Restaurant Management

What Other Restaurants Can Learn from “Build Your Own Meal” Concepts

There is no restaurant concept more creative than being one step away from literally putting customers behind a prep table or oven. We’re talking about “build your own meal” restaurant concepts and why they flourish. Popular examples of restaurants that use this concept include Blaze Pizza, Chipotle, Noodles and Company, and Burgatory. These restaurants put the creativity in customers hands as they select the ingredients and toppings that are going into their entrée, with endless possibilities.

See how this concept works and how you can shake up your restaurant’s processes with these tips!

Smooth Ordering

Long gone are the days of ‘can you put the tomatoes on the side?’ and ‘can I substitute kale for lettuce?’ Commonly these restaurants use an assembly line system where the meal and customer move down the line or, at sit-down establishments, customers fill out a check list of everything they want on their entrée.

This should also reduce the margin for error with a server taking down an order. It’s easier for something to be misheard and written down incorrectly at a bustling restaurant versus a customer putting a tick mark next to jalapenos.

The typical ordering process for these restaurants allows customers to order comfortably and not have to communicate their likes and dislikes to a waiter- picky eaters unite! It can also save the staff time going through each option with the customer.

What you can do in your restaurant: Streamline the order process for customers by breaking it down, step by step. Start with the base meal and work your way up with options. For example, start with the different kinds of meat they can choose for their burger. Then, work to buns, cheese, toppings, and sauces to finish their order.

Transparency

With “build your own meal” concepts, restaurants are forced to be upfront and honest about their ingredients. It’s likely you’ve been to eateries where you can see their ingredients behind a sneeze guard and they aren’t really looking as “fresh” as they say (here’s looking at you, Subway).

When customers are building their meals down the line or even from a notepad, they want to see basic options, as well as some places they can get a little creative. These ingredients need to look and sound (if written) appetizing to invite customers to have a little fun with their food.

Restaurants offering truly fresh ingredients can make customers can feel good about what they’re choosing to put into their bodies. So, try partnering with local farms to get fresh produce or meat. This is not only a mutually beneficial partnership but will promote local sustainability and sourced foods as well.

What you can do in your restaurant: Label, label, label! If ingredients are gluten-free, vegetarian/vegan-friendly, or soy-based, let customers know. The more detailed you can be with your ingredients, the better.

Experience

The modern restaurant is moving toward these customized experiences, like “build your own meal”, because it integrates the customers into the theatrics. Dinner becomes much more like a production than just ordering tacos a specific way, it’s a curated food adventure. 

With the possibilities of “build your own meal” concepts, customers could come ten times to your pizza place but have a different experience every single time based on their choices.

There is just a little ego-building that goes into “build your own meal” concepts. Customers are being asked to take the reins, so it’s up to them what they create. If they create something they love or is just not quite what they were hoping, there’s a possibility they’ll be back to tweak it so it’s perfection.

Try also featuring a combination of the month. This could spark a customer’s creativity while also enticing people to stop by!

What you can do in your restaurant: When you make your list of ingredient choices, make sure to not offer flavors that will ruin a customer’s meal. For example, if a customer has decided to float their burger in a marmalade and they’re not satisfied with their meal, technically, that was their choice, but you don’t want that to impact their possibility of a return visit.

The trend of putting the customer in control works seamlessly with “build your own meal” concepts because of their smooth ordering process, transparency, and experience value. Putting the customer in charge really changes the whole dynamic of a restaurant’s traditional business model.  

Would you ever try adding “build your own meal” aspects to your menu offerings? Let us know in the comments below.

Breweries and Food Trucks Might Be the New Power Couple

If you have been to a local brewery within the past few years, you may have noticed something a little unexpected during your visit. It might have been colorful, or had a funny name, but it definitely smelled delicious. It was a food truck parked either in front of or in a breweries parking lot offering up appetizing options. Breweries and food trucks are developing a mutualistic relationship that both can benefit from in terms of brand awareness and increased sales.

The numbers for 2018 aren’t in yet, but the growth for breweries in 2017 was strong. The Brewers Association reported an increase of 6,000 breweries in 2017. While the food truck industry is experiencing revenue growth of over 300% in the last three years. Across the United States of America, these two incredibly fast-growing industries are partnering up to boost business for each other. The food truck of today isn’t some shady taco truck hanging out on the corner of the street, that might have been the cause of your food poisoning that one time. These are trucks with themes, curated menus, and devoted owners and staff. Basically, a restaurant operation on wheels!

Breweries are notoriously expensive to get started. Opening your own brewery can range from $100,000 to upwards of $1 million, and once that is all paid for some brewers just don’t have room in the budget to include a full kitchen, food, and the staff to man it. This is where the food truck industry comes in. These portable kitchens are a match made in heaven for a brewery. They offer a product that helps to keep customers on the premises longer, while at the same time not being in competition with the brewery.

