Ebook: Social Media and Restaurants

Restaurants and Social MediaUse of social media by restaurants for marketing, service, and guest loyalty continues to rise. In 2013, Hospitality Technology reported that nearly nine of 10 US restaurants used at least some type of social networking as part of their outreach efforts.

Adding a social media component to your existing marketing tactics can increase awareness of your establishment, generate excitement around your food, and strengthen loyalty among regular guests.

Our ebook, Social Media for Restaurants, looks at a few best practices for restaurateurs and chefs seeking to utilize social networks for improving awareness, reaching new diners, and building customer relationships.

Included in this free download are a look at a few general social media best practices, as well as sections devoted to:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Google+
  • YouTube
  • Foursquare and Yelp

Download the FREE ebook at the button below. 

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This post originally appeared on FoodTender.com‘s Restaurant Strategy Blog

How Restaurants Can Better Tackle Their Off-Peak Hours

Restaurant interiorSo you’re happy with the revenue being generated during your restaurant’s peak operating periods. That’s great! That’s where the majority of your profit is going to come from.

Now, however, maybe you’d like to focus a bit more on the slower parts of your week. You want to limit the damage done to your bottom line by those pesky off-peak hours.

Off-peak operating times are similar for just about every restaurant for a reason; people simply don’t eat as much during those hours. Any plan for dealing with off-peak dips needs to focus as much on reducing operating costs as much—if not more—than it does on driving sales.

Here’s just a few ways to rein in costs during downtime.

Shut it Down

Turn off all unneeded ovens, stoves, steamers, and other kitchen equipment during your off-peak times. Important: be sure to first determine exactly how much time each piece of equipment needs to hit its optimal temperature again when getting ready for the next rush; every minute counts when it comes to saving energy.

Chill Out

Use your off-peak times to pre-cool the restaurant when utility costs are less. That way, you’ll have a cushion that should keep your temperature at a comfortable level during rush hour.

And speaking of chilling, consider shifting your ice production to off-peak times as well. Ice machines create heat in the kitchen and only add to your peak time energy demands. Have a timer installed to ensure the bulk of your ice production takes place in slow periods and overnight.

Kill the Lights

Kill the heat lamps in your pass-thru window. Turn off or dim the lighting in any private party rooms or other areas of your dining room that aren’t currently being used. Turn off your televisions if the bar area is empty. Any other lights or signs that could be turned off until the next rush should be shut down.

Reschedule Your Prep Times

RSGMag recommends moving prep periods to your midday off-peak hours as much as possible. They note:

“Controlling minimum staffing levels during off-peak meal periods is difficult because you never know when a busload of tourists or a rush of afternoon diners from a convention decide to pop in. Rather than scheduling prep before you open, consider doing the majority of it during open hours and off-peak times. That way if you do suddenly get an unexpected rush you’ll still have enough bodies to meet the demand.”

Cross-Train Your Staff

We’ve made this point time after time, and we’ll do it again here. A cross-trained staff means you can get more people off the clock and be certain those who remain can float from station to station.

So what about bringing in more guests during off-peak times? Below are just a few ways some establishments are increasing their traffic during the slower parts of the day/week.

Look Into Tech Solutions

Technology is helping many restaurants drive more off-peak sales. The biggest online reservation service for the industry right now, OpenTable, can reward your diners for booking reservations during preferred periods of your own choosing. You select the days and/or times you’d like people to book a reservation and OpenTable offers customers dining points for booking at those times.

Go After Clubs and Businesses

Identify any local clubs or organizations that may meet on your slow days and offer them a discount to entice them to dine with you. Just be sure to let them know to book a reservation so your staff is ready for them.

You could also target local businesses for private parties during your off-peak hours, or provide a local office with catering services, if you can handle it.

It’s Five O’clock Somewhere

Start a happy hour in the late afternoon to kick-start the dinner rush early. Happy hour offerings can include specially priced drinks, and smaller, cheaper dishes such as 1/2 price appetizers. Beginning the dinner rush early could also be framed as an early bird special if you prefer. Just be sure to stay consistent with these specials so people know what to expect and return for more.

Late Nights

The late night set could be tapped into as well. The late crowd tends to be a bit younger, so try to appeal to them with a fun, ambient atmosphere. Dim the lights and fire up some different music; do something that makes your later hours feel distinct from dinner time.

