Friday, December 28, 2012

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

Wishing Everyone a Safe & Profitable Year Ahead

Restaurants, Caterers and Food Service establishments, it is time to review your operating procedures from 2012?! Do you have the correct operating systems in place to be as profitable as you want to be? 

Take a look at our last blog, 4 Warning Signs That Your Operating Procedures are Impacting Your Bottom Line and then call or email 4Q Consulting, LLC today for a complimentary business evaluation!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Restaurant Consulting NYC | 4 Warning Signs That Your Operational Procedures are Impacting Your Bottom Line | 4Q Consulting, LLC

4 Warning Signs That Your Operational Procedures are
Impacting Your Bottom Line –
Year in Review

As 2012 comes to a close, now is the time to take stock of your business’ operational efficiencies. Whether you are restauranteur, caterer or food service provider, examine which procedures are currently working and get rid of those that are not.

Here are 4 warning signs that indicate that you have a problem with some of your operating procedures that may impact your bottom line:

High Employee Turnover - This is an indication of a larger human resource issue.  Exit interviews can uncover a pattern of something amiss in your organization. For example, are your managers adhering to the guidelines of your employee handbook?  Our Blog,  4 Reasons Why Your Restaurant Needs an Employee Handbook,  takes a look at this.  High employee turnover becomes expensive due to the cost of recruiting, hiring and training new staff.  High turnover can also make it hard to maintain your desired level of product and service quality, as it pulls management away from running the business to train new staff and by always having novice front-line staff.

Theft - If you think you don’t have any, you are wrong; and if you are aware of some theft, the problem is larger than you think it is. Re-examine the obvious places where theft occurs to ensure your controls are in place and being used.  But also look at the less obvious places.  In our previous blog we discussed, how theft is a major drain on your bottom line. Our Blog entitled: How Much of your Profits are Being Eaten by Employee Theft? Four Basic Ways to Prevent Employee Theft in your Establishment, examines this more in depth.  Holding your staff accountable with strict controls, checks and guidelines can help you to maintain your bottom line profits.

Safety and Sanitation – Poor safety and sanitation can lead to waste, unnecessary health department fines, and a PR nightmare. Now is the time to review your food safety and sanitation training program.  As discussed in our blog entitled  4 Reasons why it is Vital that All Employees are Trained in Food Safety,  having dirty bathrooms, employee accidents, fruit flies at the bar, or violations from the health department can hurt your quality, effect employee morale and lead to a loss of business.

Quality –There are many components to quality.  They all lead back to proper training and execution of operating procedures by your staff.  Seeing an increase in improper order taking, plates being returned to the kitchen and general complaints about service and cleanliness are often red flags, as are negative on-line reviews. A positive customer experience is the ultimate goal. Turning poor customer experiences into positive ones can be a valuable training tool and learning experience, and can lead to customer loyalty.  Our blog Bad Experiences Can Make Loyal Customers explores this.

The issues above can erode your profit margin quickly and lead to your business’ demise. If procedures are not working now, they won’t work in the future and need to be changed. Improving upon your guidelines and procedures can ensure that 2013 is your most profitable year yet.

Don’t know where to begin?  Ask yourself, do you have the proper written procedures and operational guidelines in place so you can be as profitable as possible?  4Q Consulting can develop customized operational guidelines and training programs to meet your needs.  Call or email us today for a free business consultation!

All original content copyright Noelle E. Ifshin, 2012-2013.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Restaurant Consulting NYC | Top 4 Mistakes Managers Make in Managing People | 4Q Consulting, LLC

Top 4 Mistakes Managers Make in Managing People

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. Unfortunately, many managers lack fundamental training in people skills, which prevents them from being truly successful in running your business.

Here are 4 common mistakes managers make in working with people:

1 – Managers fail to get to know employees as people.  Developing a relationship with team members is a key factor in managing. You don't want your managers to be your employees' divorce counselor, therapist or best friend, but they do want to know what's happening in the lives of their employees. Getting to know employees can make a manager more responsive to employee needs, moods, and life cycle events.  However, managers should not get too close to their direct reports: this makes it difficult for managers to direct, supervise and discipline fairly without the perception of impropriety or of playing favorites.

2 – Managers fail to treat all employees fairly.  It is not necessary to treat every employee the same, but they must feel as if they receive fair treatment. The perception that managers have pet employees or that they play favorites can undermine their efforts to manage the team. This goes hand-in-hand with why befriending reporting employees is a bad idea. This perception of favoring one employee over another destroys teamwork and harms productivity.

3 – Managers fail to provide clear and open communication.  Work with your managers to communicate clear expectations to all employees. Ensure that the directions are specific for every task and project.  Managers need to achieve an appropriate balance that allows them to lead employees without dictating or destroying employee empowerment and  engagement.  Managers should ensure open lines of communication in both directions with their subordinates.

4 – Managers fail to take responsibility or give credit.  When things go wrong, managers should take responsibility for the entire team.  The manager needs to understand where things went wrong within the team and correct the actions as needed. When managers blame others, they look unprofessional and their employees will not respect them.  Managers need to understand that nothing breaks trust more than blaming someone else or taking credit for work that isn’t theirs.

Hiring a manager based on technical skills is often the route owners follow, however a manager who is deftly able to handle interactions with people will add immeasurable value to your business.  The four points above are basics that even the least “warm and fuzzy” manager should be able to handle, and can have a positive impact on your employee satisfaction, product quality and customer service.  This, as we have shown, can lead to greater productivity, lower turnover and an improved bottom line.

