From Broadway to the Tech World: Meet Restaurant365 Account Executive Andy Meeks

Prior to working for us at Restaurant365, Andy Meeks was a Broadway star. He appeared in Tony-award winning shows including RENT and Mary Poppins, and won a Suzi award for best actor. He has also been in many sitcoms and commercials.

We love Andy’s story and thought you would, too! Here’s an interview with Andy about his former life in Broadway and what led him to be a key Account Executive at Restaurant365.

1. How does your former life in Broadway contribute to your sales life?

I have always considered sales reps to actually be “actors” during each and every sales call to customers. If you think about it, you rehearse (practice your sales demos, talking points, “elevator pitch” etc) and perform for your customers each time you are in front of them.

So, the parallel between being on Broadway in front of audiences 8 times a week to performing and sitting in front of a group of restaurant operators is very close when it comes time to “raise the curtain and sell the show.”

Another point I think is really important in comparing the two is the passion that it takes to “perform” day after day in each of these roles.

As an actor, you put your body, voice, and family time through a lot of stress because you LOVE what you do. For me, I feel that exact same passion that I had while on stage when I am talking to a client about Restaurant365.

I have personally been very involved with creating 3 different Restaurant technology startups before finding the Restaurant365 team and company. I find such happiness and pride when I have the opportunity to demo (“perform”) for clients and give them an hour-and-a-half performance of how amazing our software is.

The best part of acting is hearing peoples’ comments after a show about how it changed their lives and how happy they are that they spent the time and money to see it. I often hear the EXACT same thing after a client has made the decision to partner with R365 and they start using our amazing software.

2. What was your favorite role?

My favorite role is about as easy to answer as it is complex. I DREAMED of being Mark Cohen in RENT since the day the show started in 1996. Literally dreamed and wished and prayed.

Keep in mind, I was a musical theatre actor in Atlanta, GA. I had never been to NYC and my dream was to be the lead role in the 3rd most successful show on Broadway.  Fast forward to 2003 when my wife dared me to go to an open audition. I saved up money, went up to audition, and came back the same night. Six months later I was called to come for a callback and eventually received THE CALL to be Mark in RENT. So, without question, that is my favorite role.


But, before that happened, I played some pretty magical roles that would easily be a contender. One that is close to being number 1 was Huck in Big River. I had the honor of playing this role 3 different times. It is a musical based on the story of Huck Finn and his best friend, Jim, during their journey down the Mississippi river. Besides the music being such a transport of feelings, I love the story of friendship, love, and innocence regardless of color, age, shape, money, etc. It still remains one of the greatest shows ever written.

3. Tell us about your current acting roles.

One of the great advantages of being an employee at Restaurant365 is that the company really encourages your dreams and life outside of work. I live in Atlanta where film and commercial business has been booming.

I recently shot a national “Rooms to Go” commercial that will air next month. If you happen to see a Dad dancing with his wife and kids to the tune of “what ya gonna do with all that junk,” I’m that Dad.

I also have a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial still running where you can hear me say the tagline, “I’m drinking Dunkin’.”  What’s crazy about that is I just brought on a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise as an awesome client. Talk about a parallel.

4. How did you get into sales?

I got into sales originally because I saw an ad in the paper that caught my attention. I was living in LA early in my career, and my wife and I decided to move back to Atlanta. This was well before I actually “made it.” I happened to see an ad for a sales rep for a company that sold the ads for the Fox Theatre, Chastain Park Ampitheatre, and performing venues all over Atlanta. I thought, “that’s perfect for me!”

The contact turned out to be a guy trying to get an idea off the ground for “bathroom advertising.” I ended up partnering with him for 7 successful years before I took a random trip to NYC to audition for RENT.  The rest as they say, is history.

It really taught me about customers, sales, and most importantly, the restaurant business. We ended up scaling the business to restaurant restrooms, which gave me exposure to the restaurant world and what owners and staff struggle with.

5. What’s your favorite thing about working at R365?

I would have to separate my “favorite” into 2 favorites. The first is no question: I’m selling and talking about and representing the BEST product in our space. I could easily say it’s because we are the “worlds best and ONLY cloud-based accounting and operations product” but I truly believe we are more than that.

