Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Restaurant Consulting NYC | Why Cross Training and Creating Redundancy in your Restaurant Staff is Crucial to Success | 4Q Consulting, LLC

Why Cross Training and Creating Redundancy in your Restaurant Staff 
is Crucial to Success

As we discussed in A Well Trained Staff is Your Secret Weapon: “People run your business and your business is only as good as your people.  An effective training program is an owner’s key tool to ensure consistency in product and customer service, which is a basic tenet of running a restaurant.”  

The restaurant business is a team sport which has specialists in certain positions – i.e. bartenders, servers, line cooks, etc.  Each person on the team should know their role, be trained for their specific job and know how it fits into the team as a whole.  However, what happens when the only manager who knows how to close calls out sick or you are under staffed and no one is cross trained? It becomes increasingly difficult to run a successful restaurant when you have no redundancy.

Here are four reasons why redundancy and cross-training in your restaurant staff is crucial to your business:

Better Productivity – Cost and insufficient time are often cited as reasons why restaurants do not take the time to set up cross-training programs.  Though it may increase your overall training costs, to train multiple people to do multiple jobs, you reap the benefit when pressed into action.  Employees and managers who are properly cross-trained can increase your restaurant’s productivity because it allows you to make changes without disrupting service. We tell our clients that it is more costly, in the long run, to not cross-train your staff.  The cost comes in many forms, but mostly in a work force that is not as productive as possible, resulting in having to use more staff per shift, expensive mistakes being made by untrained stand-ins and the possibility of a poor customer service experience for your guests.

Better Product Quality through Consistency – As we examined in Consistency is King, “Customers should not have to spin the roulette wheel each time they visit your restaurant; they should experience the same quality of food and service every time.  It should not matter which chef or server is working on any given day, the customer experience should never be a surprise.”  We have all been to a restaurant that was great one day and then only so-so the next time around.  Whether the staff line-up has changed due to growing the business or people calling out sick, you must have bench strength in your ranks, this way no one can tell that the Sous Chef is cooking instead of your Executive Chef on any given night.  Consistency is the key to establishing regular clientele, and regular clients are the most important customers to have.    Maintaining regular clientele is a critical factor in establishing a solid reputation that will attract newcomers.

Better Employee Retention – There are many reasons why employees leave jobs; high on the list is becoming frustrated or bored in a job.  Assuming you've done everything correctly during the on-boarding process, yet you are still having large amounts of turnover, it is time to look at what type of advancement and cross-training opportunities you provide your employees.  Cross-training also helps to engage the long-time employee who feels that they are no longer learning anything and feels that the restaurant doesn't invest in furthering their knowledge.  At a basic level, human beings like to feel that they are continually learning new skills and will acknowledge management’s investment in them by staying with the company.

Better Financial Results– Improved productivity, product quality and employee retention should all lead to organic cost savings.  These savings, in the long run, will offset the initial costs to cross-train all of your staff.  By being able to achieve the first three “betterments” stated above, you will be able to: reduce production steps and/or mistakes; run your business leaner; make time-effective market-driven changes; focus on cultivating on-going, repeat business; and lower your recruiting and hiring costs.

You must start by setting training expectations with your management team. Often chefs and managers do not want to train their staff to do their job, for fear that they will be replaced, so they leave out crucial steps or ingredients that are key to a great product or service.  They must understand that they are only as successful as those they train underneath them, and they can only grow in their careers if there is someone “on the bench” ready to go!  Take your best people and encourage them to share their most developed skills: Make teaching a badge of honor for employees who achieve an elite level of competence.

By focusing on cross-training your staff and building in redundancy, you can create a place where teamwork can thrive, your employees are invested and are continually learning.  

Don’t know where to begin?  4Q Consulting can develop customized business and operational guidelines to help you start and run your business.  Email us today for a free business consultation at www.4qconsult.com.

All original content copyright Noelle E. Ifshin, 2014-2015.
Noelle E. Ifshin, President, 4Q Consulting, LLC 
244 5th Avenue, Suite 1430, NY, NY 10001

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Restaurant Consulting NYC | Happy New Year! | 4Q Consulting, LLC

Best Wishes 

for a Happy New Year 

filled with Health, Happiness 

and Spectacular Success 

from all of us at 4Q Consulting, LLC

4Q Consulting can develop customized business and 
operational guidelines to help you start and run your business. 
 Email us today for a free business consultation at www.4qconsult.com.

