Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Restaurant Owner’s Guide to What’s Hot in 2011!

The National Restaurant Association surveyed professional chefs (members of the American Culinary Federation) on which foods, beverages, cuisines and culinary themes will be hot trends on restaurant menus. The What’s Hot in 2011 survey was conducted in the fall of 2010 among more than 1,500 chefs.

The chefs were given a list of 226 food and beverage items, cuisines, culinary themes and preparation methods, and were asked to rate each item as a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news” or “perennial favorite” on restaurant menus in 2011. They also list the Top 20 trends and the Top trends by category.

79% believed that nutritionally balanced children’s dishes were a hot trend for 2011 and 72% thought half portions would be a hot trend. 46% thought the Panini is yesterday’s news and Sliders (56%) seem to be on the way out. 51% thought mussels, clams and oysters are a perennial favorite.

For a restaurant owner it may be an interesting read, especially if your business stays on top of what is the next new thing or thrives on being the first to offer a certain dish. After all, knowing that hummus, smaller portions, children’s salads and home-made ice cream were included in the hot trends for 2011 is a good thing.

If your business’ budget cannot support the purchase of “locally sourced meats and seafood” (#1 trend by category for main dishes), it may support the concept of “mini meals – small versions of an adult menu item” (# 4 trend by category under kids meals). If your business’ demographic supports families, then perhaps highlighting nutritionally balanced children’s dishes may prove to be a positive for your customers.

Take a look at the results,
Planning to keep up with the latest trend? Let us know.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Purchasing Inventory using a Merchant Cash Advance

We would never suggest using a Merchant Cash Advance to go on a shopping spree, unless that spree was actually an opportunity to buy inventory at volume discounts. Such a purchase would maintain or advance your business.

As you know by reading this blog, a Merchant Cash Advance provides working capital that business owners can use to cover sudden expenses, disruptions in services, or to stabilize cash flow during emergencies. But the best use for a Merchant Cash Advance is as an investment in your company’s growth. How can small businesses determine whether a Merchant Cash Advance will help grow their company? First, determine the Return on Investment (ROI), taking care that the investment planned exceeds the all-in cost of the investment.

Managing cash flow well means buying enough inventory to keep customer orders filled but not so much that sitting merchandize must be discounted. Indeed, since inventory is arguably the largest asset on your business’ balance sheet, without careful planning, excess inventory can quickly wreak havoc with its cash flow. At the same time, passing up a great opportunity due to a lack of ready cash does not make good business sense.

Since many small businesses fail from a lack of planning, including inventory planning, owners should develop a preseason worksheet that is more than a budget or forecast of the season’s cash flow. Use the worksheet to create a strategic plan for inventory, sales, and discounts. Include unusual seasonal factors related to severe weather and other emergencies, but don’t forget holidays come with both related expenses and opportunities.

Here are some considerations when it comes to using a Merchant Cash Advance to help plan for and buy inventory:

Plan your business’ sales – For small businesses, a simple spreadsheet using the POS sales history can be all that is needed. Factor last year’s sales and make adjustments for unusual events, like severe weather, single promotions, items out of stock, etc. Include price increases or decreases by percentage based on a reading of an item’s potential for the upcoming season. A Merchant Cash Advance might be useful to buy the excess inventory of a less organized business owner.

Plan your business’ inventory – Have enough to set up displays, support planned sales until the next delivery and provide a cache in the event of a spike or late delivery. Consider using a Merchant Cash Advance if inventory needs fall between the cracks of your business plan.

Plan for seasons – Owners of surfing or ski shops, for example, know just how tight their cash flow can get in the off-season and may have to turn down a great deal just when it would best serve them to invest. Using a Merchant Cash Advance to optimize sales on inventory is good planning.

Plan for holidays – Regardless of how seasonal your business is, retailers, restaurants and service providers can use a Merchant Cash Advance to buy holiday-themed merchandise or supplies.

Plan your business’ discounts – Especially if your business attracts bargain hunters, plan your markdowns to coincide with arrivals of fresh inventory purchased with a Merchant Cash Advance. Many shoppers will mix bargains with purchases of new items thus upping the average sale. And, since most pay with credit cards, retailers, for example, can be advanced more money from their MCA provider.

Work your business’ plan – Use an inventory plan as a tool for tracking your business’ selling season and forecasting future sales. Track your opportunities as well. If there’s a pattern of peaks and valleys --- and there will be --- consider a strategy for using a Merchant Cash Advance in the coming season.

A Merchant Cash Advance can be a real boon if your business is in a position to take advantage of an unexpected opportunity to buy inventory at a significant discount --- if paid in cash, right now. Just remember, a great deal on inventory is a great deal only when your business can make a profit quickly.

Get What You Need Quickly

One of the benefits of a Merchant Cash Advance is that it is a very quick method of obtaining working capital – sometimes in as few as 72 hours. This speed-to-funding can be leveraged by the business, which is especially helpful if the inventory you hope to buy will go only to the first bidder.

The way a Merchant Cash Advance works, your business gets the lump sum of capital needed right away. You can spend that on whatever inventory your business needs. Then over time, the remittance is handled through your credit card processor and normal sales activity. (Learn more about how a Merchant Cash Advance works.)