The Recipe of a Restaurant: How to Break into the Industry

Open for Business

Have you dreamed of owning your own restaurant? Maybe you’ve sketched out what the exterior would look like on a napkin, daydreamed about what you would serve, or even picked out your china?

But have you ever thought of taking this dream one step farther and putting your ideas to work?

If you’re looking to bust into the restaurant business but aren’t quite sure of what you would need to do it, we’ve compiled the largest pieces you need, into one guide. And because opening a restaurant is no easy task, we spoke with Rob Coffaro, owner of Coffaro’s Pizza in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, to get his expertise on the subject.

Coffaro's Pizza

Prep Time

Concept- First things first, you need a concept. This may be something you already have under belt, but if not, you need to cement what your vision is for your restaurant. Having a more concrete concept can help you carry the elements you want into your restaurant more clearly.

Location- Whether you’re taking over another restaurant or building from the ground up, you should have your location. Talk to your realtor about the different options for your commercial venture. This will impact how you finance your restaurant.

Finances- How you finance will largely depend on your situation. If you are so lucky to have been saving up in your personal savings account, these liquid funds could get you on your way. If your credit is in good standing, a credit card could be a viable solution, depending on how much you need. Another option could be a restaurant specific loan or a Small Business Administration loan. A restaurant specific loan is not bound to a specific need and has a varying interest rates and terms, depending on the size of the loan. Based on the financial institution, this loan can have many different names but serves the same purpose. An SBA backed loan can offer lower down payments and longer terms to the business owner but can be difficult to qualify for. To qualify, a business must meet size requirements, be in good financial standing, be in the for-profit industry, and meet the credit requirements of the lending institution. Instead of going the commercial route, you could also have investors help fund your restaurant. If these are friends and family, remember that while the money can be convenient, it can also be a strain on the relationship.

Business plan- After you’ve analyzed the risks and you’re ready to take on the responsibility of owning your own business, it’s time to create a business plan. This plan gives you a guiding light when things seem dark or what to do next. When documenting your business plan, be sure to include information on your concept, team standards, design, target market, market overview, financial risk, business structure, and external individuals that will be helping you run your business (like a lawyer or accountant).

Legal matters- If you plan on serving alcohol or having a BYOB policy, make sure you check your state’s liquor license laws. Some states can take longer than others for this process, so if this applies to your business definitely get a jump on it!

Slice of Advice- Be Organized

Mix in Your Ingredients

Write your menu- It’s time to test out what culinary creations will grace your menu. Use focus groups of friends, family, and other chefs to narrow down what fits your restaurant’s style and flow. Make sure to also include various substitutions to accommodate guests with food allergies or dietary restrictions. When designing your menu, you need to keep in mind the physical look of the menu, how categories will be presented, and the pattern in how it’s read.

Network- How are you going to obtain the ingredients of your daily fare. Research foodservice vendors on price, quality, and delivery time but also keep local farms or vendors in mind. A great way to build relationships in the community is to partner these homegrown businesses which could help get your foot in the door for future events.

Get social- Start creating a buzz about your establishment. Choose two or three social media platforms that you are well-versed in (or are prepared to master) and begin showing the world what makes your business unique. You have a great opportunity to show the beginnings of your restaurant, from the first time you walk through the door to opening night. Use it!

Dimensions- Space planning can give you important figures such as your capacity, how many pieces of furniture you can order, and the image of how your restaurant will look at the end. There are many requirements that restauranteurs need to implement in their layout. Whether large or small, your restaurant can be planned out before you purchase a single piece of furniture.

Filling the space- To complete your restaurant, you will need commercial furniture and restaurant equipment (think refrigerators, ovens, etc.). Be sure to purchase products that promise quality and durability. Don’t forget to also pick up dinnerware, napkins, cooking utensils, and silverware to run your business smoothly and efficiently. It’s also time to finalize your menus and send them off to print!

Safety is key- In most states; you need to have a pre-operational inspection done before your restaurant opens. During this inspection, there should be absolutely no food on the premises. The pre-operational inspection confirms that your restaurant is compliant with health laws.

Build your team- The amount of upper-level management you need will depend on your business structure and size but most restaurants have a general manager, assistant manager, shift leaders, and chefs. You will want to look for individuals that are successful in recruiting, supervising, and budgeting. When your management team is in place, you can start hiring the wait and kitchen staff. From top level management all the way to the first-time job holder, training is important for seamless, united customer service.

Slice of Advice- Hiring

Let’s Get Cooking

Get your feet wet- Have your soft opening a couple weeks before your grand opening that introduces your business to the community. This lets your future customers get to know you and get excited that you will be opening very shortly.

Call your health inspector- Directly after your soft opening, schedule an operational inspection with the health department. Staying up on these issues is important for the longevity of your business.

Make it an event- For your grand opening, make sure that you are present and available. This is the time to enjoy your handiwork and introduce yourself and your team to all those who came out to support you. You should invite some sort of press outlet, but you may want to also hire a photographer to attend. Designate a staff member or friend to be in charge of social media that night, this is an event you will want to remember.

Slice of Advice- Do the Math

Enjoy Your Final Product

So your restaurant is now a full-blown operational business. That’s awesome, but the hard work is just beginning. You need to keep up on budgeting, food safety, licenses, and your customers’ overall experience. It’s important to keep in mind that while it may be simpler to hire the accountant and just leave the finances to them or hire an assistant to focus on staying up to date on licensing, you need to be involved. Just because your restaurant is open does not mean you can stop researching and educating yourself. Let this and every ounce of customer feedback drive you to become a better restaurant and business. You need to be involved with each workings of your business to protect and nourish it every step of the way.

Closeout Craziness

As a company, we take pride in offering our customers the lowest prices in the land, but there is one section of our website that has exceptionally great deals. That is our Featured On Sale Items page. And right now that page is full of closeout items at prices so low they will blow your mind. Let’s take a look at some of our newest closeout additions to the page.

Reversible Laminate Café Table Tops

These table tops come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.  For shape, you have your choice of round, square, or rectangular. Once you decide on the shape you can choose from an array of sizes. Finally, you can choose between Mahogany/Black and Oak/Walnut colors. Bases for these table tops are sold separately. With prices starting at $10.00 a top these table tops are sure to sell out quick.

Clear Coat Bar Stools and Chairs with Rust Markings

Due to some issues at the factory, we have received an order of clear coat chairs and bar stools that have unique rust blemishes underneath the clear coat. These blemishes do not compromise the structural integrity of the furniture in any way. The rust markings are sealed and will not change in shape or size. Made of the same 16-gauge steel as their non-blemished counterparts, these pieces are able to stand up to the rigors of everyday commercial use. Each piece is unique in no two markings being the same. These items are priced to sell at $14.00 for chairs and $16.00 for bar stools.

If you are on the hunt for an amazing deal one of these closeout pieces could be great for you. But be sure to hurry, stock is limited and once they are gone we won’t be ordering any more. Click the link below to start shopping now.

 

http://www.tableschairsbarstools.com/featureditems.html

Popular Restaurant Trends Throughout the Years

Popular Restaurant Trends

How many times a day do you see blog articles pop up on social media titled “25 Most Embarrassing Food Clichés of (insert year here)”? And once your curiosity has gotten the best of you and you’ve clicked on these articles, you see a list teeming with negativity about food and restaurant trends from years gone by. While these articles can be entertaining, hindsight is always 20/20.

It’s safe to say that the restaurant industry has had plenty of changes occur from its inception, some of them better than others. “New” trends are difficult to come by in the restaurant industry, with many ideas being perfected over the years. But as restauranteurs, it’s necessary to look back on restaurant history to see what’s coming in the future.

