Tag Archives: business consulting

Introducing Destination Restaurant Consulting

27 Feb

Rather than relying on local traffic wouldn’t you prefer to have a “Destination”
restaurant that people will drive for 20, 30 minutes or more to visit?

Destination Restaurant Consulting offers a variety of services for restaurants with the overall goal of enhancing the bottom line.
In addition to helping create signature dishes, facility design, staff training,
marketing, and branding we also are experts in backroom operations such as
cost control, vendor negotiations, 
policies, secret shoppers, and assisting the owner(s) with re-dedicatingthemselves to their vision or  even creating an exit strategy.  Rather than hourly rates, we provide value-based consulting services based on the goals you want us to achieve.  We offer our services nationwide.

The restaurant business is incredibly tough and constantly evolving.  Many independent restaurants that are able to survive for awhile offering unremarkable food and service make themselves vulnerable to eventually being killed by new competition opening nearby.

Contact Destination Restaurant Consulting for a FREE, NO OBLIGATION evaluation [info@destinationrestaurantconsulting.com].  Our value-based consulting services offer an excellent return on your investment. Perhaps our consultants can offer a few tweaks that are easily implemented but yield big profits over a year.  Or perhaps your restaurant requires a turnaround similar to those shown on “Kitchen Nightmares”.  Either way, we would like an opportunity to help you meet your goals and dreams!

Principles of Scheduling – Restaurants

26 Feb

It amazes me how little restaurant managers focus on how many people they need to staff for a shift. I hear things like “I’m good tonight. I have Jose and Ramon. They’re awesome line cooks!” Perhaps they are, but what does that mean mathematically? Every management decision should have a mathematical formula in order to accurately test it’s effectiveness. Otherwise, you’re scheduling by the seat of your pants.

Questions that need to be answered are:
1. How many dishes can each line cook produce in an hour, comfortably and running? [My experience is a veteran can produce 25 plates if he is properly set up, and 30 running. A newby will be 5-10 plates per hour behind that.]

2. How many plates are ordered in an hour? [This varies by shift and it’s vital to scheduling to know your range on a Saturday lunch or dinner or a Wednesday night. If you’re manager doesn’t know, he/she shouldn’t be doing the scheduling.] Use your POS, it’s there to help you access easily the business metrics you’ll need to be successful.

3. Now you can determine how many line cooks you need. Note I did not mention support personnel like the dishwasher or the prep cook. The line cooks are producing your sales. They are your front line just as your waiters are in the front of the house. For waiters, 15 customers per hour is the norm, 20 if you have a star waiter and 10 if you have a newby or underperformer.

So if I have Jose and Ramon – both veterans – pumping out 25-30 dinners per hour I can do 50-60 dinners per hour before I the km has to jump in. If my range is 80-100 dinners per hour, the km is going to be buried on the line along with Jose and Ramon, the great chefs. Pray nothing goes wrong. But, wait, the expediter is overwhelmed as is the foodrunner. Complaints come in that the fries are cold and you know it’s because they sat too long in the window. What do you do now? Learn how to schedule!

At your disposal, you have Betty, a trainee, who can do 15 plates an hour. Bring in another veteran, Jaime, for the rush hours and you have 90 plates an hour you can do comfortably. The km has enough staff to be able to…manage.

A few more notes:
Of course, 30 plates per hour doesn’t mean your cook gets one dish ordered every two minutes. Orders come in waves, not piecemeal. As much as 80% of an hour’s business can come in a 20 minute span. A 90-plate hour could see a wave of 72 plates in 20 minutes. More often you’ll see 50-60 in a third of an hour where you sold 90 plates. Ticket times will drag and things will go wrong if you’re not properly staffed and your km doesn’t know where he needs to be.

Productivity formula. Since your line is the largest contingent of labor – and usually make the higher pay rates – it is important to track productivity. Example: If you averaged 80 plates an hour all night long, and your average plate costs $15, your 4 line cooks produced 20 plates per hour, or $300. If they earn $14 an hour, they are producing at a labor cost of 4.67%, better than 20 times their pay rate. With support personnel added in as well as opening and closing duties (that time before anything is rung up and after the last sale; set-up and break-down), labor will be in the goal range of 10-14% of food labor to food sales. That’s a homerun in the industry.

