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Archive | Restaurant Management and Operations

Find great resources and tips on restaurant management and operations topics like human resources, food safety, going green, and more.

How to Get Customers in the Door on Thanksgiving and Christmas

Holiday table setting

Historically, the holiday season is a very profitable time for restaurants, and this year promises to be no exception. As a matter of fact, Experian predicts 2013 holiday spending will increase by 11 percent over last year.

So how can your restaurant really take advantage of this season of spending? Let’s run though some smart holiday promotion strategies …

Communicate with your current patrons

Time to put that email list to good use! Email is an easy way—and quite cost effective—to spread the word and bring in customers over the holidays. If you don’t have an email marketing provider, MailChimp is a great option, and they have a free plan that will accommodate the needs of most small establishments.

Table displays (tents, postcards, etc.) are another good option because they take advantage of your captive audience. Also: train hosts and hostesses to mention your holiday hours, promotions, menu items, etc., when answering the phone.

All the work you’ve put into building your social media presence and attracting a following? That effort is going to pay huge dividends during the holidays! Be sure to beat the drum over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, et. al, to get folks excited about your seasonal offerings.

Another idea: a direct mail campaign, while somewhat pricey, can be an effective way to reach potential customers over the holidays.

Connect with folks who haven’t dined with you yet

Have you considered running a promotion on a daily deal site? Sites like Groupon and Living Social have gotten a bad rap lately, and there some truth to the notion that these deals can be great for customers but terrible for small-business owners. However, there’s still a time and place for this marketing tool, particularly if you don’t have a large email list or social media following and you want to reach a big audience quickly. What’s more, if you design the right offer you can certainly make the financials work!

Do something special

It’s the holidays, so business as usual won’t cut it. (Nor will simply changing the satellite/Pandora radio station to Christmas tunes.) If you want to attract customers this November and December, we suggest tapping your creative imagination. Maybe new table displays, a cozy cocktail list, or even a totally revamped holiday menu.

Make sure hungry holiday shoppers can find you

These days everyone carries a smartphone, and they’re using them to find nearby bars and restaurants. According to one study from Nielsen, 64 percent of mobile restaurant searchers convert immediately or within an hour!

Does your restaurant show up when customers search online? Improve your visibility and ensure accuracy by updating your important local directory profiles on Google+, Yelp, etc.

Ideally you have a website that looks decent and displays quickly on a 4-inch smartphone screen, but if you don’t … at least try to position the key info that customers need—your address, phone number, hours, menu link—front and center. It’s hard to hunt for information on a tiny screen! Smartphone users are famously impatient, so don’t make them work/wait for it—because they’ll just tap away to competitor’s site.

Another method you might try is slightly “Minority Report”-ish but could be really effective this year: reach nearby shoppers with geo-targeted ads. Google, Twitter and Foursquare currently offer this service. Why not give it a shot?

Last-minute catering services?

In most cases, larger companies have already made holiday-party plans, but if you’re late to the catering party (so to speak), you might still have a chance to pick up some catering business, because this time of year there are always contingencies—companies that forgot to book a venue (small firms are notorious procrastinators) or catering companies that accidentally double booked themselves. You never know!

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Are You Ready to Go Lead Free in 2014?

Are you ready to go lead free?

The Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act takes effect Jan. 4, 2014. Are you ready?

Under the act, signed by Congress three years ago, “lead free” will be redefined as “not more than a weighted average of 0.25 percent lead when used with respect to the wetted surfaces of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures.”

This is a significant change, folks! The maximum lead content of plumbing products used to be 8.0 percent. When the law takes effect on Jan. 4, it will be illegal to sell or install products that exceed 0.25 percent lead.

If you live in California, Vermont, Louisiana or Maryland, you’re ahead of the curve. These states have already implemented tougher safe drinking water standards with respect to plumbing materials. The new federal requirements play catch up to these states’ regulations.

The Good News

The act does NOT require existing infrastructure to be proactively replaced. But when you eventually need to repair or replace a pipe, fixture or fitting, you’re probably going to have to find a compliant replacement that has less than 0.25 percent lead.

