Archive for July, 2014

3 Tips For Effective Restaurant Leadership

July 30, 2014

Running a successful restaurant business takes precision, planning and effective leadership. Without clear guidelines and actionable goals, getting your restaurant off the ground can be a challenge, let alone turning it into a successful business. Here are three tips for effective leadership that will help your restaurant stay on the track to success.

#1.Take Daily Action Toward Restaurant Targets

One of the most important leadership qualities is the ability to take effective action. One facet of effective action is knowing how to prioritize your actions so that your efforts are streamlined toward your goals. For example, before you do anything else in your day, you should put energy into those actions that are the most important in terms of your key result or performance areas. A daily review of current performance in comparison with goals you’ve set for growing your restaurant business will help you stay on track.

#2.Break Big Restaurant Goals into Small, Manageable Chunks

Breaking bigger goals into smaller chunks is a leadership skill that has a number of advantages as well. A large task can feel less overwhelming when taken piece by piece, and you often end up getting more done than if you tried to tackle it as a whole.

The goals you set can feel more easily within reach when you look at them from the perspective of what it takes to get there on a day to day level as well. For example, let’s say you want to increase your sales by $30,000 in the next quarter. That means you’ll have to pull in $10,000 a month. Now, if you have two shifts per day, or 56 shifts per month, that means each shift will have to pull in an extra $178. Take the math one step further—if you have, say, five people on any given shift, that means they’ll need to pull in an extra $20 an hour, or $4 per person per hour, in order to reach your restaurant’s sales goal increase. Four dollars per person per hour could be achieved as simply as having employees up-sell a drink or slice of pie, and feels much more manageable and attainable than “$30,000 by next quarter,”doesn’t it?

#3 Communicate Clear Actionable Goals to Your Restaurant Staff

One critical aspect of effective leadership is the ability to clearly communicate goals and expectations with staff. All those great ideas for how you can grow your business are useless if you can’t communicate them clearly to the people who will be bringing your dream into reality. It’s important to make task knowledge explicit and to routinely catalogue and share demonstrated best practices with your team. Make quarterly assessments of training and talent gaps and ensure that your team has the tools that they need to succeed. Share your restaurant goals with your staff and be sure that they each know what they need to do in order to help you get there.

Recognize that effective leadership has much to do with being clear—clear with the people you’re working with and clear about where you’re trying to go. Be disciplined and accountable as you move your business toward your goals. Study your reports and continuously assess how you can improve. Take the time to do at least one thing to improve your business every week. Last, let yourself get excited with the work of growing your restaurant—the momentum of inspiration does much to carry us forward!

Obtaining Useful Customer Feedback in Your Restaurant

July 25, 2014

Customer satisfaction means everything to a restaurant business. Fortunately, the easiest way to ensure that your customers are satisfied is to quite simply ask them for their feedback. Most people are happy to share their opinions—especially if they know that you will actually take action on the feedback they provide.

Asking people what you can do better before there is a reason to complain demonstrates your commitment to integrity and excellence. It makes your customers feel valued and underscores that you are committed to creating an enjoyable experience for them. Plus, you might be surprised at some of the good ideas your customers will offer! Here are the three main areas in which you can obtain useful customer feedback for your restaurant business.

Getting Feedback for Your Restaurant In-House

There’s no better time to ask for feedback on your customer’s experience with your restaurant than when they are right there on the premises and the experience is fresh in their minds. Ensure that you have feedback forms readily available, and train your servers to politely ask customers to fill them out to significantly increase your number of responses. Whether you use an old-school pen and paper, or include a digital feedback form in your point-of-sale system, don’t miss the opportunity to get fresh, in-the-moment feedback on how well you’re doing (or anything else you’re curious about, for that matter) right there, in-house.

Getting Feedback for Your Restaurant Through Online Mediums

The digital world offers another rich arena for you to gather feedback from your consumer base. Make sure that your restaurant’s website has a comment form and direct people’s attention to it by putting it on their receipts and sending your social media followers to it. You can also send your mailing list a survey via email. Ensure that the survey is easy to use and express how the feedback will be used to improve the restaurant. If you have an example of how you have taken positive action based on a customer comment, post it for everyone to see. People are more likely to take action if they know that you are really listening.

