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!