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Everyone has a Letter Grade in Their Window Now

If you haven’t heard yet, Yelp is now displaying health inspection scores on your restaurant page. Which means, every restaurant in the country could have a health inspection letter grade in their online window. Make sure you read the whole blog as I put together a list of things all restaurant operators should start doing in regards to this move by Yelp.

There is a great Forbes Article entitled Yelp To Display Health Inspection Ratings On Restaurant Pages Nationwide that I encourage you to read. To save you a little time I will summarize the big bullets from the article below:

  1. Yelp will be posting your Health Inspection Score on your business page.
  2. They plan to have 750,000 health inspection scores posted by the end of the year. There are about 1.1 million food service establishments in the US.
  3. They are getting the data from local governments and a startup named HDScores.
  4. HDScores has 1.2 million scores in 42 states
  5. Yelp gets 30,000,000 unique mobile visits a month, 50% of those are restaurant searches.
  6. “A Harvard Business School study, in collaboration with Yelp and the City of San Francisco, found that displaying restaurant hygiene scores on Yelp led to a 12% decrease in purchase intentions for restaurants with poor scores compared with those with higher scores.” – Forbes Article

What does all this mean to restauranteurs? It means that you have to actually take Yelp and your restaurant’s cleanliness more seriously than ever before because not doing so could affect your revenues and profits.

A lot of operators have scoffed at Yelp reviewers and Yelp the company for years. Thinking that every bad review was a competitor trying to steal your business or some snobby know-it-all that thinks they are a professional restaurant critic.  In addition, Yelp hasn’t always been the best corporate partner, accusations of review placement manipulation and strong-arm advertising tactics have been lofted at the site.

The fact is this, by posting health inspection scores, Yelp just made itself more relevant for restaurant patrons than it ever was before. With Yelp displaying health inspection scores, right next to customer reviews, pertinent data about the business, links to making reservations, and links to the menu. Most savvy customers are going to look at Yelp before they even visit the restaurant’s website.  Because the restaurant’s website isn’t going to advertise that they got 70% on their last health inspection, but it will be right there for the Yelp customer who is reviewing your Yelp page.

At first glance, Mr. Mike’s 3 stars and captioned reviews would not stop me from trying this restaurant, Their 58 out of 100 health score would. 

One thing restauranteurs have to acknowledge is that patrons have always cared about restaurant cleanliness, they want to eat in clean restaurants that serve safe and delicious food.  In the past, there was never an easy way for them to add health inspection scores into their decision-making process because it wasn’t easy to get them.

Now that this information is available, look at bullet point 6 above – a 12% decrease in purchase intent for low hygiene scores, you better believe that it will enter into their decision-making process. If you have a low Yelp star rating and a bad health inspection score, you could be in real trouble.

Another thing to consider with Yelp posting health inspection scores, it’s going to be a flawed process. HDscores and Yelp are dependent on county health departments to provide them with the inspection data. Each county is staffed differently and they all have different procedures for handling health inspections, critical violations, scoring, reinspections, etc..

In some cases, a restaurant might get a bad health inspection score with a lot of critical issues but they might correct all critical violations while the inspector is on site. They have a low score but have fixed their issues and are technically safe for business, it won’t matter because the low score is what is going to be recorded by the health department.

Another nightmare scenario for restaurant owners, you get a bad health inspection score and can’t get reinspected for 90 days because the county is backed up. Who knows how many times HDScores or Yelp query the health department databases to update their info or how quickly the health departments get their data updated from their inspectors? All of these time lags could affect how long a bad score stays up on Yelp’s website.

Normal people outside of the food service industry don’t understand the nuances of health inspections and they don’t care. Click here to see a summary of the health inspections for Mr. Mike’s above, I got to this page by clicking on the Health Score link right next to their health score on their Yelp page. The general public isn’t sanitarians and won’t know why bumpy surfaces on walls or the lack of a thermometer could be huge issues.

The general public assumes that all health inspections are equal, they are fair, and that they happen in a timely manner. They trust that the health inspector is looking out for their best interest and they are willing to believe them. My point is this, you aren’t going to be able to educate the general public on the in’s and out’s of health inspections and defend a bad score, they could care less about all the injustices in this system, they are just not going to eat at your restaurant.

