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Once you’ve done all the legwork involved in creating and executing your branding strategy, it’s time to ask yourself the question: is it working?

Your first instinct is likely to check your restaurant’s reporting and analytics to assess progress, but that isn’t the only way measure the effectiveness of your restaurant branding strategy.

Here are six ways to gage whether your restaurant branding strategy is helping – or hurting – your restaurant.

1. Get Guest Feedback 

The best way to confirm whether guests “get you” and your purpose is by taking stock in the scuttlebutt – a nautical term that means gossip or word on street.  

Are your customers’ reviews consistent with your brand positioning? Do the comments regarding your restaurant’s food and service reflect your focus and your standards?

If your restaurant aims to take guests on a rich, culinary tour of the south of France with flavors and aromas inspired by the region, yet the comments you see on social media and review sites say the most Francophone thing about you are the French Fries, you’ve got a branding issue on your hands.

If customers simply don’t “get” your brand and are vocal about it, you won’t be able to put butts in seats. Case and point – A 2017 article by Foodbeast found that a half-star difference on a Yelp review rating can swing restaurant business by a whopping 27%.

2. Does Your Shirt Match Your Pants?  

Restaurants that have gone through a significant restaurant rebrand or have moved into a location formerly inhabited by another popular restaurant may find that they have a difficult time shaking the reputation attached to their name or address.

Making your restaurant concept stand out in an increasingly oversaturated market is tricky to do, and even trickier still when you’re up against long held associations guests have with your brand or location.

Big companies refocus and rebrand all the time – including Chipotle, who recently announced their aim to become a “purpose driven lifestyle brand” rather than a fast casual Mexican-American concept – and live to tell the tale, but it takes a ton of work.

This is the business version of teaching an old dog new tricks: you need to recondition your customers – and the general public – with how they associate your brand.

If you’ve found your location is causing issues because of the restaurant who lived there last – whether they were well-liked or not – don’t miss out on the opportunity to have a conversation with guests who came looking for the old restaurant or compare you to them. Being the new kid on the block will surely get you a lot of attention, which will give you ample chances to introduce your concept and squash any comparisons to old tenants.

Ask about what they liked and what they didn’t about the previous tenants; these insights will help you win over their fans and become an entrenched part of the community.

The same strategy can be used if you ever find your restaurant in the midst of a PR blunder: reframing the conversations being had about your restaurant is key to overcoming bad press and the potential for a poor reputation.

3. Cohesive Promotions  

When a new restaurant struggles to get customers in the door, they tend to panic promote.

This looks like:

  • Half price wine night on Monday
  • Half priced apps on Tuesday
  • Happy hour from 4pm – 6pm and then 10am – 2pm on Tuesday through Thursday
  • Karaoke every other Friday
  • Kids eat free on Sunday.

WHEW– that’s a lot to chew on.

When you panic promote your restaurant marketing plan looks more like a Rorschach test and less like a profitable, goal focused marketing strategy.

Since promotions typically constitute a price discount, when you run multiple promotions at once back to back you’re costing your restaurant money. You also may be confusing your customers: by giving your customers one consistent promotion to associate with your name – trivia and half priced apps every Wednesday, for example – you’re giving them a consistent reason to visit.

If your restaurant’s promotion schedule is chaotic, you have a branding problem on your hands. Restaurants with an effective brand strategy understand that every marketing action must ladder up to their brand and produce results that impact their bottom line.

Here’s an example: you’ve heard rosé is pretty popular, so you discount the one brand of rosé you have on the menu in order to attract new customers and re-engage with your existing supporters. The problem is that you’re a sports bar, and rosé isn’t a very popular option for your customers to begin with. This promotion is doing nothing for your bottom line, it’s not introducing you to the customers you want, it’s costing you money, and it’s out of touch with your brand.

4. Discount Smart

Using discounting as a way to create value for your guests is a mistake; besides costing you potential revenue, you’re also setting guests up to have a discounted view of your brand.

What this means is customers will never accept paying full price for certain items or their meal in general because they’ve grown accustomed to always having a discount available.

This strategy plagues a number of common brands, mainly in retail – J.Crew, Macy’s, and Old Navy come to mind – and shoppers know to avoid spending money there until they have a discount (which they can count on arriving every few weeks).

Groupon is the prime example of a discounting tactic that could be hurting your restaurant’s brand.  

Once Groupon has been permanently introduced as part of your restaurant’s culture – it’s virtually impossible to build back value in the brand; guests looking for a deal simply don’t return when the deal no longer exists. Your restaurant may have a full dining room, but guests will be paying roughly half the price and the will only remember the discount they received and not the brand.  

Referred guests will now have the wrong expectation of the business when they don’t receive the same “deal.”

Groupon is a great way to get people in the door when you’re new, or to fill seats on your consistently slow shifts, but don’t lean on it for too long.

Side note: Due to the slim margins of the hospitality industry – the chances of bankruptcy also increase dramatically.  

5. Have a Clear Sense of Self

Having a vision for your restaurant is much more than drafting up a  business plan.

It’s a set of goals and aspirations you have for your restaurant brand, both qualitative and quantitative.

Here are a few examples:

  • I want my restaurant to be the #1 {insert restaurant type} in my area on Yelp or Tripadvisor.
  • I want to be able to ask anyone in my area if they’ve heard of my restaurant, and always be met with a “yes.”
  • I want to serve 10,000 customers in a month.
  • I want to have over 1,000 customers in my loyalty program.
  • I want to make a difference in my community.
  • I want to help my employees establish long term careers in hospitality.

Great brands know who they are and why they’re here (mission), know what they stand for (purpose), and know who they want to become (goals); this is what is known as having a solid brand vision.

Mission + Purpose + Goals = Brand Vision

Educating and empowering your team to embody this vision is an integral part of making your brand vision a reality for your restaurant. Celebrity Chef Chris Hill put it best when he said,

“At the end of the day, it's about getting your team to buy into the mission, and the only way to get them to really do that is to include them in the bigger mission and make each person feel like they are a valued member of the organization.

You can always tell when a restaurant has no identity – just watch the staff for 10 minutes.

Typically, they are completely disengauged. You can spot them huddled by the service station rather than conversing with guests and building relationships; they may be expressionless, resembling highly efficient drones working each guest as if they just piled off a cruise ship.  They have the “get em’ in and get em’ out” mentality, without a care for what happens in between.

The in between is your guest experience.  

Perfectly entwined in your guest experience should be your brand vision. 

Educating your staff about your restaurant’s brand strategy creates ownership and accountability – without it, you have no chance of reaching every guest properly or consistently.  

You can never spend enough time educating your team; create a culture of lifelong learning within your restaurant. Everyone can always be better!

But remember: education isn’t a one-way street. Engage with your team by asking for their feedback. It is most certainly a dynamic process where ideas are brought forward and validated through consistent experiences between the team and the guest.

6. Give It Time

You’ve heard the phrase that to become an expert at anything you need to put in 10,000 hours of practice.

Branding strategies take time to execute on properly. You cannot develop consistency without putting in the time necessary. Implementing your brand strategy effectively will take time and patience, but in the long run it will enable to you to avoid the messiness that knee jerk reactions cause. 

When presented with a new business decision that doesn’t have any time constraints, pause and take your time ensuring your solution is inline with your restaurants brand vision and brand strategy.

A household name is not made overnight – give you and your team time and patience to grow and iterate on your restaurant brand strategy. If you find something about your brand doesn’t resonate with your target customer, adjust so that your brand and their values are synonymous.

Put Plan to Action

An effective restaurant branding strategy wins you customers and keeps your restaurant name top of mind with existing guests.

You won’t know until you try, and try, and try. Persistence and patience are key when it comes to implementing a restaurant branding strategy.

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When you find a great candidate for your restaurant staff, time is of the essence: you need to secure his or her employment before another restaurant sweeps them up.

Quality candidates are hard to find and hard to keep: at present, the restaurant industry has found itself victim to a nationwide, multi-industry labor shortage

Add to that the fact that only 68% of job offers are accepted – a stat that has been steadily declining since 2015 as the economy has improved – and you now have even further incentive to write and deliver your restaurant's offer letter as soon as your team decides to hire someone. 

