Author: krghospitality

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Why You Should Take Part on Giving Tuesday

Why You Should Take Part on Giving Tuesday

by Jennifer Radkey

Kindness is a Superpower stencil graffiti on brick wall in black and white

You are most likely familiar with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, days that encourage consumerism and support the economy.

However, after these two days comes a global movement that you may not yet be familiar with but need to be: Giving Tuesday.

Created in 2012, Giving Tuesday will be celebrating its ninth year Tuesday, November 30th. It is a global movement in which organizations, businesses, charities, and individuals all come together to support their favourite causes.

From large monetary donations to simple acts of kindness, it is a day that encourages people to do good and to bring about positive change in their communities.

Why Generosity?

Generosity not only benefits the charity or person who is on the receiving end, it has huge benefits to those on the giving end.

From increased happiness to a sense of shared community, being generous with your time, resources, or money is often a simple act with big rewards.

A 2008 study by Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton and colleagues found that giving money to someone else lifts participants’ happiness more than spending money on themselves.

This is true even when the participants anticipate prior to the act of giving that spending the money on themselves would make them happier. Research also suggests that similar well-being benefits come from giving monetary gifts/donations or volunteering your time.

In other words, it doesn’t matter how you give, it is the act of giving in itself that gives us that “warm glow” feeling that we typically associate with the holiday season.

Hospitality and Generosity

The words hospitality and generosity go hand in hand.

To be a welcoming hospitality brand you need to be generous with your time and your kindness. You need to be willing to create an atmosphere in which people come to not just eat a meal, have a drink, or spend a night, but to create memories, to socialize, and to have an experience.

Over the past (nearly) two years, we have asked our communities to support hospitality businesses as we faced lockdowns and restrictions. In many ways, our communities did just that.

Guests ate on patios when the weather was not pleasant. They supported through ordering takeout. #SupportLocal movements popped up not just in the U.S. and Canada but globally. Through their extra efforts, many businesses were able to keep their doors open and their staff employed.

Now it is time to take that generosity shown to us and give it back to our community.

Giving Back

So, as a hospitality business, how can you contribute to Giving Tuesday?

Firstly, discuss it with your team! If you are able to contribute a monetary donation to your community in some way, which charity or organization speaks most to the values you all share?

If you aren’t able to contribute a monetary donation, how can you volunteer your time as a team? Maybe you can make your space available free of charge for a local organization or charity to host an event. Perhaps you can cook meals or bake goods as a team to provide to those in need, or who work tirelessly to make your community a better place.

The opportunities for giving back are endless and you can be as creative as you like. Host a breakfast with Santa for a local children’s group or do a hot chocolate and cookie drop off at a senior’s centre.

Brainstorm as many ideas as possible with your team. The process of thinking of charitable acts alone will brighten your team’s mood and get everyone in the giving spirit.

Share, Share, and Share Some More

Once you decide how you will participate in Giving Tuesday, tell the world about it!

Take photos, share the link to the charity or organization you are giving to, and encourage others to give alongside you. Tell a story.

However, do not engage with Giving Tuesday cynically with the goal of social media exposure. Be truly kind and generous.

Generosity is contagious. Your act of kindness will encourage others to do the same. It will also shine a bright spotlight on your hospitality brand, so make certain you’re engaging in kindness authentically and not just to score points with your community.

For more information on Giving Tuesday, please visit Cheers to professional and personal well-being!

Image: Andrew Thornebrooke on Unsplash

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Hiring and Training Staff for Consistency

Hiring and Training Staff for Consistency

by Nathen Dube

Happy and well-trained In N Out kitchen staff

Every restaurant needs to hire staff. This is probably the second most important pre-opening task after deciding on a concept.

Hiring can be an arduous process and hiring the wrong person is often detrimental to success. It costs time, money, and effort to replace and repair the damages.

Putting a fully developed onboarding plan in place—compelling job ads, effective interview and selection processes, in-depth training manuals, and training schedules—can help streamline hiring and retention, and make new hires feel welcome and confident in their roles.

Hiring and Onboarding

Creating a strategy to onboard all staff, adjusting for differing positions (cooks, servers, managers, etc.), will help to identify potential employees that fit your needs skill- and attitude-wise.

A strategic plan will streamline the entire process, start to finish. Think of it as your recruiting and hiring “recipe.”

Answering phone calls, scribbling notes, writing emails, losing phone numbers… Operating without a plan can be very frustrating and time consuming for everyone. After all, running your restaurant is far more important than being your own HR department.

The problem is that many organizations see training as an expense and not as an investment. Untrained employees will, inevitably, lack the motivation and knowledge to use company resources properly.

