How to Handle Difficult Restaurant Employees

How to Handle Difficult Restaurant Employees - Waiter in a Restaurant

We all have to deal with difficult employees in the restaurant industry. Let’s take a look at how we can manage negative behavior and create a positive work environment for everyone.

Look, the restaurant business is often challenging and the pressure to perform can go from zero to sixty in 4.6 seconds. We count on our staff to perform and improvise solutions at the drop of a hat. The importance of being on time, showing up with a winning attitude, and being able focus on tasks is a huge factor in determining the success of a shift. Yet — some people can’t seem to get it together. Always late; creates negative energy; section falling apart. Often times that’s only the tip of the iceberg. When tempers flare, frustrations mount and check/tip averages drop — the warm fuzzy feeling at staff meal have all but disappeared.

So, how do we deal with a problem employee? Is it possible to create a workplace that is positive, productive, and fun? Here are some tips and strategies for handling employees that perform poorly:

Use positive language You learn a lot about a person by observing their body language. Do they seem frustrated? Indifferent? Hostile? Many times we can gauge a person’s mood by watching how they enter the door and begin their shift. Take a moment to say hi. Ask about their day or weekend. You’d be surprised how this ‘small’ gesture can have a calming effect if they seem stressed or frazzled. You start off on a good note and help set the tone for the shift. On the flip side, it can cheer someone up if they seem depressed, fatigued, or low on energy. Restaurants are often tight-knit families. Take a minute or two out of your busy day to pass on a kind word. Show a genuine interest in their world outside of work. Sometimes the negative behavior displayed at work is carried over from the world outside those walls. The same approach can work when they are in the weeds and got triple sat on a busy Friday night. Keep a calm, friendly tone. Keep it light. Choose your words with care and make them count. You will be surprised at the amount of confidence you can build in your server/busser/bartender with a simple, “you got this but I’m here to jump in if you need anything.”

Fair, firm, and understanding Many people have poor time management skills. They make every attempt to show up on time, but — stuff happens. Traffic really does suck. The babysitter really is late… all the time. A raccoon really did eat their radiator belt (one allowance only for this excuse). It’s a hectic world. Be compassionate. But also let them know that being on time or keeping a neat station is important. Help them to understand: this is a team effort and an orchestrated dance. You will be surprised to find out how many people simply don’t understand the relevance of being prompt and punctual. Break it down for them in simple, easy terms. When you let an employee or coworker know that a certain action is valuable to the entire effort, they feel important. Everyone likes to feel important.

Be proactive Does your employee lack motivation? Find out what sparks their interest. Is it music? Fashion? Movies? When you establish a connection with hard to handle employees you build trust. We all understand the importance of trust and how it can lead to an overall improvement in attitude, performance, and workplace cohesiveness. Observe the behavior or habits that need to be corrected and address them early on — before they become a larger problem. Help them to discover better alternatives by walking through ‘mock scenarios’ during pre-shift. It’s possible that their section is always a disaster because no one has ever taught them how to work smarter by consolidating steps. Perhaps previous jobs did not emphasize orderliness and cleanliness. We can’t assume that previous employers have given everyone on your team the small nuggets of wisdom that make tasks easier and build reliable skill sets. You have to be that person. This is what distinguishes a leader from a manager.

Lead by example Let your team see that you care: you will never ask them to perform a task that you wouldn’t do yourself. When they see that you care deeply about the success of the business — they will adopt your habits. Difficult team members notice when you hop behind the bar, run orders, bus and reset tables when the team is in the weeds. And they will reciprocate. A team that feels you are involved with them throughout the shift will be more likely to step up their game. They become empowered and make fewer mistakes . When morale is high, your team members will go the extra mile to meet your vision. Teams that works together and observe strong leadership traits will be able to hold it together during the rough patches — the real nitty-gritty. They understand your expectations and adopt them as their own. They encourage coworkers that are not performing to do better.