In this article, we'll:

  • Highlight the essentials of a great restaurant offer letter.
  • Cover the format you should follow when writing an offer letter.
  • Provide you with a restaurant offer letter sample template for free.
Part 1: Choosing the Best Candidate

Quick disclaimer before we get to the offer letter – make sure you're delivering it to the right person!

If you hire the wrong candidate, all the effort you put into writing the offer letter will have gone to waste when they quit upon realizing your restaurant isn't the place for them, or when you inevitably have to let them go upon realizing they're not a fit for your restaurant. Both scenarios are pretty common in the restaurant space and directly contribute to the 72.9% annual employee turnover rate plaguing our industry. 

This is why you need to master the interview process. Check out these resources below for helpful tips and best practices for sourcing, interviewing, and extending an offer to the right restaurant employees:

For more tips, watch the video from The Restaurant Boss, Ryan Gromfin – a frequent writer for the Toast Blog – below. 

3 Steps to Hiring Better Quality Restaurant Employees - YouTube


Part 2: Inform the Candidate of the Incoming Offer

Once you're ready to officially make an offer, give the candidate a call and let them know an offer letter is coming their way. 

Do this as soon as you're sure you're extending an offer to a candidate you want on your restaurant staff, as 32% of job offers are rejected because the candidate took another offer and another 11% rejected an offer due to a lengthy hiring process. 

Use this phone conversation to gauge their interest in working at your restaurant before sending the letter – there's a chance they may have decided not to take the job with your company, which means you can instead extend the offer to any other candidates you had on the table, or hit the ground running by interviewing other prospective restaurant employees.

The offer letter you send should be the final version – make sure discussions of role, start date, pay, and expectations are settled before delivering the letter. 

Part 3: Drafting the Offer Letter

Now for the main event – the job offer letter. 

A restaurant job offer letter is the way that you and your candidate "get it in writing", taking you both one step closer to an official, professional relationship. 

The offer letter is more than just an official invitation for employment – it's one more chance to showcase your brand to a future staff member and to start communicating clearly and openly about your goals, your restaurant mission statement, and your values. 

Your offer letter needs to have a few fundamentals, such as:

  • Your restaurant name
  • Date of offer
  • Expected start date 
  • Signature for agreement. 


Once you've covered the basics about their role, responsibilities, and your expectations, add in details about additional workplace perks and benefits that make the role and working for your restaurant all the more enticing. Consider plugging these in:

  • A brief welcome to the team message 
  • Benefits and time off
  • Pay
  • An encouragement to read more in the official employee handbook

A restaurant job offer letter should be as thorough as possible without running on for pages and pages. Give the reader all the information they'll need to make an informed decision about the role and your restaurant and leave your contact information for any questions they may have. 

Part 4: Close the Deal!

If your offer letter is as killer as it ought to be – full of details, information, and wording that aligns with your restaurant's brand and vision – the candidate should have no problem signing, sealing, and delivering it immediately. 

Included on the letter should be a decision deadline – typically one week after an offer has been extended to a job candidate – as well as the preferred delivery method (email, in person, etc.).

Once the candidate is signed, it's your job to follow through with the expectations you've set regarding hours, pay, benefits, and workplace culture. 

Here are a few assets that can help you onboard new hires more efficiently and keep them around longer:

Download the Restaurant Hiring Kit for a Free Restaurant Job Offer Letter Template Below!
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A restaurant is only as successful as the team running it.

Ask anyone who's worked in a restaurant, and they'll tell you their coworkers are family first, friends second, and colleagues third.

Working together for 12+ hours a day in an environment that Celebrity Chef Chris Hill dubbed "one of the most challenging environments to work in – it’s hot, it’s unpredictable, and it’s very manual-labor intensive." 

As America finds itself in the midst of a restaurant labor shortage, finding and retaining quality restaurant staff members has become a massive challenge; simply put, there are too many kitchens and not enough cooks to go around. 

Whether you're a new restaurant owner wondering how you should structure your team, where you should look for candidates, and what a quality candidate looks like,  or you're a veteran operator wondering what positions are the most essential to the health of your business and which spots you should prioritize filling first, we've got the answers

Here are 15 restaurant positions – from the dish pit to the host stand – you can and should hire for ASAP.

Assistant Restaurant Manager

Average Assistant Restaurant Manager Salary: $35,000-$40,000

Description: The assistant manager is the general manager's understudy; think of them as a restaurant manager in training.  Typically, the assistant manager takes on whatever tasks the restaurant manager doesn't have time to handle, like approving shift changes, cash-outs, deciding server sections, etc.  An effective assistant restaurant manager will be able to step in for the MOD – manager on duty – seamlessly. 

The ultimate goal for this position is to move up to the restaurant's general manager position.

Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Extensive industry knowledge, experience working in a restaurant, experience managing employees, strong organizational skills, strong interpersonal skills.  

Bartender 

Average Bartender Salary: $19,000-$23,000 (plus tips)

Description: Whether it's a coffee bar or a nighttime bar, the person who fills this restaurant position should be extremely knowledgeable in their mixology skills.

When the line builds up, it's up to them to bust it with order accuracy and plenty of flair.

You'll also need someone extremely personable behind that counter - this can be a stressful position, and so you'll need someone who can get the job done and still have fun. There will also be plenty of slow nights keeping the bar, so make sure they can hold a conversation well.

Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Experienced behind the bar, personable, and speedy. 

Listen Below: Award-Winning Bartender Sam Treadway on The Garnish
Episode 7: Sam Treadway / How to Become a Bartender - SoundCloud
(2795 secs long, 298 plays)Play in SoundCloud
Bar Manager

Average Bar Manager Salary: $50,000, but heavily dependent on experience.

Description: Your bar manager will be responsible for planning anything and everything related to your restaurant's bar and bar offerings. Duties include bar inventory management, creating drink menus, rotating drink choices, hiring and managing bar staff, and performing bar performance reporting. 

This restaurant position should be filled by someone who has extensive bar experience; they likely consider themselves a mixologist. A qualified candidate will be up on the latest in national beer trends, be able to make informed drink suggestions to guests based on their preferences, and have a strong command behind the bar. 

Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position:  A passion for alcohol (not just drinking it, but pouring it), personable, creative, experience managing employees.  

Barback

Average Barback Salary: Minimum wage (plus a nightly tip out from the bar staff) 

Description: A barback is a bartender's apprentice; this position is typically filled by individuals who have the goal of becoming a bartender but don't have the skills needed yet. Their responsibilities include pouring beer and wine for guests (mixing complicated cocktails is reserved for bartenders), getting ice, restocking garnishes, restocking glassware,  and making sure the bar has everything need to operate.

Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Aspirations of becoming a bartender, good under pressure, determination, patience, willingness to learn. 

Busser

Average Busser Salary: State minimum wage + nightly tip out from servers and bartenders

Description: A busser is responsible for clearing tables and re-setting them for continued use. They need to be attentive during meal service, scanning over the room to see if guests have cups, plates, or cutlery that need clearing. Bussers are also  responsible for keep server stations stocked with additional place settings, napkins, etc. While servers should be trained to not rely on anyone else to bus their tables, in fine dining restaurants or quick service restaurants where there aren't servers, bussers are a surefire way to keep the dining area clean.

Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Independent worker, able to ancticipate guests needs, not grossed out by dirty dishes.  

Cashier

Average Restaurant Cashier Salary: State Minimum Wage 

Description: It's easy to designate a high-schooler looking for part time work or a college student home for the summer, but you should take great care to fill this role well. For those getting takeout, it's likely that the cashier will be the only person the customer interacts with.

They should be polite when taking orders in person and over the phone.

The cashier also needs to keep the line moving during busy times without compromising the accuracy of orders or their level of service. 

Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Kind, dedicated, and possessing a measurable level of interest in the industry. 

Catering Manager 

Average Restaurant Catering Manager Salary: $43,000-$48,000

Description: If you offer catering, this is a crucial restaurant position to fill. During the season of graduation parties, wedding anniversaries, and even some holidays, you will need a full-time catering manager to a.) ensure orders are coming in, and b.) make sure those orders are fulfilled properly. The candidate you hire should be organized and able to plan for the fluctuation that the job will require.

Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Organized, skilled in marketing, and experienced in event planning. 

Delivery Driver

Average Restaurant Delivery Driver Salary: State Minimum Wage (plus tips, see tip credit debate)

Description: Obviously a necessary position to all restaurants who offer delivery, your driver should be someone who values punctuality.

