RestoBiz

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Turning Crisis into Confidence

Articles Submitted To Media Partners During Covid-19 Pandemic

By Doug Radkey (March 2020-July 2020)

Take Time to Recharge: Self-Care During a Crisis

During times of crisis, everyone feels something: sadness, confusion, fear, anxiety, or anger.

It can be easy for many within the industry to become overwhelmed with the amount of decisions that need to be made not only for their business, but for their family, staff, and community.

One area that often gets overlooked, particularly among business and community leaders, is their own self care.

From watching the news every hour to making tough decisions, to hours of volunteering, to scrolling through your social media a little too much, it’s easy to get lost in the noise of what’s going on around us in the time of crisis.

And you’re not alone in this……Continue Reading Here on Nightclub & Bar

Every Red Light Eventually Turns Green

When faced with a lengthy business shutdown, it can be a roller coaster of emotions when you learn it’s time to re-open. While it is understandable that you want to open your doors as quickly as possible, you also want to ensure you’re doing it correctly and in a way that will not cause further damage to your brand, bottom line, staff, or guests.

The truth is, as a variety of government bodies have indicated; you’re likely going to have to open your venue in a series of phases. Are you financially & mindfully prepared for that?

You are also going to have to pivot (are you tired of that word yet?) if you haven’t already in addition to diversifying your menu and offerings.

You are going to have to build a high level of trust with guests like never before….Continue Reading on Nightclub & Bar

Adapting to Change; Seating (Part 1)

Understanding flexibility and a willingness to embrace change will make you a valuable leader — one who can reliably deal with many different opportunities and scenarios. You will then find change is not something to fear, but something to welcome and turn into an advantage. For restaurants with a large on-premise business model, change is happening and you need to prepare – now!

The biggest fear factors for many with a significant dining room are the new seating recommendations and capacity levels for dine-in restaurants. Everyone reading this will be in a slightly different scenario, pending the size of venue, location, and style of concept, so it is hard to create a cookie-cutter solution.

However, there are some new strategies and standards to consider that will help you adapt, pivot, and embrace these changes. Continue Reading on Resto Biz

Adapting to Change; Seating (Part 2)

To maximize your seating, encourage guests to make reservations, preferably online. Your guests will want to pick their spots, their proximity to others, and their proximity to high-traffic areas. Your new seating arrangement should ideally be online to review and should also be flexible.

Having a reservation system will also allow your staff the appropriate time to fully sanitize and prepare each area for the next number of guests in a reserved party.

With reservations, it may be wise to also consider time restrictions; guests who are used to travelling to tourism hot spots will be accustomed to these types of rules. Don’t be scared to put a 60- or 90-minute timestamp on reservations to encourage more table flips, which you’ll want to do as many times as possible within safety guidelines. Continue Reading on Resto Biz

Maintaining Financial Health During Pandemic

You already know the majority of restaurants run their business on extremely thin margins, and in the the time of COVID-19, the financial health of the industry has become all the more precarious. In fact, a recent (U.S.) National Bureau of Economic Research paper gave restaurants a 30 per cent chance of reopening if the pandemic lasts four months; this estimate drops to 15 per cent if it lasts six months.

The average restaurant, it found, had enough cash on hand to last approximately two weeks. Why such little time? Because the 3- to 5-per cent profit margin of the average restaurant or bar simply can’t cut it in this environment.

Here’s the thing – we can’t continue down this doom and gloom route. The industry will prevail, and some will come out even stronger – if they push forward now. Restaurants must operate with the mindset of achieving 12- to 15-per cent profit margins – and the secret is, it is possible. Continue Reading on Resto Biz

Hotel F&B in a Post-Pandemic Landscape

early all of our favorite and most popular travel destinations around the world have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in a horrendous financial loss for hotels, resorts, and the entire hospitality industry alike.

Research by the American Hotel & Lodging Institution suggests that hotel recovery to pre-COVID-19 levels could take until the year 2023—or perhaps even later with the expected ‘long-term’ loss of business travel and international leisure travellers.

There are numerous strategies and alterations to consider moving forward for the operation of a hotel property post-pandemic; but one area that can help properties regain their guests’ trust plus revenue and profits is that of the food & beverage program. Continue Reading on KRG Hospitality

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Developing an Epic Patio

Developing an Epic Patio Program

By Doug Radkey – Summer 2018

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.

Labour Management

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.

Culture Reset

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.

Labour Systems

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.

Creative Menus

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.

Support Local

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.

Temperature Control

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.

Pest Control

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.

Noise Control

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.

Marketing Plan

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.

Create Buzz

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!

Story-Telling

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.

Using Video

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.

Three Visits

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.

Quality Designs

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.

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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:

On-boarding

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

Sequence of Service

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

Instructing

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

Demonstrating

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

Role-playing

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

Shadowing

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

Reviews

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

Secret Diners

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

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

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

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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!

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