As a nod to The Kentucky Derby, a few classic cocktails were in order to celebrate New York’s Always Dreaming, the colt who was “ready to run” at Churchill Downs on Saturday and bolted over the finish line in first place despite the mucky track and acclaimed list of contenders. A classic Mint Julep and craft Vodka Martini –shaken not stirred- a real James Bond way to start off the evening and we’re off to the races!
The restaurant business has evolved in the last decade with more importance than ever being placed on the quality of ingredients. Daily Specials that used to offer what restaurants needed to closeout now feature dishes with seasonal ingredients and other buzz words like sustainably-sourced, organic, locally grown and gluten free. Beyond great food, careful consideration goes into meticulous details that create the guest experience that will ultimately leave a lasting impression, for better or worse. Kitchens have transitioned from being as far away from the dining room as possible to becoming a major element of restaurant design where the bustle of meal preparations actually contribute to the restaurant’s vibe. At Restaurant IRON, downtown Pensacola, FL in the heart of Palafox Street, their cozy kitchen isn’t just visible from the dining room… For guests who want a closer look at the action, limited seating is available at the chef’s counter- a dining area overlooking the kitchen where guests become fully immersed in the experience to the point you almost feel part of the delicate dance between Executive Chef, Alex McPhail and his skillful team.
Although the décor is sleek and contemporary with an industrial flair, it was interesting that audio visual technology was minimal throughout the space. Other than only a couple small (consumer grade) speakers for ecclectic background music and a hint of bass just enough to remind you this was a swanky place, this was a dining experience where the music didn’t overpower or obstruct your dinner conversation, a trend we’ve seen in recent years that many establishments have used to create atmosphere, or so they call it. It was nice for a change to actually be able to hear well enough to have conversations with the parties next to us as we sat at the chef’s counter.
In fact if you listened closely with a little lip-reading to fill in the gaps, you could even catch a glimpse of the orders being called out to the kitchen staff by the chef. To someone with years working in restaurants, it brought back such nostalgic feelings as it often does. There’s nothing like watching a well-run staff (and kitchen in this case) in the high of the dinner service rush – these days from the other side of the table as a guest in great company enjoying the fine dining experience.
With roots in New Orleans, Bar Manager, Campbell Esquerre’s move to Pensacola has hit the mark with IRON’s craft cocktail inspired bar. But between the kitchen and bar, let me tell you this place has stories to tell! What if traditionally-printed dinner and drink menus were supplemented by the latest digital signage technology to up the ante inside the restaurant? Statistics show digital signage drives revenues and there are plenty of creative ways a fine dining restaurant (whether in a standalone location or as part of a hotel property) can use technology to add visual interest to tell the story of the restaurants’ delectable food and intriguing libations and can also be used as an architectural or artistic design element known as techorating. Need a few ideas?
- Content on making one-of-a-kind aged whiskey in miniature sized oak barrels right in the restaurant combined with footage on crafting one of IRON’s Smoked Manhattan cocktails by the restaurants’ bar manager (who happens to be a regular competitor at regional bar tending competitions).
- Images from the local farmer’s market where some of the produce is sourced in keeping with the restaurants’ theme of local vegetables and herbs.
- Footage of new seasonal menu items being artfully plated by the executive chef or pastry chef.
Chances are that many folks already get the concept that could be mimicked in digital signage but they’re using it in places outside the restaurant to help drive traffic to them from social media sources like Facebook or Instagram or other advertising media. Almo resellers can help the hospitality industry take that message inside to drive revenues and boost profits during the guests’ stay while they’re ‘in the heat of the guest experience’ as we say. The above pictured Samsung hospitality and pro units provide several different size options and the UD22B can even be used in a unique video wall configuration to create visual interest in an artistic way and can show one image/source across the entire array or multiple sources on each panel providing countless options for featuring food or restaurant shots, video content or promotional items like the gift card feature (right image).
What makes a hospitality business successful? Long-standing places get their reputation by word of mouth, (we’ll save REVIEWS for another blog) but the bottom line is that the hospitality business is based on repeat customers, without them their days are numbered; whether it means they close their doors, are sold to new ownership or undergo a re-branding. The best thing a reseller can do to help a hospitality client increase revenues using digital signage is to get to know their business, their mission, what makes their business unique, what they’re already doing for self-promotion and what their objectives are for adding a digital solution inside their space… but if this seems like too much to remember, don’t worry we’re here to help.
Our visit to Restaurant IRON was exceptional. From the Kentucky Derby Mint Juleps and James Bond Martinis straight through to the Nutella Pie with salted pretzel crust and everything in between, the IRON team has passion and that’s an energy guests can see and feel. In a quote by Campbell Esquerre when he expressed his mission was to “ensure the best possible service all while making new friends and repeat customers” it is obvious these guys are practicing what they preach and we will surely be back!