Archives for : April2014

Restaurants and Mother’s Day: A Few Tips

Restaurants and Mother's DayMother’s Day, the busiest day of the year for the restaurant industry, is almost upon us.  The annual salute to Mom can be a highly profitable (and stressful) affair for restaurant workers and managers everywhere.

The FoodTender team have all been there. We’ve worked on the front lines serving, cooking, and managing our way through several Mother’s Days over the years.

So, in an effort to help with this year’s onslaught, we’ve combed the web to collect a few ideas for making this year’s Mother’s Day a smashing success in your establishment.

Promoting

If you’re offering the usual menu on Mother’s Day, you run the risk of losing those customers looking for something a little different for that special occasion. This is the time to run a special feature.

Decide on your Mother’s Day special and start promoting it both inside the restaurant and outside. If you have an email newsletter, Mother’s Day needs its own edition. Spread the word across your social media accounts, update your website with Mother’s Day content (perhaps a blog post), and add a memo to the bottom of your receipts. Use every channel at your disposal to make sure your frequent guests know yours is the place to be on Mom’s special day.

Menu Planning 

Many restaurateurs recommend going with a smaller menu for this occasion. The key is to focus on something that makes it simple for the kitchen to put out quality dishes in the timeliest manner. On the single busiest day of the year, try to streamline your offerings in order to take at least some of the heat off your kitchen.

A smaller menu for the day also allows the back-of-house to prep efficiently. Focus on a few easy-to-prepare dishes, like fresh salads, and simple appetizers. Try not to offer a special feature that puts focus on one particular station of your kitchen. This is inefficient on the best of days, and could prove downright catastrophic with Mother’s Day’s increased traffic.

Treat Mom Like a Queen 

If you’re serious about making a good impression on Mother’s Day, you’ve got to go above and beyond. A great meal and friendly service is very important, however, on this holiday, you need to take your guest experience to the next level.

Consider any of the following specials for Mom:

  • Free dessert
  • Complimentary bar drink
  • Chocolates after the meal
  • Gift Cards and/or flowers

Depending on budget, you could consider hiring entertainment for the day. If you go this route, keep in mind volume and noise levels. Not everyone enjoys live music while they dine. And be sure that whomever you hire to perform (bands, kids entertainer, etc) does not require much of your management’s time. You don’t need distractions taking management’s eyes off your guests.

Don’t Forget About the Kids

Where there are mothers there are children. So, be sure you’re prepared for an increase in younger guests. Few things make for an unsatisfying dining experience like a slew of unhappy, restless kids. It may be Mom’s day in the spotlight, but be sure to keep the junior diners happy as well.

Now is the time to make sure your toy box is stuffed and ready to roll. Crayons and children’s placemats should be fully-stocked as well. If you’ve got extra high chairs and booster seats in storage, now would be a good time to dust them off and bring them out.

Booking 

Just about the worst thing you could do is create excessive wait times, so don’t overbook. Management needs to be very hands on with the reservation book. Make sure you’ve got well-communicated limits on how many guests you’ll serve at what time. And make sure managers and hosts know when to stop taking reservations.

Keeping parties waiting, specifically those that have reservations, is a recipe for disaster.

Consider holding set seating times to avoid this hassle. For example, at brunch, book tables for 11:00, 12:00, and 1:00, etc. It may be worthwhile to limit large parties.

Make the Wait Bearable 

If people do have to wait to be seated, do what you can to alleviate boredom. See if you can free up extra seating in the bar area. Some restaurants prep some extra appetizer samplers to be distributed in the waiting area. It’s a great excuse to push a new appetizer as well.

Staffing 

This one’s simple enough: make sure you have plenty of staff on to keep up with the day’s traffic. Also, be sure the Mother’s Day staff is made up of your A Team, the cream of your crop. If you’ve got brand new staff on, let them bus tables, serve as extra dishwashers, or help with expediting.

If you’ve created special features and new menu items for the day, be sure serving staff are able to discuss the particulars with guests. This goes back to starting your prep as early as you can. Be sure to have a quick pre-shift meeting with all staff before open and/or before the next rush.

