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What will restaurants look like in the future? Notes From NRA Show 2018

The future of restaurants

Every year, we have the opportunity to exhibit at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, IL.  In addition to showing off our newest furniture collections and meeting with new and former customers, we also try to bring back some helpful information for our readers that couldn’t attend.  The NRA show is the premier event in the hospitality industry with the potential to set the tone and trends for the entire industry.

This year, we went to a session called “The Future of Restaurants”.  It was a panel presentation headlined by popular futurist, strategist, and author, Daniel Burrus, whose book “The Anticipatory Organization”, we haven’t put down since getting a free copy at the door.  Burrus was followed by 3 great presentations by Sarah Lockyer, Senior Vice President or Winsight Media; John Miller, CEO of Cali Group; and John Ha, Founder and CEO of Bear Robotics.  Each presented their unique take on how the restaurant industry is being disrupted by new technologies, and what the future holds.  Below is a short summary of their talking points.

Daniel Burrus photograph

Daniel Burrus: Hard Trends vs. Soft Trends

According to Burrus, the trick to finding opportunities and succeeding in business is identifying trends and distinguishing the hard trends from the soft trends.  Hard trends are trends that WILL happen, at least with a high degree (90%+) of certainty. They are based on facts, and driven by things like demographics, technology, and government regulation.  An example of a regulatory hard trend would be the state by state legalization of marijuana leading to opportunities for commercialization.  Soft trends, on the other hand are trends that MIGHT happen. They are educated guesses, but are sensitive to disruption, and can change at any moment.  In fact, they present an opportunity for you to change them, and influence the future.  One example of a soft trend would be which companies will emerge as the de-facto mainstream consumer marijuana brands; we can make an educated guess based on size, market share, products, etc., but there are no guarantees and a disruptive brand could take over the industry at any time.

Burris argued that the safe bet is to put your money on the hard trends.  So, the relevant question here is “What are the hard trends happening in the restaurant industry that will shape the future, and what opportunities do they present”?

The answer is the convergence of many factors: rising restaurant input costs and wage pressures, the increasing number of millennials and Gen Xers entering the marketplace, the widespread use of mobile devices, the growth and development of AI and facial recognition technologies, and advancements in the field of robotics and automation.

Sarah Lockyer photo

Sarah Lockyer: A Good Place to Start

As the Senior Vice President for Winsight Media and Restaurant Business, Sarah Lockyer likely has her finger on the pulse of everything that’s happening in the restaurant industry, and the data to back it up.  So, when she started talking, we listened.  She gave an overview of the trends that are starting to gain traction in the industry now, and will continue to grow over the next 5-10 years.  The great thing about her presentation was that many of these trends are, or will be soon, accessible to all restaurants, not just chains and corporates with multi-million dollar budgets.

Ordering Kiosks – If you go to enough fast food joints, you’re bound to run across an ordering kiosk soon.  McDonalds is reportedly going to add 1000 kiosks to their stores per quarter for the next 8 or 9 quarters, so it won’t be long until they are pervasive throughout the country.  They are already widespread in Canada, Europe, Australia, and Asia.  Ordering kiosks take advantage of many hard trends: a booming, tech savvy younger generation with disposable income; rising wage pressures that are pushing operators towards automation solutions; and cheaper touchscreen technologies.  So far, 13% of people in the US have ordered from a kiosk, including 20% of those from 18 to 44.  That number will increase as kiosks pop up in more locations.

Tabletop Tech – How do you get your guests to turn over their tables quicker, spend more, volunteer their data, and sign up for your loyalty program?  The answer just might be a tabletop technology solution like those from Ziosk and eTouchMenu.  According to a study from Cornell University, customers spent $3.61 more and turned over 31% quicker at one full-service chain restaurant when tablets were present on the table.  Researchers noted that the biggest gains came when guests could order refills and pay the check on the tablet without having to wait for the server to get to them.  With stats like that, tabletop technology could be the quiet breakout trend for years to come, and one that is becoming affordable enough for even single unit operators to consider.