The only way to make sure that these health inspection scores don’t hurt your business is to get A health inspection scores every time. The only way to do that is to implement basic sanitation and food safety programs in your restaurants and hold your teams accountable on a shift-by-shift basis to following those procedures so you are 100% ready for every health inspection.

For years, we at OpsAnalitica have been preaching for an increased emphasis on food safety, restaurant cleanliness, and increased hygiene. To be honest, this messaging has never worked for us. Restaurant Operators haven’t been reaching out to us saying, help make me safer so I can protect my customers and my brand. The reason why is because, before this move by Yelp, a bad health inspection score didn’t affect most restaurants in the country. You got inspected maybe twice a year and probably corrected most issues while the inspector was on-site. The score wasn’t posted anywhere that your customers could easily find, only a few jurisdictions post letter grades in the window, so a bad score didn’t affect customers perceptions of the restaurant. That has changed.

Here are some steps that restaurant operators need to take immediately to ensure that their restaurants aren’t negatively affected by their Yelp Rating and Health Inspection Score.

Yelp:

  1. Claim your Yelp page. An unclaimed page makes it seem that management is disengaged from its customers.
  2. Respond to good reviews by thanking the customer for their patronage.
  3. Try to contact customers that wrote bad reviews and handle customer complaints that show up on the site within 24 hours. This shows that management cares about its customers. Offer restitution for angry customers in exchange for getting them to remove or amend their reviews to show that you addressed their issues. Some people will abuse this, but in the long run, it is better to not focus on the negative scammers but to focus on wowing every guest that comes to your restaurant and to protecting your Yelp Reputation.
  4. Flood Yelp with good reviews of your own. Incent customers to review your restaurant on Yelp to ensure that you get a high star rating. Hand out cards with a shortened URL to your Yelp page or send an email with a link for a review. Offer a free dessert and have an iPad in the store, have them check-in and give you a good review and then buy them a piece of pie or cake. Every Yelp star is worth a potential 5 to 6% increase in sales. My guess is that sales stat is lower for chain and franchise restaurants but now that Yelp is showing health inspection scores, I will bet that those restaurants will start getting searched more.
  5. Accept that Yelp is a necessary evil and that it adds value to you and your customers. They provide guests with a way to learn about your business and communicate with you about their experiences in a more open way than you typically get from a one-on-one interaction or a guest satisfaction survey. In addition, they provide you with a free business web page that is on one of the most searched websites in the world. Search your restaurant and I guarantee that your Yelp page will be prominently featured on page 1 of your search results.  According to the Forbes article, Yelp is the 25th most visited website in the US. I’ve said this before many times, I was a traveling consultant for years, I used Yelp all the time to find restaurants in the cities I was visiting, I’ve never had a bad experience at a 5 star rated restaurant that I found on Yelp.

Better Health Inspection Scores:

  1. The only way to ensure that you are going to get A’s on your health inspections is to run an A restaurant every day.  It’s not hard to do and it is what you should be doing.
  2. There are two major components to running A restaurants. Proper Procedures and Execution. Most chain restaurants have food safety procedures in place and that doesn’t guarantee that they will get an A.  Procedures aren’t enough you have to hold your team accountable to executing on those procedures every shift.
  3. If you have procedures in place focus on execution. Focus on getting your teams to follow your procedures every shift in every location. It is better to focus on high compliance for a couple of critical checklists than to try to get low compliance on a lot of checklists and procedures. High compliance on critical checks!!!
  4. If you don’t have procedures in place at this time, take critical items first approach.  Look at your local health inspections, identify the critical violations, and build procedures that check those violations every shift. If you just focus on critical violations, you will run better restaurants and you will ensure that you are not going to get dinged on an inspection.
  5. Ditch the paper. Most companies still use paper checklists, you can’t get any accountability on paper checklists. You don’t have any visibility into whether or not your procedures are getting completed if your teams are doing them accurately, or that they are identifying critical violations.  Running restaurants using paper checklists is harder than it needs to be for managers at all levels of the operation. Using a digital checklist platform, like OpsAnalitica, can provide you with effortless accountability, real-time notifications, and digital record keeping of your safety procedures.
  6. One more note on ditching the paper, digital record keeping is coming to restaurants. It has already been mandated for food manufacturers and everyone is expecting that it will be implemented by the government in the next 1 to 3 years. If you are looking to focus on execution, run better restaurants, get an A on your next health inspection, and be ready for the future, you should look at moving from paper to OpsAnalitica, a digital record keeping and shift readiness platform.

