Build a Winning Restaurant Serving Staff: Part 2

restaurant-serving-2This is part two of a five part look at creating a top-notch restaurant serving staff. In part one we laid out the basics, the importance of menu knowledge and essential tools of the serving trade.

Now, let’s take a look at what really sets the best servers apart from the pack. The ability to effectively read a table and anticipate guest needs.

Reading a Table

The ability to read the makeup of a table, anticipate what that table will likely need, and how they’ll prefer their visit to proceed is crucial to mastering the restaurant service game.

We’re talking about being able to channel one’s inner Sherlock and be keenly observant. Front-of-house staff work with the public all day, coming into contact with every personality type under the sun. The ability to pick up on a variety of non-verbal cues will set the best servers apart from the pack.

Servers need to think of their guests not as a “two top” or “four top” but as “family of four”, “business people meeting”, “couple out on a date”, etc. These groups all require different approaches. It’s important to have steps of service, but allow your staff some wiggle room depending on a table’s makeup.

The most important aspect of reading your guests is sensing how welcome you are at the table. That may sound a bit harsh, but no two tables are alike. Some guests like to chat it up, others prefer their server to be relatively unobtrusive. These people aren’t rude, and it’s likely not personal. Some guests simply prefer not to engage much with their server. Respect these preferences.

A business group likely wants straight-forward, almost invisible service. They may be on the clock, don’t take them away from what could be important discussion. The table of young singles may be open to witty banter so charm away. Your style can’t be the same with every group.

Your steps of service should vary with group makeup as well. Do the kids at a table of four seem a tad unruly? Maybe slip the dessert menu to one of the parents nice and quietly rather than get the little ones excited by suggesting desserts out loud. Save Mom having to say no a million times and win her heart in the process.

Of course it won’t always be about simply reading group makeups; individual styles matter. Guests actively asking for a drink menu, or smiling and making good eye contact, are more likely open to conversation and hearing several of your suggestions. Conversely, guests more on the shy and quiet side may be more comfortable with a polite, quick greeting.

And speaking of individuals, look for signs that signal which member of a group (particularly when it’s a large one) is the ringleader or host. Introduce yourself to them first. They’ll often help set the tone for the meal, so remember them when it comes time to try some of your upselling/suggestive selling techniques.

One extra tip here: If your table does appear open to banter, try not to engage in it immediately after dropping off a course. The food is good and hot at that point, let them get started. There’ll be time for your piercing wit to shine through a bit later.

There’s no training manual for this, servers will simply have to pay attention and adjust to each individual. It’s your job to adapt, not the guest’s.

Spotting Trouble

Reading a table also means sensing when something is amiss. Far too many diners don’t speak up when a meal or experience isn’t satisfactory. A mostly untouched dish should be addressed. It could be that the guest is simply not very hungry, but there’s a good chance that something’s amiss. Perhaps you spot people removing items from a dish, maybe there’s been a mistake made somewhere. Don’t let them get to the end of a meal before inquiring.

How about the guest still wearing a heavy jacket? Or worse yet, several guests. It could be a good idea to look at the dining room’s temperature at that point.

Anticipation

Properly reading a table means you’ll be able to anticipate a guest’s needs. Asking a few important questions can save you several trips to a table, greatly improving your efficiency and enhancing the guest experience.

Maybe they ordered no tomato on their Club Sandwich but added a side salad which includes diced tomatoes. Ask if those tomatoes need to be nixed as well. If they ordered the gluten-free bun, make sure to confirm they’d also like to lose the croutons from their salad. These extra questions will save you from running back and forth to the kitchen looking for fixes.

If a guest seems to be overwhelmed by the menu’s options, ask a few questions to narrow down their search.

So the entrees have been served and everything is as requested. Now, instead of simply asking if there’s “anything else”, get specific. Are there any popular condiments you could ask about? How about extra napkins, utensils, or refills? Now is the time to ask. By getting specific you’ll avoid being flagged down later. It’s a win-win scenario; less trips for you, and a happier customer.

People appreciate when you’re able to anticipate these requests; they’ll recognize that you’re genuinely invested in the guest experience. This will almost certainly lead to better tips, good reviews, and repeat business.

Next up in part three of our restaurant serving series, we’ll look at some of the mechanics of serving. Stay tuned to this space!

Looking to improve on food and labor costs? Maybe you can pull some ideas from our free book below. 

