Restaurant Management Tips
Feb 8, 2016
Managing a restaurant is not for the faint-hearted.
Not only are you responsible for every facet of your business – from developing supply chains to delighting diners –you have to also be able to confront many uncontrollable variables, including livid customers, delayed deliveries, indisposed employees, and erratic technology.
But the most effective restaurant managers navigate around such landmines by being proactive, resourceful, innovative, and committed. They are master tacticians, creative marketers, and active listeners who understand that business growth is a byproduct of smiling customers, satisfied employees, and smart strategies.
You may already have robust management practices in place, but there is always room for improvement. Following are 5 tips to accelerate business growth and augment your brand image:
Customer Service is Key
Look beyond individual transactions to cultivate enduring relationships with your customers:
- Cherish the Loyalists: Shower your brand evangelists with special attention. For instance, remember their names, birthdays, and favorite dishes; reward them with impromptu discounts and free desserts; or reserve the best tables for them. Your kind gestures will be reciprocated with enthusiastic word-of-mouth recommendations and return visits.
- The Customer Is Always Right: Managers must tackle the most severe complaints personally and immediately. Repair your bruised brand image by sincerely apologizing for any misunderstanding and making a peace offering, such as a free dessert, a gift card, or discount. Never lose your cool, even when presented with baseless allegations.
- Get Social ASAP: Your customers are online right now, sharing truthful views about your restaurant. Take control of these digital conversations by actively monitoring and responding to customer complaints, questions and suggestions (within a day, at the most). Subscribe to social listening tools, like Mention and Google Alerts, to keep an ear to the ‘online ground.’
- Yelp Please: Upload a completed profile on Yelp – the mecca for restaurant reviews – and track customer reactions every day. Be prompt and professional when reacting to their feedback and resolving their complaints. Send gift cards or coupons to pacify disgruntled ‘Yelpers’ into giving you a second chance. Address the more serious objections offline.
Don’t Forget Your Employees
Your restaurant wouldn’t exist without the dedication and diligence of your employees. Stand out from the competition by prioritizing their well-being:
- Find a Shared Purpose: Instead of perceiving your employees as individual paychecks, motivate them to work collaboratively towards common objectives. Seek their feedback to create a shared company ‘purpose statement’ that encapsulates your short-term goals, long-term goals, personality, and core values. Giving them a voice will inspire them to become invested in your restaurant’s’ success.
- Break Communication Barriers: Being accessible and approachable encourages your staff members to confide in you. Get out of your office and mingle on the floor. Conduct daily and weekly meetings with the entire workforce. Pay attention to what is being said and what is being left unsaid, and act accordingly.
- Offer Constructive Criticism: The word ‘criticism’ is automatically equated with blame games and finger pointing. However, constructive criticism – which is the art of offering clear, tangible, balanced, and unbiased feedback – reduces employee turnovers, forges intimate professional relationships, and leads to continued organizational growth. Never criticize an employee in front of his or her colleagues or customers.
- Do Not Micromanage: By hiring someone, you are saying, “I trust you to do your job.” So back off and let them blossom into their fullest potential. Conduct periodic training drills to ensure behavioral consistency, but do not remain perched on their shoulders.
- Institute Reward Structure: Be transparent about your criteria for promotions and rewards. Intangible rewards, like a public note of appreciation, a simple Thank You, a smile, or an honest conversation are equally – if not – more inspiring than financial rewards. Finally, institute training and growth opportunities to give dedicated employees a chance to climb the business ladder.
Cut Labor Costs
Labor costs are one of the top three highest variable restaurant costs, the other two being inventory and waste. Trim labor costs by:
- Hiring for Results: Hire enthusiastic, willing and dedicated candidates – even if they come at a higher price – to minimize employee turnovers and enhance customer experience.
- Cross-Training Staff: A chef can be trained to manage the inventory, while a server could learn conflict resolutions skills. Cross-training employees diminishes the need to increase payroll.