Buying our software is only a small part of what this company is. You can buy software at Best Buy. What I love about this role and this company is that you are buying Restaurant 365. EVERY single bit of our company. I never ever sell just the software. Of course, it truly IS the best software for what we offer. No question about that. It’s pretty awesome having the confidence as a sales rep that even if you lose a customer to another company, you will more than likely hear from them again because they eventually realize you are the better product.

But what I personally love is this company is all about its family of employees and family of customers. Most of the greatest shows ever written for stage all started because the dream and vision was WAY bigger than the success. We didn’t write R365 because we all just wanted to make money off of a product. We truly believe this is the greatest product for OUR CUSTOMERS.

Ask any writer and lyricist of a musical if they wrote a show because they wanted to get paid or because they absolutely believe in and love they words, story, and music they wrote. As an actor “account executive” for R365, I honestly get to perform in the lead role of the greatest show ever written for the restaurant world.

Who wouldn’t want to land that role?

Webinar Recap: New School vs Old School Restaurant Technology

We partnered with Main Street Hub to present a webinar on “Restaurant Technology: New School vs Old School.”

Emma Vaughn from Main Street Hub and John Moody from Restaurant365 highlighted various ways the technology landscape is shifting from an old-school to a new-school mentality.

Main Street Hub’s focus on how to use new-school marketing techniques couples nicely with Restaurant365’s overview of back-of-the-house operations.

The webinar covered topics like tips on Facebook and Instagram as well as an overview of food and inventory costing and labor and payroll advice.

 

If you missed the webinar, you can watch it in its entirety below. If you’re interested in learning more about Restaurant365, please contact us and a sales rep will reach out to you as soon as possible!

 

Old School vs New School – Restaurant Accounting Best Practices

At this year’s National Restaurant Association Show, our Co-Founder John Moody presented a Tech Talk on Restaurant Accounting Best Practices.

In this session, John addressed how to recognize the 10 critical functions of any restaurant accountant or accounting system to ensure financial success for restaurants. He covered how these functions tie together to create the financial picture of the restaurant business, and how small changes can make big impacts on profits.

Here’s an excerpt of John’s presentation. Want to see the whole thing? Contact us and we’ll send it to you!

Restaurant accounting best practices:

  • Restaurant Owners should be asking their accountants and accounting departments
  • Restaurant CFO’s, Controllers, Accountants and Bookkeepers should know forwards and backwards
  • Restaurant Managers are typically doing some accounting functions and should have access to some financial data

Why use an old-school accounting option when there are new-school options available?

Old school:

  • Windows Only
  • Thick Client
  • In the Office Only
  • Servers
  • Heavy Upgrades

New School:

  • Device Independent
  • Browser
  • Tablet
  • Mobile App
  • Updates

To get the most out of your accounting:

Use a Cloud-Based Software

  1. Access system anytime and anywhere
  2. No hardware to maintain
  3. No back-ups to run
  4. Real-time information between accountants, managers and owners
  5. New versions and features typically rolled out faster

Use a modern system with a restaurant accounting structure

  1. Restaurant chart of accounts
  2. Intercompany
  3. No logging in and out
  4. Retail calendar (4-4-5, 13-4, etc.)
  5. Reporting

POS & Accounting

Old School:

  • No POS Data or Detail
  • Manual Entries
  • No Labor Visibility

New School:

  • Drill Down
  • Automatic Journal Entry
  • Full Burden Labor Accrual

Connect your accounting software and POS

  1. Auto-create Sales Journal Entries
  2. Auto-create daily labor accrual Journal Entries (fully burdened)
  3. Allocate payroll between FOH and BOH
  4. Limit the risk for fraud and mistakes
  5. Expected cash deposit starts here
  6. Manage paid-outs

Inventory

Old School:

  • Inventory not Accounting
  • No Inventory
  • Paper Count Sheets
  • Manual Cost Updates
  • Separate Systems

New School:

  • Inventory is Accounting
  • Mobile App
  • Costs Automatically Updated from Invoices
  • Automatic Journal Entry
  • Single System

Count Your Inventory

  1. What part of Inventory isn’t Accounting?
  2. Everything you do with inventory creates a debit or credit
  3. Employees will know you care about inventory
  4. Include Waste and Transfers
  5. Weekly Counts if you want weekly P&L’s
  6. Actual vs Theoretical Report

Want to see the additional sections on Payroll, Bank Reconciliation, Goals and Budgets, Financial Reporting, and Consolidation? Contact us and we’ll send you the full presentation!