Also, just to clarify, we’re talking about drinking water here. The act doesn’t apply to non-potable-water plumbing systems, such as industrial processing, irrigation or outdoor watering. The law also excludes toilets, urinals, fill valves, flushometer valves, tub fillers, or shower valves.

What to Look for When Buying New Plumbing Supplies

NSF International and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) have responded to the updated definition with NSF/ANSI 372, which will go into effect in October 2013 as certification for the 2014 lead-content restrictions.


Helpful Resources

Want more information about the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act and how it might impact your business? These sites can answer your questions.

This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice.

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20 Ways You Can Support National Preparedness Month

Safety sign on wet floor - don't slip!

September is National Preparedness Month. Established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and supported by thousands of organizations nation-wide, the campaign for awareness focuses on safety and emergency preparedness. While the effort is geared more toward disaster preparedness, it’s also a great reminder regarding safety in general. That means there’s no better time than now to audit your personal or commercial kitchen, and we here at The Back Burner want to make doing just that as easy as possible.

We’ve compiled a list of articles, excerpts, and instructions regarding identifying trouble areas in the kitchen, keeping and properly caring for food and customers, understanding commercial safety certifications, being restaurant-ready for a natural disaster, and so much more. Click around below, share your safety thoughts in the articles you find interesting, and help Tundra Restaurant Supply support National Preparedness Month this September!

Have a Food Safety Program

A Complete Guide To HACCP Food Safety – You’re one-stop-shop for understanding the seven principles of the HACCP (Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points). If you’re looking to start or modify your own food safety program this is a great place to begin.

Scrutinize Your Restaurant: Avoiding Health Inspector Issues – A visit from the health inspector has the potential to make or break a restaurant, and getting ahead of the inspector by giving your establishment a constructive scrutinizing is the best way to avoid those health inspector woes.

Color Code Your Food Safety Program – Cross contamination is a quick way to cause an allergic reaction or spoil certain foods, and color coding your food prep station helps keep the kitchen in line.

Making the Grade: Should Restaurants Post Food Safety Info? – Join the conversation surrounding making health inspection grades public. Is it good or bad for business?

Food Safety: Controlling Insects and Pests – Keeping your kitchen and customer’s legs free of insects and pests is a must. Here we take a look at a few ways to keep those crawly critters out of your commercial kitchen.

Restaurant Food Safety Tips: Managing Temperatures – Temperature may be the most important factor affecting your food. Luckily, it’s also the one you have the most control over. Learn a little about proper temperature management by understanding the basics.

Is Your Food Safety Program This Hardcore? It Should Be – Take a quick peek behind the curtain at how some of the big boys manage their food safety. While being a large corporate entity, McDonald’s made news for its food safety by focusing on the little things.

Focus on the Little Things

Food Service Gloves: Pros and Cons – Food service gloves, while often essential, can create a false sense of security. We take a look at some common materials used in your go-to gloves, the pitfalls of putting on a pair, and the pros of keeping your digits clean.

Restaurant Food Safety Tips: Proper Hand Washing – Speaking of keeping your digits clean, taking some time to train employees or remind yourself how to properly wash your hands in the kitchen can help keep contaminants and other undesirables away from a customer’s plate.

How to Calibrate a Thermometer – It was mentioned above that monitoring temperature is extremely important, but it’s impossible to properly monitor temperatures with an incorrectly calibrated thermometer. Learn how you can, and why you should, keep your thermometers calibrated.

Contaminated Ice: Key Tips to Keep Your Customers Safe – Surprisingly, ice is often overlooked when it comes to cleanliness. From machine to glass, the ice your serve can easily become contaminated.

Food Safety Tips: Safe Seafood – Keeping seafood safe means different things to different people. In the kitchen it means avoiding sickness and serving up quality product, and it’s easy if you know how.

Dirty Restaurant Restrooms Say Dirty Kitchens to Many Customers – Another often-overlooked area in the restaurant, the restroom says a lot about your commitment to cleanliness, and customers take notice when yours aren’t up to snuff.

Taste & Food Safety: 2 Reasons to Clean Your Beer Taps – Letting those sud super soakers (our fancy name for beer taps) ferment in their own way by attracting bacteria is terrible.  Learn how to properly clean your taps to preserve taste and customer health.

