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Archive | April, 2012

Is Your Bar Or Restaurant A One Night Stand?

What has my marriage got to do with your bar or restaurant? Lots. Some businesses have a marriage like connection with their customers, yet others don’t even get a second date with their patrons. Is your business a one night stand? Check out my video to find out!

Barry Chandler blogs daily at TheBarBlogger.com to help bars & restaurants continuously find new ways to grow their customer base and increase revenues.

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7 Small Things That Make a Big Difference

Restaurant service is all about details.   Everything from the demeanor of the people at the front door, to the cleanliness of the seats and the restrooms, to the quality and consistency of the food, and the attentiveness of the service are all important.  As is everything in between.

Below is a list of several simple aspects where a server can impact the guest experience:

Being Prepared and Ready

The successful server shows up a little bit early with everything organized and ready.  That way, when the show starts the show starts.  The mediocre and unsuccessful server shows up barely on time, and then if they get a table right away, that table is a warm up.  That is the wrong approach.  Being prepared and ready to go is important and it affects your tips and the revenue for the restaurant.

Showing up in Uniform

An important part of being prepared is showing up in uniform.  Restaurant uniforms vary.  That said, they must be neat and clean.  Shirts must be stain and wrinkle free.  Your appearance matters and your uniform is a part of that.

The Right Footwear

When I was young, I went to the chiropractor with my father, and the doctor said the most important part of a building is the foundation.  He was stating that not taking care of your feet can cause back problems.   What he was also saying was that taking care of your feet is important.

While your shoes must meet specifications and they must be slip resistant, they must be comfortable and supportive.  There are many slip resistant shoes that are not comfortable and not supportive.  However, there are now some that are.   Shoes for Crews has air cushion, sneaker type shoes, that are very comfortable.   I was given a free pair for a one year anniversary at one job.  I have since bought more pairs to replace them.

Since wearing them, my feet do not hurt during or after shifts.  I look around at some other server’s and am puzzled as to why they aren’t wearing the same or similar shoes.  The server’s job is physically active.  With that, your orthopedic health is very important.   Taking care of your feet is a part of that.

Pens

For too many servers, pens are an afterthought.  Many do not bring enough to work.  Others bring pens with logos for other businesses on them, instead of plain ones or pens with the logo for the restaurant where they work.  Some bring pens that have run out of ink and do not work.
With many people these days paying with credit and debit cards, consider this: the pen you give them is being used to write out your tip.  It isn’t a good time to tick off your customer.

Exact Change

Many restaurants specify that having a cash bank is part of your uniform.  That said, having a bank is not enough.  The bank must be broken down well so you can provide change.  Before every shift, I do two things.  I grab a big handful of coin change.  The other thing I do is have a bank broken down into mostly fives and singles.   Your bank must be broken down so that you can give change appropriately.  To do so, change must be exact, using coin change if necessary, and allow the guest to leave the tip of their choice.|

Not doing either will cost you money and could upset the guest.  Not giving the guest exact coin change, by instead rounding down to the nearest dollar, will cost you money, as will not giving the guest enough change to give you the tip they want.  For example, let’s say you give the guest $8 in change.  You need to give them $8 in singles.  If you give them a $5 and 3 singles, they cannot leave you a $4 tip.  You may be giving away a dollar.  The last thing you want to do is leave money on the table or upset the guest.

Smiling

Smiling is the best way to be perceived as friendly and likeable.   Being friendly and likeable is the best way to make money for you and for the restaurant.  With that, your smile is your most important asset.

Having a Sense of Humor

Knowing how and when to laugh and joke around is crucial. Even the most serious of guests are out to have a good time.   That said, interacting with the guest is an art form.  Your sense of humor must be discreet and tactful and be mindful of the guest.  On a related note, humor helps you smile more.   Above all, having a sense of humor allows you to have fun.

Erik Bullman is a Writer and a Waiter.  He has more than 6 years experience in Hospitality and Sales.  His blog is Writer, Salesman, Waiter.

