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

Akelarre

 

Researchers at Cornell University and Michigan State University conducted a study of restaurants in three local markets over a 10-year period. Here is what they found regarding restaurant success rates: After the first year 27% of restaurants had closed; after three years, 50%; after five years, 60%; after 10 years, 70% of the restaurants had failed. There are a multitude of reasons for these numbers. One big reason restaurants fail is lack of sales due to poor execution. Offering your guests bad experiences will kill sales. If you look at the worst Yelp reviews, you will see many claim food poisoning. I never give a restaurant that poisons me a second chance.

According to a 2014 Consumer Reports survey, 66% of diners complain about incorrect temperatures of their food and drink. Improper food temperatures greatly increase the chances of food poisoning.

This is why it is imperative that restaurants conduct line checks. A restaurant “line check” is the process of evaluating all ingredients for quality, temperature, and inventory levels. Ideally, managers/owners do line checks before each meal service. Unfortunately, most restaurateurs don’t do line checks. If proper line checks were the rule and not the exception, many customer complaints would be diminished.

The best way to complete a line check is through a simple four step process:

  1. Create a list of all relevant ingredients found on the cook’s line and other heating/cooling units. It’s best to have a brief description after each item that describes what the product should be like. A good example is: Diced Tomatoes: red and delicious-not transparent or mushy.
  2. Get a couple of 1/6 or 1/9 pans (one with clean spoons; the other for dirty spoons), a thermometer and a scale.
  3. Start at one end of the cook’s line and systematically work through the entire line tasting, measuring temperatures, and spot checking portion and ladle sizes. You will likely be surprised at what you find.
  4. When you do find items that are sub par; be a hero and repair, reheat, throw them out, or set them aside for appropriate utilization. But get them off of your cook’s line!

After your line check is complete, you can go into the meal service with confidence knowing that all of your cook’s ingredients are up to par and with proper inventory levels. It’s a few less things to worry about!

Conducting line checks is also a great way to help “firm up” cook’s training by giving them your “eye” for quality. Many cooks don’t want to serve the ingredients that they have on their line. But they do so because they think they are supposed to. When cooks have excellent quality ingredients to work with they will take more pride in their work and produce better quality menu items. It’s that simple. I like to take new servers on line checks too. This gives them an opportunity to see the level of quality provided, and taste everything. Thus helping servers understand the menu better.

So what is the alternative to conducting line checks? Simple, you are inviting devastating chaos into your business. Without line checks you can expect very inconvenient surprises, often, and at the worst possible times! It’s like wearing a seatbelt, you don’t always need it, but when you do-you REALLY do.

There are two types of restaurateurs. Those who do line checks, and those who don’t. Which do you think are more successful?

 

Good Luck and Good Food!

-Zach

Open kitchen

 

With margins as tight as those found in the restaurant industry; owners and managers must be constantly vigilant when it comes to controllable costs. Labor is the highest controllable cost in most restaurants. Kitchen labor is the most expensive of all restaurant departments. So being smart about kitchen efficiency can make a big difference on your P&L statement. There are many ways operators go about using less work hours in their kitchens. This post offers five suggestions.

 

1. Plan to be within budget.

The first and most basic step to controlling labor in the kitchen is to write a schedule that is within the labor budget. The best way to achieve this is to know what your budget percentage is and what your projected sales are. As you write the schedule, add up the amount of hours you have scheduled for each shift, multiply that by the hourly rates of each employee. Then divide that dollar amount by the projected sales for that shift. Follow that logic for each shift, day and, finally the whole week. You will probably notice that some shifts simply can’t be within budget. But other shifts will be under budget. Many restaurants run higher labor percentages in the beginning of the week then make up for it towards the weekend. This is to be expected. But if the schedule is written out of budget to begin with, there isn’t much hope for achieving your labor goals.

 

2. Train and Cross Train

The best staff is well trained. Training should be treated as an investment that will improve your operation and decrease grey hair count. If you skimp on training, your results will show it.

Cross training is a must. On slower shifts move some of the crew to new areas. This will give you better schedule flexibility, and increase the value of your staff. In some cases, one well trained employee can run the whole line when it’s slow. This allows other employees to get ahead on prepping, cleaning etc.

 

3. Hire and Retain

Constantly hiring and training is expensive and inefficient. Do everyone a favor and hire great people! Once you have a great crew- work to keep them. Involve the kitchen in obtaining efficiency goals and hopefully reward them with raises when they deliver. This way they can be motivated into cutting their own hours.

 

4. Prep Smartly

If your menu is prep intensive, you must get creative in the way you write a prep list.

First, look at what items you can “batch” prep. In other words, look at which prep items have a longer shelf life and make larger batches of those items. It takes just as long to make 10 gallons of Texas chile as it does to make 5 gallons. Be careful, but don’t prep everything everyday.

Second, categorize your prep list. If one person is working with raw produce, they need to be near a prep sink. Therefore, let them do everything on the prep list that involves fruits and vegetables. Have another person do all the the dressings and sauces etc….

 

5. Be Ready for Your Staff

In many kitchens on many mornings, there is a scramble. And not just eggs. Very often, when cooks and prep cooks come into work, they spend the 1st 15-20 minutes getting ready to work. This is especially true of the morning shift. When they arrive, they have to find all of their utensils, track down a manager to give them aprons and towels, make coffee, and watch water boil. You can save a lot of hours by getting everything ready for their shift ahead of time. A great way to do this is to have the closing crew leave clean utensils on the corresponding work stations before they leave. In the morning, have the prep list written, ovens preheated, water already boiling, aprons and towels out, coffee made etc…, by the time the crew comes in. Then, have the crew from that shift pay it forward to the the next shift. The difference is a crew that comes to work and produces versus a crew that comes in and gets ready to work.

 

Hopefully these suggestions will inspire your own ideas to increase profitability.

Good Luck and Good Kitchen Labor!