All original content copyright Noelle E. Ifshin, 2014-2015. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Restaurant Consulting NYC | Between the Lines - Operational Challenges That Can Make or Break Your Restaurant | 4Q Consulting, LLC

Between the Lines - Operational Challenges 
That Can Make or Break Your Restaurant

Today’s restaurants face many challenges: intense competition; rising cost of goods and real estate; and the slow U.S. economy - just to name a few. Restaurants average profit rates of 3-5% of sales* - thin margins by any measure. However, poor management can make those margins evaporate faster than a sauté pan of boiling water. It is no wonder that 60% of all restaurants fail within the first three years **

As a restaurant owner, you oversee all areas of your business.  These can be separated into three basics: Finance, Sales and Marketing, and Operations. Yet with only so many hours in a day, many owners neglect the breadth of their responsibilities, and only watch their revenue.  Sales and marketing is important in getting customers into your restaurant, and we covered this at length in Attracting Customers.  However, it is what happens within your operation, between top-line sales and bottom-line profits, which makes or breaks your business.

Here are the 4 biggest challenges that can make or break your restaurant:

Poor Financial Controls – Owners often watch their sales daily, while not watching their costs and expenses as diligently.  Common sense points out that if your profit margin is zero it will always be zero, regardless of sales level, unless you change something. Restaurants should measure costs in relation to sales on a weekly basis, as discussed in both Why a Weekly Food and Beverage Inventory is Crucial to your Small Business and Does your Restaurant Compile a Weekly P&L Statement.  Reviewing weekly statements allows you to spot problems and make operational adjustments much sooner than waiting until the full P&L at month’s end: improper product ordering and handling, waste, cash management and employee theft can be significant drains on your business, every day.  

As revealed in How Much of your Profits are Being Eaten by Employee Theft, many employees steal because they can get away with it, and few restaurants have the right controls in place to prevent it. Further, Measure by Measure and 4 Simple Ways Your Restaurant Employees Can Help You Be More Profitable showed how not controlling spoilage, waste and improper portioning can decimate your small margins. 

Poor Staff Training – As we stated in our Blog:  A Well Trained Staff is Your Secret Weapon, “People run your business and your business is only as good as your people. An effective training program is an owner’s key tool to ensure consistency in product and customer service, which is a basic tenet of running a restaurant.”  This is true for all staff, at all levels.  

With a properly trained staff you have less waste in your restaurant.  A short list of why this is includes: Training mangers on proper inventory and ordering avoids excess product; stewards on proper product storage and handling avoids spoilage; cooks and bartenders on proper recipe execution and production levels maintains portion controls; and servers on proper use of the POS system minimizes incorrect orders, misfires and voids.

Poor Quality Control – Quality Control is all about consistency. In our experience, consistency is best achieved by adhering to standard operating procedures that are codified in writing. As outlined in 4 Reasons Why Your Restaurant Needs an Employee Handbook, recipe books, job-specific handbooks, and training manuals standardize tasks and clearly communicate to employees your expectations and the standard to which they will be held. These procedures should cover, in detail, every process in your establishment, from purchasing guidelines to how to deal with an unhappy customer. As boring and unsexy as it sounds, excellence comes from consistency, which can only come from diligence and attention to detail. If customers know what to expect every time they walk in your door, they will keep coming back.

Poor Leadership – Whether it is you, as the owner, or an outside hire running your restaurant, there is a big difference between being a manager and being a leader. As discussed at length in Follow the Leader, “In order to lead rather than just manage, which is vital in today’s diverse, fast-paced world, one must be able to be more than a day-to-day task master. While a manager deals with the technical dimension in an organization or the job content, a leader marshals resources, human and otherwise, for the best possible results.”  Leaders communicate vision, build relationships and trust, train, coach and mentor, and encourage change and risk-taking.

Often, managers who come up through the ranks are not properly trained as managers and make common mistakes.  In the Top 4 Mistakes Managers Make in Managing People, we discuss how “Managers are the front line representation of your business and must effectively work with a diverse group of people. They must live and breathe your company core values and practices.”

