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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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Developing Staff Engagement for Positive Guest Experiences

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 Strategies

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.

Proper Communication

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.

Continuous Education

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!

Staff Reviews

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.

Team Experiences

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.

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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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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Developing a Profitable Restaurant Concept Plan

Developing a Profitable Restaurant Concept Plan

Originally Posted on Resto Biz – By Doug Radkey 06/14/2017

No question, every restaurant or food and beverage related establishment starts with a vision. A dream for most that must be met with the right research, planning, and overall mind-set. Similar to the true definition of branding, one’s market will, and must, also define the concept. To be successful, you must be open to building a venue the market both wants and needs.

A common theme through the first phase of starting a restaurant (or any business) is research, research, research! Whether you’re an experienced restaurateur or new to the scene, if you are looking to start a new restaurant, the question you’re likely asking is, ‘where does one start?’

A feasibility study, concept development plan, and a strategic business plan are the three key steps in developing a scalable, profitable, memorable, consistent and sustainable restaurant. These plans should be composed simultaneously and reviewed by industry experts prior to securing any leases or further investments.

This article, the framework for a restaurant concept development plan, will not only deliver on vision and purpose, but assist in determining realistic start-up costs. A restaurant concept development plan should (at the very least) follow these essential headings, after a thoroughly completed feasibility study.

Restaurant Concept Summary

This first section is about giving the start-up restaurant character. Summarize the dream, the proposed name, and the main descriptions for the concept on one page. From there, take the time to carefully craft a value, vision, mission and culture statement, which will build the foundations for your brand.

The concept summary should also highlight any proposed operational configurations and hours of operation in addition to management and staff requirements, plus uniform design and wage structure, which should flow from your previously written culture statement.

Architectural Design

The overall restaurant experience is summarized into four basic areas: food (30 per cent), service (25 per cent), environment (24 per cent) and cost (21 per cent). It’s imperative to ensure that the ambiance and environment match that of the menu to drive a memorable concept.

Every piece of real estate is unique in its own way; a 1,000 square foot location will have different needs than a 1,000 square foot location two blocks away, so it is difficult to be 100 per cent accurate, but this section will surely define any future budget restraints.

With the right research techniques, one will be able to determine the space allocation (number of seats, take-out counter size, washroom requirements, and kitchen/bar production space) needed to meet financial objectives in the feasibility study.

From there, define the interior characteristics your location would need and list out your wants versus needs for the interior design. Taking research to another level in this section will properly estimate the costs for your desired floor styles, wall finishes, lighting, tables, chairs, and so on.

Take this time to also list out the top three to five interior designers, engineers, architects and contractors that you would like to contact and have bid on your project.

By the end of this section, you should also be able to determine if you’re in a financial position to purchase/remodel a restaurant, build a new restaurant, or retrofit an existing restaurant space.

Bar & Kitchen Production

Much like the architectural design, it’s imperative to plan out your kitchen and bar space. A helpful tip to remember is the average kitchen equates to approximately 20 to 28 per cent of the overall space. To plan a kitchen and bar properly, you must also have a solid idea of the proposed menu and estimated number of seats or daily orders.

Take this time to determine the key pieces of equipment required to execute the menu in addition to understanding their specs (electrical/gas/water usage, and overall size), plus estimated costs for each piece of equipment.

Based on the above, will your establishment need an exhaust hood system? What is the estimated ‘BTUs’ that will be used for accumulated gas equipment? What is the estimated number of ‘amps’ required for accumulated electrical supply? Lastly, what technology-related equipment will you require to execute on the customer service side (POS and digital boards for example)?

Once all of this information is collected, list out the top equipment suppliers in your area that you would like to bid on your project for when the time comes.

Menu Design Attributes

Understanding the core menu items early on will allow a start-up to plan the kitchen and also determine estimated food and beverage price points. You don’t need to have the entire menu completed, but a solid idea that flows with the remainder of your concept is required.

Based on the menu, what plating, take-out containers, and glassware styles will be required? Based on seats and projected orders, how much of each will be needed at start-up? Take this time to source possible suppliers and their estimated costs.

Knowing your core menu will also position you early on to determine key food and beverage suppliers and begin mapping out possible supply chain solutions in addition to any challenges you may face to meet the demands of your concept.

