Tuesday, January 3, 2012 | Edited by Daniel Moores
||Restaurant Industry Experts Forecast 2012 Trends
Nation's Restaurant News asked some of the industry's top trend-watchers to discuss what they expect in the year ahead. Here are their top predictions:
Hudson Riehle, senior vice president, research, National Restaurant Association:
There's no economic rebound to prosperity, but it will continue to be a better environment than it was in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Restaurants will benefit from pent-up demand. Two out of five American adults said in a recent survey that they are not using restaurants as often as they would like. Even modest employment growth should boost confidence and cash on hand, encouraging consumers to return to restaurants.
Food costs will remain a huge challenge, with wholesale food price inflation running at 8 percent -- the highest it's been in three decades. Operators won't be able to pass on high input costs on a one-to-one basis, so the focus will remain on driving out costs while hopefully growing sales.
Nancy Kruse, president, The Kruse Company:
The three 'zations will grow in importance.
• "Premiumization" is now a basic diner expectation, given the proliferation of upgraded, enhanced, or higher-end products at modest prices. Examples: T.G.I. Friday's new Langostino Lobster-topped entrées or Arby's medium-rare Angus beef sandwiches.
• "Customization," which is the have-it-your-way notion brought into the 21st century by concepts like Chipotle's ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen and Pizza Inn's Pie Five Pizza Company.
• "Miniaturization," or the continued growth of small plates, snacks and downsized portion options, which have been driven by price sensitivity, consumer interest in sampling, grazing or sharing, and health concerns.
More chains will return to the earth and emphasize real, fresh or local foods to the maximum extent that they can, given the constraints of their systems. For example, McDonald's new ad campaign emphasizes farmers and ranchers. Similar efforts have been seen from Culver's, Wendy's and Domino's.
Daypart disintegration will accelerate as snacks and off-hours options like "linner" -- a daypart between lunch and dinner -- make inroads at the expense of conventional meal periods. Drivers behind that trend include 24/7 lifestyles, declines in conventional 9-to-5 work habits, interest in less expensive options and the growth of the Millennial generation. For example, the super-hot Publican in Chicago has a formalized "afternoon menu" starting at 3:30 p.m.
Bonnie Riggs, restaurant analyst, The NPD Group:
Fast casual will remain hot. The segment's year-to-year traffic rose 6 percent for the year ended Oct. 31, and more operators are looking to capitalize on its appeal. With quick-service brands like McDonald's upgrading menu items and decors and casual-dining chains introducing fast-casual variants.
Better-for-you foods are in, as consumers trade French fries and soft drinks for items deemed more healthful, such as Subway's Fresh Fit offerings and those with a health halo, such as Carl's Jr.'s turkey burger line.
Darren Tristano, executive vice president, Technomic Inc.:
Consumers hesitant to spend want twists on the familiar, such as comfort foods with gourmet, ethnic artisanal or wood-fired flare, and innovative sandwiches, wraps, pizza and pasta.
Commodity costs will drive rustic fare made in-house as operators stop buying value-added items in favor of cheaper cuts, beans, grains and produce that require more back-of-house prep to make into honest, home-style food.
Seasonal and local sourcing will continue to grow, driven by a less-is-more culinary trend and the need for a more transparent and efficient supply chain.
John Barone, president, Marketvision:
Choice beef prices will rise. Drought in the southern plains has reduced cattle herds and caused a lot of feeder cattle to be marketed at lower weights, resulting in less overall beef, even less choice-grade beef and higher prices in 2012. This situation may not improve much in 2013.
Another year of high fuel prices. Diesel prices jumped 28.7 percent to an average $3.85 per gallon nationally in 2011, and look to be similar in 2012. The logistics of managing freight into distribution centers, and then on to restaurants will be one of the biggest challenges for supply chain professionals in 2012.
Lower grain prices. Record-high grain prices led to more planted acres globally, and those added supplies will dampen U.S. export prospects. The result will be lower year-over-year corn and wheat prices, albeit these will be coming down modestly from record-high levels.
