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About Us: Santa’s Long Reach

It’s Christmas around the world in our front office this year. Many years back our president asked, instead of presenting him with a holiday gift, we direct our energy and resources towards a local family in need. So began a holiday tradition in our workplace. We generally contact the nearby women’s shelter and provide gifts for a local family. In the run-up to the holidays, clothes and coats, balls, dolls and other toys—even bicycles some years—make their appearance in our office.

This year we opted to extend our reach to the other side of the world. We collected gifts to fill small boxes to be sent to children across the globe through an organization that reaches out to people affected by war, famine and disease. While providing material and spiritual support to adults in hard-hit communities, they also reach out to children with gift boxes packed with an assortment of items. Even now, our contributions are winging their way across the sea to touch the lives of children. Little gifts, big impact..

Those of us in the hospitality industry know what it is to meet the needs of our neighbors, create a welcoming atmosphere and perhaps watch a meaningful experience unfold for them. This holiday season we’re pleased to have done something similar for our young neighbors in a community as far from here as we can imagine, and as close as the bonds that connect us all one to another.

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About Us: (Take) Time to Celebrate Life

All of us at GMI raised a glass and offered a toast and best wishes to our bookkeeper (and avid Colts fan) at a recent office party. Connie Miller was the guest of honor at a celebration she hosted marking the one-year anniversary of the day she was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. “A year ago, I didn’t think I’d be here today,” she said. “The news landed pretty hard. But I’m not planning to go anywhere soon.”

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Connie’s determination (“‘plain orneriness,’ you mean,” she says with a laugh), courage and sense of humor are evident each day in her being present and on the job, in her professional interactions with clients, and in the upbeat attitude she demonstrates.

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Any business is as good as the employees it is able to recruit, train and retain. During her seven years at GMI, Connie has streamlined accounting procedures, answered thousands of phone calls, interacted with clients from across the nation, helped shepherd the company through the Great Recession, and generally worked one or two small miracles a day.

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We’re grateful for her abilities, attitude and example.

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Connie, here’s to you!

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Boost Holiday Sales with These 6 Simple Steps

Your customers are insanely busy during the holiday season. We all are. We meet ourselves coming and going, even as we long for a nostalgic taste of what we imagine the perfect holiday to be.

This creates an opportunity for you as a restaurateur. Customers will appreciate anything you can do to simplify the process of holiday shopping, ease their stress, allow them a few moments to relax, and trigger warm memories of hearth and home.

We created this simple list (and yes, we checked it twice!) of steps you can take this holiday season to increase your sales. Simple steps, really. Nothing too out of the ordinary. But, of course, they will require some time and energy on your part. Take a look:

6 Steps to Boost Holiday Sales

Download it as a pdf file: 6 Steps to Boost Holiday Sales

To review, there’s already a lot going on. It’s worth your while to make a specific plan—have a clear vision of what you’d like to see happen with your business this holiday season, where you are now, and what it will take to get you to the place you’d like to be. Pull out a calendar and translate your goals into action steps; write down what will have to happen when to achieve success.

The second commandment of menu marketing is “Promote thyself.” Your “Chianti Braised Short Ribs with parmesan-sage whipped potatoes and Chianti sauce” may be the best around, but if your customers don’t know your famous ribs will be one of your featured Christmas Eve dinner specialty items, they may choose to dine elsewhere. It’s up to you to give your customers something to salivate over, reasons to look forward to joining you on New Year’s Eve and other times throughout the season. Get the word out! Promote your holiday menu items using as many means as possible.

As the song reminds us, “There’s no place like home for the holidays”—unless it’s your restaurant, decorated as a home away from home, full of the sights, sounds and scents of the season. The more you can do to give your customers a reason to stop in, sit down, relax and enjoy great food and drink, the more you can do to trigger fond memories of the holidays your customers wish to recapture, the more your sales will trend upwards.

People are busy and this is where your catering services come on strong during the holidays. Whether it’s the convenience of family-sized meals-to-go, prepared entrées, side dishes or a full-blown catered holiday feast, be sure to let your customers know they can rely on you to make this one part of their celebration convenient and oh, so tasty.

Gift certificates or gift cards to your restaurant are the perfect gift for those who want to give the gift of an experience, rather than simply another gadget or trinket. Gift certificates are convenient, welcome and appreciated. Make sure your customers know you have them available. This is a good time of year to pull out all the stops in advertising their availability.

The road to success is a long one, and it takes consistent, committed effort. Review what you’ve done, what you’re doing, and how well it works for you. Always, there is something to learn. Analyze what worked well for you and why. Learn from what you see that needs to be improved. More holidays are coming throughout the year ahead. Take the best strategies from this season and apply them to Valentine’s day . . . Mother’s Day . . . and more.

We’re all in this together. At GMI, we’re here to help make sure your holidays are bright. We’re on Facebook and Twitter, we have a blog, and as a team we’re committed to helping you harness the power of your menu for the benefit of your business all year long. Contact us. We’re only a phone call or an email away.

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Overheard in the Pressroom

(Two pressman offer their own feedback on GMI’s use of food photos.)

As the presses roll, two of our employees stand watching impression after impression of the latest menu land on the finishing tray, ink glistening, paper still warm from the printing process. This menu is for an upscale steak and seafood restaurant, to be inserted in mottled green leather-like covers.

First Pressman: “You see that prime rib?”

Pressman Two: “My mouth watered as soon as I saw it.”

First Pressman: “What about that shrimp cocktail? Those shrimp look as big as a lobster tail.”

Pressman Two: “Now I’m hungry.”

First Pressman “There’s this one menu we print has a bacon-wrapped filet. Sometimes I think I could eat the paper it’s printed on, it looks that good.”

