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Why Wood and Metal Hybrid Restaurant Furniture Works

Elliot Bar Stools

Move over Ramen burgers and Korean clam chowder, the infatuation of making two very different concepts work together in flavors and offerings is not limited to food in the restaurant industry. Commercial furniture is reflecting the mashup trend by taking differing materials and combining them to create unique pieces to accent your restaurant.

You wouldn’t bat an eye at a wood table top and metal base, but what may catch your attention is these two materials together in a chair or bar stool.

This trend has gone by many names: rustic industrial, modern rustic, vintage industrial. The list goes on and has been present in the home décor and architectural industries for some time. These materials together highlight their contrasting points while also making a great pair.

When wood is used in design, it carries a warmth and neutrality with it. It feels earthy and organic. In contrast, metal can bring a manufacturing-like or contemporary vibe. With its hard an unbending feel, it’s completely the opposite of wood that is soft and easily affected by its environment. The wood and metal hybrids are a marrying of the two that create something totally new yet familiar.

Visually these compositions meld together but they also work well structurally. In a restaurant, metal is less easily scratched and cracked, making it ideal in combating daily wear and tear over wood. When metal is used to reinforce a wood seat or back in a frame, the chair or bar stool becomes more durable.

With the popularity of the wood and metal hybrids, we have quite a few designs that are right on trend for your restaurant.

 

1) Erwin Collection

Solid oak wood and black powder coated metal come together in the Erwin Collection. The rustic look of this collection is defined further with a traditional X-style back and stylized legs.

Erwin Bar Stool and Chair

2) Elliot Collection

The Elliot Collection updates the classic ladder back design by using solid oak wood and a weathered iron for an industrial look that’s softened by the wood back and seat.

Elliot Chair and Bar Stool

3) Henry Collection

The Henry Collection keeps it simple with squared off wooden backs and seats, giving this collection an understated modern look. The distressed wood paired with the slim yet sturdy, black powder coated frame makes it an easy pairing with other restaurant furniture.

Henry Bar Stool and Chair

4) Piper Collection

The metal frame of the Piper Collection brings a breath of fresh air to restaurants with its hairpin leg design. Embracing the rustic industrial look, the sleek steel contrasts the deep tones of the oak to warm up any dining area.

Piper Bar Stool, Backless Bar Stool, and Chair

5) Gladiator Collection

From window pane to full ladder back to vertical back, we have all your classic styles covered with the Gladiator Collection. Traditional back designs make this collection extremely versatile and are right on trend with their steel frames and variety of wood seat options.

Gladiator Bar Stool and Chair with Wood Seats

6) Simon Collection

Think grit, think modern, think mechanical. All of these can describe the strong metal look of the Simon Collection. Because this collection comes with a variety of wood seat options to offset the smooth steel, Simon’s are a standout statement piece in a rustic restaurant atmosphere.

Simon Chair and Bar Stool with Wood Seats

Each of these collections use a metal frame with a wood seat and/or back. Together, these materials create a unified theme for your restaurant by pulling from warm and cool tones. Restaurants need furniture that can meet the hectic demands of the industry with durability and visual appeal. And just like a leader of the mashup movement, the cronut, these wood and metal hybrids give you the best of both worlds.

Do you use wood and metal hybrid furniture in your restaurant? What are your thoughts on this hybrid furniture trend? Tell us in the comments below.

When Is a Good Time to Order Furniture For Your Restaurant?

FAQ's From the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

Something even the most knowledgeable restaurant owners seem to be unsure of is when they should order furniture for their new restaurant. In the world of express shipping and Amazon Prime, consumers tend to think that they don’t need to order things very far in advance. This is not the case with commercial furniture. When asking yourself “when should I order my furniture?” The answer is: the sooner the better.

Ideally, you should begin your search at around 10 weeks before you want the furniture to arrive. It seems like a lot of time, but it will go by faster than you think.  Starting earlier gives you time to research, place the order, and receive the furniture before your opening.

The time it takes for your furniture to arrive on your doorstep is dependent upon a couple different factors. This first of which is the type of furniture you order. Items that are custom built such as reclaimed booths, or custom vinyl seats, have a production time, where other items might not.

By calling in advance, you can also check the stock of the item you have your eye on. Popular items sell out quickly. Stock fluctuates daily and can affect your expected arrival date. Even if an item says out of stock it is good to call and see when the next shipment is arriving. The earlier you call the better to either reserve your items, or get your name on the preorder list.

Transit time is another factor in your furniture’s arrival. Most large furniture items ship LTL. You’ll want to take into account the location of the place you are ordering from in relation to where you are located. Items traveling from across the United States are going to take longer than items coming from across the state.

Purchasing outdoor furniture can be a little different than purchasing indoor items. If you are looking to get outdoor furniture for the spring/summer season, February is a good time to order. You want to have your furniture before the weather breaks and customers start asking to sit on your patio. Waiting too long to call could put you in the danger zone of not being able to receive your furniture until part way through the season.