Takeout and Delivery – As we’ve written about before, takeout and delivery is becoming an even bigger deal for restaurants of all kinds.  No longer only the domain of pizza and Chinese food, full service restaurants are now getting in on the action with partnerships with Grubhub, Uber Eats, Door Dash, and even Amazon.  Millennials and urbanites are driving this trend, with 49% of 18-34 year olds saying that they order food more often than they did 3 years ago.  If you’re in a metropolitan area and don’t offer delivery, chances are you’re missing an opportunity to increase your sales and get your brand out there.

Virtual Restaurants – Expanding on the concept of takeout and delivery are virtual restaurants, businesses that are set up for the sole purpose of serving delivery only meals.  Often started in shared “warehouse” type spaces, virtual restaurants save all the costs of starting a true brick and mortar establishment, reducing the risk of starting a new concept.  They rely on delivery companies like those mentioned above to handle the marketing and delivery of their food, and the only staff required are the cooks. If you are a Rockstar chef without the funding to open a full-scale restaurant, then a virtual restaurant might be perfect for you.  A virtual restaurant could also be the perfect expansion plan for a restaurant with a cult-like following that doesn’t want to invest in another traditional storefront.

Dynamic pricing – Uber does it.  So do airlines, hotels, and car rental places. So, why not your restaurant? The “it” that we’re talking about is called dynamic pricing, and it means nothing more than changing your prices based on demand; a throwback to classic economic theory.  When demand is high, say on a Saturday night when your wait time is 45 minutes, you charge more.  When demand is low, like Monday afternoon, then you offer a discount to draw in price sensitive customers.  The trick is to maximize your profits by striking a balance between the price customers pay and staying at or near maximum capacity.  In reality, dynamic pricing isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Lowering prices via discounts and coupons is great in off-peak times, and there are several apps like TasteBud that make it easy to manage, but raising prices during busy times is another matter.  Only time, and a few intrepid restaurant owners who are willing to take on the experiment, will tell if the restaurant industry can sustain a truly dynamic pricing model.

John Miller

John Miller: Data with a Side of Burgers

For John Miller, Co-Founder and Chairman of Cali Group, the restaurant of the future will be a data centric, automated organization, and he wants to own that customer data, just like Google owns online data.  Miller who has said that his chain Cali Burger was a “Technology company that happens to sell cheeseburgers” is building his business around a suite of technologies that are designed to collect that data and use it to maximize sales.

Facial Recognition for PaymentPopIQ is Cali Group’s company that develops machine vision technologies for the restaurant sector.  They are currently testing an ordering kiosk that lets you pay with your face.  You walk up to the kiosk, it recognizes your face, shows you your previous orders and favorite items, and then lets you place your order and pay using a credit card on file.  The machine will reportedly even check into your Yelp reviews to see if you’ve had any problems with the restaurant that require special attention from a manager.  This will give PopIQ a tremendous amount of customer data which it can use to create personalized deals that drive traffic.  However, whether or not consumers will view this as an invasion of privacy issue is yet to be determined.

POPIQ from WINTERSTONE on Vimeo.

Social Gaming – Another of Cali Group’s portfolio companies called Funwall is investing in social gaming.  While social and mobile games have been around for some time now, Funwall combines the games with incentives like in-venue only prizes that increase foot traffic to restaurants and build loyalty.  Honing in on the trend of a growing millennial customer base, Funwall provides restaurants an opportunity to create experiences, and separate themselves from the competition.

Smart Delivery & Shared Spaces – Basically a WeWork for virtual restaurant startups, Kitchen United is a company that provides shared kitchen spaces for delivery only restaurants.  As Sarah Lockyer talked about earlier in the conference, shared spaces enable restaurant concepts to save money while still having access to state of the art equipment.  Kitchen United offers even more value by providing business intelligence, and resources that wouldn’t be available to a restaurant going it alone in their own space.  Shared spaces are also a great place to network and share ideas with fellow chefs and restaurant owners.

Robotic Automation – As labor and regulatory costs (think OSHA) continue to rise, companies are looking to cash in on the growing trend of automation in the workplace.  Cali Group is no different, and their portfolio company Miso Robotics is developing an automated burger flipping robot aptly named “Flippy”.  Flippy uses machine vision and artificial intelligence to “see” burgers on the grill, flip them, tell when they are perfectly cooked, and put them on the bun.  Right now, Flippy still requires a companion human to load the burgers onto the grill, but we can see that step being eliminated in the future.  Right now, Flippy can cook up to 300 burgers per day, more than a human counterpart, which means that it is more efficient, cheaper, and more reliable than hiring human cooks.  As robots like Flippy become more prevalent in the industry, low paying jobs will get eliminated and will open the way for higher paying jobs like maintenance technicians, engineers, and support personnel.

