I’m getting fairly excited by what some see as a fairly dry topic – but not for me! Great to share ideas and information about food costs, inventory, ordering, kitchen technology, kitchen teams and staff management with Venessa Barnes and Adam Moore, two chefs who really know what the industry is about.
The Aussie Artisan Week promoted by Pepe Saya Buttery got me thinking about how else the ‘Week of…’ idea could be used for interesting promotions. They can be short and punchy, and bring in outsiders or employees, or run with different food & beverage themes.
Here are a few ideas I’ve come up with so far. Run the week over 5 days or 7, and a big topic could even stretch to a month. Pile on the content, with a new post every day. Plan it in advance and most of it can be scheduled in advance – Facebook, Instagram and email promotions all ready to click over. Maybe do a special week every 3 months?
Week of Suppliers – each day featuring a different food or beverage vendor, with a link and some photos, ideally with real people ie the producers or delivery person.
Week in the Kitchen – each day highlighting the work of a different staff member, with photos of them working, and something about their background. Don’t forget the kitchenhand!
Week in the Bar – a version of Week in the Kitchen, this time with staff showing the variety of things they do and products they serve. Even some short videos taken with a phone (horizontal format works best).
Chocolate Week – each day featuring a different dessert or drink, plus some information about where chocolate comes from. There are interesting YouTube videos available that could be added to Facebook posts.
Week of Summer Fruits – featuring plums, peaches, apricots, cherries and all the wonderful products that appear over Christmas. I’m amazed at how many varieties of plums appear week by week in most fruit shops.
Week of Spices – featuring cumin, coriander, nutmeg, turmeric and many more. Especially good if they’re the foundation of your cooking eg Indian food. Show photos and YouTube videos if available, and highlight your menu and recipes. Repeat for a Week of Herbs.
Week of Favourite Recipes – chefs nominate their favourite recipes and food, including things they cooked when they started their training. Or highlights from previous menus.
Week of Favourite Cookbooks – another one for the kitchen, each day with a photo of a well-loved cookbook and why it was chosen.
Week of Knives – a chance for the kitchen crew to show off their kit. First knife, oldest knife in their collection, strangest knife, how they are used etc.
Week of Business Supporters – this one highlights all the people who keep you operating. The cleaners, electrician, fridge repair people, exhaust hood cleaner, linen suppliers and window washer. Hopefully, you can get a photo of them at work, or find one from their website. This helps people understand what complex businesses we run!
Week of Community Supporters – highlighting a range of local charities, non-profits and volunteer organisations. Some of them you may support directly, others are just well recognised. One each day with photos and links.
Week of Sport – maybe this is team members nominating their favourite team and players. Or the sport that some of them play – lots of photo opportunities. This would work well around the time of grand finals.
Have fun with this, and there’s an extra bonus for staff motivation if they are involved in choosing themes and examples.
I’ve known Leanne Hughes for almost a year, and her great work as a workshop designer and presenter has been a constant source of inspiration – from her First Time Facilitator Podcast, her Facebook Group and several in-depth workshops.
It was an honour to have a conversation with her for the podcast, and talk about how I’ve built my workshop experience and developed digital presentations. It’s always interesting to be interviewed by someone in the same field, because they find connections and insights that we’re not aware of – this was a great experience…
Anxious customers keep their wallets closed. The world is feeling less safe and much less friendly – we can do a lot to overcome those feelings and turn stress into business.
There are many ways to ‘build in the welcome’ so it doesn’t depend on having a professional greeter.
Genuinely happy staff: Negative Nick or Sour Sarah can cause lots of damage if left unchecked – are they the reason Happy Harry left after a few weeks? We need people who smile and say ‘yes’ as their natural response – anyone you need to move along?
Really good music: a happy beat that lifts the spirit. There’s a billion-dollar music industry designed to create enjoyment. South American music comes to mind – who helps you put your music mix together? A skilled DJ can help with selections or staff at a music retailer. Spotify can give lots of inspiration – ask the staff to help.
No annoying draughts or rocky tables. It seems minor but it’s a constant annoyance if you’re at one of those tables – check and fix.
Change the TV channel. If you have one in your bar, does it really need to run the news? Endless drama and negativity – change it to nature, sport or music.
A friendly, hand-written ‘thank you’ on the account as it goes to the table: this was standard at my cafe and staff swore that it helped with tips.