A lack of training in the hospitality industry leads to:

  • costly waste;
  • employees who feel unappreciated in their job;
  • employees with a general sense that their job doesn’t matter; and
  • unsatisfactory guest interactions that impact guest retention negatively.

At this point, employees either leave or get fired for poor performance.

While it may seem simple just to replace one worker with another, consider this: Hiring someone can cost up to 30 percent of the job’s salary. For an employee that makes $40,000 a year, that could equal around $12,000 to hire someone new.

However, training an existing employee correctly might only cost a few hundred dollars, reducing invested time. Even if replacing one employee doesn’t sound that bad, consider that for every three employees who need to be replaced, that will equal an entire salary with no real gains.

Clearly Define Roles and Responsibilities

From the outset, outlining job roles and daily responsibilities properly is extremely important to ensure that all staff are on the same page.

Building and maintaining a well-oiled machine takes time and planning. However, identifying and distributing responsibilities as equitably as possible will help things flow smoothly.

Differing service times can lead to staff friction when tasks are not being completed effectively for the next shift. The lack of a clear plan regarding responsibilities such as prep, stocking fridges, putting away orders, cleaning, and maintenance will inevitably cause confusion.

Yes, writing out a daily walkthrough and task list from shift start shift end time for each role in your organization will take some time and effort. No, it isn’t the most fun job you’ll do.

But doing so will make onboarding and training a seamless and less time-consuming transition overall.

How to Train New Restaurant Employees

When you’ve completed the interviews, made your hire, and are now bringing in your new staff, where do you start? Who is responsible for training? (Yes, this should be delegated in your plan!) What station do they start on and what is the timeline for moving them along?

Having a plan for onboarding that is mapped out in an employee manual will help to clearly explain your company’s policies and expectations; training modules; and all other helpful information to a new hire.

Expecting a line cook, who may even be green themselves, to convey this to a new employee is like playing the telephone game in grade one: it doesn’t work and is irresponsible.

Setting up detailed, specific workstation plans is the first step. The second step is to plan training shifts and specify who is going to be training new hires.

Batch training can make this process easier. Have your head chef or front-of-house manager spend time to train all the new hires, not just the one or two who happen to be working that day. Be sure to include other positions like sous chefs and floor staff.

This last step, along with a solid training manual, helps eliminate starting the whole process over again every time a position turns over. It also completely mitigates the disaster of staff members being trained differently. Consistency will be solid across the board.

Different Strategies for Part-time Staff

A great part-time employee program can elevate your full-time staff.

With the peaks and valleys of busy restaurant periods fluctuating around lunch and dinner, for example, full-time staff can be overworked and then swiftly underutilized. Part-time employees on the other hand, when scheduled correctly don’t experience the swing in workload.

Although part-time staff offer flexibility in scheduling, it can be difficult to find time to train them. However, part-time workers should not be excluded from training just because their hours are limited.

Organizing training specifically for your part-time employees is crucial to the success of your team. Scheduling a part-timer to come in on a busy Saturday lunch shift and flounder around strains and stresses out the rest of the staff. That’s the last thing you want or need.

Part-time staff benefit from shorter periods of training engagement than your full-time staff. You do want to include them in your large training sessions but will certainly have some who can’t make it.

Since their schedules are limited, you can train part-time staff via 15-minute lessons during pre-shift meetings. These talks can cover can anything from kitchen hygiene reminders, menu walkthroughs, customer service, and proper table setting.

Using your best staff for on-the-job training can also be beneficial to your part-timers. Shadowing during shifts provides a visual, real-world representation of everything written out in your employee manual. Following in the footsteps of someone in the role a part-timer has been hired for is an excellent way for them to understand their responsibilities and tasks in real-time.

Not only is it an opportunity to understand how the whole team functions, it’s a chance to meet colleagues and bond with the team.

Streamline Your Menu

As mentioned in a previous post, the streamlining of your menu benefits everyone from the top down.

Trying to train a new employee on how to cook (or serve) every single item on a large menu can be daunting. Keeping your menu narrow and focused will make an employee’s transition into their new position.

This is where your employee manual will come into play again. Recipes and pictures, along with training and tastings, will give new staff the confidence to cook and serve the dishes skillfully. Shadow shifts will complete the picture for them with hands-on training.

Conversely, having a large menu creates unnecessary confusion and takes a longer time for staff to feel comfortable.

Everything on your menu needs to be something that your kitchen and serving staff can handle efficiently without putting undue burden on your staff. Choose recipes that include ingredients that you know fit within your budget and concentrate on making them the best they can be. Good food is more about taste than presentation.

Seasonal menu changes should be addressed via staff meetings, updated recipe cards, tastings, and even testing for all staff. Consider using these events to train and onboard your new staff to start them on the right foot and avoid them having to play catch-up.