Breweries and Food Trucks: A Symbiotic Relationship

Breweries and food trucks aren’t offering the same things, so customers don’t have to choose one over the other. Breweries draw crowds that a food truck can take advantage of, and having a food truck, is just one more experience that a brewery can offer their customer to set them apart from the crowd. Many breweries have even developed a rotating schedule that they post weekly to let customers know what trucks will be available.

Food trucks also come with their own social media following that eagerly waits for them to post their scheduled stops for the week. This is a customer base that they can bring to the brewery and encourage to try the brews. On the very same note, a brewery can have a set of truly devoted customers who wouldn’t think to try food from a Korean BBQ fusion truck, until it was placed right in front of them.

Shared Target Audiences Between Breweries and Food Trucks

It seems that the same customer that is drawn to a brewery, is also drawn to food being served out of a truck. The food truck experience capitalizes on a sense of adventure. It is new food in a different place every night. There is also a level of exclusivity that comes with only being able to serve a limited number of customers and food that can only be found at that particular truck.

Customers also enjoy the personal attention and interaction that occurs at breweries and food trucks. Owners and chefs tend to be more accessible at these businesses and customers enjoy talking about the drinks and food and learning about the processes required to make the food. This works great with breweries that have an outdoor area because the truck is right there!

Curating the Right Menu

Another benefit to food trucks is their easily customizable menu. They can adjust the menu to parallel the craft beer or wine being offered by the brewery. Trucks are seeing success using beers from the brewery to concoct beer infused burgers, or by offering pretzels created to complement the drinking process. If a food truck can create something specific to that brewery that they can sell when the truck isn’t there, such as a special drinking pretzel, even better. Breweries and food trucks can both share in the profits even if the truck isn’t on the premises.

Brewery-goers tend to want salt, bread, meat, and the occasional veggie mixed in. When pairing up with a brewery, a food truck needs to consider their audience when creating the menu. An all veggie menu is probably not going to sell as well as something with meat and bread.

 

Both breweries and food trucks have seen incredible growth over the past few years with no sign of slowing down. By pairing together, they can help ensure the success of both businesses.

Do you have a favorite brewery and food truck combo?  Or has your business paired with a food truck or brewery before? Let us know in the comments below!

How to Prepare Your Restaurant for the Holiday Rush

In the restaurant industry, the rush starts the day before Thanksgiving, and doesn’t really end until after New Year’s Eve. It ends on a busy note as New Year’s Eve also known as the fourth busiest day of the year for restaurants. To handle an influx like that, it is best to start preparing before the turkey ever hits the table. By preparing appropriately you can help to reduce the strain on your staff while keeping customers happy and keeping your business in the black.

Manage Employee Expectations

It is crucial to make it clear to employees what is expected of them during this crazy time. Whether that means a freeze on PTO, long shifts, or extra responsibilities, make an effort to clearly communicate your expectations and possible policy changes. Consider posting these changes on a community board next to the schedule or during an all-staff meeting. If you don’t make your expectations clear, you run the risk of having disgruntled employees who might offer less than stellar customer service.

Train Your Servers in Efficiency

During this busy season, it is all-hands-on-deck, so everyone needs to be willing to handle tasks they aren’t usually called to do. Servers can help by pre-bussing tables with bus bins and boxes. This can help to decrease the wait time for customers and keep things running smoothly. Try to suggest dishes and seasonal menu items as the guests are being seated. Chances are the quicker a suggestion is made, the sooner they will make up their mind quicker and keep things moving.

Another tip to keep guests moving, is by bringing them their bill as soon as they are done eating. Give them the option of paying but don’t be pushy. Remind them that there is no rush to avoid seeming to aggressive and making them feel unwelcome.

Hiring Seasonal Help

Hiring seasonal help is a great way to handle the extra business and make sure you aren’t overworking your regular staff. You can start your recruitment efforts by talking to your summer seasonal help. Some of the them might be college students looking to make some money while they are home for the holidays.

To get an idea of how much additional staff you will need, take a look at historical data to give you an idea for the upcoming holiday season. Evaluate the busiest days, and staff accordingly. If this is your first holiday season in business, try to pull data from particularly busy times since you opened your doors. If Thursday nights were unexpectedly busy through November, schedule additional staff during those times in the upcoming days.

Provide Staff Incentives

While your business is your top priority, not all of your staff might feel that way during the holidays. As busy as your restaurant is, you have to remember that your staff is missing out on time with family and friends to be at work. On top of that being required to work extra shifts can lead to some feelings of resentment. To help keep morale high, consider offering some incentives. Things like holiday bonuses, an employee party, or small gifts can go a long way in lifting spirits.

If you are running a seasonal promotion, you can offer incentives to the employee who sells the most. Selling tickets to a New Year’s Eve party? Perhaps the staff member who sells the most tickets is rewarded with a bonus or doesn’t have to work that day.