Restaurant Owners Maintain a Positive Outlook in 2017

Coming into this year, many restaurants were struggling to grow their sales following a rough time for the industry.

Now, however, it appears restauratuers’ outlook on the industry is unphased by past sales slumps. A new report from Toast POS found that 92% of restaurant owners are optimistic for their sales and success in 2017.

The report delves into which actions restaurant owners are taking to achieve that success, specifically in the realms of marketing, social media, and technology. Of the hundreds of restaurants surveyed, the majority intend to:

  • Increase or maintain their spend on restaurant advertising.
  • Increase usage of social media and search engine ads.
  • Adopt more innovative technology for their business.

Here are some of the most noteworthy takeaways from the Toast Restaurant Success in 2017 Industry Report.

Perceived Optimism and Control

58% of restaurants report feeling optimistic for their sales in 2017, while an additional 34% are very optimistic, meaning more than 9 in 10 restaurateurs maintain a positive outlook for their sales this year. Only 6% are pessimistic, and just 2% are very pessimistic.

Part of this could be due to the level of control restaurateurs’ feel over their success. The same report found that 87% of restaurateurs say they have direct control over the success or failure of their restaurant business.

Loyalty and Online Ordering Set to Rise in Usage

24% of restaurants will start utilizing a loyalty program in 2017, and another 24% will offer online ordering this year.

Loyalty has been proven to boost customer retention and spending amounts, while customized online ordering can lead to higher check sizes compared to in-store purchases.

Perhaps the usage of these profit-generating tools are why restaurant owners feel so positive and in control this year!

Diners Lack in Innovative Tech

Compared to other restaurant concepts, diners seem to be reluctant to introduce technology into their business. Diners are the least likely restaurant concept to:

  • Operate a website
  • Leverage an email database
  • Offer a loyalty program
  • Accept mobile payment

However, some plan to turn this behavior around. Diners are the most likely concept to introduce a website and an online ordering program in 2017.

Not All Social Media is Created Equal

Restaurants love their social media. Only 4% don’t use it in any capacity. However, restaurants definitely play favorites with their social media sites.

Far and away – Facebook is the most popular social media site for restaurants. 92% of restaurants use Facebook, with 73% naming it their social media channel of choice.

The less-loved social media channels include Snapchat and YouTube. While YouTube is slated to grow the most is usage by restaurants in 2017, less than half of restaurants will be using the video-sharing site by the end of the year.

Even less adopted is Snapchat, which was not selected by any surveyed restaurant as their preferred social media channel for their restaurant business.

Goodbye to Direct Mail Ads

While direct mail ads aren’t gone for good, they’re becoming less and less popular. Less than one-third of restaurants plan in engaging in direct mail ad campaigns in 2017, representing a 6% drop compared to historical numbers.

Newspaper/Magazine advertisement is seeing a similar drop in popularity and will decrease 31% in usage this year.

Taking its place are search engine ads and social media ads, which will see 36% and 20% increase in restaurants using these methods, respectively.

Takeaways for Restaurants

As technology gains more importance in the restaurant industry – both inside of the location and online – restaurants should evaluate their current technology systems, advertisement methods, and social media strategy.

In ever-changing times, mastering all three of these systems is imperative for restaurant success.

For more details on what restaurants are doing in 2017 to achieve success, read the full Restaurant Success in 2017 Industry Report.

AJ Beltis is a Content Marketer and Blogger for Toast POS in Boston. AJ and the content team at Toast spend their time compiling resources for those in the restaurant industry dedicated to improving their business and increasing their sales.

Extending Your Brand Beyond Your Restaurant

In a great webinar on extending your brand beyond your restaurant, the teams at Results Thru Strategy and Merchant Centric highlighted the importance of monitoring your brand in the digital landscape.

Results Thru Strategy is a strategic advisory firm that helps hospitality companies optimize their people, performance, and profits. Merchant Centric helps increase revenues for businesses by using data analytics and intelligence to determine meaningful business actions.

The presenters included Fred LeFranc, Founder of Results Thru Strategy; Adam Leff, Co-Founder of Merchant Centric; Connie Shelton, SVP of National and Strategic Accounts for Merchant Centric; Katie Milligan, Manager of Guest Services for Firehouse Subs; and Chris Artinian, CEO of Toojay’s Deli.

