canada, which is exciting for them. So, what they give restaurant owners is a great way to conserve cash. This is off balance sheet financing. And so, you can conserve cash because one of the big things that I see is that someone will say, “You know, we started our restaurant three months ago, now we need a website and we don’t have any money.” So, there’s two problems with that. One, they don’t have any money for a website.

And, two, of course, they’ve done it the wrong way around. Get your website up before you open your restaurant so that Google can start to learn about it and be ready to start referring you traffic as soon as you open. But all of these people they over spend on fit out and then they’ve got no cash to actually do the marketing. They haven’t allowed for that. And that’s one of the big things that I think kills a lot of restaurants off.

So, Silver Chef give you the capability to conserve cash, particularly when you’re starting up and I think that’s a huge benefit that you can have, because cash is king. When you start your restaurant, cash is king. And the more you’ve got of it, the more flexibility it gives you, the more options you’ve got. And when we talked a few episodes in the restaurant autopsy, this was the big thing that killed them. He had great food, he had a great product, he had okay marketing, his website was a bit ordinary. But he had a loyal customer base, he had all of those things going for him, and the two things that really did him in was one, he hadn’t costed the menu, and two, he had very little cash in reserve because of issues with getting the fit out done and getting the restaurant open and getting hi liquor license. All of those took much longer than he expected and he just literally ran out of cash. So, they give you the ability to try before you buy. And so, you can hand equipment back after three months.

And I think that’s a really, really good idea because it means that you can actually test out your business plan. And we were talking about it and I said, you know, “If you needed to change, you could actually change your kitchen up a bit,” and he goes, “Well, it’s funny you should mention that.” And he had a customer near Monash University in Victoria, and they had a customer there who had a burger bar, was going really well. And then, unfortunately, McDonalds opened up just across the road from him. And customer levels dropped off massively for him. So, and he said to them, “Look, I’m in trouble.” And they said, “Well, why don’t you do something else? Why don’t you do noodles?” And he goes, “Well, what do I know about noodles?” “Shouldn’t be that hard to get some chefs.” So, got rid of all of his burger cooking equipment, brought in the things that he needed for a noodle bar, advertised at the Uni and got some chefs who were studying at the Uni, and had a bustling noodle bar.

Now, if you’ve gone out and purchased all of that equipment, you’re stuck. This guy, because he was using Silver Chef, he had the flexibility to be able to change up his kitchen. And, I mean, kitchen fit out, that’s a really big part of your business plan. The ability to change that, wow, that’s some awesome flexibility that you can build in. That gives you a little bit more insurance to be able to weather the little curveballs that life will throw at your business plan. It also means that you can save money for your marketing. So, I think that was really cool. Now, the good thing about going to a Fine Food Expo is there was also alcohol suppliers there. Tried some really nice tequilas, Fogata Tequilas, they’re looking for distributors in Australia. I tasted a couple of theirs. Really nice tequila. The interesting thing is that they’ve got four tequilas there. Now, I’m working, I knew I needed to come back and do a podcast, so I didn’t have all four of the tequilas but I tried a couple of them. The thing that I find interesting is that tequila, like a lot of other beverages, there’s a lot of different types.

And so, I also went to one of the Talk and Taste sessions that had a beer tasting with Dave Phillips. He runs brewery tours in New South Wales, really passionate about helping mall boutique breweries gain a following. So, he runs tours for these small breweries. And so, we had a beer tasting and we had redback James Squire-style way, Napoleon-y, and Murray’s wild things imperial stout, and finished off with a cider.  Now, the interesting thing is and he went and he spoke very eloquently about the tasting notes and the brewing process, gives you a real feel of the places where they’re made, as well. So, creates that whole experience around the beer. And the one thing that I find is really amazing is that I haven’t seen any restaurants in Australia that are doing beer flights. I haven’t seen any restaurants that are doing tequila flights.

Now, I had a tequila flight in San Francisco, it was awesome. You get to taste the different ones. And particularly if you train your staff up, and I’ve seen it done. We had a wine flight at a restaurant in California and it came out with the tasting notes, little bit about the winery, little bit about each of the wines. So, you’re actually educating your customer. So, see what we’re doing here again? We’re moving away from selling wine to creating an experience. You can do the same with the beers, “Here are four beers from a local brewery, this is how this one’s been brewed. You can taste this on it. This is what it feels like on the palate.” You can educate them. Where there’s an experience, there’s margin. You’re moving up the profitability scale. I’m not sure why that doesn’t happen in Australia. I think there should be a lot more with that. And the other thing that I was thinking was, because it reminded me of Edmund’s Oast the awesome beer/restaurant place in Charleston, South Carolina.

And everyone, you just knew, that everyone had been really well trained on beer. Because the two-different people that I spoke to all gave very, very, very comprehensive answers to the questions. It looked like everyone there was a beer expert. If you did that training for your staff, would they be more engaged with your restaurant? Would they be less likely to leave? Would it be more fun if at the end of a shift, “Okay, so this is going to be next month’s beer. Take a few home with your friends. This is the brewery that it came from. What do you think of it? How do you think you’re going to be able to sell that to your customers?” Now, I think that that sort of engagement with your staff, we’re starting to create a little bit more engagement which is exactly what Nick Sorello was talking about in the purpose and values podcast.