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

All original content copyright Noelle E. Ifshin, 2012-2013.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Restaurant Consulting NYC | The Role of the Restaurant Manager | 4Q Consulting, LLC

The Role of the Restaurant Manager
4 Basic Areas of Focus

You’ve decided to hire a Restaurant Manager.  As the owner, you will want to define the manager’s focus while they run the day to day operations of your business.  Whether you groom an internal candidate or hire an experienced manager to run your business profitably, you will need to provide them with a roadmap of your expectations of their responsibilities.

The following four tips suggest the global basics for any restaurant manager to help your business run effectively and more profitably:

1. Manage Costs
Managing costs is a critical function in the restaurant. The largest controllable costs include labor, food & beverage and waste. A good manager will need to know how to staff at the level of service you want, work with the kitchen to maintain costs and oversee standards and procedures to minimize waste, while maintaining the budget.  Managers need to be able to record and explain all costs.

2. Manage Quality
Managers are your eyes and ears when you are not in the restaurant.  You rely on them to uphold your product quality standards.  Managers should know and maintain food preparation procedures, food storage standards and presentation quality at all times.  They must be able to train the staff to uphold these standards and correct mistakes in real-time.

3. Manage Service
Managers play an important role in providing superior guest service.  Proper oversight of the flow and function between front-of-house and back-of-house and how this impacts the guest experience.  Managers must be properly trained to handle any situation that comes up in course of service and must guide the team through these situations.

4. Manage Team
Managers are role models for the rest of the staff.  They are your point person for maintaining your company culture. Managers should treat all staff members fairly, consistently, positively and respectfully.  They must set the example for acceptable behavior, without exception.

Managers are the walking embodiment of your employee handbook; you are paying your restaurant manager to ensure that your restaurant runs efficiently and profitably.  By clearly communicating job expectations and objectives, the owner can be certain that the manager understands their role.

Don’t know where to begin?  Ask yourself, do you have the proper written procedures and operational guidelines in place so your manager can help you be as profitable as possible?  4Q Consulting, LLC can develop customized operational guidelines and training programs to meet your needs.  Call us today for a free business consultation!

All original content copyright Noelle E. Ifshin, 2012-2013.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

4Q Consulting, LLC | Restaurant Consulting NYC | Does your restaurant compile a monthly P&L Statement?

Does your restaurant compile a monthly P&L Statement?

If it doesn’t, it should.  Here’s why:

A profit and loss statement, or P&L, is a basic income statement that serves as a financial report card for your business. It is an important tool in measuring cash flow and controlling costs. The more frequent and more detailed the statement, the more accurate picture of your business you will have.

Here are 4 important measures that a monthly P&L Statement exposes:

1. Cash Flow – by recording and categorizing sales on a monthly basis, you can quickly identify trends in customer demands or the result of a marketing campaign.  Knowing the week over week sales permits you to spot areas that require attention to build or to prevent potential issues from becoming problems.

2. Inventory Control – a weekly cost reading of inventory bought and/or held of all items sold, consumed or used allows you to react to rising costs by adjusting menu offerings and portioning. It also permits adjusting purchasing practices in relation to your cash flow and business volume. The restaurant must purchase enough products to serve customers without running out and without having too much left over going bad on the shelves.

3. Cost Control – detailed tracking of fixed and variable costs, such as payroll, operating expenses and occupancy costs can highlight wasted resources. Labor cost is often one of the largest expenses, but is also one of the most easily controlled (how many workers do you need on a Tuesday night while maintaining high-level customer service?). Tracking efficient use of all resources minimizes unnecessary expense.

4. Profit Margins – the most important piece of your P&L will be the end results.  What is actually left over from your sales, once all your expenses are deducted from them?  You’re in business to make a profit and if you are not in any given week, you need to consider making changes to your business.

Knowing this information in nearly real time allows you the best opportunity to effectively manage your business for profit. A weekly review allows you to be more nimble and flexible in making business decisions in a timely manner and know their impact on the bottom line.

Every business will vary based on product offerings. Don’t know where to begin? 4Q Consulting, LLC can create customized tracking systems for your business.  Give us a call today for a free consultation.

All original content copyright Noelle E. Ifshin, 2012-2013.

Monday, November 5, 2012

4Q Consulting, LLC | Restaurant Consulting NYC | 4 Reasons Why Your Restaurant Needs an Employee Handbook

4 Reasons Why Your Restaurant Needs an Employee Handbook

The employee handbook is one of the most important documents for your business. It establishes the policies and procedures employees must follow in your restaurant, catering business or food service establishment. As we have discussed in previous blogs, having specific procedures in place reduces waste, the possibility of fines and other unnecessary costs. There are tremendous long-term savings and potential for increased profits that can be realized by having clearly defined policies and procedures that are enforced, are adhered to, and become part of the culture of your business.

Here are 4 reasons why every restaurant needs an employee handbook:

1. Communicate Employee Expectations and Job Functions
Restaurant employees do better work when they fully understand their job requirements and specific procedures. A good employee handbook clearly defines job functions, behaviors and work expectation policies for each job role.  Consider translating this document into other languages to improve communications with staff. From an operational efficiency standpoint, the goal is to have every employee doing the same task consistently, which in turn can reduce waste and cut costs.

2. Improve Operational Efficiencies
A detailed handbook can be your most effective training tool, as it spells out how your establishment functions (policies) and how employees are expected to perform their duties (procedures).  You may consider creating procedure-specific manuals for different job functions. A higher level of detail can translate into increased operational efficiency, reduced training time, better continuity, less employee turnover and better customer service. The more specific you are, the better off you will be in the long run.

