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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.

8 Tips for Getting and Keeping Employees in the Restaurant Industry

8 Tips for Getting and Keeping Employees in the Restaurant Industry

Finding and keeping the right employees can be a challenge in any industry, but without fail, it’s the restaurant industry that leads in employee turnover and retention every year. Some of it’s due to the median age range being between 16-24 (which is the primary age of students that hold temporary jobs) and other parts of it is due to restaurateurs lack of employee retention investments.

With one of the biggest challenges being to find the right employees and the other making sure they stick around, let’s roll into tactics on how you can get a leg up on sourcing the right employees and keeping them happy.

1. Recruiting Online

Looking for new recruits is easy with the help of online job boards, social media, and free listings on sites such as Craigslist. Not only can you source for the right type of employee in your listings, you can also review recruits online resumes and LinkedIn accounts to learn more about them before you even begin engaging.

2. Look For Unconventional Talent

Outside of the 16-24 year old workers, what other segments could you be recruiting? Baby boomers are a great start. This rather large generation is set to retire in the coming years and they’re not the type to sit and twiddle their thumbs. This is a great generation to market to – they’re dedication and experience could surprise you. There are also stay-at-home moms that are returning to the workforce. They may not have worked ‘traditionally’ over the past few years, but their organizational and corralling skills are off the charts!

3. Interviewing Smarts

You should be devoting time to improving internal communication, as well as, making sure new recruits are a cultural fit. Listen carefully – do you get the vibe you want and that will fit with your current employees? Do they talk about team more or working alone more? Make sure to look for cues that will fit the position… if you can’t sit through a conversation with them, why would you have them serving your customers? If you don’t have your own list of interview questions, search the Internet for questions to ask – there’s a slew of information out there.

P.S. Please, please, please follow-up with references. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

4. Test Them Before They Come In

Testing employees may sound like something that only corporate businesses do, but a lot of restaurants and fast-casual establishments have found a lot of luck with weeding out the bad candidates and narrowing down to the perfect fit. Companies like Wonderlic and Merchants are great for analyzing personality, as well as, sniffing out bad behavior like drug abuse, alcohol abuse, hostility, violence, lying, and employee theft in the workplace. The total cost for these tests is relatively low, especially when it comes to the potential costs of hiring the wrong employee.

5. Existing Employees Are Your In House Stars

And they deserve to know they are stars. If you haven’t invested time in getting to know who your employees are outside of work, why should they care about you or your business? Networking to improve your business, should always start in-house… make sure your employees know you care about them.

6. Give Them The Tools They Need

Employees can only be as successful as the tools they’re given to improve what they do. If there are tools to help them do their job better, it may be worth the investment. Whether it be training, technology, or new product, investing in job improvement is always a win-win.

P.S. If you’re worried about paying for tools just to have the employee turn around and leave, don’t. If they want to leave, they will, but what you’re establishing is a work environment that builds confidence and trust in your employees. You’re showing them that you’re willing to pay to make them better… and that could quite possible be one of the best places to work for.

7. Recognize The Rockstars

It’s one thing to tell an employee that they’re doing a good job, but it’s another thing to tell everyone that they’re doing a great job. Let the entire team know who deserves the kudos – whether it be on a corkboard or posted right above the time clock. We all love to be recognized for our efforts, and when we see someone else winning at that, it makes us want to push ourselves to be seen as the rockstar too.

8. Community Is Everything

If you’re working on communicating better with your employees, you should also work on creating better communication between the entire team. Whether it be a communal lunch before opening or a quick meeting after closing, making sure everyone is on the same track and understood is essential in building internal community. Make sure to bring up quick wins – a customer satisfaction comment, a new menu item comment, an efficiency comment, etc.

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6 Tips on Boosting Your Restaurants Most Profitable Items on the Menu

6 Tips on Boosting Your Restaurants Most Profitable Items on the Menu

Profit margins are notoriously slim in the restaurant world, but boosting the volume of drinks and desserts you sell can be one of the simplest ways to generate more profit from every customer served. Here are six simple ways to sell more of the items that stand to put the most cash back into your restaurant.

1. Package your meals appropriately.

Offering some meals in a prix fixe format can be a symbiotic tactic you can leverage to sell your most profitable items in a way that feels like a value to the customer. Additionally, custom menus encourage diners to try profitable items that they love, but wouldn’t typically consider without the “package” deal, including a specialty cocktail, dessert or dessert wine.