Unlike peak hours where quickly turning tables is crucial, encourage the late night crowd to stick around; have servers check in regularly, and offer that next round of drinks.

Closing time is drawing near at this point so consider paring the menu down to a few items, perhaps appetizers and salads. This lets your kitchen clean up quicker and close certain stations. You want to balance increased sales with the ability to let staff get off the clock as soon as possible.

For a look at reducing both food and labor costs in the restaurant, be sure to download our free ebook at the button below.

Restaurant Cost-Saving Practices

 

This post originally appeared on FoodTender.com’s Restaurant Strategy Blog.

Improving Front and Back-of-House Relations in the Restaurant

Restaurant_Staff_RelationsAnyone who’s spent time in the restaurant industry will admit that, occasionally, tempers can flare. We’re only human after all and when a big rush hits mistakes can be made, orders can be missed, and arguments can ensue.

When a conflict takes place between restaurant staff, it often takes the form of front-of-house vs. back-of-house. In my many years as a server, I witnessed several instances of bickering between my dining room colleagues and a chef or line cook. At times it felt like we were on opposite sides, like two warring sports teams.

Seeing or hearing employees fight is awkward for a guest. It also makes a restaurant seem incredibly unprofessional. So, let’s look at a few ways restaurant managers can improve relations between the two sides of their house.

Invest in an Expeditor

If your budget allows for it a good expeditor can work wonders for creating a smooth relationship between front and back-of-house. Expeditors can be a member of the hosting or serving staff, but they should ideally have a thorough understanding of how the back-of-house operates as well.

This role serves as a buffer between the kitchen and the waitstaff, so they need to possess diplomacy skills and demonstrate great calm. Make it a rule that the expeditor – and only the expeditor – can ask questions of the chefs. Have your servers filter all questions and concerns through this person. This keeps a chef from being asked the same question several times.

The expeditor keeps the kitchen on task, and on time. With a good expeditor in place, serving staff have peace of mind that their plates will come out on time, and be well presented. This saves them the frustration of sending back dishes and arguing with kitchen staff.

Enough with the Blame Game

It’s important that your restaurant’s managers understand that regardless of role, people can and will make mistakes. They need to be able to step in and keep everyone focused on finding solutions to problems rather than figuring out which side of the house is to blame.

If a guest has complained about a cold plate, does it really matter whether the kitchen or a server has erred? While chefs and waitstaff stand around bickering, the guest continues to suffer. The Blame Game helps absolutely nobody, so stop it.

Cross-Train Your Staff

We’ve touched on this topic before and it’s a great way to help improve front/back-of-house relations. Cross-training allows your staff to not only develop new skills for themselves, but to see what a typical shift looks like from their teammates’ perspectives. The ability to experience service from the other side of the window and gain insight into what the other side of the house goes through is essential for better staff relations.

Pre-Shift Meetings

If it’s not logistically possible to include both sides of the house in a pre-shift meeting, try to make sure to address the concerns of the other side during these pre-shift gatherings.

Make certain that your front-of-house knows which items are low, which items are 86’d, and anything else the chef needs them to be aware of. Conversely, be sure the kitchen staff knows when all of the shift’s large reservations are arriving, and any other issues front-of-house may need addressed in the kitchen. Pre-shifts need to be about preparing the entire team for the next rush.

All-Hands Staff Meetings

Many businesses say they’re going to have regular meetings including the entire staff. Then they hold that first meeting and never get around to another one, or get to it a year later. Restaurant schedules are tough to manage and the hours of operation can make it difficult to gather the entire squad, but management must truly make an effort to commit to regular all-hands meetings.

Beyond those daily two-to-three minute pre-shift huddles, staff meetings are important, particularly if you’re making substantial menu changes or bringing in new management.

This is the time to encourage all staff to voice questions, obstacles, and concerns. This is crucial for building relationships between front and back-of-house.

Communication Boards

Avoid confusion and miscommunication between front and back-of-house with something as simple as a white board. This is where every staff member should go before beginning their shift. Write the day’s specials, soup of the day, low stock items, and any 86’d items on these boards. If possible, make your expeditor or manager the only one allowed to modify the white board. It’s a low-cost yet effective way to keep everyone on the same page. Time permitting, go the extra step of having a kitchen staffer or manager log into your POS system and flat out remove the ability to order 86’d dishes.

