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Archive | September, 2011

Suggestive Selling Sells Itself!

Server Training TipsWhat do you like about your favorite restaurant? I have a few personal favorites and the reasons are simple and I suspect they are the same as yours. I’m talking about casual dining, not the five-star, upscale dining experience. Most of us don’t go to those establishments on a regular basis; we go to the casual to casual-upscale restaurant, where we know the food quality is consistent, the bar carries our favorite wine or brand of vodka. Probably the most important reason we go is for the consistent service.

Of course we know the food is generally to our liking, but we also take for granted that we’re going to receive the same service as usual, nothing outstanding, but they always manage to get our food to us in a timely manner and they aren’t rude. And the atmosphere? Well, it’s always kind of loud and we don’t usually go there if we just want some peace and quiet while we eat. Sound like your reasoning when deciding to go out to eat?

Do you want your restaurant to be people’s favorite place to enjoy dinner? Is your food consistently good? Is your wait staff truly interested in your guests’ best dining experience? Or are they going to the tables and “taking an order?”

How many times have you heard one or all of your wait staff say, “I’m going to take table five’s order now…be right back.”

The answer is every day, of course.

They are so used to just taking an order that they don’t realize how much power they really have!

Yes, power!

They have, or should have, complete knowledge of your menu; they know the bar and the premium alcohol you serve. They have all this ammunition in their heads when they go to a table and they don’t use it! Instead they “take an order.”

Try changing the way they approach their duty as a server. Help them understand that they are an independent contractor/salesperson who has total control over his/her income. Suggest a cocktail or wine before guests ask about those things. Likewise, direct their thinking toward the appetizers and some of your most popular entrees, etc.

Suggestive selling is not insisting they have one of everything on the menu; it is simply guiding their dining experience and making them feel comfortable and welcome. When a server suggests and asks questions about what guests like, the guests feel as if their best dining experience is in the interest of the server. And it truly is if the server believes him/herself to be an independent salesperson.

It is a two-way street, of course. Guests will, more often than not, tip a server much more when they have been guided through their dining experience. As guests, we want to feel like our server has earned the tip. If he/she has guided us through the sometimes arduous journey of a menu, and found out our likes and dislikes and reacted accordingly, we feel good about leaving a bigger tip, knowing that our knowledgeable and caring server deserves it.

Training and information is the key!  Contact me, Susie, at Waiter Training, either by phone or email.  My business number is (720) 203-4615, and email address is  Web address is

Excellence is an act won by training and habituation.
We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence,
but rather we have those because we have acted rightly.
We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.
– Aristotle

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4 Steps To Managing Your Reputation Online

Looking Through BinocularsEveryone’s got an opinion.  And in the internet age, everyone can and does voice their opinion online.  A short search online will bring back at least one person’s opinion about every kind of business under the sun, from eye doctors to painters.  Restaurants are particularly targeted by the masses of opinion makers out there, since the very nature of making and serving food is so subjective.

So do you have any idea what people are saying online about your restaurant?  I have talked about Yelp in previous posts, the restaurant review site that has had a tenuous relationship with restaurant owners at best since its inception.  But Yelp is only the tip of the opinion iceberg, and the restaurateur who ignores the behemoth that is social media is doomed to the same fate as the Titanic.

This is not to say that the opinion machine driven by social media is all bad.  It is, however, a decidedly double-edged sword.  On the one hand, positive reviews and feedback coming from your happy customers can bring new customers in droves.  On the other, one jerk who may or may not have actually had a bad experience can pick up the megaphone and start screaming nasty things about your restaurant.

84% of American consumers say online reviews affect their decisions on products and brands.  That’s a number you simply cannot ignore.  So what should you do?  4 steps to manage your restaurant’s reputation online:

Step 1: Listen to what people are saying.  You can’t manage something if you don’t know what you’re dealing with.  So tune in to the internet and start listening.  Some places to start: Yelp, OpenTable, and UrbanSpoon are just a few of the myriad websites that post restaurant reviews.  An even better option is to use Google Alerts, which will scour the entire internet for new content with your restaurant’s name in it and send you a report on what it finds.

Of course, don’t forget about the social media behemoths either: you should be on Twitter and Facebook anyway, talking about your restaurant, but if you’re not, go there today and get started!

Step 2: Respond to your critics and thank your fans.  The new internet (a.k.a. Web 2.0) is all about conversation.  You’ve listened.  Now it’s time to answer.  Yelp gives some helpful tips on how to respond to both positive and negative reviews.  No matter how you respond, do it with a healthy dose of common sense: e.g. don’t insult people, don’t act defensively, don’t act like a jerk, don’t pat yourself on the back, etc.  Basically, all the things that annoy you about people at a dinner party are the same things that are going to annoy your customers online.  So avoid them.Start a Conversation With Your Customers

The most important thing here is the creation of a dialogue.  When you interact with customers, you cement loyal fans in place and you blunt the negative effects of the critics.  You also appear open and engaged, which will earn you serious points with all your existing and potential online customers.

