How to Turn Upset Customers Into Friends

It’s a typical Wednesday night at your restaurant, and everything is chugging along smoothly. Ticket times are good, there’s a small wait at the host stand, and that new busser is working out really well.

Then, a server comes to you and says, “The guy at 403 is really mad.”

Oh dear.

There is no company in the world that has happy customers 100% of the time. It’s impossible. But what separates the good from the great is how they deal with unhappy guests when problems arise.

Making it right isn’t just a good PR move — it makes sense financially too. Word-of-mouth is a big factor in your sales. 81% of consumers trust their friends’ and families’ recommendations over anything else. 

Plus, it costs up to 25x more to get a new customer than to retain an existing one. So it’s important to know how to turn an unhappy customer into an advocate instead of an enemy. Here are some tips you can use to do just that!

Introduce Yourself by Name

When you first walk up to the table of an unhappy customer, all they know is that you represent the place that messed up.

So start off by humanizing yourself with a proper introduction.

“Hi, I’m Jim, the manager. I heard there was some trouble, and I wanted to see what I can do to help.”

When we know someone’s name, it makes them more of an individual and less of a cog in a machine. Instead of seeing you as a representative of the business, they’ll see you as a person who may be able to help.

It’s amazing how often managers forget this step! 

It’s also a good idea to ask the customer’s name. As Dale Carnegie famously said, “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” 

But don’t overuse it. Maybe address them by name once during your initial conversation, and once more when they’re leaving. Overusing someone’s name can come across as insincere and patronizing — the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve!

Really Listen

When an upset customer tells you their story, don’t be thinking about how you’re going to respond. Just listen. 

You may think the main issue is that their steak was cold. But the issue may actually be that they told their server about it, and she didn’t seem to care. One is a simple matter of reheating or firing a new steak, while the other is an issue of bad customer service. Those are two very different problems.

So let the customer tell their story, and really listen so you can get to the root of the issue. 

Occasionally, it happens that the meal went wrong from the very beginning. The host was rude. Then the menu was dirty. Then the drinks took forever to come out. You can’t go back and fix all these things, but you can listen with sympathy. 

Sometimes, people just need to vent. So let them get it all out before you start offering solutions.

See Things Through Their Eyes

Your POS system went down, and no one realized it for 15 minutes. Now you have missing tickets and a seriously angry mom whose hungry toddler is having a meltdown. Plus, now she’s going to be late picking up her older child from ballet practice.

Put yourself in her shoes, and try to empathize. She’s not upset because she has to wait. She’s upset because the delay is causing a chain reaction that is going to affect her whole day. 

The POS system going down is obviously not your fault. But try explaining that to an 8-year-old who has been waiting by herself in ballet shoes after all the other parents have come and gone.

What would you want in that situation? Probably anything edible and portable that you could give the toddler, so he would calm down and they could get going. What you certainly wouldn’t want is to hear a bunch of excuses as to why the wait would be another 15 minutes.

Everyone is fighting their own battles, and we only see a little piece of it. So keep that in mind next time someone seems to be overreacting to a problem at your restaurant. A little empathy goes a long way!

Project Confidence

Throughout your interaction with the upset customer, you want them to feel like you have things under control. You are the person who can solve their problem and make everything right. So take control of the situation and assure them that they’re in good hands.

This means taking decisive, quick action. If something came out cold, you snap up that dish and get it to the kitchen lickety-split. If the server was rude, you go chat with them right away. 

Take control! Instead of asking what they would like you to do to fix the problem, offer solutions. If something was too salty, tell them you’d be happy to have it re-made, or you can get them a different dish right away. Don’t put the onus on the customer to come up with a fix. 

Get on Their Side

It can be tempting to see an angry customer as the enemy. Is an undercooked burger really something to fly off the handle about? This lady is being totally unreasonable!

That may be true, but it’s also the wrong attitude to take. Remember, we’re trying to see things through their eyes! 

Once you understand the problem, get on their side. Help the customer to see you as their advocate. This undercooked burger affects them, but it also affects you. While you may not appreciate being shouted at, you should appreciate an opportunity to improve. 

You don’t want to throw your kitchen or their server under the bus, but you can still create a little team of two. Try something like, “Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention! I’m going to go get a new burger started for you, and chat with the kitchen about keeping an eye on temperatures. I really appreciate you letting me know, so I can make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Now you’re a dynamic duo. You have a mutual understanding about the unpleasantness of undercooked burgers, and together, you’re solving the problem.