References help, and it's beneficial when the driver is familiar with the area you expect them to deliver to.

Also, since this is likely the only  person your delivery customer will interact with, make sure they are friendly and will represent your restaurant well - because on the customers doorstep, you won't be able to control what happens. 

Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Personable, trustworthy, clean driving record. 

Dishwasher

Average Restaurant Dishwasher Salary: State Minimum Wage 

Description: All restaurants use dishes, plates, pots and pans, silverware, and/or cooking utensils. Since you probably don't have the time to wait around for your dishwashing machine to do everything, a human dishwasher helps speed up the cleaning process so that your entire supply of forks don't end up in a 40-minute wash cycle.

Make sure the one who fills this restaurant position doesn't let minor details slip by - one missed spot could result in a lost customer. A low-skill position does not mean a low-impact position.

Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Attentive to detail, quick, and focused.  

Expeditor/Runner

Average Expo/Food Runner Salary: State Minimum Wage

Description: The food expeditor – also known as the expo or runner – is responsible for assembling orders on the line and running the completed order to the table in a full service restaurant. For takeout, they will do the same for those waiting to take their food to go.

The one who fills this restaurant position should be good under pressure, and good at organizing many moving parts at once as they'll have many tickets to assemble at any given time. There will also be a brief moment of interaction between them and the guest when they drop the food off, so this staff member should personable and social as well.

Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Good at remembering, speedy, and social.

Head/Executive Chef 

Average Head Chef Salary: $60,000-$65,000 

Description: The executive chef – or head chef – conceptualizes and creates your restaurant's menu. 

You'll want a creative, culinary mastermind in this position, as they're entirely responsible for the tastes and flavors on your guests plates.

An executive chef should have years of experience working in the kitchen, have a deep understanding of how ingredients relate to one another, and be able to whip up recipes that not only delight guests tastebuds, but keep your operating budget in check. 

Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Familiar with tastes of the world, passionate, and imaginative.

Host/Hostess

Average Restaurant Host/Hostess Salary: State Minimum Wage

Description: In full-service restaurants, the host or hostess tends to be the first point of contact for the guest and the restaurant. For all visits - especially first-time visits - it is crucial that you put someone at the host stand who will leave guests with the best first impression possible. 

Your host or hostess should be able approachable and personable, able to follow the organizational structure of your reservation system, understand your guest seating strategy, be attentive to parties in the waiting area, and able to coordinate takeout orders. 

Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Polite, attentive, and good under pressure.

Kitchen Manager

Average Kitchen Manager Salary: $47,000-$53,000

Description: Your kitchen managers help to run the back-of-house operations. They should be able to convey immediacy in the kitchen while also keeping sanity and being respectful. Otherwise, cooks can become frustrated and turnover will inevitably increase. The kitchen manager should also be organized, keeping close track of inventory to make the appropriately sized orders to suppliers. 

Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Commanding, respectful, and authoritative. 

Line Cook

Average Line Cook Salary: Slightly Above Minimum Wage 

Description: Where a head chef is the brains behind your kitchen, line cooks are the engine churning out dish after dish. 

In a kitchen, line cooks are given a station to man for the duration of meal service – like pasta, burgers, or wings – and will need to be able to maintain focus on the same task for a few hours time. 

When hiring line cooks, look for candidates who have been trained in basic, universal cooking techniques that they can apply to each of your cooking stations (ex: they may be on pasta one evening, but switch to burgers the next night). 

Line cooks typically have ambitions to rise in the kitchen ranks, so look for candidates who are looking to learn all that they can in order to grow their career. 

Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Attentive, energetic, fast-moving.

Restaurant Manager

Average Restaurant Manager Salary: $50,000 for most restaurants, up to $75,000+ for fancier establishments

Description: This is arguably the most important restaurant position. Most people have the ability to work in a restaurant, but it takes a unique person to manage it. Before hiring or promoting someone to manager, make sure they are dedicated to both the restaurant industry and working in your restaurant.

This person should also be a full culture fit, since they will likely be interacting with and/or training everyone on your staff. This person should also be qualified to hire, fire, and reprimand employees when necessary, and serve as an extension of the restaurant owner. 

Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Driven to better your restaurant, experienced in front of house and back of house, and possessive of fantastic leadership skills. 

Server (Waiter/Waitress)

Average Restaurant Server Salary: State minimum wage for tipped wage employees.

Description: FSRs owe a lot to their waitstaff. Not only are they the direct point of contact for your guests if they need anything, they are the one your guests interact with most in a restaurant. If they encounter a bad-tempered host or aren't greeted by a busser when walking by, these interactions can possibly be overlooked.

A bad server, however, can ruin a guest's dining experience fully. 

All of the skills we've mentioned thus far for other positions apply to servers, who should be doing everything in their power to ensure a phenomenal visit for each and every guest they serve. With that said, it's best not to hire a "warm body."  Instead, fill this position with somebody who genuinely wants to work in your restaurant. You'll need someone who isn't afraid to be social but won't lose sight of the importance of their job.

Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Passionate, talkative, and vigilant. 

Sous Chef

Average Sous Chef Salary: $40,000-$45,000 

Description: The Vice President of the kitchen, a sous chef assists the executive/head chef and stands in for them when needed.

Make sure the person you appoint to this restaurant position has good chemistry with the executive/head chef - this will help avoid conflict in the kitchen and keep things running smoothly in the back of the house.

They will also need to be familiar with recipes and comfortable taking a leadership role when required. Since they may be moving up to the position in the foreseeable future, make sure this position is filled by someone you can see leading your kitchen entirely one day. 

Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Possesses leadership potential, culinary prowess, and a good attitude.

Building Your All-Star Restaurant Staff

No matter if your restaurant staff consists of people in all of these positions or only some of them, your team should run like a well-oiled machine. That's why we've developed The Restaurant Hiring Kit to help you hire a better restaurant staff.

In this exclusive offer, you'll get:

  • An eBook on restaurant hiring best practices.
  • A template for job postings.
  • A restaurant interview prompt.
  • A sample offer letter. 
  • And more!
Don't let one bad staff member ruin the reputation of your restaurant.  
Download a free copy of The Restaurant Hiring Kit below!
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Employee incentive programs have the potential to make a huge impact on your restaurant’s sales, costs, and service.

Josh Sapienza, from Hospitality Helpline says, “An intelligently and equitably designed incentive program inexorably ties staff to (controllable) financials and operational performance while creating a fun reward system.”

Restaurants with employee incentive programs have reported a 64% increase in the level of employee engagement then those without one.

An employee incentive program is a great way to reinforce positive behavior or training. It motivates staff to:

  • sell more through upselling and suggestive selling.
  • refer quality potential team members.
  • push a certain product or item.
  • increase your staff members’ quality of service.
  • expand your restaurant staffs’ product knowledge.

When incentives are properly used, you don’t have to force the information down your staff members’ throats; they will proactively seek it out and want to improve themselves.     

What Are The Characteristics Of A Great Employee Incentive Program?

Employee incentive programs break up the monotony of the dining room repetition, excite and motivate your staff to want to excel, and reinforce training and policy compliance. 

Just remember that none of this means anything unless it has been communicated and outlined clearly. Although 75% of organizations have an incentive program, only 58% of employees know about it, according to Bersin.

When looking at effective employee incentive programs, whether team-driven or individual, there are two key aspects to consider:

  1. The benefit of participating – the prizes
  2. The program itself – how do you earn said prizes?

Remember: the program and the prize must match.

Some employee incentive programs are nightly, while others might run for a week or even a quarter, so the prizes should align with the length or effort.

Beware of winner-takes-all incentives: if the competition becomes a run-away win or the same three people are consistently winning employee incentive competitions, the rest of the staff will disengage and lose interest.  

I have personally found there is almost no greater incentive than honest recognition and genuine praise. In fact, McKinsey found praise and commendation from managers was rated the top motivator for performance, beating out other non cash and financial incentives, by a majority of workers (67%).  

Make sure that with any of the prizes, whether they are games or contests, you are always dishing out a heavy heaping of recognition. And not just to the winner, but to everyone who is putting out effort; make sure you are both privately and publicly recognizing both, effort and performance.   