Offer a Seasonal Menu

Offering a seasonal menu can be a great help to your staff. Not only does it make the time of year feel a little more special to guests, but also contributes to a quicker turnover. Not to mention it makes it easier for your staff to upsell. These items are fun, festive, and available for a limited time. Staff can work with all of these aspects to entice customers to purchase.

The holiday season is a time when customers are gathering and indulging, so a seasonal menu is a great way to make some money. People who wouldn’t normally indulge in a cocktail can be seen partaking in alcoholic eggnog or ordering an extra decadent dessert.

Manage Inventory Closely

Of course, it’s easy to realize that inventory will decrease quickly during your busiest time of year; it’s totally different, however, to be in the middle of a mad rush and realize you have run out of a signature ingredient. Try your best to regulate inventory. Take a look back at your ordering records from previous years and pull together an ordering plan based upon those numbers and your expected increase in sales.

Do your best to ensure that you don’t run out of items, as it leaves a bad impression during a time of the year when customers are already very stressed.

Online Success

Another strategy to control the chaos is by offering online reservations and ordering. Online reservations reduce the strain on a host or hostess rushing between taking phone reservations and doing their best to seat the influx of customers.

By offering online ordering you can not only widen your market, but improve order accuracy. In a crowded restaurant it can be hard to hear customers, or the general rush can lead to mistakes. Online ordering eliminates these issues that lead to mistakes. By having one employee devoted to online orders or online orders and online reservations, it helps to free up the rest of your employees. They can be left to focus on the customers in the restaurant.

The holidays are so full of cheer that it can be hard to catch your breath in all the craziness. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce the stress on your staff and keep your customers happy. By looking through records, prepping your staff, and integrating online strategies, you can look forward to an efficient and successful holiday season.

How Tariffs Affect Your Restaurant

Tariffs ahead - Traffic Sign

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 9 months, you’re probably aware that the US and China have been approaching a full-scale trade war, imposing progressively larger tariffs back and forth on one another.  If the trend continues, come January 2019, there will be tariffs in place on nearly all Chinese goods imported into the US, and vice versa. Similarly, we have imposed tariffs on some Canadian and Mexican goods, and they have followed suit. We’re not here to argue whether this approach is right or wrong – we’ll leave that to the economists and pundits on TV – but, we are here to discuss what, if any, impact these tariffs will have on your restaurant.

Tariffs Are Designed to “Hit Em Where it Hurts”

When countries impose tariffs, they can take one of two approaches: a shotgun blast tariff on all goods across the board; or, more commonly, a scalpel approach that targets certain industries to inflict maximum economic, or political, pain. For example, in this latest round of tariffs, the Chinese approach has been to target the US agriculture industry, which makes up a large percentage of the US economy and happens to be highly representative of the current administration’s voter base in rural America.

What Do Tariffs Have to Do with the Restaurant Industry?

So, how exactly do tariffs affect the restaurant industry? I mean, nobody is exporting a steak dinner to Canada; Uber Eats isn’t bringing a Primanti Bros. sandwich to Beijing? Isn’t the highly localized restaurant industry immune to tariffs? You might think so, but you would be wrong.  Sure, the outputs of restaurants – food – are, by and large, safe from tariffs. But, what about the inputs? What about the corn, onions, and avocados that we import from Mexico? Or, the farm raised salmon, shrimp, or catfish that come from China? Are you starting to see how tariffs could affect your business? Unless you source all of your foods locally, chances are you will feel the pinch.

Here are some of the more obvious ways in which the tariffs could impact restaurants:

Unstable Food Prices

Very few industries exist in a vacuum, but even fewer have the economic reach of the agriculture industry; when US farmers start to suffer, it ripples across the entirety of America. After all, we all have to eat.

In the short run, the recent tariffs could actually lower restaurants’ food costs. Lower overseas demand could lead to a supply glut, with farmers and distributors having to lower prices to get rid of inventory. If the tariffs from China turn out to be permanent, however, farmers will cut back on production and many will go out of business, which means the supply of domestic food will go down and prices will rise.

Lower Availability of Off-Season Foods

In addition to fluctuating prices, tariffs could lower the supply of seasonal foods. Tomatoes are one example. In the summer months, tomatoes are grown domestically, even locally. But, in the off-season, most tomatoes come from Mexico, where they are grown year-round. In fact, According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Mexico produces 70% of our vegetable imports and 40% of our fruit imports. The only tariff on Mexico right now is on aluminum and steel, but if it were to devolve into a trade war like it has with China, then seasonal items like tomatoes could become more expensive and difficult to source during the offseason.