The 1950’s

The 1950’s easily became the golden era for American restaurants. The Great Depression and war were a thing of the past and left the economy booming. This time of prosperity made it simple for other industries to flourish as well. Due to improvements in the nation’s highway system, the need for stops along interstates grew. With more and more travelers on the road, franchise restaurants became more in demand.

McDonald's in 1954

Photo from allday.com

Many of these franchised restaurants are still popular today. In 1954, the McDonald’s restaurant we know today was bought from the original McDonald brothers and transformed into franchise gold by Ray Kroc. McDonald’s was not the first fast food restaurant, but the assembly-line system was revolutionary for fast food restaurants to come. Kroc was able to turn this humble hot dog stand into a quick and efficient franchising opportunity. McDonald’s franchise model became a beacon of success for other restaurants, like Kentucky Fried Chicken and Dairy Queen, to follow in suit.

Highway System

Photo from nesbittrealty.com

With the highway system improvements also came advancements in the automotive industry. The 1950’s was filled with car culture; so why would restaurants be any different? While the first drive-in was opened along the Dallas-Fort Worth Highway in 1921, the 1950’s were the true heyday of drive-in diners. Serving up burgers and shakes, sometimes on skates, these diners became social hangouts for teens and families alike. The drive-in trend continued through the 1960’s and then declined with the increasing number of drive-through options in restaurants.

The 1960’s

Steak and Ale Menu

Photo from cravedfw.com

Although processed and junk food captured much of the baby boomers’ attention, it wasn’t the only trend happening in America at the time. Steak and Ale (casual dining) began offering a salad bar buffet to guests, keeping them occupied while waiting for their dinners. Soon enough, salad bars were popping up in steakhouses all over the country as a way to customize a guest’s appetizer.

Dining in the 60's

Photo from petermoruzzi.com

This decade was also defined by the meats served in restaurants. Most entrees at this time were focused around beef of some sort. Beef wellington, steak Diane, and Swedish meatballs were all popular beef dishes of 1960’s. In middle class restaurants, beef and lobster (or surf n’ turf) dinners were commonly seen on the menu.

Howard Johnson's

Photo from slate.com

At this point in history, there was an increasing emphasis on family time outside the home (vacations, a meal out, etc.). Popular restaurants of the time, Japanese steakhouse Benihana and Howard Johnson’s were often patronized by these families looking to spend quality time together and bond over dinner. In the 1960’s, dinner became more than just food and more focused on the emotions associated with it as a family.

The 1970’s

The 1970’s marked the beginning of environmentalism as the newest social cause, affecting the food and restaurant industry. Changing their tune from the 1960’s, customers wanted healthier options that were unprocessed and uncomplicated. This shift led to a rise in vegetarianism and health food stores.

At this point in time, there was a shift in gender roles. With a larger number of women in the workforce, restaurants were used as experiences with the family or a chance to get away from the preparations and cleaning up required of cooking at home. More casual-dining chains began spreading across the nation like the Cheesecake Factory and Ruby Tuesday, both opening their doors in 1972. For a quick bite, the 1970’s marked Subway’s start into franchising. Much like the fame of the McDonald’s assembly line from the 1950’s, the Subway assembly line was just as important for future restaurants in similar niches.

In finer dining, Le Cirque (New York City) opened its doors in 1974 by Sirio Maccioni and became a landmark in the city. One of the most infamous dishes to come out of Le Cirque was pasta primavera. This entrée soon became one of the most ordered items at restaurants across the country, its popularity spilling over into the 1980’s as well.

Le Cirque, New York City

Photo from insatiable-critic.com

The 1980’s

Innovation ran rampant in 1980’s restaurants. Chefs were taking creative license to create new combinations and dishes, making restaurants trendy and modern. While there were many traditionalists who argued against these new methods, it was certainly an exciting time to be in the restaurant business.

Nouvelle Cuisine

Photo from caraandco.com

Nouvelle cuisine was popular especially in finer dining establishments. Chefs worked hard to create elaborate presentations with their dishes, using the plate as a canvas. Popular New York City restaurants like Odeon and Quilted Giraffe used this style quite fervently throughout the 1980’s. Championed by chef Michel Guerard and food critics Henri Gault and Christian Millau, nouvelle cuisine allowed young chefs to be more artistic and not held to the restrictions of traditional French cooking.

Although this cooking style allowed chefs to be more creative in their practice, it ended abruptly with the stock market crash of 1987. With the largest one-day drop of the Dow Jones in history, customers expected more out of their restaurant helpings than the smaller, artistic portions of the time.

Chef Paul Prudhomme

Photo from investors.com

Another popular trend in the 1980’s was Cajun cooking. While other American chefs looked to other countries to inspire their dishes, chef Paul Prudhomme looked to his Louisiana roots. Prudhomme used classic Louisiana ingredients like blackened beef, crawfish, and shrimp to create exciting menu items such as Chicken and Andouille Gumbo and Cajun Jambalaya. The blackening technique became very popular in the 1980’s, being used in fish and other meat entrees.

The 1990’s

Fusion cooking was on the rise in the 1990’s. A trend, fusion cooking is the combination of different cultural dishes to create something new. Laying the ground work for this new trend, celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck served dishes that combined French and Asian influences for an interesting mixture. Items on Puck’s Chinois on Main menu included foie gras with pineapple and catfish with fried ginger.

Wolfgang Puck

Photo from minnpost.com

While these dishes could be highly creative and delicious (like this Thai-inspired pizza), some chefs took it a step too far and created “con-fusion” which were unexpected flavor hybrids that didn’t complement each other well. The “con-fusion” was a result of the chefs trying to jump on the bandwagon and allow their restaurant to have the next big thing, which doesn’t always coincide with a customer’s palate. It is very difficult to specifically label certain “con-fusion” recipes as a failure because taste is extremely subjective. But something tells us that a recipe for spicy Asian green beans with blue cheese isn’t going to be our new favorite food either.

Fusion Cooking

Photo from guyeatsfood.com

Many chefs are not a fan of the term “fusion cooking”, claiming negative connotations from the 1990’s. Even though it is still a popular cooking style in the modern world, the term fusion cooking is not normally used.

The 2000’s

At the turn of the century, America became much more conscientious about their foods. Consumers were more concerned about where their food came from, how it was processed, and what was in it. This kind of curiosity led to many consumer-driven changes that effected food suppliers, distributors, and restaurants.

Super Size Me documentary

Photo from netflixlife.com

One of the most revolutionary food documentaries to ever hit the small screen was Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, which premiered in 2004 to a shocked America. It was common knowledge at this point that fast food was not the ideal meal for a healthy diet, but this documentary took just how unhealthy fast food could be and made it a living nightmare. After this documentary, many fast food chains began to evaluate their menu offerings.

Fresh food

Many consumers demanded more health-conscious options from all of their eateries. Even big-box retailers like Walmart were starting to offer organic options to their customers. So why wouldn’t restaurants as well? More restaurants began creating and marking healthier choices on their menus while others provided more detailed information about where the food came from. This kind of communication with the customer makes them feel more in charge and able to make more educated decisions based on the information that is provided to them.

Because consumers were aimed to obtain healthier foods (for the most part) they frequented businesses like Subway, Jamba Juice, and casual dining establishments like Applebee’s and Olive Garden. Some of the most popular foods of this decade included sushi, bacon, super fruits (blueberries, acai berries), and cupcakes. Many restaurants assimilated these flavors as a part of their core offerings.

The 2010’s

While we are 60% of the way through the 2010’s, there are still prominent restaurant trends that will have sticking power throughout the remainder of this decade.

Chipotle Assembly Line

Photo from qz.com

Restaurants that offer assembly line-like service allow for customers to choose how they want their food prepared are huge right now. The customer is able to tailor their experience from station to station to have their food made exactly the way they want it. This customization ability can be seen in restaurants like Chipotle, Blaze Pizza, and even Starbucks.