3. Create a Culture of Accountability
We have discussed creating a culture of accountability in previous blogs; written policies and procedures can facilitate this. With written policies, you can consistently hold employees responsible for their actions, both good and bad. Should you need to take disciplinary action, the employee handbook gives you clear, defined policies on which you are basing your actions.

4. Protect the Business
Having a well written manual in place can protect your business from potential labor disputes and costly legal fees, which can destroy your business.  It should outline unacceptable employee behaviors and related disciplinary policies.  It is important to know your local employment and labor laws to be sure that you are not setting policies that violate them.

There are many issues to consider when writing an employee handbook. Always consult with an employment lawyer or restaurant human resource professional before finalizing and publishing your handbook, as this often becomes a legal document. You will need to update the handbook periodically to reflect changes in your business as well as regulations and applicable employment laws.

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

All original content copyright Noelle E. Ifshin, 2012-2013.

Monday, October 29, 2012

4Q Consulting, LLC | Restaurant Consulting | 4 Reasons Why it is Vital that All Employees are Trained in Food Safety

4 Reasons Why it is Vital that All Employees are Trained in Food Safety

In a commercial food establishment, there is no excuse for unsafe food handling practices. One case of food poisoning can destroy a restaurant’s reputation and put an owner out of business.  Unfortunately, many owners never think about food safety beyond storage and preparation, yet that is where many issues occur that can cause your business great harm.

Here are 4 reasons why it is vitally important to your business to train all employees in safe food and bar handling practices:

1. Safe procedures reduce waste. There will be less food waste due to spoilage or contamination when all staff is properly trained in food safety. Less Waste = More Profit!

2. All employees have contact with food in some way. Washing the dishes, setting a table, serving a plate, and mixing a drink all relate to food safety. Remember, ice and drink garnishes are food – and the bar can be a source or numerous health risks. It is important that all these functions be done as safely as the kitchen handles product.

3. It can reduce the risk of food poisoning. Cross contamination from person-to-person contact is the number one reason for the spread of harmful bacteria. Workers who are properly trained in safe food handling practices will be less likely to be the source of bacterial contamination.

4. It is a health code requirement. Currently, the only restaurant workers who need to be food safety certified are managers, but the FDA Food Code does stipulate that all restaurant staff need to have a working knowledge of food safety. What constitutes "working knowledge" is left up to the local health departments to decide. Chances are the health inspector will ask employees what safety measures they are using and maybe why those measures are important.

The best way to ingrain proper procedures into people is to change their behavior. Training, coaching and regularly applying food safety training principles will eventually change the way staff work.  The goal is to have safe food and bar handling become second nature.

As an owner, you want to avoid health department fines, possible downtime and negative publicity from poor sanitation. This is easier, if all employees are on the same page regarding food safety and sanitation regulations.

Don’t know where to begin?  Ask yourself, do you have the proper operational guidelines and training programs so your staff can help you be as profitable as possible?
4Q Consulting can develop customized operational guidelines and training programs to meet your needs.  Call us today for a free business consultation!

All original content copyright Noelle E. Ifshin, 2012-2013.

Monday, October 22, 2012

4Q Consulting LLC | Restaurant Consulting NYC | 4 Simple Ways Your Restaurant Employees Can Help You Be More Profitable

4 Simple Ways Your Restaurant Employees Can
Help You Be More Profitable

As a restaurant or food service provider you have a million things to tend to in an average day.  Ensuring that your staff is trained properly will help to alleviate some of this stress and help to make you more profitable in the long run.

1 - Follow recipes and portion control guidelines -
Recipes have two purposes: a) to ensure consistency, b) to control costs. Teach your staff members these two basic principles.  This is especially true for center-of-the plate food items and bar pours. Also, make sure that the correct portioning utensils are being provided and used.  For example, you cannot expect a bartender to execute a perfect measured pour without having a measure or a jigger.

2 - Do it right the first time -
When staff members make mistakes your restaurant takes a double hit financially. First, your investment in products, equipment, and supplies is lost. Second, labor dollars are wasted. Make sure all employees are capable of completing assigned tasks prior to going "solo", and when mistakes are made, coach or retrain them until you are confident they can do the job properly.

3 - Train your wait staff to be sales people –
First, make sure that your wait staff is selling the items you want sold: the most profitable menu items not the necessarily the most expensive ones. Second, make sure they are up selling as much as possible.  Are your servers selling appetizers and desserts to everyone at the table, and are they up selling alcohol with every drink?  Your staff should be knowledgeable on all products in order to be able to effectively sell them.

4- Value your staff’s knowledge –
Your staff has the most direct contact with your guests and insights on the function and flow of your restaurant that you might not have.  Let your staff know just how much you value their ideas to help your restaurant improve.  Ensure a culture of inclusion where all ideas are welcome. The key is to create an environment whereby the staff can come to you with their feedback and ideas; both positive and negative.

Properly training your staff to adhere to operational guidelines reduces waste, lost effort and cost overruns.  Continue to follow up to be sure they understand, execute and live by your guidelines. Listen to the feedback you are receiving from your staff and act when necessary. Reward you employees when they consistently meet or exceed your standards. 

Ask yourself, do you have the proper operational guidelines and training programs so your staff can help you be as profitable as possible? 4Q Consulting can develop customized operational guidelines and training programs to meet your needs.  Call us today for a free business consultation!