Do Something For Your Staff

You should absolutely consider doing something special for your team. Remember, they’re spending a large chunk of their Sunday away from their own mothers and families. Free staff meals, free drinks (after close of course), small gifts. Whatever you can think of. And whatever you do, don’t forget about the mothers on staff.

Create a Great Guest Experience 

Finally, here’s the part where we drop in a quick plug for another one of our posts, Create a Great Customer Service Experience in Your RestaurantMaybe give that one a read before Mom arrives.

Looking for more best practices for the restaurant industry? We’ve compiled a few tips aimed at reducing both food and labour costs in our appropriately-titled ebook, 25 Restaurant Cost-Saving Best Practices. This FREE download is available at the button below.

Restaurant Cost-Saving Best Practices

 

Restaurant Suppliers: What do Customers Expect?

restaurant suppliersChoosing which restaurant suppliers to buy from is one of the most important decisions chefs can make. Suppliers need to meet a restaurant’s many requirements such as payment terms, food quality, delivery times, and more.

Many small and niche suppliers consider restaurant chefs their most profitable market. These chefs need fresh, high-quality ingredients and are often willing to pay top dollar for it. Even more so if it’s locally-grown.

In competitive times, suppliers need to think of new ways to build stronger relationships with customers. Let’s look at a few ways to do so.

Show Off

Chef Hinnerk von Bargen notes: “Don’t wait for chefs to tell you what they need. Surprise them. You have to let them know about the latest gadgets and innovations.” He goes on to say that chefs are often too busy to attend industry conferences to keep up on every new development. It’s up to suppliers to find new ways to get in front of them.

Keep up With Culinary Trends

Chefs are on the front line, not only shaping culinary trends, but responding to them. Many digitally savvy chefs expect restaurant suppliers to keep up and develop a working knowledge of these latest food trends. Exactly how are your food service customers adjusting their menus accordingly? Take advantage of the many online resources available, like the latest Chef Survey.

Embrace Emerging Tech Solutions

Chef Tony Marciante writes on the subject of tech adoption in the kitchen and how it can hopefully disrupt the restaurant supply chain. He notes:

“Until recently, [...]I spent close to two hours putting together food orders with five to eight different suppliers. There was no transparency on pricing, everything was done on paper and communicated via phone or by fax. None of my suppliers offered email and most couldn’t even take a scanned-in order. While larger establishments may have an ordering manager, most sole proprietors do their own ordering. A mistake in one purchase can be very costly, and chefs like to make personal decisions about possible substitutions. This a big part of my 70-plus hour work week.”

Online solutions like FoodTender.com exist to address exactly this type of industry pain point.

Become a Complete Resource

Restaurant suppliers need to think of themselves not simply as a provider of food and equipment. They need to remember that they are a business partner and a key player in all of their customers’ success.

What resources are you sharing with customers? Does your company have a blog? Are you offering helpful recipe tips? Sharing industry research on your website and via social media channels?

Restaurants will support those suppliers that establish themselves as a resource beyond that of provider-of-goods. Do you have contacts at a marketing agency? What about a graphic designer specializing in menu design? Suppliers benefit directly from increased sales in the restaurant. Give your customers the leg up as often as you can.

Get a Little More Social 

Connect with your customers in multiple ways. Do some research, find their various social media accounts, and follow them. Share their content, and help spread their messages. Again, their success is ultimately yours. Connect with not only official business accounts, but chefs’ and managers’ personal accounts as well. It’s an easy way to stay informed about changes and special events occurring at your customers’ establishments. Staying updated on new happenings allows you to offer more tailored solutions for these customers.

So, what do chefs want from their restaurant’s suppliers?

We think affordable prices, reliable delivery, and quality products should be taken as givens. What we’ve highlighted are attempts to go beyond the required standards. Do you have suggestions for suppliers on how to better serve their customers? Tell us about them in the comments.

Food suppliers: interested in becoming a part of the FoodTender.com community? Suppliers can join at any time at absolutely no cost. Learn more at the button below.