Useful Feedback Is Already Available in Your Restaurant’s Data

Whether or not you’re actively asking for it, your customers are always giving you useful feedback; you’ll find it in the numbers when you analyze your restaurant’s data. By doing this, you’ll be able to see not only which items you are selling the most (and least), but will also be able to discover trends in the sale of your products that you can take advantage of. Keeping a regular eye on these numbers is particularly easy if you’re running a digital or online ordering system.

The type of feedback you ask for is up to you. You should certainly try to gauge your customer’s satisfaction, but you can also gather feedback on anything else you might be curious about, such as that new menu item or latest change in décor. Some restaurants offer some form of incentive to customers in exchange for providing feedback, and if you’re comfortable giving something away, it will most likely increase your number of responses. That said, you also need to be careful not to undermine your brand’s reputation. Making customers feel that their feedback can really lead to change in the restaurant can be incentive enough in and of itself. However you do it, make sure you are doing it. Gathering customer feedback provides you with invaluable information that can help you run a better and more successful restaurant business.

From Ovens to Ice Machines: Restaurant Technology that Can Improve Operations

July 23, 2014

Restaurant technology continues to get smaller, smarter and more social as restaurant operators look for ways to reduce the cost of real estate, have more intuitive technology on hand and strive to improve the customer experience. There have been a number of new innovations of late that stand to significantly improve the operational management of a restaurant business. Here are a few of the latest restaurant technology highlights.

Smaller, More Intuitive Restaurant Technology

From computer-regulated back-of-the house appliances, to smaller and more efficient front-of-house equipment, there is a mass of great technological adaptations and innovations available to operators. For example, some ice machines now come with technological diagnostics that will warn restaurant operators when there is a problem likely to occur. They have improvements in the program for repair and maintenance, making for less downtime. Fryers are moving toward all-digital control panels, giving operators greater control over the quality of any product that’s programmed in. Temperatures can be set precisely and food can be cooked with a specific timing. There are a number of new environmental cooling options as well. These include a 24.5 inch portable air cooler, with the same footprint as a propane-powered heater, and an evaporative cooling unit that can chill the air in a 14 foot radius down to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. This unit uses about as much electricity as a household toaster.

In response to an increased demand for space-saving innovations to help restaurants expand menus, ventless countertop ovens have seen a jump in production and innovation. There are a number of different types of countertop ovens now available.Some of these ovens can convert from a one-item shuttle to a higher-volume conveyor mode at the switch of a button. Drink machines, like Coke’s Freestyle, have also gone counter-size and can now include anywhere from 35-80 drink options.

Home-Made Craft Brews Now Available for Any Restaurant

Speaking of increasing drink options, restaurant owners can also now install their own “home-brew”systems on location, in as little as a 10-by-10 space. These self-contained units are different from your typical brew-pub brewery, most significantly because they bypass many of the regulatory and environmental impact considerations that brew pubs must adhere to. Such systems cost around $57,000 and can produce 1,400 twelve-ounce servings of beer per week. You have the ability to customize the types of beer you offer, paving the way for seasonal and local favorites that are uniquely your own. The craft-brewing industry has grown significantly over the course of the last few years, and if you’re looking for a way to add unique flavor to the drinks that your restaurant provides, a home-brew craft beer unit might be the solution.

More Comprehensive Point of Sale Restaurant Technology

New point-of-sale systems are on the horizon too. Tabletop tablets, for instance, are no longer used to simply place an order. Along with being one-stop devices for employees to perform a number of tasks, they now can include interactive tiles that can really enhance guest interactions. For instance, the tablets can display and promote specials of the day, upcoming events, loyalty program details, links to external feeds and the ability to take pictures and share to social media accounts. They provide a forum for customers to conveniently place and pay for their orders as well as to leave feedback about their experiences—which they do 20% of the time in restaurants who have them installed.

