Author : Tommy Yionoulis

HomeArticles Posted by Tommy Yionoulis (Page 7)

Flavorless Pizza

Last weekend I ordered pizza from a new place in our neighborhood that we had never tried.  We had friends over, and they swear by this place, so we gave them a shot.

The pizza was flavorless.  My friend who orders from them regularly commented on how the pizza wasn’t up to par.  My guess is that someone over there screwed up on their sauce recipe because the pizza looked properly constructed.

My order was $30 for a pizza, wings, and a salad.  I’m not going to order from them again for quite some time if ever.  You only get one chance to make a first impression, and they didn’t do well.

So now, all of their hard work to get me as a new customer was for nothing.  All of the marketing, the mailers, the signage, the making great pizza for my friends so many times amounted to nothing in my case.

Here is the kicker, this entire scenario was avoidable by doing a line check and tasting their sauce and ingredients before the shift.  A line check would have caught this issue, and they would have had time to fix their sauce.

Had they done a line check and served the pizza they thought they were; I might be an enthusiastic new customer of theirs.

Line checks are not optional.  They are a required for running a successful restaurant.

I would like to give you our new white paper, 7 Tips for Faster Better Line Checks today by clicking here.  In this white paper, we do a deep dive on some ways to make your line check more effective and quicker to execute.

Click to have your copy of 7 Tips for Faster Better Line Checks delivered to you inbox today.

Hope you have a safe and profitable New Years Eve!

If you have any questions give me a call or send me an email any time. Or if you are interested in seeing an OpsAnalitica demo, click here to schedule.

7 Tips for Faster Better Line Checks

Chef Tasting Food

Pre-shift line checks are a requirement for running a successful restaurant.  Line checks provide management the ability to inspect their restaurant before the meal period to:

  • Ensure that they are stocked properly, Pars
  • The right food is on the line, FIFO
  • That everything is safe to serve, Temperature Control
  • The correct serving ladles and spoons are being used, Portion Control
  • That all food is fresh and tastes correct, Food Comp Reduction
  • Basic food safety and cleanliness practices are being met, Sanitation

If you are not conducting line checks every meal period, from my experience, you don’t even know what you don’t know about what is going on in your kitchen.  My guess is that if you started doing line checks  you would be very surprised at what you find.

Here are some tips to make your line checks faster and more effective:

  1. Thorough is Better:  Look at every item that you are going to be serving that shift.  Don’t assume that because it was checked on the last shift that it is still good to serve.
  2. Make a line check kit:  It doesn’t have to be fancy but you should grab a full pan and load it up with the things you are going to need to conduct your line check and then bring the kit with you to each station in the restaurant.  A good kit should contain:
    1. Sanitizer bucket with 1 wet towel for cleaning off thermometer probes
    2. 1 dry towel
    3. Sanitizer test strips
    4. Dishwasher test strips if different
    5. 1 bucket with clean spoons for tasting (figure out how many spoons you will need to taste every item and bring that many)
    6. 1 bucket for dirty spoons
    7. Thermometer(s)
    8. Fryer oil test kit if you use one
    9. Post-its and a pen – for leaving notes for crew
  3. Write SMART Questions:  For any food item you should:
    1. Temp the item
    2. Taste the item when appropriate
    3. Ensure it is labeled correctly with expiration date
    4. Check that it is in the correct container size
    5. Has the correct portion control in place (spoodle, ladle, measuring cup, check weight of random item, etc..)
  4. Use Multiple Thermometers:  The average probe thermometer takes 1 to 5 seconds to register a temp.  If you are going to be temping your entire line you are adding unnecessary time to your line check if you only use 1 thermometer.  Use at least two or four at a time.  By the time you place the 4th thermometer the 1st one has probably registered the temp.  This will speed up your line checks
  5. Check for critical violations:  You should take this opportunity to be looking for other critical violations in your restaurant:
    1. Sanitizer buckets: proper concentration, towels, temperature
    2. Dishwasher: water temperature, sanitizer concentrations, etc..
    3. Improper food storage:  look in dry storage and refrigerator units for proper shelves, cool down procedures, covers, and labels
    4. Temperatures:  record temps for all cold and hot hold units
  6. Correct any critical violations immediately:  As you are walking around conducting your line check if you stumble upon a critical violation you need to fix it immediately.  Fixing might consist of you stopping what you are doing and fixing it yourself or delegating it to a member of the crew.  You need to flag that item and re-check that it was fixed before service starts.
  7. Use a Digital Checklist App like OpsAnalitica Inspector:  The OpsAnalitica Inspector drives line check compliance through our accountability management functionality.  When you use the OpsAnalitica Inspector for your restaurant checklists you will know who completed the checklist, when it was completed, if the line check was pencil whipped, and you will be able to see the answers from any connected device in the world.  You will also be able to identify any issues and immediately follow-up with your management team to ensure that they are corrected before they can affect safety and quality.  Our clients that use the OpsAnalitica Inspector for line checks see a 1/2 to 1% decrease in food costs due to reduced comps and better inventory management.  Our clients are reporting increased temperature compliance and safety.  The fact is that paper line checks that no one ever look at are a waste of time and are given the appropriate amount of attention but when line checks are conducted digitally and followed up on the end result is better, safer and more profitable restaurants.