John Ha

John Ha: Rise of the Machines

If there’s anybody who should know about the intersection between the hospitality industry and technology, it’s John Ha.  After he left his job at Google, he purchased a Korean restaurant in California.  As he related in his talk, he found that the work was harder than he expected, and he found that nobody in the restaurant was happy with the service: employees, customers, or himself.  So, he started to think about ways to improve the customer experience by making his employees more than just order takers and food delivery people.

Penny AI Driven Restaurant Serving Robot

His answer was Penny, a robot that does the grunt work of delivering meals tableside, freeing up employees to engage with customers and create a great experience.  Penny, currently in the testing phase at Ha’s own restaurant, uses artificial intelligence to navigate “her” way through the dining room, avoiding customers and obstacles, and delivering the food to each table in his restaurant.  Ha’s company Bear Robotics is already taking pre-orders for the robot.

Ha says that since he started testing Penny, his restaurant has seen an 8% sales bump, and an 18% increase in tips for his servers.  Whether that is due to the novelty factor of seeing a robot deliver your meals or an actual increase in perceived value of service is still up in the air, although Ha says it is the latter.  One thing is for sure, the rise of the robots is quickly turning into a hard trend that will need to be anticipated and adapted to if you want your restaurant to continue to compete in the future.

 

We really enjoyed attending this session and bringing the valuable information back to our readers.  Innovation is a moving train that can’t be stopped, so it’s important to stay current and adapt to the trends that will change the industry because, as Daniel Burrus said, “If you don’t seize the opportunity, you can be sure that somebody else will”.

 

Guest Blog: Negotiating the Best Lease for Your Restaurant or Bar

Full room shot of an empty bar.

Do you want to save money and improve the value of your restaurant?

If you’re leasing or renewing a lease, or at the beginning stages of opening a restaurant, bar, brewpub or other retail establishment, this article can help you.

I have had eight page leases and two hundred page leases in my career. It is imperative that you negotiate the best deal you can. When you decide to sell, what you decide today will play a part in what you sell for in the future. I have had underperforming restaurants and bars to sell over the years and because they had  below market rent  or a favorable lease we were able to leverage the value in the lease. Also, I’ve seen wonderful restaurants that are reasonably priced and profitable to sell, but have a lease that has unfavorable terms, rent is too high, not enough term on the lease, landlords reputation is difficult, the building is in disrepair… get the idea?

Restaurant Leases can be very lengthy and confusing, making them hard to fully comprehend and negotiate favorable terms for. Leases can be short and vague, or extensive and complex. You need to be aware of what you are agreeing to. The best way to do that is to review the terms carefully. Have the right people in your corner. Make sure they are licensed, understand commercial transactions and reputable. Your Broker can help you navigate the road blocks in your lease, and their knowledge of the market will help you get the best possible deal. Always have a seasoned real estate lawyer that focuses on commercial leases to review the lease prior to signing.

There is so much information to understand and be aware of that I picked a few main topics to discuss.

The LOI

Prior to a formal lease being signed, the Landlord or Real Estate Broker will draft a non-binding Letter of Intent (or LOI) stating the basic terms of the lease.

  • WHAT: The Letter of Intent is a non-binding document, that sets the ground rules for the lease negotiation. The LOI simply creates a term sheet for the lease, so all parties involved are on the same page.
  • WHY: The LOI creates the framework for negotiation before a binding contract is signed. When the Tenant, Broker, Landlord, and Lawyers involved review the LOI, all parties are on the same page prior to drafting the lease. It saves time for all parties by setting up the ground work.

 

How long should you commit to the lease?

The length of your lease term can vary, and you should be aware of the renewal options, as well as when to exercise them.

  • Base lease terms generally last 5 to 10 years.
  • Typically, the lease should have renewal options (5 to 10 years, matching the original lease term).
  • The lease dictates when you need to give notice to the Landlord to properly exercise your options. This could be anywhere from 6 months to 2 years before the expiration of the lease. Make sure you pay attention to when this time period is in your lease.