When a concept development plan is complete, it will assist in completing the strategic business plan by preparing you for capital requirements, budget limitations, construction related options, space planning, lease requirements, and overall day-to-day operations.

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Managing Restaurant Customer Emotions Using Touch Points

Managing Restaurant Customer Emotions Using Touch Points

Originally Posted on Resto Biz – By Doug Radkey 04/27/2017

The restaurant industry is driven by delivering exceptional (and memorable) customer experiences. As a restaurateur, you need to realize that you don’t just sell food and beverage, you sell emotions through experiences. Your concept, whether a restaurant, bar, cafe or food truck, lives or dies by the customer emotions it creates.

To create emotions and deliver on your promise for memorable customer experiences, a concept must think through its initial design while utilizing processes, maximizing communication and creating surprises through a multitude of ‘touch points.’

If you’re just starting out or if you’re already operating, there are areas you must audit – from the view of the customer, to ensure you’re driving these required positive emotions.

Design Points

From the planning stage, a variety of factors need to be carefully addressed. These three areas can make-or-break a brand’s perception in a matter in seconds by delivering a negative or positive emotional reaction.

First impressions count, and it all starts with your entrance. What reaction will customers have when they walk up to and into your establishment?

You need to ensure you’re creating a sense of hospitality with concept-driven decor, accessible doorways and a quick, warm welcome.

Next, over 70 per cent of customers equate restroom cleanliness with the cleanliness of the kitchen. Carefully consider the positioning and visibility of your restrooms in regards to waiting areas, dining areas and the kitchen.

You also need to invest in sound acoustics in addition to scent management systems, while implementing a restroom cleaning schedule throughout each working day.

Lastly, the lighting in your establishment cannot be overlooked. A carefully thought out lighting plan will increase security, boost sales (yes, that’s true), and set the overall mood that your brand is ultimately seeking.

Lighting will, in fact, dictate how long customers spend at your property so it is imperative your lighting choices match that of your brand strategy.

Process Points

Processes, or systems, are the backbone to a successful restaurant. Memorable design, impeccable flavours and a fantastic server is still not enough. Having the right processes in place will develop consistency, which is a key component in developing positive emotions and word-of-mouth marketing.

FOH (Front-of-House) and BOH (Back-of-House) systems take effort, training and accountability. You must ensure you have HR management, inventory management, financial systems, preparation lists, operational checklists, and quality control measures in place. A customer will quickly pick up on an unorganized restaurant which will generate negative word-of-mouth.

Next, walk through the typical service sequence at your restaurant. From walking in, to sitting down, to placing orders, to the delivery of food and beverage – what is the customer experiencing? What are they visualizing, touching, smelling and hearing throughout each touch point?

Lastly, once the meal or order is complete, what is the exit sequence and payment process like for the customer? How long are they waiting, what payment options are available to them (think modern technology), and how will they remember you as they leave?

Is there a thank-you or ‘exit strategy’ in place?

Communication Points

A smooth operating restaurant requires fluent communication from and between not only the management, host, bartender, server, cook and chef, but also the customer. How are the following touch points affecting your customer emotions?

Walk through the process of placing a phone call, placing an online order, making an online reservation, or leaving a comment on social media for example. What emotions are you generating? How long do the processes take? What information is gathered and where is it stored? How long until there is a confirmed reply? Are there areas you can improve to deliver a quick, positive emotion?

Secondly, team communication among your staff affects morale which ultimately affects the customer of your restaurant, and your bottom line. How is the communication between FOH and BOH at your restaurant? What is your in-house process to address a customer complaint or even a question regarding an ingredient while at the table with a customer? How long does it take to resolve and who needs to be involved? What measures can be put in place to expedite the communication process?

Lastly, what messages are you communicating through your marketing channels?

What type of brand image are you portraying on social media, within your menu, on your website, and other advertising? Are the messages consistent and is the copywriting professional on quality material or images? What type of emotion does your marketing effort develop? Does it match your intended brand identity?

Surprise Points

Everyone loves a surprise, right? What expectations are you creating for your customers? What type of events are you generating? Are these events leaving positive, memorable emotions? Consider these emotions the next time you’re planning an event.