Restaurant success depends on many things, but it can all boil down to one question: Where does the money go? Having a handle on your operations is a key to answering this question. Have processes and procedures to reduce economic drains, train your staff to follow them, hold them accountable and have trustworthy leaders in your organization. Additionally, you must be vigilant that your standards are upheld, and make changes as needed. It doesn’t hurt to get an outside, objective opinion from time to time as a gut check whether it is a consultant or mystery shopper

Don’t know where to begin?  4Q Consulting can develop customized business and operational guidelines to help you start and run your business.  Email us today for a free business consultation at www.4qconsult.com.

All original content copyright Noelle E. Ifshin, 2014-2015. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Restaurant, Hospitality & Real Estate Consulting NYC | We’re Having a Heat Wave, A Tropical Heat Wave… | 4Q Consulting, LLC

We’re Having a Heat Wave, A Tropical Heat Wave…

Just as Irving Berlin wrote: 
We're having a heat wave, A tropical heat wave, The temperature's rising, It isn't surprising, She certainly can can-can."

With a mini heat wave in the NYC forecast for this week restaurant owners should be prepared to take some proactive steps to keep both their guests and employees safe when the mercury rises.

Here are 4 areas to focus on to keep guests and employees safe in a heat wave:

Keep People Safe – 

  • Keep guests and workers cool, comfortable and hydrated – make sure everyone is drinking plenty of water.  
  • Either provide both shade and air circulation or close outside seating during the hottest part of the day – to ensure the safety of both your guests and employees.
  • Provide water and food for your staff – Hydration is vital, but so is maintaining blood sugar levels.  
  • Monitor staff and guests for signs of distress or heat stroke.
  • Lighten the uniforms of the dining room staff – think about a summer weight uniform, with light colors and short sleeves.   
  • Monitor patron’s alcohol consumption as over consumption in extreme heat can be accurately dangerous.

Maintain Your Equipment –  

  • Service all refrigeration and HVAC units prior to summer so they don’t breakdown in a heat wave.
  • Instruct your staff to keep the air conditioning at a consistent level.  Turning the AC or refrigeration units down too far will overload and freeze up your cooling system, rendering them useless. 
  • Ensure kitchens are properly ventilated and have fans. 
  • If your ice machine is air cooled and struggling to keep up, consider purchasing cubed ice for drinking; similarly, if your refrigerators and walk-ins are struggling, consider purchasing dry ice.

Monitor Food Safety –  

  • Monitor refrigerator and product temperatures closely and take corrective action immediately. Remember, all foods must be stored at or below 41°F.  If your walk-in is above 41°F, your food is not properly stored and can be a health hazard.
  • To keep cold food cold – 
    • Keep walk in and fridge doors closed as much as possible.
    • Install Air Curtains to minimize refrigeration loss when doors to walk-in refrigerators and freezers are opened
    • Do not overload refrigerators – if the fan unit in the fridge is blocked, this will cause poor air flow and will inhibit the unit’s cooling ability.
    • Do not block refrigerator’s external condensing unit with debris and storage items; which would inhibit the units cooling ability.
  • Prepare food in small batches to reduce the amount of time food is out of refrigeration and in a very hot kitchen.
  • Use proper thawing and cooling techniques: do not leave food out on counters to thaw; thaw all food under running cool water (water should be below 70°F).

Modify Menu Offerings – 

  • Offer lighter menu items for the summer – heavy sauces, stews and roasts are can be unappealing when the mercury rises.  These could include cold options such as salads, sandwiches and cold soups.
  • Add more small plate and appetizer options as people not only eat lighter food, but they tend to eat smaller portions when it is very hot outside.
  • Add frozen non-alcoholic drinks, chillers and fruit flavored waters to menus.

As Cole Porter said in song: “It’s too Darn Hot!”  A few proactive easy fixes can help you get through these periodic heat waves while keeping your guests and employees safe. Also, keep these changes in mind for next year’s planning.

Don’t know where to begin?  Ask yourself, do you have the proper written procedures and operational guidelines in place to help you be as successful as possible?  4Q Consulting can develop customized operational guidelines and training programs to meet your needs. Email us today for a free business consultation at www.4qconsult.com.