Panic scheduling. Take time to do your math. It’s very easy to panic after a rocky shift and start telling your staff to come in extra here and here. Before you know it, productivity plummets and you’re into overtime. If you’ve done your scheduling accurately – mathematically – your worst case scenario is that you may need ONE more person in a specific spot if you’re expecting a higher volume.

Rule of thumb regarding where to add. If the km is stuck in a position for more than 1 hour, you’ll want to consider one more staffer for the rush in the position the km got stuck in. Keep in mind, we are talking about high volume restaurants that do 80-100 plates or more per hour.

Where does the km jump in? Answer, exactly where he must. In a multi-station line like Shooters [char-grill, flat grill, fryer, saute, pantry], the hot spot for the km is the WHEEL. That is, the spot between the grill cook and the fry cook. From this vantage point, he can see what is dragging on each ticket and make sure the dishes are being plated close together in time. The worst enemy of an expediter or food runner is an incomplete order. Those fries and that rice can get cold fast when they are waiting for a missing item that was not fired on time. By jumping into the wheel position, the km solves that problem by keeping the cooks focused on finishing orders.

Mexican food is different, being already pre-prepped and needing assembly more than anything. There the LEAD position is where the manager can quicken up the service. That is, the plates are getting started much quicker and, since melting cheese or heating up the plate is the main action, they are finished a lot sooner. In both cases, Mexican and standard American fare, the km has to also keep an eye on his food runners and expediters. They can be overwhelmed very quickly.

The manager has to surf the wave, so to speak. In my own restaurant, I was usually the only manager, so I would back up the bussers and waiters when the waves would come in, then bail the bartender out, then run into the kitchen in time to get them in mass production mode. Once that wave was on its way to finishing a good dining experience, there was normally a new wave right behind it as the waiting list was liquidated. Run to Bussers/Servers, then Bartenders, then Cook Line, then Foodrunners, then Repeat. So getting stuck in any one position is an epic failure of management.

So we solved our problem with Jose (25-30 plates per hour) and Ramon (25-30 plates) by adding Betty (15 plates) and Jaime (25-30 plates). We can now do 90-105 plates per hour with the kitchen manager filling in for a few minutes during the large waves. We’ve met our goal of 10-14% labor while keeping the customers happy.

If for some reason we can only find Jose and Ramon to work, then we know we are limited to what we can do per hour to 50-60 plates with the km helping stretch that a bit more. Our only salvation if we get a strong dinner pop is to go on a wait at the door. That is a last resort and it is a failure of scheduling.

Front of House scheduling. These principles hold true for waiters and waitresses as well. Their number is 15 per hour, but remember that Sally might only tend to 10 customers well per hour while Jane the speed demon can handle 20. Outside the printable areas of my schedule, I write the capacity of the server by tables they can handle. A weak server like Sally might have 4 tables, Jane might have 8. So the manager can draw the map accordingly. Each shift has a number limit of tables that can be open for seating.

Tips On Team Building

26 Feb

Team building is probably the most challenging part of taking over or starting a restaurant. Most of the key players in a restaurant management team come from different backgrounds. Each has a distinct personality and management style. Some will work out. Many will not work out. What is, then, the first step of team-building?

1. Vision Statement. In my experience, I’ve started with a vision statement which states the goals and the optimum behavior for each person. These points are solely about how members of the organization are to deal with their tasks and with one another; e.g. transparency, communication, respect, etc. It’s very important that the team take this seriously and set time aside each meeting to review it and update it if necessary. It’s shocking how little managers pay attention to stated goals. Enforcing the vision statement requires constant, daily action. Often you will have to correct a manager 5 minutes after the meeting on the vision statement has ended. Be vigilant. it takes time and perseverance before the team is truly “on the same page”.

2. Critical Path goals for all and for each manager. Remind the managers often that their goals and how well they achieve them are how they will be evaluated. It’s not about loyalty to one clique within the team. No, the managers must be acutely aware that where they stand with their goals is where they stand with the company. Just as with the vision statement, this is a source of constant review and evaluation. Critical Path goals might include hitting a certain labor %, or coming up with menu proposals, etc. These goals should not be open ended. They aren’t suggestions and they NEED a due date attached to them. Here is where you divide the work load and give team members a clear target to reach.