It is best to order your restaurant furniture well before your open date, about 10 weeks, to make sure that you can get the items you want, in the time frame that works for you. If you have your eye on some pieces that we offer at East Coast Chair & Barstool, you can get your order started today by calling our Customer Care Team at 800-986-5352.

2017 Fads Turned 2018 Trends

When the ball drops in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, it symbolizes a new year and a new beginning. But this doesn’t always apply to the restaurant industry; fads turn to trends and stick around from one year to another. We’ve rounded up the popular restaurant trends from 2017 that are going to be around for the ball drop and the first part of 2018.

On the Menu:

Less is more cocktails Less is more cocktails. Many restaurants are beefing up their drink list with lower proof drinks by getting more playful with ingredients and lessening the alcohol content. Not only do bartenders get to have more fun with the flavor palate of the drinks, the profit margin widens as well by using less alcohol.
House-made condiments House-made condiments. Restaurants are striving for originality, down to their sauces. Think house ranch, mayonnaise, and sriracha-infused ketchup. Chefs are getting creative and complementing dishes with flavors that round out the tastes.
Cold-brew coffee Cold brew coffee. Lose that koozie! Cold brew coffee is past the fad phase and rocketing into 2018 as a staple in many coffee shops and restaurants. This new way to brew coffee offers many facets of customization that lets the restaurant owner (and customer) get a little creative when it comes to more caffeine in the same cup.
Local beer partnerships Local beer partnerships. You can grab your favorite local brew just about anywhere. Many restaurants are partnering with local breweries and wineries to put their fares on tap right next to the big distributors. This not only promotes businesses in the area, but also increases a sense of involvement in the community.

On Operations:

New ways to order New ways to order. There are very few things in this world you can’t use your Amazon Prime account for anymore, including food delivery. And it’s not just Amazon. Food delivery services range from Amazon to the restaurants themselves to GrubHub and Postmates. These services get food to the consumer, without them every stepping foot in your restaurant.
Conscientious cooking Conscientious cooking. The world’s eyes are wide awake to the food waste problem and is reflected in the restaurant industry’s attitude towards less-waste cooking. A restaurant adhering to more sustainable practices is becoming much more common.
Inclusive menus Inclusive menus. Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options are showing up on more and more menus. Being more inclusive with dietary restrictions has been on the rise in 2017 and will continue into 2018. Adding these options to your menu can be the deciding factor for customers with food allergies and auto-immune disorders like Celiac.
Herb gardens Digitizing payment. Customers can now eat, drink, and pay all from the comfort of your restaurant booth. From kiosks to digital receipts to mobile payment, many restaurants are moving towards using paperless payment for a streamlined procedure for customers. As this technology becomes more affordable, the practice will continue to spread in 2018.

On the Design Board:

Food halls Food halls. After exploding onto the scene, food halls are becoming more and more the norm. Per Cushman & Wakefield, “the number of food halls operating in the United States is expected to exceed 200 in 2019”. This number has grown every year with many slated to open in 2018 in urban markets like Atlanta, Manhattan, and Austin.
Wood and metal hybrid furniture Wood and metal hybrid furniture. Here’s a juxtaposition we can get behind! Combining the warm tones of wood and the industrial cool of metal create quite a contrast in furniture, this trend is all over chairs, bar stools, POS stations, and tables. With hybrid furniture, it becomes so much easier to pair pieces together when there’s a little bit of both wood and metal in them. Who doesn’t want the best of both worlds in their furniture?
Introducing color  

Introducing color. Whether it’s the furniture, centerpieces, or a mural wall, restaurants are gravitating toward bright colors rather than darker browns and blacks. This kind of design gives restaurants more of a fun and fresh feel, often set on a white backdrop.

Tile is here Tile is here. 2017 brought the tile out of the bathroom and put it behind the bar. Restaurant designers are using tile on backsplashes, bar fronts, and accent walls to add texture and focus. Move over wallpaper, this is the year of tile!

Which of these trends do you see sticking around longer into 2018? Tell us in the comments below!

 

Reviews and Your Restaurant: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Why Reviews Matter

Whether you consider it to be a good or bad thing, the food retail world is controlled by the consumer, and your restaurant is just living in it. If your customer has a bad experience and chooses to tell others about it, your operation could be in trouble. Word of mouth is extremely important for the perception of your restaurant, so it’s crucial to know how to handle reviews of all kinds.

Where do customers leave reviews?

You may say ‘I’ve never seen a review of my restaurant before’. More than likely, you’ve just never seen the reviews. The most common places to look for reviews of your restaurant are Facebook, Google, and Yelp.