2. Redesign your menu.

Effective menu design is an art and science; the images and layout you use to “tell a story” while guiding the diner’s eye where you most want it to go is a key piece to selling more of the items you want. Because the upper right corner of the menu is generally where the eye travels first, your most profitable items should be featured there. If you can avoid indicating prices (or at best, can minimize the level of attention they get on the menu), you also stand the best chance of convincing customers based on imagery and language, versus price alone.

3. Tweak your language.

Revamping the language you use to relevantly appeal to your customer’s motivations, needs, and desires can have a significant impact on your ability to sell profitable items. In fact, Brian Wansink, professor and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University estimates that using descriptive terms on your menu can boost sales by as much as 27 percent. Likewise, training wait staff to approach profitable items as a sales-oriented conversation versus a closed-ended question (“Do you want to hear our specials?”) can change the outcome of the order, too.

4. Give a complimentary “introducer.”

Boosting your profits by offering free food may seem counter-intuitive, but when you offer complimentary items like freshly baked bread, chips, or olives, they ideally make people want to order something even more profitable as an accompaniment. You establish a “win-win,” e.g. tasty basket of chips and salsa presented alongside your mouth-watering margarita menu can act as a natural food pairing.

5. Make the customer feel valued.

Free food on the table doesn’t just appease a hungry customer, it can make them willing to order at a certain threshold at your restaurant in exchange for your generosity — especially if the “freebie” is perceived as high quality. In a Freakonomics podcast about free appetizers, Cornell University professor Michael Lynn supported that theory, stating that “by giving away free items you’re increasing the appeal of what you have to offer to the public.”

6. Create a feeling of celebration.

Wansink also explains in the Freakonomics podcast that diners have different mental scripts based on the dining occasion, and will typically “perform” appropriate to that script and corresponding “consumption norms.” For example, because desserts and drinks typically accompany special occasions and celebrations, a diner who may not typically order dessert may do just that when the meal is for a special occasion, simply due to social norms. You can boost the likelihood that diners consider your profitable drinks and desserts by leveraging celebrations to your advantage. Train servers to ask if a special occasion brings diners in, and suggestively sell based on that response. (For example, a recently engaged couple will likely respond to champagne, while a couple who just found out they’re having a baby girl will likely respond to the opportunity to indulge in cake with pink icing.) In addition, you can create a lively and celebratory atmosphere supported by appropriate music, scents and sounds that generally make diners feel like they want to stay longer for dessert and drinks.

There may be limits to the prices you can negotiate with your suppliers, or the price you can command for various items from customers without hurting demand, but there are many small yet mighty tactics restaurant owners can leverage to drive profitable drink and dessert sales. With the collective impact of these small changes, you can have a significant impact on your bottom line, and the brand image you form for your restaurant in the customer’s mind.

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Spotlight: Tundra Restaurant Design Services

Spotlight: Tundra Restaurant Design Services

Did you know Tundra provides a full menu of restaurant design and renovation services?

It’s true! Led by seasoned designers Jeff B. Katz and Bob E. McLaren, our team has over 70 years of combined experience and a gorgeous and diverse portfolio to show for it. (As a matter of fact, Jeff literally wrote the book on restaurant design.)

Working with your architect and interior designer, Tundra can design your restaurant—front and back of the house—with a perfect blend of form and function.

Our Restaurant Design Process

Whether you are planning a quaint neighborhood bistro or an expansive hotel dining room, every design project rests on the principles of clear communication, close attention to detail, and a spirit of collaboration.

In the initial discovery process, we work with our clients to assemble a clearly written document outlining demographic data, key objectives they want to deliver, the menu they want to showcase, and the facility they want to bring it altogether in. This document guides the design process and ensures that key concepts are integrated and goals met.

Next, in the development stage, our designers complete their comprehensive design program based on your operational plan. This can be used by all members of your design team and helps to define the required spaces, relationships, and design elements for the successful construction and operation of your restaurant.

Lastly, in the delivery stage, we address any unexpected conditions or challenges that might arise throughout the construction process. This is where our experience in construction and our understanding of operational constraints comes in handy. We are able to resolve issues quickly and maintain forward momentum to keep the project on time and on budget.

Looking for a Restaurant Design Quote?

Tell us about your design needs and overall objectives and we’ll get right to work! Our proposals are known for being detailed, accurate and thorough, accounting for taxes and freight.

And since our design team has direct access to the Tundra inventory, as well as long-standing relationships in the industry, we are able to prepare very competitive bids—without sacrificing quality.

To get started, call 888-388-6372, then press 3, or submit a design-quote request online. We’re excited to learn more about your restaurant’s objectives, and offer you a custom quote that matches your goals, concepts and operational needs.

