Restaurant Operations

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Make More Money This Festive Season

6 Ways Restaurants Can Make More Money this Festive Season

Originally Posted on Typsy – By Doug Radkey

Festive Season. These two words signal colder weather (in most areas), delicious comfort food, creative drinks, memorable parties, laughter with friends & family, and of course – gift giving.

These are also two words that nearly everyone seems to look forward to throughout the year, including that of restaurant owners. The reason is quite simple; consumers are often in a generous mood which equals longer stays and more spending dollars.

Restaurants, bars, and cafes have the opportunity to generate an abundance of awareness, an increase in revenue per guest, and even repeatable business in what can be defined as the often slower months following the Festive Season (yes it is possible).

Let’s jump right into some Festive strategies your concept or venue should consider this holiday season:

1. Cross-Promotions

Make sure that special events and other winter-related promotions are planned for well in advance, ideally 1-2 months prior. This season is such a large opportunity, that a true marketing plan should be developed just for the season. The festive cheer that starts the season, for example, can act as a forerunner to both Christmas and New Years Eve parties, packages, and other revenue generating opportunities such as gift card sales.

Speaking of gift cards – create a marketing program specifically around these money-makers. Restaurants are the most popular choice for consumers to purchase gift cards, with 41% of total gift card spend going to restaurants. But don’t just sell the one card. Create a promotion that includes spending an ‘x’ amount of dollars on a card before Christmas, and receive a second card with an amount of ‘x’ that can only be used in January or February. Add value, be aggressive, and get people through your doors over the next two months when sales are traditionally lagging.


2. Labor Management

Similar to that of the retail sector and depending on the size of the restaurant, additional staff may need to be hired to handle the extra covers that are waiting to come in. This is where planning ahead really comes into play. To be fair to yourself, your team, your new hires, and your guests, you need to ensure you leave yourself enough time for interviewing, talent selection, onboarding, and training before the peak of Christmas season truly hits.

Both front-of-house and back-of-house systems and their teams need to be reviewed to ensure your operations are prepared. Customer service and speed in the kitchen or bar should not be hindered by the fact it’s getting busier. You can ‘scale’ your business by being prepared; create mock schedules and see where there may be gaps to ensure a high standard of service is available when your restaurant needs to shine.

Speaking of staff, let’s not forget about their valuable time! Ensure they’re given time to spend with their friends and family too. Be flexible with your scheduling – and don’t forget to thank them for their loyalty and commitment!


3. Off-Premise Dining

With the increase in delivery and off-premise dining, the Festive Season may not show any signs of slowing that segment down this year. Is your restaurant prepared to market the catering and delivery of food and beverage to office parties and house parties?

This presents an opportunity to offer the catering of a traditional or concept-infused, Christmas focused meal or buffet style dinner — right to their door!

Create a variation of value-added packages for different sized parties and request 72 hours (or more) notice (with deposit) to have it prepped and delivered, right on time. Just don’t forget the high-quality take-out containers and plates for an easy clean-up afterward!

Pre-ordered packages such as this will generate cash-flow, control potential waste, and control staff costs.


4. Food Menu

Is your restaurant in a position to offer a traditionally plated meal or other harvest/winter flavors? How about a unique variation or infusion based on your restaurant’s concept and kitchen structure?

Don’t be afraid to think outside-the-box and get creative. For example, if you’re a Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) near a parade route, create an easy-to-eat holiday inspired option for ‘on-the-go’.

Develop a holiday-themed menu with your entire team (kitchen and bar team) with your target market and concept kept close in mind. Make it a fun exercise for everyone. As always, keep the specialized menu small and inviting to reduce inventory, prep-time, additional staff requirements, and potential waste.

You also want to keep in mind that a lot of the guests visiting may have never stepped foot in your establishment before because they’re just tagging along with a large party. Think of allergens and include dishes that vegans, vegetarians, and guests with other primary food sensitivities would still enjoy.


5. Beverage Menu

Having the right drinks on your menu is just as important as the food. The Christmas season is the best time of year to sell both pre-and-after-dinner drinks if you’re a dine-in restaurant.

You have to have the mindset that every drop counts!

While pre-and-after dinner drinks are big sellers, you can make a larger impact by offering ‘session drinks’ – drinks with a lower level of alcohol – or just zero-proof drinks all-together.

The drinking ‘culture’ associated with alcohol, in particular, has definitely changed over the past decade thanks to strict driving laws, the cost of ‘going out’, and the sophistication of consumers.

Show off your bar teams talent by creating ‘theatre’ in your beverages in addition to a balance in alcohol levels which should be promoted with the right mix of marketing.

When crafting your beverage menu, keep sustainability, speed, price, and perception of value in mind – for both non-alcohol and alcohol driven drinks.


6. Christmas & New Year’s Parties

You have the square footage, you have the approved capacity, and you have the kitchen/bar. These are the needed ingredients required to host an exclusive or intimate type event at any venue. Whether you have the capacity for 20 or 200 plus guests, there is an opportunity to generate awareness, revenue, and repeat customers by becoming known within your community for being the ‘best host in town’.

To make event management work for your restaurant, it must create a unique and memorable guest experience, which is no different than traditional dining strategies. Whether you’re hosting your own New Year’s Eve party or renting out your space before Christmas for a variety of private events – ensure there are defined (but value driven) food & beverage packages and a financial deposit made to protect your bottom line.

You also want to ensure there is a communication strategy in place to let other guests know if your venue is closed for a private event. Maximize each event by being organized, well staffed, and engaged. Take it a step further by providing guests at the event – an opportunity to revisit in January or February with a measurable gift (a coupon for a free appetizer or $10 gift card, for example).


By truly knowing and understanding your target market, your concept, and the neighboring business environment, the Festive Season is an excellent time to showcase your brand and your creativity – ultimately generating awareness, revenue, and repeat business opportunities, ultimately setting the tone for the following year!