Utilizing these technological adaptations and innovations can greatly enhance the customer and employee experience, as well as improve the return on investment and the overall efficiency of the restaurant. Bottom line: new technology can be a restaurant owner’s best friend, and there are plenty of innovative options available.

Standards of Success for Modern Restaurants

July 16, 2014

The standards that created success for restaurants in the past are not the same as those that will create success for restaurants now and in the future. As a restaurant owner, it’s important to review your current standards for success and update them according to the demands of the modern age. Here are a few areas to consider.

Competition Is No Longer Confined to Foodservice Segments

It used to be that you didn’t need to worry about what Joe Schmo was doing in his restaurant down the street, unless his business belonged to the same foodservice category as yours did. These days, competition for the dining dollar spans across all segments. Knowing that, it’s important to benchmark best practices and outstanding behavior across all segments as well, not just your own. Doing so puts your restaurant in a position of achieving the best practices and standards across the industry, giving your business a far more viable chance of attracting its share of the consumer dollar.

Today’s Restaurant Consumer Wants a Specific Type of Service

Every business since the beginning of time is (or should have been) based around providing quality service. The difference in the modern age is that the consumer has gone from expecting “service in general”to expecting “service in specific.”The modern customer wants speed, accuracy, cleanliness, hospitality and no complaint-generating experiences. In other words, they don’t ever want to have to ask for anything and want an easy experience with your restaurant that demonstrates your respect for their patronage and time-constraints. What this means in terms of setting standards for your restaurant is that you must put a premium on getting the order right as well as providing exemplary service that covers all of your customers’ specific needs. Asking for feedback and insight on what you could do better before there is a problem is another marker for success.

Much of Your Restaurant’s Success Lies in the Hands of Your Employees

It used to be that adequate staffing, supplemented with a little training, was enough to give a restaurant success. Turnover was expected and the focus was more on the business and less on the people who ran it. In today’s world, restaurant owner’s have begun to realize that it is far more cost-effective, and ultimately helpful to the overall success of the business, to choose your employees carefully, invest in their development and encourage their tenure.

Look for low-drama, high-value players who share your company’s values, have a penchant for service and an aversion to creating conflict. Once you’ve chosen the right people, invest in their development. You should have a program that successfully develops people at least one level above where you’re currently hiring. Teach them something new every day!

Last but not least, look for opportunities to create tenure rather than turnover. Examine your restaurant’s employment history and notice how long people typically stick around in their positions. If you can find out why they left, do so and if it has to do with the quality of experience they had with your restaurant, do everything in your power to fix it. Consider offering pay raises, bonuses or other incentives to keep people around about the time that they typically quit. For example, if your cooks usually quit within 36 months, what can you do to keep them around for at least 44?

The bottom line here is that in order to be successful as a restaurant business in the modern era, you can’t keep operating on outdated standards of success. The restaurants that make it now, and in the future, will be those that are able to anticipate what is coming and take measures to adapt ahead of the curve.

Better Compensation for Your Restaurant Employees Through Training, Perks and Rewards

July 9, 2014

The on-going debate over minimum-wage for restaurant workers hasn’t moved much over the last several months. Many protestors want to see the minimum wage raised to $15 an hour—a sum which would be difficult for restaurants to achieve without raising menu prices, reducing staff and taking other less-than-desirable measures to compensate for the increased minimum wage. While the debate is likely to go on for some time, the underlying message is clear: restaurant workers want better compensation. Minimum wage may or may not be increased, but many restaurant owners are taking the message to heart and looking for other ways to better compensate their employees, for example, through providing better training, perks and rewards.

Better Compensation for Restaurant Workers Through Rewarding Performance

One tactic that some restaurant owners are using to better compensate their employees is to reward staff for achieving certain sales goals through the use of tracking software. There are a number of analytics software programs available designed to help restaurants keep track of employee performance. Such software can be very valuable in identifying and rewarding the employees who are bringing your restaurant the most business.

These types of programs serve multiple purposes. They help employees build their skills, make better tips (through increased sales) and get the chance to receive extra monetary rewards for their service. Of course, this type of program also serves the most important purpose of making your restaurant more profitable as well.

