Archives for : Food Service Strategy

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.


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.


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.


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 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 community? Suppliers can join at any time at absolutely no cost. Learn more at the button below. - 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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Reducing Restaurant Staff Turnover

restaurant staff turnoverLike many businesses in the service industry, you likely deal with the challenge of restaurant staff turnover. While the exact expense of it isn’t always easy to measure, reducing staff turnover should always be part of your restaurant’s overall cost-saving strategy.

Finding great restaurant employees can be a time-consuming and costly endeavour. Making every effort to keep your best staff members around for the long haul will give you peace of mind that your business is always in good hands, and frees up more of your time and energy.

Let’s dig into a few ways (beyond pay raises which are always good if you can afford them) to cut down on employee turnover, starting with a big one.

Stand up for Your Staff

There’s an oft-cited quote that says “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.” Part of being a successful and respected manager is knowing when to take another common phrase – “the customer is always right” – with a grain of salt. Management willing to support their team in the face of unreasonable guests will earn staff loyalty and keep top talent on the payroll.

North Carolina restaurateur Scott Maitland agrees:

“Conventional wisdom is that the customer is always right. I don’t believe that, and I think anyone who’s been in the restaurant business has a story where the customer was wrong. But you definitely have to go in with that bias, that the customer is right [...] But at some point, we have to think about the staff, or we have to think about investors. And I think anybody who is worth having as a customer will appreciate and respect that as well.”

Keep in mind that yours customers will notice when management is caving to the whims of obnoxious patrons as well. Take this experience from blogger “ViolentAcres” as a good example. (Warning: that post contains some sharp language)

Think about the message you want to communicate to your team; will you have their back when they are clearly in the right?

Lead by Example and Get Your Hands Dirty 

It’s time to get in the habit of getting out of the office. Few things inspire your staff like a manager willing to jump in and help with any task at the drop of a hat.

Kitchen managers: hop on the salad station if need be. Or help out the prep cooks. Or roll up your sleeves and start racking dishes in the dish pit.

Dining room managers: get out there and bus dirty tables. Don’t spend five minutes tracking down a host to ask them to bus. Assume your staff are busy and take the initiative yourself.

Seeing the bosses jump into the fray not only encourages everyone else to step up their game, it earns management plenty of loyalty and respect.

Empower Through Training 

If you’re looking to set employees up for success and hopefully keep them on board for the long haul, putting together an effective training plan is absolutely essential. An insufficiently-trained employee will feel less empowered, overwhelmed, and far more likely to quickly move on. Maintaining a halfhearted training process shows a lack of commitment to employee success and your turnover rates will reflect this.

Whenever possible, your training process should include a degree of cross-training. Cross-training not only helps reduce your labour costs, it helps employees get a better feel for what a shift is like from a different perspective. A server that knows how hectic the bar can be is less inclined to get into arguments with bartenders. A line cook who’s spent time in the dish pit is less likely to come into conflict with a busy dishwasher. Reduce employee conflicts (tempers can flare during a rush) and reduce staff turnover in the process.

Hire Only the Right Fit

We sound like a broken record on this, but it really is one of the most important things to keep in mind when operating a service establishment. Many have the skills, fewer have the attitude.

You have to resist the urge to fill available positions with the first semi-acceptable applicant that walks in. Whenever possible, hold out for the right person. A quick hire of the wrong candidate means a quick exit, and you’re back to square one.

Recognition and Incentivization 

Do not wait until your monthly team meeting or annual performance reviews to tell employees they’re doing a good (or great) job. And don’t simply praise someone’s hard work; do it in front of their fellow staff. Not only is this encouraging to the employee, it tends to motivate everyone else as well. Everybody loves to be recognized.

Incentivize your employees with tangible recognition. Offer them discounts on food or free staff meals; whatever your budget allows. For the front-of-house, hold nightly contests for things like highest gross sales, or most specials sold for the shift, most large drafts sold, etc. Recognize the winners with both verbal and physical rewards. Praise and incentives work hand-in-hand to keep a highly motivated staff ready to work hard for you.

The Product Makes a Difference

All of the above tips are fine, but the best employees – the ones that take the most pride in a job well done – won’t stick around if they don’t believe in the product you’re plating. Restaurant employees will grow frustrated if guests are consistently sending back dishes, and complaining of poor food quality.

Restaurant managers need to realize that lack of effective quality control in the kitchen will have detrimental effects not only in terms of customer loss, but employee loss as well.

Exit Interview

The exit interview isn’t just for office jobs. This doesn’t need to be an overly formal affair, but conduct a quick interview with any employee that decides to leave the business. Ask for as much feedback as possible and see if you can pinpoint any changes in policy or procedure that could help reduce employee turnover.

Got any other tips for reducing staff turnaround? Share them in the comments. And be sure to download the free ebook, 25 Restaurant Cost-Saving Best Practices, at the button below.