Always Apologize

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the goal of “making it right” that we miss a crucial step — apologizing. 

It’s a simple acknowledgement that something went wrong and the company fell short. Even if it wasn’t really your fault, apologize anyway. 

If Appropriate, Take Something Off the Bill

Some restaurant owners and managers discourage comping food. They may be afraid that customers will abuse the policy. Or they may worry that managers won’t be able to judge when a comp is appropriate.

But look at it this way — what’s worth more to you? The cost of that appetizer, or not getting reamed on Yelp? 

Losing one star on Yelp or Google can result in a 5% reduction in revenue. So it may be worth the expense to take something off the bill if that’s the best way to make someone happy. 

In general, you’ll have a good idea of when someone is genuinely unhappy, and when someone is just trying to score free stuff. If they eat the whole meal before complaining, raise a fuss but don’t allow you to bring out a replacement dish, or show you a hair on the plate (which looks suspiciously similar to the customer’s own hair), you’ll know their game.

But in a normal circumstance where the restaurant really did make a mistake, a simple comp can be enough to show a customer that you take their complaint seriously and want to make it right.

Follow Up

Once you’ve listened, taken quick action, and given them a discount if appropriate, circle around one more time.

Thank the customer again for giving you the chance to fix the problem. And if they seem happy, ask if they’d be willing to share their email address. A nice note from the owner the next day, again apologizing for the error and welcoming them back to the restaurant, will leave a great impression. That “above and beyond” attention is the kind of care that people remember.

Conclusion

Your customers are your greatest marketing tool. They tend to remember either really good or really bad experiences, and share them in person or on review sites. So it’s up to you to turn each mistake into an opportunity. 

Make sure when your restaurant’s name comes up, the story isn’t about the error, but about  how you went to extraordinary lengths to make it right. That’s the kind of service that will earn you a customer’s loyalty and friendship.

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

East Coast Chair & Barstool 2018 Customer Showcases

It has been another great year at East Coast Chair & Barstool. So we’d like to take a moment to take a look back at some of our favorite customer showcases from 2018. Click through the slideshow to see all the wonderful ways our customers have used our furniture to bring their visions to life.

 

 

  • Simons with reclaimed wood seats can be found at Draft Republic in San Diego, CA.
 

 

A big thank you to our customers for making us a part of their year and for sharing photos of their beautiful businesses. If you’d like to submit a photo, you can do so by emailing or messaging us on Facebook.

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 is a Gastropub?

The restaurant industry is filled with invention and creativity, the same can be said for the terminology. All too often, ‘restaurant words’ are thrown around, but their true meaning isn’t known. The term ‘gastropub’ fits right into that category.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines gastropub as a “pub, bar, or tavern that offers meals of high quality”, while the word broken down is a combination of the terms ‘gastronomy’ and ‘public house’. Gastropubs are a fusion of a casual dining atmosphere with elevated cooking techniques.

Gastropubs originated in London with The Eagle in 1991 and have risen in popularity across the pond in the U.S. over the past ten years.

A restaurant’s menu is a great indicator of whether it fits into the gastropub model or not. Looking at a gastropub’s menu, all the base items will likely consist of usual pub fare but garnished with specialty sauces or cheeses. Think bison burgers topped in smoked gouda cheese or fries with truffle mushrooms on them. It’s all about having a familiar food base for customers and then ramping it up with house made extras you won’t find anywhere else.

Special care is taken when the unique menu items are plated as well. There is a little more that goes into presenting these foods to the customer, in accordance to the gastronomy part of gastropub. Imagine salads that have fresh lemons squeezed over tops with a perimeter of dark balsamic dressing keeping the greens in. Think sandwiches layered with different toppings, topped off with a small molehill of scallions. The presentation is creative, but not stuffy.

Like a pub, spirits are still taken very seriously in gastropubs. Normally these businesses have lengthy lists of choices for their customers that cover liquors, wine, and the largest portion of that list, beers.

Gastropubs are a melting pot of the commonalities of traditional pubs combined with a higher-grade food experience, creating a unique niche of the restaurant industry.

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.

Ways To Make Your Restaurant More Instagram-Worthy

There is no denying that social media is a powerhouse. Every day new accounts are being created at a rate of one new social media user every 15 seconds. There are 3.03 billion active social media users, with the average number of social media accounts being 5.54. The average daily time spent on social is 116 minutes a day.