Coffee craze

Speaking of Starbucks, the 2010’s are drink-crazed. Whether it is coffeehouses or microbreweries, the interest in mixology has skyrocketed. Many restaurants are not limited to regular or decaf coffee offerings anymore. Similarly, restaurants are also producing their own type of craft beer or wine. There is a certain fascination with making these concoctions because it is all about creativity, and is great for expanding your profit margins.

In urban areas where rent is astronomical and constantly changing, the newest restaurant trend isn’t to become a physical building; it’s to have a food truck. This trend has roots starting in Los Angeles with Kogi BBQ truck and chef Roy Choi. With the help of Twitter and the combination of Korean and Mexican cuisine, the Kogi BBQ truck became a success that inspired restauranteurs to take an alternative route for restaurant ownership.

If you’re looking to create something new in your restaurant, it is always helpful to look to the past for inspiration to create your future. These popular trends from the 1950’s all the way to today have their time and place in history. The restaurant industry has a cyclical nature; trends are bound to find their way around again. While the subject matter of the trends may not be your restaurant’s cup of tea, at the very least, you can get a theme night out of it!

What are some trends (modern or older) your restaurant has tried? Let us know in the comments below!

How to Make Your Restaurant Successful on Yelp

Find Us on YelpFaced with large amounts of competition, businesses are constantly fighting for their customers’ attention. Word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful driving force in today’s society and has the ability to sway decisions like what to buy and where to eat. This type of marketing may seem difficult to harness, but with programs like Yelp, businesses have a way to engage with customers and help mold their opinions.

Yelp is a great way for small businesses to compete with larger chains by showcasing what they have to offer. In Q2 of 2016, Yelp had a monthly average of 23 million unique visitors who went through Yelp’s mobile app and another 69 million unique visitors who visited Yelp via the web. A Nielsen study reports that 78 % of users rely on Yelp to find restaurants (out of all categories), capturing the highest percentage of the categories. Needless to say, Yelp is a well-used resource for restaurant-goers whose importance is often under-estimated by restaurant owners.

How It Works

Imagine you’re on vacation and it’s your first time at a destination. Up and down your hotel’s strip, there is dinner option after dinner option. As a consumer, the choices are overwhelming. How do you even begin to choose? You could just waltz into the first place you come to and take your chances.  Or, you could leverage the experience of thousands of Yelpers that have visited before you and have left reviews of just about every restaurant in town.  Without the uncertainty and risk of visiting an untested spot, you and your family can get down to the business of enjoying your vacation.

According to their website, Yelp’s purpose is to “connect people with great local businesses”. Their automated software program scours the top reviews that are written by users (“Yelpers”) based on quality and helpfulness, and it ranks businesses according to a proprietary algorithm. So how does your restaurant get the highest ranking? Typically, a larger number of reviews lead to a higher ranking in Yelp search and many other search engines.  The strategy then with Yelp is to get your restaurant as many good reviews as possible.  In this article, we are going to show you how to get started.


Yelp Ads
Claim Your Business

Claiming your business is the starting point for all businesses on Yelp. To be proactive with a Yelp strategy, you must claim your business to have control of that page. After you claim your page, you can then personalize it to help distinguish it among other pages. The goal of this page is to drive traffic to your own site. Optimizing this page will help your restaurant appear, not only in yelp searches, but also in search engine queries like Google.

It is interesting to note that according to a Boston Consulting Group study, businesses that simply claimed their Yelp profile generated incremental revenues of $8,000 annually just from being on Yelp.  Wouldn’t it be nice if your business could bring in an additional $8,000 per year by spending a small amount of time setting up you page and managing your reviews?  By the way, according to the same study, those who claimed their profile AND advertised on Yelp through PPC campaigns (more on that later) generated additional revenue of $23,000.

Rack Up the Reviews

Although it is the core function of Yelp, many businesses may wonder how customers will know to leave a review. Be cautious of how you approach this topic.  Yelp prefers “organic” review, which means reviews that have not been solicited or, worse, paid for.  It’s understandable if you think about it.  Most businesses only ask for reviews from their happiest customers, not those who have had a bad experience.  That might be great for the restaurant, but it damages the overall credibility of the review system. Yelp wants your restaurant to earn great reviews through exemplary business practices, not through solicitation and/or reward.

Even though Yelp discourages direct solicitation, they do leave the door open for more subtle ways of generating reviews.  The first, and most obvious, is to make sure that your customers know you actually have a Yelp account. You may have a customer that comes to your restaurant every single day for their morning coffee, but if they don’t know you’re on Yelp, how will the world know that you have nurtured and cared for this customer, so much so they visit your business every day? Make customers aware that you use Yelp by using this form to receive a window cling for your business. Also, remind customers to visit your Yelp page with a link in your email signature and/or a badge on your website.

To attract customers that are in the decision stage, use a Check-In Offer to entice them. A Check-In Offer is a reward a customer receives when they check into a business on Yelp. This reward is redeemed by mobile device at the place of business. After a checking in from a mobile device at a restaurant, the user is later asked to write a review of where they checked in at. Be careful not to offer incentives to customers who give better reviews, which is against Yelp’s policiesCheck In Offer

While the tactics above are handy with a new restaurant or during a slow time to jazz up reviews, you should always try and go above and beyond for customers. Have the mindset of what kind of experience you want your customers to walk away with, and then double it. What sets your business apart from the competition? Is your atmosphere, food, staff, or price point? Find what makes your restaurant original and makes for a memorable experience for your guests. Inspire people to choose your restaurant, enjoy themselves, and then right a smashing review because their experience was just that good.

Take a look at this improvement calculator to see how many reviews it will take to attain a certain rating for your restaurant.

Interact with Customers

You’ve put the work into claiming your business, spruced up your Yelp page, and the reviews are pouring in. All of a sudden, your first bad review comes in: a piece of coal in your carefully cultivated glittering diamond mine of positive reviews. Your first instinct might be to ignore the review, hoping it gets lost in the sea positive reviews. Maybe no one will see it?  That is a big mistake.  You should always respond to a negative review, even if the response is private.  The last thing that you want is an already upset customer feeling like you’re ignoring them.  You’ll definitely want to reach out to that Yelper in a way that lets them know that their concerns have been heard and you will take their input into consideration when shaping future decisions.

Whether you handle bad reviews publicly or privately is up to you, but maintain consistency – don’t respond publicly to the reviews where you feel like a customer is wrong, and privately to the reviews where you know you messed up. The flow chart below outlines Yelps best practices for responding to reviews publicly or privately.

Review Flow ChartFinally, remember that your public responses will be seen by existing and potential customers so always be courteous and understanding. Practice up on your PR skills and don’t isolate customers. You don’t want jeopardize your future business with a poorly worded response.

Free Assets for Business Owners

Yelp has many free resources for business owners to use, making it effective and easy on a budget.

Yelp for Business Owners app is the most comprehensive of these resources. With the app (available in the App Store for iOS and Google Play Store for Android), businesses track engagement, leads, and clicks to their site from Yelp. The app also has the capability to track the number of check-ins to a business, calls (from clicking the phone number), and the reservations made off of Yelp. Not only do these factors help you gauge your success on Yelp, but could justify an increase of foot traffic in your restaurant. Through the app you also have the capability to respond (publicly or privately) to messages, upload photos, and report reviews or messages. For a busy, on-the-go restaurant owner, the Yelp app is extremely valuable in managing your presence on the site.