Some Additional Price Increases
  • Does your restaurant or bar serve beer in cans? Did you know that the price of aluminum has risen 31% so far this year due to the tariffs on China and Mexico?
  • Do you use cloth napkins, table linens, or uniforms in your restaurant? Do you know where they’re made? If their made in China (many are), they are subject to the tariffs as well.
  • The price on Chinese exported steel, aluminum, and wood furniture has gone up 10% so far this year, with an additional 15% expected on Jan 1, 2019. Furniture, like many other manufactured goods, is getting hit twice, with Chinese tariffs on raw materials from the US, and then US tariffs on finished goods from China.

Note: Many furniture suppliers have already raised their prices, but East Coast Chair & Barstool has held prices steady on our products, as of 11/20/2018.

What Can Your Restaurant Do to Lessen the Effect of Tariffs?

  • Reshape your menu: Focus on items that are in-season in your area, or at least are grown in the US. Your costs will go up, and your prices will probably have to follow, but studies have shown that consumers are willing to pay more for locally sourced foods.
  • Lower operating costs: If food costs are going up, and you feel pressure not to raise prices, then you must cut costs somewhere or your profits will suffer. Fortunately, there are likely some ways that you can reduce your operating costs with a little additional effort. Here is a great list of 50 things you can do to cut costs in your restaurant without sacrificing customer experience.
  • Be Proactive: We know that there is potentially another round of 15% tariffs on imports from China coming in January 2019 (unless a deal is reached before then), so there is still an opportunity to make any large purchases before then and avoid paying more.

Operating in an environment of increasing tariffs can be challenging, but the effects will be felt industry wide, so the playing field is level. If you have any creative ways of successfully navigating the tariffs, please feel free to share in the comments below.

How to Store Your Restaurant Furniture for Cooler Temperatures

Storage Unit

In most areas of the United States, patio season for your restaurant comes to an end when the first few cold fronts hit. Cold, rain, and snow can have damaging effects on the patio furniture you’ve invested in. So, what do you do with your furniture once the bad weather hits?

Depending on the material type of the furniture that you have on your patio, you’ll want to think about storing it away when the temperature drops. Consistent cold weather can affect the integrity of the furniture, making it less reliable when it gets warm again, if it’s left out.

If your restaurant has the luxury of having a basement or storage unit, use it for storing your furniture. You’ll still want to take precautions and prep your furniture if your space isn’t climate-controlled. Be sure to wipe this furniture down so you aren’t inviting mold and mildew to grow. Cushions should take priority when it comes to picking and choosing what you have room for inside. Storing the furniture in either your basement or storage unit can prevent cracking and moisture damage from the heavy winter elements.

If you don’t have a basement or the space to store your furniture, you can always cover it a couple ways. Furniture covers can add a sufficient layer to cover most of an item and protect it from piling snow or heavy rain. Try to find outdoor furniture covers that are UV resistant and waterproof. You can also purchase outdoor tarps for a similar result, especially if you have some odd-shaped sectionals or tables you’re trying to cover. Secure these tarps with bungee straps to stop the wind from beating them around. Don’t forget to position the covered furniture tight against an outside wall to avoid them being knocked over in high winds or caught in a snow drift.

Please note, although it can be tempting, you should never bring your outdoor furniture inside for extra seating. Anything other than the recommended use can become a liability for your restaurant and void your warranty. Obviously, if you have the room in your restaurant to place (and not use) your outdoor furniture, that could be an option as well.

Stacked Chairs

Keeping your restaurant furniture intact from the elements can be tricky without these hacks but here are some things to keep in mind when buying your outdoor furniture to make the inevitable winter storage battle a little easier.

  • Buy chairs/bar stools that can stack. This can alleviate some of the stress of where you’re going to put your seating if you have a little spare space.
  • Stay away from cheap, molded plastic furniture. It can soften in extreme heat or crack in the cold. Plastic is often not durable enough to meet the needs of a bustling patio, let alone to be left outside in bone-chilling temperatures, so it needs to be stored indoors. If you want something a stronger, investigate a poly lumber material that is more of an investment than plastic, but will hold up a lot better in the long run.

The last thing you’ll want to be doing at the start of each spring is running out to buy new outdoor furniture because yours didn’t last through the cold. Using these tips on how to store your furniture can help save you time and money in the long run.

What to Consider Before Opening Your Restaurant for Breakfast

Waiter Serving Breakfast

Bacon sizzling on a grill, crisping in its own grease. The smell of pancakes wafting through the air greets customers at the door. An orange light comes to life as the coffee signals its readiness. Breakfast is served.

These are just a small sampling of the sights, sounds, and smells that await you and your customers when you open for breakfast. But, deciding if you should open your restaurant is all about crunching the hard numbers, not just fantastical sensory feelings. Are you ready to add the “most important meal of the day” to your offerings? Here are some things to consider before you open your doors earlier than ever before. They could also make or break your breakfast business.