3. Positive Reinforcement. Your team members will be less likely to do what you want if you never complement them for doing what you want. A psychiatrist friend once told me that his youth would have been a lot better had his parents used the same training program on him that they used on the family dog. Positive actions should get positive responses, just like training a dog. We are natural beings and we expect and deserve a pat on the back when me meet our goals. I have worked in organizations where not one positive thing was said, ever, by top management. A glowing email from a big client praising my handling of their Christmas party was met with complete silence from upper echelon of corporate managers. I know how unconnected to the team that made me feel. Thus I know how a void of positive reinforcement can sabotage a team. Also included in this principle is that positives should precede the negatives when discussing the issues at a managers’ meeting. Furthermore, false positives are as useful as no positives. “You did good getting the food out. Now, if we could just get the pantry guy to wear gloves….” As Jesus might say, let your positives be positives and your negatives be negatives. Pointing out positives is the first thing that a lead manager does in a meeting. If you don’t complement the team on the positive things they are accomplishing, they will be less likely to continue doing them.

4. Meetings; frequent, formal and informal. A weekly managers’ meeting is essential to building a team. Managers must be trained to write down issues and ideas they have so as to bring them up at the managers’ meeting. Managers must also be trained to take notes. It never ceases to amaze me when I see managers without a pen and paper in hand during an important meeting. They should be told to take notes or else they will be dismissed from the meeting. The restaurant industry has a lot of managers who resist order in an organization. They must be retrained or removed. If meetings are to build the team, then serious team members will have something to bring to the table, and be prepared to take away the management goals by writing them down. Each shift should start with an informal managers’ meeting. With the fast pace of change (policy changes, new promotions, schedule changes, etc.) in a restaurant, managers need to be on top more than ever and communicate more clearly than ever before. Another point about meeting is the personal one-on-one. I would like to improve on this myself; taking that extra step to go for coffee, lunch, or even a drink with a team member to discuss pressing issues. Leaving the confines of the workplace is like meeting outside the walls of the fortress. The team member is less likely to feel the karma of the daily grind. [Obviously, going for a drink does not mean getting drunk with them. Limit one.] It’s important to meet the team member on a turf where they are comfortable.

5. Management Evaluations. Every manager needs to know what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong, and why. Lead managers tend to skirt this responsibility to a point where the manager is not aware that a  problem is developing that could hurt their chances of staying at the company. This is why so many managers complain of being “blindsided”; being fired without ever being written up. Coaching and Training Logs and Employee Warnings are for managers, too. I like the C & T Log because it establishes that a conversation occurred regarding critical training points. When those points are not followed, an employee warning is next. Then dismissal. Management Evaluations are a way to communicate positives and negatives of a manager’s performance. They are not easy for the supervisor who has to point out the bad qualities of the manager that need to change, but they are literally a lifeline to job security for the team member. As always with a management evaluation, cite the problem action, not the person. Be specific when bringing up a critique, and use examples. All evaluations must be carefully measured. Keep in mind, letting go of a member of the team who is underperforming or being insubordinate is necessary in building the right team.

6. Clear Communication Channels. A lot of misunderstandings can arise in a team through email. Certain guidelines are needed to keep email communications from developing into “email chatter”. What is email chatter? Well, it’s when everyone chimes in, often without fully reading the initial email at the top of the thread. Emails can degenerate quickly into consequential misunderstandings and hostile fights between team members. Points for email are no trivial or self-serving emails (the email has to convey a significant new point), no using of emails to change schedules or meeting times at the last minute, and no emails for some to see and not others. Another clear communication channel is the good old Log Book, the long red daily diary where managers can write down important points; employee X no show, reservation for 50 at 8 pm, our new House Tequila is Jimador Blanco, etc. What belongs in the Log Book is clearly stated. Even if an email was sent, the notes need to be written down in the Log. This is an opportunity to log whether there were liquor incidents; e.g. cut off customer X at 8 pm, called a taxi for him or “No liquor incident tonight”.

7. Careful Team Planning. Last, the movement forward comes through tapping your team’s resources and planning new strategies together. Guidelines for changes such as menu makeovers are to be carefully done with team spirit. For an example of planning menu changes, click here. In each planning stage, everyone is included in the process not to please their egos but to do the best job the team can do. It’s human nature to be ego-centered and not team-centered.

8. Not “I” or “We” but “The Company”. Your vision statement puts the company first before the “I”, or even the “we”. The key to being a good team-builder is to make tangible the concept that the team exists for the company above all. Then it will be easier to move forward as a single coherent team to be as successful as you possibly can be.

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