Effective, Creative, Employee Incentive Program Ideas

Here are a few of my favorite, effective, employee incentive programs:

1. Server Bingo

The most popular game used as part of an employee incentive program has to be "Server Bingo."

Server bingo is great shift game you can play almost any night of the week.

It's played just like regular bingo, but instead of numbers, the squares are replaced with menu items or upsell opportunities; you can play by completing rows, four-corners or black-out style, meaning all the squares must be filled to win.

Server bingo can be played competitively, where the first person to achieve a bingo or black-out board wins either the only prize or a grand prize, or individually, where any team member who achieves bingo during their shift wins a prize.

Lexi Kaye, manager of Stoneforge Tavern and Publick House in Massachusetts, adds a twist. “On the back of the bingo card are a list of different incentives, like $10 restaurant cash for two bottles of wine in a shift or $5 restaurant cash to pick up a hole.”

2. Server Poker

Next, is another fun game: "Server Poker."

This game is played like a poker run: each time you sell a certain menu item, particular upsell, or perform in an exemplary manner that the manager deems reward-worthy, the employee gets to choose a card (face down) out of a deck.

At the end of the night (or week), the staff member with the best five-card poker hand wins the prize.

If a staff member has pulled more than five cards, they get to choose their best five cards to submit for play; you can also do a bonus two-card pull for certain key focuses or achievements.

One aspect of server poker that I really enjoy is that there is a touch of luck involved, so it’s an easier game for new team members to win.

3. Caught Doing Good Buck

One of my personal favorites is the "Caught Doing Good Buck."

I first started using this at Saddle Ranch Chop House in Hollywood.

Here’s the gist: each "buck" equals $1 off any in-house food, beverage or merchandise; the bucks could be saved and used together all at once.

All managers carried bucks with them, and any time exemplary performance was observed, the manager would first verbally reinforce the positive action and then quantify that reinforcement by giving them a buck.

4. Review Site Praise

Here’s an employee incentive that kicks back to both your staff and your business: positive review content.

Offer a prize to the staff member responsible for the most five-star reviews written on Tripadvisor or Yelp within a month's time. Staff should encourage customers to include their name in the review, so that you and the rest of your restaurant’s management team can tell who’s responsible for which reviews.

When it comes to deciding on a prize, it’s best to think in these terms: if a magic Yelp fairy showed up and offered you genuine five-star reviews, how much would you pay for each review? $25, $50, $100?

However much you’d be willing to pay is what the prize should be valued at.

This contest isn’t just rewarding good behavior, it's powering positive marketing. Additionally, make sure you’re posting the reviews up on the employee board for all to see.

5. Sales Contests

Customize your sales contests to fit your restaurant’s revenue or budgetary needs.

For example, if it’s the second to last week of the month and you notice you’re cutting it close with regard to hitting your monthly sales goal, have a quick 10-day sales contest to get you over the hump.  

If you have a surplus of kegs of particular beer and you want them gone, have a sales contest to see who can sell the most of that kind of beer to move through the inventory more quickly.

Short-term sales contests are great for immediate results, whereas long term sales contests are a great way to make incremental change over time; long-term sales contests are also where you use those big, valuable, grand prizes. 

Rita Imerson, a hospitality, training and operational consultant for Synergy Consultants said, “I like a team month-long contest with a big prize at the end and we work with vendors to supply those. I did a month-long contest on increased liquor sales and made baskets for the winners with liquor or wine, gift cards, wine openers and then some items I knew they would enjoy. It was a huge hit and the staff was really into it.”

6. Referral Bonus

Next is a "Referral Bonus" for referring a new, quality member to your restaurants team.

CareerBuilder found losing a good hire opportunity costs the business on average $30,00.

How much do you pay for recruitment? What is a great employee worth to you? Instead of paying for ads and hoping they work out, incentivize your staff to personally invite the best people they know to join the team.

This referral bonus activates only after a successful hire, onboard, and three months of employment. This strategy encourages tenure, and will save you big money: roughly $11 billion is lost annually to employee turnover, according to Bloomberg.

What Restaurant Employee Incentive Prizes Work? 

Now for the fun stuff: let’s talk about prizes.

Before we get into prizes that actually incentivize, let’s quickly touch on the do-not’s. If the incentive prize is weak, your staff will feel unmotivated to work any harder and may potentially be offended that you’d even offer something so worthless.  

Like swag: stop rewarding your staff with the free promotional materials you get from distributors and vendors.

Your staff doesn’t care about key chains, rope necklace shot glasses, or alcohol-branded T-shirts. These are fun things to give away during events at your restaurant, but don’t try to tie them to a request to increase performance or effort; everyone on your staff knows these items sitting are in a cardboard box in your dry storage.

On the flip side, cash isn’t always king. Incentive Marketing Association found that 65% of employees preferred non-cash incentives.

So now the real question, what employee incentive prizes actually work?

1. Gift Cards 

Gift cards are a great incentive.

Again, choose wisely; your safest bets are practical gift cards, like one for gas, Target, Starbucks, or a cash value card from Visa or MasterCard. Only offer gift cards that are universally used. Stay away from any genre-specific gift cards.  

2. Free Food or Meals 

Free food or meals is always an easy prize – everyone needs to eat.

Giving an employee food as a reward is great because they’re trying the menu and becoming more familiar with your restaurant’s dishes. They’ll now be able to give customers menu recommendations based on their own taste buds, not just your handbook's description.

Lakewood Brewing Company gives employees "a per diem per quarter to spend on in-house products. It's a really great way to boost team morale." 

It also allows the owner to give something that has a higher perceived value than the actual cost.

3. Trade Gift Cards With A Local Restaurant

At some point, no matter how great your food is, veteran staff will have eaten everything on the menu a hundred times and grown tired of your offerings.

Sydney Smith Stopka of Back Home Restaurant in Kentucky said, “Everyone loves free food. But employees do get burnt out eating the same thing every day.”

So, try doing a gift card exchange with other local restaurants to establish stronger relationships with other leaders in your restaurant community and expand your own staff’s culinary horizons.

Trade the same amount of gift cards – say five – with the same value preloaded.

Because you'll be getting staff from other restaurants coming in to your site, make sure to delight them with exemplary service:. if you do a good job, this sharing program can create some new regular guests for you.  

4. Guaranteed Holiday Off

This one is a monster of an incentive that must be given out sparingly; guaranteeing a major holiday off is a good prize for a long-term contest.

First pick which holidays are up for consideration. The employee (with stated length for prior notice) is able to be guaranteed to be off for their choice of Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year's. 

5. In-House Shift Coupons

Another big hit in the employee incentive prize category are coupons for things like: 

  • choice of a section
  • no side work
  • first let go on a given shift

These make great prizes that servers and bartenders really value. If the coupon redemption involves prior scheduling, then the coupon can only be redeemed for use prior to that schedule being made.

6. Run A Co-Branded Contest With A Rep or Distributor

The last prize is hosting a co-branded contest with one of your distributors or vendors; having two brands contributing to the pot will yield a more substantial prize.

Talk to your reps, ask them, what brands do they have marketing dollars for? Then tell them you are interested in doing a sales contest to drive volume on that product.  Ask them, is their marketing budget willing to contribute towards incentivizing the sales contest? Getting things like local sports team or concert tickets I have found to be pretty effortless.  

As a young bartender, I was involved in a month-long Anheuser-Busch sales contest; the top ten finishers got to attend a Lakers games in the private Anheuser-Busch box, including complimentary food, beverage, and limo ride.

I remember being extremely motivated to sell and still, now almost two decades later, have fond memories of that experience.

Motivate, Incentivize, Whatever You Call It: Just Do It

American philosopher, Henry David Thoreau once told a story that perfectly paints the picture of exactly why employee incentive programs work.

He told about how he and his father were trying to get a calf out of a barn that didn’t want to go. Thoreau's  father was pushing on the calf while he pulled yet the more force the two men used and the harder they pushed, the more the young cow would resist and lower its haunches.  

Does this sound familiar? Does your staff resist when you push a strategy to increase sales or give better service? Have you found that the more you try to force a policy, the more pushback and resistance you get?   

Thoreau went on to explain how the housemaid who had been watching lent them her expertise; gently sticking her thumb in the calf’s mouth, the calf began to suckle. Then, all she has to do was slowly lead the way and the calf followed.