FoodTender.com - Online Marketplace for Restaurants and Suppliers

25 Restaurant Cost-Saving Best Practices [Free ebook]

Restaurant Cost-Saving Best Practices

Cost of food is still the largest expense facing restaurants at 36% of operating revenue.

On top of this, rising minimum wages have contributed to labour costs steadily increasing over the past decade. They currently account for 33.6% of revenue.

Restaurateurs need to think of even the smallest changes that could result in reducing the cost of both their food and labour expenses.

In our new ebook, 25 Restaurant Cost-Saving Best Practices, we’ve compiled a few ideas you can use to help get a handle on costs. The ebook is divided into 4 sections:

  1. Reducing Food Costs
  2. Improving Your Inventory Practices
  3. Getting a Handle on Labour Costs
  4. Reducing Staff Turnover

This is by no means a definitive list, of course. Every week, we read about creative new ways to trim costs around the restaurant. Feel free to share your own tips with us in the comments.

Download the FREE ebook at the button below.

 25 Restaurant Cost-Saving Best Practices

Improving Front and Back-of-House Relations in the Restaurant

Restaurant Staff RelationsAnyone who’s spent time in the restaurant industry will admit that, occasionally, tempers can flare. We’re only human after all and when a big rush hits, mistakes can be made, orders can be missed, and arguments can ensue.

When a conflict takes place amongst restaurant staff, it often takes the form of front-of-house vs. back-of-house. In my many years as a server, I witnessed several instances of bickering between my dining room colleagues and a chef or line cook. At times it felt like we were on opposite sides, like two warring sports teams.

Seeing or hearing employees fight is awkward for a guest. It also makes a restaurant seem unprofessional. So, let’s look at a few ways restaurant managers can improve relations between the two sides of the house. 

Invest in an Expeditor

If your budget allows for it, a good expeditor can work wonders for creating a smooth relationship between front and back-of-house. Expeditors can be a member of the hosting or serving staff, but they must have a thorough understanding of how the back-of-house operates as well. This role serves as a buffer between the chefs and the waitstaff so they need to possess diplomacy skills and demonstrate great calm. Make it a rule that the expeditor and only the expeditor can ask questions of the chefs. Have your servers filter all questions and concerns through this person. This keeps a chef from being asked the same question several times.

The expeditor keeps the kitchen on task, and on time. With a good expeditor in place, serving staff have peace of mind that their plates will come out on time, and be well presented. This saves them the frustration of sending black dishes and arguing with kitchen staff.

Enough With the Blame Game

It’s important that your restaurant’s managers understand that regardless of role, people can and will make mistakes. They need to be able to step in and keep everyone focused on finding solutions to problems rather than figuring out which side of the house is to blame.

If a guest has complained about a cold plate, does it really matter whether the kitchen or a server has erred? While chefs and waitstaff stand around bickering, the guest continues to suffer. The Blame Game helps absolutely nobody. So stop it.

Cross-Train Your Staff

We’ve touched on this topic before and it’s a great way to help improve front/back-of-house relations. Cross-training allows your staff to not only develop new skills for themselves, but to see what a typical shift looks like from their teammates’ perspectives. The ability to experience service from the other side of the window, and gain insight into what the other side of the house goes through is essential for better staff relations.

Pre-Shift Meetings

If it’s not logistically possible to include both sides of the house in a pre-shift meeting, try to make sure to address the concerns of the other side during these pre-shift gatherings.

Make certain front-of-house knows which items are low, which items are 86′d, and anything else the chef needs them to be aware of. Conversely, be sure the kitchen staff knows when all of the shift’s large reservations are arriving, and any other issues the front-of-house may need addressed in the kitchen. Pre-shifts need to be about preparing the entire team for the next rush.

All-Hands Staff Meetings

Many businesses say they’re going to have regular meetings including the entire staff. Then they hold that first meeting and never get around to another one, or get to it a year later. Restaurant schedules are tough to manage and the hours of operation can make it difficult to gather the entire squad, but management must truly make an effort to commit to regular all-hands meetings.

