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  • Writer's picturePhilip Marchant

A to Z of 2021 Home Schooling for Business (Part 3, K-Q)

K – Kitchens

Dark kitchens can allow for the continuation of operations (on a takeaway basis) when dine-in venues such as hotels and restaurants are forced to close. Also known as ghost kitchens and satellite kitchens, the model works by leasing a secondary site such as hotel kitchens, shipping containers or other industrial units (or during the lockdown your actual kitchen in your restaurant or hotel) to cook and produce meals for consumption on-premises and elsewhere.

These kitchens can also during the downtime or quiet periods can also prepare and market a rolling monthly subscription for meal kits which provides a stable stream of income.

You can even offer different types and styles of cuisine from different brands and websites from the same kitchen. This not only increases your scope but also reduces your overheads.

Hoteliers and restauranteurs keen to expand their business, is where the concept of dark kitchens has potential. Whether these businesses utilise their own menu from a delivery hub, or partner with third-party vendors that develop their own recipes and food brands in-house, its scalability and scope can improve weekly turnover and lead to a strong ROI.

The online component of dark kitchens also correlates with the growing preference amongst travellers to use a hospitality app. In a recent study, 47 per cent said they would be more likely to take advantage of room service and 48 per cent more likely to visit the hotel restaurant if they could order via an app.

There are now businesses which lease restaurants inside full-service hotels and assume responsibility for staffing, brand standards, and logistics. They then transform the back-of-house into delivery hubs that have virtual room service to nearby hotels. With the ghost kitchen trend on the rise, you can now build a successful and sustainable catering business anywhere, as long as it has good access to the local hub.

L – Local

It’s no secret that customer demand for organic and local food has been on the rise for years now. People are increasingly concerned with where their food comes from, how it was made, and by whom, and hyper-local food sourcing is how the restaurant industry is meeting that demand.

Many people do not simply want to experience a life similar to their own, but in a different location. Instead, they want to experience an authentic way of life in the location they visit.

Businesses in the hospitality industry are responding to this, to cater to these demands. Hotels might provide local products, from food and drink from local producers to locally made toiletries, pictures on the walls by local artists that are for sale, furniture by local manufacturers even local customs or entertainment, guests are looking an interesting and unique experiences.

While other options like Airbnb and farmhouse accommodation can offer a more independent guest experience.

Link up with local attractions, holiday/caravan parks (remember people on holiday want to eat out!) offer discounts or rewards to encourage them to recommend your business.

Today, restaurants are going beyond just buying fresh fruits and vegetables from local farms; now they are purchasing local beef, seafood, and even beer and wine.

Vegetables and fruits are the original “local foods.” Not only does buying local produce help your local economy, but the food also usually tastes and looks better than those grown in larger corporate farms. Using local produce allows you to add variety to your restaurant menu, changing it with the seasons.

Today, more consumers want to know where their food is coming from. They are also more aware than ever of how livestock is being raised, including its living conditions and what it is being fed since both these factors influence nutrition as well as taste.

A recent study shows that 57 percent of adults say that they look for restaurants that serve locally sourced food when dining out. Since that’s something that customers go out of their way to look for, it can be a great way for you to market your business and add value to the customer experience.

Locally sourced seafood is also a growing trend, though buying local can present a problem for landlocked states. If your restaurant is not able to easily obtain local beef, seafood, or poultry, you can buy food that has been raised with sustainable farming methods.

Hyper-Local Foods

A newer trend among restaurants is hyper-local foods. What exactly is hyper-local food sourcing, you may ask? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like: food grown, processed, and consumed at the neighbourhood level of a community.

This trend isn’t for everyone. After all, you need the space and time to tend to a garden, even a small one. However, if you do have the urge to save money and offer delicious ingredients right from your back door, you could try a small herb garden in a window box or even a recycled plastic bucket from your weekly food order.

Another growing trend in restaurants is offering locally made spirits. There are hundreds of small vineyards and micro-breweries throughout the country that offer unique flavors, often using local ingredients, setting them apart from national distributors. These beverages offer a good marketing tool for restaurant menus.

You will by now have heard of the Artisan foods. This is the new buzzword for menus, replacing gourmet. Big restaurant chains have begun featuring entire lines of “artisan foods”, including Subway offering artisan sandwiches. Artisan foods can be used on restaurant menus as a savvy marketing tool. However, if you want to truly stand apart from the competition, keep in mind what artisan food really means. Technically the term artisan implies that foods are hand-crafted, typically in smaller batches and made with high-quality ingredients.

