frog huddle

You can call it a server line up, pre-shift, huddle, an alley rally, etc but please do call it. Daily pre-shift meetings with your service staff are invaluable in so many ways.

Constant communication with your staff, regarding goals, standards, achievements, etc…, helps keep everyone on the same page. Without constant, daily reminders of what you expect and are trying to achieve, the staff can drift off course from your vision. These meetings are also a great way to be constantly training and improving your servers.  Also, since the service staff have direct contact and interaction with the guests; it is wise to secretly/overtly inspect their appearance, preparedness and condition before they go on the floor. Competence and confidence breed pride!

There are endless benefits of the server shift meeting. There are only two drawbacks: Time and Effort. When time and energy are short, it is easy to skip these meetings. However, lack of consistency damages the results and momentum of the meetings tremendously. Can we agree that successful teams meet regularly and often? Do your restaurant and yourself a favor and conduct a great meeting before every shift!

These meetings should be very brief (usually no longer than 10 minutes). You and your staff will enjoy these meetings a lot more if you can find a way to make them informative, interesting and funny. Shift meetings have better results when employees participate and are engaged. Also, if you listen closely to the servers you will learn new perspectives of the operation.

One good way to create a good, fun, and informative atmosphere is to have the kitchen prepare a menu item for everyone to taste and discuss. Talking about current challenges and praising good performance is a nice way to keep everyone in sync. And, of course this is the best time to get a sales contest going! You can have a lot of fun with your crew during these meetings. The sky is the limit on what you can achieve with them!

Good luck and good pre-shifts!

Zach

 

Nice female manager posing with the staff in a modern kitchen catering

 

According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurant turnover was 62.6% in 2013. Losing staff is an expensive and irritating fact of life in the restaurant industry. You can gripe about it, resist it, and/or be a victim of it. Or, you can embrace the fact and plan for it. I have tried both techniques and have found that the latter works best for me. Here are some good practices for mitigating restaurant turnover.

Scheduling:

Restaurant employees are very concerned about their schedules. Many are students or have second or third jobs that require their schedules to be precise. And if/when there are issues with employee schedules, staff members can become very disgruntled quickly. I recommend paying attention to your staff’s scheduling needs and abide. If you need people to work on Sundays-hire people who can work on Sundays. Also, create and utilize a written system that allows employees to make requests for days off. It is also very important to make sure the schedule is posted a week before it goes into effect. This gives staff adequate time to plan their personal and work lives. Too many restaurants post the schedule the day before it goes into effect. Restaurants that are late posting their schedules then enjoy the ensuing chaos of staff not showing up for their shifts. Another good practice is, as employees are getting ready to leave, say something like “Good job today! When do you work again?” Then physically walk over to the schedule with them. This ensures that they didn’t mis-read or forget to look at their schedule.

Training:

When it comes to your staff, you reap what you sow. So don’t skimp on this important investment. Training is the foundation new people use to grow into being great performers. If you don’t train well, your chances of creating great performers is very low.

Management/People Skills:

Obviously, one way to mitigate a high turnover rate is to treat your staff well. This doesn’t mean you have to bend over backwards for them. Just don’t treat them poorly. Part of your job as a manager is to hire, train, develop, facilitate and cheer for your staff. Period. If you aren’t doing any of those things, you are failing.

Execute:

Nobody likes to play for a losing team. You can reduce turnover by simply doing a good job. The best performers will gravitate toward success.

Exit Interviews:

Finally, if good people give you notice to leave; find out why. It won’t always be your fault and there won’t always be anything that can be done about it. But that knowledge is powerful. Use it to your benefit.

 

If these steps are put in place, turnover will be as low as possible for the restaurant.

 

Good luck and good employee relations!!

 

Zach

Mechanism

 

Have you ever been to a busy, successful, well-run restaurant? Anytime I see a restaurant like that, I am very impressed because I know that greatness doesn’t happen on accident. It takes LOTS of hard work and many hours to achieve restaurant greatness. And guess what? Those restaurants do not skimp on training in the slightest. After all, it’s the staff that make it all happen. Managers and owners don’t seat all of the guests, wait on all of the tables, cook all of the food, etc. It’s the staff that does all of that. Just like the precise mechanisms of a swiss watch, each employee has an important role to perform. Therefore people are the greatest and best resource a restaurant has. So do yourself and your restaurant a huge favor and train your people to be the best! It takes a great deal of effort to train for greatness, but it is well worth it.

The daily grind of running a restaurant is hard enough without having to worry about trainees. That’s why many owners and managers simply turn “newbies” over to key employees to handle/oversee their training and then hope for the best. In some cases, new employees are treated like green soldiers that nobody wants to get to know; lest they don’t last very long. Training is a difficult process for both the trainer and the trainee.  But, here’s the thing… nobody is born into this world knowing how to work in your restaurant. If you want your restaurant to run well; it is crucial to have a well honed training program.

It is imperative to have a training schedule for new employees that lists the targeted amount of days for training and the material to be covered for each of those days. Try writing a list of everything you would like a new employee to know after training. Then use that list to create your training schedule.

Fire and forget is no way to run a training program. Using key employees to execute the training and provide mentorship is a great idea. However, results will be far better if top leadership also gets involved with some “follow up”. Make time to sit down with trainees before and after each of their training shifts to talk about their progress and/or frustrations. This follow up will also ensure that the key employees are on track with their training duties.

Well trained staff will not only make your life easier and less frustrating; they will also positively impact your bottom line by giving better service and cooking better food. They are also more productive; and they last longer. These skilled employees will increase sales and help create a great guest experience by executing on a higher level.

Good luck and good training!

Zach

 

 

earth

 

Going out to eat is a lot of fun! It’s an experience that fulfills a basic need. When diners form opinions of restaurants they think of the whole experience of eating out.  But what makes up the whole experience? It is the food, service, AND atmosphere.

The general “feel” you get from a restaurant, bar, hotel, etc… is the atmosphere. How much does the atmosphere matter? If you want to find out, simply remove the decor, turn off the music and turn on the house lights. What’s left is a cafeteria. There are plenty of cafeterias, diners, greasy spoons and the like that have excellent food and service but little to no atmosphere. They usually have a bargain menu and are known as great places to go for lunch.

Having a great atmosphere allows for higher pricing and generates more business to boot. It really is THAT important. Here’s a breakdown of what comprises atmosphere:

Music – Even grocery stores play music. Music adds fun, helps alleviate awkwardness and is crucial.

Lighting – Almost as important as music, lighting should be adequate yet cozy. Again, no music + bright lights = cafeteria.

Staff Morale – This one is often overlooked.  Unhappy or unprofessional service staff will be detected by the general public. Even if guests can’t quite put their finger on it, they will sense something is awry.

Decor – This one is fun and necessary, but less important than the previous three.

Having ambiance and having it yanked out from under you is much worse that having no atmosphere at all. Closing time is a prime example. Unless you’re running a bar or club, you will lop off a full third of a guests perceived value by purposely stopping the ambiance. Everyone wants to get out of work and go home at the end of a shift. However, turning on house lights, running the vacuum, and putting up chairs will offend late night guests. Remember, restaurants are dinner theaters. Don’t stop the performance until end of the final act.

It is easy to see that lots of money and effort goes into creating the right atmosphere.  And, when used properly, the ambiance will dramatically add to your guests’ experience. Atmosphere is part of your secret sauce that you don’t want to neglect. It helps add to the magic and the bottom line.

Good Luck and Good Atmosphere!

Zach

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