All original content copyright Noelle E. Ifshin, 2012-2013.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

4Q Consulting | Restaurant Consulting NYC | Bad Experiences Can Make Loyal Customers

Bad Experiences Can Make Loyal Customers
Customers have complained since long before there was the Internet. However, in today’s hyper-digital world, unhappy guests often immediately go to the internet to report their bad customer service  experiences on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and a slew of other websites.  On-line complaints are very public, and can be damaging to your business reputation to a point that is hard to overcome. 

Even in the best establishments, not every guest will be satisfied with the product and services rendered, and unhappy guests do not always complain in person, waiting instead to tell the World Wide Web. You must train your staff to be aware of when their guests are not happy, and how to address issues, voiced or not.

Here are 4 important steps by which properly trained staff can not only address and rectify a problem appropriately, but can pre-empt an on-line tirade and make a positive lasting impression.

1. Be Quiet and Listen
As simple as it sounds, the first – and most important – step to take when dealing with a complaining guest is to be quiet and listen. Train your staff to not get emotional with an upset guest.  Sometimes the person just wants to be heard, and having an employee acknowledge the issue calmly is all it takes to settle the problem.

It is an employee’s job to listen attentively. Often guests feel the need to vent their frustrations completely before even considering a solution. The employee should take the time to hear out the issue before determining what can be done.
Your employees should be empowered to resolve certain issues on their own. However, serious matters should be brought to the manager’s attention immediately.

2. Admit and Apologize
This seems easy, but employees often do not want to admit a mistake or apologize, and they are quick to pass the blame. Complaints are not personal (even if heated); your staff should simply apologize and accept the responsibility for the entire team. Admitting an error and apologizing will set the guest’s mind at ease and help to dissipate the negativity. Then the complaint can be addressed directly, in a manner that has meaning for the guest.

EXAMPLE: saying, “I am sorry you’re waiting a long time for your food, but our kitchen is really slammed tonight” is not effective.  Guests do not care, nor need to know, why they do not have their food; they want to know when they will get their food.  Much more effective is saying, “I am sorry for the delay with your entrees, let me find out what the hold-up is.  In the meantime, please let me bring you a complimentary round of drinks.” This tells the guests that you are now going to be their advocate and you are already working to rectify the situation for them.

3. Fix the Problem and Thank the Guest
Now that the problem has been identified, a solution must be enacted. This can take many forms, and is often a simple fix - depending on the complaint.
In the example above, simply returning to the table to deliver the complimentary drinks, assuring the guests that the server has checked that the food will arrive in a few minutes and thanking them for their patience, can go quite far in quelling the situation.

For a bigger issue, engaging the guest in coming up with a mutually agreeable solution is often effective. If you ask the customer to propose a "fair and reasonable" solution, acting as a partnership with you to find a resolution, chances are it will consist of less than what you would have thought to offer.
The goal is to go above and beyond the expectation so that the guest’s distaste is transformed into enjoyment.

Finally, it is important to thank the guest for giving you the opportunity to fix the problem.

4. Keep your Word
Above all else: Keep your word. Be sure to promptly follow through with your promises.

Again referring to our example: A server who does not return to the table to report on the status of the awaited food is only making a matter worse.

If you agreed to send guests a coupon in the mail or via email, make sure you follow through in the agreed upon amount of time. If you promised to have the guests come back for a meal on the house, make sure this happens. If you promised to cover a dry cleaning bill, send the check without delay.

After the incident is over, analyze what happened.  You will want to take steps to ensure that it does not happen again. Learning from a problem can actually help improve your business if you make sure that the problem is avoided in the future. Don’t make the same mistake twice.

Making guests happy must be an attitude that all employees understand and practice daily. In being able to quickly turn a poor situation into a positive experience, you have the chance to create a loyal customer for life.  However, this is no substitute for top-notch customer service.

In the long run, it is easier and cheaper to maintain happy returning customers than to replace unhappy one who don’t return.  Not only will good service keep your customers loyally coming back, but their on-line reports of your customer service will attract new guests for you to impress.
Ask yourself, do you have the proper training programs in place to foster this culture of guest satisfaction in your establishment?  4Q Consulting can help you develop training and programs to foster a guest focused culture. 
Call us today for a free consultation!

All original content copyright Noelle E. Ifshin, 2012-2013.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

4Q Consulting | Restaurant Consulting NYC | Restaurant Consultant | How Much of your Profits are Being Eaten by Employee Theft?

How Much of your Profits are Being Eaten by Employee Theft?
Four Basic Ways to Prevent Employee Theft in your Establishment

As profitable as restaurants can be, often restaurants are losing money due to employee theft.  Loss to theft can be overwhelming; if you are a smaller business owner, this difference can make or break your profit margins.  If you are a larger establishment, think of how much more profitable you would be if you could recover 5% of your bottom-line profits!
There is an entire field of study dedicated to loss prevention in restaurants. It has been estimated that in the US about $52 billion a year is lost due to employee theft and that approximately 95% of all businesses experience employee theft. 
So, what are what you doing to protect your business and your money? Here are 4 basic procedures that can help you limit employee theft in your establishment:

Pre-Employment Background Checks – Proper screening in the recruiting process can lower your risk of being subject to theft. A background check searches for criminal records, as well as verifying information on an application or resume. Studies show that theft is a pattern of behavior that is often repeated: If a candidate steals before they are hired, they are prone to steal (from you, other employees and even customers) once they are hired. The cost of these checks is relatively low compared to the potential loss due to theft in your establishment by hiring the wrong empoyee.

