Turn around your turnover rate
The cost of employee turnover is about $5,800 per person for the average front-line employee, according to Cornell University’s Center for Hospitality Research. That turnover is especially damaging if you lose a strong general manager, who is “the one person you have to hold accountable for everything about the brand standard,” according to Roz Mallet, CEO of PhaseNext Hospitality who spoke in a session at the recent National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago. But you can limit the damage. A report in Foodservice Director recommends some strategies in use at various foodservice operations around the country. Towson University’s foodservice operation, for example, uses an online application designed to help match applicants with job openings and also identify candidates who may already be planning their exit from the job. Hiring managers there must connect with at least two references before making a hire, and new hires must take part in safety and company policy training and orientation before their first day on the job. The goal is to provide a transparent process and avoid surprises later—so Foodservice Director suggests operators not hold back about the challenges of a position (and about how the candidate’s skills and talents are needed). Also, make an effort to consider new demographics. For example, a school district in Lee’s Summit, Mo. makes a special effort to promote job openings to retirees and caregivers who are less likely to jump from job to job than younger workers may be. They advertise job openings during school events that are likely to draw people committed to the community. Finally, go fishing. TJ Schier of SMART Restaurant Group said he passes out business cards to any people he meets who give him top-notch customer service and invites them to apply for a job at his restaurants.
Look to the future with practical, on-brand technology
What does the restaurant of the future look like? While kitchen robots, autonomous delivery vehicles and facial recognition software are certainly on the rise, operators considering new technology don’t need the latest bells and whistles to benefit from technology. Industry experts weighed in on the topic at the National Restaurant Association Show—and their comments served as a reminder to put new technology in perspective. When considering whether to implement new technology, Restaurant Business reports that Sarah Lockyer of Winsight suggested operators ask whether or not their guests are demanding that technology and if it meshes with their restaurant’s brand. While voice recognition may be a helpful addition for some restaurant kitchens, for example, there are other technology applications that may be more practical across the board. Restaurant payments, Lockyer said, are in this category. Do you know to what extent technology can help streamline your guest payments? Do you offer mobile payments? Does your restaurant have a clientele that would accept a cashless payment option? Lockyer also sees opportunity for restaurants to use dynamic pricing to their benefit. For instance, during a slow day part, a stormy weekend, or a day when your supply of a popular menu item is running low, your spur-of-the-moment pricing adjustments can help increase traffic and boost sales of certain items. Dynamic pricing can also help you make special offers to your most loyal guests.
Take back your bookings
At a time when data is king, think twice before surrendering your customer information to third parties. For example, while using a third-party service to manage your bookings can be a helpful part of your marketing strategy, it shouldn’t be your only strategy. You’re likely losing not just money but also weakening your connection to your guests because their data is going to the third-party provider instead of you—and if you have no tables available at a requested time, you’re also losing out on an opportunity to suggest a table at another restaurant in your portfolio. Modern Restaurant Management suggests offering benefits to guests to incentivize them to book directly from you: Create memorable experiences by offering kitchen tours, special classes or preferred seating times and locations. Consider offering rewards such as custom wine pairings or a complimentary appetizer. Finally, make the third-party sites worth your while by having them enforce cancellation fees and a require credit card to hold a reservation.
Plant-based foods take off
If the National Restaurant Association Show is any indication, plant-based foods aren’t just for vegans and vegetarians anymore—and they’re becoming much more than burger replacements. Restaurant Business reports that attendees of the recent event crowded the show floor for a taste of products such as “bleeding” meatless burgers, dairy-free cheese, soy-based gyros, plant-based scrambled egg replacements, and burgers and sausages made from pea protein. How innovative is your kitchen when it comes to creating plant-based menu options? More guests may be clamoring for them in the coming months.
Check cleanliness of non-food-contact surfaces
When cleaning your kitchen, don’t forget easily overlooked places like refrigerator, microwave and oven handles, beverage dispenser heads, overhead lighting and vents, and walls adjacent to your food preparation areas that are likely to get splashed during cooking. StateFoodSafety.com advises keeping these non-food-contact surfaces clean to ensure food debris can’t contaminate menu items you’re preparing.
Fine-tune your back-of-house setup
Even with a well-thought-out training program in place and front-of-house staff committed to delivering quality service, the experience you provide your guests won’t be the best it can be if your back-of-house setup isn’t working. Assess your back-of-house procedures to identify bottlenecks. Are inadequate tools compromising food or employee safety or consuming too much time? Fast Casual suggests you consider using equipment such as high-efficiency dishwashers, disposals, automated oil management systems and trash compactors, which can help streamline complicated or unsafe tasks — and make your team’s work a bit easier. Also, as open kitchens continue to appeal to guests, keeping that part of your operation in order and ready for display is just as important as the presentation of the dish you serve a guest.
Virtual and augmented reality raise the game for restaurants
Looking to improve your guest and employee experience? For some operators, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are boosting engagement. A report in QSR magazine said the founder of the fast-casual chain Honeygrow has implemented a VR orientation and training tool whereby employees wear a pair of VR glasses and walk through a five-part training session that covers everything from protecting food safety to providing good customer service. There is even a gaming component where employees must place vegetables and raw meat on the proper refrigerator shelves. Other brands are using similar technology to create digital apps that allow guests to scan against features at the restaurant, prompting information, animations and games to pop up on their phone screen to educate and engage them in the brand. Starbucks has introduced such an AR concept in its new Shanghai Reserve Roastery.
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