Better Compensation for Restaurant Workers Through Education & Training

Another method that some restaurant owners are using to better compensate their employees is to provide them with better education and training. In some ways, the worst thing a restaurant can do is “dumb down”the jobs of their workers into something that is rote and process-oriented. The point is to help employees grow and to make the workforce progress. The best way this can be done is through education and training.

This additional education can come in a number of forms—everything from cross-training employees in different positions within your restaurant, to sending them to external training and enhancement conferences. You can also simply educate them more about the products you serve and ethics you would like to uphold in your restaurant and transmit to your customers. Education transforms your employees into more valuable assets for you and any future employer they may have. It also makes them better able to do their jobs for you, which in turn means better sales and profitability for your restaurant.

Better Compensation for Restaurant Workers Through Staff Incentive Programs

Staff incentive programs have been around for a coon’s age, but restaurants of all types are re-examining such programs as a feasible means of better educating and motivating their people. For example, if you have new menu items you’d like to promote, why not run a contest with a reward for the server who can sell the most orders of that item? While the reward can be monetary, it can also be in the form of a nifty gadget, a gift certificate, bill pay, extra vacation time, late arrival, etc.

The point of all of this is that there are a number of ways to provide additional compensation to your people without necessarily increasing their hourly wages. Investing in your workforce by providing them with additional opportunities for education, perks and rewards makes them feel that their jobs with you are more valuable. In turn, this creates a scenario where your employees are invested in and happy with their work, which translates to a more successful restaurant business for you.

3 Advantages to Developing Your Own Restaurant Operations Manual

July 2, 2014

It is neither easy nor quick to develop a system or operations manual for your restaurant. That said, taking the time to do so has a number of advantages and can be a critical factor in the long-term success and profitability of your restaurant. Here are three of the main areas in which the development of an operational manual will assist your overall efforts to grow a thriving restaurant business.

Developing an Operational Manual Helps Your Restaurant Get Out of the Unprofitable Start-Up Phase

Developing a system of checklists, forms and procedures early on in your business drastically reduces the amount of disorganization and chaos that occurs during the start-up phase of any restaurant. It also has the added benefit of allowing you to evaluate virtually every task and activity that takes place in your restaurant. Many find that documenting their systems and operating procedures sheds light on hidden errors and redundancies, as well as provides opportunities for increased productivity and profitability. The sooner you can put a system in place that will allow the average person to duplicate your desired result, the sooner your restaurant can grow from a struggling start-up into a successful business.

Solid Operational Systems Attract and Keep Quality People

One of the primary benefits of implementing operational systems in your restaurant is the ability to create consistency and predictability for both your employees and your customers. Having procedures and systems in place helps to attract and retain customers because they create a predictable and consistent experience that customers can count on having time and again.

Systems, procedures and policies help attract and keep quality employees because they let staff know what to expect from the get-go. If done correctly, these systems provide employees with the information and training they need to be successful at their jobs and achieve the standard of service quality you have set. Even better, when your employees are able to run your restaurant successfully by following the systems you have created, you have now ensured that your restaurant can run without you. This means more free time to focus on growing other aspects of your business and more time for a life outside the restaurant!

Having a Restaurant System in Place Enhances Value and Ability to Obtain Capital

An additional benefit of developing a system and operational manual for your restaurant is that it enhances both the value of your business to a prospective buyer (a buyer’s first question is often “What’s going to happen when the owner is gone?”) as well as your ability to obtain capital for your restaurant. For instance, if you want to expand your concept, having systems will enhance your ability to get money, manage growth and explore new opportunities while ensuring that your existing endeavors continue to function smoothly.

The development of a comprehensive operational plan for your restaurant is no small undertaking and will be an on-going process that you will continually refine over the course of your ownership of a restaurant business. There are many categories in this operational plan for which you will have to develop checklists, policies and procedures and the thought of documenting all of your restaurant’s functions can feel overwhelming. Start by working on the categories that have the most direct impact on your guests’ experiences and work your way along from there. By developing and documenting your unique business system, you increase your opportunity to take your business to the next level, expand your concept and ensure the long-term success of your restaurant. If you need help, there are a number of resources available.