Restaurant Floor Matting: Safety First, Comfort Second – Floor matting may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re thinking restaurant essentials, but dropping a few mat squares in high traffic or heavy standing areas can help in terms of safety and comfort.

Be Prepared

Is Mayhem Knocking at Your Door? – Being restaurant-ready for a natural disaster can mean the difference between a destroyed dream and manageable mayhem. Be prepared for weather disasters by following a few simple steps.

Are You Ready For Flu Season? – Cooler temperatures, clogged noses, and general dreariness caused by the flu are just around the corner. Are you and your restaurant ready to combat the cold?

Why Employee Benefits are a Food Safety Issue – When it comes to cold and colds, employees are bound to succumb to the former and get the latter. Being prepared with proper employee benefits could help both management and employees alleviate the stress caused by coming in sick.

Restaurant Food Safety Tips: Shop for Suppliers – Before food even reaches the kitchen you need to be in control. That means not settling for a supplier or cutting corners and sacrificing quality for price. Know and trust your food suppliers.

Understanding Common Safety Certifications – The equipment in which you cook comes in different shapes, accommodates different sizes, and comes stickered with various certifications. Knowing what those certifications mean, and looking for the right ones when purchasing your equipment, can save you time and trouble.

This compilation article is only scratching the surface. Keeping your establishment, employees, and reputation clean and safe requires full commitment to a food safety program and accompanying practices. That said, September is the perfect time to start. Support National Preparedness Month with Tundra Restaurant Supply!


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Servers & Customers Unite: Your Biggest Restaurant Frustrations

It’s inevitable, people love to complain. They love to complain about the weather, their hair, their weight, etc. Well, let me be your punching bag! In fact, I would love to hear your complaints.

  • If you work in a restaurant, what makes you unhappy?
  • If you’re a restaurant customer, what didn’t you like about your dining experience?

I am going to do my best to inform restaurateurs how to create a better atmosphere for everyone in the FOH.

Servers’ Top Workplace Frustrations

  1. Crappy TippersFrustrated waitress
  2. Side Work (e.g. Roll flatware, set tables, etc. – pre/post shift while getting paid $4.76/hour to avoid hiring an employee who gets paid minimum wage)
  3. When customers lay out their cell phone, iPod, sunglasses, etc., on the table and don’t move them when the server is trying to deliver food
  4. “Please wait to be seated” (e.g. Don’t walk into a restaurant and sit wherever you please unless there’s a sign that says “Please seat yourself”. The workload needs to be balanced among all servers and tables are often reserved.)
  5. Lazy Managers (Note to all managers – when you see your staff is busy, lend them a hand! Help run food, deliver drinks, bus tables and show your support!)
  6. “The customer is always right” – B.S. (Here’s a video to show that the customer is, in fact, not always right
  7. Double Standards (e.g. Servers don’t get a free meal but bussers and kitchen workers do… What the heck!)
  8. Paying for walkout customers (It’s not always the server’s fault when a customer walks out on an unpaid bill. What if the server was going above and beyond by bussing or running food to another server’s table?)
  9. Campers AKA the diners who never leave
  10. Coworkers (e.g. Suck-ups, brown-nosers, lazy workers, those who don’t return favors – not working for you when you picked up a shift for them)

Customers’ Top Server Frustrations

  1. Introduce themselves by name/nicknameWaitress with name tag
  2. Touch you and think they are doing a friendly gesture
  3. Say everything that you ask about on the menu is “really amazing!”
  4. Talk about specials without mentioning the price
  5. Take your plate or drink away before you’re finished
  6. Tell you to wait for “your waiter” when you need something
  7. Squat, take a knee or sit down at your table
  8. Try to upsell you on everything
  9. Make you feel like a criminal because you just ordered drinks, or just dinner, instead of seven courses and four bottles of wine
  10. Ask if you need change

Now that I’ve highlighted each audiences frustrations, lets see what they agree on

  1. Cleanliness of the establishment (sitting area, dining room, bar and bathrooms)
  2. Food cooked to perfection (customers don’t like telling the wait staff to bring back a meal because it’s under cooked as much as servers don’t like bringing food back to the kitchen staff)
  3. Chip-free dinnerware and glassware
  4. Politeness (smile, be thankful and create a positive atmosphere)
  5. Food and drink presentation (food should make servers proud and customers excited)
  6. Determining if the bill needs to be split before ordering menu items
  7. Comfortable room temperature
  8. Mood lighting and music
  9. Readily available children’s seating
  10. Boucebacks (Allow servers to offer customers an incentive to come back again to create repeat business)

Let the vent session begin!  What’s your biggest restaurant gripe?

