Simple, low-cost Recipe Software – this looks just the ticket!

I found CookKeepBook through a social media mention, and it seems to have all the functions for recipe software that an independent operator needs. For many years we sold Profitable Recipe Manager, and its combination of simplicity and accuracy helped thousands of businesses control their food and recipe costs. Since retiring that product a few years ago, I’ve been looking for an inexpensive, cloud-based alternative.

There are some excellent high-end products such as Cooking the Books, MasterTracker, Menu Coster, Hospitality Genie, the less expensive Fillet, and the venerable CalcMenu and Resort Software (waiting for them to go cloud-based), with integrations to POS systems, invoices, ordering and bookkeeping. Many of these are loaded with features, and fairly expensive for a small operator – no-one escapes subscription pricing these days!

In my experience, most people want a simple solution that can be used anywhere – PC, Mac, iPad or phone. They know that every time a recipe is costed, there will be surprises – sometimes good, usually not! The process should be as simple as: 1. enter the ingredients, 2. write the recipe and 3. create a costed recipe to print or share on iPad for daily use. When ingredient costs go up or down, changing a price adjusts the costing on all the relevant recipes.

CookKeepBook seems to have all that’s necessary for daily use, with a free version (not just a trial), and the annual cost to include a lot more features is only $69. I’ve been in touch with the developers and they are responsive and working on regular updates and new features. Highly recommended!

7 Small Ways You Could Be Leaking Money

None of these is major, but each week they soak up cash and cut into profits. Part of the fix is showing staff that every cent counts and you do watch the cents! They can be an active part of the solution, not standing on the side watching. Every single member of your staff could point out something that’s ‘leaky’ and wasteful – do they tell you? Do you ask?

  1. Late to Arrive and Early to Leave. You know who they are – the commitment of these employees is questionable. Other staff notice, and watch if you do anything about it. Finger or facial recognition clocking on and off is inexpensive to set up and integrates with payroll – if you haven’t done this already, it’s time.
  2. Dripping Taps and Running Water. In many venues, water down the toilet is more than half of the total consumption. Plus spray arms in the kitchen that use way too much and cleaning routines that use it like it’s free. Work out your water bill per day to show staff the real cost . Energy use consultants can be very useful to check this and other utility costs, and always pay for themselves.
  3. Coffee and Milk Waste. A few grams of lost coffee every time the dose is done – it adds up to big money each week. Plus all the milk that’s been overheated and can’t be used again for coffee – does it go down the sink? Ben Armstrong, the smart operator at Three Bean Espresso in Newcastle collects it to make their own yoghurt – they are now self-sufficient. Clever!
  4. Colour Printers – they’re money pits if you are still using a ‘cheap’ ink-jet printer. Really, do you need to print in colour, or would a low-cost black & white laser printer do for 95% of the printing? Or have both and set the default to the laser printer. Add up your ink cartridge purchases and divide by the number of days – the figures can be scary.
  5. Credit for Goods You Returned – this is one of the first things I look for when I’m doing a ‘costing blitz’ in a business. It’s not uncommon to return goods that are the wrong brand, size or not needed, but has the credit appeared on your statement? What’s the process to ensure this happens every time? Easy to overlook.
  6. Credit Card Fees. What’s the ‘effective rate’ your provider is charging? They create confusion with base rates and extra rates for different types of cards. Add up a month of charges and divide by a month of card sales – if it’s above 1.2% it’s time to talk with the bank manager.
  7. Back Door Dealing. In the rush of deliveries and a busy kitchen, it’s easy for delivery people to be unsupervised and cages left unlocked. Food and alcohol is as good as currency for many people – it needs a range of measures to control this including patient checking (you need the right person for this), cameras, tighter key access and storage routines. When did you last catch a thief?

Essential Directions for Restaurants & Cafes in 2019…

At the end of each year, there’s a flood of food trend surveys, and you may be wondering about nutella (wasn’t that 2016?), burgers (timeless, not trendy), vegan (essential) and a whole lot more. Step off the trend treadmill, and let’s put the industry changes into a series of directions or themes – areas where it’s vital that you stay ahead and keep improving your business. Standing still is not an option.