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How To Give Your Customers Value

In yesterday’s post I talked about the new reality facing restaurants, namely, the consumer expectation of great value.  This doesn’t appear to be changing despite an uptick in consumer spending.  A number of voices in the food service industry have been advising restaurants to provide value to their customers in order to survive these turbulent times, and many have been listening.  The result has been prix fixe meals, deep discounting, and any other method to lure customers looking to save a buck.

But what does “value” really mean?  The obvious answer is great food and service for a great price.  Well,  duh.  Everybody has slashed their prices or discounted in some way.  Not everybody has survived.  So what’s the difference between the guy who makes it and the guy who’s left behind?

A look at the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) hot trends for 2010 provides some insight into what customers are looking for when they say “value.”  Granted, this trends report surveys chefs, not restaurant patrons, but one can safely assume chefs are following the trends that increase their sales and therefore these views are reflecting customer expectations.

The interesting thing about the NRA’s top 10 trends is that  5 out of 10 deal with local sourcing and sustainability.  “Green” values are becoming a permanent fixture in our culture, and successful restaurants are figuring out ways to make their operations source locally and sustainably.

The perception that a restaurant has a reputable, “green” operation adds a value that is a little more intangible, but definitely important, in the customer’s mind.  Just ask Chipotle how in the world they get away with selling an $8 burrito in a fast casual environment.  Customers recognize the value of their green practices and locally sourced ingredients.  There are hundreds of ways to make your restaurant more green, and advertising your practices to your customers add value.

Another top restaurant trend is portion sizes. Reduced portion sizes allow customers to spend less or pick and choose more than one dish.  This is also a hot trend because the perceived value for the customer is that they have options, and not all of them require a lot of money.

There has been a lot of discussion about whether restaurants can sustain the price reductions everyone has rolled out over the last year.  The truth is, the value customers find in the restaurants they choose to patronize has to do with much more than great prices.  Prices just happen to be the most obvious factor.

Putting together a complete value package that includes a great atmosphere, top notch service, good prices, a quality menu with good choices, and a green operation that sources locally whenever it can takes a lot of work and even more smart marketing.

Restaurants that have a complete package are the ones who win the value competition.  Those that focus on price are bound to fail.

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HACCP Principle 6 – Ongoing Verification

HACCP Principle 6   Ongoing VerificationNow we are getting into the multiple levels of control that make a HACCP program so effective.  Level 1 is monitoring: people who are directly involved with the food product at the Critical Control Point checking to make sure Critical Limits are met.  These people have taken direct responsibility for the Critical Limits assigned to them and have been given clear guidelines on how often to monitor, what to monitor, and the corrective action to take if a Critical Limit is not met.

But how do you know for sure your monitors are carrying out their very important duties accurately?  Despite best intentions, human error is a very real possibility, and one the success of your HACCP program cannot afford to allow.  Principle 6 in the HACCP program adds another layer to the safety net designed to catch every violation of a Critical Limit.

Verification is different from monitoring in two important ways: it should be carried out by someone other than the monitor, and it should follow a less frequent but very thorough schedule than monitoring.

Monitoring is carried out multiple times every day.  Verification should be carried out maybe once a day or once a week.  The person conducting verification should keep the following in mind:

Observe monitoring as it is being carried out in real time.  This allows you to see if actual situations allow for the monitoring guidelines to be followed properly.  It also allows the verifier to see if the monitor is doing things the right way.

Review records and ensure they are being recorded accurately and consistently.  It’s all too easy for someone in a monitoring position to flub a temperature record in the interest of time during a busy rush.  More innocent mistakes are also entirely possible, like reading a thermometer incorrectly or placing the instrument in the wrong place when trying to read temperature.  These mistakes will be revealed as you check records against observations.

Check actual practices against guidelines.  What’s different between the guidelines and practice?  Is there a problem with the guidelines or with the practice?  Remember, your HACCP program should be an evolving creature, not a rigid set of rules.