- Face to Face Performance Audits: Meet with each one of your employees for a weekly one-on-one chat to gauge their satisfaction levels and communicate your feedback. Regular meetups mitigate conflicts before they blow up.
- Create an Employee Handbook: Clearly and concisely lay out the harassment and drug policies, behavior expectations, labor laws, benefits information, workplace guidelines, performance review criteria and any other operational procedures. Documenting these details will minimize mix-ups and nurture a transparent workplace. Review – and update – the employee handbook and business plan regularly.
- Schedule Wisely: Over-scheduling wastes money while under-scheduling affects customer service. Assess your sales, turnovers, expenses, budget, employee availability and talent before setting an efficient schedule. Compile a list of ‘temp workers’ to help you at short notice. Paste copies of the schedule in places where it is clearly visible and accessible to every employee, in addition to online or via email..
- Create a Master Budget: Don’t wait until the last week of December to set next year’s budget. Start planning around the third or fourth quarter of the previous year. Analyze your typical turnovers, fixed cost, salaries, sales numbers, trends, and wage changes to make prudent predictions.
Amp Up Your Marketing
The restaurant industry lends itself to innovative marketing techniques. From drool-worthy visuals and snappy menu descriptions, to fun parties and enticing sales promotions, there are unlimited restaurant marketing tactics that can be customized to flaunt your brand’s personality, values and story:
- Befriend Social Media: Kick off a two-way conversation with your fans by sharing irresistible pictures of your food, catchy captions, user-generated content (e.g, pictures of customers making memories at your restaurant), How-to videos, ‘deal of the day’, fun contests, and behind-the-scenes images. Word of Caution: Do not spread yourself thin by being everywhere at once. Pick 1-2 platforms that epitomize your brand and that are popular with your customers.
- Clean Up Your Website: Check for – and correct –broken links, inaccurate product details, poor quality visuals, boring descriptions, incomplete contact information, and other obvious red flags. Upload a clear and comprehensible menu. Tell, and sell, your memorable story in the About Us page. Maintain an updated blog to highlight your expertise, share tips and trends, and converse with customers. Finally, register your website at Google Local Business to “directly connect with customers, whether they’re looking for you on Search, Maps or Google+.”
- Live Your Brand: The most memorable marketing practices aren’t ‘strategized – they are lived. By honoring your ideals and beliefs during every customer interaction, you are automatically upping the ‘wow’ factor of your restaurant
Lean Your Business
Turbocharge the efficiency of your restaurant by avoiding energy-drainers and time-wasters.
- Keep meetings and sales calls to the minimum. Use video conferencing, advanced chat tools, and emails for routine communication.
- Put the ‘slow times’ to good use. Tidy up, familiarize yourself with the hottest industry trends, brainstorm blog posts, engage customers on social media, or bolster team spirit by having a ‘staff cocktail hour’.
- Diversify your sources to save money and reduce risks. Be on the lookout for new suppliers and vendors who can offer better prices or better quality.
- Delegate your responsibilities in order to be able to focus on long-term strategies instead of the day-to-day minutiae. Giving up control also empowers your employees to step up.
- Emphasize menu value – and presentation – over variety. Reuse an ingredient in multiple dishes, take out items that are not selling, and lend unique twists to classic preparations.
- Educate employees on emergency-related procedures – allergies, for example – to prevent last minute panic. Post these policies in plain sight.
- Invest in an affordable, intuitive, and advanced Point-of-Sale (POS) system to perform complex operations – such as inventory and cash flow management, budgeting and reporting, and employee management – with ease.
- Green Your Business: Use energy-efficient lighting, flow-restricting faucets, and less toxic cleaning supplies, refurbished furniture, and local produce. Displaying your commitment to eco-friendliness saves money in the long-term and propagates goodwill.
Managing a restaurant requires poise, planning, patience, and, above all, presence of mind.
You must have one eye on the future, both feet on the ground, your head on the shoulders, and your heart in the right place.
Are you ready to lead by example?