Do you have resources to advertise? This doesn’t always boil down to budget. Do you have the time to design promotional materials or to post on social media? It’s not enough to just fling your doors open at 7 am and expect a crowd; people need to be reminded numerous times to have something sink in. The old rule was that people needed to see or hear something about seven times to have it stick with them. Now, in the social media age, it will take more than seven exposures for your target audience to carry that message with them. Put inserts in your menu, promote it on your social media, or even hang posters in your restaurant. These can attract new customers while giving current customers the opportunity to try your breakfast out.

Can you price competitively? Breakfast is often touted as an inexpensive meal because the dishes rely on a lot of commoditized items. These dishes can give you a higher profit margins with their low cost. Which is great for your bottom line, but It’s important to remember guests won’t feel the same way. Somehow, it’s more painful to shell out twelve dollars for avocado toast than twelve dollars for a lunch sandwich. A popular trend right now is to have alcoholic cocktails, like Bloody Mary’s or mimosas, on your breakfast menu. This is a good way to offer something indulgent for the customer and profitable for you. It’s okay to make a profit off your breakfast items but you don’t want to scare off customers with sticker shock, they likely won’t return, damaging your profits for the future.

Will your location support the traffic you need? A good traffic flow is crucial to having a successful breakfast set, especially if you’re not used to opening your doors that early. Having breakfast hours during the weekdays can be successful if you are situated in an office district that has early morning traffic. On the contrary, you can snag church-goers and more casual breakfast eaters in other areas if you focus on weekend hours. It’s important to analyze the traffic ebbs and flows around your location to figure out if you justify the hours open. You might even find that you gain customers by being open at hours you weren’t before.

What time of day will you serve breakfast? The answer to this might be a little harder to come up with than what you would think. Are you willing to offer breakfast dishes all day or would you rather confine it to a time frame? Consider your menu (breakfast and lunch), the space you’ll need to store and prep ingredients, kitchen flow, and staffing.

How will this affect your staff? Knowing your workforce will be an essential factor when figuring out if your restaurant can offer breakfast. You may find that some would prefer to bank on a typically busier lunch or dinner rush to for tips. Others may find that an earlier shift could be better for their family’s schedules. Besides scheduling, you’ll want to make sure that you have enough staff in general and the resources to add more if necessary. Not factoring in your staffing situation could cause tension if not addressed properly and can boil over into a bad customer experience.

What kind of format will you offer breakfast? There are so many ways to provide breakfast options in your restaurant. Will you offer a buffet-style meal, items from a fixed menu, or take-out items? It’s all about the needs of your current and potential clientele in the area. Thinking back to location, if you’re in a bustling business area that has a lot of traffic in the morning, consider light take-out options like breakfast burritos that are easy to just grab and go. Buffets and breakfast cocktails are often best served on the weekends when people really take the time to enjoy their meal.

Breakfast works the best for restaurants when prices are fair, the restaurant is staffed appropriately, and has enough traffic is coming in to justify being open. Opening earlier can be a great way to compete against other businesses in the area and provide more time to make a profit.

8 Ways to Retain Restaurant Employees and Keep Them Happy

Staffing is one of the biggest headaches in the restaurant industry. So much so, that 59% of operators named staffing as their top challenge to success. Much of this can be attributed to the high turnover rate experienced by the restaurant industry. According to Toasttab.com, the average tenure of a restaurant employee is one month and 26 days. That is a lot of turnover that is costing your business about $3500 every time someone walks out the door. You might think “Well that is just how the industry goes”. Believe it or not, there are some strategies you can implement right now to increase the tenure of your employees, boost morale, and increase profits.

Measure Tenure

If you have done your work and hired a good staff that you want to keep, the first thing you need to do is start tracking how long your employees have been with your business. Understanding how long an employee stays with you, in all positions, can help you understand what you need to do to keep people. For example, if your average server stays for 11 months, design any incentives you may have around that. Use this information to extend the tenure of your employees. You can implement additional training, recognition, or pay raises at 6, 12, and 18-month intervals to see if it can help to extend the average.

Ultimately, tenure reveals more than turnover does. But you can’t manage it if you don’t measure it.

Stay Interviews

Hiring interviews, and occasionally exit interviews, are a common practice, but implementing “Stay” interviews can have huge benefits. Take the time to sit down with a veteran staff member to better understand why they are happy with their job, and why they have chosen to remain an employee.  Also, give them the opportunity to talk about what you can do to sweeten the deal and keep them longer. This can help you put the finger on the pulse of what you are doing right, and some areas that could use improvement.

Memorable First Day

An employee’s first day is just like a first impression; you want it to be a good one. Do your best to demonstrate energy and enthusiasm. Be visibly passionate about the company culture, values, and mission. The easiest way to do that is by creating a great company atmosphere. An employee won’t want to stay long if all the other employees are complaining about their jobs and how much they want to leave.

Re-Recruit

Every shift should be a reminder of why your employee wants to stay with the business. Now, we all have bad days, but do your best to bring focus and energy to every shift. As a leader, you set the tone for the rest of the team. This can be accomplished by really focusing on the company atmosphere. Make sure your restaurant is a place that you and your employees are excited to return to shift after shift.