The webinar’s agenda focused on 5 key elements:

  1. Understanding the restaurant technology space
  2. Online guest engagement management
  3. The value in what your guests are saying
  4. Actions restaurant brands are taking and results
  5. Online guest engagement management checklist

While there are a lot of buzz words in restaurant tech, many of them don’t identify what’s going on. As such, Adam suggested that this quadrant analysis is more fitting:

All of the online media, online engagement, and targeted advertising components help enhance the in-store experience

The influence of online engagement and media is more significant than ever before. People no longer look only to expert food critics; they look to their friends and social media connections (84% of people trust online reviews in addition to their friend’s content).

Similarly, a diner’s experience with your restaurant doesn’t end when they walk out the door. They go home and create posts and other forms of content, and have conversations surrounding their experience. And restaurants need to identify how to best monitor, sift through, and report on all that content.

There are four main online guest engagement management solutions:

  1. Reputation monitoring
  2. Reputation management
  3. Data analytics
  4. Reporting & Dashboards

There are services available that make reputation monitoring more manageable. You ave to at least listen to what’s going on. If not, you’re at risk for having unfavorable information out there that you may not know about.

The next step in reputation management is to make the investment to interact with guests. Data allows you to actually understand and analyze what guests are saying. You can then say, “If we take this action, we’ll be able to better address what guests are saying.”

You will also then be able to better report and explain everything to your share holders. When businesses actually engage in online guest management, there are often favorable results:

  • More new and repeat guests
  • More reviews
  • Higher ratings
  • Increased revenue

The best organic way to get more reviews is to engage with your guests. They recognize this is a way to communicate with you and so they’re more vocal. Typically, you’ll get more positive reviews, too.

This is beneficial because guests tell restaurants how to increase sales:

Guests’ sharing habits have evolved, too. Online reviews across top sites like Google, Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, and Foursquare contribute drastically to peoples’ decisions.

Restaurants now receive a massive amount of feedback!

People may also share at either the corporate or location-level. Katie noted that, at Firehous Subs, they monitor and respond to both corporate and franchise reviews. Since most are at the location-level, they’ll address the customer from the corporate level then send it across to local management to address. They’ll personally take ownership over anything that’s a brand issue, and relay it to any relevant departments to act on those reviews.

It used to be the case that only 3% of restaurants would reply to reviews. Now, restaurants lead the industry in replying to customer feedback. Why are customers replying? There are many reasons:

  1. More new and repeat guests
  2. More reviews
  3. Higher ratings
  4. Increased revenue

A Harvard Business School Study found that a 1-Star increase in online reputation results in a 5-9% increase in sales.

In looking at Toojay’s as a case study, they discovered they needed to better incorporate technology as well as develop some best practices. Expanding the team and connecting management with guest feedback were also actions items.

They began taking and displaying ownership in what they do by flushing out these priorities and managing guest feedback. They respond to all complaints within 24 hours and want to ensure any issues are completely resolved within 48 hours.

This resulted in higher overall ratings; increased guest satisfaction (monthly ratings higher than past); connected management with guests (real-time email reporting); and being better equipped to guide the brand.

The matter of ratings vs revenue was also addressed:


You think you may be doing well from a money perspective but if your guests aren’t happy, things may be heading downward.

Firehouse Subs was another case study discussed. They have over 1,000 locations and maintain and build brand relationships beyond stores. They manage multiple constituencies (franchisee owners, franchisor management, field marketing managers).

They realized a year ago they were missing the mark in terms of reviews. Previously, many reviews were unanswered and could lead to crisis.

By making it a priority to use sophisticated platforms and best practices, they were able to back and clean up old reviews. Now, they pro-actively respond and monitor all locations’ reviews – on a daily basis – and respond to anything 3 stars or below.

They base everything they do around their mission statement which is their culture. Thus, their star review goes up and so does business. They address it at the corporate level then it trickles down to individual managers.

Interacting became a magnet to get customers to be more vocal online in general, and produce far more positive reviews and feedback, which in turn, drives greater sales volume.

Firehouse Subs also shares information daily among the executive team so everyone has eyes on what’s going on. They also send reviews to the franchisees’ area representatives who share with their teams.

Understanding themes that work with your brand is also a critical step. You have to figure out the number of complaints you get and make sure there’s a balance between high reviews in order to maintain ratings and sales.

Discern what’s meaningful and not necessarily what’s noisiest.