 

Personal Guarantee Strategies

“I’m not signing a guarantee, why should I?” This puts you personally on the hook, financially, and defines obligation, risk, and liability. Some landlords make this a deal breaker but it doesn’t have to be. If you do not want to sign one consider some of the following strategies to eliminate or reduce liability.

  • In lieu of a Personal Guarantee, sometimes you can negotiate a higher security deposit, a letter of credit, or a co-signer.
  • Try to limit the Personal Guarantee to a specific time frame (2 years), or ask for Liquidated Damages.
  • Negotiate to limit the Guarantee to the amount of rent, brokerage fees, and build-out costs.

 

How much rent can I afford to pay? What’s the secret sauce here.

The economics of the lease are critical for your success.

  • To figure out, roughly, how much rent you should pay for a space, take your projected sales for the location and multiply it by the percentage of industry norms. This will give you your Occupancy Cost.
  • 5% to 8% are average rental costs, 9% and above are high costs.

 

What is Percentage Rent?

Is additional money that is paid to the landlord only if you hit certain benchmarks. In Percentage Rent, the base rent can be lower. If you exceed the Break Point in sales, the Landlord will receive additional rent based on that percentage.

  • It is calculated as an annual percentage based on gross sales that exceed a certain threshold. This is called the Break Point.
  • Once you hit the Break Point in sales, you pay the difference between your Actual Sales and the Break Point, multiplied by the percentage agreed upon in your lease.

If you cannot negotiate the percentage rent out try the following:

  • Make sure what the Landlord considers Gross Sales is defined in your lease.
  • When your rent goes up, the Break Point should increase.

 

Common Area Maintenance (CAM)

If your space is in a Shopping Center, Strip Mall, Retail development there is a good chance you will be obligated for Common Area Maintenance (or CAM).

CAM: What Is It, And How To Save Money

The CAM clauses are often the least understood part of a lease, and can be the most expensive part. This is where your Lawyer will come in handy. CAM charges are additional fees tenants pay to offset the common area costs shared by the Tenants. CAM fees cover a variety of net charges, including Fixed & Variable Fees. Be sure to be aware of all the fees included in your lease.

  • Fixed Fees include items such as Real Estate Tax, which may vary somewhat, but are generally similar year to year.
  • Variable Fees are items such as snow removal, pest control, landscaping, and elevator maintenance.

What you need to know:

  • Landlords typically want CAM terms to be broad. Ensure that the CAM terms in your lease specify the details of what you are responsible for and what the Landlord is responsible for.

Make Sure YOU Examine the Landlord’s records to make sure the CAM expenses are properly charged from the Landlord.

  • You want to be able to cap the charges or negotiate a fixed fee for CAM charges. For example, a cumulative 5% cap setting a ceiling on annual increases to CAM fees.

What to watch out for:

Administrative & maintenance fees, lighting, roofing, capital improvements, electrical wiring, HVAC.

 

Look out for Use Clauses and Exclusive Clauses.

  • Use Clauses restrict what you can do and can prescribe specific use. For example, they can restrict menu items. Make sure you’re fully aware of the restrictions put upon your restaurant during the lease terms.
  • Exclusive Clauses prevent the Landlord from leasing to a similar business as yours within a set of terms. For example, another of the Landlord’s Tenants may not be able to have over 20 taps in their bar because you have exclusive rights to 20+ taps in one bar.

 

Should you Sublease or get an Assignment of the lease?

Subleasing is the leasing of part or all of the property held by a Tenant as opposed to the Landlord. The original Tenant still retains partial interest. Assignment means the current Tenant signs over the lease to a new Tenant or the Landlord, and transfers all interest.

  • Before considering either of these options, you should find out if the lease allows subletting/assignment.
  • Know ahead of time what the liabilities are for subleasing/assignment.
  • Have a copy of the Master Lease (the original lease you signed) and all addendums.
  • If you assign your lease the landlord may still want you to stay on the lease

 

Construction Improvements

Have your Contractor & Architect walk through the space prior to signing the LOI and lease. They need to be aware of the terms of the build-out as defined in your lease to best advise you on the build-out costs and timelines. This is a key component in your lease and can greatly impact you.