Beyond those daily two-to-three minute pre-shift huddles, staff meetings are important, particularly if you’re making substantial menu changes, or bringing in new management.

This is the time to encourage all staff to voice questions, obstacles, and concerns. This is crucial for building relationships between front and back-of-house.

Communication Boards

Avoid confusion and miscommunication between front and back-of-house with something as simple as a white board.  This is where every staff member should go before starting their shift. Write the day’s specials, soup of the day, low stock items, and any 86′d items on these boards. If possible, make your expeditor, or manager the only one allowed to modify the white board. It’s a low-cost, yet effective way to keep everyone on the same page. Time permitting, go the extra step of having a kitchen staffer or manager log into your POS system and flat out remove the ability to order dishes that have been 86′d.

If all of your best laid plans still fail to stop an employee battle, the National Restaurant Association offers and interesting tip. In the event of conflict, develop a restaurant-wide hand signal or verbal cue for gathering your team in private. This helps shield guests from embarrassing situations that might affect how they perceive your business.

Any other tips for improving relations between front and back-of-house? Tell us about them below.

Are you a restaurant looking to cut costs? Check out our free ebook, 25 Restaurant Cost-Saving Best Practices, at the button below.

25 Restaurant Cost-Saving Best Practices

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Technology in the Restaurant: What About the Chefs?

Technology continues to have an enormous impact on Canada’s foodservice industry. Keeping up with the latest technologies is essential for restaurateurs looking to stay a step ahead of their competitors.

Those businesses able to leverage any competitive advantage offered by the newest app, gadget or platform will be the ones that ultimately succeed in what is a very competitive market in Canada.

For restaurants, the front-of-house continues to be the primary recipient of the latest and greatest advances in foodservice tech. And that’s not likely to change any time soon.

The Rise of Technology in the Restaurant Dining Room 

New advancements in POS systems, and guest-facing offerings are a consistently growing presence in today’s restaurant dining rooms. It seems a new way to connect with your guests and better serve them through technology is emerging every day. A few quick examples include:

What About Tech Solutions for the Kitchen?

The back-of-house is reaping some of the benefits of today’s technology as well. Kitchen management can now:

When it comes to improving the process of sourcing new products and unique ingredients, however, the back-of-house still seems to lag behind the dining room in terms of adopting digital and tech solutions. Kitchen managers and chefs are still relying largely on an increasingly antiquated process that can make it hard for smaller establishments to keep up.

One proponent of finding innovative tech solutions for the back-of-house is Chef Tony Marciante. In an August piece for Gigaom, Chef Marciante notes the following pain point many restaurants can identify with:

“Until recently, multiple times a week since my restaurant, Chef Tony’s, opened, I spent close to two hours putting together food orders with five to eight different suppliers. There was no transparency on pricing and everything was done on paper and communicated via the phone or fax. None of my suppliers offered email and most couldn’t even take a scanned-in order. While larger establishments may have an ordering manager, most sole proprietors do their own food ordering. A mistake in one purchase can be very costly, and chefs like to make personal decisions about possible substitutions.”

It’s this last point that really resonates; the ability to find unique products and ingredients, and keep your menu offerings fresh.

A Solution for Chefs and Suppliers

Food establishments don’t always have the time or resources to effectively negotiate the best prices possible with multiple food suppliers. And food costs are still the largest expense faced by Canada’s restaurants at 36% of operating revenue.

Our online marketplace was created to address the pain points mentioned above.

The goals are simple: make it easier for chefs to quickly request pricing, compare offers from a growing community of food suppliers, and discover newly available promotions and specialty suppliers in their regions. Suppliers gain access to an online platform that allows them to reduce their sales reps’ travel time, find new customers, efficiently serve their existing customers, promote new products, and create targeted promotions.

Interested in becoming a part of the FoodTender.com online marketplace? No problem! Foodservice suppliers can join at no cost, while food establishments enjoy a 30 day free trial membership with no commitment required. Just click here to join.

And be sure to check out our ebook for a look at 25 Restaurant Cost-Saving Best Practices. Download it for free at the button below.

25 Restaurant Cost-Saving Best Practices

 

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