Steve Caldeira, president and chief executive, International Franchise Association:
Franchising is expected to grow in 2012, with franchised quick-service restaurant sales increasing an expected 4.4 percent and franchised full-service restaurant sales expected to increase 4.2 percent in 2012. Both projections are lower than the 5-percent average growth anticipated in 10 franchise segments, based on a survey conducted for the IFA by the IHS Global Insight consultancy. In addition, the number of franchised quick-service restaurants is expected to grow 2.6 percent, to 151,347 units, and the number of franchised full-service restaurants is projected to grow 2.1 percent, to 36,095 units.
Access to capital will remain the No. 1 issue for franchising in 2012. While there's been a bit of a thaw for both big and small businesses, there is a long way to go.
Tax reform will be a huge issue in the coming year as uncertainty surrounding tax issues and health care reform inhibit the ability to make informed business decisions.
(Source: Nation's Restaurant News, 12/26/11
||What's Hot in Home Decor for the New Year
From warm woods and creative colors to memorable murals and tailored textures, interior designers and industry experts predict 2012 will offer a multitude of options for those interested in giving their homes a fresh look. Even better for today's cost-conscious consumers is that many of the trends are easy and inexpensive.
The facts about furniture: According to Emmy Award-winning home design expert, author and TV/radio personality Christopher Lowell, upholstered furniture coverings are being driven more by texture and less by prints. Yesterday's bulky, stationary pit sofa will be replaced by lower backs and seats along with smaller "footprint" pieces clustered into conversation groups for more flexibility and ease of interaction.
Stacy Garcia of Stacy Garcia Design Studio sees a movement of woods from very dark mahogany and espresso to lighter and mid-toned woods, with raw, natural walnut, cherry and white oak being especially prevalent.
Make a statement: For homeowners interested in adding life and personality to a bedroom, living room, family room or office, a decorative wall mural is a quick, cost-effective way to go, explains Todd Imholte, president of Murals Your Way, whose products have been featured on the TODAY show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Divine Design, Man Caves and Moving Up. With 25 mural categories including Disney, famous artwork, cities and cityscapes, nature, and sports, as well as the ability to create murals from favorite photos, the choices are virtually unlimited. The company also recently launched a repositionable wallpaper line.
The right touch: According to Lori Dennis, interior designer, author and star of HGTV's new show The Real Designing Women, next year's textures and fabrics will include iridescent metallic woven within fabric; strong patterns and bold prints; modern floral; tailored woven fabrics like tweed, herringbone, plaid and houndstooth; velvet/velour, sumptuous dupioni silk, and faux fur.
Natural fibers such as bamboo, jute, eucalyptus, cotton, silk, wool and cork will remain popular, adds DeAnna Radaj of Bante Design LLC.
A splash of color: Deborah Wecselman of DWD Inc. suggests starting with neutral hues of taupe, beige, cream, grey, black and white, and then adding unexpected pops of color with bold accessories from bright yellow paintings to royal blue vases.
Dennis echoes this vibrant color spectrum, with rich jewel tones like emerald, amethyst, sapphire, ruby, garnet and citrine along with deep teal, fuchsia, honeysuckle, coffee and gold.
Light up your life: According to Bradburn design team manager Martin Lucki, lighting options will include linen shades with clean tailored lines and a play toward texture. Lamp bodies will be made of carved reclaimed woods deftly finished in soft, neutral tones that showcase the natural wood grain.
Beverly Hills designer Christopher Grubb of Arch-Interiors Design Group, who considers decorative lighting "the piece of jewelry in a room," recommends architectural sconces for applying makeup or shaving to avoid the shadows cast by overhead lighting.
Please tread on me: Kitchen designer/blogger Susan Serra sees a renewed interest in woven or knotted textures on rugs with "back to basics" motifs that harken back to simpler times. These rugs are easy and cheerful to live with, make a design statement, and serve as interesting foundations for rooms with upholstered or casework furnishings most often seen in neutral colors.