We hope you find this list helpful in making your line checks more effective and quicker to complete.  If you would like to learn more about the OpsAnalitica Inspector and how it can drive line check compliance please click here to watch our demo video.

Here is an additional guide that you might find useful:

  1. Calibrate your thermometer

Chipotle’s Woes Could Happen to Any of Us

A couple of years ago I met with a Chipotle Director to show him the Inspector app of that time.  My hope going into the meeting was that he would have been so blown away that he would have walked us into the VP of Ops office.  

He didn’t, full disclaimer, he wasn’t officially speaking on behalf of Chipotle when he decided not to bring it to his bosses, we were just two guys having dinner. 

The reason I’m even recounting this to you was his reasoning for not wanting to bring it to his bosses.  In his opinion, the culture at Chipotle was not about checklists. Chipotle’s culture is based on the belief that if you hire the right people, train and empower them than you don’t need checklists.   

I agree with their philosophy on hiring great people and would argue that checklists are vital to all industries but especially to the restaurant industry. 

Checklists provide focus, and when checklists are completed thoughtfully and followed-up on, they drive safety and consistency in operations.   

Chipotle’s CEO officially apologized this week and said that the controls they are putting place are going to make them the safest place to eat in the country.  Here is a link to a Slate Article Chipotle is So, So Sorry for Sickening all Those Students. 

The last paragraph of the article states that Chipotle is planning on more audits, which is a good thing.   

The only way to ensure that you are running safe operations is through consistent daily checklists and inspections of your locations by your employees.   

I would like to give you, for free, our 4 Daily Must-Do Steps to Safer Restaurants white paper.  It details a model of for the kind of self-inspection program you should consider implementing in your restaurants.   

Get your copy of the 4 Daily Must-Do Steps to Safer Restaurants by clicking on the link.   

If you are interested in starting a daily self-inspection program in your restaurants in 2016, you should know that there is still time.  We can get OpsAnalitica implemented in most chains within 1 business day.   

Click on the schedule a demo link to see the platform in action or if you have any questions give me a call or send me an email any time.

Why Getting Rid of Tipping in Full Service Restaurants is Stupid

Chef Instructing Trainee In Restaurant Kitchen

Full-service restaurants are unique in American business in that the incentive systems for service employees are perfectly aligned with the goals of the business.

It is an amazing sight to see employees working to benefit themselves and simultaneously benefitting the owners and managers of the establishment. Allow me to explain.

Servers in restaurants make a small minimum wage, mostly for taxes, and tips. Those tips are a percentage of their sales and that percentage in my experience can range from 10 to 30%. I was a really good server, and when I was on, I could easily make 30% per table, though 20% is the norm and occasionally you would get less than that.

Screenshot 2015-08-09 08.41.41

When a server is compensated by tips, they are driven by their personal benefit to provide great service to their guests in the hopes of making a higher tip percentage. Maximizing the servers personal revenue per shift and the ROI for their time.

The servers are also incentivized to make recommendations and to upsell their guests to enhance the guests experience and to get the maximum check value on each table. In my experience if you sell the table too much food or super expensive items that they weren’t expecting it can hurt your tip percentage as the guest feels that they have been taken advantage of or scammed.

Servers also get paid on volume. Meaning that a server on a busy shift wants to turn each table as many times as they can without rushing their guests out of the restaurant. Once again there is a fine line between pushing someone out the door, which if the guest feels rushed could affect the server’s tip percentage vs. being very efficient at delivering the check and processing payment so the guest leaves and the server can get another party at that table.

To sum up servers are incentivized to deliver great service, to maximize check value without going overboard, and to move customers in and out of the restaurant as quickly as the guest allows. When servers work toward these incentives, they maximize their earnings for that shift.

The restaurant owners benefit from servers that take great care of guests, increase sales by upselling, and move guests efficiently through the restaurant maximizing throughput and sales each meal period.

Both groups incentives are properly aligned with each other, and they both win and lose together.

Another point that needs to be made is that both teams lose together as well.