Yelp has made itself more relevant than ever by posting health inspection scores on their site. I predict that this is going to change how people decide which restaurants they are going to visit by putting more emphasis on food safety, which is good for consumers and ultimately good for the industry. For restaurants to be competitive and to not have their health inspection score affect their sales, they are going to have to focus on cleanliness and food safety as core values of their operations because if they don’t their failure is going to be on their Yelp profile.

One of the core values of the OpsAnalitica Way, our guide to multi-unit operations, is control what you can control. Restaurant operators need to realize that they are in complete control of what happens in their four walls. Food safety and clean restaurants aren’t just under their control they are their responsibility to their customers and their brands.

We know that this is going to be an imperfect process and a lot of restaurants are going to get hurt in the short term as they get bad health inspection scores and those scores stay on their Yelp profile longer than they should due to inefficiencies between all the parties involved.  This is going to sound like a jerk thing to say, I don’t care. I don’t care one bit. Don’t have dirty restaurants, that is what we should be focusing on.  Focus on being great and doing what you are supposed to do and this change will not affect you at all and may even help increase your sales.

One last prediction, I bet that Yelp will see an increase in monthly restaurant traffic over the next 6 to 12 months because of showing Health Inspection Scores.

If you want to learn more about the OpsAnalitica Shift Readiness and Digital Record Keeping platform, please go to OpsAnalitica.com.

Good luck

 

 

Really Know Your Customers And What They Want

In this interview, we talk with Rob Siegal who owns Trajectory Insights, a consumer marketing and branding firm. He talks about how brands use this information to make more informed decisions and change themselves to stay relevant with their current and aspirational customers. www.trajectory-insights.com/

Trajectory Insights About Us: Trajectory Insights uses both data-driven quantitative and deep understanding qualitative research approaches to provide actionable growth strategies and tactics based on consumer and customer behaviors to set our clients on growth paths.

Diagnosing Falling or Stagnant Sales

Falling Sales Image

Too many restaurant operators mistake marketing problems for operations problems.  They look at falling or stagnant sales, and they think I’ve got to increase marketing spend to get my sales back up.  How do you know if your falling sales are a marketing problem or operations problem?  Here are a couple of questions you can ask yourself to help you determine the cause.

  • Have I recently changed my marketing spend?
  • Have I recently changed how I’m marketing?
  • How are my online reviews? Are they getting better or worse?
  • Have I recently increased my prices?
  • Is there a new competitor in your area that is affecting your business?
    • Be careful in just blaming competition, it is very rare that a competitor can put you out of business overnight; people want to blame outside forces vs. taking responsibility for their issues.
    • Having said that if a newer better mall or dining area opens up and you are in the old one, that can be an issue, and you may need to consider moving, opening a second location, or asking for some rent relief.
    • If it is a competitor, then you have to focus on beating them in the marketplace with service and value.
  • Have you recently lost a key team member?
  • Are my comps going up?
  • Are my complaints going up?
  • Does your food taste as good as it did six months ago?
  • Am I experiencing higher than normal staff turnover?
  • What was your most recent health inspection score; was it higher or lower than your previous score?

If you have made major changes to your marketing program, that may be the cause of your sales stagnation.  If you have recently stopped couponing or changed/stopped advertising then you may truly have a marketing problem.  The easiest solution, if you made a change, is to go back to the old way of doing things if that was working for you.

If you can’t go back to what was working before than solving a marketing problem takes patience, and it takes a plan.  Don’t just spend money to spend money that doesn’t work.  You may need to make a change in your marketing channel, change in ad’s, or an increase in marketing spend.  You should always be looking for an ROI in every dollar that you spend on marketing.  In theory, marketing should pay for itself so increasing effective marketing spend should pay for itself with sales increases.

If you have determined that your issue isn’t marketing, then you may have an operations problem.  Operations problems are good and bad.  The good part of an operations problems is that running better operations are completely within your control.  The bad part of operations problems is that fixing them can be hard and take patience and consistency.

The first thing you need to do is figure out who or what is the cause of your issues.  In restaurant’s most of your operations problems come from a team member(s) who is either doing something wrong or who has a bad attitude.  It’s not like there is a restaurant machine and it can go on the fritz, we are a people business, and almost everything that we do involves people.