Next, what type of reaction are you receiving when you deliver a dish or creative cocktail to a customer? Are you maximizing the wow factor by offering a surprisingly high-quality visual presentation and taste? What can you do with your menu items to stand out from similar concepts in your area?

Finally, consider testing all of your touch points through implementing a monthly or quarterly secret shopper program to receive unbiased reviews while holding the entire team accountable.

By creating positive emotions through design, systems, communication and training, you will undoubtedly increase spending and return visits – which is, of course, your day-to-day goal!

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Effective FOH & BOH Systems

Developing Effective FOH & BOH Systems

Originally Posted on RestoBiz – By Doug Radkey (02/22/2017)

The more any restaurant depends on the owner’s day in-day out involvement in the operational details of the restaurant, the greater the risk of failure. Starting and operating a successful restaurant or bar relies heavily on having the right systems in place, allowing the venue and its hired team to work as a cohesive unit.

Having the correct systems in place will create consistency, develop operating capital, enhance your team morale, and build business value while positioning your concept for future growth opportunities.

Below are some basic systems each venue should have in place (and can easily implement if they don’t) to allow the owner some freedom to work on the business and not in the business.

Operating Systems

HR Management | Create a paper trail for all employees, be compliant with local laws, and keep your HR system organized in print form with a digital backup. This would include application forms, emergency contact information, warning notices, copies of any incident reports, plus any staff incentive programs and quarterly staff performance reviews – which should be recorded every three to four months.

Inventory Management | The average restaurant & bar can see three to four percent of revenue lost to theft or mismanagement of inventory, especially in high ticket items such as alcohol, proteins, and day-to-day supplies.

Ensure there is an auditable system in place (digital, app based, and/or paper) at your venue for all inventory in addition to what is referred to as a Top 10; your 10 most expensive items. These items must be recorded and accounted for each operating day to help monitor your bottom line.

Team Communications | How often are you holding individual reviews and team meetings? Do you hold pre-shift meetings? How do your employees communicate with one another, especially between front-of-house and back-of-house during service? Get into the habit of holding daily shift meetings, monthly team meetings, and quarterly staff reviews.

Take it up a notch and consider adding in special training days at a brewery, winery, or a local farm every couple of months, so they can learn, communicate with customers, and train new staff about your offered menu items first hand.

Financial Systems | How often do you review monthly, quarterly, or yearly budgets? How often do you complete a sales mix analysis and review your menu, suppliers, and costs? When you complete your staff schedules, do you complete a roster analysis that measures sales per labour hour, for example? This easily available data will ultimately save time, control your costs, and generate further gross profit!

FOH & BOH Systems

Chef/Mixologist Shift Checklist | This important checklist will keep the leader of the kitchen organized with what needs to be completed in the morning, afternoon, and evening. It should also provide an area to:

  • Project daily sales
  • Record the number of reservations
  • The day’s labour cost for the kitchen (and bar)
  • The previous day’s food waste
  • What needs to be ordered each day

Manager Checklist | Similar to the above checklist, general managers and bar managers should have a similar mindset and list of daily tasks, daily financial goals, and daily staff costs, etc.

If a chef, mixologist, manager, or supervisor is sick or on an extended leave, another team member can step in and understand exactly what needs to be completed, to ensure consistency in your operations.

Kitchen & Bar Prep List | This is a crucial system to ensure your venue minimizes waste. A daily prep list should include all required ingredients, the portion sizes, shelf life, quantity on-hand, and the amount to prep based on both the minimum and maximum you’ve produced and sold on that specific day of the week (in relation to any waste) over the past three months.

This must go hand-in-hand with printed sales reports to visualize trends, maximize efficiency, reduce waste, and improve production times.

Line Cook & Server Checklist | The lists don’t stop at management. All team member (FOH & BOH) positions should have a checklist to hold staff accountable, engaged, and working towards a series of set goals for each day of the week.

Quality Control Measures | It is important to track the number of occurrences related to food quality, service problems, and drink related issues. Find trends in temperatures, timing, presentation, and other forms of customer feedback. Put a dollar figure beside each occurrence, discuss with your team, and take immediate action.

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. It may look like more ‘work’ up front, and there are many more systems to suggest, but these will provide the results you need to begin leading a successful operation, starting tomorrow!