Were corrective actions carried out properly?  When a corrective action needed to be taken, was it identified correctly and in a timely manner?  Was the corrective action successful?  Was it recorded properly?

Is monitoring equipment up to snuff?  Finally, make sure the tools your monitors use are properly calibrated and in good working order.  There’s no point in monitoring with a broken thermometer or one that’s 15 degrees off.

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The Trials Of Going Green: Tundra Revamps Its Waste Management System

The Trials Of Going Green: Tundra Revamps Its Waste Management SystemWhen Tundra discovered that a waste management snafu had resulted in office recycling bins getting thrown in the trash early this year, we decided a complete waste management audit was needed, and fast.

The lessons we’ve learned in the past three months have been both illuminating and hard won, and that’s why we’d like to share them with you now – so that your road to maximum waste management efficiency is a little easier.

Waste management efficiency – “Wow,” you’re thinking, “that sounds like a really fascinating thing I’d like to drop everything to learn more about.”

Well, as Tundra discovered, there really are some things going on here that could be costing your business money and customers, so if those two things are important to you then by all means read on and learn more about Tundra’s lurid tale of trials and waste tribulations.

The first challenge we faced was simply learning how our current waste management operated.  Different people here at Tundra handled different parts of the system, and they were not always communicating effectively with each other.

The Trials Of Going Green: Tundra Revamps Its Waste Management System

Luckily, Tundra’s pricing analyst Jordan Scampoli was ready to take on the challenge of completely revamping how Tundra manages the waste it produces.

“Just by understanding the waste stream here at Tundra we were able to realize some pretty awesome efficiencies.  Even though costs didn’t go down – in fact they rose, although not a lot – for us it was about the social multiplier: a little bit of effort and cost resulting in a lot of waste reduction.”

Right off the bat we discovered that although Tundra had arranged for trash pickup 5 days a week, the dumpster out back was almost never full.  Cutting pickup down from 5 days to 2 days a week immediately translated into substantial savings, not to mention reduced emissions and fossil fuel usage from fewer garbage truck visits.

Easy win, sweet.

Recycling and composting, however, turned out to be a much harder nut to crack.  It soon became apparent that introducing a compost and comprehensive recycling program that included hard-to-recycle materials like the shrink wrap used to package pallets of product in the warehouse would not be cost saving or even cost neutral, even in a recycling-friendly city like Boulder.

Even so, Tundra decided that social responsibility was more important than cost savings.  We have a long history of giving back to our community that stems from one of the core values Tundra was founded upon – Share The Gains With Our People, Our Customers, and the Community.

So we forged ahead with a comprehensive recycling & composting program for the entire company, and as we did so more hurdles presented themselves.

The biggest obstacle lay with changing the daily habits of employees and educating everyone in the company about the difference between compostable and recyclable and which common trash items went where.

The Trials Of Going Green: Tundra Revamps Its Waste Management System

Composting Paper Towels – Easy Win

Our biggest success – at least from a waste reduction standpoint – came from transferring all the paper towel waste generated in the break room and in the bathrooms from straight-to-landfill to compost.  It’s an easy switch that everyone can easily make.

There will always be room for improvement when it comes to changing the way Tundraites think about waste and recycling and changing habits.  But the good news is that from just a couple improvement in the waste management system here at Tundra we were able to achieve measurable results – even if our costs went up a little bit.

And for most small-to-medium sized businesses, the tradeoffs with recycling and composting programs are going to be between ascribing to the values of social responsibility and community improvement and cost effectiveness.

Tundra’s waste management audit eliminated a lot of wasteful behaviors, redirected a lot of our waste into a more sustainable channel, and made the entire operation overall more sustainable and less, well, wasteful.

It took a combination of organizational support, a dedicated individual willing to put in the extra time to make it happen, and a strong set of community-based values to turn Tundra’s waste management system into something that can be legitimately called green.