If it’s a training issue, that is easy to fix with a little training.  If it’s a people issue, those are harder to deal with quickly.  I’m not an hr expert, but I can tell you this.  You need to decisively, and legally, deal with any people issues quickly.  One bad team member can wreck an entire operation, they are like little cancers and must be dealt with swiftly and decisively.  Start a 3 step process of coaching them up, if they resist or don’t change, then they need to go before they do more damage to your business.

Every bad guest review on Yelp can cost your restaurant 30, potential customers.  In my experience, I have coached several employees back from the brink but the 80/20 rule is in full effect and for every two employees that I coached up, eight employees ended up firing themselves.  There is something about people when they make up their mind, and either consciously or unconsciously they fire themselves.

Ultimately when you identify that you have an operational problem, you need to get back to basics and fix it as quickly as possible.  Once it is fixed, it can be a long slog to get back to growing sales.  It goes back to being an experience by experience battle.  Every good experience earns you back a little goodwill, and every bad one erodes it.

One of the best ways to drive operational consistency is to put in systems and hold your team accountable to following them every shift.  Management by checklists with follow-up is one of the fastest, cheapest, and easiest systems to implement.  Checklists drive consistency shift-to-shift and better operations.

To see a list of the checklists that every restaurant should be doing, I invite you to check out this other blog post.

If you are interested in seeing OpsAnalitica in action, click here to watch a recorded demo video.

The Only Way to Sustainably Grow Your Restaurant’s Sales is through Better Operations

Screenshot 2016-04-12 14.52.05

It’s time to return to basics and focus on what works for long-term sustainable sales growth, which is better operations.  Nobody wants to hear better operations because they are either delusional about the current state of their operations, or they don’t want to put in the hard work and discipline of focusing on running better operations.

Nothing that you will do, no new system (delivery or take out), no new technology like a better POS or better website, is going to do more for your business than having delicious food, in clean well-managed restaurants, with great customer service.  NOTHING!!!!  If you didn’t want to be an operator and focus on being excellent, then this isn’t the business for you.

I was the dining room floor manager of a busy restaurant in 2001 we added $80,000 a week to revenue over a ten month period.  That is right 80K a week, not a month, and we didn’t spend an extra dollar in marketing nor did we add any new sales channel.  You know how we did it:

  • Moved the servers from 5 tables to 4 table stations- which all the servers hated at first.
  • We started using checklists to ensure that we were ready in the FOH for each shift, this included pre-shift meetings with the team.
  • We actively managed the dining room each shift focusing on service and turning tables.

You see we had latent demand that before we focused on operations we weren’t getting because our service was slow and quite frankly not that good.  When we made the sections smaller, brought in more servers, invested in training those servers on the menu, customer service, upselling, etc.  They had more time to do a better job servicing guests.  When we focused each shift on making sure that the restaurant and the team were ready, it was easier to wow guests.  I’m not telling you anything that you don’t already know; better operations, focusing on the little things, and providing an excellent experience is your best marketing initiative and the quickest way to grow sales.

Here is some information that provides more evidence to the better operations theory:

  • A 1-star increase on Yelp leads to 5 to 9% revenue increase.  Entrepreneur.com
  • One negative review on Yelp can cost you, 30 customers.  Entrepreneur.com
  • An A grade in your window, for those restaurants that have to contend with health inspection letter grades, can lead to a 5.7% bump in sales.  (Based on California Sales Tax Data for LA County)
  • Only 16% of Yelp reviews are fraudulent so don’t assume that every bad review you have is just a competitor out to get you – respond quickly and appropriately.  Entrepreneur.com
  • According to a recent study by AlixPartners, a global business consulting firm, “28 percent of diners surveyed say they would never eat at a chain affected by a food-safety outbreak, regardless of the geographic location of the outbreak.”  Tennessean
  • Olive Garden same-store sales are up 6.8%. This is what their CEO had to say:

“We’re just running better restaurants today,” Lee said during the company’s earnings call Tuesday. “I don’t think we should discount the importance of ensuring we’re properly staffed, our teams are properly motivated, simplifying the operation, reducing the size of the menu, processes and procedures.  NRN

“One of the things we’re focused on now is trying to keep things simple,” Lee said. “Simple is hard. Doing simple things every day is really hard. That’s what’s given us the biggest lift at Olive Garden. We’re not relying on promotional activity to drive business.”  NRN

Look at your experience in restaurants. The restaurants that serve delicious food with great service that are clean and well managed on average are much busier than their competitors who fall down in any of those areas.