Don’t Discount Human Communication

Everyone wants to implement the latest technology to save money, resources, labour costs, and to deliver superior product.

One thing that needs to be remembered when training staff is this: even with all these new processes, human interaction is still necessary for a functioning business.

That is, human skill is still required to cook and plate delicious, Instagram-worthy food, and to deliver that food to the guests at the table. For the time being, human interaction is what creates memorable dining experiences and keeps guests coming back!

The opposite end of that spectrum happens when technology fails or crashes. Troubleshooting and problem-solving skills are required by your staff every day.

Train staff how to utilize your technology stack but also understand the “old-fashioned” ways.

Effective Troubleshooting Ability: Importance of Teamwork, Repetition, Consistency

 A solid training strategy produces a staff that values teamwork, a team with effective troubleshooting skills, and consistent results.

When you identify the roles you are looking and the responsibilities that come along with them, plus delegate and train properly, you are essentially giving your staff the ability to individually and collectively trouble shoot any issues that arise.

These problems can relate to customer service, broken equipment, inventory problems, and other issues that might come up when you or your leadership team aren’t there to fix things.

Everything talked about here is the foundation you should be building on to create an environment that thrives on teamwork. From the minute you onboard new staff they are comfortable in what is being asked of them and are given plenty of opportunity to work alongside colleagues.

Excellent teamwork leads to consistency and repetition of food, drinks, and service regardless of who is working the front or back of house. There is nothing more disappointing than returning to a restaurant only to have a substandard experience.

Implementing these programs even before opening day will help to keep you and, more importantly, your staff happy, thriving, and creating an amazing experience for your guests time and again!

Image: nick jenkins on Unsplash

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Why You Should Hire for Grit

Why You Should Hire for Grit

by Jennifer Radkey

Punch today in the face motivation print

It’s no secret that the hospitality industry is currently struggling to fill empty positions.

In an industry that suffered immensely throughout the pandemic with closures and restrictions, the desire for workers to return is low. Add in underlying issues such as low wages, unappealing hours, and sometimes undesirable work culture, and it makes the hunt for great employees seem even more daunting.

But what do you do when the resumes do come in? How do you select team members who will make your business stronger and help you strive towards success?

I’m going to suggest that you start by looking for one key characteristic: Grit.

What is Grit?

Psychologist and grit specialist Angela Duckworth states that, “Grit is sustained passion and perseverance for long term goals.” Grit is showing stamina in order to achieve success. It is often a better predictor of success than talent or skill alone.

If you want to do a deep dive into the benefits of grit to learn how and why grit is a better predictor of success than talent or intelligence, I highly suggest reading Duckworth’s book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. You can also check out her Ted Talks.

Why Grit?

Gritty individuals are more likely to deal with adversity better. These are the people you want on your team, especially in leadership roles. They are individuals who see success as a marathon and do not quit.

In an industry known for high turnover, the number one quality you should be scouting for is perseverance. Who is going to stick with you when times are stressful? Who is going to push for personal and professional growth? These are the individuals you need to look for.

Hiring for Skill

Many restaurant and bar owners will look at skill first when hiring new staff. I get it. If someone has previous experience and has demonstrated job specific skills, then it means less training on your part. If they “know what they’re doing,” that individual should be a good hire, right?

While finding someone with skill may prove that they can do the day-to-day tasks, it says nothing about how dedicated they will be to your business, what their growth potential is, or what their values may be. Skill can be easily taught; values, grit, and a growth mindset, however, can not.

Hiring for Grit

It starts with your job ad. An individual with grit is on the search for growth opportunities and for challenges.

What are you offering your team members? Are you offering learning opportunities, tuition assistance, training experiences? Are you making this clear from the very start that these opportunities are available?

If you want dedicated employees who are of a growth mindset you need to attract them to you with what they are searching for.

The Resume

Resumes may not be plentiful, and you may need to fill a position ASAP, but you still need to take the time to carefully analyze a resume if you want to hire for long-term success.

When reading a resume there are clues to indicate if the candidate has grit. Firstly, check to see how long they have stuck with previous jobs, teams, hobbies, volunteer positions, etc. Do they have a lot of experience but have switched jobs every one to two years? Have they done a lot of volunteer work but only for very brief stints?

Secondly, what level of achievement did they receive in these? For example, an individual who was on a varsity basketball team for four years, was made captain, and won a championship shows more grit than someone who played recreational basketball for a year and didn’t win any major awards.

One more example: An individual who started off as host, stayed with the restaurant for several years, and during that time made his way to the management team shows more grit than an individual who has more years of experience but it is spread over various establishments and each stint is less than a year in length.