 

What you don’t know could cost you

  • When leasing a Second-Generation space, the HVAC is a key feature to pay attention to. Make sure you ask the Landlord: How old is the HVAC? What is its expected life? Are you as the tenant responsible for upkeep, replacement, or repair? What is the tonnage?

 

Everyone wants a Patio

The Tenant is generally responsible for the maintenance of a patio. You should not be paying separate rent on a patio space. However, make sure your liquor license covers the additional square footage of your patio.

 

Liquor License tips

  • First item of business is to make sure there is one available that is transferable. Know how much it costs.
  • You need to get a timeline on how long it will take to transfer. Our office averages 6-8 weeks.
  • Will the landlord allow a license? Make sure you pay attention to the Use and Exclusive clauses that exist.
  • Pay careful attention to the Rent Commencement. If you got a too good to be true deal there might be an issue with the transferability of the license.  To save a few thousand dollars and have to open without the license can be  detrimental to the long term success.

 

I can’t begin to cover everything you need to know. There is still Build Out, Rent & Lease Commencement, Signage, Zoning, Permits, Defaults, Tenant Improvement Allowance, Free Rent. I can’t stress enough to make sure you have experienced professionals in your corner.

 

Terri Sokoloff, CBI, CNE, CRB, GRI/Broker

President Specialty Bar & Restaurant Brokers

Terri Ann Sokoloff is the President of Specialty Bar & Restaurant Brokers. She brings a high level of expertise to the clients of Specialty Group, offering more than 25 years of experience in the industry. She is a licensed real estate broker, a certified real estate brokerage manager (CRB) and a certified business intermediary (CBI). In addition to being active in professional organizations such as Commercial Real Estate Women, Urban Land Institute, Women’s Leadership Initiative, PA Restaurant Association, Former Advisory Committee of PA Culinary, Terri has also authored numerous magazine, newspaper, and pricing guide articles and has appeared as an expert on a variety of regional and national media broadcasts. She has been featured as a speaker at the Nightclub & Bar National Convention on the topic of “Selling Night Club & Bars” & for the PA Restaurant Association on the topic of “Confessions of a Restaurant Broker” and “Leases: Negotiation, Clauses, Mistakes, and Tips”.

Reviews and Your Restaurant: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Why Reviews Matter

Whether you consider it to be a good or bad thing, the food retail world is controlled by the consumer, and your restaurant is just living in it. If your customer has a bad experience and chooses to tell others about it, your operation could be in trouble. Word of mouth is extremely important for the perception of your restaurant, so it’s crucial to know how to handle reviews of all kinds.

Where do customers leave reviews?

You may say ‘I’ve never seen a review of my restaurant before’. More than likely, you’ve just never seen the reviews. The most common places to look for reviews of your restaurant are Facebook, Google, and Yelp.

Facebook

Because of its user-friendliness, Facebook is popular with customers and restaurant owners alike. Your restaurant’s business page is a great platform to have pictures of the day’s specials, hours, and social interaction, all in one place. When it comes to reviews, Facebook creates a star rating that denotes the quality of the reviews left, with five stars being the best. You can also change how you want to filter reviews: most helpful, most recent, and star rating. Because of how often it is used daily for news, photos, and checking up on friends, it’s only natural that Facebook restaurant reviews are taken seriously. Potential customers can trust the words of their mutual friends and can even see if others they know have reviewed the restaurant.

Facebook Business Page

Facebook Reviews Page

Learn how to find and interact with your Facebook page reviews.

Google

If you look up your restaurant on Google’s search engine, you will see your business name off to the right side, along with categories like directions, website, and an overall star rating. This star rating is determined by an average of the reviews left. If you click into these reviews (and there are some) you will be able to see the individual reviews. Google is a super important facet of customer reviews because whether people are searching for your menu, hours, or directions, they’re most likely typing it into the Google search engine. This will bring up the sidebar with the star-rating and reviews front and center.

Google Search Reviews

Find out how to respond to Google reviews.

