Verify and prepare
The foodservice industry has long relied on immigrants—both documented and not—to build its labor force. In fact, second only to the construction industry, the restaurant industry is the largest employer of undocumented workers — there are an estimated 1.1 million people illegally employed in the industry, according to a Foodable report. Restaurant operators may have reason for concern in light of recent comments from the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who said his organization is looking to crack down on businesses that hire illegal immigrants. These businesses could face fines of up to $10,000 per illegal employee. Foodable suggests restaurants take several steps to protect themselves: Operators cannot knowingly hire an employee who isn’t authorized to work in the United States and so they must complete an Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 and maintain it for at least three years after hire or for one year after employment ends, whichever is later. The I-9 mentions a list of documents operators can use to verify eligibility. While you don’t need to be an expert when it comes to verifying the authenticity of the documents presented, you cannot accept documents that are obviously not authentic either. To prepare for a possible inspection, keep your I-9 forms in separate personnel files that are easy to access, and provide your management team with guidance about who to call, what to do, and what to say or not say when an inspector visits. It can also be helpful to consult an attorney who specializes in employment law and can advise you on the best ways to protect your business. The National Restaurant Association has been advocating for immigration reform that includes a reliable federal employment verification system and a new program to legally match willing workers with willing employers, among other principles.
The power of daily prep
How accurate is your daily ingredient preparation? Are you preparing too much—and therefore wasting food or facing quality-control problems? Or are you preparing too little and having to waste precious minutes in the kitchen, or worse, deny guests a preferred dish? To help ensure accuracy when preparing ingredients before the start of a shift, RestaurantOwner.com suggests operators use this kind of daily plan for ingredient prep. Your POS may offer you a similar mechanism to help you stay on track. It can ensure staff time is used efficiently, that ingredients are prepared in order of priority, and that you can track ingredient usage and monitor quality more accurately. Buzztime Business advises having cooks check off items on the prep list, which you can review regularly to identify where the cook may be slowing down or where he or she is able to handle more than one station. Make sure your prep list is a living document—your “par” numbers can and should fluctuate based on the day of the week, season or other factors. Consider adding additional categories, such as how any excess ingredients must be stored after use. Using and regularly updating your prep list can help you identify bottlenecks and waste, make it easier for substitute workers to step in when needed, and in the process, help you save thousands of dollars each year in food and labor costs.
Bowls are still big. Not only are they appealing to consumers looking for colourful, healthy, conveniently eaten combinations, but they are also a perfect platform for chef innovation, the incorporation of global flavors and the application of plant-based ingredient trends. Further, operators are finding that bowls can help them minimize waste by repackaging menu items from other day parts. As Philip Smith, director of culinary and product development for D’Angelo Grilled
Sandwiches told Flavor & the Menu, “Bowls, more than sandwiches, lend themselves to the idea of a plated entrée—repositioning bowls might be a means to extend our appeal into the evening daypart.”
Everyone knows the importance of handwashing but not enough people actually do it, and the effects can be dramatic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that in cases where food was contaminated by food workers, 89 percent of the outbreaks spread from the hands. In addition to washing hands with soap and water for 10 to 15 seconds, consider addressing sources of recontamination too—bathroom faucets and door handles can recontaminate the hands of someone who has just washed them. Have paper towels within reach of these places so they can be used to turn off faucets and open doors, and make sure these surfaces are cleaned regularly to prevent the spread of bacteria.
Act fast following an outbreak
Acting quickly in the event of a foodborne illness outbreak can not only contain the spread of it but limit the potential damage to your business. StateFoodSafety.com suggests taking these steps—and training your staff to take them as well—in case of a suspected outbreak: First, close for business so you can determine which food(s) caused the problem. Don’t discard any food, since a review of your ingredients, equipment and other parts of your establishment will be needed to determine the source of the problem. Alert the local regulatory authority and explain the situation honestly and clearly. Comply with the investigator to help ensure you can resume operations as safely and quickly as possible. Employ any new safety practices recommended in the investigation and train your team to follow them—and to honestly and reassuringly respond to any customer inquiries that follow the event.
Understand the restaurant tech ecosystem
There is a dizzying assortment of technology offerings designed to improve the efficiency of restaurants’ front- and back-of-house operations. To help operators make sense of it all, The Mixing Bowl and TechTable developed this map of the restaurant tech ecosystem. While not exhaustive, it lists many of the major players in various functions, from reservations and waitlist technology to purchasing and inventory applications. It’s a handy reference if you’re in search of new tech providers or simply want to take stock of the range of tech companies aiming to help operators manage various aspects of business.
Put your POS in charge
Delivery and off-premise dining occupy a growing segment of restaurant sales, making it critical for restaurant technology to handle orders accurately and preserve the guest’s positive impression of your restaurant. A report in QSR Magazine says online ordering and takeout can present special challenges when it comes to managing orders and pricing items accurately. It suggests several tips for using your point-of-sale system to manage sales: First, by having orders go directly to your POS, you can improve order accuracy and also free up your staff for other tasks. Second, it can be updated with information on daily specials, promote items that can be cross-sold, and also pull up a customer’s order history and suggest an item that can boost average checks. Your system should be flexible enough to manage orders from callers, walk-in traffic and online traffic. To add an extra layer of service, your system may offer delivery tracking and dispatching, along with support for choosing the best routes to a waiting customer.
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