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

 

Build a Winning Restaurant Serving Staff: Part 1

restaurant_serving_1When most people discuss restaurant experiences with their friends and co-workers they tend to focus on two things, the food and the service.

Your front-of-house staff are the liaisons between your business and your guests. They’re the ones responsible for ensuring a terrific experience for every single person that enters your door.

With the stakes that high, it’s a good idea to ensure that you’re deploying the most well-trained, well-mannered, customer-centered fleet of servers you possibly can. Wouldn’t you agree?

So, what makes a great restaurant server? And how can you get your staff to that level of greatness? Let’s dive into some basics in part one of a five part look at restaurant serving best practices.

Knowledge is Power

Servers should know your menu like the backs of their hands. Give all new servers a copy of your menu as part of their training documents and have them learn it inside and out. The menu is the most important document in the restaurant so it should be examined, re-examined, and examined again.

Don’t stop there, however. Your training manual should give servers more info than what’s on the menu. Customers can read the menu themselves, your servers need to know more. Ingredients, sauces, garnishes, how the dish is prepared, etc. A key part of a server’s job is to be able to handle those questions that aren’t answered on the page. And remember, food allergies are serious business. If guests note certain allergies it’s best to know which dishes to recommend and which ones to avoid.

Ideally, servers know the menu because they’ve tasted all of its offerings themselves. Allergies or other dietary considerations (e.g. a vegan diet) may sometimes prevent this. In those cases, staff should at least get input on those untasted dishes from their fellow employees.

Keep copies of these documents somewhere easily accessible in the front-of-house for quick reference. There’s no shame in not knowing the answer to a question. Rather than allowing your servers to say “I don’t know”, be sure they’re empowered enough to answer “I’m not sure, but I can find out pretty quickly, one moment.”

Shadowing

Every training path for a new server involves a certain amount of shadowing. When choosing which of your existing servers will act as your teachers, keep personality types in mind. Some servers excel at the mechanics of the job, and are perfectly pleasant with guests. That doesn’t mean they’ll make the best mentors in every case.

Focus on top staff who seem to genuinely enjoy teaching newcomers and won’t be hindered by having to slow down for new trainees.

Learning Beyond Basic Training

It’s also a great idea for servers to learn as much as they can about wine. They don’t need to become Robert Parker, but diners do appreciate a server than can offer recommendations on wines and appropriate food pairings. Don’t have wine pairing info as part of your training docs? Here’s a couple of links to help get you started.  (Wine and Food Pairing Charts)  (Wine Pairing 101)

If you’re a popular tourist spot, it wouldn’t hurt for your serving staff to brush up on nearby attractions, concert venues, theater locations, etc. Not mandatory, but a good idea.

And remember, learning doesn’t need to stop once someone’s off the clock. Servers: when you’re out to eat with friends at other restaurants, watch their waitstaff. Learn from them, both the good ones and the bad ones.

Tools of the Trade

This section addresses servers directly, but managers should feel free to pass these tips along. 

Being prepared to tackle a packed dining room means arriving properly equipped. Here’s a short list of items servers should carry while on the job. 

1. At least three pens. Go with clicky tops whenever possible. Always have a couple of spares to leave with guests. And watch your pens like a hawk. If you leave one laying around, consider it history. If you’ve got room in your apron for more than three, load up.

2. Wine opener. Learn how to use it. Get management or the bartenders to show you how to use it if you don’t know how.

3. Lighter. It doesn’t matter if you smoke or not, have a lighter on you. If customers bring in a birthday cake or your restaurant puts a candle in a guest’s dessert on their special day, you’ll save yourself the time and hassle of running around looking for one.

4. Breath mints or breath spray. If you had a Caesar salad or some other garlic-heavy dish on your break, make sure you’re not approaching tables with foul-smelling breath. Smokers would be wise to keep this tip in mind as well. Pop outside for a puff by all means, but freshen your breath again before approaching tables.

5. Table crumber. Depending on how classy your restaurant is, you may wish to invest in one of these.

6. Float. If you’re required to provide your own float, a good rule of thumb is to start with the same amount every shift and know exactly how much is in there. That way you know exactly how much you made in tips after you’ve finished your cash out.

7. Coin Dispenser. This one is optional depending on how annoyed you are with loose change in your apron. Servers in Canada may find this one useful for keeping their toonies and loonies in order.

