A service model that answers labor challenges
Struggling with labor costs or shortages? Some restaurants are trying out a service model that's less common in America, though it's a familiar one if you've spent any time in an English pub. Restaurant Insider reports that in the Charleston, S.C. area, where nearly 90 restaurants opened last year, restaurant operators have had to get creative in order to address already-high labor concerns and preserve sales volume amid increased competition. They're implementing a counter-service/front-of-house hybrid model whereby guests order their food and beverage at the counter, then, once they've sat down with their meal, a server visits the table to provide follow-up service. Operators are finding that this model allows them to have fewer staff on the floor but still provide face-to-face service that goes a step beyond what one might find in a quick-service establishment. Guests open a tab at the counter, much like they would when ordering drinks at a bar, and they can add to their tab over the course of meal. Each server does a bit of everything, from running food, to closing tabs, to resetting tables. While the model may not be for everyone, operators have found that in addition to addressing labor shortages, it also speeds up table turnaround times.
The all-powerful iPad
As technology expands its presence in restaurants, the most hard-working piece of equipment may be the iPad. Running Restaurants reports that the tablet has played a powerful role in helping restaurants personalize service and save time and money. They're especially useful in three areas, according to the report: First, they bring efficiency to wait list management that a paper or pager system can't provide. At busy times, hosts can use one interface for reservations and wait list, get automatic tables status updates and provide accurate information to waiting guests. Second, the iPad can streamline your service, allowing servers to send orders to the kitchen immediately, process more types of payment easily and without delay, and provide increased security with that payment. Finally, tablets can serve as an extension of your point-of-sale system, allowing operators to add extra point-of-sale units that are easy to update and replace. They give servers immediate access to guest food preferences, allergy information and other details that can help them enhance the experience they offer everyone who dines with you.
All hail the mocktail
The mocktail is having a moment. Creative operators are concocting sophisticated combinations that appeal to the tippler, to the health conscious, and to the youngest restaurant guests alike. What's more, these drinks can add a 30 percent increase to the tab of a table for two. Restaurant Insider reports that at Sofitel New York, a drink that combines housemade cucumber and apple shrub, fresh lime juice and Perrier is a hit with children. At the Katharine, a French brasserie in North Carolina, guests love the lemon lavender sparkling mocktail. At Cindy's in Chicago, mocktails are designed to tell a story, and to complement the food menu and the flavors of the season. One of the restaurant's popular non-alcoholic drinks, the Reanimator, combines blueberry, ginger, demerara, lime and activated charcoal, which gives the drink an inky color and is known for its detoxifying benefits.
The app is changing the game
Restaurant visits paid via mobile app increased 50 percent over the previous year, according to The NPD Group. Offering convenience, the group says, often through technology like mobile ordering, delivery apps and ordering kiosks, is helping to set quick-service restaurants apart at a time when foodservice traffic has been relatively flat over several years. Their research found that consumers especially like the time-saving features mobile apps can provide, such as allowing for ordering and paying in advance of a visit, then having food ready upon arrival. They also appreciate the engagement and special offers apps offer through loyalty programs. The NPD Group did note that not all consumers like a tech-heavy service model, with some still preferring to pay in cash or to get human interaction when they order. Just try to build convenience and time savings into these low-tech transactions.
Apprenticeship program could ease food distribution challenges
In an effort to offset labor challenges, many restaurants have turned to apprenticeship programs, like those offered by the National Restaurant Association. Now that model could be applied to food distribution as a means of controlling food costs. Legislation know as the DRIVE-Safe Act, which was introduced in the House of Representatives in March, would pave the way for more young adults to become truck drivers for food distributors and suppliers. The apprenticeship program would help address the current shortage of truckers, which is likely to impact costs and delivery schedules across the food supply chain.
Prevent a pesty season
As the weather warms, insects and other pests come out to play. To proactively prevent an infestation, Food Quality & Safety recommends operators keep an up-to-date master sanitation schedule -- and follow it. If you have broken equipment, remove it from the premises (or at least get it up off the floor) before it becomes a haven for pests. Monitor your waste management in and around your facility so you minimize waste residue or leakage. Watch and clear any areas around your facility where water collects and stands. Now is also a good time to check through your facility to seal cracks in flooring, fix doors that leave gaps or don't close, and clear away any vegetation growing close to walls and doors.
Updates to Food Code
The FDA recently released an updated version of the federal Food Code and it includes several significant changes, such as a section on the use of bandages among foodservice workers and revised recommendations about cooking temperatures, according to Food Safety News. The Food Code provides guidance for restaurants, retail food stores, vending operations and food service operations including those in schools, hospitals, nursing homes and child care centers. The major changes include a revised requirement for the person in charge to be a certified food protection manager; a new section that covers the use of bandages, finger cots or finger stalls; harmonized cooking times and temperatures for meat and poultry for consistency with the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service; and updated procedures for retail food establishments to continue operations in an extended water or electrical outage. Find the Food Code in full at http://www.fda.gov/FoodCode.
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