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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
Patio. Season. Two words nearly every Canadian seems to enjoy and two words nearly everyone looks forward to after a long cold winter, including that of local restaurant & bar owners.
If your property is lucky enough to have this additional space and seating, it’s critical to take advantage of this revenue generating opportunity.
But can having a patio be looked at as a double-edged sword? While it opens up more seats and potential revenue (during a time when many restaurateurs are seeking smaller foot prints), can a patio also cause labour, logistics, and other operational challenges?
The quick answer is absolutely!
With something as complex as a successful patio season however, there needs to be an action plan, first and foremost to combat those challenges. This is a plan that is developed prior to the nice weather arriving and a plan that is well organized with strategic goals and a series of risk assessments.
To execute a flawless patio program, it’s important to start planning as early as possible, preferably 2-3 months prior to the start of the warmer weather. Developing a program around your patio this early will allow your restaurant or bar to determine cash-flow needs, staffing requirements, inventory levels, marketing requirements, and any additional training requirements to ensure a smooth operating season.
As with any seasonal, strategic, or marketing related program, it’s crucial to use a SMART mindset towards your planning; one that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
Furthermore, the development of an action plan is a fantastic opportunity to utilize your staff to help brainstorm menu items, themes, and other special events to ensure your venue and patio becomes the desired destination that it deserves to be!
So how can owners, operators, and managers take advantage of this opportunity and maximize on its potential while limiting day-to-day challenges?
An epic patio program will highlight the following critical segments.
Let’s start with the biggest elephant in the room. Depending on the size of restaurant and patio, additional staff may be needed to handle the extra covers that are sitting outside.
The first question you need to honestly and realistically answer is, will your traffic increase or will it be merely the same traffic, just sitting outside versus inside?
In summary, will you be putting in the continuous efforts to increase traffic?
This is where planning ahead really comes into play. This is where strategic goals, historic data, an the understanding of your target market & hyper-local competition, and where knowing if your intended marketing plan will position you to have either a distressed or profitable patio program.
With an hourly breakdown of foot traffic (historic and potential) and an understanding of your day-parts, you can begin to determine your staff requirements.
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, on-boarding, and training before the peak of patio season truly hits.
As you’re reading this, you may be saying phrases such as ‘good luck finding more staff’ or ‘I can’t even keep the staff I have now, how am I going to staff an increase in traffic this summer”?
Fair statements if you lack the elements of culture. I think we’ve all heard by now that there is a “shortage of qualified hospitality staff”. If you’re experiencing this first hand and had those phrases or ones similar go through your mind – it may be time to hit the reset button on the culture within your venue.
An entire article could be written on this subject alone, but in summary – let’s just put a stop to the excuses right now. You can overcome these challenges with the right mindset towards culture and towards providing an emphasis on your core values, team experiences, a positive work environment, employee engagement, hiring practices, and providing above average pay scales.
It can be that easy – or that hard. It depends on you and your leadership team. The way out of this ‘shortage’ starts with you and your brand.
Getting back to the fundamentals of a winning patio program, both ‘front-of-house’ and ‘back-of-house’ systems and teams need to be reviewed to ensure your operations are prepared. Customer service and speed in the kitchen (and bar) should not be hindered by the fact additional seating is now offered.
Plan ahead, create mock schedules, and see where there may be gaps to ensure the high standards of service inside is going to be matched with high standards of service outside.
How will this affect your labour costs? Are you going to be able to control this additional cost versus the potential revenue opportunity? What happens if the weather doesn’t cooperate one day and you’re over staffed? What is your contingency plan?
Restaurants today have the ability to cross-train and create more of a ‘one-house’ approach versus one with varied departments which positions a concept to maximize their personnel while hiring based on values versus experience.
This mindset towards actual ‘labour systems’ will ensure not only staffing your patio becomes ‘easier’, but staffing your restaurant throughout the entire year becomes much less of a ‘headache’ – something most will agree is the biggest year-over-year challenge within the industry.