8. Hot Cloth/Waiter’s Cloth. Here’s a potential cost-saving opportunity for you operators. We’ve seen napkin supplies run dry as servers grab handfuls of them to help with handling hot plates. That’s a waste of supplies. Consider investing in small cloths for your serving staff. Make it part of the uniform, and make sure they’re carrying it at all times.

9. Tide to Go. We have no brand preference here, so feel free to use a competing stain remover. The point is you should consider carrying something that can remove pesky food stains quickly.

Did we miss anything crucial? Tell us about it below.

This is only part one of our series. In the upcoming installments we’ll look at the mechanics of serving, the importance of reading a table, anticipating guest needs, upselling, dealing with diffucult guests, social media use, and more. Stay tuned!

Looking for ideas to help increase your establishment’s efficiency? Check out our free ebook at the button below for a look at improving your restaurant’s ordering practices. 

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

Restaurants and Recipe Costing: A Quick Primer

Recipe_costing_restaurantsWhen creating your restaurant’s menu it’s important to determine the true cost of an item before establishing a final price point. That means it’s time to engage in some recipe costing.

Accurate recipe costing is a must to ensure the best profitability from your menu, and for deciding which items will take precedence when developing its layout.

As a bit of a companion piece to our menu engineering post, let’s look at a few important points to consider when costing out recipes.

Are you including everything?

Are you factoring in the cost of any garnishes (e.g. parsley, lemon wedges) that accompany the dish? What about the cost of any oils used for frying the meal? One way to calculate that is to determine the cost of your average monthly oil use and divide that number by your monthly average of dishes sold. Take that number and add it to the cost of your dish as part of your recipe costing.

Determining Yield

Next, let’s define a few important terms we’ll work with.

As Purchased Cost – The price you paid for the product(s).

As Purchased Quantity – Weight or volume of purchased product, before preparation.

Yield Percent – Percentage of the As Purchased Quantity that is considered usable/edible.

Trim – The volume/weight of waste from preparation. (e.g. cutting ends off a vegetable)

For one of the easier examples we’ve found let’s turn to Chef Kelso:

“You purchased 10 pounds of apples. After peeling, coring, and slicing the apples, you end up with 2.4 pounds of trim. What is the yield percent of the apples?

Trim = As Purchased Quantity – Edible Portion Quantity, so
Edible Portion Quantity = As Purchased Quantity – Trim
Edible Portion Quantity = 10 pounds – 2.4 pounds
Edible Portion Quantity = 7.6 pounds

Yield Percent (in decimal form) = Edible Portion Quantity  /  As Purchased Quantity
Yield Percent = 7.6 pounds / 10 pounds
Yield Percent = .76
Yield Percent = 76%

Make Sure to Work With Edible Portion Costs

Edible Portion Cost is generally considered the best figure to work with while costing recipes.

Continuing with Chef Kelso’s apple example, let’s define Edible Portion Cost.

Edible Portion Cost – As Purchased Cost   /   Yield Percent

“You purchase a case of apples for $80.00. There are 100 pounds of apples in a case. What is the edible portion cost per pound of apple given that the yield percent of an apple is 76%?

Edible Portion Cost = As Purchased Cost   /   Yield Percent
Edible Portion Cost = $80.00 / .76
Edible Portion Cost = $105.263
Edible Portion Cost per pound = $105.263 / 100
Edible Portion Cost per pound = $ 1.05263
Edible Portion Cost per pound = $1.06 

Determining Total Costs and Margins

Add up the appropriate Edible Portion Costs to get the total cost of your recipe. Determine the cost of that recipe per portion by dividing that total by the number of portions it serves.

So if your recipe’s cost is $5.35 and it can serve 10 portions, your cost per portion is $.54 (we rounded up). Your margin per portion will equal your menu price  –  cost per portion. So if you’re selling this $.54 portion for $2.50, your margin (or gross profit) per portion is $1.96.

How Much to Charge?

In the above example, $.54 is the total cost per portion. It’s currently selling for $2.50 which means your food cost percentage is 21.6% ($0.54  /  $2.50).

Your ideal selling price (ideal, not mandatory, do what you wish) would be your Cost Per Portion / Desired Food Cost Percentage (the decimal form of it). You’ll have to determine what you want your food cost percentage to be, ideally. Let’s say you want it to be 35%.

So:

Cost Per Portion (0.54)   /   Desired Food Cost Percentage (0.35)

Ideal Selling Price = $1.54  

Be sure to have a look at your competition. Maybe your current price of $2.50 is the going rate, and that 21% food cost is great as is.