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Fryer Safety Checklist

Fryer Safety Checklist

Fortunately, most modern fryers are simple and easy to use. But whenever you add 400°F oil to the mix, extreme caution is essential. What follows is a list of things to consider (please see our disclaimer at the end) if your commercial kitchen prepares deep-fried food.

Non-Slip Footwear

Slip- and Grease-Resistant Floor Mats

Personal Safety Equipment

Ladders and Footstools

Kitchen Layout and Storage

  • Set up work areas to reduce the need for reaching and climbing near exposed oil. Store frequently used items on accessible shelves away from fryers.
  • Keep fryer area free of clutter, electrical cords, etc.
  • Lay out kitchen without tight or blind corners to avoid collisions; provide enough work space to avoid collisions near fryer.

Education and Training

  • Fryer training: develop strict staff training/mentoring procedures to ensure safe operation and maintenance of your fryers.
  • First aid training: first aid is the best way to minimize the damage caused by a fryer-related burns and carbon monoxide exposure. Ensure there is at least one first-aid trained staff member on duty at all times.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning awareness: educate staff about the specific procedures needed to prevent and respond to the symptoms of CO poisoning.

Quality Equipment and Oil

Safe Cleaning and Grease Transport

  • Clean fryers in the morning, when fryer oils have cooled.
  • Establish clear safety procedures for the transport of used fryer oil.

Note: this fryer safety checklist is NOT exhaustive. Be sure to understand and comply with all relevant occupational safety regulations, and read our Terms of Use before acting on any of the recommendations listed here.

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Grease Traps: Everything You Always Wanted to Know (and More!)

Remember the London fatberg story?

Sorry if you were trying to put it out of your mind.

As you might recall, in August 2013 sewer workers in London discovered a double-decker-bus-sized mass of grease and wet naps, which was immortalized in the tabloids as “fatberg.” The berg had nearly blocked the entire 7-foot diameter pipe. Had it fully blocked the pipe, residents of the London borough of Kingston would’ve been in for a MOST UNPLEASANT surprise.

“The sewer was almost completely clogged,” sewer worker Gordon Hailwood told the Guardian. “If we hadn’t discovered it in time, raw sewage could have started spurting out of manholes across the whole of Kingston.”

The 15-ton London fatberg incident is a great illustration of the unheralded importance—to our infrastructure and to our public health—of grease traps: those toolbox-sized containers that commercial kitchens put below their sinks. The purpose of grease traps, also known as grease interceptors, is to reduce the amount of fats, oils and greases (FOGs) that enter our sewer systems.

As anyone who has cooked bacon knows, grease congeals when it cools, and can cling to and eventually clog your pipes if you pour it down the drain. The London fatberg incident shows what happens, on a macro level, when too much grease oozes into the public sewer system. Because when too much grease accumulates in the sewer, raw sewage has nowhere else to go but … everywhere.

According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency, sewers back up an estimated 400,000 times each year due to pipe blockages, and and grease is the primary culprit, resulting in over 10 billion gallons of raw sewage spills each year.

So, the moral of the story? Grease traps are a VERY good thing that EVERYONE benefits from, and that’s why virtually every municipality requires their use in commercial kitchens to prevent FOGs from clogging public sewer lines.

That said, not all grease traps are created equal! To ensure that your device not only does the job but proves durable over the long run, head over to eTundra.com and shop of wide selection of top-of-the-line grease traps!

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Tundra’s Toolbox: Putting the ROI in DIY

Tundra’s Toolbox: Putting the ROI in DIY

Here’s a lesson we’ve learned about the restaurant and food service business:

The more stuff you can fix on your own, without having to hire pricey contractors, the more money you can save. And when you save money, you feel good. Fix stuff, feel good. Rinse and repeat.

Fortunately, food service professionals are already a handy lot. We’re used to solving problems and getting things done. What’s more, we use “tools” to ply our trade every day.

But if you’re going to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself, you’re going to need the right tools for the job, and that’s where we can help you. (You didn’t know Tundra carried tools? Yes, yes we do!)

Tundra’s toolbox features high-quality wares from brands like Alfa, Commercial, CHG, Winco and others. Whether you need a basic item like an adjustable wrench or a specialty piece like a cutting board refinishing tool, we’ve got you covered.

And for those of you just getting started, our tool collections, such as this 27-piece kit, will help you tackle all but the most challenging DIY projects.

If you’re brave enough to troubleshoot electrical and gas issues, we even have a couple of helpful books to guide your efforts.