There are so many outside factors affecting your restaurants every day, from minimum wages, weather, street construction, commodity prices, competition, shifting dining trends, government regulations, cook shortages, and social media to name few.  It can feel overwhelming.  How do you manage all of those outside factors and run your restaurant?  The answer is to control what you can control and react as best you can to outside forces.

If you know that you aren’t doing all that you could be doing in your business to run better operations, make a plan and start focusing 100% on your most critical issues and check them off the list one at a time.  

The quickest and most effective way to run better operations is also one of the easiest systems to implement:  checklists with follow-up.  Checklists focus your managers on those most important items each shift that have to be done to operate at your best.  They are self-documenting and easy to use.  By executing checklists every day in the same order, they build a routine and drive consistency shift to shift.  Checklists work, we asked 107 restaurant managers and owners recently if they thought that managing by checklist would help them run safer and better operating restaurants, and 107 of them said yes.

Most restaurants today have checklists in place, but they are conducted on paper, paper checklists make it impossible to hold your team accountable.  We recently conducted a survey and 94% of restaurant owners, and managers believed that their teams weren’t completing their checklists accurately.  94% of paper checklists are being pencil whipped and therefore the restaurant isn’t getting any of the benefits of safer and better operations because people aren’t conducting the checklist.

The key to getting the benefits of your checklists is to use a system like OpsAnalitica that can hold your managers accountable and make pencil whipping a thing of the past.  By simply moving your checklists to a tablet we can track start and end times, duration, and make the data available on any device from anywhere.  You will always know if your team is doing what they are supposed to be doing.

Better operations can increase your sales anywhere from 5 to 9%.  Checklists can play a major part in running better operations on a shift basis.  It is consistent daily execution that will yield the highest returns and generate those positive reviews and word of mouth recommendations that will grow sales organically and in a sustainable manner.

I invite you to check out OpsAnalitica by clicking here.  To see a list of the checklists that every restaurant should be doing, I invite you to check out this other blog post.

Don’t Market Yourself Off A Cliff

Screenshot 2015-10-20 12.46.40Screenshot 2015-10-20 12.48.41

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.

We 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.

You Are Only As Good As Your Staff

In our business, the people business, we rely heavily on our vast staff who service our customers with the same passion that we do when we’re on the front lines. 
 
Guest perception will make or break your business. You need to make sure that each and every customer interaction is at it’s highest level of service. You can have the best food on the planet, but if your service is sub par or your staff is disengaged you will lose business. You have worked very hard and spent a lot of money to get customers in the door, now you need to make sure they keep coming back. The way to do that is with good food and exceptional service. 
 
Customers will rave about the food only if they had a good dining experience. The last impression customers have typically is paying/tipping and then the host saying good bye on the way out of the restaurant. You want to make sure that those are lasting impressions. 
The best way to do this is to make sure that your staff is motivated and enjoy working at your restaurant.
 
In the spirit of this thought, and with some help from Careerbuilder, we put together a list of 5 Ways To Keep Restaurant Employees Motivated.
 