  1. Collecting Customers – detailed information about current and future customers is ever more important, and trend-setting operators use new methods to do this. They build on the solid foundation of email, and add personalised campaigns for different groups of Facebook fans. Or run Instagram competitions to reach young mums or food-loving singles they are chasing. They also see the value in live events and ticket sales – serving up food and experiences to passionate people, and bringing them back for more.
  2. New Profit Channels – there are many questions about the real profits from delivery services. Handing over 35% to UberEats or Deliveroo doesn’t leave much to cover costs and profits. But demand is soaring, and the extra sales are there – you’re absolutely on-trend when you experiment with the best way to take orders, organise delivery and keep the customer’s details all to yourself. Explore white-label delivery apps like Foodstorm or OrderUp, and special deals with couriers for catering. Or maybe your own app and a fast-service window for regular take-aways service.
  3. Tighter Control of the Numbers – the leading businesses in 2019 will have instant access to sales, wages and purchasing data, and they use it. This is low-cost technology available for everyone. 2017 was the year for online bookkeeping, roster systems, a better POS and booking apps. This is the year for integrating them into an easily-managed whole. Start by feeding them all into your Xero or MYOB system – sales, purchasing and wages to create a powerful dashboard. Don’t fear your numbers, bring them under control.
  4. Simplify for Efficiency. What processes can be done more quickly, with fewer phone calls, fewer moving parts, and less need for skilled staff? This is not about dumbing-down or going back to pen and paper. Simplify rostering with online systems like Tanda and Deputy – more control and an instant review of wage costs. Simplify food costs with software that gives you control of recipes, menus and ordering – check Cooking the Books, Ordermentum and Hospitality Genie. Make it easy for customers to book online, and send them reminders and messages. A simple and effective website has the phone number, hours of opening and address – are they easy to find? And ask your staff what they think could be simplified – they’ll have plenty of ideas.
  5. Great Flavours and Ingredients – whether it’s kale or cardamom, corn-fed chicken or vegan burgers, our Aussie customers love bright, strong flavours. Extra spicy, chilli options, smoky meats and char-grilled corn. Or single-origin chocolate and local mascarpone – yes please! With recent surveys showing about 1 in 10 Aussies are mostly vegetarian, vegetables at the centre with optional meat is a smart move, and if meat is your proud offering, boast about the origins and flavour profile.

People also have questions – where are the mussels from, what’s sugar-free, and how did you make the amazing lemon cake? All staff should be able to answer, and your website will be full of information. If a question keeps recurring, it might hint at a new offer – lactose-free milk anyone?

The Restaurant Management Blogs I’m Finding Most Useful…

Have to admit I’m an information glutton, and part of my job as Community Manager at Silver Chef is to keep employees updated on what’s happening in the wider hospitality community. Generally I prefer to follow blogs and twitter, instead of receiving email newsletters – here are the ones I find most useful at the minute. And I’m very open to suggestions…

Aaron Allen, Quantified Marketing Group – blogging on restaurant marketing internationally

Jim Sullivan of Sullivision – blogging on restaurant management

David Scott Peters, Restaurant Expert – blogging on restaurant management

Typsy, online staff training – blogging on restaurant management & marketing

Toast Tab – blogging on restaurant management & marketing

Restaurant Insider – blogging on restaurant management & marketing

Ask a Manager – blogging on general employment issues

Delaget – blogging on restaurant security

Retail Doctor’s Blog – always relevant to hospitality service

…and a couple of places where I write, apart from here 😉

Hospitality magazine – Australia’s leading restaurant magazine, and the articles are featured here, often as a video summary

Silver Chef Insights – more of my articles on restaurant  management and marketing

Restaurant Robotics – Two More Examples

We’ve already looked at robots cooking stirfy, and robots delivering plates.  Here are two more examples, both in early development but showing plenty of promise.

The Hiring Robot, with an improvement to the speech and intonation, would be good for a first interview. Asking questions verbally is likely to get more responses than a set of written questions. You’ve probably already related to ‘people’ like this when you make banking or airline inquiries.