The compliment sandwich We all know how delicious this sandwich can be if it’s served at the right temperature. Served cold — not so tasty. Throwing a couple of half-assed compliments on a plate and pouring some criticism gravy over the entire dish is not an effective management technique. It leaves a struggling employee confused and less receptive to feedback. The goal is to take negative behavior/habits and turn them into positive ones. Be sincere and genuine in your compliments — restaurant workers can spot b.s. a mile away. Suggest ways to fix the problem; ask for suggestions; listen to feedback and absorb their responses. As a manager and leader your tone should say, “I will try my hardest to help you.” Criticism is easy to dish out. Often vague, harsh and counterproductive — the result is rarely pleasant or informative. An effective leader will seek a favorable outcome and help to carry out effective solutions. Identify the specific actions you would like to change and give a clear and insightful path to meet those goals.

Employees are your best resource Your strongest assets are waiting to be cultivated. A healthy and positive work environment creates a sense of purpose and translates to an increase in sales, productivity, and happiness.

How to Handle Difficult Restaurant Employees - Pinterest Graphic

Drink Trends to Watch in 2019

When it comes time to order a drink, a few bar-goers stick with their tried and true favorite cocktails, you know, the same one they tried on their 21st birthday and have never ventured away from. But then you have the other type of customer that is more intrigued by the trends and expanding their horizons when they walk into the bar. These trendsetters seek out the latest and greatest in hopes of informing others of the most recent concoctions or getting that perfect Instagram picture to share with their friends. In the interest of luring these trendsetters into your bar and staying relevant in a competitive industry, we look at the trends rising to the forefront of the drink industry.

Sustainability

Just as with the rest of the restaurant industry, sustainability is a topic that is near and dear to consumer’s hearts. Customers want to know where their drinks are coming from and if they are being sourced in an ethical way. Research shows that consumers are willing to pay for these types of drinks.

Bartenders are also looking at sustainability by using their resources in the best way possible. Often times, creating a zero-waste cocktail cuts down on bar costs. Even taking steps to not use plastic straws anymore is beneficial cost wise and with customer approval.

Elevated Mocktails

Mocktails are making a comeback. Offering mocktails at a bar might seem strange but it can be a great way to reach a whole new set of customers. But these mocktails are not your momma’s Shirley Temples. These are more complex and intriguing then just throwing some grenadine in a Sprite. Like their alcoholic counterparts, these drinks are more intriguing than ever with the use of unexpected flavors and fresh ingredients.

Sour Beers

Expect to see more sour beers than ever. Not only are sours gaining popularity, but they are getting the subcategorization they need. Beers like kettle sours, fruit sours, goses (a traditional German-style unfiltered sour wheat beer), and solera (a process of aging by which fractional blending occurs to create a finished product of a mixture of ages) will all be separated out for customers to peruse.

While the flavor of sour beer’s flavor is old, American brewers have only learned how to safely produce it en masse for a little over the past five years. It draws a market for drinkers who are not traditional beer fans. People such as wine and cocktail lovers.

Gin

Gin, while an old favorite for some, has started gaining an even bigger following the past several years. Gin is huge news in the Northern Hemisphere, with European gins the most in demand around the world. Gin drinkers are becoming more experimental, seeking out new flavor and ingredients. Whether it is a classic gin and tonic or a gin with new flavor infusions, you’ll be seeing gin on more and more menus.

Brunch Drinks

Almost everyone has needed some hair of the dog after a particularly rowdy night. Brunch drinks are here to provide that. They are a delicious antidote that is more popular now than ever. While Mimosa’s and Bloody Mary’s have long cornered the market, expect to see some new drinks. Especially drinks that feature locally produced ingredients and sustainability.

Cannabis-Based Drinks

With the legalization of cannabis in some states, cannabis-based drinks have started to appear on menus. Cannabis drinks are not all about a new way to get high. By mixing it into a drink, it will add an herbal undertone, no matter the ingredient you use. The exact flavor varies based on the strain of cannabis you use. Though it does have a surprisingly versatile flavor pairing with liquors.