Encourage involvement.
Solicit ideas for improvements or brainstorm together on how to solve problems. Workers who feel vital to the restaurant’s success stay engaged, and their firsthand experience could provide you with fresh insight.
“We try to get the staff invested in our offering so they take more ownership in our brand strength and overall performance,” says Teri DeVito, executive vice president of the Greene Turtle.
For example, the company’s beverage development director is looking for new adult beverages to add to the cocktail menu and is encouraging bartenders to develop and submit their signature drinks. The winning cocktail will be featured on the Greene Turtle’s next drink menu. “The bartenders really have fun with it,” DeVito says.
Share responsibility.
Foster a “we’re in this together” attitude by promoting mutual responsibility. If every action from cleaning the bathroom to cooking the food is valued as contributing to an ultimate goal, workers feel their efforts have purpose.
“In my restaurant, there was one phrase that was never allowed to be uttered by my staff or me. We never said, ‘That’s not my job.” says Danny Fisher, former co-owner of Gup’s Place restaurant. “I never asked my employees to do anything I was not willing to do or had not done myself. They were not there to serve me. They were there to serve my customers, and that’s a job we all shared.
Be clear and fair.
Inconsistency and favoritism can kill employee morale. Treat workers equally, and do things as promised so they know what’s expected. “The industry is ever-changing, which means that your rules cannot,” Fisher says. “Too often, I’ve seen good restaurants struggle because the rules are
arbitrary and ineffective.”
Offer support.
From childcare duties to class schedules, workers often have a full plate outside of the restaurant. Consideration for those responsibilities can inspire employees to go the extra mile for you. “It’s important to to create a culture where employees know you are there for them, that you care, and
that you are approachable and supportive,” says Etai Cinader, managing partner of Pounds & Ounces in New York.
Have some fun.
Organize a special event to break up monotony. A challenge to sell the most of a particular item or a community night with percentage of profits donated to charity can rejuvenate a sluggish staff.
“We have server and back-of-house incentives and contests,” DeVito says. “An example is Greene Turtle Bingo, where servers and bartenders receive cards with numbers replaced with our menu items. The staff vies to complete cards based on items their customers order, with a prize going to
the one who gets Bingo first.”
This content was provided by CareerBuilder.
– See more at: http://morestaurants.org/keep-restaurant-employees-
motivated/?utm_source=MONewsletter+07%2F30%2F2015&utm_campaign=MRA+Newsletter&utm
_medium=email#sthash.7gdtzfBE.dpuf

The Value of Pre-Shift Meetings

I had the opportunity in 2002 to go through hospitality and customer service training similar to what the Ritz Carlton organization uses.  This program was implemented at one of the premier shopping malls in the country, The Grove in Los Angeles. I was a Concierge Services Manager at the mall. Our concierge team was so good that we won the 2002 Wall Street Journal Battle of the Concierges. We beat the W Hotel in San Francisco and the Ritz in NYC.

 The training program was simple and straight forward:

  1. Intense customer service training before new employees interact with guests.
  2. Wallet card with customer service guidelines on it.
  3. Memorization of customer service guidelines.
  4. Customer service test, must pass before assuming position.
  5. Daily Pre-shift Meeting for all employees including managers.
I want to focus on the pre-shift meeting aspect of the system because it was key to the overall implementation of the program and what maintained our customer service standards after the initial training.
Over my years of managing restaurants I have built upon that foundation and created the OpsAnalitica Pre-shift Methodology that I would like to share with you today.
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Your Pre-shift is broken into the following sections:
  1. Customer Service Tenant
    • This is one of 10 to 15 customer service tenants that you train and hold your team responsible for implementing.
  2. Quick explanation of the service tenant as a story.
    • Make the story relatable and short.
  3. Team member Experience
    • A team member shares a real life experience where they discuss a time when they gave or received service highlighted in the service tenant.
    • How did that make them or the guest feel?
  4. Important shift Information
    • 86’d items
    • Specials
  5. Quote or Joke of the day
    • Share a quote or joke of the day.
    • Make sure joke is appropriate for your audience.
  6. Shift contest
    • Every shift you should run a contest to motivate the team and you reward the winners with a meal, or credit, or post shift drink, etc.
      • You can run longer contests, like bottles of wine in a month but you really have to work to keep the team motivated and the prize has to be a lot bigger. Sometimes distributors will provide the prize.
    • Serving guests can become monotonous, use contest to motivate your team and to focus them on high contribution margin or items that are nearing expiration. By using contests to move these types of products you can lower waste and increase profits.
      • When I worked at Changs over a decade ago the food cost on Chicken Lettuce Wraps was $.39 an order and they sold for $6.95. Chicken Lettuce Wraps had a 6% food cost.  Don’t you want to be incenting your servers to sell items that have high contribution margins?
    • Make sure you announce the winner of last shift’s contest at the next Pre-shift meeting.
    • Examples of server games:
      • Server Bingo
      • Ticket times contests
      • Food or drink Item contest
      • Compliment contests
      • Comment card contests
I’ve seen first hand at a Changs the power of pre-shifts. Taking that couple of minutes before every shift to focus your team on service, give them a goal, and communicate vital information works wonders. I was a part of a management team that increased weekly sales by 50k a week from 125 to over 170k a a week in an 8 month period and pre-shifts were a major part of the strategy.
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