Yelp

One of the most common review sites, and the thorn in the side of many restaurant owners, Yelp helps future customers narrow down their choice of where to do business. It also gives customers that have visited the business an outlet to review the quality of services and their expectations of that business. Yelp has its own algorithm when it comes to displaying reviews. Like Google and Facebook, Yelp also uses a star ranking system, calculated by reviews left. Yelp tends to display a frequent Yelper’s reviews over a new user, making it more difficult to see reviews chronologically.

Yelp Business Page

Yelp Reviews Page

Learn how to use Yelp to the fullest potential with these tips for your restaurant.

What do I do if someone leaves my restaurant a good review?

Congratulations on your restaurant’s hard work! Here’s how you can make the most out of your patron’s compliments:

Respond Back– Before you do anything else with your positive review, you need to write back! Good reviews deserve just as much attention as bad reviews, plus you can promote them without having to come up with an apology statement. Thank the customer for their review and acknowledge that they went out of their way to pass along kind words.

Give Credit Where Credit It Is Due– After you pat yourself on the back, make sure to bring the review to your staff’s attention. If it is about the service, recognize your bartenders or wait staff at the next shift meeting. If it’s about the food, congratulate the cooks on a job well done. While credit should certainly be served to those that were mentioned in the review, you can commend all moving parts of your restaurant. This success is the result of teamwork in your restaurant.

Show It Off– Publish the review on your social media channels, have framed testimonials (do it yourself with Small Thanks), or even include it into your next menu design. Reviews are a great way for your restaurant to tout its successes and would be a shame to not promote them!

What do I do if someone leaves my restaurant a bad review?

Don’t panic! A bad review can become an opportunity for your restaurant if handled correctly. The process below can help streamline how you or your staff deal with negative reviews.

Study Up–  You’ll need to do a little research before answering the review with your emotions flying. First, take note of the date the review was posted and, if it gives details, who (if anyone) was involved. This can help you gain some perspective on how to respond to the review.

It’s Not Too Late to Say Sorry– Apologizing is crucial. Even if it was the weather. Even if it was a fluke in your well-oiled staff. Even if it was the way your restaurant is decorated. Say you’re sorry. That person is not leaving a review for no reason (usually) and wants their feelings validated.

Be a Problem Solver– After your apology, be sure to offer up a solution that’s related to what the customer was concerned about. If there was an issue with the food, reach out with a free meal or appetizer. If there was a problem with the staff, communicate that it will be brought up during a team meeting to prevent it from happening again. Also, if the incident has since been addressed and solved, let the reviewer know of the policy change.

When dealing with a bad review, it’s important to acknowledge the reviewer’s feelings and empathize while also offering a solution. Be sure to touch on each of these points and tailor the response to the reviewer’s experience. Canned responses quickly lose candor and don’t win you any points for originality.

As with positive reviews, be sure to bring up bad reviews with your staff. Walk through the situation with them and provide a process for how to deal with similar situations. You can even use them as motivation for your staff by putting bad reviews in their break area, especially if they are unmotivated by tips.

Why does brand management matter?

Having fresh reviews, engaging with those leaving reviews, and monitoring your social media channels may sound like it will take a lot of time and energy. But without good brand management, it’s extremely difficult to stay on top of customer reviews. In doing these daily tasks, you can quickly pick up on these channels’ review components and see what people are saying about your restaurant. It’s important to keep an eye on these as much as possible to create the highest amount of engagement, and ideally, new reviews.

When making decisions, customers are searching for recently posted reviews, as it should be the most up to date information. Unfortunately, the barrage of five-star reviews you received early last year just isn’t going to cut it. According to Search Engine Land, “69 percent of consumers believe that reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant”. In other words, a review’s usefulness depreciates in value for bringing in new business. Constant flow of reviews show that your restaurant is staying relevant and can be used for customers to make more informed decisions.

By successfully managing your brand, you can incite more reviews by guests, encouraging others to come see what the fuss is about. To help you stay on top of your restaurant, try setting up a Google Alert to easily monitor possible reviews or comments.

Reviews can stand as a welcoming beacon or caution sign; handling them properly can make all the difference. By staying on top of good and bad reviews with attentive brand management, your restaurant can create a quality experience for all guests.