In general, increasing star-ratings increases sales growth. Higher ratings attract new customers and indicate existing customers are satisfied. This means more new and repeat customers and more referrals.

Through proper social media marketing, you can know when your guests are upset about and fix it.

Firehouse was able to narrow down which locations got the most complaints. Most of the time, the complaints were about speed of service, so they decided this was an issue they needed to address.

Many of their customers are in for lunch and want to roll in and out in 30 minutes, so they rolled out a new labor platform to make lunchtime more efficient.

Similarly, Toojay’s also used reputation monitoring to identify exactly where to focus. They were getting great ratings on food but one venue was struggling with slow service and surliness. They focused on how to manage guest feedback in the four walls and figured out a strategy/criteria to resolve in-house issues. They were able to see immediate improvement after putting training behind their team.

In closing, it was recommended to assess the following questions for your brand:

R365 Customer Freddy’s Gets Recognized for Kind Gesture

Kudos to customer Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers for this great recognition.

When a young boy didn’t have enough money to order his dessert, cashier Travis Sattler paid for the custard himself.

Half an hour later, the boy returned with a note and $100 bill. Travis is putting the money toward his savings for nursing school.

Kind gestures go a long way!

The Domestic Production Activities Deduction: An Untapped Savings Opportunity for Restaurants?

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Many taxpayers in the restaurant industry may not be aware that they may qualify for a significant tax deduction available under section 199.

Fully phased in for tax years beginning in 2010 and thereafter, section 199 provides a permanent tax deduction (the “domestic production activities deduction” or “DPAD”) to taxpayers deriving income from qualified production activities occurring in the United States.

The DPAD is computed as the lesser of the following three amounts:

  1. Nine percent of the taxpayer’s qualified production activities income (“QPAI”)
  2. Nine percent of taxable income for the year
  3. 50 percent of the taxpayer’s W-2 wages related to the qualifying production activities

QPAI is principally net taxable income derived from qualifying activities, equal to the excess of the taxpayer’s domestic production gross receipts (“DPGR”) over the sum of the cost of goods sold (“CGS”) and other expenses, losses or deductions that are properly allocable to such receipts.

While many taxpayers tend to think the DPAD only applies to traditional manufacturers, the benefit may be available to a number of other industries as well.

Section 199 broadly defines manufacturing to include activities such as making tangible personal property from new or raw material: processing, manipulating, refining or changing the form of an article; or combining or assembling two or more articles.

This definition can include the preparation of food and beverages, as such activities typically involve combining various articles to make a distinct finished product.

However, section 199 specifically excludes gross receipts of the taxpayer that are derived from the sale of food or beverages prepared by the taxpayer at a retail establishment from DPGR.

A retail establishment is defined as tangible property at which retail sales are made that the taxpayer owns, leases, occupies or otherwise uses to sell food or beverages to the public.

Furthermore, a facility that prepares food and beverages for take-out service or delivery is considered a retail establishment for purposes of section 199.

Accordingly, a restaurant that prepares food onsite from start to finish or a caterer may not qualify for the benefit.

Restaurants may still benefit from the section 199 deduction to the extent any portion of the food preparation occurs at an off-site facility. For example, many chain restaurants use a central kitchen to prepare food products and ship them to its various locations for final preparation and sale to the customer.

For these restaurants, the gross receipts attributable to the food preparation occurring off-site can be treated as DPGR, with the remaining gross receipts attributable to the on-site preparation of the meal treated as non-DPGR.

Off-site preparation of beverages also benefits under the same principle.

In a 2004 conference report discussing the various applications of section 199, Congress noted that although a beverage prepared at a retail establishment, such as a cup of coffee, would not qualify under section 199 in its entirety, a component of the beverage may be treated as qualifying property.

For instance, if a portion of the coffee was prepared off-site, such as roasting the coffee beans, then that specific portion could qualify for the deduction.

A taxpayer’s off-site facility is not a retail establishment if the taxpayer only uses it to prepare food or beverages for wholesale.

Additionally, a retail establishment does not include the bonded premises of a distilled spirits plant or wine cellar or the premises of a brewery (other than a tavern on the brewery premises).

Thus, any gross receipts derived from products produced at such locations and sold to customers (whether the sales occur on-site or off-site) can qualify as DPGR.

Qualifying activities for purposes of the DPAD are wide-ranging and applicable to taxpayers in numerous industries, including the restaurant and beverage sector.