Again, you don’t want to come right out and ask for reviews. But if you want another, more discrete way to remind customers about giving you a review, place a Yelp review badge on your website. By placing a review badge on your site, your customers can see that people have a reviewed your restaurant and prompt them to check out your Yelp page. Potential customers will be more inclined to visit a restaurant with many positive reviews, which the badge helps them see at a glance. Every time your business is reviewed, the counter clicks up and/or reflects in the stars. Per Yelp’s brand guidelines, there are only two badges allowed on a business’ site that shows their association with Yelp.

Web Review Badges

It is important for business owners to stay up to date on ways to effectively use Yelp. Yelp offers free 30 minute webinars that improve upon your existing Yelp knowledge. Topics range from how to respond to reviews to becoming a 5-star brand. These webinars help clarify how your restaurant can use Yelp as a sustainable, effective strategy for the long term.

Yelp Ads

While Yelp has plenty of free resources for businesses, there are also advertising packages to enhance your profile even further.

Yelp’s advertising packages operate on a cost per click (CPC) basis and could be beneficial for your particular niche. There is no pre-determined set cost because the cost depends on the competition and relevance of your advertisement to the user’s search. Yelp Ads can help your business with targeted local advertising and a more prominent placement on search and competitor pages.

If you want to upgrade your Yelp experience by paying for advertising, the Call to Action button may be one you want to take advantage of.

Whenever potential customers have searched and found your business on Yelp, what is the next steps you want them to take? The best way to provide a specific direction for these customers is to have a Call to Action button. When set up, this button appears towards to the top of your business’ page, underneath the location and uploaded photos.
When narrowing down what your Call to Action should be, think of what your desired end goal is. The button will take customers to more information in the form of a specific page of your website or coupon.

Call to Action
In the example above, Olive or Twist’s Call to Action button promotes their happy hour and links to their specials section on their website. Make sure your button is labeled with a broad, but relevant statement. You don’t want to give away all the information on your Yelp page, because then there is no need to click. This button provides a next-steps for potential customers to take part in.

Compare the different products that Yelp Ads has to offer with this chart.

Please note that just because a business advertises on Yelp does not mean they automatically get better ratings. A business could be rated two stars and advertise, leading to more people seeing that rating. On the other hand, a business that does not pay to advertise can have a five-star rating. For more information on Yelp’s advertising policy, feel free to check out their FAQ page.

If you own a restaurant that has never used Yelp or only as a consumer, go claim your business. Doing a simple Google search will leave you with endless results on how to optimize Yelp and best practices. But the best way to use Yelp is to jump right in! There are so many free resources and options for a business getting started on Yelp. Don’t think the only way to be successful on Yelp is to shell out a portion of your advertising budget. Let your customers know that you have a Yelp presence, respond thoughtfully to their reviews, and keep providing excellent experiences to make Yelp work for your business.

Does your restaurant or business currently use Yelp as a strategy? If so, what’s your experience with having a page? If not, what are your reservations about it? Let us know!

How to Market Your Restaurant to Millennials: Getting Social

Millennials

United States millennials span the ages of 18-35 and are a force to be reckoned with. This generation, also known as Generation Y, has surpassed the baby boomers (1946-1965) and now number 75.4 million.

Even with millennial numbers increasing, they don’t have control of the market at this point. Baby boomers still hold the buying power in today’s market; almost 50% of retail sales can be traced back to this group. But, millennials’ spending power will only continue to increase as they begin to earn more.

The true difference lies in how these generations communicate with businesses and brands. Generation Y is made up of extremely vocal consumers that are inter-connected and are not afraid to let others know what kind of experience they had at a business.

The millennial generation is often described negatively by their predecessors, but millennials are socially conscious and creative individuals that are becoming an increasing power in the market. This group’s craving for their peers’ opinions can often dictate many buying decisions, including where they choose to eat or drink.

Learning how to market to this rising group should be a priority for restaurant owners. By understanding the mind of a millennial, restaurateurs can uniquely tailor their marketing communications for this generation. Some call them self-oriented or naive, but millennials are changing best practices of the restaurant industry.

Social Media

Social media is an essential tool for restaurant owners to use when marketing to millennials. Restaurants that don’t use some form of technology platform to reach out and interact with customers seem out of date in today’s constantly changing society. Social media can give your business validity to those searching on the internet.

Celebrate what your business has to offer with your social media. Food is a visual commodity. Those who love to eat don’t only want flavorful bites; they want an aesthetically-pleasing experience they can share with others. Tailoring social media to your restaurant, guests, and mission can further brand your restaurant among many. For example, the “food and drink” category on Pinterest is the most pinned and browsed of all the categories and 90% of pinners are saving food and drink recipes on their mobile devices. This is a great indicator that these are items that people have interest in, so cater to it and get guests inspired by your selection.

You can promote events, menu additions, and even new staff on social media to give your business a face. Encourage your guests to check-in, tweet, post, and pin about your restaurant. Restaurants and bars that take the time to create quality content in their social media interactions can increase top of mind awareness and brand recognition. According to the State of Inbound Marketing, social media has a 100% higher lead-to-close rate than traditional outbound marketing. Use that to your advantage!

Although it is on a larger scale, Chipotle does this very well and it is a brand that millennials want to follow on social media to see what they will post next.

Chipotle

Think of your business as a lifestyle brand that you need to promote. Consumers want to learn more about you and your company’s background and be able to relate on a personal level. Whether it’s about the latest rules on food safety or what your lunch specials will be, creative content about your business and its industry makes you an authority on the topic. Millennials appreciate the diverse but relevant subject matter and your business becomes a reliable resource your niche.

Do's and Don'ts of Social Media

Social Experience

Millennials are constantly branding themselves. By sharing their organic mango and black bean salad on social media, this generation expresses more than just what they’re having for dinner. When looked at closely, these actions say this consumer supports the story behind their food and that this is the type of restaurant they frequent.  Millennials brands themselves to coincide with the identity of the business. They are proud of their decision to eat out, and they want to share their experience with others. Of course, an Instagram feed is often a very skewed perception of reality but still presents a rose-colored lens for the rest of the world to take a peek.

Because of this show-all, tell-all way of thinking, millennials are buying experiences at restaurants instead of just food. Restaurants and bars take on a form of escapism where they can get away and have a gastronomic adventure. Going out to eat is seen as an event by millennials, so always try and exceed their expectations with your restaurant practices. For example, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville has risen far above the standards of just being a restaurant chain; it’s now a lifestyle choice. This may seem like an overwhelming feat for a small business but it is possible! Rosarito’s Fish Shack (Williamsburg, New York) does a great job as a single location restaurant that brands themselves as a lifestyle. From its tasty Instagram pictures to the nautical exterior, Rosarito’s Fish Shack transports guests straight to the New England coast for a seaworthy experience.

Be proactive with your customer’s experience by training and communicating with your staff appropriately. A restaurant’s staff can make or break whether customers enjoy their stay. Take the time to show them the over-arching goal of the restaurant and your expectations of the team. How you train and communicate with your staff can be the difference between a good and bad experience for your customers. It is these little things that seem insignificant that truly add up in a consumer’s decision to visit a restaurant again.

Do's and Don'ts of Social Experience

Social Responsibility

Consumers can evoke change in the way that restaurants do business, especially consumers that are as vocal as the millennial generation. This generation is extremely cause-driven and wants to see their patronage to a restaurant have a deeper meaning.

Generation Y customers feel the need for a greater value proposition in purchases; they want to know they are making a difference in the world. As science and communication have improved, sustainable movements have been center on the world’s stage for the lifetime of millennials.

Eco-friendly activities strike a chord with this generation quicker than their predecessors. Millennials want the food and restaurant industry to share these same values.