While recipe costing is important, always keep in mind that gross profit dollars are still where it’s at. So refer back to the basics of menu engineering to focus your promotional efforts on your highest performing dishes.

For more restaurant best practices, be sure to download the free ebook below. 

Restaurant Cost-Saving Practices

 

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

How to Fine-Tune Your Restaurant’s Receiving Process

Capture_d’écran_2013-06-13_à_10.41.21The following is an excerpt from our free ebook, Improve Your Restaurant’s Ordering Practices.

This post is pulled from the section aimed at improving your restaurant’s receiving process. 

An improved receiving process will go a long way towards your restaurant controlling its food costs. Poor receiving habits could be costing you more than you realize. It’s time to cut out the excuses (e.g. not enough time) and really tighten up your restaurant’s receiving process.

The next time you receive an order keep the below best practices in mind.

No Receiving During Peak Times

We’ll start with the most obvious tip; not accepting deliveries during lunch and dinner rushes. If you cater to the breakfast crowd, let your suppliers know that early morning may not be an ideal time to receive orders either.

Some restaurants even post a sign on the back door reminding drivers that deliveries are not to be received during those peak restaurant operating periods.

Carefully Choose Your Receivers

If possible, it’s recommended that someone other than the person in charge of ordering be tasked with receiving. This helps keep everyone honest.

Restaurant Report says the two worst staff members to make responsible for receiving orders are your chef, and your manager:

Although the chef or manager may be the most knowledgeable about what was ordered, they are also the two individuals with the least amount of time to devote to the process. There are far too many interruptions for them to do an accurate receiving job.

Since the receiving function is largely clerical in nature, it is a misallocation of human resource to have managers perform clerical functions.

Consider selecting another one of your other senior staffers to look after receiving.

Do Your Part to Make it Easy

You’ve set your preferred delivery times, so there’s no good excuse for not being ready when deliveries arrive.

Provide adequate space for receiving orders. Don’t be stuck running around at the last minute trying to clean up the back door area, walk-ins, or stock rooms. And make certain that you’ve got all the necessary equipment ready to roll. That means dollies, hand carts, and anything else you use to get things from point A to point B.

Whomever you’ve chosen to receive needs to be ready with receipts, knowing exactly what to expect and from which supplier(s).

Remember, your suppliers are in this to make money too. Do your part to ensure the receiving process goes quickly so both of you can move on to the next order of business.

Guarding Against Theft

It’s never fun to discuss, but theft can and does occur. To help protect your establishment against this potential problem a few things need to be incorporated into the receiving process.

  • Ensure the same staff member(s) are consistently in charge of receiving orders. This makes people accountable.
  • When received products are moved to storage areas, it’s typically advised to have that done by your staff, and not delivery drivers.
  • If you use security cameras, be sure you have one for your delivery area, as well as your main storage areas. Liquor in particular needs to be under surveillance.

Inspecting the Goods

Count the received items to be sure that all quantities are in line with your order. Have your receiving employee(s) count up received items before looking at your order sheets. Knowing what should be there beforehand could bias their counting.

As well, be sure to inspect your orders for quality. If quality is unacceptable either straight up reject the items or negotiate a lower price point. If bottles are broken or if packages are ripped open, it will be much harder for suppliers to sell those cases elsewhere; offer to take that stock off their hands at a nice reduced price.

If frozen meats and/or fish arrive already thawed, you accept those items at your own risk and could be creating a food safety problem. To that end, be sure that these frozen items are always the first things to be stored.

For a more complete look at improving your restaurant’s ordering game, download our free ebook by clicking the image below.                         

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

Restaurant Menu Engineering: A Recipe for Success

Menu & Cutlery on A Restaurant TableRestaurant menu engineering is the delicate art of creating a menu that successfully targets guest psychology and purchasing habits. It’s the practice of guiding restaurant guests to the most profitable (and popular) items on your establishment’s menu.

Menu engineering combines aspects of marketing, psychology, graphic design, and food cost calculation in order to truly leverage the power of your most important promotional document; your menu.

Determining Contribution Margins

It’s imperative that your recipe costs be accurate before beginning the engineering process. Be sure when determining the cost of an item that you’re factoring in cost of sauces, garnishes, etc.

Effective menu engineering depends heavily on the profitability of your menu’s dishes. The contribution margin is the number you really want to focus on here.

