ShiftForce Blog

The Traditions and Best Dishes of Cinco de Mayo

Feliz Cinco de Mayo! The holiday has gained popularity in the US and Canada for the delicious dishes and tasty frozen beverages. But the origins of this holiday go back further. The food traditions and history that helped establish the holiday outside of Mexico give us insight into why Cinco de Mayo is so popular and so delectable!

History of Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is celebrating the Mexican victory of a battle in Puebla against the French army on May 5,1862 during the French-Mexican War. The reason this particular battle is so celebrated is because the odds were not in Mexico’s favor. The Mexican army was greatly outnumbered by the French who had been undefeated in battle for over 50 years. President Juarez made the day a national holiday in September of that same year and we still celebrate Cinco de Mayo today!

Common Traditions

Every year in the town of Puebla where the battle took place, there are action-packed reenactments of the Mexican victory over the French. It begins with a parade of men dressed in Mexican and French uniforms with women in brightly colored skirts dancing along. Then the battle reenactment begins with sword fights and cannon smoke. Along with the parade, the streets are lined with colorful decorations and there is mariachi music and dancing.

Outside of Puebla, the colorful decorations and mariachi music continue throughout Mexico, Canada, the US, and some tropical islands. They are paired with traditional Mexican dishes and a huge pouring of tequila to celebrate the victory.

Our Favorite Dishes

While enchiladas, tacos, and margaritas are commonly consumed in the US for Cinco de Mayo, the cultural dishes associated with the holiday in Mexico have a rich history. Puebla was considered a culinary capital in an ancient city before Spanish explorers invaded the area. It was home to early versions of streetcar vendors who would sell delicacies to those arriving to the Cholula pyramid for worship. To make your holiday more authentic, check out these dishes from the historic city where the battle took place.

Chalupas. Unlike the American-ized chalupas that you find on the Taco Bell menu, authentic chalupas are more like tostadas with thick fried tortillas topped with meat, queso fresco, salsa, and onion. This was considered a quick dinner to serve after spending all day washing clothes in large baskets called chalupas.

Chiles en Nogada. Chiles en Nogada are very patriotic as they are colored red, green, and white like the Mexican flag and has become an iconic dish in Mexico. The dish combines sweet and savory perfectly with a picadillo stuffed poblano pepper fried in egg batter and topped with a walnut sauce, parsley, and pomegranate seeds.

Tamales. Tamales are a very traditional dish to make to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but not so much because of the flavor. The act of making tamales is labor intensive and is an activity that brings the whole family together. The anticipation of making the tamales all day with the family tops off the flavor and joy of eating them.

Pastel de Tres Leches. Of course you have to have desert on Cinco de Mayo! Pastel de Tres Leches, translated to three milk cake, is a very moist cake made with egg whites and soaked in three types of milk. Part of the tasty-ness of this cake is a homemade whipped cream topping!

To keep the party going, get some of our tips to make the summer patio season more successful for your restaurant.

 

Restaurant Experts You Should Be Following in 2018

 Being a restaurant manager is no easy feat. Challenges in the workplace are ever-present – from developing smart systems, hiring and retaining good workers and training, to restaurant layout and menu preparation, and employee management, every day is filled with unique situations and opportunities to maintain a healthy heartbeat in your restaurant.

Yet, taking time out of your workday to read up on professional development opportunities is often overlooked. Luckily, you can leave this to the experts! They already have smart systems in place to make your restaurant more efficient, profitable, sustainable, and frankly more delicious.

Back by popular demand (we covered this same topic in 2017), here are the top 10 restaurant experts –writers, editors, chefs, and food industry thought leaders – to follow in 2018.

Media - Food Writers and Editors

 
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     Eric Caccitore (Host of the Restaurant Unstoppable podcast)
     @EricCacciatore


Eric is an enthusiastic host of Restaurant Unstoppable, a podcast that empowers independent restaurant owners, managers, and operators with the tools, knowledge, and attitude to be successful. Eric features a special guest each week — either a popular chef or a mover and shaker providing a unique service to the industry. Eric is a hard-working hospitality guy with epic advice and an all-star list of guests. Some previous podcasts include topics like:

 
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     Tara Fitzpatrick (Senior Food Editor at Food Management News)
     @tara_fitzie


Tara is the senior food editor at Food Management News, a sister publication to Restaurant Hospitality News. She loves food folklore, old cookbooks, BBQ, and reporting on up-and-coming food trends and chefs. In addition, she covers sustainable restaurant business practices, avant-garde cooking techniques, and food history. Caution: don’t ask her to report on baking – she strictly sticks to cooking!

 
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     Heather Lalley (Editor of Restaurant Business Magazine)
     @flourgrrrl


Heather Lalley is the Editor of Winsight's Restaurant Business Magazine, covering emerging restaurant concepts and food industry news. She also works with Winsight's sister company, Technomic, to produce reports on emerging restaurants and franchises.

Heather is also the author of "The Chicago Homegrown Cookbook" which features farm-to-table chefs in the great culinary hub of Chicago. She has journalism degree from Northwestern University and is a graduate of the Washburne Culinary Institute in Chicago. If you connect with her, ask her about her love of tater tots!

 
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     Jenna Telesca (Editor in Chief of Nation's Restaurant News)
     @JennaTelesca


In 2017, Brooklyn-based Jenna Telesca became Editor in Chief of Nation’s Restaurant News. As part of the appointment, Telesca also was promoted to editorial director of Restaurant Hospitality, Nation’s Restaurant News’ sister publication for independent restaurants. Since then, she has advanced the content strategy for the leading foodservice media channels. She is a long-time veteran at Nation’s Restaurant News, serving up breaking news and analysis in the food industry, as well as reporting on foods service, retail, and agriculture trends. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago and has a master’s degree in writing from CUNY Queens College.