Strict Controls and Procedures – As discussed in our last blog on inventory controls and accountability, many employees steal because they can get away with it. There are countless methods and controls that can be enacted to curtail this: implement and hold employees accountable to, internal security measures such as strict cash controls, and inventory checks; maintain surveillance on the premises and limit employee access to the building to their scheduled work hours, through key and code authorizations.  Above all, make employees aware of the penalty of not adhering to procedures, as well as the likelihood and consequences of getting caught stealing.  Contact us today for more information on how to design and implement strict controls and procedures to protect your bottom line profits!

Time Clock Controls – An often-overlooked theft is time card fraud, when employees are not clocking actual hours worked.  First, ensure that you have clear, written clocking in and out procedures in your employee handbook or manual.  Secondly, have some form of time clock - whether an old-fashion punch type or a computerized POS System.  Hand-written time cards should be avoided, as they are not reliable and pose a liability in many states. Lastly, your clocking station should be under camera surveillance. This promotes accurate clock-in/out and prevents employees clocking in/out for their friends. Think about this: a $15/ hour employee that clocks in 20 minutes early and 20 minutes late on each shift in a week is earning an extra $50 per week or $2500 per year.  If all your employees are doing this, it starts to add up!

Secret or Mystery Shopper Programs –  Although you may normally think of mystery shoppers as focusing on customer service and food quality, shoppers can design programs to look at employee theft. Shoppers can observe employee adherence to policies (e.g. whether the sales are rung up properly or whether items are being given away).  You should have your establishment secretly shopped at least once per quarter.  Let your staff know that you use secret shoppers for this purpose, as this helps promote your culture of accountability. The reports can be a valuable tool in training staff, and rewarding employees who do uphold your policies.
These are just a few ways to start to ensure that you reduce theft in your establishment.

Remember the 4 basics: 
 1. Hire the right people;
 2. Hold your staff accountable through strict controls;
 3. Watch your payroll:
 4. Get an objective opinion from time to time. 

As an owner, you want to make sure that you do not have an environment where it is easy to be stolen from. These practices will discourage your employees from stealing.
Let 4Q help you get these procedures and practices into place
while helping you to grow your profits!

Friday, September 21, 2012

4Q Consulting, LLC | Restaurant Consulting NYC | Why a Weekly Food & Beverage Inventory is Crucial to your Small Business

Why a Weekly Food & Beverage Inventory is Crucial
to your Small Business 
Uncover 4 Drains on your Business!

Most independent restaurants calculate their food cost only once a month. Yet, virtually all the major chain restaurants calculate their food cost each week. According to industry averages, chain restaurants (before corporate expenses) are two to three times as profitable as independent restaurants.  While weekly food and beverage costing isn’t the entire reason, it’s a large part of it.

A weekly inventory is an important tool in controlling costs and cash flow. Here are four potential problems that could have a strong negative financial impact and that a weekly inventory can help you to uncover:

Waste -   It happens in every restaurant: A server accidentally spills a plate of food, or a kitchen worker burns several pieces of steak. No matter how it happens, all restaurant staff should get into the habit of recording all wasted items. Often the best defense against lost inventory is simply recording any raw product that is wasted and any complimentary items that are given away. If you don’t have a POS system that can handle this, an easy alternative is to handwrite the item, the amount wasted, and the reason it happened on a clipboard sheet. This way, all inventories is accounted for when analyzing usage.

Food Handling and Spoilage – Akin to waste, poor food handling that makes product unusable is one of the biggest contributors to depleted inventory. Commercial kitchen operators would do well to implement a mantra of "label, date, rotate and consolidate" with kitchen staff. When food is properly labeled and correctly dated, workers know what to use and when. Proper First-In, First-Out (FIFO) rotation is essential for reducing food spoilage, and proper consolidation from large, unwieldy containers to small, manageable ones will keep food fresher and more visible for use.

Theft - Employee theft is an unfortunate reality in many restaurants, and can be a reason for lost inventory. Theft involves anything from stealing full bottles of alcohol to eating restaurant food outside of employee meals. Keep an eye out for behavior that may point to restaurant employee theft and make sure you have the proper controls in place to prevent it.
Proper Product Ordering – Keeping excess inventory is expensive and proper product ordering, in frequency and amount, in accordance with your usage, is crucial to your success. This helps to prevent waste, promote proper handling and deter theft.  An excess of product might signal to employees that wasting food (as in making repeated mistakes) is acceptable, or that one bottle won’t be missed.  Invariably more food ends up burned, in the garbage or given away.  With less product to work with, food and beverages are handled more responsibly and less ends up wasted or stolen.

By taking a weekly inventory, you will have a full report on the current state of your business, and will be able to address issues before they become problems: Is food being wasted because employees are working irresponsibly, or the kitchen staff is not properly trained? Are managers ordering appropriately for the level of usage or is an over-order of staple items sitting unused? Are there proper procedures to account for the top-shelf liquor that seems to evaporate, and do you need to keep two cases of it on hand?

You will be able to foster a “culture of accountability” where managers and staff are held accountable for their work, producing a more effective workforce in your establishment.

Knowing your business in “real time” will allow you and your managers to be more nimble in responding to issues and better utilize your resources.

Let 4Q Consulting, LLC help you develop proper inventory and reporting procedures, to increase your efficiency and bottom line profits!

Friday, September 14, 2012

4Q Consulting, LLC | Restaurant Consulting NYC | Late Summer Heirloom Tomato Gratin

Late Summer Heirloom Tomato Gratin – grab a hold of the end of summer with this simple easy side dish.