As the rules under section 199 can be quite complex, it is prudent for taxpayers to work with their tax advisers to obtain a thorough understanding of the facts at hand in order to determine whether they may qualify for the incentive.

Note also that taxpayers may amend prior year returns (to the extent such years remain open under the statute of limitations) for any unclaimed section 199 deductions, further increasing their cash tax savings and reducing their effective tax rates.

This post was contributed by Dana Zukofsky and Travis Butler of Restaurant365 partner, BDO.

Restaurant365 and xtraCHEF Announce Strategic Partnership

xtra-chef-partner

Restaurant365, a leading restaurant ERP platform, has partnered with xtraCHEF, an automation tool for restaurant purchases.

The partnership merges Restaurant365’s expertise in accounting, budgeting and financial reporting software with xtraCHEF’s leading restaurant invoice platform to deliver real-time inventory and cost of goods management data, analytics, and reporting to Chefs, Accountants, and Restaurant Owners.

“We’ve been working closely with the team at Restaurant365 for the past year, and this partnership only enhances the relationship between our two brands,” noted Dayna Barringer, Director of Business Development at xtraCHEF.

Restaurants can spend a lot of time entering physical invoices. Many receive anywhere from 10-15 invoices a day with 20-25 item per invoice. That’s 300 items a Chef has to manually enter.

To help chefs be more efficient, xtraCHEF developed an app that allows restaurants to simply take a photo of an invoice. It’s then translated and the data can be sent directly to Restaurant365.

“Our technologies seamlessly integrate together, enabling Restaurant365 customers to easily take a photo or scan in all invoices including food, alcohol and non-food such as linens, services etc. Our multivendor EDI platform eliminates the manual data entry, streamlines the invoices workflow, and saves time and money,” Dayna continued.

XtraCHEF packages superior technology in a unique architecture that provides a one‐step solution that is both innovative and economical.

Restaurant365’s accounting and operations modules are further enhanced with the xtraCHEF offering, enabling more detailed data to flow into the Restaurant365 platform.

“We strive to offer a very robust restaurant platform and look to strategic partners to provide complementary solutions. XtraCHEF’s ability to remove any manual effort for handling paper invoices provides valuable data that flows directly into Restaurant365’s real-time financial & budget reports, payables processing, and business analytics,” states John Moody, Co-founder and VP Strategic Initiatives.

Restaurant365 and xtraCHEF have a growing number of joint clients that truly look to use the best technology and services to streamline the business side of the restaurant business.

7 for ’17: Key Business Issues Impacting the Restaurant Industry this Year

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As we close out the first month of 2017 – a month where we ushered in a new president and administration – the restaurant industry continues to face a number of challenges driven by legislation as well as marketplace dynamics.

Here are seven issues that we believe rise to the top in their potential impact on the industry

1. Wages and Benefits

A rise in the minimum wage affects many businesses, including restaurants. In addition, the new administration in Washington has also vowed to significantly change – or eliminate – the Affordable Care Act.

The changes to the minimum wage are clear. Not so for the Affordable Care Act.

Changes to the minimum wage are being implemented at state level including changes to the tip credit. Currently, 33 states have adopted minimum wages for tipped employees that compensate employees at a rate other than required under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

Restaurant owners are likely to respond to increasing labor costs by implementing cost reduction measures designed to maintain margin with little or no impact on the guest experience.

Quick Service and Fast Casual concepts may expand their dependence on automation while other segments of the industry explore a no tipping/surcharge model.

Those restaurants with an intimate knowledge of their financial metrics will be in a better position to adjust to increasing labor costs.

For details on minimum wages for tipped employees in every state, visit the United States Department of Labor’s website.

2. Competitive Differentiation

Amid increased competition and decreased traffic, restaurateurs will be pressed to differentiate or fade away.

Restaurant industry analysts aren’t enthusiastic about same store sales yet the restaurant industry has become increasing popular with the investment community.

As a result of an increased number of investor-owned restaurant companies and their emphasis on driving growth, the restaurant community has expanded beyond what the market can support.

Due to decreasing commodity costs, the gap between eating at home and eating at a restaurant has widened and some consumers have just decided to reduce their visits to their favorite restaurants.

Strong brands and differentiated concepts will carry the day. Today’s restaurant landscape is littered with broken brands who are struggling to attract and retain guests.