Erwin: A Show Stopping Addition to Our Rustic Industrial Collection of Restaurant Seating

Irwin Cross Back Chair - Wood and Metal - Rustic Industrial Collection

Trying to choose between the warmth of wood seating and the commercial durability of metal?  If so, you no longer have to make that choice.  The newest member of our rustic-industrial seating collection, the Erwin, offers both.  Distressed oak and black powder coated steel come together for a balanced look that enables both to shine.

The Erwin is designed with a cross back that provides both support and structural strength, while adding a unique style.  The innovative leg design utilizes square extrusions to create the back legs, while the front legs and seat supports are stamped metal, offering a unique look and extra strength.  The frame is fully welded and comes with non-marring glides that won’t scratch your floors.

The Erwin comes in both chairs and barstools that look great in any setting, from tavern to coffee shop.  If you would like to learn more about how the Erwin can fit into your restaurant’s décor, please give our sales and customer care team a call at (800) 986 – 5352, and we will be happy to help you.

OSHA 101 for Restaurants

Chef and Inspector - OSHA for Restaurants

Last month, we were at the Pennsylvania Foodservice Expo in Pittsburgh, PA, and had the pleasure of attending a seminar given by Thomas Barnowski, Director of Corporate and Public Safety Education at Northampton Community College.  The seminar, called You Can’t Afford to Ignore OSHA, was a great hour-long introduction to OSHA, and the safety rules and regulations that govern general industry.

While Mr. Barnowski’s presentation was not specific to restaurants, one key takeaway from the presentation was that OSHA’s own website www.osha.gov provides a wealth of information and resources for all industries, including restaurants.

If you are unfamiliar with OSHA and the standards in the OSH Act, we’ve put together a short introduction here.

What is OSHA?

OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, was established in 1970 when Richard Nixon signed into law the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act).  At that time, there was a real need for governmental oversight of all industries due to a rising number of workplace deaths and injuries.  According to osha.gov, by the end of the 1960’s, the number of deaths due to workplace hazards had risen to 14,000 per year with 56 million workers; currently, that number is approximately 4,500 deaths per year with 127 million full time workers in the United States.

I thought OSHA regulations were for manufacturers and other industrial companies – What does OSHA have to do with my restaurant?

In addition to specialized areas like construction, maritime, and agriculture, OSHA enforces regulations that cover general industry, including restaurants.   As a restaurant owner, you are subject to the same standards as a company that operates a manufacturing plant; the implementation of those standards may differ, however.  For example, under OSHA regulations, employers must provide their employees with personal protective equipment.  At a restaurant, that might mean supplying employees with special cut-resistant gloves, whereas a manufacturing business might have to supply its employees with a welding mask, respirator, or hearing protection.

As a restaurant owner/operator, you should also be aware of new disclosure rules that took effect in 2015.  Under these new rules, employers must report to OSHA any work-related fatalities, in-patient hospitalizations, amputations, or loss of an eye, within 8 hours.  The new rules are particularly relevant to restaurants whose employees who are more likely to sustain reportable cuts, burns, and lifting injuries.

What are employers expected to do under the OSH Act?

Under the OSH Act, “employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace” and “to keep their workplace free of serious recognized hazards”.  While those statements may sound subjective, the many standards in the OSH Act detail specific employer responsibilities for everything from means of egress to hazardous material procedures.  OSHA also publishes standard interpretation letters that explain how the standards apply in particular circumstances.

There are a few other requirements that you must follow to maintain compliance with the OSH Act:

  • Post an official OSHA poster in a highly visible area of your workplace. The poster notifies employees of their rights under the OSH Act and lists your obligations as an employer.
  • Keep accurate records of workplace accidents and injuries.
  • Report any work-related fatalities, inpatient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye to OSHA within 8 hours of being notified of the event.
  • Ensure that employees and their representatives have access to their medical records.
  • Maintain a no-retaliation policy for employees that bring up safety concerns or contact OSHA.

 

Which OSHA standards apply to my restaurant?

The answer is, any and all of them, depending on the nature of your operation.  For example, if your specialty is making ice cream using liquid nitrogen, then you will have to put safety procedures into place regarding the use of that substance, whereas the average pizza shop would not have the same requirements.  However, we were able to come up with a list of general things that you can do to maintain a safe work environment in your restaurant.

What can I do to make my restaurant safer?