The principle she understood was that you can’t force a person to do anything that they don’t want to do. They have to want to do it; it must be their idea.

This parable is why employee incentive programs are so successful: the employee incentive program becomes the suckling thumb, and your restaurant staff the calf. They'll go anywhere you want if you give them the right motivation.

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This morning we announced that Toast raised $115M of additional funding led by T. Rowe Price and Tiger Global Management. You can read the full press release here and access some of the coverage here.

I wanted to take a minute this afternoon to share some additional perspective on how we will put the funding to work as we deliver on our mission to empower the restaurant community so you can delight your guests, do what you love, and thrive.

As our pace of growth accelerates here at Toast – revenue has increased 150% in the past year – I spend a significant amount of time speaking with our new employees. I remind them that, as a company, we’ve been obsessed with restaurant success since day one.

It is our first core value as a company.  

So it is only appropriate that while we’re sharing the news today about the Series D investment from our newest investors, it was just over a week ago that we recognized the fifth anniversary of our very first customer on the Toast platform – Barismo.

It is awe-inspiring for many of us to look back and realize that in five short years we have grown from a single customer near our headquarters here in Boston to a vibrant community of restaurants that numbers in the tens of thousands across all 50 states.

Perhaps an even more powerful testament to the growth of our customer community is the growth experienced by so many of our customers. Whether it is a single location like O’Maddy’s Bar and Grille that increased sales 20% through the use of handheld technology or a publicly traded company like Jamba Juice transitioning to Toast, the success in our customer community is palpable.  

As the Toast community has grown to include tens of thousands of restaurants, supported by over 1,000 Toast employees across more than 30 states, our mission has remained constant. At Toast, each of our employees is committed to empowering the restaurant community to delight their guests, do what they love, and thrive.

You see, we didn’t found Toast to create just another point-of-sale platform. The purpose of Toast runs much deeper.

At our core, we believe that we’re enabling restaurants to deliver a new vision of hospitality – one that is guest-first and data-driven. Our vision of hospitality is one where technology is enabling you to not only grow your business, but also to contribute to your local economy, hire and retain the best and brightest talent, and allow your team to deliver an amazing guest experience.

And to do this we must continue to invest in our platform, hire incredibly talented employees, and build the infrastructure to support a truly global company. The opportunity to help restaurants of all sizes navigate a rapidly changing environment – where consumer expectations are shifting as a result of macro-trends like convenience and mobility – is universal.  

I fundamentally believe that this investment is a coming out party not only for Toast, but also for the restaurant industry as a whole. Collectively a number of talented investors have invested well over $200 million in Toast during the past five years to enable a vision of the future that is informed by data, where restaurant technology can serve as an engine for growth, and where restaurants of all sizes can gain access to technology once accessible to only the largest chains.

This allows all restaurants to thrive.  

As a technology partner to each of our customers, no matter how big or small, we need to stay one step ahead of our community as it evolves. With this latest funding we will accelerate our investment in a number of areas.

Let me share some thoughts.

#1) Research & Development

We’re in the early days of delivering our new vision of hospitality in the restaurant industry – one that extends from the front of house to the back of house, across guest-facing technology and even the back office. Delivering this new vision will require best-in-class system performance, innovative new capabilities, a vibrant partner ecosystem, and customer-driven features.  

We will continue to invest in our platform ahead of the growth in our community to make sure you have access to an easy-to-use platform and tools to attract and engage new guests, deliver an amazing experience, and – most importantly – keep them coming back.

#2) Customer Success

We also realize that it takes more than great technology to be successful in the restaurant industry. That is why we will continue to invest in the next generation of customer success on our platform.  

Today one out of every four new customers on Toast is referred to us by a member of our community. We’re grateful for your support and we will continue to invest in your success through programs like the Food for Thought event series, platforms like Toast Central, and our customer education team Toast University. 

Roughly two-thirds of our employees have worked in restaurants, so finding innovative and easy ways to tap into this expertise is an important driver for us.

#3) Hiring the Best Talent

To support our community’s continued growth, we will continue to invest in our physical presence both here in the states and abroad.  

In the past year we’ve opened offices across the globe from Dublin, Ireland to Portland, Oregon.  Our newest office in Omaha, Nebraska will support an expanded relationship and customer-facing set of teams as we deliver on our commitment to unrivaled customer success.

Together each office allows us to hire the best and brightest to focus on restaurant technology, in addition to the teams of Toasters that we have in several major markets connecting directly with restaurants.

Here's to the Future!

I’d like to close by thanking you for your support across the last five years. Together, we’re enabling a level of innovation in our industry that wouldn’t have been possible when we first launched Toast.  

It’s been an incredible journey to this point but, while we’ve come so far together, we are really just getting started.

Thank you.

Chris

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Ba-da-ba-ba-da, I’m lovin’ it.

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t sing that tune in their head as they read along. It’s permeated the minds of kids and adults alike to remind everyone of the golden arches just around the corner. While McDonald's has cycled through a whole slew of slogans over the decades, this one has stuck the longest.

The benefits of a restaurant slogan are numerous indeed, but top few are: 

  • Capturing attention.
  • Retaining awareness.
  • Opportunity for the restaurant to communicate their brand.

McDonalds isn’t the only restaurant that has used slogans to their advantage; many restaurants across the globe use slogans to capture guests' attention.

Without further ado, here’s a list of 38 of my top favorite restaurant slogans of all time, followed by three tips on how to write your restaurant slogan. 

The 38 Best Restaurant Slogans of All Time
  1. A&W – Where the food’s as good as the root beer.
  2. Arby’s – It’s good mood food.
  3. Arby’s – We have the meats.
  4. Blaze Pizza – Fast Fire'd.
  5. Burger King – Have it your way.
  6. Burger King – It takes two hands to hold a Whopper.
  7. Carl’s Jr. – Don’t bother me, I’m eating.
  8. Chipotle – Food with integrity.
  9. Dairy Queen – Hot eats, cold treats.
  10. Dunkin Donuts – America runs on Dunkin. 
2010 Dunkin Donuts Commercial - YouTube
  1. El Pollo Loco – When you’re crazy for chicken.
  2. Five Guys – Always fresh, never frozen.
  3. Hardee's – We’re out to win you over.
  4. Hardee's – Where the food’s the star.
  5. Harvey’s – Meat. Fire. Good.
  6. IHOP (or is it now IHOb?) – Come hungry, leave happy.
  7. Jack in the Box – We don’t make it ‘til you order it.
  8. Jimmy John’s – Freaky fast, freaky good.
  9. Jimmy John’s – Serious delivery.
KFC Commercial 2017 - (USA) - YouTube
  1. KFC – Finger lickin’ good.
  2. KFC – Life tastes better with KFC.
  3. Long John Silver's – We speak fish.
  4. McDonald’s – I’m lovin’ it.
  5. McDonald’s – Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun.
  6. Olive Garden – When you’re here, you’re family.
  7. Papa John’s – Better ingredients. Better pizza.  
  8. Pizza Hut – The flavor of now.
  9. Popeye’s Chicken – Louisiana fast. 
TV Spot - Popeyes Buttermilk Biscuit Butterfly Shrimp - Amazing Flavors - Louisiana Fast - YouTube
  1. Qdoba – What are you going to love at Qdoba?
  2. Quiznos – Mmmmm… Toasty!
  3. Sonic – America’ drive in.
  4. Subway – Eat fresh.
  5. Taco Bell – Think outside the bun.
  6. Taco Bell – Yo quiero Taco Bell.
  7. Wendy’s – Where’s the beef?
  8. Wendy’s – It’s way better than fast food. It’s Wendy’s.
  9. White Castle – What you crave.
  10. Zero’s Subs – We’re hot and on a roll.

How to Make a Restaurant Slogan (and What to Avoid)

Restaurant slogans come in many shapes and sizes, but there tends to be a recipe for success to get your slogan to stick. The Daily Meal writes that the most successful slogans are “short and snappy; they somehow define what the product is, and most importantly they know their audience.”

While others may have their own criteria for success, below are the general rules of thumb that I’ve pulled based on my list of favorites.

Rule of Thumb #1: Keep it short and simple, yet memorable.

Brevity is a necessity so that restaurant-goers can easily recall the slogan.