Contribution margin is simple enough to describe, it’s defined as Menu Price of Item  minus  Cost of item. This measure is the dollar amount you ultimately end up banking off each individual item. Examples:

Clubhouse Sandwich

  • Cost: $4.79
  • Menu Price: $10.99
  • Contribution Margin: $6.20

Prime Rib Burger

  • Cost: $5.25
  • Menu Price: $12.99
  • Contribution Margin: $7.74

In this case, let’s push the Prime Rib Burger. Right?

Who’s Winning the Popularity Contest?

The other key ingredient to your engineering plan is determining the popularity of each menu item. If you’ve got a POS system worth its salt, it should not be hard to delve into its records to determine your most popular dishes.

Contribution margin tells you how much each sale of an item adds to your piggy bank. Popularity speaks to how often it sells. With those two factors determined, it’s time to do some organizing. The Prime Rib Burger has the higher contribution margin, but is it selling well? The answer to that question will help determine its placement.

Finding Your Superstars

Boston Consulting Group’s Growth-Share Matrix is often cited as the best method for categorizing menu items. It breaks items down into the following four categories:

1. Stars – These items offer both a high profit margin and sell consistently. Your menu should absolutely highlight these major players. Give them the best placement, highlight them on the page anyway you can, and have serving staff mention them regularly.

2. Plow Horses (or Workhorses if you prefer) – Items that sell well enough, but offer lower profits per plate. Consider reworking these items to reduce cost without sacrificing quality. It could involve removing a garnish or subbing out one particular ingredient. They sell well so don’t alter them too much, but find ways to decrease overall cost per item.

3. Puzzles – Items low in popularity, yet high in contribution margin. These may need a reinvention or even a slight price slash to increase sales. Consider having your serving staff more aggressively promote them to drive sales, or feature them in a promotion. They’re high in profit, so don’t completely marginalize them.

4. Dogs – Low in both popularity and contribution margin. If you can remove them from the menu, it may be the best course of action. If they’re still considered staples, consider at least deemphasizing them on the menu. Simple descriptions, no images, etc. Talk to staff and try to find the exact reasons these aren’t selling well.

Note: It’s recommended that in categorizing menu items you rate appetizers against appetizers, desserts vs desserts, etc.

Once you’ve done your costing and identified your good and bad performers, it’s time to think about menu placement and design.

Menu Design

Here is where you’ll use positioning and visual cues to more effectively highlight those star dishes. Without getting too heavily into aesthetics (e.g. font choice, color scheme), here’s a few things to keep in mind.

1. Contrary to long-standing popular wisdom, the idea that guests tend to focus first on the top right-hand corner of the menu (the supposed sweet spot) may not be entirely accurate.

In 2012, research from San Francisco State University claimed that by tracking study participants’ eye movements it was found that people typically read menus from left to right, like a book. Even the Wikipedia entry for Menu Engineering states that “to date, there is no empirical evidence on the efficacy of the sweet spots on menus.” Keep this in mind when designing your layout.

2. Highlight the profitable dishes. If you have limited space for images, make sure it’s your star performers being showcased visually. Place them in borders or boxes to really make them stand out. Add language such as “House Favorite”, “Signature Dish” or “Chef Recommends” to better bring them to a diner’s attention.

It should also be noted that there is debate about using images. Some feel that – in more upscale dining establishments at least – photographs have a way of lowering perception of a restaurant’s quality.

3. Be mindful of how many items you’re highlighting throughout the menu. Highlighting too many items could lessen the impact of your efforts. Really focus on one or two items per category (apps, entrees) for maximum effect. If everything is special, nothing is.

4. Never organize items by price. Take the guest’s focus off the item cost as best as possible. To that same end, try not to right-align prices on the menu as this tends to make them stand out far too much.

5. Research seems to confirm that dropping the dollar sign from a price can indeed increase overall guest spending. (Source)

6. List order definitely matters. Again, if diners are reading menus like a book they’ll read top to bottom. Feature the star dishes at the top of a list, and maybe slip one at the very bottom. Items just above the very last item tend to be the most ignored.

Remember, menu engineering isn’t just for your restaurant’s printed menus. Keep all of these concepts in mind when creating online menus, drink and dessert menus, table toppers, and menu boards.

Interested in saving money on both food and labor? Be sure to download the free ebook below!