Facebook

Because of its user-friendliness, Facebook is popular with customers and restaurant owners alike. Your restaurant’s business page is a great platform to have pictures of the day’s specials, hours, and social interaction, all in one place. When it comes to reviews, Facebook creates a star rating that denotes the quality of the reviews left, with five stars being the best. You can also change how you want to filter reviews: most helpful, most recent, and star rating. Because of how often it is used daily for news, photos, and checking up on friends, it’s only natural that Facebook restaurant reviews are taken seriously. Potential customers can trust the words of their mutual friends and can even see if others they know have reviewed the restaurant.

Facebook Business Page

Facebook Reviews Page

Learn how to find and interact with your Facebook page reviews.

Google

If you look up your restaurant on Google’s search engine, you will see your business name off to the right side, along with categories like directions, website, and an overall star rating. This star rating is determined by an average of the reviews left. If you click into these reviews (and there are some) you will be able to see the individual reviews. Google is a super important facet of customer reviews because whether people are searching for your menu, hours, or directions, they’re most likely typing it into the Google search engine. This will bring up the sidebar with the star-rating and reviews front and center.

Google Search Reviews

Find out how to respond to Google reviews.

Yelp

One of the most common review sites, and the thorn in the side of many restaurant owners, Yelp helps future customers narrow down their choice of where to do business. It also gives customers that have visited the business an outlet to review the quality of services and their expectations of that business. Yelp has its own algorithm when it comes to displaying reviews. Like Google and Facebook, Yelp also uses a star ranking system, calculated by reviews left. Yelp tends to display a frequent Yelper’s reviews over a new user, making it more difficult to see reviews chronologically.

Yelp Business Page

Yelp Reviews Page

Learn how to use Yelp to the fullest potential with these tips for your restaurant.

What do I do if someone leaves my restaurant a good review?

Congratulations on your restaurant’s hard work! Here’s how you can make the most out of your patron’s compliments:

Respond Back– Before you do anything else with your positive review, you need to write back! Good reviews deserve just as much attention as bad reviews, plus you can promote them without having to come up with an apology statement. Thank the customer for their review and acknowledge that they went out of their way to pass along kind words.

Give Credit Where Credit It Is Due– After you pat yourself on the back, make sure to bring the review to your staff’s attention. If it is about the service, recognize your bartenders or wait staff at the next shift meeting. If it’s about the food, congratulate the cooks on a job well done. While credit should certainly be served to those that were mentioned in the review, you can commend all moving parts of your restaurant. This success is the result of teamwork in your restaurant.

Show It Off– Publish the review on your social media channels, have framed testimonials (do it yourself with Small Thanks), or even include it into your next menu design. Reviews are a great way for your restaurant to tout its successes and would be a shame to not promote them!

What do I do if someone leaves my restaurant a bad review?

Don’t panic! A bad review can become an opportunity for your restaurant if handled correctly. The process below can help streamline how you or your staff deal with negative reviews.

Study Up–  You’ll need to do a little research before answering the review with your emotions flying. First, take note of the date the review was posted and, if it gives details, who (if anyone) was involved. This can help you gain some perspective on how to respond to the review.

It’s Not Too Late to Say Sorry– Apologizing is crucial. Even if it was the weather. Even if it was a fluke in your well-oiled staff. Even if it was the way your restaurant is decorated. Say you’re sorry. That person is not leaving a review for no reason (usually) and wants their feelings validated.

Be a Problem Solver– After your apology, be sure to offer up a solution that’s related to what the customer was concerned about. If there was an issue with the food, reach out with a free meal or appetizer. If there was a problem with the staff, communicate that it will be brought up during a team meeting to prevent it from happening again. Also, if the incident has since been addressed and solved, let the reviewer know of the policy change.

When dealing with a bad review, it’s important to acknowledge the reviewer’s feelings and empathize while also offering a solution. Be sure to touch on each of these points and tailor the response to the reviewer’s experience. Canned responses quickly lose candor and don’t win you any points for originality.

As with positive reviews, be sure to bring up bad reviews with your staff. Walk through the situation with them and provide a process for how to deal with similar situations. You can even use them as motivation for your staff by putting bad reviews in their break area, especially if they are unmotivated by tips.

Why does brand management matter?

Having fresh reviews, engaging with those leaving reviews, and monitoring your social media channels may sound like it will take a lot of time and energy. But without good brand management, it’s extremely difficult to stay on top of customer reviews. In doing these daily tasks, you can quickly pick up on these channels’ review components and see what people are saying about your restaurant. It’s important to keep an eye on these as much as possible to create the highest amount of engagement, and ideally, new reviews.

When making decisions, customers are searching for recently posted reviews, as it should be the most up to date information. Unfortunately, the barrage of five-star reviews you received early last year just isn’t going to cut it. According to Search Engine Land, “69 percent of consumers believe that reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant”. In other words, a review’s usefulness depreciates in value for bringing in new business. Constant flow of reviews show that your restaurant is staying relevant and can be used for customers to make more informed decisions.