Distillery Tourism

While it isn’t a drink, distillery tours are bigger than ever. Whether it is a bachelor party just looking for a few good drinks or someone looking to learn the ins and outs of distilling, offering tours is a great way for distilleries to increase profit. It is also ideal for creating brand awareness and loyalty. When someone tours the facilities, they form an attachment.

For example, when they might have walked right past your brand at the store, now after touring, they will see it and be more likely to put it in their cart because they feel like they have some investment in your distillery.

Plus, at the end of the tour, many attendees will purchase goods to remember the experience. Money for the tour, money for the goods, and increased brand awareness and loyalty. It is a win, win, win situation. Expect to see even more distilleries opening their doors to tours in 2019.

 

While trying to incorporate all of these trends might not work for your bar, one of them has the possibility to be a big hit. Staying relevant in the industry can mean the difference between a lucrative year and having to close your doors.

Have you started serving one of these drinks at your bar? 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.

What a Hostess Station Can Do for Your Restaurant: And How to Handle the Ordering Process

Having a well-designed hostess or point of sale station helps to increase organization, further the aesthetic, and clue the customer in to what they can expect from your eatery.  After all, the hostess or point of sale station is usually the first thing that a customer sees when entering your restaurant. It helps create the story of your brand.

Benefits of a Hostess Station

A hostess station can also help your staff stay organized. Staying organized is crucial to keeping up during busy shifts and allowing staff to focus on customer service, instead of trying to find where the menus are. With customizable drawers, shelves, and cubbies, the stations can help to keep things from getting cluttered and out of control. Having a hostess station that is equipped with storage shelves underneath the surface can save your staff trips to your back area, and make refilling utensils, napkins, and sugar not only more convenient, but less time consuming.

Hostess stands, and the utilization of one, is a great way to control and increase table turnover. It also helps in keeping track of how many guests are coming through the door and help with managing the flow. These numbers can then be looked at later in time to determine busy times and help with the ordering process.

If you are considering adding custom furniture to your restaurant, a hostess station is a great place to start. Custom hostess stations are built to meet the individual needs of your restaurant. Do you need drawers or cupboards? Perhaps you need both. Are you looking to store t-shirts that can be sold to customers as a reminder of their good experience? Or maybe you just need a station for you hostesses to use for menu storage. All of this can be taken into consideration with a custom creation.

What You Need to Know Before Ordering

There are a few things that you can do to make the ordering process flow more easily. The first is to have already measured the space you plan to put it in. Only you know what size will work in your restaurant. By determining this and having the information readily available for your sales representative, you can help the entire process run more smoothly.

Next, take a moment to consider your needs vs. your wants. You might want your logo imprinted into the wood, but you need to have storage for crayons and children’s menus. Determine the top priorities for your station so that it has great functionality and looks good. By thinking about this ahead of time, it’ll be easier to communicate to someone in sales, when the time comes.

Finally, think about the overall aesthetics. Hostess stations are predominantly made of wood or particle board, with reclaimed wood hostess stations being particularly popular. They are also usually available in a variety of stains. If you decide to put doors put on your stand, you’ll want to consider if you want the fronts to be made of wood or a different material such as metal or glass. Smaller details such as the look and color of the hardware can also have a big effect on the overall design of the piece.

 

A hostess station is more than just an interior design choice. It looks good, but it also benefits your business by being integral to the efficiency of a restaurant. Having a station that fits your design makes a statement to customers about what they can expect from your restaurant, helps with organization, and enhances the overall aesthetic.

 

To discuss your customization options, you can speak with one of our customer care representatives by calling 800-986-5352.

What is Flex Back Seating?

When looking at restaurant seating there are a lot of different things to look for. A phrase you might see appearing quite often during your search is the term ‘flex back’. But what exactly is a flex back? A flex back chair or bar stool has a back that tilts as the person seated moves or applies pressure on the back.

So, now you might be asking yourself “what is the benefit of a flex back?” They add comfort to the chair by allowing your customers to lean back and get comfy, instead of hitting the unmoving pieces of a standard back.