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Should Restaurants Ditch 3rd Party Delivery?

Should Restaurants Ditch 3rd Party Delivery

By Doug Radkey – 11/12/18

Should restaurants ditch third party delivery apps and create their own in-house off-premise strategy? I recently took part in a few online conversations surrounding third party delivery apps – from both the consumer and the restaurant operator point-of-view.

If you follow along – I am not a fan of these services (at all). I’ve never used them nor suggested a brand to use them.

While I embrace technology in the restaurant space (and off-premise dining options) – I feel the business model surrounding these apps (in particular UberEats and Skip the Dishes during these most recent discussions) are lacking in both customer service and transparency while further killing overall restaurant profits (like operators today need anymore of that).

Let’s look at a recent transaction. I recently saw a screenshot from a consumer using a third party delivery application. After a delivery fee, a busy area fee, a peak delivery time fee, and the delivery fee taxes, a meal that was listed as $8.89 on the menu ended up costing them $30.36.

Of that, the restaurant earned a mediocre $6.67 of that order.

It’s not exactly a traditional breakdown of revenue that we see in restaurants, and operators today are struggling to adapt to this ever-changing restaurant landscape. I feel it came at them much too fast and many have jumped on board because they felt they had to.

But I have a question – why are we not doing a better job to get guests to spend that $30.36 they were willing to spend – in the restaurant or at least through our own off-premise dining program?

With a little effort – it can happen!

Here is what we know. Delivery and off-premise dining has disrupted the restaurant industry more in the last five years than anything else. Digital ordering paired with the outsourcing of delivery has impacted restaurant traffic, revenue, profit and overall restaurant operations like no other piece of industry-wide technology.

Based on the conversations this past weekend it seemed liked the only party benefiting from the use of these apps – was the third party. However, if you ask them, they’re apparently not making ‘huge profits’ either.

Here are a few notable quotes from the public chat that took place on Facebook – again from both consumer & operators:

I’ve deleted the app – every time I’ve ordered, something goes wrong and a lot of times it’s the drivers fault not paying attention” – Consumer

If you’re doing takeout, pick it up from your local business. Other than that you’re rolling the dice” – Operator

“Their chat-bot told me ‘we are deeply disappointed that we have failed to provide you with optimum service during your orders and for this reason we have decided that it is best to remove ourselves from this relationship’” – Consumer

Best thing to do is get out and support your local restaurants, leave these rip off merchants congeal back in the gutter where they belong” – Operator

I had no idea these apps take such a percentage from the restaurant on top of the delivery fee. I will no longer order through an app. I thought I was supporting my favorite restaurant, but apparently I wasn’t” – Consumer

Not much of anything positive.

Here’s the thing; recent stats are showing staggering numbers such as 60% of consumers ordering delivery in the past 30 days. Based on trend reports, this is ‘unfortunately’ only going to climb – even though I personally wish more people would visit restaurants, engage in the experience, get out of their home, and socialize with others away from their smart-phone.

But out of those that do order delivery through these third parties, 30% are experiencing poor customer experiences – with either the app or the restaurant – or both.

That is significantly higher than the number of complaints one would receive at the restaurant level without a third party being involved.

Here’s the next problem; according to a study by Steritech, consumers are placing over 80% of the problems on the restaurant through the use of these apps (even if most problems are not their fault).

Due to the third party app, a gap in communication immediately happens between the consumer and the restaurant. This leads to the restaurant not being able to often resolve the problem in a timely manner before that consumer blasts them for something on social media.

Not a pleasant situation.

This is because they’re sending their complaints directly to the third party app (the platform that ultimately placed the order for them) – which I suppose makes sense from a consumer point-of-view. This however leads to over 25% saying they would not order from the restaurant ever again – not entirely fair considering the restaurant may never have even known about this unhappy experience.

Furthermore:

  • 14% say food quality was not as expected (likely due to travel time or packaging)
  • 19% say the order took too long
  • 19% say the food wasn’t the correct temperature when it arrived (timing or packaging issue)
  • 29% say the order was incorrect or missing something

All of this could be avoided! When partnering with these mainstream third party apps – you’re also:

  • Losing a direct communication channel
  • Losing positive brand perception
  • Losing much needed profits to sustain yourself
  • Losing consumer data for future marketing
  • Losing foot traffic in your dine-in real estate

Most importantly – you’re losing control once that food leaves your four walls.

Why on earth are we doing this to ourselves for such limited margins?

If you are operating a restaurant and are currently using these apps – though you will never have full control of the situation, there are a number of options available to you to leverage more control.

That said I encourage you to consider your own in-house off-premise program. These options below should be considered whether you’re partnering with a third party or if you’re offering your own in-house platform:

  • Offering a limited delivery only menu option with higher margins (consumers are obviously willing to spend more)
  • Offering limited day-part delivery times (example; not at 6pm on a Saturday when the kitchen is slammed)
  • Using specialized take-out packaging for certain menu items to protect the quality of your unique food options
  • Using tamper-proof packaging so delivery drivers cannot alter the order (happens often)
  • Having a quality control program (or expeditor) reviewing meals before it leaves the restaurant
  • Sending printed customer care promises (how to reach the restaurant directly) delivered with the meal

There are much better options out there for digital take-out, delivery, catering, and off-premise dining that will allow you to keep control of all of the above while maximizing profits including the introduction of your own off-premise strategy – which will often keep costs to under 10% – no joke!

Then, use these ‘savings’ to increase your own marketing & advertising efforts. It surely won’t be 25-30% like what these third party delivery apps are currently taking from independent operators (which you were willing to give up anyway); keeping more money in your pocket.

This type of in-house strategy will also differentiate your brand from the competition that is also increasing each day on these main-stream app platforms.

How will you stand out and make your brand memorable? How will you position your brand for a sustainable future? How will you protect your brand, its profits, and utilize the available customer data?