Encourage Mentoring Culture

By assigning a mentor to a new employee, you create a culture that fosters connection and allows a veteran to share insights they have acquired through experience. New employees can also become easily frustrated when not given the proper training to do their job correctly. Implementing a mentor program can help cut down on this frustration. Try to provide a mentor for every position; a dishwasher can benefit from a mentor just as much as a line cook.

Identify Stressors

Stress is inevitable. You won’t be able to fix every situation, but there are some you will be able to. Do your best to identify stressors and eliminate them if possible. Dissatisfied employees often report feeling that no one is in their corner and they receive minimal support. Talk to your staff regularly about their pain points and ask them how you can help. As an added bonus, this can often lead to improved processes.

Provide the Ladder

Employees become frustrated when they feel as if they are stuck in their job with no room for improvement. Chances are that isn’t the case, they just don’t know what they can do to advance their position. Providing a clear outline of what employees can do to progress is beneficial to them and you. It helps with retention when employees have a clear outline of how they can progress.

Thank Your Staff

It seems too simple, that saying “thank you” would turn things around with an employee. Thanking staff is easy to do but often forgotten. It is an uncomplicated way to let your staff know that you appreciate their work. This will also help to open-up lines of communication between you and your team. Listening to them can give you an insight into problems you had no idea were occurring.

The high turnover rate of the restaurant industry is not only a huge stress to operators and costs a significant amount of money. By listening to your staff, measuring tenure, and improving the atmosphere you can increase employee retention and profits.

How to Make Your Restaurant More Gluten-Free Friendly

If there is one trend that has come to the forefront of the restaurant industry in the past few years it is that consumers are more aware of the health effects of food on their bodies. They what to know where their food is being sourced from, if it is organic, and how is it being prepared. There is a whole market of people that struggle to find places to eat out that coincide with their food restrictions. Those who for health reasons or personal reasons have chosen to go gluten-free.

There are two types of gluten sensitivities. Those caused by Celiac disease and those caused by non-celiac gluten sensitivity. These people don’t experience the same kind of injury and irritation to the small intestine as those with celiac disease, but gluten intolerance can still cause physical and mental problems. Celiac disease itself presents with four different types of varying severity.

Gluten is a substance that is present in cereal grains, especially wheat, that is responsible for the elastic texture of the dough and is a mixture of two proteins. Currently, about 3.1 million people across the U.S.A. follow a gluten-free diet.

It is an entire market of people that you can open your doors to by making some changes to your current systems.  Expectations are higher than ever, and your restaurant might be missing out on profits that you aren’t even aware of.

Changes in Your Kitchen

If you are going to offer gluten-free options on your menu, you need to have the appropriate configuration in your kitchen. Your biggest hurdle will be cutting out cross contamination. Gluten-free products cannot come in to contact with items that have touched gluten-containing foods. For example, a gluten-free pizza cannot be cooked in the same oven as a pizza prepared with gluten ingredients.

Now, this may seem like a chore but there are some easy ways to separate your foods and tools.

  • Dedicate a section of your line to only gluten-free food prep
  • Keep items separate in storage and walk-ins to avoid cross-contamination
  • Use color-coded equipment to avoid contamination

Offering gluten-free options is not as hard as it may originally seem, as long as you keep up with your systems of avoiding cross contamination.

Educate Your Staff

The second most important thing you can do, after making changes in your kitchen, is to educate your staff. Many have heard of the gluten-free “trend” but don’t really know what it is, or how it can affect their customers.  Take some time during a staff meeting to discuss your new menu options and their importance. If you know someone with a gluten intolerance, you could invite them to speak to your staff of their struggles. Knowledge is everything in getting your staff to buy into your new program.

Make sure to encourage them to not judge their customers when they discuss a gluten intolerance. 72% of people leading a gluten-free diet are classified as “PWAGs” – people without celiac disease avoiding gluten. It is important for staff not to roll their eyes or make comments if they feel that a customer might not truly need gluten-free food. Customers with dietary restrictions want to have their concerns heard just like any other customer. It is not their place to judge and ultimately having a good attitude will lead to better tips.

Adjusting Your Menu

There are several ways that your menu can become more gluten-free friendly. Offer gluten-free substitutes to some of your meals. Cornstarch can be a great substitute for flour in certain circumstances.  Order more gluten-free ingredients to have in your kitchen. That way if a customer asks if you have pasta noodles, you can accommodate them. They’ll certainly be appreciative of your forethought.

How much of your menu that you decide to make gluten-free is up to you but having several options would most likely be beneficial. You need to evaluate on a case by case basis how much your current restaurant lends itself to gluten-free options. For example, if you are a Mexican restaurant you might consider offering taco salads or ordering gluten-free wraps. It is not necessary to completely rework your menu if you don’t have the funds or your food doesn’t lend itself well to gluten-free alternatives. Even a few adjustments will help to keep your restaurant relevant and communicate to customers that you are making an effort.