If servers provide horrible service and guests stop coming both the servers and owners of the restaurant will suffer. The owners will suffer more as the servers will eventually leave and the owners will be stuck with a business that has become known for bad service.

If the owners don’t do a good job of delivering a great product the servers and the owners will suffer because people won’t come to the restaurant, sales will be down, and the servers won’t make as much money.

In this relationship the servers and owners once again are linked at the hip.

There are other employees in the restaurant that are directly compensated off of the servers earnings. Bussers, bartenders, food runners, and sometimes hosts are all affected by server tips. When I was a waiter at P.F. Chang’s this is how we distributed our tips:

Total tips for night $200:

  • Busser: 15 to 20% or $40 – a busser usually served 2 to 3 servers, and I always tipped 20% because a busser can bury a server, or make it hard for the server to turn tables. It was important to me to make sure that I took care of my busser.
  • Food Runner: 10% or $20
  • Bartender: 1% Sales or $10
  • Bartenders and food runners, if there are more than one working, pool their tips from the servers and distribute amongst the team that was working that shift and are paid a higher minimum wage.

A lot of these cities are proposing a $15 minimum wage and getting rid of tips. When I was working as a server on a good Friday night, I planned on making $120 to $140 net in 5 to 6 hours. At $15 an hour and a 6-hour shift you are making $40 less a shift than you would have been if you were working for tips.

I’ve read an article that we blogged about in the spring that was pro no tips where the servers said they liked the paycheck but that they were making less money. I don’t know of a great server that would trade working for tips for an hourly wage because they know that they will make less money.

Another argument that is being put forth by people who don’t like tips is in regards to BOH staff: cooks, dishwashers, prep cooks, etc..

These are completely different jobs and have different risk levels and different rewards. A cook is guaranteed a higher base wage each hour of each shift. A cook gets paid their full wages for the hours they work if the restaurant is slow or busy. Therefore, a cook or BOH employee assumes no risk or variance in their wages shifts to shift.

An FOH staff member: server, busser, a bartender is completely dependent upon the level of business and their service for tips. The FOH staff assumes a large amount of personal risk and opportunity cost each day that they go to work.

I can’t tell you how many times I was sent home early because the restaurant wasn’t busy. Each shift the restaurant staffs themselves anticipating being very busy and if the business isn’t there the manager’s cut staff and send people home early.

What is amazing about sending people home early is that it isn’t looked at as a bad thing by most restaurant employees. I would say that schedule flexibility is one of the main reasons people chose to work in the hospitality industry.

Managers ask the staff who would like to go home early, and there are usually volunteers who have something else they want to do and they leave and the people who need money stay.

In my experience if you get cut and sent home early too often you will probably go and look for another job at a different restaurant.

The argument that BOH employees aren’t treated fairly because of tipping is wrong. Salary is based on upon risk and reward and in my experience working in both the BOH and FOH it isn’t an issue for the employees working those jobs.

Also, we live in a free country, and we are all employed at will, nobody is forced to work anywhere or in any position people choose their jobs and employees and can quit at any time.

What happens if we get rid of tipping across the board?

When you work for an hourly wage, your incentives change and, therefore, your behavior will change as well.

In the examples above we discussed how servers are incentivized to take great care of their guests because that level of service will influence their tip percentage. That incentive no longer exists because the level of personal service you give doesn’t directly affect your wages.

You can make the case that a bad server who gives bad service will eventually be fired.

We discussed how servers were incentivized to upsell and make recommendations to increase the check to a level that will enhance the customers experience without going overboard. That incentive is now gone because the one thing that we didn’t mention earlier is that upselling and making recommendations requires more work of the server.  The server has to think, react, ask questions, put themselves out there if the recommendation isn’t liked, deliver more food, and do more work.  It is much easier to be an order taker and not do any of that stuff.

On an hourly wage system, you are not incentivized to do more work. Hourly workers that don’t get compensated by output are incentivized to do the least amount of work per hour.  An example: why would you go through the hassle of selling a bottle of wine, presenting it, opening it, letting the guest taste it, and then serving it if it doesn’t directly enhance your bottom line.  If a server is in the rush and they have to do a wine service it can take a couple of minutes and can throw them deeper into the weeds.  Why tipped servers sell bottles of wine today is because a $30 bottle can enhance your tips by 5 to $6 dollars for that table.

Enjoy these excerpt from Office Space the Movie

Peter Gibbons: The thing is, Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.
Bob Porter: Don’t… don’t care?
Peter Gibbons: It’s a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don’t see another dime, so where’s the motivation?

Finally, we discussed that servers working for tips are incentivized to turn tables quickly to maximize their tips per shift. This incentive is removed as turning tables is once again more work for a server with no reward. The server that is paid an hourly wage only incentive is to stay on the clock as long as possible per shift to maximize their personal revenue.

