Archive for April, 2013

Innovations in Chicken Wing Processing

April 29, 2013

Whether you call them hot wings, Buffalo wings, or simply plain old chicken wings, these tasty treats are absolutely a staple of the American diet – especially in the casual dining and retail ready-to-eat sectors. Just to underscore how truly popular chicken wings are with the populace, one only has to take a look at how many chicken wings are consumed during, say, the Super Bowl.

It was estimated that during the last Super Bowl event, Americans consumed a whopping 1 billion chicken wings over the course of the weekend alone! Wings also happen to be the priciest part of the chicken, up 14% since 2011.

Improvements That Make Offering Chicken Wings on the Menu More Lucrative

The last few years have marked vast improvements for the poultry industry. Along with increased efficiency and better management practices, carcass sizes have vastly increased due to improved genetics. Predictably, chicken wing sizes have gotten bigger and meatier as well. In fact, it is estimated that more than 30% of the market is harvesting chickens over six pounds – with 18% over eight pounds.

Aside from the increased quantity of meat that these larger chicken wings produce, the increased sizes have the added benefit of allowing the use of more efficient and automated processing technology as well. The larger size of today’s modern chickens allows the wing to be cut into three sections (the tip, mid-section, and the drumette).

The ability to segment wings in this way is particularly beneficial to restaurants, who typically serve wings by the piece rather than by the pound. As a result, the segmentation process is something most restaurants are willing to pay a little extra for.

Differing Types of Innovative Processing for Chicken Wings

Segmenting the wing into its three key parts can be done through a variety of different automated processing techniques. One style is the overhead in-line wing cutting system. The wings are first stretched and cut into sections before the rest of the carcass is cut up. This system has the added benefit of creating very uniform cuts. The downside of this style is that removing the wings doesn’t leave anything for the machine to grab on to in order to chop up the rest of the carcass.

Another style of automated wing segmentation is the wing portioner. This is a small, stand-alone system that requires manual feeding and positioning of the wings into the machine. The circular saw then portions the wings into its segments. This is a very space saving option, but has the downside of needing the handler to position the wings properly in order to get the right cut.

Problems to Watch For as a Result of Wing Segmentation

There are a few issues to watch for if you opt for wings which have been segmented in this way. The first is that if the wing is not positioned properly in the machine, bone and bone marrow end up getting exposed. If the bone cap is removed, the meat ends up shrinking around the bone during cooking and can result in a health hazard to the consumer.

The other problem with bone marrow is that it contains a lot of heavy metals such as iron.  These heavy metals can cause increased rates of oxidation (even in frozen wings), thereby reducing shelf life.

The final consideration in all of this is the need to buy wings which are uniformly sized in order to avoid a potential health hazard, since different sizes demand different cooking times in order to destroy pathogens.

The end result of all of the innovations in processing and segmenting technology is quite simply to supply the public with the copious amounts of chicken wings that they demand. Restaurants should consider wing sizes as an important factor in being able to serve the public with their insatiable appetite for chicken.

How Engaging Your Workforce Boosts Your Sales

April 25, 2013

It is a well-known fact that your employees’ level of happiness with their jobs directly impacts the perception of your brand, your customer loyalty, and ultimately the amount of revenue you accrue. In fact, research has shown that as much as 70% of customers’ feelings about an establishment are directly related to their experience with your employees – with 68% of customers defecting due to negative interactions with employees and 41% of customers who stay specifically because of having had positive interactions with employees.

These numbers underscore how critical it is to maintain a workforce that is happy with their jobs.

Facilitating Workforce Happiness Means Nurturing Feelings of Confidence, Purpose, and Engagement

The factors which influence workforce happiness have to do with how confident they feel about your brand, whether or not they have a sense of purpose and responsibility, and how engaged they are in their jobs. There are several things you, as the workforce manager, can do to nurture these feelings.

The first question you need to ask is what motivation your staff has – day in and day out – to do the things that you have determined will build customer loyalty. This motivation could be as simple as pats on the back and recognition for a job well done. In fact, research has shown that emotional factors such as recognition for good work and trust in leadership are actually more influential on an employee’s level of engagement than even pay and benefits.

The bottom line is that you want your employees to feel positive about your business and to understand how valuable they are to your operation. Give them a reason to love you, and they will give your customers a reason to love you as well.