Was it worth it?  Yes, a hundred times over.

The reality is that small and medium sized businesses just don’t produce enough waste to realize significant cost savings, but that doesn’t mean those businesses shouldn’t have a sustainable waste management program.

It just means you have to value social responsibility and community participation over costs.  And in truth it’s not like costs go up significantly.  For a little extra cost a lot of sustainability can be achieved.

And, as Tundra discovered, just by simply reviewing how the current waste management system worked we were able to identify several problem areas that were easily fixed and resulted in significantly less waste.

That in itself is our reward.

What are the trials and tribulations you’ve faced with managing your restaurant or business’ waste?  Share in the comments below!

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Green Restaurants: Turning Food Waste Into Electricity

Green Restaurants: Turning Food Waste Into ElectricitySan Francisco restaurants are often on the cutting edge of sustainability and green practices.  They’ve pioneered ways to turn food waste into fertilizer, reduce food miles by sourcing locally, and decrease waste through recycling and composting.

More recently, the East Bay Municipal Utility District has started converting up to 200 tons of food waste gathered from area restaurants into electricity every week, and that power is used in some of the very same restaurants that contribute their organic waste.

The waste is converted by allowing it to be broken down by bacteria in a gigantic underground tank.  This process gives off methane, which is then burned to heat water and create steam, which drives a turbine that creates electricity.  This is the same process used by most coal fired power plants, except the fuel in this case is sustainable.

Currently food scraps make up a small portion of the organic waste that is processed at the East Bay facility.  The majority comes from the wastewater treatment plant onsite and several large-scale local industries like vineyards and dairies.  But 30 million tons of food scraps are sent to landfills each year, which makes up more than 20% of all landfill waste.

That means there’s a lot of room for improvement.  The best part about the process is that a rich fertilizer is the byproduct of breaking down all that waste, which can help local organic farms that supply restaurants.  The primary obstacle to wider adoption of organic electricity is a lack of processing plants.  That could change rapidly in the next ten years as sustainable electricity gains more momentum in the American economy.

The restaurants participating in the food scrap collection program did have to put some extra time into training employees to keep contaminants like plastic and other foreign object out of the bin destined to be converted into electricity.  Despite the extra training, the savings in reduced garbage production was enough to help some restaurants save money, since the scraps are collected for free.

Only a tiny fraction of the food waste produced in the Bay Area goes to the organic generator run by the East Bay Municipal Utility District.  The room for growth is enormous, and if San Francisco could collect almost all of the 1,800 tons of waste produced every day by area businesses, that would be enough electricity to power 25,000 homes.  That’s a serious contribution San Francisco restaurants can make to the local power grid.

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CheckWise Brings Food Safety to the Palm of Your Hand

Fast paced and often stress-inducing, a day in the life of a restaurant operator is never dull. From the morning’s breakfast and brunch regulars to the evening’s one-time eatery explorers you and your staff are constantly moving orders while trying to find ways to efficiently cut corners without jeopardizing quality. If that means installing top of the line restaurant equipment, integrating new technologies into your day-to-day, or simply tracking waste management it’s the little improvements that go a long way.

CheckWise Brings Food Safety to the Palm of Your Hand

Safe temperature zones help staff immediately recognize unsafe conditions

Luckily there are innovators out there like Jon Christensen who have your establishment’s needs in mind. Taking everyday routines and adding a digital ingredient to the mix, Christensen has developed an app that makes food safety easy. The app is called CheckWise and it replaces the pen and paper method of tracking your food safety procedures with an everything-in-your-hand alternative.

Currently in the pilot program stage, CheckWise is designed to outline and initiate food safety checklists that managers would regularly assign to their staff via paper instructions and a clipboard. Unlike a clipboard and paper instructions though CheckWise has a treasure trove of features meant to enhance your food safety program.