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How Much Should Restaurant Workers Be Paid?

Pay for restaurant workers. It’s an issue that manages to unite us and divide us at the same time.

According to the National Restaurant Association, half of all American adults have worked in the restaurant industry at some point during their lives, and a third got their first job in a restaurant.

Most of us, in other words, can sympathize with the plight of low-paid restaurant workers because we’ve been there ourselves at some point, or have a friend or relative who struggles to cover basic needs while working full-time in a food-service position.

Divisions emerge when we stop to consider what, if anything, to do about it. Should we raise the minimum wage? Should we abolish tipping altogether? Should we pressure owners to pay their employees a living wage? Or should we let “the market” sort itself out and avoid potentially messy policy intervention?

Traditionally, many restaurateurs at our country’s 980,000 food-service establishments argue that forcing proprietors to pay their workers more will simply result in either less hiring or worse: layoffs. Further, they say that paying workers more would result in higher prices for patrons, who might decide to stay home and cook.

The counter-argument, one that I agree with, is that modestly raising pay standards to keep pace with inflation and other cost of living metrics is not only the right thing to do from an ethical standpoint, but will have the added benefit of stimulating more economic activity overall, because compensation isn’t’t a zero-sum game.

After all, folks who work in restaurants like to eat out as much as everyone else! If they’re paid a decent wage, they’ll have the means to patronize local restaurants once in a while.

What’s more, there’s the issue of fairness. Consider the situation in New York City, where nearly two-thirds of restaurant servers live at or below the poverty line. How is this situation OK? This strikes me as a classic example of a market failure ripe for correction.

In the meantime, whether you support change or the status quo, we as patrons can make sure our servers are tipped well, because tips aren’t simply bonuses paid on top of good wages. Without tips—heck, even with them—the far majority of restaurant workers wouldn’t be able to make ends meet.

And if you’re not convinced that your tip makes a difference, check out this powerful video.

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How to Cook Food for the Masses without Losing Your Mind

How to Cook Food for the Masses without Losing Your Mind

What’s the key to cooking for large groups without losing your mind? Sanity lies in a simple French phase

Remember: mise en place

Mise en place—pronounced meez ahn plas—means to put things in place, to prepare. Every food service pro understands the importance of having everything in its right place. Without proper attention to mis en place, things can get chaotic very quickly—and chaos in the kitchen results in hangry (hungry + angry) guests.

Measure twice

You know the old woodworking adage “measure twice, cut once”? That applies to food prep as well, so be sure to double check the conversion rates of your ingredients. This conversion and measurement infographic we made might help!

Have landing zones ready

Tundra’s Chris Tavano, who was a chef in a prior life, suggests having “landing zones” prepared for everything. “It may feel redundant, as you may unnecessarily dirty a bowl for just holding ingredients, but organization is key,” says Chris. “For example, you might have an ice-bath landing zone for chilled items such as blanched asparagus or hard-boiled eggs, or a warming zone for hot items.”

Have the end result in mind

Otherwise, you can get hung up one task while other ingredients continue to cook. This is important but easy to forget.

Divide and conquer

Take a page from Henry Ford’s playbook: build processes, divvy up tasks, and refine them until you’re a model of efficiency. Balthazar, a bistro in New York City that serves hot, perfectly cooked steak frites to 1500 guests on a typical day, employs two full-time potato peelers! They approach french fry production with an industrial mindset that Ford would admire.

Clean as you go

A clean work zone is a healthy and efficient work zone. This is good to do in between each major task or prep work.

Make sure they’re some padding in your timeline

The last thing you want is your roast to be two hours late. For hot food items, be sure you cook them with plenty of time to spare. Put them in the oven a little earlier, and prepare a landing zone to keep it warm until serving.

Braising is great because it allows you to slow roast the night before without any time constraint pressures, and refrigerate overnight to seal in flavors as it cools,” says Chris. “Then, the brasie can be reheated perfectly for service, with much less stress to the pressures of time.”

Take good notes

When the dust finally settles and your guests have gone home, take stock. What worked? What caused problems? What steps can you skip in the future? Don’t assume you’ll remember the next time you’re tasked with cooking for a large group. We suggest taking good notes so you don’t have to keep learning the same lessons over and over.

“Anything to save you a step in the future is good practice and thinking,” says Chris.

Hat tip to Chris Tavano for helping me write this post!

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How to Get Customers in the Door on Thanksgiving and Christmas

How to Get Customers in the Door on Thanksgiving and Christmas

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 in 2014?

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.

Are You Ready to Go Lead Free in 2014?

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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