So, if you haven’t listened to that one, definitely have a listen. But I think that these are the little kind of things that you can do to help train your staff, help retention. And also, beer flights are awesome. And a lot of other restaurants around the world use them. Usually there’s four of them there, so whether it’s beer, tequila, some other, gins, boutique spirits. That’s becoming a thing. Do you get a few of those boutique gins or brandies, a brandy tasting, you know? Create a flight, usually the volume normally works out to be the volume from about two glasses. And it’s usually about two and a half to three times the price for that. But what the customer’s getting is they get to try four different drinks, and they also get that little bit of experience. They also get that little bit of understanding about the brewing process. Or, is there a connection, is it a local brewery? Is it the brewery from just down the road? What’s their story? And we’re starting to build that engagement. Keeps coming back to creating a story, and the story becomes part of the experience.

There were also lots of international vendors there. If you’re a Mexican restaurant, there was a lot of things. And so, a new type of tequila. How many tequilas do you have, where does that fit on the menu? All sorts of cuisines. Chilean, Chinese, Indian spices, all sorts of really, really interesting things that could be potentially new. Some ideas for your menu, some ideas for experiences that you can create in your restaurant. Gluten free, of course, was a really big thing today, as well. Lots of interesting vegetarian products, as well.

Whatever the niches are that you’re targeting, and you should be targeting more than one or two. It shouldn’t just be a gluten free sub menu. Are you kid friendly? Is it a steak house? Where are you getting the Wagyu beef? That had some excellent demonstrations with Wagyu beef today, which tasted amazing. How do you create that experience for your customers? Are you buying product from a local farm? Because if you are, which farm is it? Can we get a photo of the farmer digging up his produce? Do you tell that to your customers? So, “This comes from a farm that’s 20 kilometres away. He’s been farming, he’s third generation veggie farmer. It’s organically certified. So, when you order this meal, you’re helping a local farmer.” People get that. They want that. they want that engagement. They want to hear that story. It gives them an experience. They’re helping a local farmer. Where there’s experience, there’s margin.

So, have a think about it. Come along. It’s still running for three days, the Fine Food Expo. Come along with an open mind. Look for the things, talk to people. There’s so many people here, they’ve got an interesting story. Ask them, work out how it’s going to work in your restaurant, and come back and redesign your menu. Then when you have redesigned your menu, make sure you get it costed. And if you’re having any trouble with that, I spoke to the team from Cooking the Books today, and they’ve got a really great product to help you cost out your menu. Too many restaurants don’t do this. And I think it’s crazy. In the menu engineering process, I always like to think that you know what your high profit items are, and when you actually design the menu – so, physically design the menu – you should be calling out those dishes that are most profitable.

So, there’ll be some dishes in the menu that you have to have because people are going to come in and they’re going to order it. And they may be low margin products. You don’t need to feature them because people are going to order them anyway. There will be some things though, particularly for people who aren’t sure about what they want to eat, and they are the ones that you want to be highlighting product to. And the menu items that you’re going to highlight to them should be your highest profitability ones. This is how you increase the amount of money that falls to the bottom line. So, have a chat to the guys from Cooking the Books. They’ve got some really interesting software. We’re working on some menu engineering information. We’ll probably get the guys in on to the podcast to talk about it, because costing the menu, I think it’s become an archaic art. I was actually talking to a lecturer at a Tafe and he said that food costing had been cut out of the syllabus which, from a marketing point of view, I just think is crazy. Because if you don’t know how much money you’re making on each individual item, then how are you going to market them?

You don’t know which ones to be pushing. So, costing, really important. Cooking the Books, have a chat to those guys, as well. That is pretty much it. That is the Fine Food Expo in a nutshell. Lots to see, lots to do, lots to taste, lots to drink, as well. So, apart from being really inspirational about the things that you can be doing to grow your restaurant and to progress it, there’s also lots of great food there to have. I think I’ve probably had about four or five coffees today, including a coffee made with coconut milk. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m from Melbourne, a little bit more conventional. It wasn’t quite my cup of tea. But I can see for those people who don’t want dairy milk, there’d definitely be people there who will try. And I tried it because it was like, “Wow, a coffee with coconut milk. I’ll try that, that’s something new.” It wasn’t my cup of tea, but hey, it’s a new experience. Plenty to see, plenty to do. So, come along. That’s it.

So, hopefully you’ve got something out of it, hopefully there was some innovation, some inspiration for you to take away, even if you don’t come along to the expo. Have a think about your menu. Have a think about next time a supplier comes in to talk to you, ask them what other restaurants are doing, ask them what’s new and exciting, ask them what trends they’re seeing. They’ve got a lot of information, they see a lot of restaurants. They’ll know what’s working because they’ll know the people who are shifting large amounts of their produce. Always ask that question. So, if you did get something out it, please leave a review on iTunes, it really does help us to get the information out. Have a look on the show notes, there’ll be some photos of all of the crazy stuff that we’ve seen here today and if you did get something out of it, share the podcast, as well.

There’s lots of restaurant owners out there, a lot of them are struggling. Hopefully the podcast – we know the podcast is doing a really good job, we’re getting lots of great feedback via email and people on Facebook, as well – so, hopefully listening to the podcast, they’ll get a few ideas, bit of inspiration to be able to find more customers and turn them into repeat customers, increase the profitability in the restaurant, and maybe work a few less hours. I know everyone’s working long hours, that’s one of our big goals is to help everyone work a few less hours. But you’ve got to get some cash down to the bottom line to be able to do that. So, that’s it. Have a busy day.



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