The Hiring Process

A person with grit will not make you hunt them down. If anything, they will hunt you down!

The individuals who go out of their way to research your establishment before an interview, who follow up in a timely way for setting up interviews, and who follow up after their resume is sent and after they have an interview are the type of people you want on your team.

Do not overlook these individuals (even if they don’t have a ton of experience) because they are demonstrating respect, a keen interest in working for you, and dedication. Remember, skill can easily be taught but key qualities such as grit and growth mindset can not.

The Interview

There are some key questions you can ask during the interview process to determine if a candidate has grit:

  • “Tell me about a big goal you had and how you went about achieving that goal.” Look for specific details about how they reached their goal.
  • “Tell me about a time when you gave up on a goal, and why.” People give up on goals all the time. Perhaps it turned out to just not be feasible. Maybe a major life-changing event happened. A person with grit will typically only give up on a goal for a significant reason.
  • “Tell me about a major obstacle or challenge that you recently had to overcome, and how you did so.” The hospitality industry is full of obstacles and daily challenges both big and small. You need an idea of if and how your team members can overcome these obstacles.
  • “Who is a successful person that you admire, and why?” Does the candidate admire someone successful because of work ethic, grit, perseverance, bravery, etc.? Or do they admire the person for talent, success, material wealth, and popularity? What we admire in others is often what we try to achieve for ourselves.

These are all questions that will give you an idea of someone’s level of grit.

The Bottom Line

Turnover hurts everyone, and it hurts our bottom line. In our industry it is inevitable, but it doesn’t need to be a continuous revolving door of employees.

Start by attracting the right people, look for signs of grit during the hiring process, and then do your part by creating a rewarding and positive work environment to create longevity.

Is hiring stressful? You bet. But if you do it right, hopefully you won’t have to do it often! Here’s to personal and professional well-being. Cheers!

Image: Johnson Wang on Unsplash

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Where are To-Go Cocktails Legal?

Where are To-Go Cocktails Legal?

by David Klemt

Bottled Negroni mixed drinks and to-go cocktails

We’re still coming to grips with what the industry will look like post-pandemic. One pandemic-driven adaptation is to-go cocktails.

For this article, “cocktails” means mixed drinks specifically, as that is how most jurisdictions are defining such to-go drinks.

In some markets, operators can now offer to-go mixed drinks permanently. Some jurisdictions are offering extensions to temporary sales, while others are considering bills.

The To-Go Pivot

Clearly, our industry responds to guest demands and expectations. And what does today’s guest expect? For their every customized whim to be fulfilled—conveniently.

Therefore, it only makes sense that operators constantly adapt to encourage guest loyalty (as far as that’s possible).

People are itching to get out more, impatient to return to their pre-pandemic lives. Even so, the convenience of drinking and dining at home appeals to large swaths of the public.

Of course, it’s not just convenient.

Providing guests the choice to enjoy a restaurant or bar’s F&B offerings and semblance of their unique experience at home—including cocktails—is also about safety and comfort levels.

Obviously, we want guests to be able to comfortably and safely gather in restaurants, bars, hotels, and every other type of hospitality venue. That’s a given.

However, if some people are more comfortable at home for now, operators in a position to meet guests where they are to generate revenue should do so.

Lawmakers Respond

Carryout and delivery beer and wine sales have been legal for some time in many states. Mixed drinks, not so much.

The rules addressing “to-go” cocktails (carryout and delivery are more accurate) were relaxed in several markets in response to indoor dining bans and shutdowns.

However, “loose” laws aren’t permanent changes. Some jurisdictions will eventually rescind their relaxed approach and ban to-go cocktails unless specific legislation passes.

Iowa is the first American state to legalize to-go cocktails permanently. The vote was unanimous in the Iowa House and nearly so in the Iowa Senate.

Operators in Canada or America who intend to sell to-go cocktails must be aware of their jurisdiction’s specific rules, including but not limited to packaging requirements, volume restrictions, food sale components, and transportation laws.

Canada: Delivery and Carryout Rules

Currently, KRG Hospitality operates in Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario for the Canadian market. Therefore, we’re focusing on those provinces for this article.


While packaged, unopened liquor may be sold for off-site consumption, pre-made cocktails may not. Food sales must accompany liquor sales.

British Columbia

The province’s approach to liquor sales for delivery and carryout are the same as Alberta’s. Operators can’t sell to-go mixed drinks.


Restaurants and bars can sell pre-made cocktails sealed in bottles, cans, and bags. Like the other two provinces, food sales must accompany to-go liquor sales.