Also see: The 20 most annoying things servers do at restaurants

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Riding The Waves: 5 Ways To Boost Your Revenue

Stack of quarter coinsThe restaurant industry has been struggling for what seems like an eternity now. While you may have a great restaurant concept, a handful of high-selling menu items, and a substantial dinner rush there are always ways to diversify and grow your revenue.

Cut food costs. Make a descending dollar report. A fancy way to say “find the 10 foods you spend the most on every month,” a descending dollar report itemizes where the largest portion of your food expense is going. Have a discussion with your distributors and see if there’s a comparable product, or even a better one, that you can get for less. Don’t be afraid to cut ties with a distributor who’s costing you more money than you need to spend.

Invest in bulk storage to find additional available discounts. If you use your buying power to navigate the roads to the best deals, and invest time in detailing your inventory process to avoid spoilage, you can and will save money.A few cents for every pound purchased turns into significant savings in the long run.

Give employees power to make you money. Sometimes your biggest expense, properly trained employees have the ability to be your greatest asset. Being the face of your restaurant your employees are essentially the windows through which customers view your establishment. Give your staff the tools and know-how they need to please. The key to doing this is excellent, ongoing training. Constantly update and review procedures with all employees. Help your staff feel comfortable enough to offer suggestions, and have conversation-style performance reviews in which you set goals and give incentives for performing well.

A well trained employee has a greater chance of lending a helping hand, upselling menu items, and impressing customers. As a result, happy customers tend to buy more, enjoy their experience, and come back the next time their appetite calls. Remember, training is an on-going process and it’s important to set a good example.

DIY Equipment RepairsDIY equipment repairs. Being able to service and maintain your restaurant equipment can be a huge money saver. Each piece of equipment in your kitchen serves a purpose, and when one of those pieces doesn’t function well it can affect your entire operation. Additionally, expensive labor and parts costs paid to outside repair companies can add up quickly. Take time to learn the ins and outs of how your equipment works, what’s most likely to fail, and how best to fix what fails when it does. You’ll be surprised how much money can be saved by employing a little know-how and some elbow grease.

Technology can help reel in customers. Consumers are exploding personal information into digital space at ridiculous speeds. If you’re not doing the same with your restaurant you may be behind the curve. Finding menus, shopping for happy hour deals, and recommending hot spots to friends are all ways potential customers search and share when it comes to the restaurant industry. You need to be part of the conversation, and the obvious way to get a word in is by having an intuitive, attractive website. Don’t have a website? You need to get one.

Make sure you feature a current, printable menu, and provide your address, driving directions, and phone number on every page. Butdon’t be content just having a website. Today’s most popular eateries have additional technologies working in their favor like an established e-mail list, social network sites that encourage participation, and wireless avenues of advertising like text messaging.

Diversify your income. Navigating the ever-twisting current that is your revenue stream can become dangerously safe in its monotony. Conducting business as usual can leave you blind to rapids ahead, and without a revenue inlet to steer towards you could find yourself quickly dashed against the rocks. To help avoid unseen obstacles it’s a good idea to branch out and include as many income opportunities as possible.Elegant Catering

  1. Add retail items – Customers enjoy creative apparel referencing your restaurant. Selling hats, t-shirts, and wrist bands is an inexpensive way to outfit your customers while getting the word out.
  2. Make your food more accessible – Try offering a take-out or delivery option for your more popular items to accommodate customers who don’t want to dine in.
  3. Host special events – Serving corporate functions and big parties requires special pricing and menu options, but catering to the needs of large gatherings is an excellent way to sell out your space and take advantage of seasonal holidays.

Within a constantly changing landscape, the food service industry is a precarious place to stay stagnant. As doors close left and right new innovations are thrown from windows like confetti, littering the industry with pop-up restaurants, food trucks, unexpected tastes, and evolving palates. While riding the waves of change might not always be the best bet when it comes to your restaurant, it’s safe to keep that metaphorical surfboard in your closet for when the right wave rolls your way.