If all your best laid plans still fail to stop an employee battle, the National Restaurant Association offers an interesting tip. In the event of conflict, develop a restaurant-wide hand signal or verbal cue for gathering your team in private. This helps shield guests from embarrassing situations that might affect how they perceive your business.

Any other tips for improving relations between front and back-of-house? Tell us about them below.

Are you a restaurant looking to cut costs? Check out our free ebook, 25 Restaurant Cost-Saving Best Practices, at the button below.

Restaurant Cost-Saving Practices

How Restaurants Can Increase Profits During Those Crucial Peak Hours

Restaurant_peak_hoursMany restaurants focus on trying to increase business during their off-peak hours. It’s an important aspect of your operations to be sure, but what about maximizing your sales and profits during your peak operating hours?

The majority of your restaurant’s revenue is generated during its peak times, and those hours likely account for almost all of your profit. So how can you improve turnover (without blatantly rushing your guests) and get the most bang for your buck from those peak service times?

Here’s a few suggestions.

Take a Look at Your Seating Plan

Try to avoid a situation where all of your tables are occupied while actual seats still go unfilled. Do you have any four-tops that could easily be separated into two-tops?

There will always be some parties of two requesting the extra space of a four-top and you should do what you can to accommodate those requests. However, you need to prioritize servicing as many diners as possible and reducing wait times.

A full dining room is a good thing; being known for having long wait times is not.

Do a Little Menu Engineering

Consider re-working your menu offerings in order to speed things up for both guests and the kitchen. Menu engineering will help you pinpoint your top selling and most profitable items. Lose your under-performing dishes, simplify your menu, and help things move faster during rushes.

There are three good reasons to engage in menu engineering:

  1. Larger menus take longer to peruse. The more choices guests have, the longer they’ll take to decide.
  2. The bigger your menu, the more cluttered your POS menus (depending on the software, mind you). This means serving staff may spend more time in front of a terminal looking for items.
  3. Large, varied menus can create less efficiency in the kitchen. It means less multiple orders in the same pan, which means more time being spent preparing meals.

Staff Up

More staff equals more labor hours, right? Well yes, but consider how much more efficient you could be if you had one extra body to help out during busy periods. A great example of this is an expeditor.

How much time is wasted having incorrect/incomplete orders returned to the kitchen? Not just that, think about those orders that were correct but sat in the window too long and arrived at the table too cold to eat.

Having an expeditor helps minimize these hassles by ensuring food is hitting tables quickly and correctly. You’ve added another hourly wage, but the cost of it versus the increases in speed and accuracy may well be worth it.

Cross-Training

Cross-train your staff so they’re able to move to other stations in the restaurant during those peak hours if need be. The ability to assign more people to fewer tasks during peak operating times is essential for eliminating bottlenecks. Can your prep people easily move to the salad station or the grill during peak hours? Can a host or busser easily step in as your expeditor to clear out your jammed-up pass thru window?

Have Your Best People Where They Should Be

When those busy hours hit, be sure to have your best people in position. Seniority counts, but when peak times arrive you need to have your best people running the show. That means your most efficient servers, your fastest kitchen staff, your quickest bartenders, etc.

If you find your new hires are already among your best, then you may wish to think about how much weight you’re giving to seniority when scheduling for peak times.

Get the Word Out on Cancellations

Do you have any reservations that didn’t show? Of course you do, it happens to every restaurant. Don’t let those last-minute cancellations leave you with empty tables during peak times. Let prospective diners know you’ve got an opening.

Many establishments now use social media for this purpose. Updating your Facebook status and/or sending a tweet is quick and easy; it’s a great way to let customers know you’ve got an opening. See this example below from Babbo in New York City.

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Keep an Eagle Eye on Upcharges

When a shift gets busy, servers and bartenders can occasionally forget to ring in that side of gravy or extra sour cream. Trust your staff of course, but there’s no harm in keeping an eye on those smaller transactions, especially during your most hectic hours. An occasional audit of your POS to make certain that drinks and condiments are charged wouldn’t hurt, just make sure staff know you’ll be checking.

For a look at another aspect of restaurant efficiency be sure to download our free ebook, Improve Your Restaurant’s Ordering Practices, by clicking the image below. 

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Cover image via Flickr
NOTE: This post originally appeared on FoodTender.com’s Restaurant Strategy Blog.