By successfully managing your brand, you can incite more reviews by guests, encouraging others to come see what the fuss is about. To help you stay on top of your restaurant, try setting up a Google Alert to easily monitor possible reviews or comments.

Reviews can stand as a welcoming beacon or caution sign; handling them properly can make all the difference. By staying on top of good and bad reviews with attentive brand management, your restaurant can create a quality experience for all guests.

Erwin: A Show Stopping Addition to Our Rustic Industrial Collection of Restaurant Seating

Irwin Cross Back Chair - Wood and Metal - Rustic Industrial Collection

Trying to choose between the warmth of wood seating and the commercial durability of metal?  If so, you no longer have to make that choice.  The newest member of our rustic-industrial seating collection, the Erwin, offers both.  Distressed oak and black powder coated steel come together for a balanced look that enables both to shine.

The Erwin is designed with a cross back that provides both support and structural strength, while adding a unique style.  The innovative leg design utilizes square extrusions to create the back legs, while the front legs and seat supports are stamped metal, offering a unique look and extra strength.  The frame is fully welded and comes with non-marring glides that won’t scratch your floors.

The Erwin comes in both chairs and barstools that look great in any setting, from tavern to coffee shop.  If you would like to learn more about how the Erwin can fit into your restaurant’s décor, please give our sales and customer care team a call at (800) 986 – 5352, and we will be happy to help you.

What types of finishes can be used on restaurant table tops? FAQ’s from the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

FAQ's From the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

Restaurant table tops can be finished with any finish available on the market, the question becomes more which should they be finished with. We’ve broken down the ins and outs of the three most popular finishes for solid wood tables to help you figure out what is the best finish to select for your restaurant tables.

Varnish is commonly used in the residential and commercial furniture sectors. Varnish is an oil-based wood finish that has been in use for centuries, while it has been around for some time, it can be a process to use. Before application can begin, all bubbles need to be stirred out of the varnish to avoid being transferred to the table top. When applying, end users should take care not to overbrush. Too many brushstrokes can be visible on the finished product. The varnish also has a slower drying time (ideally 10-15 hours between coats) than that of lacquer, running the risk of dust settling and corrupting the finishing process. Therefore, it has become a common practice to thin the varnish before use. After dry time, varnish is an extremely durable finish for highly used furniture pieces such as bar counters and restaurant table tops. But this lengthy wait time is a drawback for mass production, leading varnish to mostly be used by DIY-er’s and custom residential projects.

Lacquer is a popular commercial finish that comes in a variety of transparent sheens on many restaurant table tops. Lacquer uses resin-based liquid solutions that quickly dry into a hard film when exposed to oxygen by way of a catalytic agent. In the restaurant industry, most lacquer formulations include a catalytic agent. When the lacquer is dried, the catalytic agent allows the finish to form a more protective and durable coating. To apply, lacquer is typically sprayed on with its quick dry time of 5 to 10 minutes making it time efficient for manufacturers. A lacquer finish can easily be repaired with a trip to the hardware store by the end user since the table top normally does not need stripped down. On our table tops, we typically finish them using a three-part application of catalyzed lacquer sealer and top coat.

Polyurethane finish is one of the most durable restaurant table top finishes because of its similar characteristics to plastic. Polyurethane finish takes on many of the positives of varnish and less of its drawbacks. This finish can be oil or acrylic based, depending on the blend, making it chemical resistant and waterproof. This finish is applied with a brush and involves waiting four to six hours between coats. After applied, the polyurethane is harder and more durable than lacquer. You can often find polyurethane finish as an upgraded option because of the detailed processes it takes to apply. While there are different formulations of polyurethane, on our products, we use a commercial-grade formula as a premium on option on all our solid wood table tops.

Finish Comparisons

Which finish should you use on your table tops?

The answer is not so cut and dry. It all depends on what your intended use is for your table tops.

  • If you’ve been collecting antique tables to give your restaurant a certain look, it’s likely they will have a varnish finish because this method has been around for many years. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance that these tables are not commercial-grade, which could present structural issues with the table itself in the future.
  • If you’re a restaurant owner in need of basic solid wood tables for a swiftly approaching open date, then a lacquer finish will do just fine. Lacquer-finished tops are easy to repair should something happen to them.
  • If you’re putting quite a bit of money down on specialty tables and want to increase their resistance to water, chemicals, and body oils, a polyurethane finish would be your best option. This modern finish is formulated to resist standing liquids caused by spills and cleaning.

There are pros and cons of all finishes, but in the end what will determine the ideal finish for your table tops is how you plan on using them.

Facebook Local: How Facebook’s Latest App Could Affect Your Restaurant

Social media is a constantly changing medium that can be hard to stay on top of. while you may be overwhelmed with the amount of apps there are out there, there is a new one that should definitely be on your radar. Recently Facebook launched its latest app called Local and it could have a major effect on the restaurant and hospitality industry. But don’t worry, we’ve done the research on this new app so that you don’t have to.