What once was a novelty supported by specific chefs, is now for consumers—and those restaurant owners who have already dived in—the trend that goes beyond healthy food that tastes good. People want to know that they’re supporting the community they live in and that the money they spend on food is going to contribute to the local economy in the form of new jobs, better environmental practices, support for local frarmers and improved treatment of animals.

If you’re thinking about opening a restaurant or looking for a way to innovate an existing restaurant to meet consumer demand, then hyper-local food sourcing is a promising investment to consider. It’s not only a way to incorporate fresh, locally sourced food into your menu, but also a way to match the values of your restaurant to the values of your community.

Locally sourced food can help your bottom line too.

While you might think that sourcing food locally is expensive, it isn’t necessarily as big of an obstacle as you might think. Since buying locally often means working directly with farmers, you have shorter supply chains which can help you save money. And studies have found that consumers are usually willing to pay more for food items that they perceive to be healthy or locally grown, which can increase your profit margins.

Buying local is a major trend of the moment. But it’s more than just a fad. For businesses like local restaurants, using locally sourced food can be a major selling point and benefit.

M – Meal Kits

The future of “eating in” – from fine dining to chippies and caffs – is one of the great unknowns of the pandemic. Restaurants have been either closed or adapting to new hygiene regulations for the past 10 months.

But the delivery market – a growing audience tried and tested by apps such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats and recipe-box businesses such as Gousto and HelloFresh – is thriving.

Many well know local, regional and national brands have opened up to the meal kit market some in fear of possible detracting from or damaging their brand have opened another company to do restaurant food that’s much better than anyone can be bothered to cook at home.

It’s not a small undertaking, it takes time, research, trial and error, preparation, marketing, and a dedicated team to make it work but for many it has been their only means of survival.

Delivery demographics

These companies were growing before Covid-19 and now they’re flying. Gousto, a British company founded in 2012, has lockdown fitness hero Joe Wicks as an investor. It says capacity will triple by 2022, crediting the “structural shift to online grocery”. HelloFresh, a Berlin-based public company, more than doubled its revenue in 2020 and is planning to put on another 20 to 25 per cent in the coming year.

Even small local restaurants are now sending out more than 500 meal kits a week. These range from your complete daily dose – breakfast, lunch and dinner to single meal kits for 2 or four people. They charge anywhere from £10 to upwards of £140.

Plenty of restaurants don’t have the funds to set up big delivery operations, but are sending out meals themselves (via couriers) or signing up to a growing number of start-ups that manage logistics such as Dishpatch, Restokit, Big Night and Finish and Feast.

The menu and dishes often have to be adapted, which will result in trial and error and there is a cost to this.

Waste is a by-product of the delivery business, but don’t forget there’s plenty of waste in restaurants, too, but it’s hidden from you. Restaurants are working hard to find sustainable solutions and most of the plastic pots and vacuum packs are recyclable, while trays, boxes and insulation may be compostable.

Every time Tommy Banks designs a new meal for his delivery business Made in Oldstead. He packs it up as if ready for a courier, drops it from a good height, watches it hit the floor and kicks it across the room. If any of the dishes inside are damaged from the kickabout, it’s back to the planning stages.

There is a downside to restaurant-meal deliveries. You lose the social salve you get from going out with others. Unboxing is fun, and you can share the experience with others over the internet through a zoom style gathering but doesn’t replace the thrill of a night out with friends or family.

Check out this link for some ideas (from London restaurants) on what you can expect:

N – Niche

Approximately 59% of the restaurants close within the first 3 years.

Why does this happen?

There are many reasons, and it would not do either of us any favours to list them all. However, one particular reason is quite important.

Specializing is the Key to Catering Success.

What the heck does it mean? This concept is all about trying to attract certain people to your restaurant.

If you are to be known as the best BBQ place for miles around, it stands to reason, you are going to have to develop a special menu of BBQ items.

It also stands to reason, you will promote your BBQ joint different to a pizza place, right? Okay, you have just learned the biggest secret to running a great catering business.

More customization and specialization may enable increased value creation for hospitality companies. But be careful, as this requires to genuinely think about the value proposition of your offer and not “simply branding and rebranding”.