Don’t partner with them just because it seems like the easy thing to do or ‘because everyone is using them.’

The notion that you must be on them to survive is 100% inaccurate. If you need to use them for ‘marketing’ – you need to learn more about marketing.

Take a stand and learn about your options first.

I am yet to hear a positive story on how these main-stream third party delivery apps have actually helped their business grow in the long-term. In my professional opinion, restaurants should ditch third party delivery apps.

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Have Restaurants Forgotten The Fundamentals

Have Restaurants Forgotten The Fundamentals

Originally Posted on FoodableTV – By Doug Radkey 08/08/2018

With technology continuously advancing in the restaurant industry, it can be easy to get absorbed and caught up in the next big thing. Technology platforms can help you save time, financial resources, and improve ‘customer service’ levels, just to name a few.

But sometimes when you get so caught up in technology, you can forget some of the fundamentals that will never be replaced by technology, but still play a large role in the success of today’s restaurants.

The key is the right balance of technology that will assist you in meeting both short-term and long-term goals.

This article is not about how to not use technology (it’s a great asset,) but don’t let it fail you, your staff, or your customers. Let’s strip back the technology for a moment and remind ourselves as an owner, operator, manager, or front-line employee – some of the tactics that we must never forget or stop learning.

First Impressions

Curb appeal and first impressions must meet and exceed your guests’ expectations. When stripping back technology, restaurateurs must understand that first impressions are essentially a means of effective communication that positions a restaurant to develop positive customer emotions and “touch points.”

As always, one must thoroughly think about the consistent message and experience that’s intended to be delivered.

Key Performance Indicators

Technology provides an operator with a great amount of data, but restaurateurs still need to learn and understand this data and know how to use it to their advantage. Understanding key performance indicators such as staff turnover percentages, prime costs, percentage of repeat guests, and proper menu engineering statistics (to name a few) – are all essential to making the right business decisions that will eventually impact your bottom line.

Concept Characteristics

Outside of having the right location, the right concept, and the right chef or mixologist – a restaurant needs to inherit five key concept characteristics that technology cannot simply implement on its own.

Restaurateurs need to develop scalability, sustainability, profitability, and consistency – while providing a memorable experience. Finding a successful, individual approach for managing each of these characteristics is the key to success in any economic situation. All five of these characteristics are important and must work in unison to be successful.

The 3 Elements of Marketing

In terms of restaurant & bar marketing, it comes down to three things– driving awareness, increasing revenue per customer, and generating repeat business.

Technology can help execute marketing strategies, but operators still need to know their target market and their hyper-local competition to understand which strategies will drive the best return on investment.

An ‘old school’ approach to developing a marketing plan will still deliver success in today’s technology driven world.

Continuous Education

It doesn’t matter which role one plays in the restaurant, everyone must continue to learn. Owners, managers, and front-line staff should have the mindset and a personal development plan in place to continuously learn the industry.  It’s important to stay up to date with customer service strategies, product details (visiting suppliers), and how the supply chain works within the restaurant. In addition; reading books and listening to podcasts for example are a great learning tool everyone can take part in.

Customer Service

It’s no secret, we’re all witnessing a shift in how technology affects customer service and ordering sequences.

As the technology continues to evolve, restaurateurs must not forget that engaging guests on a personal level will always build on those positive customer emotions. These “touch points” are required to make not only a positive first impression, but a lasting memorable impression.

This is especially important if you’re considering adding third party delivery to your revenue & service mix. How will you protect your brand and enhance customer service after the food has left your venue and is in the hands of their delivery drivers?

Make sure there is a plan in place that engages customers on a personal level.

Focus on Systems

Having the correct systems in place will create consistency, develop operating capital, enhance team morale, and build business value– while also positioning a restaurant’s concept for future growth opportunities (being scalable & sustainable).

This includes proper communication between front-of-house and back-of-house, day-to-day checklists, quality control methods, and human resource management, among others.

Again, there is technology that can assist operators with their systems, but they can’t develop the process of implementing the right systems for specific concepts. That is up to you to know which ones are needed to maximize each moment of the day.

Collaboration

Lastly, a sense of community is a driving force in this industry. We can build online communities (social followings,) but the best way to develop a sense of community is through collaborating with local farms, breweries, chefs, charities, and even the competition. Understanding this fundamental strategy will amplify your messaging throughout the community, improve a restaurants perception, increase staff morale, and generate revenue opportunities– while developing a destination, not just a restaurant.

Sometimes it is nice to just step back and review the bigger picture and remind ourselves not only why we’re in the restaurant business, but to revisit the basic fundamentals for restaurant success.

Once that is truly understood and the proper ground work is in place, technology can be implemented to enhance and support operations to save time, financial resources, and improve those needed ‘customer service’ levels.

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Bar Design 101

Bar Design 101

By Doug Radkey – 07/26/2018

There is truly a science to the design and layout of a winning bar. Outside of implementing a timeless interior, a bar needs to consider many factors including but not limited to; efficiency, hyper-local competition, and overall guest experiences – within its design elements.

Completing a bars ‘concept plan’ should be one of the first steps any aspiring bar owner should take. A concept plan will outline vision, value, mission, and culture statements plus its initial architectural, entertainment, and menu development characteristics (wishlist).

Once you’ve defined your concept, you can begin adding more heart and soul to the design and overall guest experience strategies; the back-bone to a memorable bar. Every component of the bars interior design, entertainment plan, and menu development process should enhance the guests’ overall senses (also known as emotions).

Here are items you can work on for your vision, prior to delivering a presentation to any designer, consultant, and/or architect.

Energizing the Space

Consider ways to not only maximize the space, but energize the space. What experiences can you deliver? Use this time to consider adding space for sound engineering, live music and/or DJ’s, interactive games, mix of televisions, and the right mix of socializing and networking opportunities.