What is Local?

You might not yet have heard of Local, Facebook’s newest venture in the app world, but you soon will. Local is Facebook’s take on the popular Yelp and Foursquare apps and a reinvention of their Events app. They have combined permanent places and events, into a single search engine powered by Facebook’s 70 million business pages, while factoring in reviews and check-ins made by the user’s friends.

The goal is to help users pick between great bars on a block, and find out which one will best fit their needs and wants for that outing. Facebook Local’s home page shows nearby restaurants, cafes, drinks, attractions, as well as the places the people you follow are going. Through the app, users can even search for a specific type of food or event.

How Does Local Work?

With the discover feed, users can find out what’s popular with friends and see a feed specifically curated for events they’re interested in.  Once they find a restaurant or event they’d like to learn more about, they can click the page to learn all the details and even check in. Under the Guides tab users can explore their interests based upon category, ranging from Food & Drink to religion & Spirituality.

Local can connect to their personal calendar to make sure they never miss an important event. Users can adjust their location when traveling so that they can find great spot and events even if they are unfamiliar with the area. The app has something for everyone.

What it Means for Restaurants

You might be asking “Why does this matter for my restaurant?” First of all, you’ll have to have a Facebook page to be included in any of the searches made in the app. So, if you don’t have a page or you don’t update your page often, you might want to take steps to rectify that.

One of the best parts of Local is that owners don’t need to download a separate app to contribute to it. Simply post about different events to your Facebook business page through either the desktop or mobile app and it will also appear on the Local app. By taking a few minutes out of your week to update your page regularly, you could reach new customers.

This new app can help you to reach an audience that you might not have otherwise been able to contact before. Who knows, you could have a first-time customer that found you through Local become a lifelong customer after checking their phone one night when they were bored.

Currently, users can find restaurants through the app and book reservations if their Facebook page is enabled to do so. To learn how to enable reservation booking through your Facebook page, check out our step by step instructions on setting up your OpenTable Reservation Facebook App. If you aren’t sure if your Facebook page is enabled for reservations, you can check here.

In the Future

Currently, the app does not offer the ability to order food, but developers say that it could be on the horizon. Adding that feature would really create opportunities to increase takeout sales for restaurants.

Local is still a young app so there are no certainties, but with some effort and creative thinking restaurateurs can turn this tool into filled seats, new customers, and more profit.

If you have had success with Facebook’s new Local app let us know in the comments below.

Top 6 Restaurant Cash Handling Blunders You Must Stop

Cash Register for Cash Handling Blunders

By David Scott Peters
TheRestaurantExpert.com

If you have poor cash handling procedures in place in your restaurant, no other system you put in place will matter. I don’t care how efficient your restaurant is, if every penny of your sales isn’t deposited in the bank, there won’t be enough money to pay your bills. Cash controls must take top priority. No matter what you think needs to be addressed first, I tell restaurant owners to prioritize the review of restaurant cash handling procedures over everything else.

Here are some samples of classic cash handling errors we see in restaurants all the time:

  1. Change in a glass or a drawer. This is a practice used to simplify the nightly deposit. It is used two different ways. First, it’s a time saver to avoid counting loose change. Second, it is used to make the nightly deposit balance exactly to what the point of sales system says the cash balance should be.
  2. A week’s worth of unsecured checks in an unlocked filing cabinet. We often see this when the general manager or the owner is the only one allowed to make a bank run, when there is not enough cash to deposit due to credit card purchases or because the owner or manager is just plain lazy.
  3. A bin with a year’s worth of used non-voided paper gift certificates. While management was doing the right thing making sure all of the gift certificates used were accounted for on a nightly basis, they failed to write the word void on them and then saved them in an unsecured clear bin. Any employee could steal a small amount on a daily basis and reuse them to keep cash sales.
  4. Customer checks taped to the office wall. Many restaurants cater or hold banquets on premise. This means you will have customers leave a deposit check to guarantee the party will happen. This practice is meant to cover costs if they cancel. The challenge comes when the owner or manager doesn’t deposit the checks and tapes them to the wall, because you don’t know if payment is good. A dishonest employee could steal the checks or use the information to steal your customer’s identity and conduct check fraud.
  5. Credit card numbers recorded in a book. In July 2010, a new law was enacted that makes it illegal to retain customers’ credit card numbers in anything other than a secure online record keeping system that meets the law’s requirements. Failing to follow the law’s requirements can result in fines as much as $5,000 for each credit card number kept.
  6. Blank checks and forged checks to routinely pay for deliveries. It is a common practice that restaurant owners leave blank checks to pay for invoices, or they allow a key employee, who is not authorized to sign checks, to simply forge their signature to pay for invoices. This exposes you to a great deal of liability.