The more tech savvy firms will thrive because they can offer technology solutions and create markets to attract customers. The traditional hospitality industry will evolve into niche markets (serving specific types of customers), or extremely luxury sector (so they can afford to pay their staff reasonable salary). Those who can't identify their niche will become the money machines for technology companies. Some brands big enough may survive, but their business will get tougher.


There might be a little devil on your shoulder always yelling “Get them all! Get all of the customers!”, but the only thing this approach does is land your own restaurant in hot water!

Establishing your target is not just important – its fundamental.

Everyone has their own tastes and we have to use different communication strategies, approaches, locations, and more to appease this niche.

Between the 50s and the 70s, the entire worldwide market was dominated by the largest companies mass producing products like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola.

This meant hamburgers, fries, and a cold Coke for everyone.

The offer was limited, and the market wasn’t segmented. The difference present here was the rich and the poor consumer.

Inns, restaurants and fast food establishments all had a similar pitch and draw. The difference rested in the price and the customers that came. You had eateries for the rich, and those for the poor, and that was it.

Now, between the 70s and 90s, society and the market it represented changed considerably.

Suddenly people were going out to have a lunch including: singles, working mothers, immigrants, etc. More ethnic restaurants popped up. The need for advertising grew.

Food customs changed as well.

Between 1990 and 2000, the market became really crowded, and restaurateurs’ strategy aimed more and more at differentiation.

Until the internet became popular, especially in early 2000, the idea of One to One became famous.

This means that the products and service provided are custom.

Customers are more demanding than ever, and business savvy individuals create unique concepts to include just a single market niche.

Now it wasn’t hamburgers and French fries, it was light burgers made with local, natural products. It was Granny’s vegetables without pesticides for local businessmen needing a lunch that was low in calories.

These restaurants aren’t made for families with children, and the restauranteur has no interest in marketing to them.

You must have a good niche, as we are no longer living in the 1950s.

To find your niche, you should create your concept and a quality USP for your restaurant. Be passionate and motivated, stick to your ethos, brand and and you can earn a lot of money.

O – Outdoor spaces

In 2021, travellers will feel safer spending time outdoors compared to enclosed spaces when it comes to being in public. Whether it's meeting and event space, outdoor dining or inviting green spaces for socially distant coffee breaks or yoga sessions, more and more properties will be looking to incorporate the outdoors into the guest experience.

Glamping will continue to grow, the staycation will be more popular than ever as travel restrictions and quarantines will be around for a while yet.

Those businesses with an outside space need to start developing it now to be ready for the end of lockdown to capitalize on the need to congregate and experience some sense of normality.

A few tables with umbrellas is no longer a viable option. Your outdoor space needs to be all weather ready and provide ample social distancing space as well as being an inviting and attractive place to sit, drink, dine and meet with family and friends.

This can be easily achieved on a small budget. Think outside the box and use what you have, old pallets, logs, broken furniture can all be repurposed into unique outdoor furniture.

A lick of paint and some Christmas fairy lights thoughtfully placed can add atmosphere.

Leftover building materials can be transformed into a funky shelter. A BBQ area or Firepit with logs around as seats can create a fun and inclusive area for your customers to be.

P – Personalization

Today’s guests have grown to expect to be recognized and treated as individuals. Establishments are going the extra mile to personally greet their guests, while tools have made personalized e-mail marketing accessible to the masses. Far beyond simply adding the customer’s name to email greetings, data provides insight into past buying habits, enabling hotels to tailor their offers and promotions and automatically provide similar services to previous stays.

Customers request extreme personalization, unique experiences, and so on. This could very well lead to the death of the travel agent and the rise of the independent traveller.

Travel guilt is real. Minimalism has reinvigorated the otherwise somewhat dusty saying “less is more”. Travelers are decreasingly seeking lavish displays of wealth, preferring instead to spend wisely, purposefully and make a positive impact on the world. Unique experiences that give back to local communities in meaningful ways are in demand, as are niche properties, adventurous holidays and relaxation retreats.

These new generations have different requirements and needs compared to older generations. A respondent said “Older generations think about hotels and car rentals. Younger generations think about Airbnb and Uber.”

Across almost all industries, the need for personalisation is a major trend, and the hospitality industry is no different. This is primarily driven by the rise of big data. Meanwhile, a growing number of hotel guests want to be treated as individuals, rather than just another anonymous customer.

Personalisation can be deployed in a variety of ways. Within hotels, for instance, returning customers can be automatically provided with similar services to last time they stayed, while they can also be personally greeted by a member of staff upon arrival, using GPS technology and booking data. Furthermore, with the rise of smart devices, hotel guests can also be enabled to use their own devices and accounts on entertainment platforms.