Social Space

In today’s market-space, it is imperative that all newly designed bars (and restaurants) take into account social media, guest photos, and guest videos. Keeping the energized space in mind, how can you add space with the right lighting for taking group photos (with your branding in the background) in addition to taking videos and photos of cocktails and/or food.

Bar-Back

The next focus needs to be on bar efficiency. Consider the size of establishment, guest capacity, and your point-of-sale requirements. Then add multiple bartender stations while choosing the correct equipment, bottle display, overhead glass racks (less breakage), and under-bar space plus the number of speed rails, ice stations, garnish stations, cutting boards, and sinks within a one pivot movement for each bartender. This will then determine the size of ‘bar’ required, which will assist in developing your budget (and beverage menu).

Kitchen Space

A winning bar will also have a memorable food program. Offering premium food and focused, high-quality beer, wine, & spirits is a recipe for maximum revenue potential in today’s market space. Ensure there is space for grills, flat-tops, deep fryers, burners, and a convection oven (or combi-oven) plus space for prep areas, freezers, and refrigeration to provide a quick (and profitable) food program.

Seating and Lighting

This will entirely depend on the chosen concept. Your choice of lighting and seating will determine length of stay, the amount of money a guest will spend, and how they will interact with guests in their party plus other guests at your bar. Every seat and light fixture must have a purpose. This is just as important as laying out the actual back-bar itself and should be discussed with designers, architects, and consultants.

Branding

Consistency through all design elements (interior, exterior, menus, website, social media, and other marketing collateral) is the final consideration piece. Look for ways to incorporate subtle additions of logo colors and branding throughout the venue. Where ever the guests will take the most pictures and videos, make sure there is a way that people will know they’re at your bar!

There are numerous other variables and details required, but starting with this will make you look like a pro when you meet with a designer by having a concept plan completed and a true vision of how you want your bar to be laid out. A professional designer should be able to then take your vision, tweak it to professional standards, and implement it into drawings that will ensure it meets local codes and your overall budget!

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Avoid the Dead Ends of Delivery

How Restaurants Can Avoid the Dead Ends of Delivery

Originally Posted on RestoBiz – By Doug Radkey 07/09/2018

I recently saw a screenshot from a consumer using a third party delivery application. After a delivery fee, a busy area fee (what?) and delivery fee taxes, a meal that was listed as $8.89 on the menu ended up costing them $30.36. Of that, the restaurant earned a mediocre $6.67 of that order. It’s not exactly a traditional breakdown of revenue, and restaurant operators are struggling to adapt to the ever-changing restaurant landscape.

Delivery has disrupted the restaurant industry more in the last five years than anything else. Digital ordering paired with the outsourcing of delivery has impacted restaurant traffic, revenue, profit and overall restaurant operations like no other piece of industry-wide technology.

The Here and Now

No longer just for the pizza or Chinese food segments, consumers can now dine at home or work with the same quality food found at their local fine dining restaurants. With consumers so accustomed to shopping online, it was no surprise to see non-traditional restaurants take advantage of the opportunity when it presented itself. But while the numerous positives seemed self-evident — a new revenue stream, more access to customers, more seats available for visiting customers — the negatives quickly became apparent as deliveries got underway across the world.

Third-party applications like UberEats, DoorDash and Foodora, represented on the backs of the small army of cars or bicycle couriers that sport the companies’ large, cubic bags, have largely made the delivery revolution possible. That revolution is far from free; restaurant operators can typically expect to give away 25 to 30 percent of the revenue generated by delivery to the third-party services that enable it, a cost that often ends up eroding the restaurateur’s bottom line.

By the Numbers

Restaurants typically spend an average of 30 to 35 percent in food costs, 25 to 30 percent in labour costs, 10 to 12 percent for leasing, plus minimal space for numerous other ancillary costs. At the end of the day, it leaves an average profit margin of approximately four percent. It’s already cut-throat, but with the added 25 to 30 percent for delivery, it’s simply brutal.

Consumers are driving the shift to third-party delivery, demanding convenience and high-quality, atypically-delivered food. Restaurant operators are in a bind: sign up for a third-party delivery service and relinquish a quarter to a third of their delivery-derived revenue, or miss the boat entirely. It’s not an easy decision.

Best Practices

It seems like most opt to take the plunge, which opens the door for a host of new issues. At one step of remove, restaurants’ relationships with their customers change. Operational headaches that are otherwise immediately addressed in the dining room are left in wonder. Even if a dish is perfectly cooked, it might be delivered cold, or outside the estimated timeframe, or jostled around until it falls apart. If it persists, it’s only a matter of time before it affects the restaurant’s reputation.

Dine-in traffic is reduced, as well. Restaurants risk demolishing their more profitable dine-in revenue by encouraging customers to stay at home and order. This is where the high-levels of profit from beverages, upselling and overall menu engineering strategies are lost. Restaurants must focus on the guest experience more so now than ever before, to draw in guests and encourage the guest to spend that noted $30.36 in-house.

In-House Delivery Solutions

Many immediately throw this idea out the window. The first thing you should do is consider an in-house delivery platform, with the use of a cost-effective digital ordering platform that is tied into your point-of-sale system.

Consider completing a cost comparison analysis based on your projected delivery orders while also considering insurance, staffing, and other startup delivery platform costs.

You may be surprised by the outcome. Numerous studies have suggested that in-house delivery platforms will operate at over 50 percent less than that of employing the services of a third party. If you’re willing to put in the effort to develop and execute a winning strategy, you will undoubtedly keep your brand messaging consistent while producing higher profit margins, controlling the delivery costs, keeping consumer data in-house, and maintaining your quality control efforts.

Going Third Party

While 25 to 30 percent is the norm, negotiation is still on the table, and it may be easier than you think. What could a reduction of 3 to 5 percent of commissions for example, mean to your bottom line over the course of a year? If, let’s say, UberEats isn’t willing to negotiate with you, then consider speaking to Foodora, or vice versa. Take control of the conversation.