Seating and Tables
To effectively control your labour, you need to equally review your seating arrangement and overall patio capacity.
Outside of making it enticing, inviting, and clean with new patio furniture, there are numerous ways you can step up your patio game. There should be more to it than just wiping down the tables, setting up the chairs, and sweeping the ground of the past winter.
Similar to that of seating strategies inside your venue, ideally you want to have a strategic setup of tables and chairs outside. Consider a restaurant revenue management (RRM) approach, which can be defined simply as selling the right seat to the right customer at the right price and for the right duration of time. A strategic setup includes understanding your target market, their ideal length of stay, and average party size in addition to overall space for comfort and traffic flow for both guests and staff.
Again, this additional seating must also align with production levels in the kitchen and bar. What would happen if you were at full capacity, both inside and outside? Have a plan in place and analyze your revenue per available seat-hour (RevPASH) to maximize each moment throughout the day.
You also want to analyze the steps taken for staff from the pass and/or bar to the patio section. Many patios are designed in a way that it is a distant walk for staff. How many steps does each staff member take to serve a guest? What is the cost of this distance over the course of a day, a week, or a season?
Are there ways to reduce this burden on your labour? The answer may be hiding in the way your patio is setup for a successful season.
Patio Driven Menus
The answer to efficient labour and revenue management as it relates to your patio program – may just lie within your menu. If you have the space, consider taking the grill outside (or any equipment you can) to launch an exciting new outdoor experience. This will push your restaurant to create unique outdoor menus, redefine your guest experience and stay a step ahead of your competition.
This will not only improve on the guest experience, but reduce wear & tear on your staff – improving ticket times, walking distance, and staff morale.
Take the Production Outside
Equipment today is extremely versatile. You can now put together mobile kitchens & bars that are cost effective and perfect for the patio – especially in a climate that sees a variety of weather patterns. With minimal square feet and utility requirements, you can now grill, fry, and/or bake a targeted food menu right on the patio.
The fun doesn’t stop there, mobile bars can ensure the drinks continue to flow on the patio and that the cocktail shaking is both seen and heard, keeping the energy level high every day of the season.
Work towards elevating your guests visual, auditory, olfactory (smell), and gustatory (taste) senses right on the patio.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have the space for any bar or kitchen equipment outside. Create a seasonal menu that’s inspired by an outdoor patio, anyway.
Develop a menu plan with your entire bar and culinary team with your venues target market and concept kept close in mind (and reward them for that creativity).
As always, keep this specialized menu small and inviting to reduce inventory, prep time, waste and any other staff requirements. Be creative this year and start thinking outside the box.
Your guests today are likely looking for new flavours and innovation, as well as creative summer-like takes on traditional menu items. There is no better way to stay ahead of this need than by utilizing and building stronger relationships with your local farmers market. Provide your team with the means to develop unique, limited-time offers with not only seasonal produce, but a variety of barbecue-related flavours.
Innovation shouldn’t stop with just the food; beverages need to be included into the mix, too. (It is hot out, after all). The “garden-to-glass” trend continues to grow and new, refreshing spirits are becoming readily available to develop flavourful drinks with unique vessels and memorable presentations.
Lastly, beer and cocktails with low-levels of alcohol should also be featured, plus creative mocktails and house-made spritzers should highlight one’s patio menu.
Unfortunately, we can’t dictate the weather. Throughout the patio months you’re going to see rain, wind, storms and even days where it may feel ‘too hot’, or evenings where it may feel ‘too cool’ to be out on a patio.
Restaurants and bars should consider these weather elements by offering more than just an umbrella or patio heaters. Look for other solutions to shade your patio, block wind and prevent heavy rain from ruining a potentially profitable day or night on the patio.
These investments will pay off by continuing the positive cash flow even when mother-nature tries to disappoint you.
Now that you have your labour, revenue, production, menu, and weather patterns considered, take the time to meet with your pest control vendor and discuss your plans for outside.
They can suggest safe bug repellents and means of keeping away other animals and critters like mice, squirrels, and even birds.