 

Food Consultants

 
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     David Henkes (Advisory Group Senior Principal, Technomic Inc.)
     @davidhenkes


David is a global food and beverage industry consultant and trend watcher. He is the senior principal of Technomic, Inc., where he manages client engagements and development, engagement oversight, and industry relations.

He is a well-known restaurant industry commentator, and has appeared regularly on Bloomberg, CNBC, Fox Business, MSNBC, CBS, NPR, and ABC, among others. Dave is also a featured speaker at high-profile industry events, including the National Restaurant Association Show and BAR Show, the Flavor Experience conference, the Nightclub & Bar and VIBE annual trade show/conference, the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association’s (IFMA) Forecast and Outlook and Introduction to Foodservice Fundamentals seminars, the Beer Summit, Foodservice Equipment & Supplies State of the Industry seminar, and more.

Dave earned a bachelor’s degree in International Studies from American University and a master’s degree in Marketing and International Business from the University of Illinois - Chicago. 

 
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     Jaime Oikle (Owner, Restaurant Report and RunningRestaurants.com)
     @JaimeOikle


Whether you are in the restaurant industry or not, you know there is a lot involved in running a restaurant. This is where Jaime Oikle comes in. He is the owner of Restaurant Report and RunningRestaurants.com, a consultancy dedicated to helping restaurants profit through interactive seminars, webinars, downloadables, and classes. He even offers helpful resources to manage smart systems that improve efficiency of your restaurant’s operations, training, inventory management, cost analysis, and marketing efforts. 

 

Chefs

 
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     Anthony Bourdain (Food Enthusiast, Chef, Author and Host of CNN’s “Parts       Unknown”)
     @Bourdain


Anthony is an American author, chef, and TV personality. Here are a few tidbits about Anthony that make him worthy of being followed:

  • He’s a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.
  • He’s a veteran chef of notable restaurants such as Brasserie Les Halles.
  • He first became known for his book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, which was published in 2000.
  • He’s known for his no-BS approach
  • He has hosted Travel Channel’s “No Reservations”, “The Layover”, and most currently hosts “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” on CNN.
 
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     Marcela Valladolid (Chef, Author, and Television Personality)
     @chefmarcela


Marcela is a celebrity chef, television personality, author, and businesswoman. She began her professional career as a Food Editor for Bon Appétit Magazine. Since then, she has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, People Magazine, Food & Wine Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine, NY Daily News and has appeared on national TV shows such as The TODAY Show, The Talk, The Chew, The View, Access Hollywood Live, The Rachael Ray Show and more.

Marcela was the host of the Food Network’s television series Mexican Made Easy and a co-host of The Kitchen. Marcela is an author to multiple food books, including “Mexican Made Easy,” “Fresh Mexico,” and most recently “Casa Marcela,” which published in late 2017.

Marcela is also an avid social media – posting her finest Mexican-American, fresh, and farm-to-table creations.

 
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     Marcus Samuelson (Celebrity Chef and Restaurateur)
     @MarcusCooks


Part Ethiopian, part Swede, Marcus serves up the ultimate mash up of cultural dishes. Marcus is the owner and operator of 12 restaurants and a nationally recognized food personality. In his early 20s, Samuelsson became executive chef of Aquavit, and soon after that became the youngest ever to receive a three-star restaurant review from The New York Times. In 2003, he was awarded "Best Chef: New York City” by the James Beard Foundation. Marcus is also the author of multiple cooking books, “Yes, Chef”, “New American Table,” “The Soul of a New Cuisine,” “Marcus Off Duty,” and The Red Rooster Cookbook,” and “Make it Messy: My Perfectly Imperfect Life”.

 
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     Zachary Engel (Culinary Director at Pomegranate Hospitality)
     @ZJEngel


Zachary is the new Culinary Director at Pomegranate Hospitality, Which is in the work to open 2 new restaurants this spring.  Zachary is the 2017 James Beard winner in the “Rising Star Chef of The Year” and also was named among Forbes’ coveted “30 Under 30” list.  While working to earn his business degree at Tulane University, he met Alon Shaya and soon realized he wanted to become a chef.  After college, he racked up experience, traveled throughout the world and spent almost four years working under Michael Solomonov at Zahav, the celebrated Israeli restaurant based in Philadelphia before joining back with Shaya in New Orleans.  Zachary rose from sous chef to chef de cuisine within one year before moving on to his new role as Culinary Director.

 
 

ShiftNote is an Online Manager’s Logbook and Employee Scheduling Software available to make all those hairy management tasks easy to control in one simple interface. Start your research and see how technology can help your management by exploring ShiftNote!

 

Tips on Communication for Better Employee Scheduling

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There are many tips and tricks that managers have to make their employee scheduling tasks easier and faster. From different ways to organize availability to how shifts overlap, everyone has their own “life hacks” that help streamline the process. However, there is a huge tip that will not only make your scheduling easier but all aspects of your management better - workplace communication. When you infuse better communication practices into your scheduling habits, you will see an improvement in your staff scheduling creation and a reduction in your turnover rate.

Easy and Open Availability Communications

Start making your employee scheduling easier at the root with the availability. Before you even ask for availability, you should create a culture of open communication about needs for each shift. Give your employees an idea of minimum staffing changes for each day depending on holidays or promotions the restaurant is offering. Then listen to their needs and encourage employees to come to you with questions and requests about their hours or staffing.