The piece that allows the back to flex is usually a metal piece that securely connects the seat to the back. It is secure enough to ensure the furniture retains its structural integrity, but also allow for some movement.

Studies have shown when customers feel comfortable they stay longer; when they stay longer, they spend more. Restaurants with a more formal atmosphere, that want to encourage diners to stay and continue ordering, tend to opt for comfortable furniture with features like flex backs. This is often seen in bucket bar stools where the intent is to keep customers at the bar.

Standard and flex back options are both structurally sound and hold similar capacities. Ultimately, a flex back allows for additional comfort for your customers and increased spending potential at your restaurant.

What is Communal Dining?

Over the past few years, you may have noticed an increase in large dining tables in restaurants. In the past tables of this size were usually relegated to the family dining room, but now these communal tables are popping up in restaurants all over the country.

These tables are used to facilitate communal dining, which is the practice of dining with others, usually accommodating more than one party. While they might be reminiscent of cafeterias and beer halls, they have gotten a facelift in recent years. With both indoor and outdoor options designed to work with current trends, these tables help to complete the look of a restaurant, instead of just being a way to save space.

The concept is centered on food and people coming together to share a meal. The sharing of a table helps to break down the barriers of the restaurant and promotes conversation flow among patrons.

Most restaurants never dreamed their patrons would tolerate dining with strangers, but it makes good business sense. The large tables allow restaurants to accommodate large groups more easily. Even when the table is split into several parties, it adds seats, creating a good use of space.

Many cities with a large “foodie” market have seen great success with communal dining tables. Cities like Boston, Chicago, and New York see small groups come in, sit down, and interact with each other. Then they end up discussing the food and end up buying each other drinks and making new friends.

If you have the right space, and think it will work with your concept, there are many options to choose from to fit your look. It is recommended that the tables be large enough to seat from 8 to 12 guests and be at least 30 inches wide to ensure that everyone has enough space for food and electronic devices.

Do you think a communal dining experience would enhance your restaurant? Let us know in the comments below!

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.

 

 

When Is a Good Time to Order Furniture For Your Restaurant?

FAQ's From the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

Something even the most knowledgeable restaurant owners seem to be unsure of is when they should order furniture for their new restaurant. In the world of express shipping and Amazon Prime, consumers tend to think that they don’t need to order things very far in advance. This is not the case with commercial furniture. When asking yourself “when should I order my furniture?” The answer is: the sooner the better.

Ideally, you should begin your search at around 10 weeks before you want the furniture to arrive. It seems like a lot of time, but it will go by faster than you think.  Starting earlier gives you time to research, place the order, and receive the furniture before your opening.

The time it takes for your furniture to arrive on your doorstep is dependent upon a couple different factors. This first of which is the type of furniture you order. Items that are custom built such as reclaimed booths, or custom vinyl seats, have a production time, where other items might not.

By calling in advance, you can also check the stock of the item you have your eye on. Popular items sell out quickly. Stock fluctuates daily and can affect your expected arrival date. Even if an item says out of stock it is good to call and see when the next shipment is arriving. The earlier you call the better to either reserve your items, or get your name on the preorder list.

Transit time is another factor in your furniture’s arrival. Most large furniture items ship LTL. You’ll want to take into account the location of the place you are ordering from in relation to where you are located. Items traveling from across the United States are going to take longer than items coming from across the state.

Purchasing outdoor furniture can be a little different than purchasing indoor items. If you are looking to get outdoor furniture for the spring/summer season, February is a good time to order. You want to have your furniture before the weather breaks and customers start asking to sit on your patio. Waiting too long to call could put you in the danger zone of not being able to receive your furniture until part way through the season.

It is best to order your restaurant furniture well before your open date, about 10 weeks, to make sure that you can get the items you want, in the time frame that works for you. If you have your eye on some pieces that we offer at East Coast Chair & Barstool, you can get your order started today by calling our Customer Care Team at 800-986-5352.