As a general rule of thumb, try to keep your slogan under 10 words. Using writing techniques like alliteration or rhymes will help it roll of the tongue better. For example, the Arby’s slogan “Good mood food” listed above keeps it short and to the point with the use of three rhyming words.

Arby's 2011 Commercial - YouTube
  Rule of Thumb #2: Consider your target market.

Who is the common visitor at your restaurant? If you attract families, your slogan should be family-friendly and authentic in nature. If your primary focus is younger adults who want their food fast and accurately, slogans like Jimmy John’s “Freaky fast, freaky good” resonate well.

It’s also important to consider if there are any language barriers if your restaurant is international. For example, when KFC launched the slogan “Finger lickin’ good” in China, it translated to “Eat your fingers off,” which probably wasn’t the vibe that they were trying to give off.

Rule of Thumb #3:  Convey your brand in a positive light.

As another opportunity to generate positive brand association, the slogan can carry a lot of weight to leave a good impression on the audience.

HubSpot uses this example: “Reese's Peanut Butter Cups' slogan, ‘Two great tastes that taste great together,’ gives the audience good feelings about Reese's, whereas a slogan like Lea & Perrins', ‘Steak sauce only a cow could hate,' uses negative words.”

Reese’s positive vibe leaves a better impression on the audience.

Crafting a Killer Restaurant Slogan

It may seem a little complicated, but don’t fret. If you’re thinking of creating a slogan for your restaurant, there’s good news. Nothing is final and you’re always welcome to change it like many of the leading restaurant brands in the world have done over time.

What's your restaurant's slogan? Comment below!

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“I wish I would have known that before I started…” is a phrase I hear all too often when speaking with restaurateurs, particularly those who are designing or building their first restaurant.

There’s a lot that goes into creating a new restaurant – from the menu, to assembling your team, to charming investors – and restaurateurs' minds are expected to be in a million places at once.

When it comes to building and designing a memorable restaurant concept, there are lots of different designers, contractors, consultants, and specialists that will all contribute. So, how are you supposed to know who to pick, and why?

What Is A Restaurant Architect?

A restaurant architect’s main role is to create a set of documents that shows the design intent, – how your restaurant concept should be built – according to all applicable codes, including building, accessibility, and egress.

Restaurant architects work through every phase of the restaurant construction process. From initial conception through completion of construction, a restaurant architect should be one of the first people you bring onboard your team.

A restaurant architect interacts closely with every vendor and consultant on the team – construction or not – throughout the life of the project; a restaurant architect is the only one who can provide the design perspective across a range of categories, make recommendations, and even suggest specific consultants or vendors that you, the restaurateur, aren’t even aware of.

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to restaurant design and construction; how’re you supposed to know what you don’t already know? 

Here are 7 ways a restaurant architect can transform your restaurant vision from dream to reality.

1. Manage Your Construction Team

According to Cornell University, 26.16% of restaurants fail within the first year of opening. 

It doesn’t get too much better in the years following: the second-year failure rate for restaurants is 19.23% and the third-year failure rate is 14.35%.

How can you avoid becoming a part of the 26, 19, or 14 percent? It begins with assembling the best team possible to physically build your restaurant.

The diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise each member of your design and construction team brings to the table will help you execute on every aspect involved in creating a successful restaurant, from the moment the first shovel strikes the ground.

Besides designing the layout of your space, a restaurant architect can also be a great project manager. As your project develops, you may need to loop in specialized consultants and designers to assist you and your team.

When looking to create the ultimate design team, the following are some you may add along with your architect, engineers and general contractor:

  • Commercial Kitchen Consultant - a Commercial Kitchen Consultant  designs, and assists in the implementation of all the equipment in your restaurant's kitchen
  • Interior Designer -an interior designer will help you bring the vision you have for your restaurant's design to life; they're especially adept at weighing out a restaurateurs wants and what customers want 
  • Commercial Furniture Vendor - Commercial Furniture Vendors, consults on which furniture is best for your restaurant concept and implements your agreed upon design
  • Lighting Consultant - a commercial lighting consultant helps you decide and design which restaurant lighting is best for your space.  
  • Acoustical Consultant - an acoustical consultant specializes in installing acoustical ceilings, walls, and the like to make sound travel best in your space
  • Millworker - Different from a carpenter or contractor, a millworker specializes in designing and installing any wood products that come from a mill – doors, molding, trim, wood paneling, crown molding, etc. 
  • Graphic Designer - a Graphic Designer will create all of the design assets you need to market your restaurant, including your logo, promotional materials, content for your social channels, and the like
  • Web Developer - a Web Developer will consult on, design, and code your website. 

Though some of these consultants may never interact with each other, they will work together using their understanding of your vision to create a unified and cohesive concept and design.

A restaurant architect is the glue that holds them all together, coordinating their outputs and ensuring they keep the overall vision in mind at all times.

2. Pick The Perfect Location

With rent prices what they are these days, you better understand the building, the site, and the neighborhood before you make the hefty investment.

There are many factors that go into selection of a space: the address, the area around the location, the building’s aesthetics, the space’s size and shape, etc.

You may fall in love with a space because of its tall ceilings, natural light, and adjacency to a university and public transportation, but what if the space has no provisions to exhaust the hood from your cook line?

Some concepts may thrive in a dense urban area where local workers and students walk over for lunch, yet the same concept would fail as a pad site at a suburban mall.

A restaurant architect will work with you to determine which aspects of a site or location will or won’t make sense for your restaurant.

3. Utilities & Services

Does the building have sufficient utilities to run the equipment you need for your restaurant concept?

Once an engineer is hired they can calculate and engineer the exact utility requirements your restaurant concept will need to be successful; this doesn’t help you, though, while you are still looking at a space and trying to evaluate whether it will be suitable for your restaurant.

In the early planning stages, a restaurant architect will work closely with engineers to review their sketches and plans and have a sense of what your restaurant will need to operate successfully, helping you and the restaurant architect make informed decisions when considering potential sites and locations.

When touring locations, a restaurant architect can walk the space and help identify the size and location of each of the utilities. Some of the items to look at are:

  • Electrical Power
  • Water
  • Sanitary and Grease Waste
  • Gas Service
  • HVAC
  • Hood ducting, venting, make up air
  • Fire Alarm System 
  • Sprinkler System

It is crucial to understand upfront what your restaurant concept’s utility requirements are, whether the space you’re considering has all of it, and if not, who is paying to bring it to the space.

If any utilities needed to run your business – electric, sewage, water, etc. – are not present when you sign the lease and are required to be brought to the tenant space, a landlord will sometimes pay for it or cover a portion of the costs if the utility in question could be useful for future tenants. 

Typically any distribution or addition of services – like WiFi, cable, etc. – within the tenant space would be covered by the tenant, as these additions will be unique to your layout and you are the one modifying the space.

Once you decide on a location, a restaurant architect will use the engineer’s insights to compile a list of missing, necessary utilities and put a plan together to make them a reality.

4. The Lease

Like architects, lawyers have different specialities, sometimes even specialties within a specialty. Such is the case with real estate lawyers.

You should not sign a lease without having a real estate lawyer review it, but I’d also recommend having your restaurant architect review as well. Why? When reviewing a lease, a real-estate lawyer will be looking for ways to minimize risk; a restaurant architect will be looking for all the ways your lease could impact the intended design. 

For example, within your lease there should be the following two exhibits: a lease outline drawing (LOD) and a work letter.

A lease outline drawing is a mapped out floor plan of the space and will show the “lease line;” the lease line determines your leasable square footage, which is what your rent should be calculated on. Having a lease outline drawing will also help you anticipate any zoning or licensing laws you may come up against when building your restaurant. 

The work letter is a written statement that is signed by both the landlord and the tenant detailing the issues related to the fit-out of a tenant’s space. The Watchdog, a popular real-estate project management resource site, defines a work letter as,

“... a written statement that is signed by both the landlord and the tenant detailing the issues related to the fit-out of a tenant’s space. It will define the building’s standards and break down details such as the number of light fixtures, doors, the size of partitions and all other interior elements that the landlord will install for a tenant. The work letter may come as a separate letter or it is sometimes an exhibit to the lease. Typically, the lease is signed before all items on the work letter are negotiated and agreed to.

Restaurant architects will review your lease looking specifically for line items  that could hinder production or progress, and will make suggestions for any addendum that maximizes what you're allowed to do within your space. 