At that point, the process for employees to submit their availability should be simple for them to provide. Employees should feel comfortable knowing that, once their availability has been submitted, they won’t see weird shifts or hours on their schedule based on their needs. Likewise, they should expect to not have to resubmit or reshuffle their availability requests every month. Creating a comfortable environment for availability submissions with that open door communication policy will not only allow you to create more accurate scheduling, but also encourage employees to be more flexible and committed to the schedule.

Listen to Employee Concerns

The most important component of communication is listening. This is true when it comes to scheduling employee's as well. Part of creating that open door of communication is listening when employees have concerns.

If employees have scheduling change requests, it is important to listen to their concerns and work with them to come up with a solution. This doesn’t mean taking hours out of your week to rearrange and customize schedules after releasing them. Listening and respecting will empower employees to resolve much of their scheduling concerns by working directly with their coworkers to solve their needs.

There could be other concerns employees have that will affect your scheduling changes and workload as well. Employees may raise concerns about working with certain coworkers on different shifts, having too many hours or not enough, always being placed on slow lunch shifts, etc. Even if the apparent solve is not scheduling related, the insight employees provide by talking out problems with management can help you fine-tune your scheduling to reduce the number of times you have to go back in and change shifts.

Go Paperless to Streamline Employee Scheduling

Are you still doing any of the following:

  • Having employees submit their availability on a paper calendar?
  • Requiring employees to call, text, email, and/or speak in person with coworkers and management to make scheduling changes?
  • Using Excel sheets or other Microsoft Office programs to complete and maintain scheduling changes?
  • Sending emails to all employees to update them on scheduling changes which may or may not affect them?

If so, and we are going to be a bit blunt here, your communication around employee scheduling is outdated and inefficient. Having a variety of avenues for employees to communicate about the scheduling and trying to manually maintain updates to the schedule by yourself means changes get lost in the shuffle and everyone (especially managers) are spending more time than necessary to get schedules right.

The most efficient way for all employees to communicate about scheduling is by going paperless and streamlining all scheduling-related communications into a single platform. This would allow employees to work out trade time and update schedules without involving managers until final approval is needed. Employees whose shifts are changing would receive an automatic notification to make it easy to communicate changes to those who need to know. Employees could submit availability virtually and managers could update seamlessly without spending hours fitting the pieces of the scheduling puzzle together.

Sounds great, right? You should check out how ShiftNote’s employee scheduling software can help improve your shift-to-shift communication all around and reduce the amount of time management has to spend creating schedules. Start your research and see how technology can help your management by exploring 

ShiftNote is an Online Manager’s Logbook and Staff Scheduling Software available to make all those hairy management tasks easy to control in one simple interface. 

 

7 Tips to Make Your Menu Design Even Better

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Note: We recently published a post on menu design. We thought we’d take it a step further and offer additional tips to make your menu design even better. Tune in!

As a restaurant leader, driving profits is your goal. While many areas of your business impact your bottom line, believe it or not, menu design is one of the biggest opportunities for sales increases. Why? There are a few reasons:

  • It’s an element of your restaurant that is fully in your control. (While top-notch customer service and delicious food can make or break the customer experience, these things are often out of your control.)
  • It’s a small effort that scales into big wins. Making a few tweaks to your menu’s format, can impact your bottom line.
  • It is your #1 sales tool and can be your fastest way to increase profits and create repeat customers

Here are some ways you can feel the love even more with better profits using a stellar menu.

1 - Limit the Number of Items Available

  • How many options are on your menu? Restaurant patrons get stuck in analysis paralysis if there are more than 40 options on a menu. Limit the number of options to no more than 10 per category -- appetizers, main entree, dessert, etc. In fact, 10% to 15% of the menu items are items that are troublemakers and could be eliminated.

2 - Keep it Simple

  • Similar to item quantity, intricately designed menus overwhelm customers, causing them to keep their standard choice. Focus on design simplicity and readability to give people more time to browse the menu and decide on what they want. Use a lot of white space, and make sure the font style is legible.

3 - CRAP?!

  • Have you ever heard the acronym C.R.A.P.? Believe it or not, it’s an easy way to remember key design principles.
  • C - Contrast: Avoid elements (type, color, size, color, line thickness, shape, space) that are too similar adjacent to one another on a menu. Your eyes are visually attracted to contrasting elements, like black and white or light and dark.
  • R - Repetition: Repeat visual elements of the design throughout the piece. This helps develop the organization and strengthens the cohesiveness of the menu.
  • A - Alignment: Align menu selections under the subhead. Keep similar justifications for each menu panel.
  • P - Proximity: Items relating to each other should be grouped close together. When several items are in close proximity to each other, they become one visual unit rather than several separate units. This helps organize information and reduces clutter.

4 - Add High-Quality Photos

  • If a picture speaks 1,000 words, why not use them in your menu to induce some drool? Find a local professional photographer (there are even professional food photographers) who can shoot your top-selling and highest profit items. People purchase products based off the image alone. Have them prioritize shooting top-selling items with a high profits.

5 - Enlist a Pro for Menu Copy

  • We suggested in the previous point to hire a professional photographer. Beyond that, you may also want to hire a professional copywriter to write the item descriptions. Your menu is an effective sales tool when written professionally. Different wording impacts appeal and sends different messages. Often times, a chef will write the menu. While they might have good insight about the menu items, a freelance can take information given from your chef and turn it into persuasive descriptions. If you’re going to write the menu yourself, follow these tips:
    • Don’t over describe your items. Don’t list every ingredient -- that’s information overload.  Choose a few descriptors and differentiate.
    • Reread the copy. Does the description make you hungry? If not, revise it!