 

Colorful, appetizing food photography has a similar effect on restaurant guests when they sit down to the table. Human beings are hard-wired to respond to visual cues.

 

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The Road to a Better Menu

Avalanche02Our youngest menu designer bought a new-to-him Chevy Avalanche pickup truck yesterday. He drove it to work today for the first time. It’s his dream vehicle, a shining beauty in black, bronze and chrome. In his understated way he’s pleased and proud as can be. You can bet he’s going to treat this truck as something special, respect it for it’s V-8 power and six-speed automatic transmission. He’s going to go places with this baby.

I checked out the reviews of this model when it first came off the line. Critics were enthusistic. Consumer Guide said, “No other pickup offers Avalanche’s blend of useful passenger accommodations, expandable cargo room, big-truck muscle, and friendly road manners.” The Orlando Sentinel called it “essentially a four-wheeled, 5,645-pound Swiss Army knife.” The Fort Worth Star-Telegram said, “The Avalanche, while it is a truck underneath, is a vehicle that is elegant, comfortable and practical all in one package.”

These reviewers might as well have been talking about a professionally designed restaurant menu:

  • Useful
  • Accommodating to its users
  • Expandable
  • Big-truck muscle
  • Friendly
  • As multi-functioned as a Swiss Army knife
  • Elegant
  • Comfortable
  • Practical

A professionally designed menu serves as a powerful vehicle to move your business forward. It increases sales, selling more of the items you want customers to order. While offering marketing muscle, it remains user-friendly to your guests. It enhances the customer’s perception of your restaurant, sets a tone and contributes to the dining experience.

Your menu deserves your respect.

It’s true with menus, as it is with so much else in life; what you think determines how you act. If you think of a restaurant menu as simply a laundry list of items customers can choose from, then you’re probably not going to treat it any different than any other laundry list you have stuck in your pocket. If you’re running a restaurant, this will cost you big-time in lost sales potential.

Treat your menu as a snazzy shining vehicle for carrying your business forward and it will take you places you want to go.

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So Good You Want to Roll Around In It

So_goodOne man of our party of eight flipped the menu pages forward, then backwards, forwards again. Our server stood waiting, her arms full of the breakfast menus and breakfast features menus she’d collected from the rest of us. She looked over his head to a painting of an old grist mill on the wall. She glanced toward the kitchen. Finally she pointed to the picture on the front of the breakfast features menu: cinnamon apple French toast. “This is awesome,” she said. “I don’t usually like French toast myself, but this is so good you just want to roll around in it.”

Several of us spoke at the same time, echoing her phrase: “Roll around in it?!?”

“Roll around in it?,” the Undecider said. “I want that.”

Kurt, a bacon-and-eggs guy, turned to the waitress. “No fair! You didn’t tell us about the French toast before we ordered.”

“You already knew what you wanted,” she said.

“Well, I’m changing my mind. I want the apple cinnamon French toast, too.”

Three others followed suit. In all, five of our party ordered the meal described as so good you want to roll around in it.

It was a simple reminder to me of how important the server’s role is when it comes to selling menu items most profitable for the restaurant. What a difference a compelling description can make.

For a winning combination, team an up-to-date menu designed to feature your higher profit items with servers who have been trained promote those items.

Photo: Truck driver, sailor, and waitress at a highway coffee shop on U.S. Highway 90 in southern Louisiana, 1943. Credit: John Vachon, via Library of Congress website

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10 Steps You Can Take to Ease the Squeeze of Rising Food Costs

Ease_the_Squeeze-iconThe bad news; food costs keep going up and there’s no magic wand to resolve the issue.

The good news: there are some simple steps you can take to help ease the pressure.

1. Don’t panic. Remember you’re not alone. Food prices are rising for a number of reasons, including prolonged drought, grain diverted to biofuel production and the sluggish economic recovery. While you can’t control commodity prices, there are things you can do. First, get creative. Now is the time use everything in your toolkit.

2. Take a long hard look at your menu. You may need to drop certain items and add new ones, raise prices, reduce portion size and/or change out ingredients. Make sure you’re showcasing menu items with a higher profit margin. How long has it been since your last menu update? Now may be the time.

3. If you don’t want to change a core item completely, fine tune it. Consider available alternatives that might reduce cost without affecting quality. For example, ask yourself why you’re using this brand of chicken breast or that type of bread. If the cost of rice is going up, perhaps you can substitute another grain.

4. Capitalize on what you know. You know beef prices are predicted to keep going up. Give your customers options: the regular cut of steak at market value or a smaller cut for a smaller price. When developing new menu offerings, think about using less pricey cuts of beef that still deliver full flavor. Consider adding alternatives such as chicken or seafood.

5. Use fresh produce in season. Prices are generally lower and the supply more plentiful. Your customers will appreciate the fresh touch. Make the most of it.

6. Use more raw products as opposed to prepared ingredients—and use them in multiple dishes to make sure they are consumed rather than wasted. In menu planning and preparation aim for 100 per cent usage and zero percent waste.

7. Watch what your customers are consistently leaving on their plates. If it’s fries or salad garnish or salsa, serve less or eliminate it altogether. Less waste saves you money.

8. Get serious about food waste. Involve your staff in the conversation. Talk to them, set goals and monitor them. By your own actions, show them it matters. You might even replace your large kitchen trash cans with smaller ones.

9. Serve your guests free items upon request rather than setting them on the table automatically—things like condiments. crackers, bread, or chips and salsa.

10. Offer specials and change them often. Take advantage of ingredients currently in ample supply. Remove those items whose food cost is rising.

 

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