Your delivery window is your control, as well. Limit it to off-peak hours of operations only, and encourage dine-in or pick-up only traffic through the use of effective experiences plus marketing and advertising during your peak-times to control kitchen operations, overall quality and, most importantly, your profit margins.

Similarly, it’s vital you limit what you deliver. Some items command a solid price point and still look good upon delivery, despite the bumps in the road. That elaborately prepared entree that your kitchen puts together with tweezers? Probably not so much. If a dish can barely survive the trip from the pass to a table intact, best not ask someone on a bike to rush it across town.

The Road Ahead

Delivery is only going to keep growing, and operators have the opportunity to take advantage of the new trend. But done haphazardly, they risk losing their hard-earned dollars, delivery by delivery.

Restaurateurs need to understand the risks and options available to them, and integrate the radically different profit margins into their day-to-day business.

Do your research and understand your brand, know your target market, and put the effort into analyzing the variety of options that are available to you.

The long-term viability of your restaurant may just depend on it.

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Building an Effective Beverage Program

7 Strategies for Building a More Effective Beverage Program

Originally Posted on FoodableTV – By Doug Radkey 06/14/2018

Every drop counts! Beverages arguably play a larger role in the industry today than they ever did before! 

You could try and make everyone happy by offering dozens of options at your restaurant, cafe, or bar, but we all know that’s likely not going to happen. An establishment needs to carefully consider their beverage menu, whether alcohol-focused or not, and offer one that is balanced, targeted, and one that fits their concept.

Many operators continue to face a challenge, however, when it comes to developing an effective beverage strategy. As with its food counter-part, consumers are more educated today about beer, cocktails, wine, coffees, sodas, and even a variety of waters. They understand retail prices and flavor profiles because they’ve become (or think they’ve become) a barista, mixologist, and/or wine & beer connoisseur at home. When they’re dining out or visiting a bar now, they crave something that’s ‘differentiated.’ 

How can restaurants, cafes, and bars take advantage of this segment and develop a memorable, consistent, and profitable beverage strategy that creates differentiation? Here are some tips to review when creating or re-engineering your next beverage menu. 

1. Day-Part Strategy. First, let’s look at your hours of operation and overall concept. Taking advantage of different day-parts is critical to maximizing each delicate moment of the day. Look at your mornings, lunch periods, afternoons, dinner hours, and late night day-parts. One segment that is taking off, for example, is the hybrid of ‘coffee by day – cocktails by night’. Both of these beverage categories now require a high level of skill, if executed properly (we’re not talking basic drip coffee here). Can your restaurant, bar, or even cafe, introduce a beverage strategy that targets specific time-frames of the entire day? 

2. Session Drinks. The drinking ‘culture’ associated with alcohol, in particular, has definitely changed over the past decade thanks to strict driving laws, the cost of ‘going out’, and the sophistication of consumers. Society today wants to maintain some measure of sobriety when they’re out in public. Therefore the days of ‘strong’ cocktails or binge drinking at the bar are diminishing. For your next menu, consider low-levels of alcohol in highly creative cocktail platforms in addition to flavourful beers that have less than 3% abv. In summary, a “session drink” is a beverage low in alcohol which can be consumed in ‘larger’ quantities without making someone excessively intoxicated. 

3. Beverage Science. What are the age brackets, income levels, and the number of men vs. women you’re targeting at your establishment? How long are your guests intending to stay? This all plays a part in their choice of beverage offerings. Still focusing on alcohol, let’s have a quick lesson. 

Alcohol is a depressant or a “sedative-hypnotic drug” because it depresses our central nervous system. Every organ in the human body can be affected by alcohol. In an average person, the liver breaks down roughly one standard drink of alcohol per hour. Excess alcohol then moves throughout the body making the body ‘impaired’. At low doses, however, alcohol can act as a simple stimulant, where people may feel happy, or become talkative. 

This mindset and thought processes have to be considered in the development of a beverage strategy, especially one involving alcohol. Consider the volume of alcohol, the sugar levels in the mixers (juices and soda), the potential pairings with food (yes, even if you’re a sports bar concept) and how it will affect your target customers during their stay. 

4. Perception of Value. Many restaurants & bars are still trying to ‘up-sell’ that extra ounce or two of spirits or upgrade to a glass of beer that’s larger than a traditional pint. Using the discussion points noted above, it may be wise to consider ‘down-selling’ to deliver that new perception of value. This is a reason why beer flights, for example, are effective (less beer, stronger profits, and visually impressive). All beverages must elevate the guests’ sense of smell, taste, and vision to create a positive emotion and perception of value. Consider this mindset first before trying to add that extra ounce of alcohol instead!

5. Reward Creativity. An effective beverage strategy, similar to that of food – also includes the development of limited time offers (LTO’s). Get your baristas and bartenders to create unique cocktails, iced teas, iced coffees, or craft sodas that are ‘Instagram Worthy’ – and then reward them for that creativity. This is also a great way to generate staff engagement, social media engagement, and to generate a new channel of potential revenue. 

6. Sustainability. When developing your next beverage menu, consider sustainability. Let’s think about it; there is a high use of energy within ice machines, refrigeration, and glass cleaning appliances. There is an enormous amount of waste in garnishes, straws, bottles, and napkins (to name a few). How can your establishment re-purpose ingredients, use more edible garnishes, conserve energy, and work with beverage suppliers to make a difference by reducing waste by 25-50% over the next six months within your venue? Make it a team challenge!

7. Price and Speed. Lastly, you want to keep your beverage menu compact and balanced with the right mix of high-quality choices and price points your target market will resonate with. You also want to ensure beverages are produced at a cost-effective speed. High-quality coffee, sodas, and cocktails, in particular, still need to be quick. How many of one specific drink can your team produce per hour? Anything over 60-90 seconds becomes a problem for venues and consumers. This comes down to production strategies and service training techniques. Make sure this is reviewed before going to print!