To narrow down what works the best for your restaurant, you have to know your situation. What’s best for your theme, customer, and price point could be completely different than the restaurant next door to yours. This being said there are lots of ways to improve sustainable practices in your establishment. Use local meat sources, beef up recycling efforts, take steps to reduce food waste, find ways to reduce energy output, and visit farmer’s markets for produce.

Millennials are willing to spend more to support businesses that have these values in mind. Whether this way of thinking is selfish or not, Generation Y makes decisions that will increase self-esteem, which, in this case, works to the benefit of the environment. There are multiple ways for you to get involved in your community while also using it as an edge to market it to millennials. It’s not only social responsible for you to consider local and organic options for your restaurant, it could be lucrative as well.

Do's and Don'ts of Social Responsibility

Social Cause

The millennial generation is a melting pot of beliefs and cultural traditions. The widespread effects of social media have made them more aware of the world around them. This drives millennials to search for a greater purpose of community, which restaurants can get in on as well.

More and more restaurants and businesses are using cause marketing as a strategy instead of just an added bonus when you buy that certain product. This technique is attractive for both business owners to increase patronage and also millennial consumers that have deep interests in bettering the community around them. Cause marketing can inspire people to eat at your restaurant because you stand for something, especially if it is a cause already near and dear to that particular community.

For example, Rosa’s Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia started a movement where for a $1 you can prepay for a pizza slice for a homeless person. Rosa’s has championed single location cause marketing that has reached national recognition, with over 10,000 slices pre-purchased for others. This helped grow and aid the Philadelphia community to be more aware of others.

Another example of restaurants doing good (and through pizza) is the mission behind Malawi’s Pizza. This pizzeria’s “Pizza with a Purpose” tagline promotes the restaurant’s buy one, give one strategy. For each meal purchased here, another is given to a child in Malawi.

Pizza

Both of the restaurants are great cases for the success of what combining cause marketing and community can do. Championing a cause is a great way to actively earn free advertising but also allows customers to feel good about eating or drinking at your place of business.

Cause marketing campaigns can help your restaurant differentiate from your competition and do good deeds at the same time.

Do's and Don'ts of Social Cause

As they grow older and acquire more disposable income, millennials are becoming more of an influence in the restaurant industry. Restaurants need to know how to incorporate this demographic when making decisions. The connection that Generation Y feels for the world around them is unique, and it presents a great opportunity for restaurants to appeal to them. As these millennials become bigger consumers, it will be crucial for restaurateurs to craft their businesses to what is important to this generation.

7 Best Practices to Achieve Success in the Restaurant Industry

Why did you decide to open your restaurant?  Has it been a dream of yours that you’ve finally been able to act on, or is it just in your DNA to provide a service to others?  Regardless of your answer or the reason you opened your doors, your intent is to be profitable and successful.  Do you know anyone who owns a business who doesn’t want to succeed?  Probably not.

To provide you with resources that will assist you in achieving this success, we occasionally attend educational sessions at trade shows for the restaurant industry.  In our recent attendance at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, we found a session called the “7 Best Practices of Highly Successful Restaurants” and we knew it was a session we had to attend so that we could pass along this information to you. The presenter for this session was Jim Laube, founder and president of RestaurantOwner.com which is a website that offers restaurant owners membership into an abundance of “resources to turn your good restaurant into a great business.”  Jim began his 30 year career in the restaurant business as a server, moving into positions as a bartender, then manager and even into a controller and CFO for a regional restaurant chain.  Jim now serves as an advisor to thousands of independent restaurants and foodservice professionals providing presentations and training programs to assist with growth and improvement in the restaurant industry.

In your quest to be successful, here are the 7 best practices that Jim recommends you follow:

  1. Focus your marketing on existing customers through the use of a customer database.

Restaurant Customers

According to the National Restaurant Association, over 60% of sales in fine dining restaurants and 80% of sales in casual restaurants come from repeat business.  Knowing this, your marketing plan should be aimed at this audience so you’ll want to know who these customers are.  Building a customer database is the best way to do this so that you can communicate with these individuals regularly.

In order to build a customer database, you’ll want to collect the following information:  name, address, birthday, anniversary, and e-mail address.  You can collect this information through a birthday or anniversary club, VIP club or other loyalty program, comment cards, and/or through staff incentives.  With this customer information, you can send an occasional e-mail to introduce a new menu item, send coupons or special offers, or announce a special event.  Whatever your marketing strategy is, communication with existing customers will encourage more frequent visits in addition to the possibility that those customers will tell their friends or bring them in.

  1. Have a birthday club.

Group of young people celebrate happy birthday with cake and festive hats.

According to Jim, having a birthday club is the most effective marketing practice and he has the statistics from restaurants he works with to prove it.  When sending birthday and half birthday postcards, Jim shared that 78% of these postcards are redeemed on the customer’s birthday and 96% are redeemed on the customer’s half birthday.  He found that even with over a thousand members, birthday clubs provide the restaurant with a 90% redemption rate.   He also shared some important points: everyone enjoys getting a deal especially on their birthday, customers like something better than nothing ($10 versus $0), and the idea that birthday clubs build customer loyalty.  In addition, birthday mailings often get a good response and great customer feedback.

To prove this idea, Jim told the attendees about a success story of a quick service restaurant in a suburb of a major metro area called Golden Chick.  In the first four years of business, marketing was done through newspaper ads, money mailers, Valpak, and a shopper’s guide which totaled $18,000 to $20,000 per year with poor results.  It was documented that although the yearly annual sales improved over those four years, the impact wasn’t as great as the company had hoped.  After implementing a birthday club program which they started with a “cold” list that led to the gradual building of a customer database, those results changed.  Over the next four years, Golden Chick’s annual sales increased by 52% from the time that the birthday club was implemented.  In addition, their marketing costs went from over $18,000 per year to around $100 a month.  Sounds like a strategy that could make a huge difference to any restaurant aiming for success.

  1. Have and use systems.

Drawing of a process chart

Think about a situation where you have had consistently extraordinary experiences at a restaurant.  Then, ask yourself this:  what did they do to make your experience extraordinary?  How did they do it?  Likely, it boils down to systems.  Systems are procedures, processes, or a series of actions designed to achieve a desired result.  If you think about it, restaurants are built upon the concept of systems because they are following certain steps repeatedly over and over again.  It’s not just with food, but also with hiring, training, cleaning, purchasing, storage, preparation, ordering, reservations, service, scheduling, payroll…and this list could go on.  With effective systems in place, restaurants are offered consistency and predictability.  There’s often higher productivity and morale, in addition to fewer surprises and less time needed from the owner to manage the daily operations.

In Jim’s presentation, he talked about a system that is easy to create, easy to understand and follow, effective, and helpful in training new employees.  The system he is referring to is a checklist.  Checklists can be formed to confirm that tasks are done or they can be formed to guide tasks that need to be completed.  Either way, any implemented checklist should offer characteristics that Jim stated are necessary in order to be effective.  Checklists should be short, precise, and fit on one page, include key items only, have an ease of use for both busy and non-busy times, and should be viewed as helpful reminders rather than a “how to” guide.  You can either develop these on your own to customize a system in your restaurant or you can find already developed restaurant checklist templates here, all from the RestaurantOwner.com website.  The checklist templates that are offered on the site include but are not limited to a bartender checklist, a cleaning checklist, a manager opening checklist, a manager shift-change checklist, a new employee orientation checklist, a purchasing checklist, a preparation checklist, a service checklist, and a storage checklist.  There may be costs involved in obtaining these checklists but they can offer you a great starting point if you don’t already have a system in place.

  1. Be serious about your mission.

mission

Let’s jump back to why you decided to open your restaurant.  With that in the forefront of your mind, think about why your restaurant exists, what you want to accomplish, and what your employees would say if you asked them those questions.  These answers can help you create a mission statement that will give meaning and purpose to the everyday activities of your restaurant.  It will become the basis for standards and accountability.  It will help you recruit and retain the right people and pull all of these individuals together as a team.  In addition, it will enhance the effectiveness of your leadership and make it easier to manage and coach your employees.