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

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Online Ordering and Your Restaurant: 9 Things to Consider

online_ordering_for_restaurantsOnline ordering is quickly becoming a must-have in your restaurant’s digital toolbox. Allowing customers to order directly from your restaurant’s website can greatly increase both your delivery and pickup revenue. What restaurateur wouldn’t want to see a nice boost in takeout business?

The National Restaurant Association notes that nearly a fifth of today’s customers say technology options are an important feature that factors into full-service restaurant choices. As well, 24% of 18-34 year old diners said they consider a restaurant’s tech options when making their dining plans.

Here are some key points to consider when developing your restaurant’s process.

1. Online Ordering for Restaurants : It Starts with a Call-to-Action

Any actions you want customers to take on your website need to be supported with calls-to-action. Add a prominent button or icon to your home page marked “Order Online Now” or something similar. When visitors enter your website, they should see these calls-to-action right away.

2. Add Social Media to the Mix

Integrate your online menu with your social media presence. Facebook has now made it easier than ever to upload and display your menu on their platform. They know the importance of online ordering for the restaurant industry and have taken steps to make it as smooth as possible. Consider using any number of online ordering applications that integrate with your Facebook page. Examples include OpenDiningChowNow, and GloriaFood.

3. Make Sure It’s Mobile-Friendly 

Keep in mind that 50% of mobile phone users now use mobile as their primary means of surfing the web. Be sure whichever system you’ve implemented as your online ordering solution looks good on any mobile device.

4. Leverage Existing Technology Partners

When deciding on the right online ordering software, try discussing the issue with your current POS provider. See if they have a list of online solutions that effectively integrate with your POS system. Your POS partner may in fact already offer their own online ordering solution. This could make your decision easier, but do the research anyway. The day may come when you decide to switch POS providers.

5. Build a Database and Get Creative

One benefit of online ordering is the ability to create a robust customer database. Capturing names, email addresses, phone numbers, and purchase histories will be vital for future marketing campaigns. Make sure somewhere during the process that you get permission from customers to send them future emails. This is a golden opportunity to build your email marketing list. These customers are definitely interested in your product, they’re already ordering it!

We’ve heard of restaurants using this information to send out notices on those low-traffic storm days. Those occasions serve as a good reason to send your database a quick email reminding them of your online ordering options.

6. Save Money by Reducing Errors

Besides the time saved from online ordering (customers are doing the bulk of the work), keep in mind the amount of money to be saved by reducing communication errors. When someone self-orders their meal, you’re eliminating the possibility of a miscommunication between customer and server.

Be sure you have an option to easily produce a full written copy of the customer’s order. Imagine having that ready the next time a customer comes in claiming their order is incomplete or incorrect.

7. Make Payment Easy

Whichever service provider you choose, it’s imperative that customers are not only able to order the food from your website, but can pay for it right away. Make it as simple as you can for payment to take place and be sure to have an option for storing their payment information. That makes it even more likely that customers will return for future ordering.

8. Ask Questions, Lots of Questions

Choosing the right provider and developing the right online process requires some reflection. Take some time to think about the options and functionality you want your ordering experience to include.

  • How flexible will it be for customer substitutions?
  • Are there fields for customers to note important allergy instructions?
  • Will there be a minimum purchase requirement? A maximum?
  • Is it going to be available in languages beyond English?
  • Are there options that facilitate upselling and add-ons?
  • Can customers include a tip for the delivery/take-out worker as part of their payment?
  • Can it remember the customers’ previous order(s)?
  • Is there an option to redeem gift cards?

9. Have a Plan for Website Outages

It’s never a good thing for your website to be offline, but if you’ve invested a lot of time and effort into driving online sales a downed website can cost you serious money.

– Have a plan in place so you know exactly who to call as soon as a problem is spotted. Make certain you have the correct support phone numbers and email addresses at the ready.

– Halt any planned emails or ad campaigns until the outage is corrected. Make sure to pause any emails that may be set to launch that day.

– Use your social media accounts to let customers know of website issues and alert them to alternate ways to contact you (phone, email).

– Finally, consider using a website monitoring service (there are free options out there) to alert you of website slowdowns and outages. Also, consider having your updates go to an email address provided by a service other than the one hosting your website. Perhaps have them sent to a gmail account, or to your mobile via text.

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

Restaurants and Mother’s Day: A Few Tips

Mother’s Day, the busiest day of the year for the restaurant industry, is almost upon us. The annual salute to Mom can be a highly profitable (and stressful) affair for restaurant workers and managers everywhere.