6 - Placement Matters

  • A restaurant patron looks at a menu for an average of 109 seconds on a constant loop, in a horizontal motion. 109 seconds is not that long for them to make a decision.  Don't make it easy for them to just scan for the price but rather have them read the description first and then include the price after the description.  Customers start reading the top of the right side of the menu first when browsing for menu options. Lay out your menu so your most profitable items will be placed in highly visible areas. Customers will remember the items placed in the 1st, 2nd and last positions so put your highest profit items there.  Also make sure to give priority placement to appetizers, sides, and put desserts on a separate menu. Virtually every customer will order an entrée, but not everyone will order extras. Be sure your staff is trained in the steps of service so you don't miss out on selling apps and desserts.  Last, make sure to divide your page into columns. A patron will be able to scan that information faster than a one-column layout.

7 - Utilize Prix Fixed Menus

  • Fixed price, or prix fixed menus help maximize on profit opportunities. Why? This multi-course option comes with a set price. Include an appetizer, entree, and dessert for one set price seems affordable to the customer, but believe it or not, you are increasing the dollar amount the patron spends by combining items at a set price. Your prix fixed options can even be a menu insert.

[BONUS]

  • Beyond the above elements listed, it’s advantageous to update your menu at least once per year. “Every item on your menu should be popular,” remarks FoodNewsFeed. “If a dish is not, it should be evicted and replaced.” As you update your menu, look at extending the menu of popular items. For instance, if a high-ticket item like a salmon entree is popular, consider adding variations of it to the menu.
  • Beyond that, think about removing Items with low sales and high food cost, like those that require slow preparation or need several special ingredients. To quantifiably do this, determine the gross profit dollar and average weekly sales of each item. (Multiply the average weekly unit sales by unit gross profit dollar to determine weekly gross profit dollar contribution.) Take out all items that contribute less than 3% of the total contribution.

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ShiftNote is an Online Manager’s Logbook and Employee Scheduling Software available to make all those hairy management tasks easy to control in one simple interface.  Start your research and see how technology can help your management by exploring

 

Slow Sales Problem vs. Symptom

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Here is the deal - often restaurants blame problems they are having on slow sales without looking at the reason for slow sales. Some restaurant owners even resolve themselves to believing that their restaurant just has an ongoing sales problem. But slow sales are always a symptom and never, ever, the problem. There is a huge difference when it comes to terminology. Labeling declining sales as a problem instead of looking at it as a symptom is an incredibly critical distinction to make, and here is why.

Problem vs Symptom

Viewing sales as the problem means that restaurants will hyperfocus on solving the problem. Their objective to solve the problem narrows in on only sales which ignores other issues that are contributing to it. Usually this tunnel vision produces only one plausible solution - more marketing to help increase sales.

Don’t get me wrong - marketing is absolutely an important part of generating sales! But trying to use marketing as a solution to fix declining sales is like providing electricity to a dead frog. Sure, it will jump, but the frog is still dead. You may seem random bursts of sales increases in marketing, but that is not an ongoing solution to your sales symptom.

Marketing changes when there is already an existing issue will not build guest loyalty, repeat business, and positive word of mouth marketing. More likely, the situation has more to do with what you are doing correctly or ignoring in your restaurant every day and how the overall experience is perceived by your guests including food quality, service, and atmosphere.

Look Objectively at Your Restaurant


If your sales are too low at your restaurant, it is not just happenstance! There is a reason behind the low sales and fixing that problem will be the solution to improving your sales. To figure this out, it is important to step back and take an objective look at your restaurant operations as well as the temperature of the local restaurant market. Consider the following:

  • Food Quality: Is your food not only high quality, but consistently delicious? It is important not to rely on your own opinion here and instead find people who will tell you the truth. Ask your servers to test it out and give their honest opinion. Or leave survey cards at the table for guests to fill out. You can offer rewards for both of these to be completed.
  • Service: Is your service staff friendly and responsive? Using a software that helps track sales and staff performance will give you a good view of how the staff is doing as whole since you can’t be there every second of the day to visually watch how they are doing.
  • Guest Experience: Are you giving your customers what they want for the ultimate guest experience? Look at the quality provided, the choices customers make when ordering, prices on your menu, cleanliness of the restaurant, service provided, and the overall atmosphere.
  • Competition: How does your restaurant's value proposition and experience proposition compare to what customers get from your local competitors? Send some of your servers to competitor restaurants in the area with the goal of analyzing their guest experience and overall quality. You could learn a lot!
  • Word of Mouth: What are you customers saying about you? While you can’t be a fly on the wall in their homes, there are many places you can check (and monitor in the future) to look at how customers view your restaurant. Supply comment cards and read each one submitted. Check all of the review sites online, including Yelp and Urbanspoon. Explore restaurant blogs and forums as well as local news stations with articles discussing restaurants in the area. Sometimes people will comment about other restaurants in your market that they love or hate.

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Whenever you take the time to look at every aspect of your restaurant and your local market, you will learn valuable information that will help you identify factors that you may be missing out on when you believe the only problem you have is sales. Without identifying the symptom of low sales, you are missing out on the big picture of your restaurant.

This is why throwing money at marketing when you have a low sales symptom is not the answer. This will make things worse if you spend time bringing in new customers to a restaurant that has problems. Instead, you must look at the restaurant from an intellectual perspective. Thinking objectively about all these factors that are keeping customers away will help you identify the real problem with your restaurant sales. When you look at the symptoms of low sales, it is the only way to come up with effective and lasting solutions. 