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What’s in the Oil: A Healthier Alternative to Fried Foods in Your Restaurant

What’s in the Oil?

Girl Drinking Oil

Fried foods are the well-known rogue of the food industry, and with websites like Live Better America, consumers are becoming more aware of what’s in their food – and they’re making the choice to eat healthier.

Yet, it’s hard to stick to any diet when faced with killer tasting fries next to a well-made hamburger, and, oh, those mouthwatering fried appetizer plates of fried mushrooms, pickles and jalapeno poppers.

But there’s good news here, because those same sites that promote healthy living, are also helping consumers learn about healthy frying. By choosing the right fried oil and ensuring the best oil management practices, you can still deliver healthier fried food options without losing the taste.

Wait, let’s start with oil management, what is that?

Simply put, oil management is the art (and science) of getting the most out of your oil. It consists of choosing the right oil, understanding how oil is broken down, having a fryer with a built-in filtration system (and that recovers temperature quickly), and regularly testing oil quality.
Oil management is one of the greatest resources for any restaurant using a commercial fryer, because the frying oil alone is one of the biggest cost consumptions when it comes to frying; meaning, prolonging the life of the oil saves your restaurant money, $$$. And, making sure the oil is of good quality makes the food taste better, while still offering a healthier alternative.

Now, let’s talk healthy oils!

My grandparents use to cook the best fried chicken, in lard of course, and although mouth-watering and scrumptious, it was also artery clogging. Yet, with advances towards improving oil quality, especially in restaurants, that same fried chicken recipe can still be served-up without worrying about such adverse health concerns.

Some of the most commonly used healthy oils are high oleic canola and low linolenic soybean oils, which have the highest stability and nutrition value of other commonly used commercial cooking oils. Yes, they come with a much higher price tag than what you may be spending on traditional oils, but with good oil management practices, these oils actually last longer, which is where the money saving factor comes in. These oil types also come in shortening form, which is perfect for cookies, muffins and other sweets.

In comparison, partially hydrogenated oils may have a lower price tag and higher stability, but they also offer next to no nutritional value. Yet, unfortunately, there are a lot of restaurant owners that simply don’t care about oil quality, because they feel that they either loose flavor, or pay too much for the oil.

Like I mentioned in the beginning, today’s consumers are becoming savvier when it comes to the foods they eat, and they want it healthy – even when it’s fried. So, you have to ask yourself, if your restaurant isn’t making the switch to healthier oils, is it worth the loss in profit?

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From The Ground Up: Hiring, Training, And Compensating Your Employees

Restaurant StaffUnfortunately a high turnover rate is not always a positive aspect in regards to the restaurant industry. When it comes to customers, turnover can be great for your revenue. When it comes to employees, if it happens often, turnover can fracture the once-smooth operation of your establishment.

Employee turnover is inevitable, but if you follow a few basic procedures you can maximize your employee retention. Keeping the employees you have, and making the most of their skills and ambitions, can be the key to reducing your costs and increasing your restaurant’s efficiency.

Cast a wide net.  It’s hard to weed out who will cost you more money in the long run if you’ve only got one applicant. Cast that net wide and pull in as many possible candidates, from as many outlets as possible, to increase your chance of finding that golden employee.

Use multiple media.  When it comes to finding a job we’ve come a long way from circling ads in the Help Wanted section of the local paper. Think outside of that Help Wanted box and you’ll be surprised how many places potential employees look for employment. This goes hand-in-hand with casting that wide net. Talk to your current employees and tell them to spread the word. Put that ad in the local paper, but also post it to online job search sites. Let people know you’re looking by looking everywhere!

Screen. Screen. Screen. It’s easy to avoid the embarrassment of interviewing a candidate who’s completely wrong for the position, and also find someone who fits best, if you take the time to evaluate each candidate. Going over a stack of resumes one-by-one may take a while, but it’s definitely worth the time in the long run. Look at what’s important. Relevant job experience, references, and salary requirements can all play a large role in how that candidate operates and if they’ll be able to adapt to the position you’re offering.