All original content copyright Noelle E. Ifshin, 2014-2015.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Restaurant Consulting, NYC | Why the Right Restaurant Culture is Crucial to your Success | 4Q Consulting, LLC

Why the Right Restaurant Culture is Crucial to your Success

Wherever people live or work together, a culture develops. This is defined as “the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that [a group of people] accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation.”1   Restaurants, like any other business, engender “Organizational Culture” – a culture specific to that group, which describes everything from its approach to customer service to the shorthand jargon that develops among members.

Your organizational culture is crucial for delivering the right impression to your customers, and your customers get a taste of what your business is all about every time they interact with your staff (see: Employees are Your First Customers – Happy Employees Part 1).  It is important to carefully seed and nurture a culture that defines the restaurant’s priorities, but also allows for some traits to develop organically from your staff.   

In our blog 4 Reasons Why Your Restaurant Needs an Employee Handbook, we discussed the handbook as a central document to your business. It is where you should define and codify the values that make up your restaurant’s culture, which are imparted to employees during on-boarding, as well as the ongoing training sessions.

Here are four reasons why you need to create and promote the right culture in your restaurant:

Culture Encourages Professionalism – By communicating expected behaviors, actions and values to all employees, you define what your culture is and how they participate within it while in the workplace; By encouraging those behaviors, actions and values to meet your standards (whatever they may be), you create a “Culture of Professionalism”. Managers and supervisors must reinforce the culture and lead by example, not by the philosophy of “Do as I say, not as I do", as we discussed in Follow the Leader. They must live and breathe your mission and values and tend this culture of professionalism in your restaurant - complimenting positive behaviors and correcting negative ones.   

Restaurants, large and small, that promote a culture of professionalism, without being stodgy, have employees with high levels of loyalty toward the company.  This type of business culture increases productivity, work quality and employee retention.

Culture Reduces Employee Turnover – The restaurant industry is known for its high turnover rates. Generally speaking, many food and beverage industry employees aren't looking to make a career out of tending bar, waiting tables or seating restaurant patrons. However, employees with high job satisfaction tend to remain with their employers longer, thus reducing turnover. Studies have shown that a well-defined and actively maintained company culture is associated with high job satisfaction.  Businesses can lower turnover rates by fostering a culture that values open communication, provides adequate training, and rewards employees for a job well done. By retaining employees, companies save resources recruiting and training a constant flow of employees; they build a higher caliber workforce that positively affects product quality, lowers operating costs and increases the bottom line.

Culture Increases Consistency – By lowering your turnover rate of employees, your increasingly experienced staff becomes a well-oiled machine that improves consistency within your operation. In Consistency is King, we discussed that daily vigilance to the standards you set are crucial in order to ward off possible problems that can impact costs or revenues: poor communication, order errors, kitchen errors, bad customer experiences, etc. Creating a culture of “Being the Best” consistently also leads to and reinforces your “Culture of Professionalism”.

Culture Improves Your P&L – As we examined in Restaurants Know Thyself, when your culture is defined, your restaurant has a distinct identity.   A well-defined culture increases both your top-line sales and your bottom line profits. When you have less employee turnover, you have a professional, experienced staff that works well together that creates a more consistent product and less waste – which improves your operating costs.  You build a repeat clientele that comes back time and again to visit their favorite server and to eat their favorite dish.  A successful restaurant has return customers at the core of it business, because repeat customers will attract new business and word-of-mouth advertising is the most efficient way to grow top line sales. 

Creating and nurturing the right culture in your restaurant allows you to take care of your employees who will in turn take care of your guests.  As a business owner, it is your job to be sure that your team has the tools it needs: Strive to be the best boss to your staff; hire only the best employees (with the right attitude) and enable them to be awesome through excellent training, to give the best customer service; have the highest possible sanitation standards; buy only the freshest ingredients; offer the best food and the best service. Be mindful of being consistent in all these things so that customers have the same good experience time and time again.

As seen in Employees are your First Customers, happy employees are engaged, exceed expectations and become brand ambassadors for your restaurant.  Your restaurant will become a business people want to work for, vendors will want to do business with and the place where many want to eat – again and again.

