This is an interview with Chef Keith Jones. Keith and I have known each other since 1994 when I worked with him at The Metropolitan Club in Englewood Colorado. This is a great interview with Keith who has done and continues to do a little of everything in the hospitality business. We touch on the importance of mentors and a lot of other great topics in the business. I think a lot of you will like this episode because Keith has as expanded his horizons out of the restaurants but stayed in food service.
On this episode of OrderUp – The Restaurant Ops Show Tommy interviews Doug Davis, COO and Co-Founder of the BEC Group.
Doug shares his journey in the restaurant industry from starting out at McDonald’s as a kid and meeting the Zaxby’s owners while waiting tables to where he is now with the BEC Group. Check it out below.
Please enjoy this interview with Chef David Buchanan. Chef David is a working Chef at the Blackfish restaurant in northern Washington. He also runs www.chef-resources.com and the moderates the chef resources group on Linkedin.
Ari Weinzweig fell into the restaurant industry in the early 80’s because he didn’t want to move home after college and wasn’t particularly fond of driving a cab.
His business started out with a deli and has now grown to a community of 15 businesses under the Zingerman’s brand including a mail order service, creamery, a farm, business training, a publishing company, and even an annual bacon camp. All these unique businesses reside in Ann Arbor, MI.
Ari is a very interesting guy with an interesting belief system that affects every aspect of his life, professional and non-professional. Check out his visit to the OrderUp Podcast last week below.
Check out our 2nd interview podcast where Tommy sits down with John Lewis, Owner at Denver Food Group.
John has spent the last 15 years working in the Food and Beverage Industry, both CPG and Foodservice, in several different capacities, including Brand Management, Research and Development, Innovation, Culinary, and Purchasing. Most recently he worked for Wendy’s and Heinz Foodservice.
John has a passion for helping companies develop and refine their positioning to ensure they are staying relevant and differentiated.
Denver Food Group helps their clients build the most craveable products in the world while remaining affordable. By combining culinary experience and research experience, Denver Food Group are able to give greater direction to Marketing and Product Development teams in the Food and Beverage Industry.
Below is the audio version of our very popular blog, The Only Way to Sustainably Grow Restaurant Sales is Through Better Operations.
Subscribe to our podcast Order Up – The Restaurant Ops Show on SoundCloud, iTunes, Stitcher, and Tunein.
Ryan has vast experience in the industry and helps thousands of restaurant operators on a daily basis run better restaurants. He’s a great interview. Check it out below.
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.
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.
How could paper checklists be bad? Paper checklists are bad because people pencil whip them or lie on them. We recently conducted a survey of over 100 restaurant owners and managers. 94% of respondents believed that their teams weren’t completing their checklists accurately.
Which raises the question; why would a sane person have their team complete checklists that they know are being lied on?
A sane person wouldn’t, because they know that it is a waste of time and money. It costs money to develop checklists. It costs money to print checklists. It costs money to complete checklists. It costs money to file and store checklists and when it is time to get rid of them it costs money to shred and recycle checklists.
Yet as an industry we do spend money to have people complete checklists on paper even though we know they are being pencil whipped. Why do we do that?
The limitations of paper checklists aside, the fact that we still have people pencil whipping checklists in our businesses is because even a 30% accurate checklist is better than no checklist.
Let’s stick with the thought that even a partially completed checklist is better than no checklist. A person who completes a line check 30% accurately is still checking 30% more items than a person who skips their line check. They have a better chance of catching an error in preparation or finding an unsafe item and correcting it before it get’s someone sick.
Imagine a world where restaurants employees completed all of their checklists accurately and when they didn’t you were at least able to catch that they didn’t and coach them about the importance of doing them correctly. How much better would your restaurant run?
If every shift your team checked everything that was important enough to make it on a checklist. They checked every temp, tasted items, checked sanitation and portion controls. The restaurant when opened was clean and ready for guests.
Do you think that running better operations would translate into more sales, safer restaurants, happier guests, and most importantly more profits?
Of course running better ops would accomplish all of that. If running better operations couldn’t do that then we wouldn’t spend a penny on training or any operational initiative, we would only spend money on marketing because the only way to get sales would be to con people to come to your restaurant one time.
By the way, this is what the restaurant managers and owners told us on our survey. 100% of them agreed that checklists could help them run better and safer operations. That is right 100%.
Because checklists when completed diligently and followed-up on work.
The problem with paper checklists is that you can’t tell when they were started, when they ended, who did them, and if they were pencil whipped. Basically paper cannot help you hold people accountable. Also, this is for multi-unit owners who cannot be in every location every day, you can’t magically see paper hanging on a wall in a restaurant from your office.
What our industry needs is a checklist solution that is as easy to complete as paper checklists but allows us to hold our managers accountable and get visibility into our daily operations.
This solution would need to do the following things to be effective:
- Needs to hold managers accountable by tracking time, location, response cadence, and actual geo location.
- Needs to be able to identify unsafe operating conditions and communicate that to management.
- Needs to as easy as paper to use, with minimal training time.
- Needs to be as flexible as paper being able to capture different types of information, not just True and False questions.
- Needs to be better than paper allow you to utilize mobile technology to take pictures and leave additional comments.
- Most importantly you need to be able to get at the data you are collecting and start using it to make better operations decisions.
A solution that could replace paper checklists and hold people accountable at the store level up through the corporate level of a system could drive better, safer, and more profitable restaurants.
A restaurant company that could deploy a solution like this and start holding their unit managers more accountable and harness this new feed of operations data could optimize their operations and beat their competition by running more efficiently and making better decisions.
Think about the data that corporate restaurant management has access to today. They have register, inventory/ordering, and customer service data and they use that data to make the best decisions that they can. If you used a checklist solution to capture pertinent operations data at the store level, which would drive better operations. You could also use the date with your other data feeds such as sales, inventory, and customer service to create a complete picture of how your restaurants were operating. Remember that operations affect sales, inventory, food costs, and customer service, its not he other away around.
It would be a major competitive advantage for any restaurant system that took advantage of operations data. Look at how companies like Walmart, FedEx, Nordstrom, and Google use data to streamline operations and generate increased profits. Restaurant chains could do the same thing if they had the data, which they have, but just need to get it into an accessible, usable format.
How do you do this in your chain? You should implement the OpsAnalitica Inspector platform in your system for daily operations checklists and corporate inspections. The OpsAnalitica Inspector will hold your managers and teams more accountable at the restaurant level and our custom reporting and data warehouse will provide you with the data that you need to optimize your business.
The future of the restaurant industry is possible today for those chains that are bold enough to take the first step forward. If you are interested in learning more please click here and set up a call with our team.