The FoodTender team have all been there. We’ve worked on the front lines serving, cooking, and managing our way through several Mother’s Days over the years.

So, in an effort to help with this year’s onslaught, we’ve combed the web to collect a few ideas for making this year’s event a smashing success for your establishment.

Promoting

If you’re offering the usual menu on Mother’s Day, you run the risk of losing those customers looking for something a little different for that special occasion. This is the time to run a special feature.

Decide on your special and start promoting it both inside the restaurant and outside. If you have an email newsletter, Mother’s Day needs its own edition. Spread the word across your social media accounts, update your website with relevant content (perhaps a blog post), and add a memo to the bottom of your receipts. Use every channel at your disposal to make sure frequent guests know yours is the place to be on Mom’s special day.

Menu Planning 

Many restaurateurs recommend going with a smaller menu for this occasion. The key is to focus on something that makes it simple for the kitchen to put out quality dishes in the timeliest manner. On the single busiest day of the year, try to streamline your offerings in order to take at least some of the heat off your kitchen.

A smaller menu for the day also allows the back-of-house to prep efficiently. Focus on a few easy-to-prepare dishes, like fresh salads, and simple appetizers. Try not to offer a special feature that puts focus on one particular station of your kitchen. This is inefficient on the best of days; it could prove downright catastrophic with Mother’s Day’s increased traffic.

Treat Mom Like a Queen 

If you’re serious about making a good impression with Mom you’ve got to go above and beyond. A great meal and friendly service is very important, however, on this holiday, you need to take your guest experience to the next level.

Consider any of the following specials for moms:

  • Free dessert
  • Complimentary bar drink
  • Chocolates after the meal
  • Gift Cards and/or flowers

Depending on budget, you could consider hiring entertainment for the day. If you go this route, keep in mind volume and noise levels; not everyone enjoys live music while they dine. And be sure that whomever you hire to perform (bands, kids entertainer, etc) does not require much of your management’s time. You don’t need distractions taking management’s eyes off your guests.

Don’t Forget About the Kids

Where there are mothers there are children. So, be sure you’re prepared for an increase in younger guests. Few things make for an unsatisfying dining experience like a slew of unhappy, restless kids. It may be Mom’s day in the spotlight, but be sure to keep the junior diners happy as well.

Now is the time to make sure your toy box is stocked and ready to roll. Crayons and children’s placemats should be fully-stocked as well. If you’ve got extra high chairs and booster seats in storage, now would be a good time to dust them off and get them out.

Booking 

The worst thing you could do is create excessive wait times, so don’t overbook. Management needs to be very hands on with the reservation book. Make sure you’ve got well-communicated limits on how many guests you’ll serve at what time. And make sure managers and hosts know when to stop taking reservations.

Keeping parties waiting, specifically those with reservations, is a recipe for disaster.

Consider holding set seating times to avoid this hassle. For example at brunch book tables for 11:00, 12:00, and 1:00, etc. It may be worthwhile to limit large parties.

Make the Wait Bearable 

If people do have to wait to be seated, do what you can to alleviate boredom. See if you can free up extra seating in the bar area. Some restaurants prep some extra appetizer samples to be distributed in the waiting area. It’s a great excuse to push a new appetizer.

Staffing 

This one’s simple enough: make sure you have plenty of staff on to keep up with the day’s traffic. Also, be sure the Mother’s Day staff is made up of your A Team –  the cream of your crop. If you’ve got brand new staff on, let them bus tables, serve as extra dishwashers, or help with expediting.

If you’ve created special features and new menu items for the day, be sure serving staff are able to discuss the particulars with guests. This goes back to starting your prep as early as you can. Be sure to have a quick pre-shift meeting with all staff before open and/or before the next rush.

Do Something For Your Staff

You should absolutely consider doing something special for your team. Remember, they’re spending a large chunk of their Sunday away from their own mothers and families. Free staff meals, free drinks (after close of course), small gifts. Whatever you can think of. And whatever you do, don’t forget about the mothers on staff.

Create a Great Guest Experience 

Finally, here’s the part where we drop in a quick plug for another one of our posts, Create a Great Customer Service Experience in Your RestaurantMaybe give that one a read before Mom arrives.

NOTE: A version of this post originally appeared on FoodTender.com’s Strategy Blog.