If you think that I’m making this stuff up, or I’m overly dramatic, eat at a restaurant in France or any other country where the service staff is paid hourly and not by tips. There is a reason that French waiters are stereotyped for horrible service it is because they majority of them deliver horrible service. The service in other countries doesn’t compare to the level of service that we get every day in the America.  Check out this blog from a Frenchman about service.

These are my predictions for the industry if we move to no tipping policies:

  1. Restaurant owners that move to a no tipping policy will make less money than they did when they had employees that were compensated with tips.
  2. Servers who work for an hourly wage will make less money than they did when they worked for tips.
  3. Full-service restaurants that are less expensive will have a harder time with no tips than more expensive fine dining restaurants because they are more dependent on volume than price premium.
  4. Americans will enjoy worse service in restaurants that don’t have tips then they will in restaurants where tipping is still the norm.

At the end of the day, the American full-service restaurant is a highly successful social experiment that demonstrates that when you have alignment of incentives and goals employees and ownership can win together.

One last thought:  why do you get better service at Nordstroms then Macy’s when the job is exactly the same?  My guess is that the Nordstrom employee gets a % of their sales.

Due Diligence and Due Care for Restaurant Managers

 

I believe that the hospitality industry should adopt Due Diligence and Due Care as management concepts that we fully embrace and implement into our business processes.  Due Diligence and Due Care are words associated with investing, and contracts. In my last position working in cyber security, those terms were defined as:

  • Due Diligence: Identifying threats and risks.
  • Due Care: Acting upon identified threats to mitigate risks.
In the context of restaurant management, I look at Due Diligence as doing what it takes to serve safe food in a safe environment.  I didn’t say delicious food I said safe food.  Meaning that we use HACCP principles to ensure that the food products that we are serving have been manufactured, delivered, stored, and prepared safely.
Most restaurants today are, or should be, conducting daily inspections of their facilities paying attention for critical food safety violations.  Making sure food is stored safely, chemicals are stored away from food, temperature discipline is maintained both in cooling and heating.  We aren’t introducing foreign contaminants into the food preparation areas and that all of our employees are healthy and trained in proper hygene are just some of the areas that we should be inspecting every shift.  At OpsAnalitica we are learning that daily restaurant audit checklists are a key to keeping consumers safe.
250X250 LI
As we have seen recently with the Chipotle e-coli outbreak they don’t even know which item(s) caused the outbreak at several of their restaurants earlier this month.  This is speculation on my part, but since the e-coli outbreak happened at several locations it would make sense that it wasn’t one person that got everyone sick but that a food item that was shipped to multiple restaurants was responsible.  It will be interesting to learn what caused this outbreak.
Using a restaurant checklist app to conduct daily checklists and managers following up on all violations is the best and cheapest way to perform our Due Diligence in providing safe food for our customers.  Due Diligence is only half of the battle, Due Care is the other half.
Due Care procedures are the processes that you have in place for when you identify an issue.  The key to Due Care is consistent and documented remediation of issues.
You may be familiar with the phrase “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up” that gets you into trouble.  That is especially true when you are doing your Due Diligence, conducting a pre-shift inspection, and you identify an issue but then you don’t correct the issue safely.
An example:  a restaurant supervisor completes a temperature log for a walk-in refrigerator, and records a 65-degree temperature.  The person completing the temperature log isn’t aware that this temperature is in the danger zone, doesn’t do anything to fix the issue, they just serve the food and they get a lot of people sick.
We as a nation are very intolerant of companies that had enough forethought to identify a critical area on an checklist but then not have a plan to fix the issue when the dangerous conditions are identified.  We find that unacceptable, and for good reason, you wouldn’t want to fly in a plane where the pilot knew a wing was missing but decided to take-off.
In the above example, we would hold the company responsible for not having the systems in place to notify management that their was an issue and not training their supervisor well enough to know that a 65-degree walk-in is dangerous.  Using a restaurant checklist app that could automatically email an exception report of temperature violations to the appropriate managers would be a great first step in providing due care.  Correcting the issue and documenting what actions were taken would close the loop on this issue and fulfill HACCP Rule #7 for documentation.
Look at your real-world experience, we understand when people make mistakes or accidents happen.  We get furious and litigious when mistakes are made and the people responsible are clueless when they should have known better.  We get even with businesses that profit while their customers get hurt.
As hospitality professionals, we have to make sure that our organizations, size doesn’t matter, have well documented Due Diligence and Due care processes in place.  More importantly we have to train, consistently follow, and document those processes in their application.  It is when we consistently apply our processes that we have a chance of protecting our brand and our businesses when we make a mistake.
If you would like to learn more about how conducting daily checklists can help you run more profitable restaurants, I invite you to download our free white paper here.

