To Raise or Not to Raise?

Perhaps surprisingly, restaurants tended to avoided price increases in 2012. Price increases are often necessary — as time passes, the price of ingredients goes up, minimum wage changes, rent changes, etc. Inflation happens. But restaurants, led by major chains, tried to avoid noticeable price increases in 2012 for one obvious reason: customers right now are value hungry.

Just as the poor economy has hit restaurants hard, so has it affected the consumer. Restaurateurs who keep tabs on their customers have probably noticed that people are eating out less, being more frugal about ordering when they do eat out, and making other dining choices based more on their wallets and less on their stomachs. If it sounds all too practical, well it is. But that’s what the times call for.

So how do you navigate the difficult balance of raising prices to meet costs and keeping the value that makes you competitive and appealing to customers?

Simple, or at least sort of. In 2012, restaurants with steady business were able to balance raising their prices less than the predicted inflation with remaining competitive enough to increase sales. Inflation on commodity prices in 2012 was predicted at 1.7 and 2 percent, depending on the source, while annualized price increases for chain restaurants were between 1 and 1.5 percent. However, with 3-4 percent growth in sales, the difference in price was made up for by increased business.

I can’t say for sure whether your business will increase just because you hold back on increasing prices, but if you look at your books and see some wiggle room, it might be a thing worth considering. Can you offset price increases with popularity and steady business? Only you can now, and it’s something you’ll have to pay attention to — but to me, the moral’s simple: there’s more to consider than simple inflation-matching. Think about it!

The One-Stop Guide to Hiring the Best Employees, Pt. 1

As promised, I’m bringing you another series of posts on one topic this week. This time, we’re focusing on hiring & recruitment in the food service and hospitality industry — in other words, how to find and hire the best staff you possibly can, from top to bottom. I’m going to give you step-by-step, in-depth instructions on how to start from scratch with recruiting and hiring employees, from posting a classified ad all the way to bringing your new employee into the fold.

Let’s start by outlining the stages of this process:

waiter serving food

1. Job Opening
Perhaps obviously, this process begins when a job opens up and you need to fill it. From there, you have to have a great job description, beginning with a description of the role you need filled and finally a write-up of that particular definition — something we’ll go over in more depth later. This is the first step for you, and for those out there looking for work, and you want to make sure to appeal to them as much as possible to intice the best recruits.

2. Recruitment
Once you have an opening and a job description explaining its requirements, demands, and benefits, you need to think about where to post it. Whether you’re using job boards, corporate websites, social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.), Craiglist, or old fashioned print classifieds, you need to figure out how to target the people you most want to see and consider your job.

3. Screening & Interview
Since you can only get so far on online applications or mailed in resumes, the interview process is one of the most important steps during hiring. Once you’ve screened applications and narrowed them down to attractive candidates, you’ll still want to meet or talk to them in person to get a since of what they’re like and how they’ll fit in at your restaurant and in the role they’ve applied for. We’ll talk more about the best practices for screening and interviews so you’ll be prepared.

4. Making an Offer
Finally you’ll have found the person(s) you want to hire, and you’re at the final stage. Hopefully it’s a relief now that you’ve checked their references, met them in person, and realized what a great fit they’ll be. You still have to offer them the job, and they still have to accept it. Even as hard as it is to find work, there’s always a chance they wont — maybe someone else has already hired them. But oh well — you just have to be prepared to make an offer to another strong candidate.

’ll go over these stages and everything contained within them in much greater detail later.

Check back then — for now, comment below.

 

Market Your Restaurant Through a Partnership

Is your restaurant located near the highway, with hotels and motels all around? If you’re in an area with lodging nearby, it’s wise to partner with your local hotels, inns, and bed & breakfasts for marketing purpose. I’m on the road this weekend, and by the time the long days are over and I’m in my hotel, I’m usually starving. So how do I figure out where to eat in a small town I’m totally unfamiliar with? I look through the hotel literature. Pretty much every place I’ve ever stayed — from super-classy B&Bs to seedy motels — has had some information about local restaurants. At the very least, they have a list of places at the front desk; some have pamphlets and menus; others even go as far as a more complete partnership with a restaurant next door where they send customers looking for a nice dinner and sometimes even offer room service meals cooked in the restaurant.

people inside a restaurant

Getting in touch with local hotels can bring in hungry travelers!

If your local hotel isn’t one of the ones with a restaurant inside, this can be a great way to get more business. People are in hotels for convenience, and whether they’re vacationing or just traveling through, laziness can prevail — if your food is the food that’s easy for them to order in or walk across the parking lot to, you’re going to get a lot more customers. Partnering with local hotels will be easier if they’re independently owned — it can be as simple as getting in touch with the owner or manager and seeing what you can do together to benefit both businesses. At the very least, and even if you’re near chain hotels, inquire about getting on their local food list, leaving takeout menus, or offering some type of special for travelers. You can’t expect to make any money in this business if you don’t find ways to get your name out there and get as many people as possible coming through the door!

Food Safety’s Importance: Training Staff & Employees

There’s absolutely no reason for a commercial kitchen not to follow proper food safety procedures; safety is the most important thing in a restaurant kitchen, and it’s up to you to teach your staff and other employees proper practices to keep food safe and properly handled for your customers. Here’s why:

Your staff are the ones actually handling the food. It’s great if you know proper food safety practices, but since the kitchen and wait staff are the ones actually touching the food, it’s important that they know proper etiquette and safety. In the end, this protects both staff and customer.

It’s a legal requirement (you know, health code). Although only your managers are required to get food safety certification, health code requirements stipulate that your entire staff and employees must have a working knowledge of food safety. It’s your job (and/or the manager’s) to see to their training.

Reducing the risk of food poisoning. If a customer at your restaurant ends up getting food poisoning, they’re unlikely to return. In fact, they’ll probably complain to their friends and family, possibly impacting your business in a real and even permanent way. Training your entire staff in food safety practices is the best way to reduce the chance of this ever happening — it is crucial to business.

Quality control via staff training. If your staff is properly trained, less food will be wasted or thrown out due to poor quality control. Knowledge will lead to better food practices in your kitchen and on your floor.

Changing behavior. Training and regularly referring to best practices in food safety will ingrain the knowledge and habits in your staff, changing these behaviors to second nature. Unless you make a conscious effort to train and reapply this training knowledge throughout the months, you can’t expect your employees to work with food safety in the forefront of their minds.

In the long term, training all of your employees in proper food safety and handling procedures means your customers and staff will be safer and happier. It will even lead to greater pride and job satisfaction among those who work in your restaurant, and happier employees mean happier customers.