Instagram is right at the top with over 800 million monthly active users and over 95 million photos uploaded every day. That is a huge market and a fantastic tool that you can use to reach current and potential customers. Instagram can be a powerful promotional tool if used the right way. Yelp data shows that more users are looking up restaurants based upon how “Insta-worthy” they are. There are a few things that you can do to up your game, get those double taps, and use Instagram to fill your seats.

Beautiful Food

As a restaurant, your top priority is the food and the way that it tastes, but nothing says that food can’t be both delicious and photo worthy. Many restaurants are seeing success with creating a novelty food item that brings people in just for the photo opportunity. Bloggers compile lists of the most
Instagrammable food in each city. Readers then flock to these locations to get that next great picture. By offering an item that is a little over the top, you can bring in a lot of business. Hybrid foods such as the Cronut, are also very popular.

Don’t rework your entire menu just to make it Instagram worthy but consider creating a monthly special that is fun to photograph. It will get people in the door and it’s a great creative exercise for your staff.

Presentation of food is always important, but there are a few easy ways to up you game. Investing in some white plates is a great way to show off your food. It helps to accentuate the colors of the food and has a nice minimalistic feel, perfect for photographing.

Many of us can agree that greasy foods are delicious, though packaging with giant grease stains aren’t the most appetizing looking. To avoid grease ruining a Kodak moment, invest is some grease proof paper. It allows fried foods to look their best all the time.

Lighting

As any photographer will tell you, lighting is crucial to the perfect photo. Take a moment to evaluate the lighting in your restaurant to make sure it fits the image you want to create. Are you a dark and moody bar looking to reach college students or a light and airy bakery catering to families? If you are trying to go for a darker vibe, try having a few areas that are well lit enough for a good photo op. Neon signs can be great for this. They also create a signature piece to identify your location.  Photographers love spaces with good natural lighting, it makes taking the photo easier and allows your food to look its best.

Décor

You don’t need to completely redesign your restaurant just for Instagram opportunities. A few small adjustments can be made to encourage guests to take photos. A wall with a quote that embodies your brand, unique wallpapers, and furniture can all enhance the experience offered at your restaurant and promote customers sharing on their account.

You can help set the tone with what part of your décor you would like featured in photos. Do you have a fancy tiled floor? Or perhaps you spent hours obsessing over the perfect counters, feature them as a consistent backdrop on your feed and customers will follow suit.

Murals

Finding a mural and posting a picture with it is a new trend to hit Instagram. If your building has a beautiful blank wall indoor or out, consider pairing up with a local artist to create something unique to your area or restaurant. Brainstorm a signature hashtag and a location tag and you’ll have people traveling from all over to come take pictures. In some cases, people stand in lines down the block to take pictures with certain murals. If foot traffic is an issue this is a sure-fire way to increase passersby.

Hashtags

Share your Instagram account name everywhere. On your menu, on a chalkboard sidewalk sign, or on a receipt. Make sure that your customers know where to find you online. They can’t follow if they don’t know where you are posting. Create a custom hashtag that either references the name of your restaurant or a fun aspect of your brand. This will encourage any Insta-lovers to start snapping and tagging your restaurant.

Hosting a photo contest with a signature hashtag is a great way to improve engagement or get the momentum going on a new account. To encourage participation, offer customers a percentage off if they come in to eat and post.

Your Feed

Most importantly, don’t forget to include a human element to your posts. Gorgeous photos of your food are great and can create craveability ideal for generating new customers. That being said, a huge part of the industry is the people and their stories. Integrate photos of people enjoying themselves on your feed, it’ll inspire other to come and join the food party.

Just be yourself. Share photos of your customers enjoying the food or photos that illustrate the story of your business and what makes you unique. In a world of cultivated content people often crave realness.

Social media is a great marketing tool and Instagram is at the forefront of the social media game. Instagram is an excellent tool for meeting your customers where they are at. By making a few adjustments to your current design or marketing plan you can increase your customer base exponentially.

Have you seen results by using Instagram? Let us know in the comments below!

What to Consider Before Opening Your Restaurant for 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.

Straws: Plastic and Pollution on Our Planet

Plastic Straws in Drinks

 

A little background…

2018 has not been kind to plastic straws. The restaurant and hospitality industries are being encouraged to change the way they use single-use plastic products like straws (“500 million straws are used and discarded every day in the U.S. alone”). In response, many corporations are coming up with alternatives and plans to change the way they use straws.