Top 6 Restaurant Cash Handling Blunders You Must Stop

Cash Register for Cash Handling Blunders

By David Scott Peters
TheRestaurantExpert.com

If you have poor cash handling procedures in place in your restaurant, no other system you put in place will matter. I don’t care how efficient your restaurant is, if every penny of your sales isn’t deposited in the bank, there won’t be enough money to pay your bills. Cash controls must take top priority. No matter what you think needs to be addressed first, I tell restaurant owners to prioritize the review of restaurant cash handling procedures over everything else.

Here are some samples of classic cash handling errors we see in restaurants all the time:

  1. Change in a glass or a drawer. This is a practice used to simplify the nightly deposit. It is used two different ways. First, it’s a time saver to avoid counting loose change. Second, it is used to make the nightly deposit balance exactly to what the point of sales system says the cash balance should be.
  2. A week’s worth of unsecured checks in an unlocked filing cabinet. We often see this when the general manager or the owner is the only one allowed to make a bank run, when there is not enough cash to deposit due to credit card purchases or because the owner or manager is just plain lazy.
  3. A bin with a year’s worth of used non-voided paper gift certificates. While management was doing the right thing making sure all of the gift certificates used were accounted for on a nightly basis, they failed to write the word void on them and then saved them in an unsecured clear bin. Any employee could steal a small amount on a daily basis and reuse them to keep cash sales.
  4. Customer checks taped to the office wall. Many restaurants cater or hold banquets on premise. This means you will have customers leave a deposit check to guarantee the party will happen. This practice is meant to cover costs if they cancel. The challenge comes when the owner or manager doesn’t deposit the checks and tapes them to the wall, because you don’t know if payment is good. A dishonest employee could steal the checks or use the information to steal your customer’s identity and conduct check fraud.
  5. Credit card numbers recorded in a book. In July 2010, a new law was enacted that makes it illegal to retain customers’ credit card numbers in anything other than a secure online record keeping system that meets the law’s requirements. Failing to follow the law’s requirements can result in fines as much as $5,000 for each credit card number kept.
  6. Blank checks and forged checks to routinely pay for deliveries. It is a common practice that restaurant owners leave blank checks to pay for invoices, or they allow a key employee, who is not authorized to sign checks, to simply forge their signature to pay for invoices. This exposes you to a great deal of liability.

If you any of these procedures is in place in your restaurant, know that you’re leaving yourself open to theft and liability. It is your responsibility to make sure ALL of your money makes it into the bank on a daily basis. You must eliminate poor cash handling procedures, eliminate the majority of ways your cash can be stolen and avoid costly fines through proper systems.

David Scott Peters is a restaurant consultant, event speaker and founder of TheRestaurantExpert.com, a company committed to the success of independent restaurants. TheRestaurantExpert.com offers an exclusive online restaurant management software designed specifically to meet the complete operational needs of independent operators, including holding their managers accountable and running a profitable business. Combined with one-on-one coaching and group workshops, TheRestaurantExpert.com is helping independent restaurants find success in the highly competitive restaurant industry. Download a free report to discover the #1 secret to lowering food and labor costs and running the independent restaurant you’ve always dreamed of. Learn more about how David can help you at www.TheRestaurantExpert.com.

Secure Your Kitchen: A Guide to Increasing Safety in Your Commercial Kitchen

Commercial kitchens are notorious for the hustle and bustle that happens behind the doors; while the customers might see the relaxed atmosphere of the dining room, the kitchen is anything but. That being said, it is also one of the most dangerous rooms in your restaurant. With a few easy steps, you can help ensure the safety of your employees and patrons, and protect against financial losses.

Fire Safety

The biggest hazard to a commercial kitchen is a fire. Nearly 8,000 eating and drinking establishments report a fire each year, according to 2006-2010 data tabulated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Fire causes over $246 million in restaurant property damage each year and can devastate a restaurant, leading to lost revenues and even permanent closure.