If you any of these procedures is in place in your restaurant, know that you’re leaving yourself open to theft and liability. It is your responsibility to make sure ALL of your money makes it into the bank on a daily basis. You must eliminate poor cash handling procedures, eliminate the majority of ways your cash can be stolen and avoid costly fines through proper systems.

David Scott Peters is a restaurant consultant, event speaker and founder of TheRestaurantExpert.com, a company committed to the success of independent restaurants. TheRestaurantExpert.com offers an exclusive online restaurant management software designed specifically to meet the complete operational needs of independent operators, including holding their managers accountable and running a profitable business. Combined with one-on-one coaching and group workshops, TheRestaurantExpert.com is helping independent restaurants find success in the highly competitive restaurant industry. Download a free report to discover the #1 secret to lowering food and labor costs and running the independent restaurant you’ve always dreamed of. Learn more about how David can help you at www.TheRestaurantExpert.com.

OSHA 101 for Restaurants

Chef and Inspector - OSHA for Restaurants

Last month, we were at the Pennsylvania Foodservice Expo in Pittsburgh, PA, and had the pleasure of attending a seminar given by Thomas Barnowski, Director of Corporate and Public Safety Education at Northampton Community College.  The seminar, called You Can’t Afford to Ignore OSHA, was a great hour-long introduction to OSHA, and the safety rules and regulations that govern general industry.

While Mr. Barnowski’s presentation was not specific to restaurants, one key takeaway from the presentation was that OSHA’s own website www.osha.gov provides a wealth of information and resources for all industries, including restaurants.

If you are unfamiliar with OSHA and the standards in the OSH Act, we’ve put together a short introduction here.

What is OSHA?

OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, was established in 1970 when Richard Nixon signed into law the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act).  At that time, there was a real need for governmental oversight of all industries due to a rising number of workplace deaths and injuries.  According to osha.gov, by the end of the 1960’s, the number of deaths due to workplace hazards had risen to 14,000 per year with 56 million workers; currently, that number is approximately 4,500 deaths per year with 127 million full time workers in the United States.

I thought OSHA regulations were for manufacturers and other industrial companies – What does OSHA have to do with my restaurant?

In addition to specialized areas like construction, maritime, and agriculture, OSHA enforces regulations that cover general industry, including restaurants.   As a restaurant owner, you are subject to the same standards as a company that operates a manufacturing plant; the implementation of those standards may differ, however.  For example, under OSHA regulations, employers must provide their employees with personal protective equipment.  At a restaurant, that might mean supplying employees with special cut-resistant gloves, whereas a manufacturing business might have to supply its employees with a welding mask, respirator, or hearing protection.

As a restaurant owner/operator, you should also be aware of new disclosure rules that took effect in 2015.  Under these new rules, employers must report to OSHA any work-related fatalities, in-patient hospitalizations, amputations, or loss of an eye, within 8 hours.  The new rules are particularly relevant to restaurants whose employees who are more likely to sustain reportable cuts, burns, and lifting injuries.

What are employers expected to do under the OSH Act?

Under the OSH Act, “employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace” and “to keep their workplace free of serious recognized hazards”.  While those statements may sound subjective, the many standards in the OSH Act detail specific employer responsibilities for everything from means of egress to hazardous material procedures.  OSHA also publishes standard interpretation letters that explain how the standards apply in particular circumstances.

There are a few other requirements that you must follow to maintain compliance with the OSH Act:

  • Post an official OSHA poster in a highly visible area of your workplace. The poster notifies employees of their rights under the OSH Act and lists your obligations as an employer.
  • Keep accurate records of workplace accidents and injuries.
  • Report any work-related fatalities, inpatient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye to OSHA within 8 hours of being notified of the event.
  • Ensure that employees and their representatives have access to their medical records.
  • Maintain a no-retaliation policy for employees that bring up safety concerns or contact OSHA.

 

Which OSHA standards apply to my restaurant?

The answer is, any and all of them, depending on the nature of your operation.  For example, if your specialty is making ice cream using liquid nitrogen, then you will have to put safety procedures into place regarding the use of that substance, whereas the average pizza shop would not have the same requirements.  However, we were able to come up with a list of general things that you can do to maintain a safe work environment in your restaurant.

What can I do to make my restaurant safer?