By now, you should see that the beverage category is a brand differentiator. When you ‘humanize’ that beverage experience, it takes it out of the realm of being a ‘commodity’. No matter your concept, there are strategic ways to maximize your beverage potential.

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Ready to Open a Second Location

5 Signs You’re Ready to Open a Second Location

Originally Posted on Typsy by Doug Radkey – 04/24/2018

Opening a second restaurant location is not as easy as many people may think. Just because “you’ve been there – done that” once doesn’t mean it’s going to be any easier the second time around. In fact, many restaurateurs find it more difficult than the first one.

A common first challenge is that many restaurants, even the most successful restaurants, are simply not ready or properly positioned for this type of expansion. There are numerous circumstances that need to be executed on first, many of which are often overlooked.

To take a restaurant from one location to two or three takes a variety of planning methods, in-depth market research, and the proper execution of a variety of systems. Sound familiar?

Let’s have a look at the indicators so you can ready yourself for growth and expansion!

1. You’re Mentally & Physically Prepared

By now you should know if you have the willingness to sacrifice in addition to the required systemized thinking, social skills, creativity, stress management, and passion to lead a restaurant to success. But that’s just one restaurant, now you’re considering multiplying all of that by two (or more).

Are you ready?

We know restaurant owners more often than not, wear too many hats, leading to upwards of 60 to 80+ hours of work per week. You have to truly ask yourself if you’re in the right mindset and have structured your personal life to endure this type of growth. This is where surrounding yourself with the right professionals (supporting cast) and/or considering a business partnership might be ideal for some – to reduce both risk and potential burnout with the opening of a second unit.


2. Your Previous Restaurant Isn’t Dependent on You 

How critical is your presence to the operations and day-to-day success of the restaurant? If it is highly dependent on you; what would happen if your time was shared at a secondary location? What often happens is an independent owner will spend more time at the new location, leaving the first location vulnerable.

That’s why it’s important to take the time to consider the right management team for multiple locations to ensure there is no collapse of the first location and a strong start for the second location.

This includes additional chefs, managers, and supervisors in addition to start-up specialists like consultants, designers, engineers, and architects that will save you time, money, and energy during this growth stage.


3. You Have Strong Systems and Processes in Place

Arguably one of the most important aspects in terms of growth is ensuring that each restaurant (current and the potential new one) has consistent systems in place. Duplication of the same winning formula is the key to early success.

Developing daily routines, service sequences, training programs, communication methods, hiring practices, and customer experience strategies to name a few – is absolutely critical.

It takes effort, honesty, training, reviews, and accountability by the entire team to ensure these basic systems work and are implemented on a daily basis. If you feel there is a gap in any of these systems, it needs to be addressed immediately before any second location is considered.


4. You’re Financially Ready 

Is the current restaurant highly profitable and maintaining the most important key performance indicators? Could there be any further financial improvement at the current location? Could it help financially carry the second location if needed for a period of time? If so – for how long and by how much?

Again, just because one restaurant is profitable, doesn’t mean the second unit will have immediate profitability. It takes a deep dive into the books to make a verifiable business decision to expand. Work with trusted and experienced accountants to fully understand the financial health of the current location and the viability of a second.


5. Your Restaurant is a Good Market Fit

Conducting a feasibility study for the second location is just as important as completing one for the first location.

Consider these factors: Where are you planning on developing this second location? How close will it be to the first location? Is the market large and strong enough to support a second location of the same brand? What has made the first location so successful? Will you need to scale or adjust the concept?

There are numerous market related questions that need to be addressed.

Outside of the company structure, choice of concept, financial viability, and overall market – growing restaurants need to consider supplier consistency and overall marketing plans for numerous outlets.



There are many positives to growing into multiple locations, but it should only be done when the time is truly right and when it is done for the right reasons. It’s important to not forget the fundamentals of restaurant operations; where consistency, the quality of food and beverage, customer service, and overall guest experience is paramount at each location.

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Preparing for Wage Increases

Preparing Your Restaurant or Bar for Wage Increases

Originally Posted on FoodableTV – By Doug Radkey 03/09/2018

If you haven’t done so already, preparing your restaurant or bar for a regulated wage increase should be near the top of your to-do list, no matter your region. There has been plenty of government level discussions and a ‘movement’ if you will, defining a need to offer better living wages for citizens across North America (and abroad), with a focus on the hospitality industry.

The day is coming if it already hasn’t happened in your area.

Should your venue have already been offering what’s called a ‘living wage’? Arguably yes, but the market for years has demanded ‘good food for cheap’ (for the most part) which has dictated the need for restaurateurs in particular, to pay out the lowest wage possible to its hard-working staff.

However, the times are rapidly changing. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Not surprisingly, however, many restaurateurs, potentially ones like yourself, have become concerned about the complications a dramatically large increase in their costs will have on their operations.

The biggest challenge most restaurant owners face when considering a large wage increase is how they’re going to adjust their concept and overall business models, sales, and marketing strategies to effectively respond to the increase.

Smaller independent restaurants are placed into a concerning financial position that could have dramatic implications. But, it doesn’t have to be so grim for small operators with a well-thought-out plan about what processes need to be in place.

1. Review of Concept

Restaurateurs are ultimately responsible for achieving long-term viability. The key elements to a successful concept are scalability, sustainability, profitability, consistency, and delivering memorable experiences.  To achieve this, one must weigh their overall value against their expenses.

The first step to preparing for a wage increase is to measure your value proposition. How can you add further value to your guests to ultimately increase your revenue? What are one to two ways you can increase value within each of the above five listed elements within your unique venue?

Create a SMART action plan to implement over the next 1-3 months.

2. Review of Systems

Successful restaurants are also built on systems. As an employer, these systems need to be reviewed on an ongoing basis. What FOH and BOH systems can be scaled, improved upon, or simply cut-out, to maximize efficiencies without diminishing guest experiences, profitability, sustainability, and consistency?