Lowell also sees a trend toward investment area rugs on tiled floors or those resurfaced with wood or faux wood veneers for better wear and tear and a greater perceived home value.
Decorating on a dime: According to artist/designer/author Pablo Solomon, people will continue to look for unique, cost-effective ways to improve their homes. They'll buy and restore secondhand furniture, swap artwork and accessories with friends, and use yard sale proceeds to purchase new items for their homes.
Consignment stores and estate sales will be hot in 2012, adds best-selling author and home design expert Lauri Ward of Redecorate.com, with people discovering the benefits of buying older, distressed pieces that are well-made and affordable.
Chairs and sofas that can be reupholstered or slipcovered, and cabinets for storage, will be sought for their quality as well as the aesthetic interest they add to modern rooms.
(Source: The Dallas Morning News, 12/18/11)
||More Young People See Opportunities in Farming
A Wisconsin factory worker worried about layoffs became a dairy farmer. An employee at a Minnesota nonprofit found an escape from her cubicle by buying a vegetable farm. A nuclear engineer tired of office bureaucracy decided to get into cattle ranching in Texas.
While fresh demographic information on U.S. farmers won't be available until after a new agricultural census is done in 2012, there are signs more people in their 20s and 30s are going into farming: Enrollment in university agriculture programs has increased, as has interest in farmer-training programs.
Young people are turning up at farmers markets and are blogging, tweeting and promoting their agricultural endeavors through other social media.
The young entrepreneurs typically cite two reasons for going into farming: Many find the corporate world stifling and see no point in sticking it out when there's little job security; and demand for locally grown and organic foods has been strong enough that even in the downturn they feel confident they can sell their products.
Laura Frerichs, 31, of Hutchinson, Minn., discovered her passion for farming about a year after she graduated from college with an anthropology degree. She planned to work in economic development in Latin America and thought she ought to get some experience working on a farm.
She did stints on five farms, mostly vegetable farms, and fell in love with the work. Frerichs and her husband now have their own organic farm, and while she doesn't expect it to make them rich, she's confident they'll be able to earn a living.
"There's just this growing consciousness around locally grown foods, around organic foods," she said. "Where we are in the Twin Cities, there's been great demand for that."
Farming is inherently risky: Drought, flooding, wind and other weather extremes can all destroy a year's work. And with farmland averaging $2,140 per acre across the United States. but two to four times that much in the Midwest and California, start-up costs can be daunting.
Still, agriculture fared better than many parts of the economy during the recession, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts record profits for farmers as a whole this year.
"People are looking at farm income, especially the increase in asset values, and seeing a really positive story about our economy," said USDA senior economist Mary Clare Ahearn, citing preliminary statistics. "Young people are viewing agriculture as a great opportunity and saying they want to be a part of it."
That's welcome news to the government. More than 60% of farmers are over the age of 55, and without young farmers to replace them when they retire the nation's food supply would depend on fewer and fewer people.
"We'd be vulnerable to local economic disruptions, tariffs, attacks on the food supply, really, any disaster you can think of," said Poppy Davis, who coordinates the USDA's programs for beginning farmers and ranchers.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has called for 100,000 new farmers within the next few years, and Congress has responded with proposals that would provide young farmers with improved access to USDA support and loan programs.
One beginning farmer is Gabrielle Rojas, 34, from the central Wisconsin town of Hewitt. As a rebellious teen all she wanted to do was leave her family's farm and find a career that didn't involve cows. But she changed her mind after spending years in dead-end jobs in a factory and restaurant.
"In those jobs I'm just a number, just a time-clock number," Rojas said. "But now I'm doing what I love to do. If I'm having a rough day or I'm a little sad because the sun's not shining or my tractor's broken, I can always go out and be by the cattle. That always makes me feel better."
