Is your ordering up to par?
When you replenish your supply of key ingredients, do you order against par levels? If not, Orderly says you could be wasting supplies and money by over-ordering, under-ordering, or spending too much on inventory. Say you're in the midst of a dinner rush and you run out of an ingredient customers will miss -- bacon or tortilla chips or avocado, for example -- and you have to dash to the store to pick it up. Not a problem if it happens now and then, but if you're doing this every week, the waste adds up. You can avoid this scenario by having an inventory par level set -- or the normal amount of an ingredient you want to have on hand at any time -- then paying attention to your par levels and reordering based on that level when you see your supply slip. Orderly gives the example of a restaurant known for its chicken tacos that uses 20 bags of tortillas in a typical week. If you order once a week, you might set your par at 25 to ensure you don't run out midweek, then reorder based on that par level. If you have a busy week, you have some extra on hand. If business is slow, you're not ordering 20 bags of tortillas when you already have 15 in stock. This system can also help you avoid getting overstocked on items that are no longer as popular due to a change of season. Finally, when you pay attention to your par levels and adjust your orders each time based on those levels, you send the message to suppliers that you are vigilant about your inventory. You're more likely to notice pricing spikes on your invoices -- and to have a discussion with suppliers when that happens.
Law and labor
When you write a job description or interview a candidate, do you know how to avoid discriminatory language that may lead to a lawsuit? In a recent interview with Foodable, employment attorney Lexington Wolff addressed how restaurant operators can protect themselves by anticipating potential allegations of discrimination. She said that innocently misused language could discriminate against certain races, handicaps, or age groups -- for example, does your job posting for a hostess say the person must "walk" guests to a table as opposed to a more inclusive term like "lead"? If you tend to hire a lot of students, do you mention your "energetic, young" workforce in job ads? This kind of language may weed certain people out of your candidate pool and open you up for charges of discrimination. Wolff said there are many areas that can trip-up restaurant operators, from social media background checks to questions about drug use that might violate HIPAA laws. As you review your process for posting jobs and interviewing and screening applicants, Wolff recommends operators ask themselves how a judge might see their actions if a discrimination claim was made. When creating job descriptions, stick to listing job requirements and not preferences -- for example, while a candidate with a college degree might be your preference, it may not be a necessity. Other tips: Don't attempt to learn online what you could not learn in a job interview. Get written consent for contacting references, and finally, consider having a third-party company screen candidates and funnel only the required information to you as a safeguard.
Boost your breakfast business
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day for a person -- and that may hold true for restaurants. Technomic's Breakfast Consumer Trend Report, which included responses from more than 1500 consumers, found that consumers are hungry for breakfast well beyond the morning hours, and operators have an opportunity to make standard breakfast fare more interesting. The report indicated that 39 percent of consumers want all-day breakfast from restaurants, 30 percent buy breakfast outside of morning hours and 35 percent would visit a restaurant they wouldn't necessarily visit if it offered breakfast items beyond the morning. To build your breakfast business, try adding Latin, Indian or Asian spices to traditional breakfast foods, experimenting with dinner foods that could be reinvented for breakfast, or offering breakfast items that can be ordered as convenience foods -- the report said that consumers are even embracing breakfast bowls to go.
Fine-tune your restaurant tech
DoorDash recently added free in-store pickup to its app. Skift Table reports that Chipotle tested a system (Panera currently offers it too) whereby completed digital orders were placed on shelves in a quiet part of the restaurant, awaiting for customers to walk in, grab their prepaid food from the shelf and go. The merits of some of these changes may be questionable: Why is there a need to use an app to place a pick-up order instead of the website? How can a restaurant ensure an order gets to the right person -- and isn't just taken off the shelf by a passerby looking for a free meal? Still, it's worth revisiting your delivery system and technology to ensure you're addressing potential pain points for customers. How can you tweak your system to minimize wait times or congestion at your pick-up counter and improve staff efficiency? If you have an app, how can you fine-tune it so you make the process of accepting orders, collecting pre-payment and getting food to customers as seamless as possible?
Starbucks could help bring Bitcoin payments to mainstream
If you're taking stock of innovations in customer payment technology, take note of what Starbucks has planned: Tech Crunch reports that the coffee retailer is one of the major companies supporting the launch of Bakkt, a new company that will help trade and convert Bitcoin into government-backed legal tender. Starbucks has already done much to expand the popularity of mobile payments, and its involvement with Bakkt is a sign that it may be positioning itself to accept Bitcoin converted through the Bakkt system -- and help lend legitimacy to Bitcoin as a means of payment for mainstream consumers.
More kiosks, more staff?
While Shake Shack and many other restaurant brands may be introducing more kiosks in an effort to manage rising labor costs, McDonald's seems to be taking a different approach. Bloomberg reports that at the brand's newly redesigned flagship location in Chicago, customers will find self-order kiosks, mobile orders and payments, and delivery -- all without cutting down on entry-level jobs. In fact, the company claims it is employing more people with the introduction of kiosks. While industry analysts are skeptical, McDonald's says it is simply repurposing their staff in an effort to improve convenience as they serve more customers. Do you use kiosks? Have they helped you reduce labor costs or improve guest experience?
Food safety in a few steps
From managing norovirus outbreaks to insect infestations to the safety standards of suppliers, navigating food safety is a daily challenge for restaurant operators. CoInspect, a software company that supports food safety, quality assurance and standards management for restaurants and food manufacturers, shared some tips to stay on top of it: First, vary the work so employees aren't completing the same tedious checklists each day, and create digital checklists that rotate among staff and are quick to complete. Have your team use photos and video during routine inspections -- recording inspections with a pencil makes it to easy to cut corners. Next, in between official third-party inspections, have an outside expert conduct a food safety inspection to make sure you stay on track. Use tech tools to manage proper food storage, equipment operation and temperature maintenance. Finally, commit to food safety protocols and follow them from the top down so employees get the message that you practice what you preach.
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