Euston Tap

 

For those who have been to a busy bar and have had to wait… (and for those bartenders, managers, & owners who want to make more money).

When it comes to going out for a night on the town, we all appreciate spending a little less time waiting in line for a drink. And when I do go out, I’m usually disappointed by the lack of efficiency displayed by most bartenders. As an operator, I am always looking for more ways to raise sales, and wow guests. There is a fundamental way most bars operate that slows the flow of alcohol, money and tips. I recognize that there are times when a bar should slow the flow of inebriates. This blog post is not relevant for those times.

In the movie Cocktail, we see Tom Cruise as a great showman flipping bottles and dazzling his massive crowds.  But, wow, they must be thirsty! Cool bar tricks are great.  What’s better is a busy bar that is operating in a profitable manner. There is a brewery in my neighborhood that I go to on occasion. They have a great line of beers and a fine atmosphere. Service? Unfortunately, their service isn’t what keeps me coming back.  It’s fine with me if a bartender wants to display a tinge of arrogance (many do). But, please, don’t make me wait in line for lack of talent at the same time.

Lets dissect the normal bar exchange. First, the bartender asks what the guest would like. Second, they go make/pour what that guest ordered. Third, they bring the libations to the guest. Fourth, they go ring the drinks up, then explain the amount due. Then the guest pulls out their wallet, and finds their money while the bartender watches them. Finally, the bartender transacts the payment. That’s a lot of steps for the next guest to watch and wait for. By this time, some other guy is already making moves on the girl I was fetching a drink for and the line isn’t getting any shorter.

A club as busy as those seen in Cocktail has to be faster. But how? The drink pricing must be set to include tax. There shouldn’t be any pennies, nickels or dimes used for alcohol. Dollars and quarters are enough. The trick to fast bar-tending is having good memory.  The bartender needs to memorize common drink prices. Again, those drink prices must be made so that they are easy to remember.

Once the bartender has a firm grip on drink prices; we can pick up the pace. Here’s how: First, when the drink order is taken, tell the price right then. This is important because many people don’t have their money out until they know what is owed. Why do people do this? They just do. Second, move to the next guest, take their order, give a price and continue taking orders and giving prices until you can’t remember any more. It is very common to be able to remember two to four people’s drink orders. Third, make and serve the drinks. Finally, process the payments and start the cycle anew.

At this point, the bartender is essentially waiting on at least twice as many people at once and combining many steps. This practice will increase bar sales significantly while expediting customer service and lining the bartender’s pockets to-boot.

Obviously, as alcohol sales are increased, some precautions must be taken to monitor the amount of drinks people have had and their inebriation levels. Please serve responsibly.

Zach

Alex's Lemonade Stand

 

So one of your servers forgot to process an order, the kitchen lost a ticket, or a tray of food was dropped; whatever it is, you have what’s known as a “Long Cook Time”. It can really throw a wrench in your system and irritate your guests.

What now? Many service managers will hang out in the kitchen and watch the order get made again with nervous anxiety. “How much longer?!” Finally the order is hastily prepared and served to the guests.  In some cases, that’s the end of the story. Hopefully, the guests either didn’t notice or didn’t care that their order took longer than usual. Other times, a manager might swing by the table to see how upset the table might be. At this point, management reacts to the situation with apologies and maybe a free dessert or even a full out comp.

These “Long Cook Time” situations are going to occur.  If not handled well, guests can become very angry.  People go to restaurants for food, hospitality, and atmosphere. When they feel like they are being treated poorly, it’s a deep contrast to their expectations. Nobody likes to be forgotten, dismissed, or cheated out of what they deserve. Most often, management has to deal with these situations after their guests are, at the very least, disappointed.

There is usually a way to come out ahead with a table that is made to wait longer than they should.  How about turning this kind of situation into a positive experience for everyone? The trick is to talk with your problem table BEFORE they are disgruntled. As soon as you know a party is going to have to wait; go talk to them. Tell them that their order is taking longer than expected and that you are doing everything within your power and the realm of physics to get their order out ASAP. If they have small children, a diabetic person, or just need a little more attention, get them something to eat right away. It’s often great to show up with a free appetizer when you are explaining your difficulty and their misfortune.  If an entree was dropped on the floor, it’s ok to share that with the customer. They are often grateful that you threw the dish out to make a new one.

This proactive guest interaction will let your guests know that:

  1. You know about their situation.
  2. They are not forgotten or ignored.
  3. You care.

To be cliche; you are now turning lemons into lemonade. The guest’s whole perception and experience is sometimes even better than if no mistake was made. You might even create a loyal fan out of an ordeal. Everyone knows that nobody is perfect and that mistakes happen especially when it comes to food service. We just want to be doted on. What sets restaurants apart is how they deal with mistakes.

Zach

 

Citrus Grillhouse Kitchen

Are you an Expo? Do you feel overwhelmed and constantly in the weeds?

Here’s a quick way to make yourself more effective and spend less time weed whacking.

Simply put your plates in a position by their chit/ticket order. Leave an empty space for the ones you are waiting for. This is an easy way to tell where your chits/tickets are at a glance.

For example, say you have a six top order. The simplest plate layout would be from left to right.

Window Layout

Let’s say the chit/ticket from top to bottom is Chicken Parmesan, Salmon, Steak, Lasagna, Chicken Alfredo, and Tilapia.

Chicken Parmesan
Salmon
Steak
Lasagna
Chicken Alfredo
Tilapia

You are missing the Steak and Tilapia.

The window would look like this:

Plates With Empty

It’s much easier to keep track of plates and know what you are missing this way. Otherwise, you’ll be spending lots of time going through the ticket over and over again to match what’s in the window.

Only last bit, once you determine your layout, make the kitchen use it too. It will save both of you time since both can tell where an order is at a glance.

Thaddeus

 

Photo credits: Citrus Grillhouse Kitchen by pvsbon Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License

Birthday Cake

A few days back was my 40th birthday. Besides the usual birthday party swag and Facebook friend wishes, my bank and few other businesses emailed me birthday cards. But I didn’t get any restaurant birthday coupons. Restaurants missed an opportunity to re-engage me and bring my friends in as new customers.

When I lived in Bozeman Montana, I used to get a birthday coupon every year from The Garage Soup Shack & Mesquite Grill (http://central.ly/thegarage). It offered a free meal valid for my birth month. It’s a great deal for both me and the restaurant. I get a free meal and “remember” The Garage. The restaurant is introduced to new diners by the birthday boy.

Why don’t more restaurants do this? Is it because restauranteurs don’t know how to get started? Let’s fix that.

Four steps to birthday marketing:

  1. Get the birthday either from a comment card/birthday card signup at each table. Sign ups from an email newsletter work too, but they often do not include a physical address which can be problematic for sending postcards.
  2. Print the postcards: If you have graphic design expertise or access to graphic designers, visit http://www.pfl.com (not an affiliate link). 500 cards run about $127 ($.254 each) If you don’t have access to a graphic designer use the stock “food and beverage” designs from http://www.vistaprint.com/postcards.aspx (not an affiliate link). 100 cards run about $25 ($.250 each)
  3. Address, sign, & attach postage to the cards: Have this done as sidework by the staff. Signing by real people is more genuine and authentic than a printed signature and makes the guest feel like it’s a personal invitation. Postage runs about $160 for 500 (.$32 each). http://postcalc.usps.gov/Postcards.aspx
  4. Mail the cards a week before the birthday.

So for less than 60 cents and the cost & labor of the free meal, you bring in birthday celebrants and their guests year round.

Thaddeus

Photo credits: Birthday Cake by Will Clayton Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License