Providing Additional Motivation to Engage Your Workforce

Aside from verbal recognition for an employee’s capabilities, restaurants around the country are experimenting with different rewards and perks to keep staff engaged and add enjoyment to the workplace. For example, some restaurants allow staff to submit their favorite recipes as specialty items on the menu. Others give rewards such as bonuses, paid time off, or a free dinner for two to employees who outperform benchmarks.

Keeping an open line of communication is critical as well in terms of boosting morale and keeping your workforce focused. Making them feel like they have a stake in what you’re doing further strengthens their bond to your business.

Don’t Let the Economy Negatively Impact Your Employees’ Perception

The downturn in the economy has caused many restaurant operators to feel that providing motivation and employee rewards programs is an acceptable cost to cut. Unfortunately, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Your employees are your most valuable resource and it’s important to reassure them that your business is going in a positive direction and they have no need to fear losing of their jobs or pay. Their confidence in your business directly impacts your customer’s confidence in your business, and an engaged workforce outperforms one that is not engaged time and time again.

The lesson here is simple: Invest in your people, reward them for their loyalty, and reap the rewards of having a team of people championing your establishment.

Why Breakfast Options on the Menu Increase Your Bottom Line

April 19, 2013

As a savvy restaurant owner, you’re always looking for new tactics to draw traffic into your establishment. If you’re not doing so already, offering breakfast items can be a very smart and cost-effective way to do just that.

In fact, breakfast items accounted for nearly 60 percent of the restaurant industry’s traffic growth between 2005-2010 (the last time at which a breakfast study for the restaurant industry was conducted). Breakfast sales have also steadily grown by +2 percent per year over the course of the last decade, as opposed to a -2 percent decline in dinner time traffic during that same time.

What does all of this tell us? That what mom always said is the truth – breakfast IS important.

Offering Breakfast on the Menu Serves Many Needs

In a day and age when our hectic lifestyles create demanding schedules, many of us end up skipping breakfast because we don’t have the time or the energy to make something for ourselves. On the other hand, if you had someone hand you something small and portable as you ran out the door, wouldn’t you take it?

Restaurants with breakfast items on the menu offer people a quick, convenient way to jump start their day by grabbing breakfast on the go. Since breakfast orders usually consist of only one or two items, they are typically cheaper than other options on the menu which makes eating out feel more affordable.

Offering Breakfast Items Builds Customer Loyalty

It’s important to recognize how important the morning meal can be in both capturing a market share as well as building customer loyalty. It’s been shown that customers who visit an establishment for more than one day return more often, become more loyal, contribute more volume, and are far more likely to recommend your eatery to the people in their networks.

In sum, restaurants that serve breakfast end up being more memorable, and are, therefore, frequented more often. After all, who doesn’t make a mental note of a great place to swing in and grab some nourishment before they start their day?

Keep Your Breakfast Options Short and Sweet

Want to take a guess at the two most popular breakfast items? No surprise that it’s coffee and breakfast sandwiches. This is great news for you as it means that meeting the peoples’ demands for morning food can be a simple endeavor. Now granted, it’s technically specialty coffee that is all the rave, but that’s not too tough of an acquiescence to make, is it? Who doesn’t love a really great cup of brew?

When you consider all the benefits, serving at least a few breakfast options only makes sense. It is even more compelling when you consider the shift toward offering breakfast that many chains have undergone over the course of the last few years. It almost feels like a person could expect breakfast anywhere they go, which is all the more reason to get your restaurant on the boat if it isn’t there already.

Savvy Cost Control for Restaurant Operators

April 10, 2013

As a restaurant operator, you are well aware of the sometimes too narrow profit margin that exists in the food service industry. With rising costs of food and transportation, it’s more important than ever to control your costs wherever possible. Fortunately, there are several savvy strategies you can employ to do just that. Here’s a sample of what other restaurants around the country are doing to help them manage their bottom line.

Control Costs by Managing Your Workforce more Effectively

Aside from the cost of your goods and merchandise, payroll and management of your employees ends up being one of the biggest operating expenses. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to cut costs in this area. For example, setting time standards for your kitchen, bar, and serving staff can go a long way toward making the valuable ‘third seating’ available and turning a profit. The ideal is for customers to be seated, fed, and exiting the establishment within a 45 minute to one hour time frame.

Being clear about your expectations with your staff regarding how much time they have to fulfill their duties ensures smooth operating and increased revenue. Cross-training your staff wherever possible is useful as well because it not only enables your employees to fill in for each other and avoid backlog, but it also builds appreciation for their co-workers’ jobs.

