Deconstruct down time
How does your team use slow periods at your restaurant? Striking the right balance between productivity and sanity is important to making the most of the labor you have (while keeping your team engaged and satisfied). A recent Restaurant Insider report asked chefs around the country to share their ideas. Kate Edwards of the Institute of Culinary Education said it’s important for every staff member to understand what the business needs at various parts of the day. She said there should be clear expectations for managing down times and she advised operators to divide slower periods into tasks related to organization and others related to education. Organizational tasks might involve having several staffers help with a tedious task that would take one person several hours, or providing servers with background information to read about new menu offerings so they are well-versed about the items when interacting with guests. Perhaps you have longer-term projects your team can help you with. Maybe they can help you come up with ideas for a new social media promotion. You can also stagger the beginning and ending times of shifts across a team to ensure everyone present has plenty to do. On the flip side, you can use down times to treat team members who have been going above and beyond expectations. In an industry where long hours and hard work are the norm, letting someone leave an hour or two early on a rotating basis can help balance the busy times when you ask a lot from your team.
Time to hire? Ask the right questions
How can you spot a first-rate server? It isn’t always easy when you interview candidates out of the context of a busy day in your dining room. Cake shared some favorite interview questions that can help operators identify candidates who can respond well to the challenges the role may throw at them. First, ask candidates how they handled a situation when a customer got upset (or present it as a role-play scenario). This happens to the best of servers and their responses can help you see how likely they are to listen calmly and de-escalate problems. Ask about their interests outside of work, which can give you hints as to how likely they are to mesh with your restaurant culture and connect with guests – it also shows you’re invested in your team beyond their work at the restaurant. Have candidates share an example of when they received superior service at a restaurant, which can help you predict the level of service they are likely to deliver. Have they ever dined at your restaurant? If so, what was that experience like and how could it have been better? Hearing an outside perspective may help you identify issues to address. Finally, ask candidates how they prioritize tasks when waiting tables. Are they likely to get ruffled when managing multiple requests? Do they make the most of each trip to the kitchen? Their answers can help you predict the kind of experience guests will have with them during busy periods.
Perfect your plant-based fare
When McDonald’s tests a meat-free burger (the brand is currently offering its McVegan burger in Finland and Sweden), it’s clear that plant-based meat alternatives, and vegetarian and vegan foods in general, have hit the mainstream. Indeed, Technomic research found that 34 percent of consumers around the world say they buy vegetarian foods in restaurants, while 28 percent report looking for vegan foods. A larger group of consumers consider themselves to be flexitarians. Restaurants in even the strongest meat-eating cultures are responding. Technomic reports that some of the most inventive meat-free recipes are coming from countries like Brazil and Australia.
Training new team members about food safety
If you’re among the operators preparing to hire new staff to accommodate the summer season, take care to apprise this group of your most pressing food safety concerns. Food Quality & Safety suggests you focus on refrigeration temperatures, pathogenic and cold-loving bacteria, food storage and power failures. Refrigerated products must be kept at 41˚F or colder, while frozen foods at 0˚ or colder. Ensure new staff follow procedures for leaving food out to cool – and make sure they know
that food can still look, smell and taste fine and be in the danger zone for growing bacteria. Allow food to thaw in the refrigerator, or, if it must be left out, monitor the food’s temperature as it cools. When ready-to-eat foods are delivered, ensure they are wrapped and refrigerated/frozen appropriately to avoid contamination. In the case of a power failure, leave frozen food in the freezer or transfer it to an alternative freezer. Allow food in the process of defrosting to continue thawing, then cook it as soon as possible. Immediately cook any fully defrosted food – such as meat, fish or poultry – before refreezing, and discard any food that is thawed and can’t be cooked immediately.
Don’t contaminate clean dishes
In a hurry to dry dishes and cutlery? If your dishwasher doesn’t sufficiently dry the items you clean, resist the urge to towel-dry them. Towels, especially those being used for long periods, can be breeding grounds for pathogens. StateFoodSafety.com advises you let dishes and utensils air-dry in order to avoid contaminating these items.
Follow a social media checklist
Is social media an afterthought in the midst of the myriad responsibilities you’re juggling day to day? If you handle social media in-house, following a checklist helps to keep your social media consistent regardless of what’s happening in your restaurant. Buffer Social suggests that on a daily basis, you reply to posts, check your mentions on various networks, monitor social media for key words, prepare your content for the following day, follow back people who follow you, and connect with one new person. Each week, check your social media stats, engage with your partners and influencers, check your progress toward goals, and update your social media ads. Every month, take a step back and conduct an audit of your social media to see what’s working well and what needs adjustment. It’s also a good time to set new goals, brainstorm new campaign ideas and plan for the month ahead.
Chip technology phases out credit card signatures
As EMV technology has taken hold in U.S. restaurants, card providers including Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express are no longer requiring restaurants to have their guests sign credit card slips following a meal. The card companies, Eater reports, say chip technology has minimized fraudulent card use. The change in payment procedure will likely speed up the turning of tables, though it remains to be seen whether U.S. restaurants will evolve toward the payment model common in Europe, where chip technology has long been the norm and it’s customary for guests to ask a server to add a tip to their credit card before their payment is processed in front of them.
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