6 Types of Food Comps and How You Can Reduce Food Costs

Busy Kitchen

I was recently talking to one of our clients about the OpsAnalitica Inspector, and he was telling me how it helps their company reduce Food Costs.

See if this sounds familiar, their managers have always been required to do pre-shift line checks. Even before they had implemented OpsAnalitica they did their line checks like most people do, on a clipboard with pen and paper.

With OpsAnalitica, each manager knows that their Area Manager can look at a report and see when and if they completed their line check each shift. Our client said that he first looks for restaurants that aren’t completing their line checks and then he looks for the inevitable increase in food cost that follows. No line check = increased comps. That is one of the ways he determines which restaurants he will be concentrating on.

When you don’t do line checks, you are letting your customer find your mistakes instead of catching them yourself.

In the spirit of this story, I have identified six different types of food comps and what you can do to stop or reduce them.

1. Crazy or dishonest customer
I mention this one first because I believe that the perception in the industry is that crazy customers are the number one reason for food comps but if you tracked your comps by reason my guess is that crazy customers would account for a small amount of total comps.

There are people who don’t read menu descriptions or don’t ask questions. They order food that they hated in the past but want to give another try or they can’t eat because of allergies.  These customers don’t want to pay for it if they aren’t going to eat it.

Let’s take it one step further, there are crooks out there, they are a small percentage of people who eat at your restaurant, but they do exist.  They order food with every intention of eating some of it and then lying about it to get the dish removed from their bill.

I went through some advanced customer service training when I worked for The Grove in Los Angeles; the training was based on the Ritz-Carlton method. The Groves owner’s standpoint was this, that yes there are people who are going to lie and think they pulled a fast one on you. Those liars are such a small percentage of your customers that it isn’t worth confronting them or allowing your staff to provide less service to them because they believe that the person is lying.  The cost to your business or your reputation, if you are wrong, is so much higher than one comped dish.  If you allow you or your team to make those judgment calls, and you get it wrong with a genuine person, they may never come back. You just have to suck it up as a cost of doing business.

As a manager, I always had a hard time with this because I didn’t like the feeling I had in my stomach when I could tell that one of these liars thought they were so cool and got away with something. It bothered me, but I grinned and beared it because our owner was right, and when I was able to fix a situation for a customer of ours that we genuinely made a mistake on, I was thankful for the power that I had to rectify the situation and deliver on our service promise.

Now with Yelp and Social media I think this is even more important today to treat every customer like gold because these reviews can live online forever.

You can’t do anything about this type of food comp other than training your servers well around the menu and paying attention to items that are getting returned more than others.  If you identify certain items that are returned more often, get them off your menu or ensure that servers are fully explaining the items to guests as they order. Ex “Just so you know this isn’t your traditional calamari that is deep fried and breaded, this is a stewed calamari that is in a bowl of sauce.”  Try to head the comp off a the pass with over communication.

2. Server Screw-up
Servers make mistakes. There are any number of reasons for these mistakes: didn’t hear the customer correctly, didn’t ask clarifying questions, didn’t understand the menu item or how the dish is prepared, was overwhelmed at the moment, was hung over or tired.

I was pretty consistently hungover or overly tired in my twenties. When I came into work hungover, I made mistakes, and the restaurant comped some food.

Server orders the food incorrectly and the guest returns it.  You solve this by tracking comps by server. You coach and train servers that have more comps and if you can’t fix them then they may not be the right fit for your restaurant. You do pre-shift meetings and evaluate your team before the shift and make adjustments when you have to. Send servers home that are hung over or look like they slept in their uniforms, make an example of people and hold everyone to the level of professionalism that you expect. Spend more time training servers before they hit the floor in their sections, it’s more than just menu knowledge its table management.

3. Kitchen makes order incorrectly
This type of comp is very similar to number 2 Server Screw-up, it’s just on the other side of the house. The kitchen makes an order incorrectly, and the guest returns the item. Kitchen mistakes happen more often when there are modifications to the dish, and they don’t make it correctly. The solution is the same, train your staff to ask more questions. A cook should never complete a dish unless they fully understand what they are doing. Servers should be trained when there are a lot of modifications to an order to go back to the kitchen and explain the mods to the cooks or check with the cooks if they are doable before ordering.  If you have cooks that don’t know how to make the menu items, then you have to train and coach them and if they don’t improve this probably isn’t the right restaurant for them.