It’s also early days for this robot Burger Maker, but it won’t take long for the process to be much smoother. Japanese precision food processing, like sushi-making machines, is already highly sophisticated. With this one it almost feels like the Americans are playing catch-up, and are creating the Disneyland version. Watch this space!

Taking Online Food Delivery Services to the Logical Conclusion…

Apparently Deliveroo in the UK is creating its own restaurant brands – it wants to work with celebrity chefs to open new concepts, with food produced in their dark kitchen production facilities. This will also allow international brands to test the popularity of their offer in markets with the right demographics.

Logically, their own house brands could also be invented  eg Hamilton’s Rib House or Why Not Noodles, with an entirely cloud-based identity of menu, graphics and ‘story’. We’re used to house brand groceries at supermarkets, and they don’t have to be lower quality. Some restaurants send out delivery food under a different name, to avoid confusing their brand.

Take it further: you love the Ottolenghi cookbooks, but an Ottolenghi restaurant will never open near you – there is a solution! You’ll be able to order dishes from any of his cookbooks – robotic production like this would automate the process, just another extension of recipe software.

Or you’ve tasted the wonderful Turkish food of Somer Sivioglu of Efendy and Anason restaurants in Sydney – when you’re in Dallas, it could be delivered to your door via the local shadow kitchen working from his cookbooks.

Ultimately, the difference will come down to whether you want to eat someone else’s food at home, or in the company of others. I want both, and I like the idea of more choices.

Food at Efendy, photo courtesy of Brandee Meier

Dealing With Copycats…

Tell the truth – most restaurant and foodservice ideas are some version of what you’ve seen or eaten before. You could call it ‘creative swiping’ instead of copying or plagiarism, but it’s rare for any chef or restaurateur to create a full set of completely original ideas for a new menu or cocktail list. Remember that trip to Chicago, Bali or Barcelona – tasting, taking photos and dreaming up how you could do an Aussie version for your customers?

And sometimes true originality does happen – a magic combination of sauce, spice, protein and fire. An unusual chocolate cake, upside down ice-cream or lethal cocktail – the stuff that drives word-of-mouth, Instagram and crazy return customers.

What can be copied? A recipe, decoration and furniture ideas, a menu layout, fonts, website design or even a name – how many times have you seen an Aussie concept that copies a US original?

What can be stolen? Your chef, your manager, the best waiter and some of your customers…

READ the rest of my Copycat article on p.24 of this months Hospitality magazine

Bar and restaurant found in Madrid…

Restaurant Robotics – a Couple of Interesting Examples

There are more and more examples – these two intrigued me from the cooking and the service side. Maintaining consistency and quality, freeing up staff to have more interaction and quality time with customers or the food they are cooking.

In fact the revolution is well underway – hand-held ordering has eliminated errors and kept servers close to the customers, and kiosk ordering is gaining traction. What have you seen?

Cooking with robotic woks…

Bringing the food to the server…

And a couple more recent developments for Burgers and Interviews

Simple Ways to be a ‘Thought Leader’, Even If You Dislike the Term…

A recent comment on LinkedIn got me thinking:

“LinkedIn is an amazing B2B lead generating tool, but if you are not actively reaching out to prospects and showcasing your thought leadership through regular posting it’s unlikely that you will generate any quality leads…”

‘Thought Leader’ – can’t say I love the term, but I realised there are many ways to share ideas and observations, so people become interested in your experience and opinions. You will stand out because you put them out publicly.

Here are some suggestions to get started, and LinkedIn is a great platform for sharing most of your content. When people Google your name, the LinkedIn profile is usually the #1 entry, so it makes sense.

Share a photo or two of something interesting you’ve seen, with a comment about it’s relevance to the industry eg a new shopfront, a plate of new food, a bar design or some clever lighting. 1 photo + 2 sentences is all you need.

Take better photos with your phone. Concentrate on the lighting and composition, then crop and edit so it’s focused on the main subject. Find photos that tell a story eg the busy restaurant with staff flying past, or the untidy back-lane that gives a lesson about hygiene – this is a very visual industry.

Review places you like on TripAdvisor or Yelp – it gets you in the habit of writing and thinking about how businesses operate. 3 or 4 sentences is plenty, plus a photo if you have one.