ShiftNote is an Online Manager’s Logbook and Employee Scheduling Software available to make all those hairy management tasks easy to control in one simple interface.  Start your research and see how technology can help your management by exploring ShiftNote!

 

How To Reduce Your Restaurant Employee Turnover

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Did you know... the average voluntary employee turnover rate is 12.8% for all industries, while involuntary turnover rate is 17.8%, according to Compensation Force? Employee turnover is on the rise, and it has a huge impact on your business financially and emotionally.

Financially speaking, every time a business replaces a salaried employee, it costs 6 to 9 months' salary on average, according to the Society of Human Resources & Management. What goes into this estimated cost?

  • Loss of productivity: It takes time to get new employees up to speed with existing employees, and that can take time.
  • The hiring process of a new employee: including the advertising, hours it takes to interview, screen, and hire new candidates.
  • Onboarding: along with the man-hours involved in training programs and training the new employee. In fact, over two to three years, a business likely invests 10 to 20% of an employee's salary into training.
  • Customer-facing errors: New employees are less capable at solving problems and may even create more.
  • Loss of engagement: Other staff members who see their peers quit on a regular basis will disengage, resulting in a loss of productivity – or will quit themselves.

What’s Your Company’s ROOT Problem?

If employee turnover is a problem in your restaurant, take the steps to recognize the root problem. Your restaurant turnover rate is a symptom of a greater problem. In fact, restaurant expert Jim Sullivan said in a recent article published on Nation’s Restaurant News, “It’s hard to shake the nagging notion that we may be systematically treating symptoms and not root causes, resulting in the constant re-occurrence of the same issues over and over again.”

Consider these somewhat common scenarios:

#1

  • The problem: A restaurant General Manager is asked to reduce labor costs 10% each year. After discussion with her management team, she realizes that the hourly turnover rate exceeds 75%.
  •  
  • The solution: She assess what part of the recruiting, hiring, and onboarding budget she could cut back on to hit the 10% reduction cost and realizes that in order to reduce this line item she needs to KEEP her current employees and invests more heavily in the recruitment process to spot employees who are trainable, have passion, and do not have common red flags of a low-quality hire, she needs to invest in reducing hourly turnover.

#2

  • The problem: A chain restaurant’s head of accounting was number crunching the previous month’s sales and saw that revenue year over year was down 15%.
  •  
  • The solution: While the accountant attributed the decline to a recent snowstorm, the root of it was something completely different. It was the employees. He realized that this year’s staff were all “green” members, and had not been there longer than three months, on average.

#3

  • The problem: A restaurant host is new, and while she is super friendly, she has no idea how to properly seat a restaurant. She arbitrarily sends guests to different tables throughout the restaurant, paying no mind to the wait staff on staff or volume in particular areas.
  •  
  • The solution: While originally attributed to the new and somewhat dense host, the real issue is the lack of training she was given for properly filling the restaurant up. Thus, this is another turnover issue.

The three problems are faced commonly, and have managers in a scramble to find. While seemingly three different issues – training, hiring, and sales – the root of each issue stemmed from one thing: TURNOVER.

Turnover has suddenly accelerated, especially in the restaurant and hospitality industry. In fact, voluntary turnover in the hospitality industry is the highest of all industries, at 20.7%. Sullivan said, “Our industry averages 100-percent annual turnover among hourly teams, we are also inching toward a $15 per hour wage but not getting $15 per hour skill competencies or equivalencies in return.” Competitors, regulations, the up-and-coming younger workforce, and stagnant unemployment rates have progressed the issue further in recent years.

With so many contributors to your restaurant turnover rate, it may seem like a battle that can’t be won. No one can follow it anymore; no one knows how to win; but everyone knows this much: the hospitality industry can’t continue to trend upwards with voluntary turnover rates.

Where Do You Start?

The first step in reducing restaurant employee turnover – is to identify the cause of why your staff leaves in the first place.

  1. Disinterest: If employees are not interested in their jobs, they will either stay away or leave.
  2. A high-demand employee: If the skills the employee possess are in demand, they may be lured away from your company by better pay, benefits, or title. While the employees’ decision to flee the coup is out of your control, there are things within your power to make that employee feel more empowered and productive.
  3. A job requisite mismatch: When you hire for a specific job, it’s important to be very transparent about the job level and duties because oftentimes employees who are under- or overqualified will soon realized there’s a skill/experience level mismatch.
  4. Poor working conditions: If your business’ facilities are sub-par – the worst case is the facility has health and safety provisions – your employees will not put up with the inconvenience for long and will say “adios”.
  5. Under-appreciation: Every employee wants to know they are valued. Management who does not acknowledge upstanding efforts or employees going above and beyond will have employees who are dissatisfied and angry – and will leave.
  6. Inadequate training: Believe it or not, training is a key lever in employee turnover. Employees crave guidance and will follow direction if given. Employees need guidance and direction. The lack of a training program may cause workers to fall behind in their level of performance and feel that their abilities are lacking.
  7. Poor pay: Low pay or unequal pay can drive employees to leave. To combat this, put together an extensive job evaluation and review plan for each employee.
  8. Lack of modern technology: Technology has a “shift potential” to grow a business in many ways, and lack of technology will deter employees -- especially younger ones. Instead of having old-school spreadsheets and Post-It notes, invest in cloud-based employee tools and technology that fosters collaboration and efficiency. Of course we are partial to our Employee Scheduling Software and Online Manager’s Logbook, but there are tons of different options out there!
 