4. Kitchen makes recipe mistake
This type of comp is different from making an order wrong this is where they made an ingredient, a sauce for example, incorrectly and it tastes horrible. Kitchen prepares food with horrible tasting ingredient and guest send food back.

Kitchen recipe mistakes are one of the easiest issues to catch if you do line checks. A manager should taste every sauce, every soup, all side dishes each meal to ensure that they taste the way they are supposed to. Then you can catch your mistakes before your customer catches them for you. Recipe mistakes are 100% avoidable when doing line checks. In our experience, a restaurant that makes more of their food from scratch on a daily basis will see a greater reduction in food cost from performing line checks.

5. Kitchen takes too long to make food
Food taking too long to get to the table is a double a whammy because it is probably affecting more than one table and can generate a lot of comps when nothing was wrong with the food. There are several reasons this can happen:

  • The kitchen is just slammed because everyone sat at once.
  • The kitchen is slammed because they weren’t stocked to par and not all of their food is thawed and ready – slowing down cook times. This once again should be caught and addressed during the line check.
  • The kitchen or the service staff are making mistakes and there a lot of refires that are jumping in line and overwhelming the kitchen staff.

If this is a consistent issue, then you have to take the proper management actions and get the right people on your team.

6. Food runners make mistakes

Food runners sometimes drop off food at the wrong table. I think the rule is that if they leave the food on the table and walk away or the guest touches the food then they can’t give it to the correct guest, and now we have a comp. This is a training and communication issue. They should be trained not to leave a table where there is any question that the food isn’t correct. If they keep the dish on their tray or off the table, they can figure out what is happening and avoid the comp.

Take Aways

After looking at these different types of food comps, you can boil them down to a couple of core issues.

  • Managers that have not confirmed they are ready for service – line checks and pre-shifts.
  • Bad communication – training and hiring decisions.

1. Using line checks and pre-shifts to confirm that you are safe and ready for service are a no-brainer is the low-hanging fruit in these scenarios because you are 100% in complete control of doing this. Whether you are the manager of 1 location or 100’s of locations you can benefit from implementing a pre-shift/line check protocol in your restaurants. The key to making your line check protocol a success is following-up with your managers on a daily basis to make sure they are doing these pre-shifts correctly. If you implement pre-shifts with follow-up you could see your comps and food waste go down; we’ve seen as much as 1/2 to 2% with some of our clients.

2. Bad communication stems from hiring and training issues and are much harder to address because each person is different and each shift that they work is unique. When you are training your team, make sure they understand the why behind what you are asking them to do. Make sure you train them on using clarifying questions and always to get more information before ringing up an item or making an item.

3. Show the team what comps cost the restaurant. I think that it’s beneficial to do training around food cost and how it affects the business. I’ve seen this attitude where employees compare what they would buy a steak for in the grocery store and how much the restaurant sells it for. They believe that the restaurant is swimming in profits, anyone who has ever managed a restaurant knows the truth.

Hold a training session where you show your BOH and FOH teams the cost of each part of a menu item. Factor in labor and everything else that goes into serving this plate to a guest, go crazy here and really dig deep into your costs. A good way to do that is to divide the average meals served in a month into all of your fixed costs (insurance, rent, loans, etc.) and do the same with your non-food variable costs (profit % of rent, power, etc.).  Calculate the true all inclusive plate cost and watch your teams reactions when they understand that there is really only a small percentage of profit on every dish. Explain to them that when we make a mistake or have to comp a dish how that adds up. By explaining the numbers to your team and how comps affect those numbers, you will hopefully see some change in behavior.

If you don’t do this already, I recommend that you track the causes of your food comps in your register system or on paper. It could be as simple as:

  • Server Error
  • Kitchen Error
  • Food Runner Error
  • Customer Didn’t Like.

Review those numbers after a period and look for patterns.  This exercise should tell you where you can focus some attention to your business.

Comps are a fact of life because we are in a people business. I’m a big believer in Control what you can Control and manage to the rest. So many of the comps that we highlighted were because of a lack of communication between the customer and the server, the server and the kitchen team, the kitchen team and the server, or the kitchen team and the food runners. Those people comps we have to manage to as best we can and make the hard decisions when we have to.

Doing line checks and pre-shifts is part of the control what you can control philosophy.  Restaurant managers should be doing line checks every shift and following up with their teams to ensure they are getting done accurately. If you do this, you will be able to reduce comps and food waste.

If you would like to learn more about how OpsAnalitica can help you with line check compliance and reducing your food comps, click here  to watch our OpsAnalitica demo video.

Face the Facts: It’s a Drag and Drop World – Part III

Here’s part III of the series, the final installment. To catch up on part I click here, part II click here.

