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The Secret Ingredient for Staying Popular & Profitable | FoodPower is a restaurant consulting firm that coaches industry leaders to leverage strengths, create concepts, refine menus & identify opportunities to increase revenue & capatalize on the changes in today's dining out patterns.
 
The restaurant industry is back on track with business seeing an upward swing. FoodPower is getting calls every day from eateries looking to take advantage of increased spending to tap into the flow and utilize untapped resources.  At FoodPower, we're always looking for innovative ways for our restaurateurs to be more efficient, effective and fun. So, it's no surprise that we're ready to share one of the newest technology being used to create a buzz and attract guests.
 
My first stop: taco asylum. In January, I was invited to attend the opening of this new fast-casual concept in Costa Mesa, CA. On the menu, the eatery's Executive Chef Greg Daniels features non-traditional gourmet tacos filled with interesting ingredients such as octopus and confit beef heart. Of course, what really caught my eye was a large flat screen hanging on one of the walls - it was a live feed of the restaurant's Twitter stream. Managing Partner & Beverage Director, Wil Dee (pictured with me above, with an inset of the screen), spoke to me at length about how he created this with a couple of Apple computers under the counter and his  decision to utilize technology inside the restaurant.
 
My first thought was that it served as a great marketing hook whereby the restaurant's fans could follow experiences in real time as they occurred within the eatery. As I began to look around, I noticed that folks were consumed with the board, hurrying to post a message in order to see themselves on the screen. Whether it was the restaurant's goal or not, this screen provided entertainment and kept guests busy while waiting for their food!   And it definitely kept the staff on their toes - one of those win-win situations we are always seeking. 
 
Next month, a new "fast-casual-PLUS" dining concept arrives in Southern California – this time with iPads. The restaurant, STACKED: food well built, will allow diners to design their own meals using tableside Apple iPads, starting from the plate up.  The use of the iPad allows guests to pile their burgers, sandwiches, et al high with luscious fresh ingredients for more upscale food options, better service and hopefully higher check averages.  This is the PLUS.
 
After diners submit their orders via the iPad, the eatery's servers deliver the meals to the tables. In addition, the guests can store their creations for future visits.  This innovative idea like all new ideas will need fine-tuning but it sounds like fun and will get lots of attention on Facebook and Twitter.  It may will sell more Apple products.
 
If you live in Southern California, chances are you know of Specialty's Cafe & Bakery. This restaurant chain may have locations from San Francisico to San Diego, but it has become hyper-local within the communities it serves by developing online relationships with customers. Their website allows for quick delivery for individuals or entire offices, as well as online ordering and payment for express pick-up throughout the day. Its ability to save favorites and past orders makes it a great go-to option for those too busy to break away for a long lunch.

What's great is that their website has everything you need on it: full menu, specials, nutritional values... one-stop shopping for lunch!
 
Many of you "app-aholics" may already use this pretty cool iPhone app for Starbucks: it lets you actually pay with your iPhone via an on-screen barcode.
 
The Starbucks Card Mobile app is free for anyone to download. The myStarbucks app lets you top up your credit, view previous transactions, track down stores using the iPhone’s GPS, help you build your perfect drink, and then look and see how many calories it contains!
 
Talk about efficiency! The goal is to get you to take your caffeine addiction one step further by making it a Starbucks caffeine addiction!