 

Spring Forward Your Manager's Logbook

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Everyone is sick of winter and ready to spring forward into warmer weather on March 11th. But this spring, you should do more than just change your clocks. Spring is all about cleaning out the old and starting fresh, so why not take this opportunity to start improving your management as well? Here are some tips to spring clean your management style.

Create Open and Frequent Communication

Let’s face it - we all get into ruts with the way we do things. Your communication with your employees may be less than stellar coming out of the holiday rush. Re-evaluate how you have been handling communication in your restaurant and think of how it could be improved. From scheduling to training, make it easy for your employees to communicate with you and to stay up-to-date on changes in the restaurant to make their workday easier.

Plan for the Year

Times are busy and it can be easy to brush off large projects, especially when it comes to planning and strategizing for the upcoming year. But it is very important that you spring forward with your planning. This can include everything from your monthly sales projections from last year to planning hiring strategies based on gaps and busy time periods. Make a to-do list of everything that you know needs to be done throughout the year at this time and keep updating it as you go. Then come up with a planning strategy to accomplish each task in a timely manner.

Get Organized

The most important step of your management spring cleaning is to get organized. Not only should you organize the restaurant itself and clean out storage, but take a hard look at how you keep your information organized during your management tasks. Do you have papers littered across your desk with notes and reminders about your employees’ availability and training opportunities? Are your Excel sheets out of control with sales data and schedules? Do you feel like you are frequently having to go back and make corrections on communications, schedules, training, menu planning, and more?

These are signs your organization as a manager is a little chaotic. Start investigating ways to declutter your desk and get your management organized, like these 101 ways to log notes for a more productive organization. Technology presents so many opportunities to consolidate tasks that take hours into simple, streamlined processes.

Software is available to make all those hairy management tasks easy to control in one simple interface, like our ShiftNote software! Start your research on how technology can help your management by exploring our Online Manager’s Logbook and Employee Scheduling Software.

 

Tell us in the comments below: What are your leadership tips for 2018?
(and you could win a 2018 special edition ShiftNote T-Shift)

 

Employee Scheduling Software Tips From Industry Vets

Restaurant employee scheduling can quickly become a nightmare trying to balance between shift planning,  employee’s personal schedules and the restaurants needs. While the task of employee scheduling can become daunting quick, you can focus on the things you can control. With these employee scheduling software tips and online employee scheduling programs like ShiftNote your shift planning and scheduling life can definitely be easier and you may even be able to go home earlier!

The Shiftnote team, Matt T., Leigh Ann, Kevin, Matt H., Larry and Malayna reveal top considerations a restaurant or hospitality manager should make to create the perfect schedule using an employee scheduling software. From challenges and opportunities, to issues related to under- or over-staffing this information will give you greater insight into the restaurant scheduling process and help identifying the right solution for your needs.

What are top challenges with employee scheduling?

  • Kevin: A few things: Balancing your time with the demand of employees, Time spent on schedules, Remembering employee’s time off requests and availability, Being understaffed, Forecasting labor spend and sales, Communicating the schedule effectively, Finding a place where your employees can request time off and release shifts.
  • Matt T: Balancing the business’ needs with your employee’s ever-changing work availability is a major challenge. In fact, much of the labor pool are students with activities, thus finding a balance between making sure you have enough staff to not only service your customers, but also cater to their needs caan be a struggle.
  • Malayna: “No Shows” presents challenges for restaurant managers, so it’s important to have a backup plan as part of your shift planning.

What should a restaurant manager consider when creating a shift schedule?

  • Malayna:  Requests off in order of seniority, making sure you have enough key people for busy nights, new hires shadowing with well trained staff
  • Kevin:  Events, Weather, LY information – it’s better to be overstaffed and make cuts early, than understaffed and your service goes down with the ship. Also, certain employees will make a restaurant busy or slow. Don’t staff your weaker employees all in one day. You have to have a mix of strong employees with newer ones. Your veteran employees can nurture newer staff.
  • Matt T:  A manager should consider forecasted sales (by day or week), budget (labor dollars), and employee pool resources. Employees are the difference makers in your success. In the restaurant business, finding, retaining and training quality staff never ends. As you create a schedule with your scheduling tool and assign shifts, it’s helpful to know your employee’s strengths and weaknesses. You can do this by ranking employees by their:

What mistakes do managers make when scheduling staff?

  • Matt T:  Not allowing time-off requests during high-volume restaurant sales days, Allowing too many people to take off, and then being understaffed, Not using a budget or forecasted sales to make a schedule, Not scheduling your best employees to capture better sales.
  • Kevin:  Not setting clear guidelines with new employees during the hiring process or taking into account upward or downward trends.
  • Leigh Anne:  Local events – like school schedules, teacher workdays, festivals, and sporting events – can greatly impact your business and staffing needs. Be prepared by knowing upcoming local events, but maximize on any sales opportunities. For example, your high school football team plays every Friday night. While this could deplete your high school staff, rent a big screen and offer 10% off to anyone who wears the school colors.

What should you do if you are consistently understaffed or overstaffed?

