Pick the Brain of Billy Kim of BellyQ

On this episode of On Foodable Weekly, we talk to Chef Bill Kim of bellyQ, an Asian barbeque restaurant in Chicago that takes guests on a flavorful journey. Flavor always comes first for Chef Kim. When discussing  flavor trends he’s seeing, Chef Kim mentions that trendy doesn't always mean new.

“I love Kimchi,” Chef Kim says. “And it’s not top secret, I think the secrets out, but I think it’s going to go beyond that. The thing that people talk about is Kimchi is only spicy and it doesn't need to be.” Chef Kim also talks about Gochujang, a savory, sweet and spicy red chili paste that Kim calls “essence of Korea in a bottle.”

But flavor is not the only goal at bellyQ. Chef Kim places high importance on using the finest seasonal and local ingredients. As he’s aged, he’s placed higher importance on his health and that focus is mirrored the food he serves at his restaurant as well. “If we could either braised it or marinate it overnight, that really imparts flavor and keeps things a little bit healthier. We cut out dairy in our restaurant so we replace it with coconut milk or we like to use, instead of using cream cheese, we use tofu cream cheese.”

In addition to his dedication to flavor, Chef Kim is dedicated to giving back. In the past Kim worked with the great Charlie Trotter and mentions Trotter as a major influence on his charity work. His involvement with the Trotter Project helps provide scholarship funds to kids in under-served neighborhoods who want to get into cooking.

Watch the full episode to learn more about Chef Kim and the flavors of the future!

Tracking your Customer and Power of Restaurant Apps

It’s almost impossible to avoid technology in your restaurant these days, but why would you want to? On this episode of On Foodable Weekly, we get to talk to some brands who are taking advantage of the latest in tech to improve customer experience, while also ramping up their customer loyalty.

Nicole Abraham of Luna Grill and Frank Klein of Asian Box both present some of interesting steps they’ve taken and introduce us to some of the cool technologies that they have used to grow your business.

First up? Apps.

Now a days, any restaurant can have an app. There are so many businesses that can help you make it successful too. But what does an app really add to your restaurant? For one, as Abraham says, apps are a great platform for online ordering. Online ordering is a massive trend right now and is not going away anytime soon. It's an incredible way to increase sales and it's important that restaurants are providing this option for their guests. A restaurant app can also house your rewards program making life easier for not only your customers, but also your staff. But proper use of an app is important too.

Asian Box, another California brand,  also has a restaurant app. But theirs is more focused on online ordering and less on loyalty rewards. Klein shared some impressive insights into Asian Box’s customer loyalty, touting “50% of our customers eat [with us] 4-5 times per month.” When asked how they could encourage such a level of customer loyalty, he explains that though they are a big proponent of technology use in their restaurants, they put more weight in the employee empowerment programs they have in place. These programs allow employees to recognize repeat customers and reward them with freebies and discounts.

Where Asian Box puts tech first though, is tracking customers to get a clear picture of who is coming back to their restaurants. It can be difficult to track customers when you provide in store purchasing, online purchasing, and a variety of third-party ordering systems like UberEATS or DoorDash. With a company called Olo, Asian Box is working to integrate all those points of sale into a single system.

Watch the full episode for even more insights into the powers of technology and where we can expect to see it growing in the next few years!

Tech Apps That Make an Operator's Job Easier

For years now, the National Restaurant Association has been showcasing the top technologies for the foodservice industry at their annual NRA Show in Chicago.

There is an entire pavilion dedicated to introducing show-goers to the newest and most innovative technology hardware and software for the industry.

Bill Bender, Foodable’s resident operations expert and show host, scoured the aisles to find some tech companies that are really changing the game. Watch the video above to learn about them!

Loyaltyplant

We all know repeat customers are one of the greatest points of profit. But how do you successfully increase loyalty with your customers? Loyaltyplant is making it easy for even small businesses to create an app for their restaurant and begin a rewards program. Aimed at improving customer experience, Loyaltyplant is using polished platforms to impress your users and give them incentives to keep coming back.

ReviewTrackers

Andres Ramirez, a sales development representative from ReviewTrackers shared a little anecdote about how their company is improving their customer service by stepping into their shoes.

“One of the quick exercises they had us do when they hired us was to have us track 30 locations for two weeks. It took me 17 hours for those 2 weeks. It was an awful, awful, awful 2 weeks,” said Ramirez.

In an effort to make online customer interaction easier for companies, ReviewTrackers built their dashboard. It pulls all reviews from all sorts of different platforms and puts them all in one place, allowing operators to respond quickly and efficiently. 

Orderly

For those looking for another big time saver, Orderly helps to make tendious task of data-entry much easier.

With the multitudes of inventory shipments a restaurant takes in every week, it can be easy to lose track of some things. Orderly is a mobile and desktop application that allows restaurants to simply take a picture of the receipts that come with their shipments and it instantly adds it into their inventory tracking systems. It is easily updated as inventory checks are completed.

The software can also track how much you pay for certain items, month to month. Orderly is introducing a new feature in which restaurants can track how much they are paying for certain items in comparison to other restaurants in the area, helping you get an idea if you are really getting the best price.

How These Tech Companies are Helping Restaurants Help Customers

Video Produced by Denise Toledo and Vanessa Rodriguez

With an industry that is constantly evolving, it’s important to anticipate the needs of business owners. Many companies serving the industry have already begun to do so. Trends like off-premise food service and extracting consumer data have influenced tech companies to leap into the business of providing solutions. Foodable spoke to some of these companies at the 2017 NRA show to see how they’re improving customer service.

Sling

Sling is a smart solution to the common scheduling conflicts restaurants are constantly facing. Managers can easily schedule employees by name or by position. They are notified when they start scheduling an employee for overtime and can easily approve shift trades from within the program.

Managers can even keep track of how much a particular shift is costing them in labor and can view that cost as a percentage of their net revenues– bringing a new level of efficiency to labor costs.

Turnstyle

Recently acquired by Yelp, Turnstyle is bringing a wealth of customer data to restaurant operators who already offer free WiFi to customers.

Turnstyle applies their hardware to a restaurant's WiFi. By allowing a restaurant’s patrons to easily log in to the WiFi using social media accounts, customers are satisfied and the restaurants now have access to demographic and preference data on their customers. This gives restaurants a leg up by being able to more easily quantify their customer base, so they can provide better experiences for them.

ezCater

Catering is a great way for restaurants to increase sales. However, creating a catering program requires a bit of coordination and is not always feasible for restaurants.

That's where ezCater comes in. ezCater is laser-focused on the business catering market. Connecting to a quality catering program can be difficult and often requires a bunch of research and calling around. But, ezCater makes ordering catering easy for businesses! Companies can browse a number of restaurants and their menus via the ezCater app or website. Once an order is placed, the restaurant can decide whether or not to accept. ezCater is making it simple for restaurants to jump on the off-premise foodservice bandwagon. 

UNiCharge

Nowadays, everyone is constantly connected to their phone. Created by a man who was frustrated by the lack of charging ports available when he went out, UNiCharge is a new solution for restaurants who want to keep their customers connected. Customers can now pick up charging blocks available at host stands that work for both Apple and Android (as well as any USB charger) and use them as they dine or drink– upping the level of service at any hospitality location.