25 Restaurant Cost-Saving Best Practices

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Cover image via Flickr.

7 Tips for Cutting Restaurant Labour Costs

Restaurant Labour costs

Rolling silverware and other side duties are adding to labour costs

According to the latest Outlook Survey conducted by Restaurants Canada, restaurant labour costs are now the number one issue affecting restaurant operators across the country (for the industry overall).

Food and beverage costs can be controlled through a number of adjustments to your establishment’s processes; but what about the cost of labour?  The foodservice industry can be wildly unpredictable. Scheduling isn’t always easy, and can involve a certain amount of guesswork.

With that in mind, let’s look at a few best practices for reducing the cost of restaurant labour.

Watch the Clock

Your restaurant’s management have tough jobs. They’ve got to keep the restaurant focused on the guest experience, make certain that products aren’t running low, deal with customer concerns as they arise, create and maintain the schedule, etc.

And one of their most important duties has to involve watching the clock like a hawk. After every shift, they need to be certain that all employees have signed/punched out according to the day’s schedule. Most point of sale (POS) systems now allow you to monitor this information whenever necessary, take advantage of that functionality on a daily basis.

Cross-Train Your Team

Cross-training is one of the most commonly cited labour cost-saving methods, and for good reason. Cross-training restaurant staffers is of great benefit to both your employees and your business. Train your serving staff so they can easily shift to the host stand if need be on a slow night, or after their shift has ended. Train your bussers to be food expeditors. Train your bartenders so they can step in and serve tables. Train prep cooks to be able to hop on the grill station, etc. This allows management to schedule fewer staff while still keeping your service standards where they should be.

Cross-training allows your staff to not only develop new skills for themselves, but to see what a shift looks like from their teammates’ perspectives.

Side Duties Made Simple

Look at the layout and flow of your restaurant’s key work and storage areas. Are your labour dollars being wasted on servers and hosts lugging items from a storage closet in the basement to the server hutch on the main floor? Exactly how much time is spent by these staffers finishing up their side duties after a shift? Does it take too much time to restock things because your storage areas are a disaster?

Side work is a part of every server’s responsibilities, so make sure you’ve made it possible for these duties to be done quickly and efficiently. Improve the organization of your key work areas and watch productivity skyrocket. After a hectic shift, many staffers want to finish up quickly and head home. Help them do just that!

No Copying and Pasting the Schedule

If you’re in the habit of simply copying and pasting your schedule from week to week to save time and effort, stop it. Stop it right now.

It’s crucial to spend time with your schedule and be certain it’s prepared based on anticipated sales and customer head counts. Staff members have to know from day one that hours will need to be adjusted as business ebbs and flows. Again, having a cross-trained staff can help reduce employee frustration as a server with reduced hours could pick up a bar shift, or host shift.

Keep Your Finger on the Pulse 

Maintaining a watchful eye on your own schedule is important, but make it a point to be aware of what’s happening outside your own walls as well. Be sure to keep up with any events in your local area that could have unexpected effects on that day’s traffic.

Don’t be the family restaurant fully staffed on a Saturday evening only to be left standing around with nothing to do as most of your target clientele sits across town at the Christmas parade. Track anything that could negatively impact the number of customers walking into your restaurant and help take some of the guesswork out of scheduling.

Build a Roster of Part-Timers

RSG Magazine recommends maintaining at least a third of your staffers as part-time employees. They note that “retail businesses rely on the availability of part-time workers so that peak periods can have maximum staffing while allowing for staff levels to be reduced as demand wanes. Having additional staff to take up the slack when full-time workers are absent or approaching overtime is also a great way to avoid excessive overtime.”

No Hiring in a Rush

Resist the urge to fill open positions with the first passable applicant. Whenever possible, hold out for the right person. By waiting for the best possible candidate you save yourself potential labour costs in two ways.

  1. The wrong candidate may not stick, forcing you to quickly train yet another new team member. As well, think of the potential customer service problems that could come with a quick panic hire.
  2. A more highly experienced worker may need less time than you think in terms of shadowing time. Say your usual process involves a new server shadowing for two shifts before going off on their own. Holding out for that more experienced worker may cut that shadow time in half, saving you time and money.

Have any tips of your own on reducing labour costs in the restaurant? Share them with us in the comments. And be sure to download our free ebook, 25 Restaurant Cost-Saving Best Practices, at the button below.

25 Restaurant Cost-Saving Best Practices


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Cover image via Flickr.

Fine-Tune Your Restaurant Inventory Practices Now

We’ve already outlined a few ways to get a better overall grasp on your restaurant’s food costs. Now let’s look a little closer at perhaps the most important food cost-saving measure, improving your inventory practices.