This is the time to review your restaurant’s service sequences, training programs, food & beverage preparation, line of equipment, food & beverage suppliers, menu development, communication systems, inventory management systems, use of technology, and many others.

A complete 360 degree assessment of your operations is the most ideal approach.

Doing so will position your venue to potentially reduce weekly hours while offering an improved competitive wage that will be more utilized to its maximum potential.

3. Utilize Available Data

Improving a restaurants staff scheduling process within itself is an easy way to control costs, positioning a restaurateur to maximize its sales per labor hour and other labor performance indicators. Restaurant labor costs are a prime expense that needs to be properly controlled to eventually turn a profit.

An increase in labor benchmarks means your other prime costs including food and rent costs, need to be reduced below what’s been known as ‘industry standards’. This means that your food costs should be between 25-30% (instead of 30-35%) while your rent should be 5-8% (instead of 10-12%).

Aligning these benchmarks to profitable levels will position your venue for a sustatainable future; even with a wage increase – there is nothing to stop a venue from obtaining what’s often referred to as an impossible 10-20% net-profit over a period of time.

Utilize data on labor, hourly sales, and the month-over-month operating results from your point-of-sale system, to forecast expenses (creating a revised budget) with an increase in your new minimum wage over the next twelve months.

Physically visualizing this data and its results will determine the route you will need to take to pivot and align the remainder of your cost categories.

4. Menu Engineering Strategies

Once your systems are deemed to be operating at their full potential, it may be time to review your menu engineering strategies. To assist in a wage increase, for example, it is ideal to consider adding ‘value added’ menu items, simplifying food preparation methods, and looking to eliminate any complex menu items.

Your last resort should be to increase menu prices. Look at all other aspects first, including size of menu, preparation time, prime food costs, the number of ingredients used, and the repurposing of those raw ingredients throughout the menu, where possible.

Looking for ways to reduce and control food & beverage costs (controlling – not cutting), while developing a menu your target audience wants & needs, may position your restaurant to have more available funds to use towards an increase in labor costs.

5. Review Promotional Plans

The math is simple, an increase in sales and margins will position a business to pay its staff higher wages. Often the problem doesn’t lie within traditional lunch and dinner hours. To fill seats during traditional non-peak hours, restaurateurs need to consider menus that target day-parts and added-value; while understanding their ideal customer profile.

The moment a restaurant stops marketing is the moment it starts failing. Once a restaurateur truly understands their locations slow periods and peak periods, in addition to the target market and guest spending habits, a strategic plan can be developed and executed to maximize each moment of each day; by ensuring your restaurant has a monthly and quarterly marketing and sales plan created.

In summary, once that moment is gone, you don’t get it back. Therefore, what could an extra $100 to $200 per day in sales during typical ‘slow periods,’ do for you and your new labor costs, in one full year?

6. Look After Your Employees

Employees are your number one asset. If we (most restaurants) weren’t already paying just a minimum wage to employees, this discussion wouldn’t be needed. It’s time restaurant owners look to take the initiative and implement a better living wage for their employees.

Build culture and value by developing sustainable hiring programs, consistent training systems, scalable pay grades, profitable working environments, and memorable customer experience strategies to develop a brand your entire community (customers and employees), will want to support over that of your competition.

It’s understandable that small independent restaurants are vulnerable to a minimum wage increase, but there are ways a restaurant can prepare itself for, and take the initiative on their own, to increase wages and pay their staff a more comfortable living wage.

Change starts now!

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Restaurant Service Training Techniques

Restaurant Service Training Techniques

Originally Posted on RestoBiz by Doug Radkey – 01/17/18

Throughout the restaurant industry, the phrase ‘it’s not my job’ can simply not exist. It is every employees job to provide memorable customer service; from management to the back-of-house employees, and of course through to the front-of-house team.

All employees must work as one cohesive unit to ensure an unforgettable guest experience. To execute this, a restaurant needs adequate service training programs. A winning program will reduce turnover (by over 10 per cent) and provide attentive service without ever being “noticed”.

As with much of a restaurants general operation, everything should coincide with an overall strategy plan. A training program also needs to follow the SMART acronym to be successful where every training element is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

This will create two key ingredients; consistency and confidence.

A profitable service training program should also provide common elements such as the use of checklists, incentives, and easy to understand procedures. This will then in-turn, create a system of standards; one that reflects your vision, value, mission and culture statements. Here’s how:

On-boarding

This first step provides an opportunity to first introduce new hires to the expectations and culture through the use of a well-designed welcoming package. This is the best time to engage these new employees on their roles to create a smooth transition that will define productivity, promote compliance, and create the footprint for a memorable working experience.

Sequence of Service

For each position, outline each and every step (in detail) using the SMART acronym. For example; “all guests must be properly welcomed within 30 seconds of entering the restaurant” or “drink orders at a table must be delivered within three minutes”. Walk each position through a step-by-step sequence of events that will lead the guest from entering the establishment to paying and exiting the establishment.

Instructing

This step is where all of the ‘How-To’ manuals will come in handy. Outside of the basics which include service etiquette, appearance, knowledge of menu, and knowledge of layout; staff should be instructed on opening and closing procedures, preventative maintenance, fire safety, food safety, cleaning schedules, and overall equipment training. This should be completed using a mix of videos and reading material.

Demonstrating

It’s important that the entire team is then properly coached. The next component of instructing, is demonstrating through hands-on instruction (coaching). Restaurant owners, managers, and shift supervisors should look to be trained themselves first and foremost, on how to properly coach a team to become stronger leaders. New hires will buy into the service training system if they’re also shown first hand, in confidence, each element of the ‘sequence of service’ and ‘instructional’ stage.