Last but not least, consider moving your hiring process online. Doing so reduces both hiring costs and the amount of paperwork you have to deal with. You can pre-screen employees, have them fill out and sign all paperwork electronically, and even see if they are eligible for a federal tax credit.

Monitoring Energy and Resource Use Cut Costs Drastically

One of the easiest areas to control costs lies in the implementation of energy and resource efficient equipment and practices. For instance, replacing all of your electric kitchen equipment with gas equipment alone can save you hundreds of dollars a month. Low-flow toilets and faucets will cut your lighting bill, LEDs in place of incandescents will lower the cost of electricity, and smaller portion sizes not only cut your food costs, but serve to reduce waste as well.

Utilizing a company that provides energy conservation technology can make a major difference as well. You can have a wireless system installed that monitors your lighting, HVAC, refrigeration, and power consumption and sends you text messages if it notices even the slightest degree of alteration, allowing you to catch a failing refrigerator for example, before any food spoils.

Looking for Other Innovative Ways to Control Your Restaurant Costs

Spending a little time thinking of creative ways to control the cost of doing business can have great pay-offs as well. For example, say you haven’t been able to take advantage of bulk liquor costs because you don’t have enough storage space to hold it. Run the numbers and see if perhaps renting a small additional storage space nearby would allow you to take advantage of bulk pricing and still make a profit.

Sourcing your local community for goods can help cut costs as well – you can often get a better deal from a small, local provider than you can from your corporate standbys.

The important thing to keep in mind when looking for cost-cutting options is not to trim costs in areas which affect guests, but rather to look for behind the scenes opportunities that save your pennies but don’t affect the quality of your guests’ experience in your establishment.

Restaurant Profits: How Close Are You Watching Your Numbers?

April 6, 2013

Although your restaurant’s food, services, and location certainly factor into its success, what ultimately determines whether it lives or dies is whether it does or does not make a profit. Now, this may seem an obvious statement, but it bears consideration.

The skills that are required to run a successful restaurant are quite different from those needed to create a successful business. The operators who measure and monitor their costs and profit margins closely, on top of maintaining a high quality of food and service, are the ones that end up succeeding in the restaurant industry.

It’s Your Numbers More Than Your Food, Which Determines Your Restaurant’s Success

Regular review of essential metrics such as your profit-and-loss (P&L) statement, your balance sheets, and your cash flow statements is what will tell you whether or not you are truly making money. Keeping a careful eye on these reports also has the added benefit of drawing your attention to areas in your operations which may need tweaking and gives you the opportunity to make needed changes before these misalignments become real problems.

Aside from showing you how well you’re doing, analysis of your numbers is also the only way that you can hope to control your costs – which is fundamental to success in today’s business environment.

How Weekly Review of Your P&L Summary Can Make All the Difference

Of all the metrics available, the P&L statement could be considered the most valuable because it represents the end result of all of your efforts – from operations to marketing to controlling your costs. Many operators find it instructive to review a summary P&L every week so they can see at a glance how the restaurant is performing and take quick action is anything is amiss.

The four key numbers to keep a watch on are your sales, prime cost (total cost of food/beverage/merchandise plus payroll), controllable income (sales minus prime cost and any other controllable expenses you may have), and net income. How a restaurant manages their prime cost in particular often indicates whether the business will succeed or fail, and as such, it can be additionally helpful to break your prime cost into columns of controllable and uncontrollable expenses so that you know exactly where and how you can takes measures to correct problem areas.

Sharing Your P&L with Staff Decreases Food and Labor Costs as Well

Furthermore, a weekly review of your P&L has the added benefit of increasing awareness and accountability of your staff. When everyone can see how they’ve done each week, the kitchen staff becomes more conscious of their inventory levels, management becomes more aware of scheduling staff efficiently, and so on.

Some restaurants have even gone so far as to implement a reward system to their employees for surpassing performance benchmarks, which can be yet another way that regular review of your numbers can serve you.

All in all, the restaurant industry is incredibly complex – it’s part retail, part manufacturer and it’s got a thousand moving parts that all have to work in unison to allow a business to thrive. As a result, generic accounting isn’t going to cut it. With profit margins as narrow as they can be, you’ve got to keep a careful eye on your cash flow to succeed, and to do that, you’ve got to keep a finger on the pulse of your numbers!