3 Key Phrases That Sign the Decline of a Restaurant

3 Key Phrases That Sign the Decline of a Restaurant

When you listen to people talk about their restaurant, there are subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) verbal signals that causes you to have a reaction. A negative reaction. As a consultant, you hear these words spoken and in the back of your mind you hear a voice in your head say, “wait for it”. Usually those voices are not wrong. It could be a few months or a year. Eventually, those that throw around boasting remarks tend to be sitting down and eating the very words they were saying.

What you say is a reflection on what is really going on in that three-pound piece of gray matter nestled on the top of your body. The funny thing about the words we say to ourselves, is that when we repeat them with energy, we actually believe them!

Here are three common phrases uttered by short sighted restaurants that originate from the three cardinal sins of leadership: ego, pride, and denial.

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4 Myths About Restaurant Leadership Debunked

4 Myths About Restaurant Leadership Debunked

You made it to the top! You are a leader in your restaurant. Before you get too comfortable, let’s see if your leadership game is on point. Being called a leader and being a leader are at times not one and the same. With more and more restaurants opening each year the strain on the labor pool is becoming an epidemic. We struggle to fill leadership positions. Maybe the reason is because we don’t have a clear understanding of what true leadership is?

Undeclared expectations and undefined roles are usually at the forefront of this dilemma. We need to do a better job talking about what true leadership is. There are a lot of urban myths out there about what people may think is leadership. To understand what leadership is, we first must take a look at what it is not.

Here are four common myths about restaurant leadership:

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The 3 Most Important Actions of Leadership

The 3 Most Important Actions of Leadership

This is the first of a three-part blog series on the responsibilities of leadership in our industry. I’d make the case for any industry, really.   

The focus here is all the more important because at the operations level of our companies, regardless of business segment, managers are expected to serve as leaders. Management and leadership are different things.   

This nuance is something we rarely talk about. I will in each of these three blogs.

The three most important actions of leadership are:  

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Getting Past the Labor Crunch Affecting the Restaurant Industry

Forget why it happened - or continues to happen - but there is a very real shortage of kitchen labor.

You can have a shimmering five-star Yelp rating, a filled dining room, and the best craft beer list around, but without staff to make food and make drinks, you are nowhere.

Throwing your hands up in meaningless desperation because ‘there aren’t people out there!’ is less than productive. Instead, get real about plugging employment holes.

Money Is an Option, but Not the Only Answer

Engaging younger employees, for instance, is a strategically smart move. Ask what they want and listen to their answers.

Some common requests, most often heard when talking with Millennial staffers, are:

  • Flexibility in scheduling - wanna bet your clutch salad guy won’t quit because he is scheduled during tomorrow’s DJ Khaled show? Be flexible or be rigid. One will break you.
  • Working with friends - dangerous footing, yes. But, especially significant to the highly social, younger employment pool, find some middle ground.
  • Let me use my phone - set guidelines, but don’t rip their phones from their hands. How do you feel about being out of touch?
  • Feed me - staff meal, for sure. Make it something that can be photo-worthy so they can talk about it online.
  • Keep me connected with something big - whether it is local charity support, a tie-in with a community group or a national campaign, social activism has spilled across many demographics. We all want to feel like we are identified with something bigger than ourselves, this can be a win on many levels.

Transportation Matters

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If your restaurant is in a metro setting, parking might be an issue.

Cooks’ and servers’ wages can succumb to costly transportation costs. Work a barter deal with a garage owner to secure spaces for your crew to park.

Encourage biking by having adequate bike racks and even give away locks.

Merch

Part of identifying with a purpose or mission, treat staff like a team not by just saying that you have a team. Branded shirts, hoodies, or jackets go further than you think.

For your modest investment, the team gets to reap the benefit of getting gear that represents their place of employment and you get walking advertisements. It’s a pride thing.

Using Social Media for More Than Driving Sales

Give your crew reasons to share the virtues of their great job.

Taking Phone Pictures of Food

Create Instagrammable moments with community-based events, mission-based experiences, and, just a lot of fun times.

Digital natives broadcast their days. Give them fodder to share with friends; friends that could need - or want - a job with you.

Feed them a great staff meal and let them share pics.

Spending Money on Staff Doesn't Have to Be Just Payroll

Adam Marcus, owner and operator of two Chick-fil-A locations in northern Delaware has a problem we all wish to have— the restaurants are too busy! This energized operator got serious about doing what bosses are supposed to: providing employees the resources they need to be even better at their jobs.

lemon squeezer machine

Marcus went extreme and closed a very busy Bear, Del. location for an extensive remodel and retool, to ensure a better experience for customers, but equally important improvements for the employees.

“We’re investing in some pretty cool equipment [like] commercial dishwashers, lettuce spinners. [We] just bought a machine that juices lemons rather than hand squeeze for lemonade. We are compartmentalizing our kitchen so that everyone has specific tasks rather than overwhelming the staff,” said Marcus who believes that a direct spend on the staff works just as well to hold onto the crew. “For kitchen leadership we've increased hourly pay and have thrown in performance based incentives, offered health insurance, increased vacation pay,” said Marcus.

Shane Timmons, a Montana line cook at Bullwinkle's Saloon & Eatery, seconds Marcus’ approach. “Reward your employees. Make them feel appreciated. Give them what you can afford to when you can. But most of all, let them work towards something," said Timmons. "Let them prove themselves and work towards a possible promotion or more hours if they are good employees.”

When in Doubt, Poach

Some of the better cooks are working across the street. Cliche, but true: Desperate times call for desperate measures. Find a shortcoming with a competing operator’s employment, path and/or exploit.

Seriously.

If a really good sous chef is unhappy at vegetarian place up the street, what can you do to make her happier? Is it creative input for the new menu? Perhaps a little better schedule?

The obvious caveat is that poaching can be a bit nefarious and can backfire. That neighboring owner might show up at the next local business owners’ meeting and sit next to you. Just be careful. A little competition is good when it’s done right. Just remember: what you do to another can be done unto you.

restaurant recruitment

If you haven’t noticed the shortage, good for you. Like most ripples, the splash will hit your operation soon enough. Be prepared by being proactive. Insulate the staff you have with good vibes, more than adequate tools - and meaningful pay - to keep them connected to your spot.

No more skipping the overtime pay or inflexible scheduling. Will a free t-shirt mend the rip in labor mesh? No. Are there steps you can take right now? For sure. There is not a singular approach to loosen the crunch.

Listening to current staff is a start, while being open-minded does more than ignoring the seriousness of where our industry stands right now.

By Jim Berman, Industry Expert

Have you Forgotten Some of These Restaurant Fundamentals?

Have you Forgotten Some of These Restaurant Fundamentals?

With technology continuously advancing in the restaurant industry, it can be easy to get absorbed and caught up in the next big thing. Technology platforms can help you save time, financial resources, and improve ‘customer service’ levels, just to name a few.

But sometimes when you get so caught up in technology, you can forget some of the fundamentals that will never be replaced by technology, but still play a large role in the success of today’s restaurants. The key is the right balance of technology that will assist you in meeting both short-term and long-term goals.

This article is not about how to not use technology (it’s a great asset,) but don’t let it fail you, your staff, or your customers. Let’s strip back the technology for a moment and remind ourselves as an owner, operator, manager, or frontline employee – some of the tactics that we must never forget or stop learning.

First Impressions

Curb appeal and first impressions must meet and exceed your guests’ expectations. When stripping back technology, restaurateurs must understand that first impressions are essentially a means of effective communication that positions a restaurant to develop positive customer emotions and “touch points.” As always, one must thoroughly think about the consistent message and experience that’s intended to be delivered.

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