Write in a positive tone, focusing on what is useful and interesting. If something is poor quality, talk about it being ‘disappointing’ or ‘not what you expected’. Explain why, and also find at least one positive. Don’t just describe things as ‘crap’ or ‘rubbish’ – only write what you’d say to someone’s face. If it’s really bad, write nothing and move on – negativity shows you up in a bad light.

Share interesting articles or videos you find online – this is much easier than writing everything yourself. It also shows that you’re watching industry trends – most people don’t have time to do this, and depend on people like you as ‘curators’. It’s an important role.

Focus on LinkedIn, and also consider having a separate Facebook business page and Instagram business profile. Keep your private Facebook profile firmly locked – don’t mix business and personal content. Here’s how I keep a  separate business Facebook Page.

Use good Facebook Groups to share information and opinions on the industry. I find the Australian Chef Network and the Australian Cafe Owners Network are excellent for this.

Build your confidence writing short posts and opinions, then you’ll be ready to write something longer… like this blog! Or submit opinion or knowledge pieces to trade magazines – they’re always after good, factual content.

Whether we like the term ‘thought leader’ or not, there’s a hunger by most people for industry information and thoughtful opinions. Put your fingers on the keyboard and start leading!

 

8 Simple LinkedIn Profile Improvements for Chefs & Restaurant Managers

Want to be taken seriously as a professional? A good LinkedIn profile is essential, and this means more than just dumping your CV into a new location.

People who want to know more about you for a job, as a referee or even for a presenting opportunity will always Google your name. Your LinkedIn profile will appear high up on the first search page, and usually influences their opinion. Let’s get started on some simple upgrades – install the LinkedIn app on your phone if that’s the easiest way to edit. Each of the terms used below eg ‘Summary’ refer to the heading you will see when you edit your profile.

Update your Photo – no cheap selfies or party shots! If you need a new photo, use ‘portrait photo’ mode on your phone, and get someone to take it in bright, flat light, to avoid shadows eg in a room facing a window. If you want to go further, professional portrait photos can be done at relatively low cost – get a few done, maybe also with family or partner You can also add a horizontal banner photo up the top of your profile – use a favourite picture of hospitality or a travel location. I use one of a Munich beer garden 😉

Use ‘Keywords’ in your Headline. This is more than just your job title, which is listed separately as ‘Current Position’. Use words in the Headline that people search for (keywords), and make it descriptive Eg not just Head Chef, but ‘Head Chef with 20 years experience in fine dining, gourmet catering and casual bistros’ – you can use up to 120 characters.

Expand the Summary – show your enthusiasm for work, and what you’ve learned about the industry. This is where you show how you can help people. Have at least 3 paragraphs in this very important section. If you find it hard to write about yourself, ask a friend to assist. Write this Summary in the first person eg ‘I have set up new food safety systems’ not ‘She set up new food safety systems’ – this is more personal and real.

Add some personal details to round out your image eg ‘volunteer with trainee baristas at the local refugee centre’, ‘renovating an old timber house in my spare time’, or ‘training with my local team for the 2020 Hockey World Cup’.

Make Yourself Easy to Contact – include your personal email and a relevant phone number, especially if you want to be reached for career opportunities. Do whatever you’re comfortable with, and at least an email is important for credibility.

Expand on Your Experience – add a couple of sentences about each of your previous jobs in the Experience section. Include some numbers to add credibility eg ‘ran a team of 12 people’ or ‘Organised 3 offsite kitchens feeding 600 people every day’. If one position was a particular favourite or a huge learning opportunity, say so!

Add All Your Education – include the location of where you trained. Include any short, relevant courses eg a Food Safety Certificate. If you speak additional languages, include those as well – a bonus.

Add Links to Relevant Websites or Social Media – the website of your workplace, or your food-related Instagram site. Maybe you contribute to an events or hospitality blog – if it adds to your reputation, add it.

Update Privacy & Security Settings – this is simple to do, and offers a lot of options. You’ll find them listed under your Profile picture on a PC/Mac browser, or under the little cog that’s top right on the phone or iPad app.

Once you have a good professional profile, you’re ready to reach out to build your list of connections – here’s how I’ve been doing it over the last 12 months.