America: Permanent, Extended, Up for Consideration

In total, 11 states have made the move to legalize to-go mixed drinks permanently:

  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Montana
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Others have introduced bills to make to-go cocktails legal permanently:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Kansas
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania

A handful have extended to-go cocktails until at least 2022:

  • Delaware (March 2022)
  • Illinois (2024)
  • Maine (September 2022)
  • Virginia (July 2022)
  • Washington (July 2023)

Image: Jonas Tebbe on Unsplash

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What in the CDC Guidance…?

What in the CDC Guidance…?

by David Klemt

Red neon sign question mark

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is once again offering Covid-19 guidance and this time it’s taking a sharp turn.

One big takeaway is that nobody was really expecting the agency’s abrupt and surprising advice.

Also, the CDC’s updates are confusing a lot of people. So much so, in fact, that the agency is “shaking up” communications personnel.

Changing Guidelines

Clearly, the CDC’s statements toward the end of last week are shocking. The agency caught states and businesses completely off guard.

Business owners, workers and the public are unsure how to interpret the CDC’s new advice. Unfortunately, that seems to indicate that perhaps the agency didn’t take the time to really dial in their message before addressing the nation.

We’ve dealt with constant shifts in guidance for more than a year now. There’s little wonder that so many Americans are experiencing Covid-19 fatigue and skepticism.

It’s fair to say that when the CDC announced updated guidelines last week, people threw their hands up in frustration.

Obviously, the messaging was haphazard since so many attempts at clarification have taken place over the course of just a few days.

So, what’s the agency saying now?

Vague at Best

Last Thursday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the current CDC director, said this:

“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing. If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”

Which, okay—great. Seems like a simple bit of direction, right?

Obviously, no—not that simple. Yesterday, Dr. Walensky had to clarify the CDC’s newest guidance:

“This is not permission for widespread removal of masks. We were going to get to the point in the pandemic where the vaccinated could take off their masks.”

The Details, Kinda

In short, the new advice is aimed toward those who are fully vaccinated. To review, a person is considered to be fully vaccinated:

  • two weeks after receiving the second dose of a two-dose regimen (Pfizer, Moderna); or
  • two weeks after receiving a dose of a one-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson).

Last week, Dr. Walensky said that fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks or practice social distancing outdoors or indoors. Of course, caveats followed immediately, leading many people to criticize the guidance as vague and, to put it bluntly, unhelpful.

The caveats? The fully vaccinated should still wear masks in crowded settings like airports, airplanes, buses and other public transportation, hospitals, homeless shelters. Also, they should continue following the guidance of their employers and local businesses.

Sifting Through the Confusion

In a nutshell, what the CDC is saying is that fully vaccinated people can return to a semblance of their normal pre-pandemic lives.

This is likely an attempt, however slap-dash or ham-fisted, to incentivize the unvaccinated to get their shots. It’s also probably another attempt at rebooting the economy.

One problem with this new guidance is that it’s vague. People still have questions, and the CDC appears to be fine with deferring to business owners. That means, once again, front-line workers have to police mask wearing and social distancing.

Our industry has been forced to shove staff into awkward and hostile situations and confrontations for over a year now. Shifting guidance and recommendations routinely give short shrift to this facet of working during the pandemic.

Another problem with the CDC’s latest guidance? We have no way of knowing who’s actually vaccinated. Because of this, many business owners are keeping mask and social distancing rules in place to protect their staff and guests. This is no doubt already leading to uncomfortable confrontations.

Staff who can’t get vaccinated for medical or religious reasons are also now being put at risk. Since we’re relying on the “honor system” regarding mask wearing and distancing, unvaccinated workers face greater risk of exposure from unvaccinated guests.

Lack of Industry-specific Guidance

We’re still learning about Covid-19. We’re still attempting to figure out best practices. And we’re still balancing the need to keep businesses open while protecting workers and the public.

But the CDC’s latest guidance isn’t helpful. Essentially, the agency is putting the onus of their recommendations on business owners and state and local policymakers. And, of course, the CDC hasn’t put forth specific guidance for restaurants, bars and other hospitality industry businesses.

The National Restaurant Association responded to the CDC’s update by saying that “restaurant operators have the option of determining how best to enforce the new guidance,” and that they wouldn’t be updating their own Covid-19 Operating Guidance just yet. Also, the NRA stated that operators would be wise to continue to work with state and local regulatory bodies to avoid falling afoul of any mandates.

Next Steps

Operators will now have to review their Covid-19 protocols, the guidance and rules in place in their local jurisdictions, and determine what’s required and what’s best for their staff. They should also consider doing the following:

  • Inform staff about mask, social distancing, and other Covid-19 protocols, whether they’re being kept in place, adjusted or rescinded.
  • Ask staff about their comfort levels in terms of serving guests who aren’t required to wear masks at all during their visits. It’s not just guest comfort that’s important.
  • Owners and managers need to let staff know they have their backs if they’ll be enforcing protocols.
  • Ownership and management must provethey’re backing up their teams. If operators think they’re facing labor challenges now, they’ll struggle even harder if they fail to back up workers who are tasked with informing guests that Covid protocols are in place.
  • Operators should make their protocols known—if they’re still in place—on social, their websites, via email, and in-person so there are no surprises when guests arrive.