Management’s ability to infuse a culture of innovation throughout the entire organization will create differentiation and drive positive outcomes.

3. Geography

New restaurants will migrate to states that are less litigious and have fewer regulatory obstacles associated with opening and operating.

States with increasing wrongful termination and workman’s compensation suits may also drive restaurants to new territories.

Because of these and other factors, the West Coast and Northeast regions of the United States may lose restaurant population. The South and Midwest regions may benefit.

4. Demographics

Strategies to engage with baby boomers and millennials will serve to increase revenue. This marks the first year that baby boomers will begin withdrawing money from their retirement accounts resulting in increased levels of disposable income for many.

And even though the software applications may change, millennials will continue to explore and share restaurant experiences through social media.

Locally sourced and sustainable concepts that creatively utilize healthy food products and cooking techniques will maintain their popularity.

But millennials aren’t the only group that researches restaurants before making a dining decision. They are teaching their baby boomer parents how to employ digital tools and social media, and those baby boomer parents are catching on.

Your social presence has never been more directly connected to your bottom line. Millennials and boomers like to photograph and post beautiful, delicious food while sharing and recommending interesting places.

5. Online Ordering

With more Americans opting to eat at home, and as third-party delivery services expand and improve, restaurants may expand their online presence while dialing back their brick and mortar locations.

Most of the larger chains have already ramped-up their online capabilities and the independents may not be far behind.

Whether large or small, once a restaurant builds a strong relationship with a critical mass of guests, they increase the likelihood of success online.

Guests who enjoy their dining-in experience are most likely to augment that experience by ordering on-line and having their order home-delivered.

Restaurants that use technology to help guests order, pay, and deliver with the click of one button will gain popularity.

6. Leasing and Location

Restaurants that choose to maintain or expand their brick and mortar footprint will need to become better negotiators, or be prepared to walk away from their current locations.

The terms and conditions of leases that were signed 8 to 10 years ago, when the real estate market was struggling, were far more generous than they are today.

With so many other costs chewing away at margins, the increased occupancy costs of renewing a lease may put some restaurants in the red.

Location is a critical component of any restaurant concept. But so is financial viability.

Restaurants are well-advised to give themselves plenty of time (18 to 24 months before the end of their lease) to start discussions with their management team and their landlord.

7. Attracting and Keeping Quality Employees

Restaurants have long struggled with attracting and retaining quality employees.

Beyond compensation, creating an environment where employees feel important, supported, cared for and part of the team will help to keep the right people in place.

Investing resources into proper hiring, training, and evaluation will go a long way in building a great team.

You entrust your employees with your most valuable asset—your guests. Building creative compensation packages that motivate your employees to grow as your restaurant grows is a strategy that shows you care about them, your guests, and your brand.

With historically tight margins, the restaurant industry has always been a challenging environment for the newcomer as well as the established operator. Successful concepts are those that are flexible, relevant, and managed as efficiently as possible.

These concepts elevate a brand and provide customers with a memorable, high value experience.

This post was contributed by Gary Levy and Marshall Varano of Cohn Reznick.

MOD Pizza Celebrating 200-Store Milestone

Restuarant365 client MOD Pizza announced it will open its 200th store this month, reflecting a doubling of the company’s footprint in just under a year.

In 2016, MOD added 100 stores and over 1,900 jobs system-wide, while expanding into six new US markets—Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina and Wisconsin—and making its international debut in the U.K.

The company’s milestone location, MOD Westview Promenade, in Frederick, Maryland, is slated to open on January 31.

Scott Svenson, co-founder and CEO of MOD, says:

“At MOD our mission is simple: we make pizza so we can serve people.

We celebrate our growth, and the opening of our 200th store, because it highlights how many Squad members have joined the MOD family.

We now have over 4,000 passionate MOD Squad members who are energized by the belief that a company can succeed when putting its people first.

Thanks to the support of our loyal customers, we’re able to continue our growth, bringing new jobs into more communities and allowing us to support important grassroots causes across the US.

Last year alone, we partnered with more than 185 local charities in communities we serve, donating over $650,000 to organizations supporting at-risk youth and families.”

To mark its 200-store milestone, MOD will be celebrating with a special event on January 24.

For the entire day, at all locations, MOD will be thanking customers by offering $2 off of all MOD-size pizzas and salads.

MOD currently has locations in 20 states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as five locations in the U.K.