Step 3: Take the initiative.  Don’t let the naysayers define your restaurant’s reputation online.  If you’re not offering an alternate narrative, then people will start to think everything they read about you is true.  Here’s where Twitter and Facebook come in.  As I already said, if you’re not an active member of these two sites, then stop reading this blog post and go create an account with both.

The reasons for this are simple.  These services are free.  These services are popular.  These services are also considered culturally important.  Take the time to learn how to use them and then start talking about how great your restaurant is.  You’ll be amazed how many people want to listen.  All this costs you is your time, and the potential for new customer development is virtually unlimited.

Step 4: Gather intelligence.  This goes hand in hand with Step 1, but you can’t really gather effectively until you’ve started the conversation that follows from Steps 2 and 3.  Once you’ve established your own presence online, you can start to really learn exactly who your customer is and what they want.  This is the revered Holy Grail of marketing: knowing customers better than they know themselves.  You can achieve this through effective online reputation management.

That’s because when you converse with your customers in the realm of social media, you are going to start noticing trends and patterns.  If you are careful about tracking and analyzing this data, you’ll be able to learn the habits of your customer, which means you’ll be able to serve them better, which in turn means they’ll write nice reviews about you online….

You get the point.

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Replacing Restaurant Faucets Made Easy

Replacing the commercial faucet on sinks in your restaurant doesn’t have to be a difficult job.  Following a couple simple steps will help you replace old or worn faucets in your kitchen very easily.

For starters, there are two types of faucets:

A Commercial Deck Mount Faucet

1. Deck MountThese faucets attach directly to the top (or deck) of your sink.  The water lines come up vertically underneath the sink.

A Commercial Wall Mount Faucet

2. Wall MountThese faucets attach to water lines that come horizontally out of the wall above the sink.

Commercial restaurant faucets vary in sizes of four or six inch centers. Although there are some wall mount faucets that have an adjustable inlet coupling, that can adjust from six to ten inch centers or two to eight inch centers.


Deck mount faucets are more difficult to change than wall mount because you have to access the connections under the sink.

With a basin wrench (the easiest tool to use) or a crescent wrench, loosen the nuts on the hot and cold water lines on the bottom of the faucet water lines.  At this point you can use your hand to remove them.  Next, using the basin wrench, loosen the two nuts that hold the faucet in place.  Again, use your hand to remove the nuts.  Remove the old faucet and then use your hands and the wrench to tighten the nuts on the new faucet.  Make sure the connections are tight.  Turn the water on and check for leaks.

If there aren’t any leaks, then the job is done!

To replace a deck mount faucet that’s on a wall mounted hand sink, remove the sink from the wall.  First turn off the water and disconnect the water lines at the shut off valves.  Next disconnect the drain line from the bottom of the sink and lift it straight up (it hangs on a wall bracket) and remove it from the wall.  Now you can access the bottom with ease.  Follow the previous instructions to remove and replace the faucet.  The only difference is you will not need to use the basin wrench.

Wall mount faucets are fairly simple to replace.  It is best to know the faucet’s brand name for a direct replacement.  If you are unable to find a brand name then measure the inlet coupling on the back of the faucet body.  These are the couplings that fasten the faucet body to the sink.  To replace the faucet simply unscrew the inlet couplings from the back of the faucet body and install the new faucet.

If this is a new installation, you’ll also need to order either the wall mount kit or the deck mount kit for the faucet you are installing.  The kit comes with everything needed to connect the water lines to the new faucet.

Check out more commercial plumbing supplies.

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Taste & Food Safety: 2 Reasons To Clean Your Beer Taps!

Beer Tap CleaningIf your restaurant or bar has beer on tap, you already know how much customers appreciate a good pour.  Beer on tap tends to taste better, and from a business perspective, buying kegs gives you a better margin than buying it in bottles or cans.  For most restaurateurs, beer taps are a win-win.

But one thing that’s easy to forget are the food safety issues associated with your tap system.  Over time, yeast, mold, and bacteria build up in the tap lines running from the keg to the tap.  Fruit flies and other bugs, attracted to the residue beer leaves behind, can also climb up into taps and pollute the line.

All this means beer doesn’t taste as good as it should.  It also means you can inadvertently sicken your customers.  Those lines need to be cleaned at least once a week, perhaps more often if you serve a lot of it.  Fortunately, cleaning beer lines is an easy process that anyone on your staff can accomplish with about 10 minutes of training.