 

To help customers easily identify your gluten-free foods, you can create a menu ledger. Having clearly marked symbols to inform customers of your dishes that are completely gluten-free or have substitutes available can help to make the ordering process simpler. The easier that your menu is to understand for those that are gluten-free, the more comfortable they can feel.

Offering these options will take some adjustment for you and your team. But ultimately, you’ll see the benefits of increased profits and staying competitive in the market. Bethany Jarmul was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance in 2014 and has been searching for dining out options ever since. “As someone who has a gluten intolerance, the first thing I look for in a restaurant is whether or not they provide gluten-free options. If I find a place that offers a lot of gluten-free dishes, I’m likely to make that one of my go-to spots.”

Bethany represents an entire market of customers searching for their next go-to gluten-free spot. Why not make it your restaurant?

How to Promote

You’ve made the changes to your menu, added new ingredients to your kitchen, and educated your staff. Now it is time to get the word out about your new options. Traditional methods are great options Flyers, radio, and social media, are all perfect ways to talk about the benefits of your new food.

One area, in particular, you might like to consider is in Facebook groups that are focused on the gluten-free lifestyle. These groups can have thousands of members all looking for options that make their lives a little bit easier. Simply search gluten free on the Facebook search bar and then narrow your search to groups and you should find plenty of options.

Providing gluten-free options is the fastest growing trend in the restaurant industry and with good reason. Industry powerhouses like Arby’s, Burger King, and Domino’s Pizza are offering gluten-free items. More and more Americans are choosing to go gluten-free for health reasons and the need for innovative food options is greater than ever. Establishing your restaurant as gluten-free friendly is a great way to bring in new customers and establish loyal ones for years to come. Nothing creates loyal customers like the ability to have an honest discussion about their food. It will take some organizing, but your efforts will be well worth it to keep your restaurant relevant and once the profits start rolling in.

 

 

How to Plan A Mother’s Day Brunch

BlackBerry Pancakes

It’s one of those holidays that will just creep up on you. And then next thing you know it is here and you aren’t as prepared as you’d like to be. According to the National Restaurant Association, Mother’s Day is the busiest restaurant day of the year. At least 37% of the population has plans to dine out for Mother’s Day. To help you stand out from the all the other restaurants trying to attract customers, we’ve gathered a few simple suggestions.

Planning Ahead

Taking the steps to prepare your business for the busiest day of the year is crucial to having a successful day. With the influx of customers, you’ll need to be ready with greater food quantities, more staff, and a game plan.

More customers mean more food being consumed, so you’ll need to purchase more ingredients. One of the big benefits to offering brunch is that you can make big batches using inexpensive ingredients for pennies a piece. Ultimately, this means you can make it more affordable for customers and profitable for you.

Help reduce craziness by offering a special prix fixe menu or a buffet. Not only is it a great way to maximize profits, but also makes things simpler for your guests. It will help to create buzz while simplifying things for your kitchen staff, allowing them to be time efficient. Your servers will also thank you when it is time for patrons to pay. Mother’s Day can bring in large groups and with a prix fixe menu it won’t be as difficult to remember what everyone ordered.

With the increase in customers you’ll need to have enough staff to cover the difference. Mother’s Day needs to be all hands-on deck. If you are concerned about being short staffed, reach out to students returning home from college for the summer. If they have worked for you before they will already be trained and are almost always looking for some extra cash.

Help handle the craziness of the busiest restaurant day of the year, by taking reservations for the big day. If your restaurant doesn’t normally take reservations, Mother’s Day is a great exception to the rule. It helps immensely in the planning process. You can gauge how many staff members you’ll require and how much food you’ll need to prepare. Plus, customers will appreciate the peace of mind that comes with having a reserved table on the busiest day of the year.

To maximize profits consider using extra space that might not ordinarily be available, like a patio. In certain parts of the country, you’ll have to keep an eye on the weather but setting out a few extra tables for the day can be beneficial. That being said, don’t make the mistake of trying to cram too many tables into a space. Nobody appreciates a dining experience where they are bumping elbows with their neighbors, literally. If you have the space, definitely use it.

Menu Must Have’s

There are a few food items that you must have for a successful Mother’s Day Brunch. As far as food goes items like French Toast, eggs, frittata, and parfaits are guaranteed hits. Do you have a particular breakfast item that your restaurant is known for? If so, be sure to include it on the menu.

Crêpes can also be a big hit. But they can be temperamental so if your chef doesn’t have experience with them, Mother’s Day is not the time to test them out.

If you have your liquor license, mimosas and Bloody Mary’s are a favorite and sure to be a hit with most moms. Not all moms are interested in indulging in alcohol, so having a fun mocktail is a great way to add fun to their drink options.