Interview. If you’ve screened your candidates well, letting everyone who will work with them weigh in somehow, the interview process should be an extension of that screening. This is where you make sure the person on paper is actually the person you’re interviewing. You may laugh, but all too often people exaggerate their skills to sound more marketable. Make sure to ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer. If you do this, and listen actively, you’ll get a feel for how the candidate views the job and also where they are in their life. Are they looking to hop in and out of your position within a matter of months, or are they someone you can count on further down the road?

experienced chef giving culinary lessons to female traineesTrain with your best. Now that you’ve found your new employee, make sure that person has access to your very best in terms of restaurant equipment and resources. A well trained employee may take time up front but can end up saving you more time and money in the future. An excellent way to groom your new hire is by having them shadow your top performing employee for a few days. This helps them learn the ins and outs of the job and also shows them what a good employee looks like. Create clear expectations and apparent avenues to achieve those expectations. Nothing costs more, money and time, than a confused employee acting on that confusion.

Be an example. Your staff essentially looks to you for approval and guidance. Giving them cues as to how you’d like things done, or what works best in a certain situation, can help eliminate confusion and garner good behavior. The best way to provide a positive work environment and retain your employees is to set a good example for everyone to follow.

Compensate creativelyTraditionally, compensation strategy has been to pay hourly for your kitchen staff, and have your waitstaff make most their pay through tips. High turnover and inefficient operation have caused some restaurants to rethink how they compensate. Here are two outside-the-box compensation strategies that have worked:

  1.  Salary your waitstaff. You’ll be surprised how priorities change. When you make a living on tips you’re often trying to up-sell and raise check averages, and in doing this top-notch service and customer satisfaction can suffer. On the other hand, salaried servers don’t feel the pressure to keep those tables turning. Instead they’re free to focus on the quality of service rather than the speed.
  2. Share profits with back of house. Most likely your kitchen staff is paid an hourly wage, and those employees will make that hourly no matter how quickly or efficiently they work. An incentive to keeping those in the back of the house productive is profit sharing. Let your kitchen staff earn shares based on how long they’ve been there, then let them share in the profits each quarter. This will help reduce turnover because, let’s face it, who doesn’t want a job that pays out a bonus 3 to 4 times a year? When an employee shares in your success it’s in their best interest to add to that success.

As we’ve discussed, turnover can be the factor that makes or breaks your business. Handling this turnover, and taking appropriate steps to avoid turnover wherever possible, can give you a leg up on your competition. Having a plan for approaching and reaching potential employees, and then following that plan through your hiring process, training, and eventually compensation can be invaluable. It all starts with you!

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FOH vs. BOH: 12 Tips to Ease Tension

Restaurant StaffOh the woes of being a server: the fast paced rush, the kitchen yelling at you for what  your customers have ordered, the table of people that are mean to you and make you want to cry and the co-worker who is always telling you how to do things better!  It seems the woes never end!  One of the biggest influences on a shift can be how you and the BOH interact with each other.  Thankfully, this is an area that you have more control over then you may realize.

I asked 100 chefs to offer their advice to servers to create a more pleasant and respectful relationship between the two houses.  Here is what they said.