To start, turn off your CO2 supply at the regulator on the tank.  This is a very important step because you absolutely must make sure the lines are depressurized! Next, disconnect the CO2 line from the coupler on the keg itself, then disconnect the tap line.  The CO2 line usually comes into the side of the coupler at a 90 degree angle and the tap line comes out the top of the coupler and goes up through the bar to the taps.

Disconnect the coupler from the keg and soak it in warm water along with a detergent designed for tap cleaning.  This is important because regular detergent isn’t as effective at breaking down the yeast and sugar buildup particular to beer.
To clean the tap line itself, you’ll need to collect a few tools first:

•    A 5 gallon bucket (preferably color coded red because you are using sanitizer)
•    A keg beer cleaning kit (usually includes a plastic bottle with a hand pump, length of hose, and a coupler)
•    A tap wrench

Fill the plastic bottle with tap line detergent and warm water.  Mix well.  Use the tap wrench to remove the tap faucet and soak this in the same bucket with your keg coupler.  Next, connect the coupler on the end of the hose attached to the bottle to the tap where you unscrewed the tap faucet.  Go back underneath the bar and make sure the other end of the tap line (where it connects to the keg coupler) is set up to drain into your red 5 gallon bucket.

Pump the solution from the bottle through the tap line and let it fully drain into the bucket.  It’s usually good to let it sit for five minutes or so to let that detergent work on any buildup in the line.  Rinse out your pump bottle and refill it with cold fresh water.  Reconnect it and pump that water through the line.

While you’re waiting for that to drain, take a pipe cleaning brush and clean out the coupler and tap faucet.  This is also a good time to check the rubber gaskets on both and replace old or worn ones.  Reconnect the system and you’re ready to start serving fresh, delicious beer again!
Tap Faucet Plug
Finally, get a tap faucet plug for your taps to prevent bugs from crawling into the tap lines when they aren’t in use.  This plug doubles as a pipe brush when you clean your tap system.

15 minutes a week should be plenty for you to make one of your best selling items (with a good margin!) always tasting great and safe for your customers.

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Do Your Servers Give Your Guests the Service They Want?

Restaurant Guest ServiceYour guests don’t just come to your restaurant to eat – they come for the experience. Servers are there to do more than make drinks and take orders – they are there to “serve.” That means give the guest the experience they desire.

It’s the server’s job to “read the table” or get a sense of what type of experience their guests want. Part of this is reading the mood of the guests. They can also capture the clues from dress, body language and eye contact. This information gives the server a guess as to what type of service their guests want.
For example:

  • A group of intent looking business people probably prefer the “take our order, bring our food and refills” approach.
  • Vacationers want to know about things to do, how long the restaurant’s been around and suggestions for what to eat.
  • The family celebrating a birthday will want to linger and engage in conversation and attention from the server.A couple or single parent with young children may appreciate a server diverting the attention of their kids for a moment or two.
  • Someone who glances at a watch or doesn’t put down his or her phone indicates quick, no frills service.

Redefine the Servers’ Role
Reading the table helps servers notice small details such as who may pay the check. This gives the guests a feeling of experience from the server.

From my experience, this skill is not always practiced. Servers need to be taught that reading the table and paying attention to the extra details gets them better financial return. A server really needs to see himself or herself as a salesperson. This benefits them and the restaurant with higher sales and better tips.

Match Your Servers to Their Customers

When I waited tables, I always requested to serve the drinkers and the big groups. I considered myself a specialist in taking care of the people who liked to have fun because I’m interested in learning people’s stories and interacting with people. I also come from a large family, so I like connecting with lots of people.

I think it’s important to match your staff to the type of people they serve as best you can. You can structure your table setup so that you match your servers to their skill sets. Place your efficient less talkative servers in the high turnover tables. Put your bubbly talker in the party room or with the larger tables.

Start Every Shift with This Goal

A pre-shift meeting is a good idea, too. One of my former managers had us do a line up and talk about our goals for the evening. He had reminded us to use proper hygiene but also to make the dinner an experience for the guest. He said it was our job to help the customer remember our “experience,” not just our food.

These simple strategies can really make a difference in your customer retention and sales.

Amanda Brandon blogs her thoughts on menu design trends and restaurant marketing strategies for MustHaveMenus, the leading provider of online restaurant menu designs, graphics, and marketing guides for the food service industry.

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A Review of My Favorite Pocket Thermometer

Comark Pocket ThermometerAbove is an image of my favorite thermometer for everyday food service use, the COMARK PDT-300.

