Running a restaurant is arduous and means your attention will be pulled in many directions at once. You might be dealing with a complaint while there is a malfunction in the back. Reliable equipment helps, but a staff that supports your operation is key to success. Great food drives reviews, and online reviews are the lifeblood of a restaurant these days. Picture a potential customer wandering around the city, using his phone to find Yelp reviews. What people say about the quality of your restaurant could make or break your reputation.
In Kitchen Nightmares, Gordon Ramsay frequently harps on restaurants for not having a signature dish. Make a few signature dishes the customer can’t get anywhere else. Experiment with new tastes, and hire food consultants if necessary to help you come up with new flavors.
Cook what you can ahead of time so that food preparation is more like reheating. When serving tri-tip or chili, it’s common to cook these dishes overnight and then serve them to warm and to the customer’s specifications.
It also helps to develop themes. Food and wine pairings can be valuable upsells to a meal, and help set the atmosphere. Upsells help waiting staff too, so they are happy to get behind the pairings. Desserts are some of the most profitable items on a menu, and doing them well could lead to your restaurant becoming a great evening hangout.
The equipment you use in your kitchen should be well maintained. Make sure that refrigerators are keeping food at the state-mandated temperature levels, and that stoves are working. Even one burner out of commission can hold production up for the day.
There’s a lot of smoke and steam in a kitchen. It’s just part of the hazard of cooking a lot of things at the same time. This is why it is important to check your air filtration system (baffle filters) regularly. Baffle filters (sometimes called “hood filters”) can make or break your kitchen’s productivity. A clogged restaurant baffle filter can reduce air quality in the kitchen (which can endanger the health of your staff) and even in your dining area. You can ensure that your kitchen has proper ventilation by cleaning or swapping out baffle filters and other parts as needed. Make sure you check for grease build up when you inspect and perform maintenance on these filters. Grease can build up in them just as easily as it does in a grease trap and the last thing you need is a fire!
Staff should have plenty of preparation room for ingredients, and stove space to cook. Go over cleaning procedures each night and have a crew designated to clean the kitchen, especially the dishes.
Service industry employees are hard to come by, and it takes a specific kind of personality to be good at the job. Personality traits to look for include good people skills, someone who is good with numbers, and someone who can adapt to the mood of the customer. You don’t just want a great sales person who will assure the customer that “everything is great on the menu,” you want someone who will read the experience and adapt to it.
Most of all, a good waiter is patient and open to the customer coming out of his bad funk. Waiters have to be mediators sometimes, capable of sorting out disputes the customer may have with the kitchen and keeping a cool head in the process. At the same time, the waiter should learn when his customer wants more service, or special service like couples who celebrate engagements or anniversaries.
The key to keeping those great employees lies in offering great benefits. If possible, try to help employees grow with more than insurance. Sending a member of management to school for restaurant management courses can help build your restaurant into a franchise in addition to equipping the employee with valuable skills.
On site, let your waiting staff focus on their jobs, and have management assist with details like silverware preparation to keep staff flexible.
Above all, always put the customer first… if you plan to stick around. Listen to what your staff has to say about the customer experience and make improvements and adjustments accordingly. Serving great food will only go so far if customers dislike your staff and deem your prices too high.
About the Author: This article is written by Tara Miller