  1. Use your expediter to communicate.  Your Expediter is the liaison between you and everyone in the kitchen.  Don’t attempt to talk to chef’s on the line for any reason. Problems or modifications should be discussed with the Expediter. They will take it from there.
  2. Run food!  Everyone in the kitchen has taken great pains in preparation and the creation of dishes that sit on the line waiting for anyone with time to deliver them.  It doesn’t matter if it’s your table, your section or not, it is a paying guest’s food; plated and ready.  Any call for “food runner” should be met with a sense of urgency.
  3. Don’t take things to heart.  Thick skin is the order of the day.  Don’t take any immature, stupid or sharp comments personally.  Sometimes it’s not that easy but what is said during a busy rush is best not taken as a genuine insult.
  4. Hush on your tips.  Don’t boast, bitch or talk about the gratuities you have received or not received. While it’s fine to talk to your FOH peers about the money you make that conversation should be a private one and does not extend to the kitchen.
  5. Don’t use your cell phone.  While you are at work you should be focusing on things that need to be done or attended to: cleaning, guest’s needs or running food, not planning your time after work.
  6. Don’t use perfume or cologne at work.  People come out to eat to smell food, look at food and eat food.  The smell of perfume, while pleasant, has no business competing with the natural smells of the food.
  7. Make sure your order is correct.  It begins with what the guest says they want and ends with them receiving what they said they wanted.  The tricky part is everything in between.  Make sure you write down what the guest says, correctly and legibly, and put effort into putting that correct information into the computer system.
  8. Have a solution, know what is needed.  If you bring a dish back to expo from a guest, make sure you know what needs to be done to fix the problem right now.  Don’t explain the whole situation to expo…they don’t care, not at that moment.  What they care about is fixing the problem as fast as possible.  Clear and direct dialogue is key. “Table 1, seat 1: cook this steak up to mid-well, please” or “Table 6, seat 3: Please re-heat this risotto, it’s too cold.” are great ways of communicating.  The chef doesn’t need any back story, not right now.
  9. Say Please.  Please!  These are basic manners.
  10. Say Thank You. Thank you!  You were taught this since you were a kid.
  11. Buy a round.  Not all the time but if you have had an exceptional night thanks to a great kitchen team, it never hurts relations to buy them a drink.  They’ll remember and they’ll be grateful.
  12. Greet and bid adieu.  Saying hello to everyone when you come into work is a friendly and a nice introduction to a shift. There are often many servers that come in at a certain time and yet it is rare that any of them will actually go out of their way to say hello to the kitchen team. Often times they (the kitchen team) have been at the restaurant all day working; a friendly greeting is always welcome.  A genuine good night is always thoughtful as well!

Alright, here is where I ask you to check out my website: The 427,826,211 person to visit it will win a billion dollars, maybe it will be you!

Jennifer Anderson is a server, certified Sommelier and FOH trainer/re-organizer.

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Conserve & Control: Portioning Out Your Precious Resources

Picture your next outing to a new restaurant or eatery. Mouths watering, you and your dinner companions order the same large entrees based on similar tastes and growling stomachs. As your succulent steaks make their way to the table, you notice your friend to the left has a small spoonful of potatoes overshadowed by an over-sized steak.  On the opposite side, your friend to the right sheds a tear when he sees his small piece of beef half hidden behind a heaping wall of potatoes. While you’re plate looks just right, you chuckle at how disproportionately different the three meals are, and how each of you paid the same price.

Now extend this imaginary dinner outing to the typical guest experience at your own establishment. Are the two uncannily similar? From an operational standpoint, how can you calculate margins and accurately tally expenses when each plate sent out is proportioned differently? The short answer is, you can’t.

Controlling the portions you provide your customers is an easily overlooked but extremely important way to cut costs and preserve your restaurant’s margin. Amid the hustle and bustle of today’s high-energy commercial kitchens it’s essential to have a tried-and-true method of keeping the portions your staff dishes out exact.

One place to weight watch when it comes to portions is proteins. Outfitting your kitchen with the right restaurant equipment is important, and a quality portion scale is a greatPortion Scales way to keep an eye on what is probably the most expensive item on your entrée plates. Pop that protein onto a portion scale to quickly and easily stretch your product as far as it can go.

Starches, veggies, and soups are highly susceptible to varied portions.  What is shrugged off as an additional carrot or extra green may be adding up to cost you thousands of dollars in lost revenue every year! The simplest way to take control of these portion sizes is to utilize a handful of portion measuring utensils. Using a specific disher, Spoodle, Loon, or ladle for certain food items, and always using that same sized utensil, will help you avoid over serving.

Water use is often undervalued and overlooked. Restaurants use a lot of water, it’s a fact. From washing dishes and tables to cooking and serving guests, water output eats up a nice chunk of your monthly budget whether you realize it or not. An excellent way to save, and also help your establishment be greener, is to watch your water. Here are 5 sensible tips to help you do just that: 

Fix leaky faucets – don’t let that drip drain your budget!

Wash full racks only – it’s a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often a member of your staff starts a half-filled rack through the washer.

Use a foot pedal for hand washing sinks – foot or knee pedals are a great way to avoid waste. They not only give your staff a sanitary way to operate the sink, but also shut off automatically to instantly help you save.