Once again, business owners are left to deal with the aftermath of the CDC’s “recommendations.” Now more than ever, guest-facing staff need to be supported.

Image: Simone Secci on Unsplash

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International Chain Slashes Menu

International Chain Slashes Menu

by David Klemt

Applebee's Grill & Bar casual dining restaurant

If you’re curious as to whether “lean and mean” menus are here to stay as a result of the pandemic, look no further than one international chain.

Moving forward, Applebee’s Grill + Bar menus will be some 60 items lighter.

The chain’s menu will be 38 percent smaller, and the change is permanent.

Significant Overhaul

Of course, it isn’t like the Applebee’s menu is tiny now. At about 100 items, it’s still larger than most independent restaurant menus. For contrast, KRG Hospitality president Doug Radkey, in most cases, recommends 12- to 32-item food menus.

Still, the casual dining chain cutting 60 items permanently is a big move.

The decision is a direct result of the pandemic and the toll it took on Applebee’s and the industry overall. Unfortunately, like many operators big and small, chain and independent, the chain had to furlough staff. Lightening the menu made it easier for the chain to adapt and shift toward takeout and delivery.

Weak performers and complex items that affect efficiency are gone. According to John Cywinski, Applebee’s president, the decision means faster ticket times, more consistency, and better efficiency.

Among the 60 or so items that are no longer available: the triple cheeseburger, clam chowder, and BBQ brisket tacos.

Streamline Summer

The decision to eliminate dozens of complex and lagging items puts Applebee’s in a better position for Summer 2021, potentially.

Speaking with CNN Business, Cywinski said, “The team will have to be very thoughtful about every single product or beverage they introduce, and the consequence of it from a complexity standpoint.”

That thoughtful approach is crucial in large part because of Applebee’s new menu policy: When a new item comes onto the menu, an old item must go.

Accordingly, Applebee’s can remain innovative while avoiding once again inflating their menus.

With demand for social interaction, a return to normalcy, and in-person restaurant and bar visits set to explode, Applebee’s finds itself with a menu that’s nearly 40-percent smaller. That should make it simpler for the chain’s restaurant and bar teams to fill orders quickly, efficiently, and consistently.

Menu Refresh

Every operator needs to know their numbers. That doesn’t just mean costs and inventory, by the way.

Do you know the cook times for each food item on your menu? Do you know how many dishes you can make with a given ingredient? Is thoughtful cross-utilization an important element of your F&B operations?

The answers to those questions can help you identify bottlenecks in your operation and become more agile.

Another important question to consider: Do you know which menu items are your slowest sellers? If you do, answer this: Why are they still on your menu?

When you eliminate an item, yes, some guests will express their disappointment. You’ll have to weigh the costs of keeping a poor performer against freeing up resources by losing an item that rarely sells. You may even identify an item that you personally love but just doesn’t move. Again, you have to do what’s best for your bottom line.

You may not have 160 items on your menu. You may not have 100. That doesn’t mean you don’t have at least a handful of items that you can eliminate to reduce costs and increase revenue.

Image: Applebee’s Grill + Bar

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SBA Releases RRF Guide and Forms

SBA Releases RRF Guide and Forms

by David Klemt

"This is the sign you've been looking for" white neon sign on brick wall

Operators in the United States are nearing the opening of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund application process.

The Small Business Administration’s RRF program guide and sample application are now available.

Let’s jump in!

RRF at a Glance

In simple terms, the RRF is the most targeted relief the industry in America has received since the pandemic took hold.

Eligible entities apply for a tax-free grant equal to the amount of a their pandemic-related revenue losses.

To calculate a grant amount, an applicant subtracts 2020 gross receipts from 2019 gross receipts. Applicants must deduct first-draw PPP and second-draw PPP loans, even if they’re paid back or forgiven. Any economic disaster loans—Economic Injury Disaster Loans, for example—are not RRF deductions.

Per the SBA, operators do not need to register for a System for Award Management ( account, meaning they no longer need to acquire a DUNS number.

RRF Eligibility

As the SBA’s RRF program guide states, eligible businesses A) must not be closed permanently, and B) are places where customers gather primarily to consume food or drink. Such entities include:

  • restaurants;
  • bars;
  • saloons;
  • lounges;
  • taverns;
  • food trucks, carts and stands;
  • snack and non-alcoholic beverage bars;
  • licensed facilities or premises of a beverage alcohol producer where the public may taste, sample, or purchase product; and
  • other similar places of business in which the public or patrons assemble for the primary purpose of being served food or drink.