Don’t know where to begin?  Ask yourself, do you have the proper written procedures and operational guidelines in place to be as successful as possible?  4Q Consulting can develop customized branding and marketing plans, and operational guidelines to meet your needs. Email us today for a free business consultation at www.4qconsult.com

All original content copyright Noelle E. Ifshin, 2014-2015. 

1. https://www.tamu.edu/faculty/choudhury/culture.html

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Restaurant Consulting NYC | Restaurants: Know Thyself | 4Q Consulting, LLC

Restaurants: Know Thyself

We have all heard the expression: “Jack of all trades, master of none” as it applies to individual people.  The same expression can be applied to your restaurant.  Your guests should not have to guess what you are trying to master or what your brand represents.  Restaurants need to decide, well in advance of product delivery, what they stand for, what their product is and what their message will be to the public. This becomes their brand’s value proposition.

Knowing what your value proposition is early on, and making that the base on which you build, is a key to presenting a unified message of who you are. It is essential not to dilute that value proposition trying to be everything to everyone: You would not offer barbeque, no matter how good, at a fine seafood restaurant; this is why well-known restaurateurs may own several restaurants, each representing a different concept or value proposition that they wanted to create.  A cohesive, singular message, as we talked about in Consistency is King, allows your guests to understand your restaurant.  If your brand message is confusing, your guests will be confused, might not return and move on to another restaurant.

Here are four brand values to help guide restaurants in finding out what their message and value proposition is:

Product Innovation – A restaurant that values being a leader in product innovation tends to be on the culinary cutting edge.  Your restaurant is continually seeking to push the envelope and the boundaries of food, beverage and service.  Whether it is exploring molecular gastronomy, sous vide cooking, rare hybrid ingredients or a new delivery system, you and your management team are never satisfied with the status quo. 

This value proposition attracts the type of customers who want to take this wild ride with you. This type of customer looks forward to your ever-changing menus and new ingredients, and likes to learn about new foods.  They come to expect this constant flux, and are disappointed if this level of innovation and product exploration stops.

Operational Excellence – When you think of large, fast casual chains and franchises like Chipotle and McDonald’s, you envision a restaurant that is a well-oiled machine.  Being consistent at what you do, from product quality and service to cleanliness, is the core value of this type of establishment. In restaurants where operational excellence is the main value, change is deliberate, well thought out and measured.  

Customers who value operational excellence expect a certain level of product and service every time, whether it is a taco at a taco stand or foie gras in a fining dining restaurant. These types of customers do not like surprises; in this type of restaurant, customers know what they’re going to get. 

Customer Intimacy – Customer intimacy is often found in smaller neighborhood restaurants, “joints”, diners, or coffee shops, where the staff comes to know the customers well.  In valuing customer intimacy, the restaurant can cater to customer needs and desires in a way that makes them feel special. A server who remembers your usual order and is able to anticipate your dining needs, creates an intimacy that attracts a loyal following in customers who value this – not all customers do.

These customers anticipate food at fair prices, knowing that it may not be the best (it still needs to be good!). The draw to this type of restaurant is that it is full of familiar faces, and has accommodating service. These customers seek a comfortable experience where “everybody knows your name”.

The Sweet Spot – It is a rarefied place when all of the above branding values intersect, creating “The Sweet Spot”. These are restaurants that have harnessed their creativity, worked out the kinks in their operation and fostered an atmosphere that is inviting.  It is important that you as an owner/operator understand your own strengths and weaknesses in relation to being able to hit this mark, as poorly implementing a core value can negatively impact the one(s) you are able to do well. Many successful restaurants achieve only one or two of these brand values - this is what they become known for and what their guests love about them.  

Product innovation, operational excellence, customer intimacy, and even “The Sweet Spot”, can be achieved at any level, from fine dining to fast food.   

When you have determined your value proposition, it should become the central tenet of your restaurant and be the basis on which you build your company culture. When everything you do is focused on your value proposition, your branding message will be clearly communicated to your customers. If your guests have to work to understand what your value proposition is, they will choose to go to another restaurant that has already figured it out.

Don’t know where to begin?  Ask yourself, do you have the proper branding values in place to help you be as profitable as possible?  4Q Consulting can develop customized branding and marketing plans, and operational guidelines to meet your needs.  Email us today for a free business consultation at www.4qconsult.com

All original content copyright Noelle E. Ifshin, 2014-2015.