When you are creating your mission statement, Jim communicated the importance of considering four important elements in a very clear and succinct manner.  They are:

  • What your company does
  • Who you do it for
  • How you want to do it
  • Results you want to achieve

In addition to these elements, Jim stated that every mission statement should include the following components:

  • A performance challenge or goal
  • Who we do it for
  • How the goal is achieved
  • Desired outcome or result

To showcase these elements and components, Jim offered an example of a mission statement that included all of the recommendations above.  Union Square Hospitality Group, a “family of businesses” that opened their first restaurant back in 1985 and now hosts 13 restaurants, a full-scale catering and venue hospitality business, a jazz club, and an organizational consulting business, developed this mission statement:

“Our mission is to thoroughly delight our guests through such unparalleled hospitality, service and culinary experience that they will rave about their experiences and have no choice but to return.”

This statement clearly includes all of the elements and components from above.  You too can have a mission statement that sounds as great as this.  When doing so, remember that you’re not only creating your very own mission statement, but that you also need to communicate it.  Both of these are equally important to the success of your business.  Some avenues to communicate your mission can be through interviews, orientation and training sessions, handbooks, management meetings, pre-shift meetings, decision making discussions, and any other time that an opportunity arises.  With all of this considered, you and your staff will have a clearer vision as your proceed towards obtaining success.

  1. Track and monitor your prime cost weekly, not just monthly.

Tracking weekly costs

If you’re the owner of a restaurant, it’s likely that you know what prime cost is.  If not, this is the sum of the total cost of sales added to the total payroll costs.  The total cost of sales includes the cost of food, beverage, and paper and the total payroll costs include management and hourly employee costs in addition to taxes and benefits.  Jim communicated that the rule of thumb for prime costs should be 65% or less of sales for full service restaurants and 60% or less of sales for quick service restaurants.  He also stated that it is important to calculate prime costs as one number rather than food costs, beverage costs, and labor costs separately.  When figured together, your prime cost will give you a much more meaningful and valid indication of your restaurant’s unit economics, potential for profit, and your management’s effectiveness.  For information to assist you with calculating your prime cost, RestaurantOwner.com has already developed templates that you can use to get your costs organized.  Again, there may be a fee involved but worth it to keep you informed.

In addition to the actual calculation of your prime cost, Jim offered the recommendation to compute it weekly with his reasons why this should be done so frequently.  First and foremost, he stated that this is something that all chain restaurants do.  Second, it brings about greater staff awareness and accountability, and there is faster recognition and response to problems.  Finally, it is a tool that will allow owners to see how well management is managing.  When done on a weekly basis, Jim shared that it is possible for your prime cost to go down 2-5 points.

  1. Keep a running inventory of “key food products.”

Spices are a part of food cost.

Every restaurant has a running supply of food to fill the plates of their customers and some sort of process to keep track of what is in inventory.  But, do you know what your key food products are and how much of them you have in inventory?  Jim recommends identifying your key food products by looking at your food inventory and finding 10-15 items that drive your food cost; the ones that make up 60%-70% of these costs.  Once you identify these items, begin to keep a running inventory of each of these specific items.  You may have an inventory system already in place where this is done but are you doing it daily and keeping a running inventory?  If not, now is a great time to start!  When you keep a running tally of your key food products, you will be able to order more when needed, less likely to run out of something that a customer wants, and you’ll be able to identify when food is being wasted, burnt, or eaten by your employees.  We all know that in our industry food is money, so having a running inventory can help you save money rather than spend it.

  1. Teach your employees “basic restaurant economics.”

Teach employees basic economic concepts of cash flow and expenditures

Here’s a question that any restaurant owner may chuckle at: how much money does your typical employee think you are making?  Likely, you along with many other restaurant owners would answer this question the same way; your employees think you are quite wealthy with instant access to money anytime.  Employees are the front runners of your business and they only see the money that is coming in.  But, do they really know anything about the money that goes out?  In order to educate your employees so that the wrong assumptions aren’t made, Jim states that this calls for what he refers to as “Restaurant Economics 101.”  This is where you educate your staff on where the money that comes into the restaurant goes, so that there is a better understanding of the economics of your restaurant.

A great way to demonstrate the economics of your business is by using the 100 pennies activity in an employee meeting.  Here is what you do:  give each employee 100 pennies and say that this represents all of the money that comes in to the restaurant.  Then, explain where the money goes.  For example, maybe 35% of your sales goes toward purchasing food and beverages so ask your employees to take out 35 pennies for food costs.  Maybe another 30% of your sales are spent on labor costs so ask them to take out another 30 pennies.  Continue doing this with additional costs that your restaurant has to give every employee a visual of where all of the money that they see comes in goes.  When they see this, they are offered a better understanding of the economic status of your restaurant which may lead to better care and upkeep, less waste, and a deeper interest in your business.

Success is defined on the Merriam-Webster dictionary website as “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame.”  Isn’t that what you want as a restaurant owner?  If so, following recommended best practices by professionals who have been in the business for years is in your best interest; an interest that will determine how closely you come to that success.

How to Avoid the 5 Most Common Problems with Restaurant Furniture

 

It takes a chunk of change to furnish a bar or restaurant.  And when you spend that “chunk” on commercial grade items, you want to see them last.  Proper maintenance and cleaning is the key to long lasting furniture but it won’t fix some common problems that may arise.  So, if they are common problems, shouldn’t you then be able to avoid these issues if they are happening everywhere?  Absolutely!  Our hope is that by providing you with this information, you are able to take a proactive approach to caring for you bar and restaurant furniture so that these common issues don’t happen to you.  Like the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure.”

 

Problem #1:  “The metal legs on my chair and/or bar stool are bending and don’t seem as strong.”

Problem-1

Solution:  Damage to the legs of chairs or bar stools often stems from improper use by customers and staff, something that can happen on a regular basis.  For example, customers may lean back in their chair putting all of their weight on the back two legs. Yikes!  If you see this happening, politely ask the customer to refrain from doing this in hopes to keep the leg strength strong…and of course to save your customer from getting hurt.  Another example is when staff members unknowingly use a chair or bar stool improperly.  As a standard procedure when sweeping and mopping floors, most restaurant staff members place the chairs upside down on the tables.  They clean the floors, let them dry, and proceed to lower the chairs back to the floor.  The issue arises when the staff member slams the chair or bar stool onto the floor with such force that the leg strength is compromised.  After this occurs many times, it can in fact make the legs of chairs and bar stools look bent.  To avoid this, it’s important to show and/or communicate to staff members the proper procedure to gently lower chairs and bar stools back onto the floor so as to keep the legs nice and strong.

 

 

Problem #2:  “My chairs and/or bar stools are scratching up my flooring.”

 Problem-2

Solution:  Scratches on floors from chairs and bar stools are often due to the absence or wearing of one or more floor glides.  Floor glides are the pieces of rubber or hard plastic that are placed on the bottom of the legs of a chair or bar stool to protect the floor.  Without them, the chair will scrape along the floor, cause some scratch marks, and even make a sound that can be like fingernails down a chalkboard.  To avoid this, be sure to regularly check the wear of floor glides as well as that they are all in place.  It’s also a good idea to keep a few extra glides on hand, just in case.  Following these suggestions will keep your floors scratch free and looking fabulous.

 

 

Problem #3: “My tables are peeling, staining, or cracking.”