Go All Out

Moms deserve to be treated every day but Mother’s Day in particular. Going that extra mile can really make the difference. Things as simple as offering a single flower to mothers at the end of the meal can be the difference between a yearly tradition and a one-time thing. Offering discounted or free food to moms is another great way to make them feel special. A free cocktail or dessert will go a long way.

If you are able to offer a takeout option for mothers or grandmothers that aren’t able to or prefer not to go out on Mother’s Day.

Promoting Your Brunch

Make your Mother’s Day specials and hours as easy to find as possible. If customers can’t find the information, chances are they will take their business elsewhere. Create a post for your social media accounts and start a Facebook event to keep your brunch top of mind. A series of posts that remind people how many days until Mother’s Day can help remind customers they need to make plans. It is a holiday that is easy to forget!

If you don’t have a huge social media following, don’t worry, you can always go old school and print out some flyers and hang them around your restaurant or hand them out with receipts during April and beginning of May.

 

With all the hustle and bustle of the busiest restaurant day of the year it is easy to forget the most important part of the day, celebrating moms! Encourage your staff to take time to wish Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms who visit your restaurant and do their best to remain pleasant even in the busy atmosphere.

Do you host a Mother’s Day brunch? Let us know your tips and tricks in the comments below!

Combating Food Waste in Your Restaurant

The last thing you want as a restaurant owner is to watch your money get thrown out in the garbage. Unfortunately, when you waste food, this is exactly what’s happening. It’s seemingly easy to do, some milk here, apples there, and right before your eyes, thousands of dollars have gone to waste. Because it’s so easy, it’s estimated that there are 60 million tons of food wasted annually throughout the United States, and it’s likely that your restaurant is contributing. So how can your restaurant put anti-food waste steps into effect? Here are some actionable steps your restaurant can take to help cut down on food waste.

Create a committee. Either find individuals motivated to take a stand against food waste or incentivize the position, but make sure you have people from different areas in your restaurant as part of the committee. You don’t want to involve your whole kitchen staff, only to leave out the wait staff. You also need your purchaser on board (whether that’s you or an employee).

Practice FIFO. If you don’t know what FIFO is, listen up! A ‘first in, first out’ system allows your food preparation to run more smoothly, while keeping in mind the issue of food waste. When a new food order comes in, put the new food on the right and shift the previously-purchased food to the left. Cooks then grab food in a reverse order (left to right) to make sure they are using the items that will expire more quickly than the food on the right hand side.

*Pro Tip: When organizing your storage area, beware of cross-contaminating foods. Raw chicken does not belong next to fresh produce so don’t let all your rules go out the window to focus on FIFO. Shelf-labeling is handy while keeping in mind newer versus previously-purchase food and the types of food that can be stored together.

Control portion size in the kitchen. This requires due-diligence from your staff. As kitchens get busy, eyeballing ingredients (aka not paying attention to the pre-priced amounts from your menu plan) becomes more common but this is one way that customers end up with more food than they need and often more than they paid for. American restaurants are notorious for unnecessarily large portion sizes. You want to satisfy your guests, but not at the cost of your bottom line. A great way to cut down on food wasted by customers is to allow them to choose their portion size by offering lunch and dinner sizes on the menu. The less food that’s left on your guests’ plates, the better.

Repurpose ingredients. Have a lot of leftover shredded chicken from yesterday’s fajita special? Make chicken tortilla soup! If you’re flexible with your specials, soup can turn leftover nightmares into the next day’s featured dinner.

Make over your menu. Speaking of flexibility, you’ll want to check in on how each of your menu items are doing. If you must buy highly-specialized ingredients for a few items, make sure they’re worth it. If they are sub-par performers on your menu, change it up! It’s easier to broaden your menu with dishes that have more universal ingredients. A lot of restaurants turn to a focused menu to use up any surplus and still offer a variety of options without sacrificing storage space while cutting unnecessary costs.

Compost. Chances are your restaurant probably builds up (and throws away) a lot of produce scraps. Whether it’s from leftover salads or unused portions, these scraps can easily be composted. If your restaurant has its own little garden that grows herbs, use these as fertilizer. Or build community relations and reach out to farmers who could use the compost to help supplement their crops.

Donate what you can. If your restaurant has exhausted the options to using leftover food, consider donating. There are many organizations around the country that help excess food get to those who are in need. If you’re concerned about liability and the legality of your donation, review the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act of 1996 to understand your rights as the donating party.

Full dumpster

Keeping food waste in the forefront your mind when running your restaurant and making operational decisions is crucial in combating the problem. Taking the steps above are just a few ways your restaurant can have an impact on this destructive global trend. Integrating these better choices into your business model can cut down on food waste and save you money at the end of the day.

Do you have plan for food waste in your restaurant? What steps do you take to combat it? Tell us below in the comments.