However, that’s in no way the entire list of eligible businesses. Bakeries, breweries, microbreweries, brewpubs, taprooms, distilleries, wineries, and tasting rooms are eligible if they can provide documentation (which must accompany their application) that:

  • on-site sales to the public comprised at least 33% of gross receipts in 2019; or
  • original business model should have contemplated at least 33% of gross receipts in on-site sales to the public if they’ve yet to open or opened in 2020.

Interestingly, it’s possible for an inn to be eligible for the RRF. Such a business is subject to the same eligibility requirements as bakeries, breweries, etc.

Eligible Expenses

Businesses that receive an RRF grant may use the funds for eligible expenses during their covered period. That timeframe is the “period beginning on February 15, 2020 and ending on March 11, 2023.” Should the business close permanently, that period will end when the business permanently closes or on March 11, 2023, whichever occurs sooner.”

A grant recipient must return any funds to the Treasury if they’re unable to use for eligible expenses by the end of the covered period.

So, which expenses are eligible per the SBA for the RRF program? Below is a short list of eligible expenses:

  • Payroll costs (sick leave, costs for group health care, life, disability, vision, or dental benefits during periods of paid sick, medical, or family leave, and group health care, life, disability, vision, or dental insurance premiums).
  • Payments on any business mortgage obligation, both principal and interest (Note: Excludes any prepayment of principal on a mortgage obligation).
  • Business rent payments, including rent under a lease agreement (Note: Excludes any prepayment of rent).
  • Construction of outdoor seating.
  • Business supplies (including protective equipment and cleaning materials).

For the full list of eligible expenses and many more RRF details, please click here to download and view the entire SBA RRF program guide. To view the sample application and prepare for the process to begin, click here.


This content is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice. This article does not constitute professional and/or financial advice, nor does any information constitute a comprehensive or complete statement of the matters discussed or the law. This information is of a general nature and does not address the circumstances of a specific individual or entity. The reader of this information alone assumes the sole responsibility of evaluating the merits and risks associated with the use of any information before making any decisions based on such information.

Image: Austin Chan on Unsplash 

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NRN Shares Inclusion Insights Report

NRN Shares Inclusion Insights Report

by David Klemt

Light bulb idea concept on wood background

Featuring insights from their 2021 Power List, an inclusion report from American trade publication Nation’s Restaurant News is now available.

Overall, NRN’s 2021 Power List consists of C-suite and executive heavy hitters from some of the most influential restaurant groups.

For example, Domino’s, Yum Brands, &pizza, and Momofuku Restaurant Group, are on this year’s list.

To compile their 2021 Power List: Leadership & Inclusion Insights report, NRN asked their power players to identify a team member who embody inclusivity.

Lessons Learned from 2020

NRN’s report is broken down into five sections; this is the first.

Reading through the insights in this section, you’ll find that agility and adaptability are crucial to navigating crises. That will come as no surprise to many.

However, what really strikes me are the words of Donnie Upshaw, SVP for people at Wingstop. Upshaw cites the importance of culture and core values:

“Our core values, known as ‘The Wingstop Way’—service-minded, authentic, entrepreneurial and fun—have been and will continue to be our guiding light through all seasons of our business.”

Those core values, along with Wingstop culture and a focus on retaining top talent, are keys to their successful navigating of the pandemic.

Accomplishments During a Pandemic

The pandemic has torn apart the hospitality industry and continues to do so. In America, we’re just now seeing specific relief targeting foodservice businesses.

Given the situation, just surviving the pandemic is an accomplishment.

Still, chain and independent operators are forging paths forward and inspiring others inside and outside of the industry.

Erika Palomar, COO of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, says the group “faced the darkest hours, together.”

Palomar continues: “They held fast to their commitment to change the most lives possible. This group has the remarkable ability to look beyond their door and inspire others to take action and make bold changes that will serve this industry and our society for the better.”

Importance of Leadership & Impact

The job of owners, operators, managers, and mentors is to lead. Doing so is one of the most effective tools for growing a business and retaining talent.

Adversity, of course, is one of the—if not the—greatest challenges to leadership.

Beth Scott, president of Fleming’s, says building trust is the first step in realizing the core of what it means to be a leader: inspiring and influencing, not commanding.

Jason Crain, CRO of Slutty Vegan, says, “Leading is dynamic and solution oriented.” Crain points to knowing when to implement different forms of leadership as a crucial element.