Problem-3

Solution:  It’s important to be aware of what your table tops are made of and how to properly care for them, especially when it comes to wood table tops.  In the case of wood, it is a natural material that expands and contracts with the changes in temperature.  With any wood product, including table tops, it is important to keep them away from direct heat to avoid cracking.  When we say direct heat, we mean in direct sunlight through a window, under a heating vent, or in a warm area that can become humid and warm from the heat of a hot oven.  It is equally as important to not place a hot tray, sizzling pan, pizza pan/pizza box, or anything right out of the oven directly on the wood top, or any table top for that matter.  If there is no way around it, invest in products to protect the table tops from heat generated from hot foods like a hot plate or an elevated pizza tray.  These items will be worth your money and you won’t have to witness an altering of your table top finishes or heat stains that will appear if you’re not extra careful.

 

 

Problem #4: “My chairs and/or bar stools are wobbly.”
Problem-4

Solution:  If you are experiencing wobbly chairs or bar stools, first check the floor glides to make sure that all four are present and not worn out.  If they are in place and not causing the wobble, loose screws that were either not tightened at assembly or have worked loose over time could be the issue.  With regard to assembly, a lot of commercial restaurant furniture companies ship their chairs and bar stools with the seats unattached.  This enables them to stack the furniture and ship more products at a lower price.  Also, by packing the seats tightly together, it reduces the likelihood of shipping damages.  So, when assembling your seats on site, it is important to follow the proper instructions as well as use the suggested tools with the hardware provided.  Make sure that screws are snug and not too tight so as to avoid further damage to the seat.  In addition, it is just as important to routinely check the hardware on all tables, chairs, and bar stools, and tighten them as needed.

 

Problem #5: “My furniture isn’t lasting as long as I thought it would.”

Problem-5

Solution:  When purchasing furniture for your bar or restaurant, it is important to know where these items are going to be placed and how they are going to be used.  If you need chairs, bar stools, and tables for an indoor dining area, it is important to purchase items that are intended for indoor use.  The same goes for outdoor furniture items.  An outdoor chair, bar stool, or table intended for outdoors, should only be used outdoors.  Or, maybe you want items that can be transferred to and from an indoor space to an outdoor space.  Buying items that have this dual use is the key.  Also, chairs and bar stools are meant to be sat in and tables are meant to be used for eating off of.  Any other uses that customers or staff might be using them for can affect the longevity of the item.  Staff and management should be aware of the intended use of all restaurant furniture and doing what is necessary to make sure that use is maintained.

 

 

Buying restaurant furniture is an investment.  As with any investment, you want to protect it so that you get your use out of it for years to come.  But along with that comes your responsibility to do what it takes to keep your furniture in its most pristine state.  Taking care of your items with the suggestions above will help deter common problems and likely, will last for the years that you were hoping for.

 

 

Best Advice for Restaurant Managers

advice for restaurant managersRestaurant managers are under a lot of pressure, and why wouldn’t they be? Day after day, night after night, they orchestrate the front of the house while keeping diners happy. They coordinate with the executive chef and are required to be experts in human resources, time management, and inventory control. When you consider how many duties a restaurant manager has to juggle, it’s not surprising that many would love to hear how other managers bring the best experience possible to their customers.

Here are some great pieces of advice that East Coast Chair & Barstool has heard from accomplished restaurant managers. 

·        Don’t try to change it all. You’re not Gordon Ramsay. If you’d like to make changes, especially if you’re starting to manage a restaurant that has been in business for some time, observe the general atmosphere and front-end business, then pinpoint several areas that you believe need the most work and can make the biggest impact. Major changes can throw a restaurant into upheaval, change the quality of the food, and hurt the restaurant’s image. For instance, if your diners mostly come to your restaurant for a healthy, quick lunch, adding fried foods to the menu may disappoint your regulars. Be sure that your changes will make your customer base happy.

·        Budget your time so your restaurant can grow. Time management is probably the most useful skill a restaurant manager has. Knowing how long everything should take, and then knowing how long it actually takes is the first step. From there, you can plan how to improve your process, your training, and your delegation skills. If you don’t know how to manage your time, don’t worry. It’s something that can be taught. Why not use the same time management programs that CEOs rely on? It will change you from a manager who may micromanage or manage ineffectively, to one who can learn how to set aside extra time to grow their restaurant. Once you carve out that time, you can increase your productivity and then coach your staff to do the same.

 ·       Schedule your employees so they have a life. Restaurant employees know that they will be working long shifts and long hours, but if you can create a schedule that gives them the opportunity to enjoy planned days off on a regular basis, then you’ll be able to garner employee loyalty, reduce waitstaff turnover, and have your pick of potential employees once the word gets out that believe in work-life balance. Hiring the right people is a key part of a restaurant’s success, and you want to make sure that you can choose from a wide talent base.

 ·       Be business savvy, not just restaurant savvy. You may have been working in restaurants since you were a teenager, but do you have experience with inventory management, budgeting, labor requirements, legal issues, and overall administrative duties? If not, consider taking a course in restaurant management so that you can make sure you’re impacting business in the best way. 

We’d love to hear your advice too! Leave us a comment below to share your own advice and experiences.

50 Ways Restaurants Engage Their Employees

Restaurants often have a wide mix of employees, from managers to bus boys (and bus girls), from full-time salaried employees to part-time hourly staff who may work a regular 20 hours a week or a minimum of one weekend a month.  It’s a challenge to keep the creative executive chef in the back and the outgoing host staff in the front and everyone in between feeling like they are all part of the same team.  That’s why I’ve compiled a list of tips from a variety of HR professionals in the field on how you can successfully engage your employees.  Every role is important, and your staff need to feel appreciated and like they belong.  Whether you have your own HR Department or rely on a third party HR consultant, your restaurant can effectively manage your people with some or all of these 50 tips and ideas:restaurant employee engagement ideas

1. Well written and executed HR policies that follow the brand culture and mission statement
2. Referral program to motivate existing staff to help recruit new staff
3. Staff recruitment strategies that are welcoming for prospects and new hires
4. Establish a “first 30” program to identify ways to make a new hire feel important in the first 30 seconds, the first 30 minutes, the first 30 days, and the first 30 shifts
5. Formal and in-depth training programs
6. Formalized career paths
7. Honest and transparent status of job growth and promotions opportunities
8. Staff who are coaches or mentors to their co-workers who can foster growth
9. Ongoing and new training for staff trainers
10. Engaging managers who in turn will engage their employees
11. Clear organizational charts so every employee knows who their direct supervisor is (i.e., too many bosses makes it confusing for everyone)
12. Implement annual certifications that require additional training before being earned
13. Regular safety training
14. Recognize accident-free staff members in a positive and ‘public’ manner in front of their peers
15. Develop a points system for staff rewards (e.g., staff can accrue points for gift card sales, dessert up sells, or number of hours of training in order to earn prizes or perks)
16. Regular employee surveys
17. Employee feedback forums or programs
18. Reward employees who make suggestions that are implemented (e.g., cost-savings, menu changes, sustainability practices)
19. Open door policy to encourage communication and freedom of voicing opinions and concerns (and ACT on any concerns brought to your attention)
20. Social media policy that promotes positive participation and engagement on social networks
21. Social media groups or pages set up for employee interaction (e.g., a closed Facebook group)
22. Intranet or forum to post company news, welcome new hires, and congratulate staff on milestone anniversaries or awards, which will help bridge any communication gaps among all levels and departments
23. Employee retreats, workshops, and team-building exercises
24. Quality circle meetings with staff
25. Regular one-on-one meetings between staff and supervisor to address personal goals both in and outside of work
26. Open and frequent communication, regular manager-to-staff interaction, and stay interviews
27. Arrange job shadowing between departments to help everyone understand their co-workers’ roles and responsibilities (and in turn how they fit into the big picture)
28. Encourage managers/supervisors to perform all tasks in their department occasionally in order to be a team player, assist staff as needed, and earn respect of subordinates
29. Reward staff who are recognized in guest feedback, including in online spaces (it’s nice to copy the staff in a reply, so the guest knows their feedback was heard and shared)
30. Offer fun employee contests, either random or pre-planned (e.g., top seller of the day)
31. Turn menu training into an ongoing interactive trivia game with small rewards for correct answers
32. Hold an employee and family day on-site
33. Host an employee picnic or party off-site
34. Offer employees a discount and reach out to neighboring stores to designate a co-promotional discount program for employees
35. Find creative (even if random) perks to offer (e.g., employee parking spots, free bag of coffee to take home after your 50th shift, monthly t-shirt days, etc.)
36. Give meaningful and individualized staff anniversary gifts based on tenure (e.g., 5 year gift, 10 year gift, etc.)
37. Offer the opportunity to earn a sabbatical after a set number of years, allowing a long-term staff to take a one-time extended vacation within a certain time frame
38. Promote the brand’s social responsibility to the employees and encourage participation in volunteer or fundraising activities
39. Encourage staff to bond together to volunteer on a community project or participate in a fundraising activity
40. Offer staff a couple days off each year to do charity work of their choosing
41. Celebrate your anniversary date by driving employee engagement (e.g., 15 employee projects for the 15th anniversary year)
42. Allow staff to vote on the music station one day out of the week
43. Keep the employee break room clean and comfortable
44. Provide secure lockers or cabinets for personal belongings of staff
45. Post the employee schedule promptly and be as flexible as possible with requests and shift changes
46. Implement a voluntary wellness, smoking cessation, or fitness program
47. Encourage staff to attend free or local trainings, support staff who are in school, or offer tuition reimbursement where applicable
48. Empower supervisors to instantly reward staff who do a great job, handle a customer concern effectively, or master a task or new technique
49. Include retention and succession planning in your HR policies
50. Treat employees with dignity and respect while showing them that you care about them as people, not just revenue-makers