Sanitation is a critical component in any restaurant and the patio cannot be overlooked. Put a preventative action plan in place to deter any bugs or animals from potentially ruining a guest’s experience.
With outdoor seating, you’ll likely encounter noise issues that start beyond the boundaries of your patio, including vehicle traffic, construction and other neighbourhood noises.
To reduce this burden, consider noise reduction strategies such as walls, bushes or even your own sound strategy, like a catchy playlist through your sound engineering plan.
Music (whether live or through a playlist) can deliver the right, on-brand ambiance and attract your target demographic while increasing overall profits and drowning out other noise on the patio. No matter the concept, guests enjoy their food, drink, and company more when music is playing, which ultimately makes them stay longer and, of course, spend more of their hard earned dollars on your patio.
Driving Energy Levels
The warm weather typically attracts tourism and gets locals looking to re-explore their outside surroundings. The restaurants or bars that provide the right mix of marketing (online and offline) paired with energy are the ones that will attract a consistent level of guests throughout the patio season.
Look for ways to utilize live music, themed parties, and interactive games (inside or outside) on a daily or weekly basis throughout the patio months.
A fully pre-planned calendar of events will drive high level of positive energy while creating awareness, excitement and anticipation while developing repeat business opportunities.
Now it’s time to tie all of this together. Remember, if you build it they will not come.
An epic patio season could be destroyed if it’s not coupled with an epic marketing campaign.
It is vital to inform your guests of your patio and the plans you have for it throughout the season. Each week and month throughout the season should be properly planned for to ensure the said energy level, never cools down.
To maximize your patio program or event’s reach, it’s best to use a three-tiered approach to creating buzz. Have a plan in place to promote your seasonal events including patio launch party, menu launch parties, live music, comedy night on the patio, and the many others you and your team come up with.
You’ll need to create buzz not only prior to the event, but during the event and also after the event.
Give guests (and potential guests) a means to engage with your brand. You’re also giving an opportunity for others to see what they may have missed out on, also known as FOMO (the fear of missing out) making them intrigued to not miss your next scheduled event!
Venues must now make their story meaningful, personal, emotional, simple, and authentic. This story-telling should flow to your patio program as well.
Despite the word “story,” it isn’t even confined to the written word. Colours, decor, vendors, staff members, plating, and glassware — even the simplest visual segments within your brand and patio ‘messaging’ — can paint a picture worth a thousand words.
Within your marketing plan, ensure you’re capitalizing on this through all of your resources and media channels, including the use of social media.
Story-telling and video elements are really required for any time of the year, but to promote your patio, your events, your limited-time offers and summer drink menu for example, there is no better way to amplify the message than through video.
Use this opportunity to showcase service staff planning an event, cooks building that signature summer burger, or bartenders pouring that refreshing beverage.
Hint; this will also improve your culture!
Remember, with today’s smart phones, you no longer need to break-the-bank on video production!
Tap Social Circles
A successful patio program also relies heavily on the opportunity to reach out to sporting teams, bike clubs, and other outdoor enthusiasts. Can your venue host after-parties? Can your venue host a social-media-only party or tasting event?
Don’t be afraid to reach out and partner with other local businesses and organizations. Every campaign should have a social media and/or community-driven strategy behind it.
Each seasonal program and its associated campaigns should have the goal of guests returning at least three times. Understanding your target market, is it realistic to see a guest return three times per week, three time per month, or once per month over the course of your patio season?
Once you truly understand their lifestyle and spending habits, you can develop events and campaigns to drive patio drive loyalty and a personalized experience.
When a venue gives itself the opportune time to plan, a sense of higher quality often comes with it.
Budget for and take the time to create high-quality designs for posters, ads, video and social media posts. This will speak volumes to potential guests while providing a perception of value to not only your new patio menus, but also your events and overall venue.
The patio season provides an opportunity to think outside the box, but don’t go overboard with menu changes and special events. Know your target market, know your concept, and know your financial budgets.