This is an exquisite dish and very easy to pull together. In fact, you can prepare it ahead of time and warm it just before serving. Although they can overlap slightly, the tomatoes should essentially bake in a single layer, so make sure you have a large shallow dish, or use 2 small ones. If you have access to heirloom tomatoes, use them. The visual impact is a WOW, not to mention the flavor is amazing.  In the Restaurant, these can be made individually as side dishes.

  • 3 Large Ripe Tomatoes, Preferably Heirloom, Cored and Sliced 1/2" thick
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 3 TBSP EVOO, plus extra for greasing pan
  • 1 Cup Coarse, Fresh Bread Crumbs
  • Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/3 Cup Finely Grated Good Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 Cup Roughly Clipped Basil

Place the tomato slices between 2 paper towels and let stand for 45 minutes to an hour. This will remove some of the liquid and keep the gratin from being soggy. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F with a rack in the center position.  Brush a large, shallow gratin dish or earthenware casserole with a little olive oil.  Arrange the tomato slices only just slightly overlapping in the dish. Season lightly with salt and pepper and scatter half the basil over the top.  Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté only until the aroma is released, about 45 seconds. Remove from the heat and stir in the bread crumbs and a pinch more salt and pepper. Scatter the bread crumb mixture over the tomatoes and top with the Parmesan cheese.  Bake for about 15 minutes, until the crumbs are golden. If desired, let stand for up to 1 hour, and reheat in a low oven for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Just before serving, garnish with the remaining 2 tablespoons of basil.

 Let us show you how the 4Q Consulting Approach can work for you!

4Q Consulting, LLC leverages in-depth expertise in all aspects of restaurant consulting and hospitality operations; we create client-specific solutions that drive measurable business improvement.

All original content copyright Noelle E. Ifshin, 2012-2013.

Monday, September 10, 2012

4Q Consulting | Restaurant Consulting NYC | What to Skip When Writing Your Restaurant Menu

Things to steer clear of on Restaurant Menus


Just Say No to clip art on your restaurant menu
As we head into fall and restaurants starting rolling out their new menus, it is a great time to analyze what your menu says about your business.
Menus are the heart of any restaurant; they are your customers’ introduction to their experience at your establishment, and showcase everything you have to offer for food and drink. While menus can be as diverse and varied as the restaurants they represent, a menu should be:

  • Easy to Read;
  • Easy to Understand;
  • Make your dishes sound appealing.

There are also certain things you should avoid when designing your restaurant menu. Read on for things to skip before you go to the printer.

Here are 5 things to steer clear of when writing your menus:

Hard to Read Fonts – Fonts are fun to play around with, but when it comes to writing your restaurant menu, simple is best. Make sure your font ties into the restaurant’s overall marketing and branding. Stay away from cursive, all bold or all capitalized text. Make sure you choose a font and font size that can be easily read during dinner hours – when the lighting tends to be darker.
Too Much Technical Jargon – Just because you keep a copy of Food Lover’s Companion on your desk, don’t assume your patrons do. Before you start throwing around a lot of culinary terms the masses may not understand, consider your audience. Even if your restaurant is an upscale, fine dining establishment, your menu descriptions should still be understandable. A few well-placed terms like sauté or mole (pronounced MOL-lay), will add just enough flavor to your menu, without frustrating customers. Of course, always make sure you staff is trained to answer any and all questions about the menu.
Itemized Menus – Avoid saying exactly how many pieces of food come in a dish. For example, don’t say “six jumbo shrimp” when describing shrimp cocktail. Simply saying “jumbo shrimp” will suffice. This way you can adjust portion control to keep your food costs in line. If you have to cut back to five shrimp instead of the advertised six, customers will notice and will feel cheated when they only get five.
Menu Disclaimers – Most menus will have a disclaimer or two in fine print on the bottom; some are required by law. Common disclaimers include: “gratuity will be added to parties of six or more” , “there is a health risk of consuming undercooked or raw shellfish and animal protein” or “Kids menu available only for those 12 and under.” Those are all fine but don’t go crazy with the disclaimers - Customers eat out to enjoy, not be told what you won’t do for them.
Clip Art – Believe it or not, I have seen clip art on menus in all types of restaurants! Most word processing and publishing programs come with a wide assortment of clip art for both business and personal use. It is tempting to use clip art in your menu – it is easy to add, with a wide variety of images. But clip art inevitably makes a menu look like it was done on a home computer. It lacks the polish of professional photographs or graphic designs featuring your restaurant’s logo. A graphic designer can help you design something that will make your restaurant menu stand out.

More Tips for Writing Your Restaurant Menu

Don’t laminate your menu. Professional laminating (because we agree that do-it-yourself laminating looks cheap and tacky) will quickly get expensive if you have to reprint your menus every six months, which is not uncommon. Instead, invest in menu jackets or covers that have clear sleeves. These allow you to update with new items or price changes, or replace because of wear and tear. Cost then is not a factor to make a change, and you can change as often as you need or want, which is a good business strategy overall.

Proof Read! And have others read it too! There is nothing worse than having spelling mistakes on your menus! Hire a professional copywriter, if need be. Have a sample audience read your menu and give you feedback. And don’t just give it to family and friends. Give it to people who you know will give you an honest opinion. Ask them:

  • Is easy to read?
  • Do they understand the descriptions?
  • Does it make your dishes sound appealing?

Let us show you how the 4Q Consulting Approach can work for you!
4Q Consulting, LLC leverages in-depth expertise in all aspects of restaurant consulting and hospitality operations; we create client-specific solutions that drive measurable business improvement.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

4Q Consulting | Restaurant Consulting NYC | Dessert Sales to Increase Profits

Making a living as a small business/restaurant owner is challenging in the best of times, and during economic downturns, it can feel downright impossible. However, slower times also give you an opportunity (time) to rework your menus and procedures to ensure that you make as much profit as possible off of each and every guest. 