  • Communication – One of the most important things that you can do to ensure a safe, healthy workplace is to open effective lines of communication with your employees. Effective communication means more than just telling employees what to do, it also means listening to them and acting on their feedback.  When employees feel like their employer is listening to them, particularly about safety concerns, they are much more likely to become invested in the process of making the restaurant safer, and less likely to bring their concerns directly to OSHA.
  • Training– Under the OSH Act, employers are responsible for training their employees on the health and safety aspects of their jobs.  This includes training them to use the tools and machines that are necessary to perform their jobs, training them on safety procedures, and training them on emergency preparedness.  OSHA also states that the training must use a language and vocabulary that employees can understand, so if your employees do not comprehend English, then you have to train them using their language.  You should also document your training practices; if a reportable accident ever occurs, you will have to prove to the OSHA inspector that the employee involved had adequate training to do the job.
  • Ergonomics – Did you know that, according to OSHA, sprains and strains are the most common types of injury in restaurants? It makes sense if you think about it – restaurant employees are constantly standing, bending, lifting, and performing repetitive actions.  Chopping vegetables for 6-8 hours per day, every day, can certainly result in a repetitive use strain if not done correctly and with the proper tools.  Care should be taken to make sure that employees have the equipment that they need to perform their jobs safely and efficiently.  Prep stations should be at a comfortable height so that prep cooks don’t have to stoop all day.  Use ergonomically designed shelving so that employees are lifting heavy items from the proper heights, and are not straining to lift items above a comfortable level.
  • Floors – Slips and falls can result in serious injuries, but they are among the most preventable. Make sure that floors are clean, not slippery, and that there are no obstructions in employees’ way.  Check carpeted areas routinely to make sure that there are no tears or ends pulling up; doing so will protect patrons as well as employees.  Also, make sure that if employees are standing for long periods of time at prep stations and cooking stations, you install some type of padded surface to avoid leg and back strain.
  • Machinery – Train employees on the safe operation of machinery like deli slicers, meat grinders, stovetops, ovens, and refrigeration units. Make sure that equipment guards remain in place and are functional.  Clean and service equipment regularly to prevent malfunction.  Implement a proper lockout/tagout procedure for equipment that is not in service.
  • Heat – There are two concerns regarding heat in a commercial kitchen. The most obvious is burns; employees can easily burn themselves on hot pans, hot oil splash, and even hot plates.  Train employees how to work safely in each circumstance where they have the potential to get burned.  The second concern regarding heat is heat exhaustion.  Commercial kitchens can easily reach temperatures of over 100 degrees, and employees can be exposed to heat exhaustion and even heat stroke, particularly when they are on their feet for 8-10 hours at a time.  To prevent this, give kitchen employees frequent breaks in a cooler room (even the walk-in cooler), and encourage them to hydrate often with water or an electrolyte replacement drink.  Note: have cooks steer clear of coffee and caffeinated drinks because they can dehydrate you even further.
  • Cuts – There’s no way around working with sharp objects in a restaurant. Knives, graters, peelers, mandolins, and various other cutting instruments are a necessary part of daily prep work in a commercial kitchen.  The best way to ensure safety when working with sharp tools is to properly train your employees in their use.  However, even professional chefs with years of knife-work experience get cut from time to time.  Distractions happen, and cutting objects are not very forgiving.  For that reason, invest in cut-resistant gloves for employees that will be working with sharp cutting instruments.  There are many types available at various price points, and most are machine washable.
  • Chemicals – Unless you’re a molecular gastronomist, experimenting with different chemical reactions in your food, your restaurant’s use of chemicals will most likely be confined to various cleaning solutions. Train employees in their proper use, including mixing and storage.  Make sure that all chemicals are properly labeled and have hazard warnings on them.  Finally, keep a binder of Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and train employees how to read them.

As a restaurateur, one of your main priorities should be keeping your staff safe and healthy; it will not only engender loyalty, but will save you money in the long run on lower turnover and training costs.  While OSHA is feared by many business owners, it can be a great resource to help you create a safe environment.  Refer to the OSHA standards often and you should find answers to many of the safety questions that you or your employees have.

Have you ever had an experience with OSHA, good or bad?  Let us know in the comments below.