5. Building Codes

You don’t want to mess around or skirt building codes, especially egress codes and accessibility codes.

Egress codes outline how many ‘means of egress’ – ways of exiting – a building must have for those inside to use in the event of a fire. There need to be a certain number of means of egress in a room, which is based on the room’s square footage; these means of egress will also need to be a specific size, based on the room’s dimensions.

A restaurant architect will have a good handle on what the state egress codes are for commercial spaces (hint: they’re different than residential egress codes!)

Accessibility codes are the requirements a space must fulfill to be considered wheelchair compliant; examples include installing a ramp adjacent to any customer-facing stairs, making hallways a certain width, and ensuring flooring materials don’t impede wheelchair wheels.

Seriously, don’t cut corners when it comes to building codes – it could cost you some BIG bucks.

Here’s an example: “If can we squeeze that corridor down to three feet wide and reduce the restrooms to six feet by six feet, we can gain some extra space for the kitchen and seating.”

Sure, sounds easy enough, who will know? Here’s what could go wrong: two years down the road, you’re being sued for discrimination by a patron who is physically challenged and can’t make it down the hallway to the restroom. Kiss your beautiful business goodbye.

There is real danger in skirting building codes. A restaurant architect will make sure you are meeting and exceeding standards in order to avoid future loss.

6. Equipment Layout

Operational efficiency isn’t the only factor to weigh when visualizing and planning your kitchen equipment layout.

There’s a bit of a chicken-and-the-egg scenario between kitchen layout – covered by your kitchen equipment vendor– and the balance of the design of the layout – the restaurant architect’s domain. You have an open space, who designs first?

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, so long as your kitchen equipment vendor and restaurant architect are coordinating and communicating openly.

There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen when designing and building a restaurant; fostering an open and frequent dialog will create the perfect balance between your various vendors and your restaurant architect, ensuring the many moving parts will stay true to the original vision you had for your restaurant.

Here’s an example: you work with a kitchen equipment company to come up with the perfect layout, then they hand it over to your restaurant architect.

As the potential layout stands, the different kitchen stations and their proximity to prep, storage, and warewashing may be ideal, but your restaurant architect points out that the BOH still needs a manager’s office, employee lockers, and space for a water heater. They also find that the layout has noncompliant dead ends and egress paths that are too narrow.

Back to the drawing board? No way. Leaning on the kitchen equipment vendor’s expertise and the restaurant architect’s expertise, together you’ll be able to create a layout that meets every requirement in the book, from all corners of the business.

To find the perfect balanced layout, an open and frequent dialogue is key.

 7. Create A Design That Suits Your Restaurant Type

Here’s a multiple choice question. Is your restaurant a:

  • A) Fast Casual Restaurant
  • B) Quick Service Restaurant
  • C) Fine Dining Establishment
  • D) Other

Your restaurant type will greatly affect your restaurant design. There are design features inherent and unique to a fast casual restaurant versus a quick service restaurant versus a full-service restaurant, causing the layouts to be drastically different.

Fast casual restaurants should be designed to promote a natural revolve customer flow. Create a space where your customers will naturally progress from the door, to the service counter, down the service line as their order is completed, then on to payment, to beverages and seating.

Quick service restaurants – or QSRs –  can operate with a smaller footprint overall, which drastically reduces real-estate overhead. When designing a quick service restaurant, you’ll need to create a kitchen layout that maximizes the amount of kitchen equipment you can fit within a smaller amount of square footage. You’ll likewise need to do the same for the customer-facing seating area: most amount of seats in the smallest area possible, without feeling cramped.

Full service restaurants do not have a service counter or an area where the service line forms; the floor plan in a full service restaurant devotes the majority of the space to customer seating with server stations placed in close proximity. Prominent walkways should run throughout the floor plan – including to and from the kitchen – so servers can quickly and easily run food and drinks to their tables.

Working with your restaurant architect, create a floor plan that’s suitable for your restaurant type. Ask yourself: “When someone enters my restaurant, what’s the first action I want them to take? Where’s the first place I want them to go?” Your restaurant architect will design your space in such a way that your customers will naturally flow through the different points of service in your restaurant.

If You Build It, They Will Come

The entire design and construction process when building a restaurant can be long and arduous, but having the right team in place will make the experience of watching your vision come to life unforgettable.

Though you may be the brains behind the operation, the most important thing is to understand that you can’t do it all when creating a restaurant.

Rome wasn’t built and designed by one person, nor was Gramercy Tavern, Jaleo, or Toro; it takes a village.

Do your research, talk to people in the industry, find the restaurant architect who is right for you and your project, trust in your team, and you’ll put your restaurant in the best position to succeed before it even opens.

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Table turnover rate is one of the most important, controllable metrics in your restaurant. 

Maintaining a table turnover rate that is long enough to allow guests to enjoy their dining experience, but short enough to ensure new parties won't wait long to be seated is the sweet spot.

As a restaurant owner, operator, or manager, hitting this table turnover sweet spot will amount to a palpable, productive rhythm that can be felt from the dish pit to the host stand. 

A lackluster table turnover rate, however, could spell disaster for the rest of the evening; guests will wait substantially longer to be seated, servers will find themselves frantic in the weeds, the kitchen will likely get backed up, and your restaurant will definitely lose money.  

Luckily, there are a variety of tried and true techniques you can train your restaurant staff on to decrease table turn time and increase profits. 

Let's not waste any more time (remember, the clock is ticking). Here are 12 ways to increase your restaurant's table turnover rate. 

1.  Ask About Time Constraints

I always want to ask my guests a very simple question before they sit down, or as they're being seated.

The question is: “What brings you folks in today?” 

This opener gives your guests the opportunity to share why they're here, which gives you the opportunity to tailor your service accordingly. If they're in for a special occasion, you can anticipate a longer table turn time, and a special dessert will likely be involved; if they're in for a quick bite before their movie starts in an hour, you now know you'll need to expedite their dining experience as much as possible. 

Pro Tip: if your table is on a time crunch, write a memo to the kitchen when you send in their order. This will not guarantee your party's orders get preferential treatment, but will let the back of house know to be mindful of their time. 

2. Don’t Seat Incomplete Parties

You may have seen more and more restaurants instituting a "we will not seat incomplete parties" policy, even if guests have a reservation; incomplete parties can cause table turn times to increase, causing a bottleneck in your restaurant's meal service. 

The delay caused by waiting for the rest of their party to arrive is felt throughout the restaurant; this table will now not turn as quickly as others, making it more difficult to seat waiting parties.  Point blank: seating incomplete parties costs both the server and the restaurant money. 

It's a smart idea to institute a "no seating incomplete parties" policy on your busiest shifts. On slow shifts, feel free to seat these parties as they don't represent a risk for the business. 

3. Ask Campers to Leave

That’s right, don't be afraid to ask that table camping out in your section to leave. Just be tactful in your approach. 

The oldest trick in the book is to slowly clear the table over the course of multiple visits; each time you visit the table to take another item, ask if there's anything else you can get them. Usually, people get the hint. 

If you have bar or lounge seating available, offer to set them up at a table and walk them over. Hand them off to the new bartender or cocktail server and remind them how much you enjoyed taking care of them. 

If the situation is really bad, you've tried every trick up your sleeve, and the table still hasn't left, offer to buy them dessert or drink at the bar (at being the operative phrase here). Accompany them to the bar where they can enjoy their dessert.

If your restaurant is more casual, or if you've established a good rapport with guests, be honest. Let them know that you have a long wait of other guests that would love their table. 

Again, be tactful and polite, but most of the time your guests just get lost in their own world and understand that you need the table; they simply lost track of time. In a fine dining establishment, I often feel that the offer of a drink or a table in the bar is sufficient.

4. Suggest Items That the Kitchen Can Prepare Quickly

If you're in the thick of a rush and need to keep your tables turning quickly, suggest menu items to guests that take less time to prepare. 

If a guest is torn between an entree-sized Greek salad or a well-done steak, the suggestion is clear.

5. Consolidate Your Visits

One of the biggest ways servers slow down their service is by taking two trips to accomplish what could have just as easily been done in one.

For example, don’t come to the table and introduce yourself empty-handed; bring a bread basket (if your restaurant serves bread) and some waters so you can kill three birds with one trip.