Rojas got help in changing careers from an apprenticeship program paid for by the USDA, which began giving money in 2009 to universities and nonprofit groups that help train beginning farmers. The grants helped train about 5,000 people the first year. This year, the USDA estimates more than twice as many benefited.
One of the groups that received a grant is Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, or MOSES. The Spring Valley, Wis., chapter teaches farming entrepreneurs how to cope with price swings and what to do in cases of catastrophic weather.
MOSES also organizes field days, where would-be farmers tour the operations of successful farms to learn and share tips. Attendance is up 20% this year, director Faye Jones said, and some outings that used to attract 30 or 40 people have drawn as many as 100, most between the ages of 18 and 30.
"I think for many people, farming has been a lifelong dream, and now the timing is right," she said. Among the reasons she cited: the lifestyle, working in the fresh air and being one's own boss.
If farming is beginning to sound like an appealing career, there are downsides. The work involves tough physical labor, and vacations create problems when there are crops to be harvested and cows to be milked.
In addition, many farmers need second jobs to get health insurance or make ends meet. As the USDA notes, three-fifths of farms have sales of less than $10,000 a year, although some may be growing fruit trees or other crops that take a few years to develop.
None of those factors dissuaded 27-year-old Paul Mews. He left a high-paying job as a nuclear engineer last year to become a cattle rancher in Menard, Tex. His wife's family has been ranching for generations, and Mews decided he'd much rather join his in-laws and be his own boss than continue shuffling paperwork at the plant.
"When you're self-employed, it's so much more fulfilling. You get paid what you're worth," he said. "It's really nice that what you put into it is what you're going to get back out."
(Source: The Associated Press, 12/23/11)
Daily Sales Tip: Why Sales Don't Go Through
Closing sales is an art, not a science. Everything we do from our communication style, our dress, to our understanding of the customers' wants and needs can affect our success or failure in closing sales. The way you close a sale depends as much on the product/service you're selling as it does the customer you're dealing with. There are many reasons why sales don't close. Here are 7 of the most common mistakes:
Not Asking Questions
Too many times we pre-judge or jump to conclusions about what our customers want or need. By asking open-ended questions to determine such things as lifestyle, hobbies, spending limits and previous experiences we can get a true picture of what our customer really wants. By understanding the customer we can then focus on the right products and services to offer.
Not Communicating in the Communication Style Important to the Customer
If we communicate to everyone in our primary communication style then we will lose about 75% of our sales. In other words, everyone is different and therefore everyone needs to be treated differently. For example, some people just want the facts and details about a product or service while others may be more comfortable if you tell stories or anecdotes. So, to persuade, motivate and influence others, communicate in the ingredients they find important.
Interrupting the Prospect
Whenever you interrupt someone, sensitivity, commitment, closeness and rapport are lost. In addition, by interrupting we may miss what benefits the customer is really seeking.
Not Paying Attention to the Prospect
To develop the like and trust that are essential in developing any relationship, we must give our full attention to the prospect. Taking calls, talking to other customers, looking bored or uninterested can detract from the relationship we develop with our potential customer.
Showing No Empathy or Sympathy
Empathy means putting yourself in the other person's shoes. For example, if a potential customer wants to go on an adventure trip we offer, but has had bad experiences in the past, we must first understand those experiences before we can discuss why our trips are a best buy.
Not Selling Benefits...Only Features
Understanding the difference between features and benefits is crucial to your success. Features are about you, your product and service. Benefits are the specific results your product or service offer to your client or prospect. When meeting with a prospect we need to address the buyer's critical self-interest questions such as, "So what?", "Who cares?" or "What's in it for me?" You see, people don't buy things, they buy results like happiness, making and saving money, saving time, comfort, safety, security and easier ways to do things.
People don't like to be pressured. They like to buy but they don't like to be sold. By planning your presentation carefully and understanding the wants and needs of the potential customer, you'll make more than your share of sales.
Source: Sales speaker/author Arnold Sanow