Here is why:

  1. It is NSF approved and meets the Colorado requirement for a thin probe thermometer to measure the temperatures of thin foods such as patties, fillets, etc.
  2. It reads quickly, in just a few seconds.
  3. It is reliable and durable, withstanding drops and continual use.
  4. The battery just keeps going…mine typically lasts about a year, and you can imagine how often I use my thermometer.
  5. Performing an ice water calibration is simple and takes less than one minute.
  6. The price is unbeatable…less than $20 at Tundra Specialties.

One question that frequently arises is where to place the thermometer when taking the temperature of food.  That is best answered by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in Annex 5 of the 2009 FDA Model Food Code:

The geometric center or thickest part of a product are the points of measurement of product temperature particularly when measuring critical limits for cooking.
The geometric center of a product is usually the point of measurement of product temperature particularly when measuring the critical limit for cold holding.

As a former health department food safety manager, I’ve used many types over the years, and in my opinion, it’s the best for the money for everyday food service use.  I regularly demonstrate it to my customers, and they invariably ask me where to buy one – the answer is easy; I tell them Tundra Specialties.

My name is Jim Austin and since 2001 I’ve been a food safety consultant in private practice, based in Denver, Colorado. I am a former Colorado local health department manager who was responsible for the food inspection program. I know how the world of government regulation really works, and I enjoy helping my customers deal confidently with the health department and protect their business interests.

For a free initial consultation, please contact me:

Colorado Restaurant Consulting


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When Will The Restaurant Industry Finally Get Labor Right?

Restaurant TurnoverIt was taken as a good sign recently when the Nation’s Restaurant News reported that employee turnover in the restaurant industry was on the rise for the first quarter of 2011.  This means more jobs are being created and more vacancies need to be filled in the restaurant business than any time since 2008.

All the hiring is good news.  So is the sales forecasts by industry researchers Technomic and the National Restaurant Association (NRA), which have both been revised upward recently.

But why does that automatically mean employee turnover should go up? And why is this an accepted part of being an employer in the food business?

Restaurants need to finally get their labor practices right if they ever hope to keep competing in the new, post-recession economy.  This has always been a high turnover industry, full of people holding down a job while they wait for something better to come along.  In the last couple years, with unemployment at 25 year highs, restaurants had their pick of talent.  Now that the economy is improving, that talent is looking for, and finding, a better job.Restaurant Turnover

Complacent restaurateurs shrug their shoulders: we’ll just hire someone else, they say.

Meanwhile, Gallup just released an in-depth study that analyzed the average spending per customer per visit based upon their level of “engagement” – how valued they felt as a customer and how positively they viewed a restaurant’s service, taste of the food, and value for the money.

Gallup found that no matter the segment, many restaurants were leaving money on the table by not effectively engaging customers.  Even worse, their polling shows that a significant number of consumers have permanently lowered their dining spending, despite the improving economy.  The lone exception to this rule are engaged customers.

What does all this mean?  To borrow a phrase from Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign: It’s the experience, stupid.

A good experience happens for a customer when the food, the service, and the atmosphere are perfect.

All three of these factors are dependent upon the performance of the staff.  Your people.  Day after day.  That’s why it’s interesting to see the California Restaurant Association reject a proposal in that state to give workers up to nine days of paid sick leave per year, despite the release of a recent study that found a similar law in San Francisco was largely embraced by the restaurant community there.NRA Opposes Card Check

It’s also interesting to watch the NRA oppose bills like Card Check or Missouri restaurants fight a minimum-wage increase.  These organizations seem to be choosing profit over people every time.

The new reality is that people are a restaurant’s new source of profits.  And to get good people, you have to pay for them.  Sure, you can keep paying the minimum hourly rate plus tips, never give a paid day off, even for sickness, despite the food safety risks, and casually shrug your shoulders when the economy improves and all your best help finds a real job, leaving you to train a greenhorn teenager to keep your customers engaged.

You’ll also be history before too long.

The restaurants that survive the new reality in food service are the ones who know how to recruit, train, and keep top-notch staff.  Whether they accomplish this through creative compensation strategies, a people-first corporate culture, or by actually giving a few paid sick days a year doesn’t matter.

What matters is that restaurants need to wake up.  Accepting that turnover will go up just because better jobs are available in an improved economy simply isn’t good enough.

When are restaurants going to wake up and finally get labor right?

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How Is The Economy Affecting Your Business?


It’s been the talk of the country all summer long: the state of the economy.  There’s a lot of uncertainty out there, and that’s why we want to know: how is the economy affecting your business – good, bad, or indifferent?

We are preparing a report on the economy and its effect on food service and your input will help.  You could even be quoted in our official press release if you want!

We’ve put together a 2 minute survey to get an idea of how different economic factors are affecting you.  Fill out the survey and be entered to win a $100 gift card from Amazon!

Now that’s a good economic reason to talk economy!

Take the 2 min. survey right now!

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