Further Insights

NRN’s report has two more categories, “Fostering Diversity & Inclusion” and “The Future of Foodservice.” There are insights from several more power players who drive the missions of inclusivity, diversity and equity.

We encourage you to follow this link and review the report for invaluable motivation and inspiration for your own business.

Image: Free-Photos from Pixabay

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Kitchen Showdown: Virtual vs. Ghost

Kitchen Showdown: Virtual vs. Ghost

by David Klemt

Person ordering Uber Eats

The lines between virtual and ghost kitchens are growing increasingly blurry as they rise in popularity.

The terms aren’t interchangeable—they’re separate concepts.

Let’s snap the two into focus so operators can decide for themselves which, if either, is for them.

Virtual Kitchen

A virtual kitchen or virtual restaurant supports a brick-and-mortar concept. This includes food trucks.

Standard process is as follows:

  • A concept in a certain category seeks to expand their menu options without diluting or otherwise damaging their brand.
  • They create new menu items and sometimes a new brand.
  • Their existing kitchen or kitchens create these new items, which are online- and delivery-only.

A virtual kitchen has a brick-and-mortar location in a technical sense, but the brand’s existence is essentially digital as far as consumers know.

Ghost Kitchen

These facilities are delivery-only and commonly produce virtual brands’ items, which is a possible source of the confusion surrounding ghost and virtual kitchens. A truly virtual brand is only available online, either via its own ordering site or a delivery app—it has no brick-and-mortar location of its own.

We’ve known since the Chicken Wars first started that chicken sells, apparently in all forms. Several virtual brands, largely focused on wings and sandwiches, are succeeding with the help of ghost kitchens.

However, ghost kitchens also rent themselves out to or otherwise enter into contracts with third-party concepts with brick-and-mortar locations of their own to produce their delivery menu items.

The explosive rise of delivery is driving investment in ghost kitchens (former Uber executive Travis Kalanick’s CloudKitchens is an excellent example). It’s also the reason that so many industry experts and speculators declare ghosts “the future of restaurants.”

Not the Same

This quick rundown should clarify the differences between virtual kitchens and ghosts. Their missions may be similar but their operations are not.

Image: Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

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House Passes $1.9B Covid Relief Bill, RRF

House Passes $1.9B Covid Relief Bill, RRF

by David Klemt

US Capitol Building Dome

The Senate version of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is through the House, awaiting the signature of President Joe Biden.

Once the bill is signed by the president, it will be the law of the land.

That means our industry is finally receiving at least a portion of the relief it so desperately needs. After nearly a year of campaigning and fighting, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) is a reality.

Restaurant Revitalization Fund

Managed by the Small Business Administration properly, the RRF is a critical lifeline for small- and mid-sized operators.

The SBA will prioritize women- and veteran-owned and operated businesses for the first 21 days. Economically and socially disadvantaged businesses will also receive priority.

Maximum grant amounts are $5 million per individual restaurant or $10 million per restaurant group.

Eligible Expenses

Importantly, eligible expenses fall between February 15, 2020 through December 31, 2021.

Eligible expenses include but are not limited to:

  • payroll and benefits;
  • mortgage (no prepayment);
  • rent (no prepayment);
  • utilities, maintenance;
  • supplies (including PPE and cleaning materials);
  • food;
  • operational expenses;
  • covered supplier costs (as defined by the SBA under the PPP program); and
  • sick leave.

American Rescue Plan Provisions

Of course, the RRF is just a small portion of the American Rescue Plan. The bill includes many provisions for national Covid-19 testing and vaccine distribution.

States and local governments receive $20 billion to assist low-income households with rent, utility bills, and back rent. There’s an increase to benefits of 15 percent through September for those on food stamps.

Also, the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program receives $15 billion, which will help small business owners.

The $300-per-week federal boost to unemployment benefits remains the same rather than climbing to $400 per week.

Crucially, the bill waives the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits from 2020. That amount rises to $20,400 for married couples. To receive the waiver, a household must have an adjusted gross income of $150,000. That AGI is the same for individual and combined households.

Individuals with an AGI of up to $75,000 will receive stimulus payments of $1,400. That amount phases out completely at $80,000 for individuals, $160,000 for couples.

What’s Next

The SBA is responsible creating and implementing the RRF application process.

For now, it’s wise for operators to calculate their grant amounts:

  • Open prior to 2019: 2019 revenue minus 2020 revenue minus PPP loans.
  • 2019 opening: Average of 2019 monthly revenues times 12 minus 2020 revenues.
  • 2020 opening: Eligible to receive funding equal to eligible expenses incurred.

Since the SBA is the agency overseeing the $28.5 billion RRF, it’s a good idea to monitor their site for pertinent dates, details and requirements.

Image: Joshua Sukoff on Unsplash