Taking inventory isn’t the most glamorous part of running a food establishment, but it’s crucial to keeping weekly food costs low, ingredients fresh, and customers satisfied.

Take Inventory More Frequently

Our own Andre LeBlanc notes that “often, restaurants wait far too long between inventory counts and are ultimately left unsatisfied with the results.” It’s difficult after three or four months or a year to see a trend that resulted in higher than expected food costs. LeBlanc recommends at least weekly or even daily spot checks on high-cost items, even if the rest of your inventory is done once a month.

Less is More makes a compelling case for keeping inventory levels low but adequate, and never over-ordering “just in case”, which some managers and chefs still do for their perennially popular dishes. They offer the following comparison:

“If you’ve ever served fries, you’ve probably made the horrifying discovery that there is only one box left in the freezer and four hours left in the shift. So the manager tells everyone to be real careful with fries because there is only a box left, and guess what happens? Fries are immediately perceived as a valuable commodity. Somehow the staff manages to scrape by with the last box. Everyone’s handling them with kid gloves because they’re scarce. They’re valuable. When there are 20 boxes in the walk-in who cares about fries? Nobody.”

Keep Organized!

Inventory time will only run smoothly if your establishment is kept properly organized. Ensuring all products are kept in designated spaces allows your chefs, cooks, bartenders, servers, and managers to know when an ingredient is almost empty and needs to be re-ordered. Be sure to have a senior kitchen staffer fill out your inventory form(s), this will help ensure that appropriate amounts are ordered. And, if possible, consider having a second set of eyeballs helping out with inventory to ensure nothing is missed, and reduce the chances of employee theft.

Go Shelf to Sheet

Avoid the mistake of doing your inventory in a “sheet to shelf” fashion. This means using your inventory sheets as a starting point, and tracking down those products on your shelves from there.

If you choose this route, you’ll undoubtedly overlook items which are on your shelves but not on your sheets. This will likely be brand new products that have yet to be included on paper, or seasonal specials.

Get in the habit of always using a “shelf to sheet” method.

Rotate Regularly 

Always ensure that products are being used on a “First In, First Out” schedule. Older product should be rotated to the front of walk-in shelves so they’re used-up first. It may be an obvious tip to some, but it bears repeating. It’s easier for kitchen staff to maintain the “FIFO” system if all products are properly labelled, and kept in a consistent positions in your walk-ins.

Rush hour in a restaurant can be a hectic scene, and team members need to be able to grab the right product quickly. Stick to consistent storage spots and never forget your labelling to ensure they’re always grabbing the oldest product first.

No Resting on Sunday

The National Restaurant Association advises restaurateurs to take inventory on Sundays. They note that typically, inventory levels will be lowest on a Sunday evening after the busier weekend days. This provides the bonus of having less stock to count; the path of least resistance.

Have any other best practices for a smoother restaurant inventory? Share them in the comments. And be sure to download our free ebook, 25 Restaurant Cost-Saving Best Practices, at the button below.

25 Restaurant Cost-Saving Best Practices


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Cover image via Flickr

Create a Great Customer Service Experience in Your Restaurant

Restaurant Customer Service

The cost of bad restaurant customer service can be bigger than some restaurateurs assume. Many foodservice businesses are still only meeting the minimum standards of guest experience. For an industry that so depends on repeat customers, that’s simply not good enough.

Even those restaurants with the tastiest dishes in town can’t afford to let their service be subpar. The Soup Nazi may be an indelible television character, but in the real world, restaurant customers won’t stand for bad treatment, no matter how addictive your Crab Bisque may be.

We’ve done you the service of collecting a few best practices for creating a truly welcoming guest experience for your restaurant.

1. Service Starts Before They Walk Through the Door

Service expert Jeff Toister advises restaurant owners to pay attention to their establishment’s signage. He notes an experience he had walking past a local restaurant with a rather off-putting amount of rules posted at their entrance. Toister feels the amount of signs “suggested the restaurant focuses more on making sure guests are well-behaved than providing a great experience.” Do an audit of your signage; are you as welcoming as you could be?

2. Don’t Rush to Hire 

Restaurants face employee turnover like any other service business, but that doesn’t mean you must always be in a hurry to hire. Customer Care VP Marc Bernica reminds businesses that “the long-term cost of hiring the wrong person can be much greater than keeping those spots unfilled.” In restaurants aiming for head-of-class guest experience, even one discourteous dining room team member can have an effect on guest loyalty and word-of-mouth. This is particularly key for new establishments, when word-of-mouth is so very crucial.

3. Listen Effectively Online

We’re big on leveraging digital technology for the benefit of today’s restaurants. Today’s consumers are sharing their latest restaurant experience (good and bad) on their social media channels, writing about them on their blogs, and detailing their experiences on a growing number of review sites. Be aware of the major sites like and Trip Advisor, and find review sites that may focus on local establishments. You can never collect too much feedback from customers, and the negative feedback is typically the most valuable.