  • Leigh Anne:  It is better to be overstaffed than the other way around. Empower your management team to be in control of shifts and sales dollars earned. If sales are not what they should be, cut your employees at the appropriate times. Keep you aces in their places in case there is a late-night rush, but stop spending labor dollars when it’s not necessary!
  • Malayna:  Give shifts to senior employees or see if they want a vacation day when you are overstaffed. When understaffed, look to your current staff and friends, and keep restaurant recruitment strategies in your back pocket.
  • Matt H:  This is where ShiftNote comes into play. ShiftNote is a scheduling software solution to schedule week in and week out. Our ShiftNote employee scheduling software recognizes employee availability, RTO requests, job codes and more, so you are not scheduling staff in the wrong places. It’s an easy-to-use system, perfect for businesses that do not want to spend an arm and a leg…. It’s also easy and intuitive. A question you can ask yourself is “Can my grandma write a schedule for my restaurant not knowing anyone? With ShiftNote's scheduling tool it is certainly possible.
  • Kevin:  There are two things here to understand:
    • Being consistently understaffed will hurt your business. Guests will not return and you will burn out your team.
    • Being consistently overstaffed will impact your bottom line negatively with high labor costs, servers and bartenders will not make the money they need and will look elsewhere for work.

What should you look for when choosing employee scheduling software? 

  • Larry:  Easy to use – staff scheduling software that doesn’t necessarily need a manual, Can be used to communicate between employees and managers, Is quick - doesn’t take long to make a schedule, Is mobile and user friendly with a scheduling app, Has a request time off option, Can automatically schedule employees quickly so you don’t have to work as hard, Takes into account employee capability, Works with a POS system and can pull POS information for historical data, Shows cost by day, week, and or month, Can run reports from any time period, Can show schedule by day, week, month, bi-month or any other view – along with the cost for that time period, Dependability, No set-up fees, Ability to test-drive for free, NO Contracts involved, Ability to forecast and configurable settings.
  • Matt T:  Also, you should start with your needs. Think about your budget and balance that with the software’s functionality. Some scheduling tools will have everything you need but if you are stuck on looking for one thing could minimize your choices quick!

How does a well-thought-out schedule affect overall restaurant operations?

  • Larry:  It’s the key to the entire scheduling process. Not only does it control labor dollars and hold employees accountable but it helps with staffing during your busiest times and so you can have a keen customer focus.
  • Malayna:  Everyone gels together and helps each other out more so the guest experience can be the best it can be.

What's the solution for managing the difficult task of employee scheduling?

  • Larry:  Of course, we are partial to ShiftNote, but additional strategies are:
    • Having great notes from last year (# of servers, # of Shifts, Sales Dollars by day part)
    • Creating a template for different levels of sales.
    • Starting early
    • Having request for time off in a minimum of 2 weeks before the schedule is made.
    • Using an on-call system and let employees know as soon as they call if you need them.
    • Having one place for all the RTO’s to go.
    • Scheduling the busiest day first and then work to the next busiest day and on down the line,
    • Using a schedule that worked in the past and duplicate (Check for RTO or availability challenges before you complete and post it.)
    • Scheduling staff at the same time on the same day each week so that you are consistent and so your employees know when to check it.

 

New Hire Tips for Younger Workers - How to Spot and Treat Them

By internet research counts, 75,000,000 millennials are joining the workforce.  In 2017 this group may have become the majority of your workforce. Young workers are a new breed of employees that managers in any industry frankly don’t quite know how to identify, manage, and communicate to. It’s a generation that defies the rules governing the workforce, making workplace situations more difficult and leaves other generations feeling confused and sometimes even disgruntled.

Fear not and listen up! The following article offers new hire tips on how to find a high-quality millennial workers, and how to keep and reward them.

1 - How To Spot Them

The best way to find the right younger candidate is to take time to seek people with the right soft skills, like passion and commitment, and also skill set and track record.

Soft skills: When looking to hire new employees who are younger, probe them to vet their interpersonal skills. This is especially important for the restaurant and hospitality industry. “If the candidate nervously reaches for their phone, has trouble making eye contact, or trips over simple answers they may lack the competence your company is looking for,” notes Jantzen Pahl, author at Idaho State University.

Commitment: Then, ask questions to vet their level of commitment to an employer. Many younger workers are apt to find the next best thing. So, ask them about previous professional roles and length of service to gauge their experience, and for lack of a better word, flightiness.

Passion: The enthusiasm a candidate brings to the interview will be evident. Look for young employees who have the right mindset, not just those who have the skills you desire. Passion is a highly desirable soft skill in any industry. These employees are positive, eager to learn, trainable, and loyal. Ask questions designed to spot passion:

  • If money wasn’t a concern, how would you spend your time?
  • Who has been the most inspirational person in your life?
  • What excites you about this position?
  • What scares you about this position?
  • If you were the boss for a day, what would you change about our business?
  • What do you do well naturally?
  • What areas are you looking to improve?

Look for red flags: Negativity like going into an elaborate story about a past boss or co-worker should be an immediate red flag. “Speaking well of former jobs translates to loyalty, integrity, and class,” notes Pahl.

Track record: Never leave a job interview without going into detail about a candidate’s previous and related work experience. Younger workers will naturally have less relevant experience, so ask them to associate skills from previous jobs to the job they are interviewing for, bridging old experience to a new industry.

Spot check: Thanks to the internet, you can go further into researching a candidate’s past. If it seems as though a candidate may be fluffing their experience, search their name on social media networks and search engines to gain a better perspective.

Recruitment bonus tips: Also, instead of looking to an internet job posting to find younger, talented employees, think about using the following “birds of a feather” tactics:

  • Offer a “new hire bounty” of $200 for all hired employees.
  • Ask your regulars, who understand and appreciate your customer service, for referrals.
  • Listen to what qualities your employees feel are valuable in addition to your own standards. Use this input to narrow down candidates.
  • If you can’t fill your spots, put out a boosted Facebook post for your area that you are hiring with a description of your culture and your top requirements.