  • Communication – One of the most important things that you can do to ensure a safe, healthy workplace is to open effective lines of communication with your employees. Effective communication means more than just telling employees what to do, it also means listening to them and acting on their feedback.  When employees feel like their employer is listening to them, particularly about safety concerns, they are much more likely to become invested in the process of making the restaurant safer, and less likely to bring their concerns directly to OSHA.
  • Training– Under the OSH Act, employers are responsible for training their employees on the health and safety aspects of their jobs.  This includes training them to use the tools and machines that are necessary to perform their jobs, training them on safety procedures, and training them on emergency preparedness.  OSHA also states that the training must use a language and vocabulary that employees can understand, so if your employees do not comprehend English, then you have to train them using their language.  You should also document your training practices; if a reportable accident ever occurs, you will have to prove to the OSHA inspector that the employee involved had adequate training to do the job.
  • Ergonomics – Did you know that, according to OSHA, sprains and strains are the most common types of injury in restaurants? It makes sense if you think about it – restaurant employees are constantly standing, bending, lifting, and performing repetitive actions.  Chopping vegetables for 6-8 hours per day, every day, can certainly result in a repetitive use strain if not done correctly and with the proper tools.  Care should be taken to make sure that employees have the equipment that they need to perform their jobs safely and efficiently.  Prep stations should be at a comfortable height so that prep cooks don’t have to stoop all day.  Use ergonomically designed shelving so that employees are lifting heavy items from the proper heights, and are not straining to lift items above a comfortable level.
  • Floors – Slips and falls can result in serious injuries, but they are among the most preventable. Make sure that floors are clean, not slippery, and that there are no obstructions in employees’ way.  Check carpeted areas routinely to make sure that there are no tears or ends pulling up; doing so will protect patrons as well as employees.  Also, make sure that if employees are standing for long periods of time at prep stations and cooking stations, you install some type of padded surface to avoid leg and back strain.
  • Machinery – Train employees on the safe operation of machinery like deli slicers, meat grinders, stovetops, ovens, and refrigeration units. Make sure that equipment guards remain in place and are functional.  Clean and service equipment regularly to prevent malfunction.  Implement a proper lockout/tagout procedure for equipment that is not in service.
  • Heat – There are two concerns regarding heat in a commercial kitchen. The most obvious is burns; employees can easily burn themselves on hot pans, hot oil splash, and even hot plates.  Train employees how to work safely in each circumstance where they have the potential to get burned.  The second concern regarding heat is heat exhaustion.  Commercial kitchens can easily reach temperatures of over 100 degrees, and employees can be exposed to heat exhaustion and even heat stroke, particularly when they are on their feet for 8-10 hours at a time.  To prevent this, give kitchen employees frequent breaks in a cooler room (even the walk-in cooler), and encourage them to hydrate often with water or an electrolyte replacement drink.  Note: have cooks steer clear of coffee and caffeinated drinks because they can dehydrate you even further.
  • Cuts – There’s no way around working with sharp objects in a restaurant. Knives, graters, peelers, mandolins, and various other cutting instruments are a necessary part of daily prep work in a commercial kitchen.  The best way to ensure safety when working with sharp tools is to properly train your employees in their use.  However, even professional chefs with years of knife-work experience get cut from time to time.  Distractions happen, and cutting objects are not very forgiving.  For that reason, invest in cut-resistant gloves for employees that will be working with sharp cutting instruments.  There are many types available at various price points, and most are machine washable.
  • Chemicals – Unless you’re a molecular gastronomist, experimenting with different chemical reactions in your food, your restaurant’s use of chemicals will most likely be confined to various cleaning solutions. Train employees in their proper use, including mixing and storage.  Make sure that all chemicals are properly labeled and have hazard warnings on them.  Finally, keep a binder of Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and train employees how to read them.

As a restaurateur, one of your main priorities should be keeping your staff safe and healthy; it will not only engender loyalty, but will save you money in the long run on lower turnover and training costs.  While OSHA is feared by many business owners, it can be a great resource to help you create a safe environment.  Refer to the OSHA standards often and you should find answers to many of the safety questions that you or your employees have.

Have you ever had an experience with OSHA, good or bad?  Let us know in the comments below.

Improving Employee Retention in Your Restaurant

Ask any restaurant owner about something they struggle with, and the problem of keeping good employees will make the list almost every single time. The real issues begin when employees don’t stick around very long, leaving owners understaffed and scrambling.

The restaurant industry offers a unique flexibility of schedule that appeals to many. Whether it is the student looking to work when not in class, or the performer looking to subsidize their passion, the industry attracts all kinds of people with unique scheduling needs. That also means that those same employees might not see their job at your restaurant as their top priority. The restaurant industry has an above-average turnover rate. In 2016, the general industry employee turnover rate was 46.1%. In the restaurants and accommodations sector, the turnover rate was at a whopping 72.9% in 2016, up from a rate of 72.2% in 2015, that is a pretty big difference.

Now you might be saying to yourself, ‘Well everyone in the industry has a high turnover rate, that is just how things are. Why should I make changes to improve my retention rate?’

Good question. Other than the immediate struggles of being left understaffed, every time you lose an hourly employee it can cost upwards of $3,500 to hire and train a new one. Now imagine every time someone walks out the door, $3,500 of your dollars are walking out with them. Really puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?