Tracking food safety throughout the day couldn’t be easier using CheckWise. From a separate web application management can:

•    create checklists for staff members & push those checklists down to mobile devices
•    set food “safe zone” temperatures
•    assign corrective action prompts like “call manager” or “dispose of item”
•    schedule checklist to be completed once or multiple times a day
•    monitor completion of checklists in real-time
•    print daily and customized summary reports

“With the pilot program we are looking to get CheckWise to one or two participants in each of the markets we want to enter,” Christensen says. “Our pilot customers have the opportunity to influence some of the upcoming features of the product by giving us feedback on what they need most. It’s a chance for [participants] to use the product for free for a couple months to make sure it is something that helps them.”

Christensen hopes to see CheckWise used in the QSR, table service, grocery, hospital, university, and K-12 markets. The service is optimized for the iPod touch, the company’s choice for the least expensive, most reliable device of its kind, but can be used on other Apple products with IOS 5 like the iPhone, and iPad. Slated to be released as a free app with a charge for services, CheckWise is set to revolutionize the in-house approach to food safety.

CheckWise Brings Food Safety to the Palm of Your Hand

Food safety should be at the top of your list in regards to importance

“Right now we’re looking at $25 per device per month,” Christensen explains. “We definitely want some feedback from potential customers to make sure this pricing will work for everyone, but we don’t believe in being secretive about pricing. If the service isn’t worth what we’re asking for then we have some looking in the mirror to do.”

The in-the-works pricing structure also takes into account businesses that might need multiple devices. Whereas a small restaurant may only need one, a large grocery store may need a handful of handhelds to accommodate more staff.

The technology looks promising, and the possibilities for individual industry use uncover a number of inherent benefits. By putting the opportunity to test and contribute to the evolution of CheckWise on the table for free Christensen is letting potential customers weigh in on what a digitally optimized food safety program could look like.

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A Complete Guide To HACCP Food Safety

If you’re looking to implement a HACCP food safety program, this series of Back Burner posts will help you get started.  If you’re looking for ways to improve your existing food safety program, this is also a great place to start.  Food safety is a critical part of your food service business, and over the years, HACCP has proven itself to be one of the most effective ways to ensure your customers eat good food in your restaurant every single time.

This guide will walk you through the 7 HACCP principles one by one and will also cover supplemental information like Prerequisite Programs.  Get started on your HACCP program today:A Complete Guide To HACCP Food Safety

1.  HACCP Principle 1 – An introduction and understanding the hazards and risk factors present in your restaurant.

2.  HACCP Principle 2 – The Difference Between CCP & SOP – Some things in your food safety program will be covered by your HACCP, while other things need to be established as Standard Operating Procedure.  Learn how to organize food safety tasks here.

3.  HACCP Principle 3 – Set Critical Limits – A critical limit is the minimum or maximum temperature food product must reach to stay out of the temperature danger zone where bacteria and pathogens can grow.

4.  HACCP Principle 4- Establish Monitoring Procedures – Critical limits don’t do you a bit of good if you don’t monitor your operation and determine they are actually being met in practice, not just in theory.

5.  HACCP Principle 5- Develop Corrective Actions – Critical limits are worthless without monitoring, and monitoring is worthless without a plan to take corrective action when monitoring finds problems in your HACCP program.

6.  HACCP Principle 6 – Ongoing Verification – The secret to a successful HACCP program is developing multiple layers of quality control that ensure the standards you set in Principle 3 are met on a consistent basis.  Ongoing verification is another layer in the monitoring process.A Complete Guide To HACCP Food Safety

7.  HACCP Principle 7- Keep Good Records – All that monitoring won’t help you if someone accuses your business of sickening them and you don’t have records of what you’ve been doing with your HACCP program.  Good records also help you every time the healt inspector arrives, so make sure you record the information you collect while monitoring your HACCP program.

8.  Prerequisite Programs- The essential partner to any HACCP food safety program is the Standard Operating Procedures that promote a clean and sanitary kitchen, like handwashing.  Get some prerequisite tips here.

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