How to Craft a Workflow Strategy

  • Seek out a check-list driven workflow app provider that has restaurant specific knowledge.
  • Examine the pedigree of the management of the app provider.  The restaurant business is perhaps the most idiosyncratic business in the world.  Do they really know what goes on in the kitchen and on the floor?
  • Don’t be a guinea pig for a company that’s trying to break into the restaurant sector with new app development.
  • See how quickly the workflow app provider can implement you with their “off the shelf” apps, and how quickly they can customized a new workflow app for you.  Sometimes, as with OpsAnalitica, it’s as simple as upoading a spreadsheet.
  • Make sure your provider offers dashboard views of procedure compliance.
  • Make sure your provider offers analytics of your operations, because they are the “window into the soul” of your business. 

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Maximizing Your ROI

  • Technology at any cost is worthless unless it quickly pays back your investment.
  • Accountability management workflow apps, like those from OpsAnalitica, are famously quick to earn back initial investments… in part because they are relatively inexpensive to put in place to begin with.
  • When searching providers, be sure to look for an ROI calculator, or case studies that show how quick the earn-back was.

Finally, ask your accountability management workflow app provider for their input on which apps will do the most to optimize your restaurant locations.

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Face the Facts: It’s a Drag and Drop World – Part II

Here’s part II of this series. Part I was posted yesterday. If you haven’t read part I yet click here and read it first.

Signs you are ready for Workflow Management Apps

The obvious signs that you’re ready for workflow management apps are:

  • Your operations are unprofitable
  • You can’t identify where your problems originate
  • You suffer food quality issues
  • Your operations are in disarray
  • Your operations are disorganized
  • You can’t track or account for losses
  • You are suffering from high staff turnover
  • You are suffering from low employee morale
  • Your services or locations have been red-tagged
  • Your locations have failed a health inspection
  • Your services or locations have been panned on Yelp or TripAdvisor

All of the issues listed above can very likely be solved by creating best-practice workflows, and driving them into your operations through apps on mobile devices.

Let’s look at but one item from above: “You suffer food quality issues.”  A workflow can be instituted to track and Q/A all food items, from the moment they are dropped off, through their storage (temp controls, quantity, dating, expiration dates) to their use (inventory monitoring, ingredient checks) to their preparation (standardized menus deployed, kitchen staff protocols enforced), to their service (wait staff prep, facility prep) to clean up (facility open/close protocols enforced).

What’s best, management can use dashboard-style systems to monitor compliance and get alerts to workflow variations, in real-time, tied to the person responsible.

The question is not: “Are you ready for workflow management apps?” The real question is: “Who isn’t!?” 

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How Workflow Management Apps Improve Productivity

Workflow management apps, like those from OpsAnalitica, improve productivity for these basic reasons:

  • The apps standardize procedures and workflows mentioned above:
    • Line checks
    • Temp checks
    • Menu standardization
    • Setup checks
    • Open checklists
    • Closing checklists
    • Employee onboarding
    • Employee training
    • OSHA compliance
    • Health inspection compliance
    • Customized apps
  • The apps allow for compliance checkup
  • The apps can be adopted from standard workflows, or…
  • The apps can be customized to display entirely unique data sets

By putting procedures in place (either standardized procedures or procedures customized just for your organization), users can drive best practices through an organization, enforce compliance, and monitor variances.

Click here to read part III.

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Don’t Market Yourself Off A Cliff

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Two of the most iconic moments in film history are Thelma & Louise driving off that cliff and Butch and Sundance charging out the door to take on the Bolivian army.

They are scenes of people choosing their destruction.

There are restaurant owners and managers that do the same thing every day.

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We recently wrote a blog about how GrubHub was hurting restaurants that weren’t ready for the sales increases. Restaurants would put themselves on GrubHub and start to get a ton of delivery orders and then not be able to keep up with the volume of both deliveries and in-house guests.

When Groupon first came out, there were stories of restaurants getting so slammed with Groupon customers, especially around expiration dates, that they angered many first-time visitors and in a lot of ways did more harm to their business than good.  This happened to some amazing waffle guys in Denver that I spoke to.

When I first got on Groupon, I watched this idiot massage guy sell over 3,000 $39 90-minute massages in one day. I did the math, and it would have taken this guy over three years full-time doing these deeply discounted massages to get through all the Groupons he had sold. It was crazy. Ironically the next day he enlisted five other massage people to help him work all the Groupons and I don’t think my wife ever got hers.

Back in 2008 I ran the Franchise Assistance Program for a large sandwich franchisor. It was a tough job to have right at the beginning of the recession because a lot of our franchisees were hurting and required assistance.