In 2015, a video was uploaded to YouTube named ‘Sea Turtle with Straw up its Nostril – “NO” TO PLASTIC STRAWS’ by Texas A&M Ph. D. candidate, Christine Figgener. This video has over 32 million views on the YouTube platform, not counting Facebook or other social media views. Although it wasn’t the first, this viral video put a face on the issue of single-use plastic items and raised awareness about the consequences that aren’t considered after a piece of plastic lands in a landfill, ocean, or beach.

Many restaurant owners are being faced with purchasing questions that they will need to answer. Single-use plastic has long been used in the restaurant and hospitality industries religiously for the past fifty years. It can seem difficult to find alternatives, but not impossible.

What’s the issue?

Plastic straws (used in homes, restaurants, etc.) are turning up in the ocean and harming wildlife while also adding themselves to heaping piles of garbage that can’t be recycled.

What are other companies doing about straws in their restaurant?

Food industry behemoths like Starbucks and McDonald’s were some of the first to make headlines in the fight to abolish straws. Starbucks is looking to ditch plastic straws for their strawless lid cup in all locations by 2020. McDonald’s is banning single-use plastic products in their U.K. and Ireland locations while also testing plastic straw alternatives in the U.S. Other players like Aramark, Hyatt Hotels, Fox Restaurant Concepts, Eataly, Shoney’s, the Four Seasons Hotel group, and even Ikea are just a few of the food/hospitality companies are in the process of or have promised to change their straw policies.

What do restaurant owners need to consider?

Consider where your restaurant is. Cities like Malibu and Seattle have already passed ordinances banning plastic straws, forcing restaurant owners to offer an alternative.

Don’t forget to look at your menu. Could you save money by reducing straw distribution? Could you serve your mixed drinks without cocktail straws? Are there alternatives you could use instead? Read on…

 

Plastic and Paper Straws

 

What can I do in my restaurant?

If you’re thinking about making the switch from plastic straws to an alternative, here are some options to consider. There are pro’s and con’s to each alternative so it’s important to choose what is right for your business model and menu.

Sippy-type cup (aka no straws)

Getting rid of straws all together in larger companies seems to be the way of larger corporations (like McDonald’s and Starbucks). While this may seem like a grand and great gesture, it’s also a major point of contention for people with disabilities. Many people with disabilities rely on straws to avoid aspirating liquid into their lungs. Another issue with the strawless lid is the additional plastic that goes into their production. Although no straw is needed in this redesigned lid, the new recyclable lids actually have 0.32 or 0.56 more grams of plastic product than the current lid and straw combo. While this lid is recyclable, it’s still likely to end up in a landfill or in the ocean.

Paper straws

The biggest complaint? The straws get soggy and collapse after a couple sips. The key to finding a good paper straw is to have one made with higher quality materials. Straws from companies like Indiana-based Aardvark focus on materials like special paper with a cleaner carbon footprint and a food-grade safe adhesive to maintain a quality straw. Paper straws are pricier but reduce the plastic consumption. This will hopefully be a better alternative in the future as the technology becomes more widespread.

Metal straws

Not a bad solution, in fact it may be a great one for dining-in situations as they are a little expensive. By using metal, this alternative basically becomes part of your silverware set. If you plan on using this type of straw, opt for those with a bend in them, an important characteristic for customers with mobility issues. The drawback? You may want to also invest in another alternative such as compostable or paper straws for your take-out orders.

Pasta straws

They may be firmer than paper straws and less bendy than plastic straws, but pasta straws don’t have all the answers. These can get soggy and don’t work for customers who have a gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease.

Compostable straws

These straws have a very similar consistency to plastic straws but are compostable, meaning if they reach a landfill, they will break down. It’s important to note that these straws can be 70% more expensive traditional plastic ones, causing business owners to cringe at this alternative.

Available upon request

For independent restaurants where the decision-making lies with you or your general manager, having straws be available on request can lessen the straws given out. Most people use straws because they are handed one, making them just another step in the dining process. If customers have the need or desire to have a straw, having them available only upon request will cut down on those who just use a straw for convenience. And in the same move, you are still providing an option for those who have mobility issues. Having straws available upon request could also help you save money since you’ll be cutting back on how many you order by not giving them out as freely.

Is your restaurant making moves to sustainably serve your customers? If you are in a straw-banned area, how has it affected your business? Tell us below.

For more information on anti-single-use plastic campaigns, please visit The Last Plastic Straw for more details on what your restaurant can do.