Develop a program that is simple but memorable, profitable, and effective, and without placing additional stress on your kitchen, bar, or service staff.
In summary, concentrate your patio program on presentation, energy levels, story-telling, and developing a personalized guest experience. Doing so will develop a sense of community and culture, setting your venue up for success, even as the weather (and often sales) begin to cool down come the next fall and winter season.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Developing Staff Engagement for Positive Guest Experiences
Previously Posted on RestoBiz by Doug Radkey 04/11/2018
Engaged and motivated employees are at the heart of positive restaurant experiences. Working at a restaurant or any hospitality-related business needs to be more than just another paycheck. Restaurant operators need to remember that money is not a motivator – it is a satisfier.
When employees are satisfied and engaged, everyone wins.
When restaurant staff members are effectively on-boarded, trained, and are emotionally happy in their environment (a venue where they get a sense of achievement, respect and wages), they are more often than not willing to share these positive moments with others, effectively becoming a brand ambassador – both inside and outside of the restaurant.
If restaurants hire for a mix of values and experience, versus experience alone, and create a systematic approach to hiring through proper job advertisements, interview processes, on-boarding, manuals and training, they will see an immediate difference in their culture and turnover costs.
This is why it’s important to remember that ‘values beat experience, when experience doesn’t work hard’.
Investing in employee engagement can give any new or seasoned restaurant a competitive edge. Let’s look at the steps needed to create effective staff engagement today:
On-boarding is often overlooked within the restaurant industry, though it should be a priority! It’s an opportunity to introduce new hires to your expectations and culture, the first step in developing engagement. The days of throwing new hires into the fire on their first day of work needs to come to an end; no matter their level of experience. All staff should be given a series of welcoming packages, manuals and proper training specific to the brand. Lastly, on-boarding provides a clear chance to define what it means to be productive, promote compliance, and create the footprint for a memorable working experience.
It is important to ensure the restaurant has a pre-shift meeting with all staff members on-duty. This will set the tone for the upcoming shift, whether in the kitchen or the front-of-house area. This is the time to ensure all staff clear their minds of ‘outside noise’ and are working towards a series of goals for the upcoming shift. Other communication methods that will increase engagement opportunities include hosting staff meal programs to discuss menu items, manager log-books (print or mobile friendly), and having other communication boards strategically placed throughout the restaurant.
Consider starting a program that offers to help pay for culinary or other hospitality related education. Once a candidate passes their three month probation, discuss an opportunity for them to take their learning to another level. This could include online courses, in-class courses, or visiting suppliers such as breweries, wineries, or local farms to learn specific product information. Imagine the long-term benefits and staff engagement a program like this will do to a restaurant’s bottom line and overall guest satisfaction.
Flow of Creativity
When employees are empowered with the opportunity to be creative, great things happen. It is ideal to keep staff engaged in the food and beverage menu development process. It may be wise to create a program that promotes a new food and/or beverage item each month. If each staff member creates a new dish or cocktail; hold a contest to see which item(s) should be featured over the next thirty days. Then for each sale of that item over the next month, ensure the creative staff member receives a small commission from the sales. This immediately creates a new story, a level of engagement (online and in-store), and could help with future menu engineering strategies!
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 both the employee and operator. 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.
Outside of commission-based sales and continuous education opportunities, restaurant teams still seek other experiences. When is the last time the entire team went to a staff party or took part in a staff building exercise? Depending on concept and median age of employees, a restaurant operator has the opportunity to take their team min-golfing, laser-tag, paint-balling or out for a meal/drink elsewhere, one night per quarter, to name a few examples.
In summary, providing a consistently positive restaurant experience through staff engagement is what creates customer loyalty and long-term brand ambassadors. Once you have formulated this mindset, and designed these programs, it’s time to promote it. Get your staff to talk about it, get them to help in your recruitment efforts, create a story on your website and menu, showcase your staff everywhere possible (social media), and finally invest in their future for the sake of yours. It really can be that simple.
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.