Role-playing

Now that the team has been shown all of the steps, it’s their turn to demonstrate that they themselves understood the instructions. Before sending new hires to actual guests, they should walk-through the sequence of service for their position, multiple times, with managers and other staff, acting as guests. This will provide a variety of scenarios and prepare them mentally for real guest situations, creating confidence in their position and a more positive guest experience.

Shadowing

This step should be completed in two elements. There should be an approach where the new hire shadows an experienced individual for one-to-two shifts followed by the experienced individual shadowing the new hire, for another one-to-two shifts. This process will ensure all standard operating procedures are being followed while allowing the opportunity to address any final questions or concerns.

Reviews

Now that the new hire has shown that they’re comfortable in their position and understand the standards, they should be confident enough to cook food, make drinks, welcome guests, and/or serve guests. They should then be reviewed after one month, three months, and then quarterly from there on out. As you can see, staff training is a process. The restaurant should also plan daily shift meetings, weekly team meetings, and quarterly all-staff meetings (at a minimum) to review standards, menu changes, and overall business objectives.

Secret Diners

For a minimal investment, a true secret diner program can become a profitable training and development platform for owners, operators, and managers. A secret diner also provides a different perspective: one that speaks from the eyes of a customer and not from the eyes of an owner, manager, employee, friend, or family member. After a secret diner visit (which is suggested to be once every month or at least every three months), a secret diner should leave a comprehensive report of the visit with a list of positives, negatives (what needs to improve), and a score for a variety of categories. This score (which should be shared with staff) can be used as a measurable tool while also implementing a high level of accountability; with an incentive goal to improve the score after each future visit.

Restaurateurs need to invest in educating their team while creating a systematic approach to service, which will create the consistency needed to win in this industry.

A winning program will bring an entire team together, creating a positive working environment where staff members would not even think of saying ‘it’s not my job’.

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Conducting Restaurant Staff Performance Reviews

Conducting Restaurant Staff Performance Reviews

Originally Posted on Typsy by Doug Radkey – 12/06/2017

It takes happy, engaged employees to create memorable guest experiences. To do this requires leadership, culture, and accountability. This in turn will develop a cycle of improved revenue, loyal customers, and a decrease in employee turnover.

One of the many methods used to create culture and accountability, is that of performance evaluations. This type of evaluation is extremely helpful to track an employee’s step-by-step development and is highly beneficial; for the employee,  restaurant owner, operator, or manager.

Staff evaluations highlight areas the employee may be excelling at and areas that are in need of improvement. It also provides an opportunity to develop performance based rewards, which is an excellent way to reduce employee turnover costs and keep employees engaged in their day-to-day tasks.

The key ingredient however to a winning employee evaluation program is consistency. Be consistent in the timing of evaluations, your required standards, and with all employees (meaning do not single any one employee out from the others).

Asides from consistency, it’s ideal to also keep the following six tips and steps in mind when conducting staff performance reviews:

1. Create the Foundations Early 

Make it known during the on-boarding process that all employees are subject to both regular and scheduled evaluations. 

Design a complete staff performance plan by formulating accurate job descriptions, job expectations, standard operating procedures, on-boarding processes, pay scale development, training programs, and team building exercises.

These systems will create the foundations to work from, for future performance based evaluations.


2. Schedule Evaluations in Advance

When it comes time to complete an evaluation, the employee shouldn’t be surprised. It’s either part of the scheduled evaluations that they’ve been made aware of from the start, or you’ve had regular discussions with them, leading to a required off-schedule evaluation.

When you schedule an evaluation in advance, you can explain to them the entire process and provide them with a copy of the evaluation forms, so they’re equally prepared.


3. Encourage Self-Evaluation 

This form of evaluation is often over-looked by many employers, though it is an extremely important aspect to the overall evaluation process. It is best practice to have employees fill out the exact same evaluation form to see how their personal observations may pair with your observation.

Finding out how they feel about their own performance will set the tone for the evaluation meeting. It will also open a brief discussion period about any obstacles they may be experiencing to achieve a stronger performance.


4. It’s Not All About Your Employees

Performance reviews should develop an opportunity to create ‘two-way’ communication. Don’t make it all about the employee. Use this time to ask if there is anything the restaurant can do to make their job or employment experience better for them and their team mates.

Make note of this discussion and see if there are any trends or consistencies among the answers from multiple employees so you as the owner, operator, or manager can take immediate action to improve.


5. Provide Balanced Feedback

The overall staff evaluation should look at the quality of their work, including their dependability, attendance record, customer service rating, team-based communication, openness to feedback, and how they’ve handled unique or stressful situations. It is ideal to score and rank each category out of 10, to provide a measurable goal for improvement.

You want to take this time to provide honest feedback with a solid direction to improve on the requirements of the hospitality driven business.

Discuss the previous period, but keep in mind that at least 50 percent of the performance evaluation should be spent on the future. When talking, use simple, direct language while comparing each issue to a note within your completed standard operating procedures. This is how effective leadership is then respected.

If there is a below average score, anticipate the possibility of a confrontation or negative reaction. However, as the leader, if you’re properly prepared for the evaluation, you can take a proactive measure by following every negative with a positive, to reduce this possibility and to keep the momentum of the meeting in check.

You want to spend more time on the positives to enhance the performance improvement plan.


6. Set-Up a Performance Improvement Plan

This is the opportunity to improve on performance, morale, motivation, personal development, and overall profitability. By using a series of ‘SMART’ goals (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) an employer can create a system of reward and accountability.

Whether it was an excellent, average, or below average review, there should always be an improvement plan in place. It’s ideal to provide three SMART goals for each individual to work on between now and the next review or specified time for improvement. As the employer, is there any further support and/or resources they need from you to achieve these goals?

Write these goals on the performance review form, discuss any rewards/incentives, and ensure both parties sign it for optimum accountability. 

Completing these reviews on a consistent basis will provide employers with the opportunity to develop happy, engaged employees.

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