I was only allowed to give qualified franchisees access to our delivery platform for free. Adding delivery makes a lot of sense for a sophisticated operator who has the bandwidth to market and successfully implement the program. Delivering food requires additional employees and can stress a team if you don’t have the proper set-up. Look at a Jimmy Johns, they have one sandwich line for their in-store customers and one just for delivery, they are set-up correctly.

Unfortunately, for most of our franchisees, delivery wasn’t something that could help them because they couldn’t implement it successfully.  For those franchisees who did it half-assed, it probably hurt them more than it helped them.

My point is this. There are tons of new technology solutions being marketed to the restaurant industry that will help you drive new sales: table kiosks, delivery, carry out, mobile ordering apps, etc.. They can be great tools for your business if your operations are rock solid, you staff up, and you put the systems in place to handle the increased volume.

If you don’t plan for the increase, it is like sending out a coupon that is priced incorrectly, a coupon where you lose money on every redemption. The coupon is the best deal ever, and people redeem it. You feel great about all the business you are getting until you see your bank statement. You marketed yourself right out of business.

A lot of these tools get a service charge per transaction or take a percentage of the sale, so their motivation is to get you a ton of transactions. Your motivation as a restaurant owner is to take great care of your guests and run a financially successful business. Those motivations can be at odds with each other. I think a lot of Groupon’s early customers felt that way.

If you are going to open a new sales channel, then you should do the following things:

  • Put together a financial plan to determine how much it is going to cost you in staffing, food inventory, etc.
  • Make sure you can afford to start this channel for at least 30 to 90 day period.
    • In some cases, you will get busy right away and the danger is in not being prepared.
    • In other cases, you may experience the opposite, which is not enough sales and you have increased your labor and food costs. You need to be able to hold on and give this test a chance to be successful.
  • Make sure you time starting the new channel correctly.
    • Don’t just turn it on, plan it out and start slowly.
  • Find out if the vendor can throttle you in their system to ensure that you don’t get slammed when you aren’t prepared.
    • It’s always better to drink from a trickle than a fire hose.
  • Focus on customer service and quality of product above all else.
    • If you do that then the increased sales will come and be sustained.
  • Make sure you are running safe and efficient operations before adding a new sales channel.
    • Volume increases bring out hidden issues in your operations very quickly.
    • Consider using an automated checklist program, OpsAnalitica, to ensure safety and readiness every shift.

Marketing and adding new sales channels can grow profitability and expand a restaurant’s trade area exposing it to new customers. Generating more cash and growth. This growth can only happen when the new channel is implemented flawlessly, and the quality of the product matches the customer’s expectations.

If operations cannot keep up with new demand, then the new channel can accelerate the demise of your business, and you can market yourself right off a cliff.

Face the Facts: It’s a Drag and Drop World – Part I

You either get dragged (or drag yourself) into restaurant management and accountability technology…

Or be forced to drop out for running an unprofitable business.

There is no middle ground.

That’s for one simple reason: Perhaps 15 years ago it was possible to run a business without a web page, but today it is not. You cannot run a successful restaurant without technology. It’s impossible to do so profitably. It’s just a matter of how much and what kind of technology you adopt.

The days of the hippy cafes or sandwich shops managed all loosey goosey are long gone.  Now, competitors with iPads, tablets, web apps, and interactive spreadsheets will eat your lunch, while serving lunch to all the customers who used to go to the old establishment.

Whether it’s food inventory management, staff scheduling, reservations, or automated line checks, restaurant management and accountability technology is here to stay, and it’s only getting more innovative, more seamless, more integrated.  In fact, the next wave of restaurant management technology is focused workflow and accountability management, and there are exciting solutions on the market today.

Enforcing Best Practice Management

  • Today’s workflow management and accountability technology actually enforces best practices.  The workflows are driven forth through procedurally organized critical paths.
  • That means automated management of such activities as:
    • Line checks
    • Temp checks
    • Menu standardization
    • Setup checks
    • Open checklists
    • Closing checklists
    • Employee onboarding
    • Employee training
    • OSHA compliance
    • Health inspection compliance
    • Any procedure: You name it, even custom workflows
  • These critical paths can be set up to be self-improving, and informed by positive feedback loops.
  • The procedures and workflow that used to be dependent on someone’s memory, or on a list taped to the walk-in… they can now be standardized in an app suite.
  • The value of any standardized workflow is only as good as your ability to put in the hands of all your workers.
  • App-driven workflows can be easily deployed on smart phones, iPads, and tablets.  Linked to the internet, the data that spins off from the apps can feed corporate awareness of operations at extremely granular levels.
  • Reporting and compliance can be monitored through management dashboards.

Click here to view part II.

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