A great way to combat a fire is by installing an effective kitchen fire suppression system. Look for a  system from a company that provides trained technicians to install the system, provide routine inspections, and service the equipment. Current U.S. codes require a UL3000 hood extinguishing system along with a k-rated fire extinguisher.

Be proactive about fire safety by maintaining and inspecting your fire alarm system. Try to create a schedule to inspect the alarms on a regular basis. Check to make sure that the batteries are still in working order. The alarm will let you know when the batteries are getting low by beeping periodically even when there is no smoke. Experts recommend checking your fire alarms every six

months. While checking don’t forget to check the batteries for corrosion, which can also cause the alarm to malfunction.

 

In the event of a fire, ensure that all posted signs are easy to read and visible, not only for employees but patrons as well. Make sure to keep you evacuation routes clear. This is a safety measure, but if routes are blocked it can also be a code violation.

Ensure that all posted signs are easy to read and visible, not only for employees but patrons as well. You don’t want to see anyone harmed if something should happen.

Having properly functioning fire alarms can alert not only your employees and patrons, but also the fire department of any serious situations. Regular fire drills and well-displayed evacuation routes also help to ensure the safety of everyone. Practice the drills to help identify any area of confusion that should be remedied before an actual fire breaks out.

Equipment Safety

In addition to fire, improper equipment is a huge concern in a commercial kitchen. Deep fryers are not only a concern for fire safety but also for burns.  Hot oil is very dangerous and requires a 16-inch clearance to ensure that all staff members are safe. Keep in mind that child labor laws do not permit workers younger than 16 to cook or use a deep fryer. Always have team members wear steam gloves when changing or filtering the oil to protect against burns. Another aspect of fryer safety is keeping the floor near the fryer very clean; oil from the fryer can easily make its way to the floor and cause a fall leading to injury.

Keeping your kitchen as grease free as possible increases not only safety but productivity. Commercial kitchens are full of grease. Cleaning grease traps on a 6-month interval may be an industry standard, increasing the cleaning frequency based upon how quickly the grease accumulates helps cut back on the likelihood of blockages. According to the EPA, grease is the primary cause of sewer blockages that lead to overflows in the kitchen.

Knives are one of the most commonly used tools in a chef’s arsenal and present a constant danger in a commercial kitchen. Believe it or not, dull blades are more likely to slip and cause injuries, so keep you knives sharp. Utensils made of high carbon stainless steel hold their sharpness longer and might be a good investment so you aren’t spending lots of time sharpening blades. It is also important to avoid knives with wood handles as they are more likely to become oily and slip from the users grasp.

Training

One of the most helpful ways to improve your kitchen safety is to provide your staff with the appropriate training. Staff should always be trained on the proper way to use new equipment and the dangers that are associated with improper use.

In addition to new equipment training, consider sharing with your team a few other pieces of information to help keep your kitchen safe.

Train your staff to:

  • Properly use a fire extinguisher
  • Clean up grease
  • Never throw water on a grease fire
  • Store flammable liquids properly
  • Use chemical solutions correctly
  • Be able to power down equipment – Train at least one worker per shift on how to correctly shut off the gas and electrical power in case of an emergency.

Sometimes it is difficult to make your safety training engaging, yet quick, and easy to grasp. Colorful visuals, customized posters, and videos are all good tools to help teach your employees without causing them to zone out from boredom.

Nobody likes to micromanage employees and make them feel incompetent, but it is a good idea to supervise the handling of the equipment occasionally to make sure that it is being used safely.  You can give your employees all the tools they need but if they aren’t using them correctly it won’t improve the conditions of your kitchen.

Another benefit of revisiting your safety measures is that a safe and clean kitchen leads to higher employee morale and productivity,  not to mention the benefit of avoiding lost revenue due to down time from an accident or permanent closure. At the end of the day, the biggest benefit is still ensuring the safety of your staff and patrons. By checking for fire hazards, monitoring your equipment, and training your employees you can improve the safety of your kitchen, protecting your restaurant from disaster.