2 - How To Treat Them

Be a leader: Young employees seek leadership and structure, but do not mistake this with micromanaging. They like the wings to fly, yet want to be bound by leadership that challenges them, keeps them honest, and helps them grow. “Millennials want to look up to you, learn from you, and receive daily feedback from you,” notes The Balance. Invest in their success, and they will, in turn, be loyal to you.

Be connected: Young workers, or millennials, are the most technologically connected generation in history. The new crop of workers offer a unique breed of skills, having grown up with access to technology, swift advancements, and immediate access to information. In particular, young adults have a firm grasp on the newest productivity tools, mobile devices, and even employee scheduling software. Get your business connected to modern technology, and your younger employees will value you.

Flexibility: Young workers are multi-taskers, and thus like to balance work and fun. To this end, they value workplaces with a good understanding of work/life balance and who offer flexible scheduling options. (Using employee scheduling software makes it easy to do this.)

Fun: Play in the workplace reduces turnover, boosts morale and improves employee engagement for the younger workforce. Remove the notion that work is tedious and “just for the paycheck.” You can plan all-staff activities like mixers or holiday parties, celebrate each one of your staff members’ birthdays, hold daily touch bases al fresco, or just keep the mood light when it’s right.

Go the extra mile: Take advantage of the opportunity to make your new employees' first-day special. One way to do this is to create a new employee welcome kit to show the new hire they are appreciated and are already a valued member of your team. Here are some welcome kit ideas:

  • A greeting card signed by every staff member.
  • Offer vouchers for free meals (if you are a restaurant), or other products or service related to your business.
  • Branded merchandise, like a t-shirt, hat, or other branded merchandise.
  • Create a welcome packet with all of the above materials.

Remember, an employee only has one first day. How they are welcomed sets the stage for their experience at your company. So, try it out. Add a welcome kit to your training and onboarding program and see how it improves the employee experience.

If you enjoyed these new hire tips for younger workers, share it on social media or comment below!

 
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Fall for These 4 Ideas to Grow Sales on Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is a holiday full of love and adoration for that special someone in your life. One of the most common ways to celebrate this love is to go out for a nice meal and exchange presents, perhaps even experience a proposal or two! For restaurant owners, this holiday is not only about welcoming love birds into your restaurant for an excellent night. There are many ways to grow sales opportunities with key holiday-centric strategies. So grab a box of heart-shaped chocolates and get ready to fall in love with these strategies that will help you grow your sales on Valentine’s Day.

Focus on Getting Reservations

Many people expect restaurants to be packed during Valentine’s Day. Encourage this thought process by promoting that your establishment has reservations available for the holiday. As you advertise that you have reservations available, showcase some of the unique meal offerings and specials that your restaurant will provide to couples who make a reservation. Remember that every reservation is a booked sale. Once you get them in the door, you have an opportunity to grow these sales more with your offerings and trained waitstaff.

Create Pre-Fixed Menus for Two

It is all about the menu when it comes to a great Valentine’s Day dinner. Patrons will fall on the razor edge of wanting an amazing meal without overpaying for it. This is the perfect opportunity to maximize your sales. Creating a pre-fix menu for two will provide a complete multi-course meal with delicious options at what the patron considers a great deal for all they receive. Ensure this menu has an appetizer, a main dish, and a dessert option for one price. You can increase your sales by coming up with a main dish that uses an inexpensive cut of meat that you can make money on, such as beef short ribs, tri-tip, or heavily marbles top sirloin cap steaks. The menu should also have upgrade and additional dish options to further increase your sales opportunities.

Offer Specials on Beer and Wine Pairings

Put some time into different wine and beer pairings to go with your pre-fix menu and decide what special offer you would like to present to couples eating at your restaurant. It could be a bottomless option for one price, or a discounted price if they purchase a certain meal. Likewise, you could offer a beer and wine happy hour on Valentine’s Day for the hours where you have few reservations or less traffic, such as 3pm-5pm.

Infuse Your Restaurant with Valentine Motifs

For some extra fun, try including these facts about the holiday throughout your restaurant! These can be callouts on your special valentine menus, created as table pieces, placed as signs, or shelled out by your waitstaff as they are serving meals. Don’t forget to also set the mood with candles, flowers, and notes of red and pink throughout your establishment! Setting the mood this way makes your atmosphere more fun and romantic, encouraging people to splurge more on wine or go for a dessert.

  • The holiday is named after a 3rd century priest named St. Valentine who performed secret marriages against the wish of Roman Emperor Claudius II. At the time, it was believed that single men would be more likely to enlist in the army.
  • St. Valentine, whom the holiday is named after, healed a jailer’s blind daughter. Before he was executed, he sent the daughter a letter signed “From your Valentine”. This is where the tradition of sending love notes is believed to have originated.
  • King Henry VIII declared Valentine’s Day a national religious holiday in 1537. It was decommissioned as religious holiday in 1969 by Pope Paul VI.
  • The Italian city of Verona where the play Romeo and Juliet was set receives around 1,000 letters every Valentine’s Day addressed to Juliet.
  • There was a superstition in the middle ages that said if you were single, you would end up marrying the first single person you met of the opposite sex on Valentine’s Day.
  • 8 billion candy hearts are produced every year, enough to stretch from Valentine, AZ to Rome, Italy and come back again.
  • While women buy 85% of valentine cards sold, men spend twice as much on valentine gifts.
  • 50 million roses are given on Valentine’s Day around the world and 36 million heart shaped boxes of chocolate are sold.
  • 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged every year in the US alone.

Are you looking for more ways to grow your restaurant sales throughout the year? Check out our blog about selling the sizzle, not the steak to increase sales.

 
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  • Consistently grow sales & profits.
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  • Become a great leader.
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