It takes far more money to make additional sales by attracting new customers than it does to rework procedures that might get existing customers to spend a little more on each visit. 

A great way to increase your guest check average and decrease food cost is by selling more add-on items such as desserts and increasing the sales of these add-ons doesn’t need to cost you much, if anything at all! 
So double your dessert sales and see how much healthier your bottom line starts looking! 

5 Ideas for Increasing Dessert Sales in Your Restaurant 

It is likely that you have heard these ideas before - the wheel is not being reinvented here! These are just a few low cost ideas to help spark your own creativity and get you thinking about how you can make a little more on your own dessert sales program. 

1. The dessert cart 
Bring back the old fashioned dessert cart. Give your customers an enticing real-life visual display of their dessert offerings and you should see an increase in orders. 

2. The dessert card 
This one is a no-brainer for a casual restaurant, but really, every restaurant should think hard before dismissing the suggestive selling power of the nicely photographed dessert card positioned on the table.

3. Set the table for dessert before presenting the dessert menu 
This does not work well at a family style or very casual restaurant but is effective for more formal establishments. Setting a dessert place setting before giving the guests a dessert menu puts them in a very dessert-friendly state of mind…making the order of a dessert a very natural thing to do! 

4. Don't over-stuff your guests during dinner 
This one is tricky, and reducing portion sizes can easily backfire on you – but you can't expect many dessert orders from guests who have just consumed "super sized" foods! 

5. Tableside dessert displays 
Anything you can do to get your guests thinking about dessert should increase your check averages – and tableside cooking always attracts interest. Do a tableside flambé (well and safely!) and you will attract the favorable attention of nearby tables. 

So there you have it, 5 easy ideas to boost your dessert sales, increase average check sizes and help bring profit to your bottom line. 

Let us show you how the 4Q Consulting Approach can 
work for you! 

4Q Consulting, LLC leverages in-depth expertise in all aspects of restaurant consulting and hospitality operations; we create client-specific solutions that drive measurable business improvement. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

4Q Consulting | Restaurant Consulting NYC | Rising Commodity Prices

Rising Commodity Prices….

Are your restaurants and/or catering businesses ready for the rising price of commodities this fall/winter season? Do you have a plan in place to off-set price increases of raw ingredients due to this year’s drought? As an operator, now is the time to plan for the next three to four quarters in order to ride out these increases. Menu planning & innovation, purchasing programs and proper execution are crucial in this economic environment.

From Nation’s Restaurant News on August 23, 2012

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Aug. 21 update said:
“Serious agricultural drought effects persist east of the Rockies, despite cooler weather and recent showers.” For the week ended Aug. 19, the USDA reported that 51 percent of U.S. corn and 37 percent of soybeans were rated in very poor to poor condition.

Jeff Powell, president and chief executive of the 15-unit Razzoo’s Cajun Café, said he expects his Addison, Texas-based chain
“will be negatively impacted by the drought and other pressures on grain supply.”
“Corn particularly is a baseline driver of economics in the supply chain,” Powell said. “A shortage of corn caused by drought or other dilution of supply by other uses (ethanol, etc.) obviously negatively impacts the dynamic. Corn is a necessary feed and source of oil, and when in shortage the impact on beef, pork and poultry prices is immediate.”

John T. Barone, president and commodities analyst for Market Vision Inc., wrote earlier this month that higher wheat prices for bread, pizza crust, pasta, flour tortillas and bakery products
“are obvious.”
“The ‘sneaky’ price increase will come from the big bump in corn and soy meal prices," Barone said. "That’s because they are the primary feed inputs for poultry, dairy cows, pork — and this year, cattle, because grazing pastures have also been toasted by the drought.”

The USDA is projecting a 5-7% increase in corn, wheat, soybean, beef, pork and chicken commodity prices above their current levels. What is deceiving is that, in the short term, we could possibly see beef and pork prices drop as more cattle are sent to slaughter early, due to the lack of feed. Operators need to watch out for rising prices towards the end of Q3 2012 and moving forward into 2013. Planning ahead now, is key to being able to ride out the wave of these price increases for the next few quarters.

Here’s how you, as the operator, can get ahead of rising commodity prices:

· Menu Planning and Innovation

o Introduce New Menu items – you can often increase menu prices by introducing a new item to your menu. This tends to be less noticeable to your guests then just increasing the prices of existing menu items.

o Seasonal/ Daily Menus - changing your menu more frequently gives you flexibility to react to the market.

o Food Costs - Do you actually know what your menu items cost you? When was the last time you did a costing exercise for your menu? Do you know what your portion sizes are? It might be time to do this exercise again!

o Dessert Program – do you have a dessert program in place to actively sell desserts? House made desserts tend to have a larger profit margin and can help t off-set increasing food costs?

o Beverage Program – Can you further off-set an erosion of your food profit margins by increasing your bar sales? Consider specialty and season drinks.

o Purchasing Programs – do you have a systematic method for ordering food? Or is your chef doing his/her food orders last minute before the order board closes?

o Distributors - Are you shopping your distributors for the best prices? Have you diversified? Or do you only have one broad-line distributor? Time to shop around again if you have not in a while.

o Purchase Sizes - Can you bulk buy some of your groceries to gain efficiencies of scale? This can allow you some breathing room to purchase your center- of-the-plate items in smaller quantities.

o Proper Execution – now that you have done some work making menu innovations, costing your menus and ensuring that you have proper sourcing, you MUST train your staff to execute properly!

o Ensure that these changes have been communicated to all employees and spend time to do some hands-on training.

