Here's my list of tools that keep me efficient and on top of a fast-changing industry - how many will you find useful?
Evernote is free software that syncs with your smart phone and the web. When I see a web page and want to remember it, just one click on my browser saves it to Evernote. These links can then be accessed from a smartphone or another computer, and I can also email links or documents to it for storage.
Smarter Email Management: once I switched to handling email with Google Apps instead of Outlook, effficiency is way up, spam is gone and information in old emails can be found in a flash. Google Apps is not Gmail, although it looks similar - you keep your own email addresses. Large corporations, govt departments and schools use it - your business can too, small or large. Say goodbye to the email swamp…a fast response to inquiries is vital for making sales and recruiting the best staff.
Online Review Sites - Eatability, Yelp etc. As a consumer, these sites are very useful…and I know many operators hate them with a passion! But when 100 people have reviewed a venue, there's sure to be value in the opinions if you ignore the 'outliers' ie extreme praise or criticism. I see the smart operators replying methodically, even when it hurts. Review sites are a fact of life - it's time to manage them instead of fearing them.
Hootsuite is a free online service that lets me write short posts on Twitter, on the Profitable Hospitality Facebook Page and keep track of the people I'm following. Hootsuite also lets me write posts to be activated at a future time - spend 10 minutes and have them ready to roll over the next 5 days!
Email marketing is still great, and Constant Contact is our choice for a super-easy system that looks good, saves the database and tracks how many people open messages. The challenge is to send interesting emails - we are all so bored with sales pitches!
The iPad: it's a great sales tool for sharing event photos with clients and training videos with staff, and light and easy for accessing email and the web on the go. Plus there are many interesting 'apps' for managing business productivity and information - just get one! Keep track of the latest uses at Using the iPhone and iPad for Restaurant, Hotel and Bar Management.
Facebook keeps getting better: the old term was 'database', and most people were intimidated by the complexity. That's still useful, but so is your collection of Fans - on Facebook. It's about having a conversation, not just announcing the latest specials - see how the excellent Grill'd Burgers interacts with their many fans - effort is repaid with enthusiasm and sales! The latest Facebook service lets people 'check in' to Facebook Places - this new service will become very important in 2011…
Profitable Hospitality offers management and cost-control systems (Manuals & CD-ROMs) for restaurants, cafes, hotels, bars and clubs. The systems are based on the extensive consulting and operating experience of CEO Ken Burgin, and enable busy owners and managers to set up complete operating and cost-control systems in minutes, not months. Profitable Hospitality also runs regular management training workshops in the areas of kitchen profit & efficiency, restaurant marketing and functions management. A free monthly e-newsletter keeps you up to date on the latest industry management issues. www.profitablehospitality.com.
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