67 percent of customers are willing to pay more for a great experience, according to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report.

In order to truly create a connection, you need to use data to personalize the customer experience. The truth is, most customers today expect a highly tailored experience: they want a company to know who they are, what they've purchased in the past, and even what their preferences are. They also expect you to remember all of this information, and they don't want to have to repeat themselves.

Your customers already expect highly personalized service. And while consumers are often reluctant to share personal information, 83 percent of consumers are willing to give companies their data if they think it will lead to more personalization, according to research by Accenture.

Of course, you need to be careful here - protecting customer data is a top priority. If you share their data without explicit permission, or use it in a way they didn't intend, you'll be breaking your customer's trust. And once broken, trust is hard for brands to regain.

Q – Quick service

In this section I’m going to talk about the quick service in terms of resolving problems your customers may experience.

A quick turnaround can not only result in an once unhappy customer made happy again but will also increase brand loyalty and truly exception cases can even go viral and be a positive marketing tool for you.

Everyone's definition of outstanding customer service will differ slightly.

Customers want fast replies to their questions, on the channel of their choice, any time of day.

They expect support agents to be friendly, helpful and solve their problem quickly with minimum fuss.

Speed. Convenience. Friendliness. Ultimately, these elements are what really defines good customer service.

If a customer tweets a complaint, you might be tempted to "take that conversation offline" so it's not hashed out in public.

But it's not always that simple. Maybe they've already tried calling your toll-free number and had a long wait time. Or maybe they just prefer social media for customer service. People pick channels based on how quickly they want a response, and how complex their problem is.

Your staff need to be able to handle questions by phone, email, messaging, live chat, social media and more.

It helps when your technology can track it all and let staff seamlessly switch between communications channels.

For example, suppose a customer starts with live chat, but the issue becomes too complicated for that. In that situation, you want your staff to be able to easily transition to a phone call.

You really have to be able to relate to a customer to deliver a great experience. That starts with empathy.

When things don't go as planned, your customer might let you hear about it. And now one customer issue has become two: fixing the original problem and trying to turn an angry customer into a happy one.

Great customer service often means anticipating your customer's needs before they even have to tell you.

Customer expectations are sky high: they want you to respond quickly.

Millennials and Gen Z, often prefer channels that lend themselves to immediate responses:

· Social media

· In-app messaging

· Social messaging apps

With older generations, it's no surprise that consumer preference leans toward more traditional methods like:

· Phone

· Email

· In-store interactions.

But patience for response times is shortening: 51 percent of respondents expect a response in less than 5 minutes on the phone, and 28 percent expect the same on live chat.

Exceeding expectations means keeping pace with customers. That might mean something like an automated response for messaging or email to say "We got your question and we're looking into it." Similarly, it means a prompt return phone call to a customer who leaves a message. If they have to call you twice, it's already poor service.

Invest in training. Give your agents a customer service training program that truly sets them up for success. They should know your products well, have access to a robust knowledge base, and be able to handle difficult customer issues. Give them the freedom and backing to personally resolve the complaint and reward them for well-handled situations.

Customers don't always want to ask someone for help. So sometimes, excellent customer service means letting people help themselves. 69 percent of customers want to resolve as many problems as possible on their own, and 63 percent always or almost always start with a search on a company's website.

Many companies aren't taking advantage of this opportunity. Only a third of companies offer a knowledge base or community forum, and less than one in three offer social messaging, chatbots, or in-app messaging.

By building an easy way for customers to self-help, you'll relieve pressure on your support team and create happy customers.

Customers that want to take care of problems themselves are open to chat- bots and artificial intelligence (AI) if it means fast, efficient resolution to their issues.

End your FAQs and help centre articles with "Did this answer your question?"

If the customer's response is "No, I still need help," then it's time to offer live chat with an agent. They've already tried to solve the issue on their own, so it's time to escalate to the next tier.

When you make customers enter a lot of personal information before they're able to get help, it's more likely they will give up. Resulting in a double whammy of bad press for your business.

Ideally, they can log into their account and be able to access whatever they need without giving you more details, making the process much easier for everyone.

Your customers are comparing you to the best customer service experience they've ever had.

What's more, 46 percent of customers say they have higher expectations from the companies they do business with this year vs. last.

It's vital to be able to deliver exceptional customer service, every time.

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