Landscape with conservation in mind – water outside can be as costly, if not more, than water inside. Keep that in mind when you’re adding a flower garden or line of decorative shrubs to the outside of your establishment.

Train employees – without the help of your employees your conservation plan is just a plan. Make sure each employee knows where your business stands when it comes to conserving.

Go GreenBONUS: Spread the word –people love to hear when steps are taken to be more environmentally conscious. If you’ve made changes to how you do things, and these changes have a positive effect on the surrounding community, don’t be ashamed to toot your own horn and let people know!

So when it comes to portion control it’s time for you to be in control. As a basis for calculating your restaurant’s profitability, portioning out your product is essential to keeping your margins low and your plates consistent. Effective portion control is easier than you think and is a good way to accurately assume where your expenses will sit each month. Without a proper portion control method in place you end up gambling with these assumptions, and in the restaurant industry it’s often these kinds of gambles that can make or break you. Why not sway the odds in your favor as much as possible?

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Join the Conversation: Managing Your Restaurant’s Online Reputation

In the fast paced world of write-what-you-will-when-you-want internet blogging, reviewing, and all around tom-foolery, you’re able to find varying opinions on just about anything. From bashing faulty restaurant equipment to condemning an establishment’s service, it would seem that opinion makers particularly enjoy targeting the restaurant world. Inhabiting an industry that’s so inherently subjective, restaurant owners need to be in the know when it comes to how customers, and the public in general, view and talk about their eatery. Not monitoring your online reputation, or worse yet ignoring the opinions you do uncover, can lead to customers not coming through your doors and eventually those doors closing for good.

Social Media IconsSocial media, review sites like Yelp, and literally any random person with a voice wanting to be heard, can be both an excellent way to spread positive feedback or negatively criticize a restaurant for poor quality. With 84% of American consumer’s decisions affected by online reviews being on top of the pulse in terms of watching what people say about you is crucial. Here are a few tips for staying ahead of the naysayers and building relationships with your optimistic fans.

Actively listen. All too often people are just waiting for their turn to speak rather than actively listening to what’s being said. If you take this approach when reading negative, or even positive, reviews you can really miss the message and come across as ignorant and inattentive. Open up those ears and take it all in, one disgruntled customer at a time, and realize that the opinion surrounding your restaurant can’t and isn’t molded by your hands alone.

Start with the social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ and branch out to more specialized review sites like Yelp, UrbanSpoon, OpenTable, and the likes. Additionally, you can comb the entire internet with Google Alerts and have it scour the web for mentions of your restaurant’s name. The tools are out there, you just need to use them.

Interact. If you’re not responding to your critics and formally thanking your fans you should be. With an internet era that’s all about conversation it takes more than listening to truly understand where consumers are coming from and what they’re expecting in regards to your restaurant. Make sure to create a dialogue with both your critics and your regulars and let them know that you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say.

Just remember to follow a few common-courtesy rules during the conversation and you’ll be in good shape:

  • Don’t insult people
  • Avoid acting defensive
  • Don’t pat yourself on the back

Have a voice. Instead of letting those who talk negatively about your restaurant form your online reputation you need to take action and do more than simply notice the public. Saying woman listeningthank you can go a long way, but offering an alternative viewpoint for people to weigh when making a decision is important. Rather than letting your potential customers believe a non-flattering review they come across, use discussion and interaction to provide an inside look into how your restaurant operates. Offer blog insights and helpful tips (Facebook & Twitter are invaluable when it comes to spreading information) and you’ll be surprised how many people will tune in.

Customer research. Knowing your customers is the key to providing them with the best service possible and exceeding expectations. In line with actively listening, once you’ve established a conversation it becomes easier to cater to needs and discover trends. If you see social media and active response as an opportunity to know customers better than they know themselves (in terms of what flavors suit their fancy) you’ll be miles ahead of your competition.

Monitoring feedback and staying in-the-know when you’re being talked about is easier than ever. Whether you’re trying to attract a new customer or attempting to turn a bad experience into a second chance prospect taking the initiative by managing your online reputation is step in the right direction. Granted, living up to a positive reputation requires dedication, but learning the habits of your customers is satisfying when you can take them from trying your food through having their expectations exceeded. Often satisfied customers are more than happy to help you spread a positive word!

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