Hiring Employees

A great way to improve your employee retention is by starting at the very beginning, and by that, I mean the hiring process. The first thing is having patience. You may feel like you are in a rush to make sure that all your shifts are covered, but in the long run you will thank yourself for selecting the right candidate and not just the first person to walk in the door.

One of the most common practices in the industry, when looking at a potential employee’s resume, is to hire someone with experience and not consider your company culture. An employee with a positive attitude can be trained to do things the way that you do them, but a bad fit for your culture will always be a bad fit. An employee that is a poor fit usually leaves and ends up costing you money. In that case, you’ll be back to square one, typically with a few bad stories to tell.

Another thing to look at while you have their resume in your hand, is the frequency at which they move jobs. If someone switches places of employment every few months, that is a red flag that they won’t have a problem doing that to you. Take time to consider why they might need to switch jobs so much.

Hiring Managers

If you are seeking a manager, consider hiring from within your restaurant. Let employees know that you are looking for someone to help with special projects, you may be surprised by the response. Employees you would not have originally considered may be looking to take on more responsibility, while those that seem more likely to jump at the opportunity are happy to stay in their current position.

Through these special projects, you will be able to determine who is good at doing the work of a manager. If they are not good at the special projects, don’t get upset with them, don’t fire them, simply move them back into the current position without participating in any more different projects. This way you don’t lose an employee, but you are able to determine who can handle the role of manager.

For those that excel, approach them with the idea of becoming a manager-in-training. If they are onboard, start training them for the position. Some will do well, and some might not. For those that don’t, you now have a well-trained supervisor that can handle things on occasion and those who do wow you can now become a manager.

There are many benefits that come with hiring within your company. When you hire from within the company you know the person already fits your company culture, they won’t have to deal with your other employees testing them as a newcomer, and they know how to do things your way.  Another benefit is that current employees will see that you promote from within and will have something to motivate them to continue to do their best in hopes of advancing.

You will need to consider the best ways to transition an employee to the manager roll in terms of their coworkers. During your special projects, be sure to observe how they handle having authority over their coworkers, and probably friends. You don’t want them to be a doormat, but you also don’t want them to overcompensate and become too harsh. It is a fine line that needs to be observed.

Training

The training process is a critical time in helping to improve employee retention. It is tempting to pair your new employee with a veteran and leave them to it with minimal supervision. The problem is, if the veteran employee has developed bad habits they could be passing them on to your entire staff.

Train your employees on the correct way to do their job and when. When training, it is also critical to remember that people have different ways of learning. Some learn by seeing, some by hearing, and others by doing.  Try to incorporate all aspect when doing your initial training.

If your new employee makes mistakes, don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that they are a bad fit. When something is done incorrectly, retrain them on the proper way to do it. After the third time they make a mistake, you might want to sit down and evaluate whether they don’t know how to correctly complete the task or they simply don’t care.

A consistent orientation process and ongoing training will help to keep all your employees on the same page with the way you do things, creating an overall more pleasant work environment.

The Competitive Edge

There is always the concern that a well-trained employee might simply decide to work for a different restaurant. A few things can be done to try and convince your staff that your business is the best fit for them.

The most obvious way to keep employees is by offering them competitive pay with the opportunities for increased pay. Nurture long-term goals and provide the opportunity for advancement. Pay for classes and training, an example of this would be to pay for ServSafe certifications.

Do your best to schedule your employees well. Don’t always give the same employees the slower shifts, and give the occasional shift choice. That being said, we all know that sometimes you can’t make everyone happy, occasionally some people won’t be happy with their shift and that is okay.

Also, don’t underestimate the value of free incentives such as offering a shift meal. It will cost you a little but pales in comparison to the costs of constant hiring and training new employees.

Leaving

Sometimes no matter what you do, an employee is going to leave. This is a great opportunity to have a candid conversation with them about why they are leaving and if any changes could be made to your process to encourage employee retention.

One thing you can do is conduct an exit interview and ask them a few questions about their time with you.  A few questions you might like to ask are:

  1. Why are you leaving?
  2. What could we have done better?
  3. What does your new company offer that made you decide to leave?
  4. Were you comfortable talking to your manager about work problems?
  5. Were you given the tools to succeed at your job?
  6. What did you like most about your job? And what would you change about it?
  7. What was your best or worst day on the job?

Keep in mind with an exit interview that the employee might say some things you disagree with or don’t like hearing. Try to keep an open mind. Don’t argue with the exiting employee. It won’t do either of you any good to end your relationship on bad terms. Most likely you won’t seriously consider making all the changes they suggest but they might be able to give you some insight into a problem or educate you on a problem you didn’t even know was happening.

Retaining good employees is a struggle across the restaurant industry. By taking the right steps during hiring, training, and doing your best to remain competitive as an employer, you can give your restaurant a great foundation for creating a stellar staff and a happy work environment.