As your table waits for their order to arrive and you circle back to see how they're doing on drinks, drop off some ketchup, napkins, and any other condiments that make sense given their order so you're not scrambling to the server station once their meals arrive. 

Consolidating trips will help shave 5-10 minutes off the service time.

Pro Tip: Once you've completed your mid-meal check-in after your table's orders have been delivered, print out their check and keep it in your apron. This way, if they decline dessert later on and ask for the check, you have it ready for them right then and there.

If they take you up on dessert, print out their new check once you send the order in. 

6. Prepare Popular Meal Add-Ons in Advance

Filling a ramekin with salad dressing does not seem like it takes much time, but every time you need to pause during service to fill more ramekins, the minutes add up. 

These minutes could have been spent building relationships with your guests and providing them with outstanding service; instead you're pulled away from your tables to do housekeeping tasks. 

Get as much as possible prepared ahead of time without sacrificing quality. Fill ramekins with popular sauces and dressing, prepare certain garnishes in advance, prepare water or iced tea pitchers in advance. You can even go so far as to have certain menu items partially prepared in advance – pre-portioned desserts, for example – as long as it does not affect quality.

7. Drop The Check

Again, be careful here. 

The check is definitely a cue to your guest that you consider their meal complete, but if your guests are having a great time, you don’t want to cut their evening short and risk rushing them out the door to enjoy the rest of their date night at your competitor next door. 

If you have offered dessert and they've declined,  it's completely acceptable to bring the check and remind guests the check is all set. You can even have their check ready to present when you offer dessert, and if they say no, simply pocket it and present it later.

If there's no rush, politely remind them it's there for them whenever they are ready.

8. Invest In Restaurant Technology to Boost Operational Efficiency

"Our meal was great but it took sooo long to get the check" is one of the most common restaurant reviews you'll find on the internet.

While there are certain steps you can take to have a guest's check ready in advance (see tip #5 above), there's little that can be done to prevent the terminal traffic jam that occurs when multiple servers need to close out their checks at the same time.

Not only is the sight frustrating to management, but it's frustrating to servers who are competing against the principles of supply and demand: too many servers for too few terminals.    

A terminal traffic jam delays table turn time and keeps everyone in the restaurant– both staff and guests – waiting longer than they should be.

Enter Toast Go™:  a fully integrated, handheld point of sale, custom built for the restaurant industry and its unique set of demands. 

Introducing Toast Go

Toast Go™ offers restaurants the full, robust functionality of a traditional restaurant POS in a comfortable handheld. Servers can take and check on orders, send memos to the kitchen, split checks, take payment, and more — all without having to leave the table.

Restaurants, like Odd Duck in Austin who have adopted Toast Go™ have seen a noteworthy increase in overall operational efficiency, especially with relation to their average table turn time. 

“Our turn times dropped dramatically with Toast Go™ and that equates to an extra half million dollars in annual sales. And with more tables come more tips: servers each take home about $7,000 in additional gratuities per year”, says Cory Neel, General Manager at Odd Duck.

Additional Advice for Improving Table Turn Time 

You can also increase table turn time in your restaurant by carefully manipulating these popular restaurant design elements.

1. Music

Louder music with a faster, upbeat rhythm will encourage guests to eat faster.

2. Colors

Brighter restaurant colors that are closer to primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) are more stimulating than warm soft tones and will inhibit your guests from relaxing as much. 

3. Seating

Comfortable booths and big soft chairs will keep guests seated longer. Balance comfort with your need to turn tables. Also, seating guests in the interior of your restaurant will encourage them to eat faster and speed up their meal.

4. Limit Menu Options

Large menus will slow down service for three reasons. 

  • First, that added complexity will create longer ticket times in the kitchen. 
  • Second, your guests will have a harder time making decisions. 
  • Third, your guests are often less satisfied when their options are endless then they are with limited options.  

This is known as the Paradox of Choice. It causes guests to compare their choice to the other options. If they ordered the black and bleu burger but were considering the brunch burger - even if the b&b burger was fantastic - part of their brain is always going to wonder if they other would have been better. 

Don't give them the opportunity to face that dilemma.

What's Next?

Its most important that you find balance between quality of service, satisfied guests, per-person average check size, and table turns. Ultimately, the purpose of running a restaurant is to maximize profits. It's up to you to determine what combination of speed and revenue per guest leads to the most satisfied guests with the most profits. 

Don’t be afraid to test. Try something you have never tried before. Just be sure to measure your results so you know if its helping you reach your goals.

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Summer's officially here, which means it's time to staff up for the season. 

Well, at least that's what it's supposed to mean. But this summer, many businesses may experience a summer labor shortage.

There's no one reason why this is happening – it's a combined issue of government regulations, changing mentalities, and a fundamental shift in the modern restaurant workforce. 

Here are five of the reasons why your restaurant might be understaffed this summer.

1. The Restaurant Workforce is Shrinking

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of workers in the restaurant industry is at its lowest since 2013 and shrunk last year for the first time this decade. 

In 2017, there were 13.2 million people working in the restaurant industry, a decline of more than one million people from the year before. 

Graph from Statista

There are a few reasons for this drop in the restaurant workforce. Primarily, though, the strong economy has pushed people towards jobs that are often perceived as more permanent and better-paying. There's also a consistent year-over-year increase of Bachelor's degree recipients in the country, putting workers on different paths. 

This leaves employers scrambling to find help all year long. No wonder 59% of restaurateurs name staffing a top challenge in 2018.  

2. Less Teens Are Working in Restaurants 

In 2000, 45% of teens were in the workforce. 

That number is now down to 30%. 

The amount of restaurants that would employee these teens has not similarly decreased, but rather increased, according to the New York Times with the Bureau of Labor Statistics data. 
Whatever happened to the days of teens lining up to run the drive-through? BLS projects teen workforce numbers will continue to decline well into the next decade. 

3. College Students Are Spending Their Summer on Internships 

An increased emphasis on the need for academic internships has college students suiting up for the summer instead of serving diners. While many students pursue an internship during the academic year, employers are expecting candidates to come in with multiple internships – 65% want candidates to have two or more by the time they graduate. 

With only so much time during the semester, many students decide to find this professional work during the summertime, robbing restaurants of the opportunity to employ students home for the summer. 

4. A Shortage of Visas is Impacting Immigrant Workers

H-2B visas, according to the USCIS, are visas for temporary, agricultural workers. Visit the USCIS website for more information on the purpose of these visas and accurate information. 

The H-2B Visa Program, Explained - YouTube

Earlier this year, Congress capped the number of H-2B visas to 66,000 for the entire year through a lottery system, limiting the amount of non-citizens legally allowed to provide work for restaurants during these summer months. 

Many restaurants taking the hit from this decision are seasonal restaurants, like those on Cape Cod summer haven Martha's Vineyard. These restaurants may not have the permanent, year-round staff to support the influx of summer diners, and without visa recipients, these restaurants will have to find workers elsewhere, as their usual workforce is no longer guaranteed entry into the country. 

The silver lining? "On May 31, 2018, the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor published a temporary final rule (PDF) increasing the numerical limit ('cap') on H-2B nonimmigrant visas by up to 15,000 additional visas through the end of fiscal year (FY) 2018," according to the USCIS website. The increase was for "American businesses which, among other things, attest that they will likely suffer irreparable harm without the ability to employ all the H-2B workers requested in their petition."

5. There Are Just Too Many Restaurants to Choose From

Normally, 13 million people willing to work in just one industry would be a good thing – but not for restaurants. 

There are over one million restaurant locations in the country, meaning that there are only 13 employees per restaurant on average. For large, high-volume restaurants, that number is rarely enough. 

Eater asked the important question in an article, "Are There Too Many Restaurants?" Author Amanda Kludt bluntly declares "something's gotta give here."

Fact is, even without the labor shortage, the sheer number of restaurants to work in has ignited the restaurant industry's war for talent. Restaurant workers have so many options, so it should be clear why restaurants are feeling the pains of the tight labor market this summer. 

Surviving This Summer's Restaurant Labor Shortage

Gear up for a long summer, but don't worry; with a positive restaurant culture, you'll be able to hire, attract, and retain restaurant employees. 

If you're staffing up for the summer, try a few of these resources as you navigate the restaurant labor shortage: 

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