4. Policies are Good, but be Flexible

It’s fine to have policies, but make sure your team knows they can break the rules in the name of good customer service. Consider this example from acclaimed service guru Shep Hyken. The main takeaway from Hyken’s experience: “The employee was just doing her job. She was probably told by a boss not to seat incomplete parties.” Processes need to be designed to be customer-centric, rather than simply focusing on what makes life easier for restaurant staff.

5. Back-of-House is Part of the Service Team

The service in foodservice doesn’t begin and end with your waitstaff. Kitchen staff are part of the complete experience and can’t be left out of service discussions. Too many times, I’ve watched servers and cooks bickering about who’s at fault for a mixed up or forgotten order. And the person suffering the most from this in-house squabbling is the customer.

Consider regular staff meetings with both back and front-of-house teams focused solely on guest experience. Any service training literature given to new waitstaff should be read by new kitchen staff members as well. Everyone is on the same team!

6. Know Your Customers

Keeping with the idea of being flexible, author Ron Kaufman says the best restaurants will modify their actions (and processes) according to their customers. He writes:

“..if you have three types of customers come in – business people, tourists and a family with kids – each wants something different. One group wants privacy; one wants to be engaged and hear about the locality; and the other needs lots of attention because it’s a family. To create an uplifting experience, you modify your actions to provide value. You need to educate the waiter that the purpose of their job is – to take action to create value for whoever comes in.”

7. Send Them Home on a High Note

Micah Solomon says the exit experience is every bit as crucial to a guest’s perception of your restaurant. He advises that “even the slightest hint that a server is “over” one party and on to the next toward the end of a meal dampens the entire dining experience.” Are the guests obviously tourists? Perhaps they’d like entertainment recommendations, or even a cab. Service doesn’t stop when the credit card slip has been signed.

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6 Tips for Reducing Restaurant Food Costs

reducing restaurant food costsOver the past few years, we’ve seen friends in the industry continually squeezed by rising restaurant food costs. Restaurants need to think of even the smallest operational changes that could result in reducing the cost of kitchen orders.

Andre Pellerin, President & Co-Founder of notes ” Thirty-five to 40 cents out of every dollar restaurants spend is on food costs, and those costs are soaring.” Indeed, according to the CRFA’s 2013 Restaurant Operations Report, cost of sales is still the largest cost faced by restaurants at 36% of operating revenue.

Let’s highlight a few ways restaurants can get a better handle on their food spending.

1. Prioritize Communication With the Front-of-House

According to StarChefs, it’s crucial that chefs be more interactive with their serving staff and never hesitate to tell them which menu items need to be pushed. When a restaurant’s food costs are running high and/or business has dipped, tell your serving staff what low-cost menu items to emphasize to guests. “If you have lower food cost items on your menu, you have to motivate your staff to sell those at certain times.” notes restaurateur Ethan Stowell.

2. Stick to the Recipe!

Well Done Chef notes that too many restaurants have cooks with no idea what a standard plate should consist of. “Imagine you have one cook who puts 30 mL of demi-based sauce on a plate vs another who puts 80 mL. That’s over 200% of the difference, and this can throw your cost average for the plate out by as much as 30%.” writes Chef Jason Sandeman.

3. Go Seasonal Whenever Possible

Seasonal updates to the menu can be about more than adding cold dishes in the summer, warm in the winter. Veggie costs obviously vary from season to season. When produce is in-season there’s greater supply, and demand from food buyers is more easily met. That usually means good low prices. Consider keeping many of your specials built around seasonal vegetables.

4. Talk to Your Dishwashers

Jeffrey Summers at Summers Hospitality Group makes a great point about stopping by the dish washing area for a quick cost control chat. “You’d be surprised how much your dishwashers know about what items on your menu are over-portioned or come back uneaten for other reasons.” he notes.

5. Remember: Nothing is Too Trivial

The Wall Street Journal makes note of one US restaurant that focused on fountain drink costs. “Even though they typically cost the restaurant only a dime a glass. Some of the most effective moves recommended include cutting out the middleman syrup supplier and offering only one size drink instead of three. Goodbye, costly cups.”

6. Find New Ways to Connect with Local Suppliers

Rising fuel costs means manufacturers and suppliers are paying more to move product across the country, and that cost can be passed along to the independent restaurant owner. Chefs and kitchen managers need to stay on top of new ways to connect with local food suppliers in their region they may not be aware of. This is all the more important with a growing numbers of Canadians making an effort to buy local products, even if it means paying a bit more.

Most restaurant-based technology aims at improving the dining room, with little focus on the back-of-house. We’re obviously biased, but we feel the foodservice industry will benefit from online food marketplaces like

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25 Restaurant Cost-Saving Best Practices

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