It really boils down to that last point. If you genuinely care about your staff, get to know them on a somewhat personal (but not-too-personal) level, help them achieve their goals both professional and otherwise, and create a happy environment for them to report to each day, you’ll be well on your way to engaging your employees who will want to, in return, help you find success for a long time to come!

 

 

Some of these great ideas were borrowed from these HR professionals:

7 Ways Your Employees Steal From You

Shrinkage is not a new term or a new concern for bars and restaurants.  Employee theft can be intentional, or it can be a consequence of under-trained staff who might not realize they are sabotaging your establishment’s profits.  For bar and restaurant management, shrinkage is an ongoing challenge.  Here’s a look at the top ways your bartenders and waitstaff are stealing from you.

1. Cash register antics. Whether it’s tearing up order tickets, under-ringing, over-ringing, short-changing, voiding sales, or outright stealing cash, there are a lot of scams that happen when dishonest employees are responsible for entering orders, cashing out checks, and closing out the cash drawers.  Many of these antics are hard to prove at the end of the night (i.e., is there proof that the customer really ordered and paid $22.50 in bar sales when their ticket number says there was only $12.50 in sales?). The cash register (or next-to-register tip jar) can be an accomplice for hiding the stolen funds until the end of the night, when it’s slower and easier to pocket all the money at once.  Limiting the ability to hit the “no sale” button to open the register is a first step to take in combating this issue.  Set up an alternative “petty cash” stash for when customers ask about making change (the amount of this stash should never change, just the denominations).  Spreading the responsibilities around may help counter some of these practices, too; for example, have a dedicated cashier on shift who doesn’t also enter any orders.  It’s also imperative that at least two people count down the drawer at the end  of the shift and sign off on the final Z-report (end of shift cash register report).  Your point-of-sale (POS) system should time-stamp the Z-report (and you need to limit access to changing the time on the system with an admin code), so you are confident that staff aren’t balancing the register earlier in the shift to under-report sales and pocket the last hour of service. The cashier or manager on duty, not the bartender, should be the one who counts out credit card tips from the drawer to distribute at the end of the night.

2. Overcharging customers. The customer pays full price, but the order ticket in your system shows a happy hour price.  The bartender up-sells the customer to a top of the line brand and charges them the premium price, only to use the cheaper brand and take the difference for him/herself.  Inflating the number of drinks on a large tab to an unsuspecting group of patrons who lost count of everyone’s orders. Bartenders, especially, see which customers are easy targets to take advantage of when they’re serving up drink after drink.  Don’t let your customers be fooled by your staff, and talk with your employees often to really get to know them. Encourage an open door policy and reward staff who come to you about concerns they have regarding your establishment’s policies or their co-workers.

3. Talking your time away. Cell phones and mobile devices are revolutionary…and addicting to some of your staff.  You might have a cell phone policy in place, but do you really know what happens when you’re not there?  It’s impossible to manage your restaurant every second of every shift.  Staff who talk or text while on the clock are taking away from productivity, influencing your patrons’ opinions of the kind of staff you hire and possibly spreading germs (do you know how dirty cell phones are?). The best part, you’re paying them while they tarnish your restaurant’s good name.  The rate of employees using personal cell phones has increased across nearly every industry, but in the restaurant business, it’s critical to consider all the repercussions of employee cell phone use.  Reinforce your cell phone policies, teach and re-teach health safety practices, provide a list of daily activities that can be done when the shift isn’t so busy, and don’t be afraid to enforce a punishment on those who don’t obey.

4. Giving freebies. What better way to ensure a nice big fat tip than to offer some on-the-house drinks to your favorite customers?  Waitstaff who are tip hungry may pull out all the stops to get an extra buck, without thinking about the cost to you of those “free” drinks.  Make it clear that give-aways are not accepted, or if they are, clarify when it is appropriate and how many you permit on a shift without management approval.

5. Over pouring. Every ounce of alcohol costs you money, so when your bar staff accidentally over pour shots into drinks, they are unknowingly stealing from you.  Train your staff how to properly make each concoction you sell and invest in bar jiggers to aid your employees in measuring the accurate portion of alcohol.  There are systems available that help measure your inventory before each shift and again after each shift to determine how much alcohol was used during the shift, which will show the amount given away via freebies or over pouring.

6. Under pouring. Wait, how can that be stealing?  Well, what if your bartender purposely under pours 1/6 of the alcohol per drink, keeps track of the number of drinks he/she makes, and pockets the cash for every sixth drink?  That means under pouring now equals theft.  Other under pouring tactics include using one shot on two glasses, diluting the liquor with water, or leaving out one or more alcoholic ingredient(s) on mixed or blended drinks.

7. Drinking away your money. It’s a slow night, so your bartender pours a free round of shots for all the staff.  Or, your bus staff member is taking out the empty bottles to your dumpster and secretly grabs a few full bottles with the empties and stashes them in his/her car for later.  It happens.  Be sure you are keeping accurate inventory, so you can easily catch any culprits and prevent it from happening in the future.  On the flip side, there have been cases when staff bring in their own inventory of alcohol and skip the whole cash register process altogether, basically running their own business from behind your bar and keeping the profits.

Now that you know some of the things to look out for, what are you going to do about it?  One of the hardest steps to take as a bar/restaurant owner or manager is to identify the staff who is intentionally stealing…and then to fire him/her.  Even if they are a veteran team member or one of your most liked personalities behind the bar, if they are stealing from you, they don’t belong on your payroll.  Period.  A second chance could just be the opportunity they need to rob you blinder.

Know your staff. Know exactly what tasks they do and how you can train them to do each one efficiently. Know your policies. Know your inventories. Know your instincts.  The more you can arm yourself with knowledge, the less likely someone will be able to steal from you.