Let us show you how the 4Q Consulting Approach can work for you!

4Q Consulting, LLC leverages in-depth expertise in all aspects of restaurant consulting and hospitality operations; we create client-specific solutions that drive measurable business improvement.

244 5th Avenue | Suite 1430 | New York, NY 10001 | 212-340-1137 | Mobile 347-834-4557 | |

Monday, August 20, 2012

When Good Restaurants are Bad... How to Avoid Making Matters Worse

Last night my family and I went out to one of the best restaurants in a resort town. This restaurant is only two years old, very hip, with a creative, locally-sourced organic menu. The Chef/Owner is well known in the culinary world and has many accolades under his belt. We were a party of nine with a 6:30pm reservation.

We were greeted with a smile by our server, who was obviously happy and peppy.

It was a promising start to the evening!   And that is where it ended...

We knew we were in trouble when the pre-appetizer nibbles we ordered for the table took 45 minutes to arrive at our table. Our first course arrived at 7:30pm in fits and starts; the food runner made several trips with two plates each, auctioning off our food. We waited with huge gaps of time between dishes arriving, making it awkward for those with food in front of them. Interesting, considering everyone at the table had a cold appetizer! A few of our salads were over dressed; making the gorgeous locally sourced lettuces wilt before hitting the table.

We had a rocky start, but still held out hope that we were in good hands.

When our entrees finally arrived at almost 8pm, we were delighted with beautiful plate presentations. However, again not all of our dishes arrived at the same time, leaving diners waiting with hot food in front of them for others to be served. Then we started to eat. Out of the nine dishes we had at our table, four were inedible due to gross over salting. Two more of the dishes were at that borderline place of being too salty. Now, as a former restaurant Executive Chef, I am a fan of properly salting food – which is often more salt than a home chef uses. At this point we needed to say something. When we asked our server for the manager, this is where the fun began.

Once the manager came to our table to ask “what was wrong”, I knew we were in deeper trouble. When we explained that we sent back two of the dishes as inedible and he might want to discuss this with the chef, so as to prevent this from happening to other diners, the manager got his back up. When we then aired all of our other concerns, such as the length of time in between courses, the manager threw his chef and kitchen staff under the bus. The manager made the mistake of telling us that the kitchen was under staffed and could not keep up – reminding us that it was a Wednesday, not a Saturday. He then asked us what he could do to make us happy, to which we had no response. He then offered to buy us dessert. Again we said nothing; in our minds it was too little, too late - we were never going to go back. We asked for the check, and discussed going to the local ice cream parlor.

In the end, our entire meal was complimentary, which was not our intention because it was too late to recover from this ordeal.

As we walked out, we noted numerous other tables where diners were impatiently waiting for food. The potential for more upset guests and the need to comp more checks was in the air!

Here is how you, as a Restaurateur, can avoid this situation:

Train your staff to handle problems: The Role of the Server – our server knew we were waiting a long time for our food, because she told us “the kitchen was slammed and backed up”. Your server staff should never tell a customer that the kitchen is backed up; the customer does not care. You should train your staff to NEVER air a restaurants dysfunction to guests. It only makes guests more agitated that they are not in good hands. Remember, people go out to eat to get away from the stresses of their lives and enjoy themselves. Telling guests that the kitchen is not functioning well causes stress for your dining guests. 

Communication: The Role of the Manager - The Server should have notified the Manager sooner – most guests do not complain until they are at their breaking point or past the point of no return. Similarly, guests also do not seek out the manager until it is too late. Our Server should have involved the manager in our situation sooner, rather than our having to seek him out. This allows the server and the manager to proactively try to appease their guests. We could have been offered more bread and a complimentary bottle of wine (which we were not) to appease us and draw our attention away from the long wait time. 

Take responsibility: The Customer Doesn’t Need To Know – Once the manager did come to our table, he threw the kitchen under the bus. This is a big no-no. This leaves the guests with no confidence at all. If the manager clearly has no confidence in the kitchen, why should we? The fact that we were told that they only had a 4 man line instead of a 6 man line because it was a Wednesday, is of no concern to the guest. The food should be the same regardless of what day of the week it is; your guests’ money is the same every day of the week. 

Go head first into the fire: Don’t Let a Tough Situation Get Out of Control – the manager on the floor knows the restaurant is having a bad night. This is the time to proactively talk to all of your guests; never run and hide. Addressing the elephant in the room will help you to retain customers. Everyone is going to have a bad service at some point, it is how you handle it that defines your professionalism. 

> Know your Market and Be Prepared: Be Smart About Your Business - In a resort town, in the last three weeks of August, every night should be as busy as Saturday night; if not, you have another issue on your hands. By 4:30pm the previous afternoon, when the reservation book started to fill up for a Wednesday, that was the time to call in more staff for both the kitchen and the dining room. A busy night should not have been a surprise. However, if caught off guard, do you have a backup plan? Do you have staff on call? Is the Staff Cross Trained? Could the manager have reconfigured the floor once in trouble? 

Don’t let this happen to you! You end up losing both customers and money in the process. 

About Us:
4Q Consulting, LLC leverages in-depth expertise in all aspects of restaurant consulting and hospitality operations; we create client-specific solutions that drive measurable business improvement.  Let us show you how the 4Q Consulting Approach can work for you!

244 5th Avenue | Suite 1430 | New York, NY 10001 | 212-340-1137 | Mobile 347-834-4557 |