A big bunch of flowers like the ones below at my local Bondi cafe The Cook & Baker. A tip – just have one variety, and don’t make it formal. Personal and natural – people will notice.
Share some humour on your website: most of them are so serious and self-important! There’s a big world of happy, funny YouTube videos to include on your newsletter or blog.
Calendar Events: you’ll find some great options in the Party & Events Calendar – some funny, some more serious, and all creating word-of-mouth.
Desserts make us happy: a sweet ending to the meal. Something creamy, rich with chocolate or juicy, fruity. Does your selection tempt people to ‘sin a little’?
Photos of happy customers and good coffee: let’s face it, they’re happening all the time when you serve hundreds of people. Instagram is great for this – take inspiration from the photos of people you follow, and share more of your own.
Recognition makes us happy: thanks for a job done well or in difficult circumstances. Congratulations on exam results or for handling a crazy customer. Usually it’s verbal, but a short ‘Thank You’ letter will be highly regarded (and kept).
Well-organised workspaces make staff happy: when they arrive for a shift, all the equipment is clean, working and ready to go. Fridges stocked and work lists waiting. PC runs smoothly and the till is easy to use. Anything to improve here?
How do you rate the big happy smile on job applicants? Paul, the smart owner of Green Zebra Cafe in Albury told me a while back that he immediately hired a girl who giggled all through the aptitude test in her job interview: where there’s a spark, make sure you grab it!
Help make other people happy: staff and business contributions to a World Vision sponsored child, Oxfam or a local community group – they lift everyone’s spirits.
And finally, money helps to make us all happy! Good pay, tips and bonuses make staff smile, and a full till at the end of the shift makes the hard work worthwhile. Your wise profit strategies will give you the resources to buy equipment, repaint the walls, pay more for a better manager and afford the holiday you deserve.
It was great to have a solid podcast conversation with James Henderson, looking at COVID challenges and how the restaurant and cafe industry is adapting…
Many people found a partner where they worked, and we need more happy relationships in this industry, not less!
But in the steamy, late-night world of hospitality, love and lust often flourish and they can cause problems. Legally, it could be regarded as discriminatory to say ‘no relationships between staff’, but clear rules need to be in place to avoid disruption.
Harassment and discrimination. Your duty of care for staff means you should make sure both parties in a workplace relationship have chosen it freely and willingly. Interview them separately to check. But blanket rules banning relationships could fall foul of local anti-discrimination laws – check with your legal advisers.
Conflict of interest. Relationships between senior staff and those who work for them could easily result in a conflict of interest. Anything involving salary reviews, promotion or work allocation may need someone else involved. The onus is on the senior person to show that they are not favouring one party over another. Transfer to another department will simplify matters, but that may not be possible.
Discussion of Sexual Health and Pregnancy. Casual sex can lead to unwanted results. It’s more openly discussed now, and becomes prime-time news if things go wrong. What information is appropriate to display in your staff area? To have no mention of this at all seems short-sighted.
Online Dating and Website Access. This should be covered in your general policy on computer access: keeping up to date on who’s available and other ‘hot’ issues should be done at home, not work. How will you monitor and enforce this? You need Guidelines for Staff on the Use of Social Media – a tough one to keep on top of.
Decreased Performance. When relationships break up, the drama can be very disruptive… for the business. One cafe owner mentioned how she lost two good staff, both of whom were great performers before they formed a relationship, but their work deteriorated badly after they split. Her rule now is ‘No fishing from the company wharf’!
A decline in performance could lead to warnings and even termination – let’s hope that doesn’t happen but if you mention this possibility in your interview with the new lovers, you help to protect yourself from allegations of harshness.
Public Behaviour. The public don’t want to see staff making out together, and maybe neither do their colleagues. They also don’t want to hear the steamy details of a young punk or princess’s love life. Cover this in your general rules about staff modesty and acceptable behaviour. Your policy might start with something like:
‘All staff have the right to a happy, loving and supportive relationships. However, if you form a relationship with a person working here, there are several issues you need to be aware of etc… (then repeat relevant issues from the above).’
Boys & Girls, Girls & Girls, Boys & Boys – gay, bi and lesbian relationships are now openly accepted by most staff and customers, but there may be pushback from some people on religious grounds. You’ll need to make sure local Anti-Discrimination Laws are understood and followed.
Check Your Legal Right to Direct Staff Behaviour. As you can see from the above, it’s a complex issue with personal, management and legal implications around areas of privacy, discrimination and moral judgements. Make sure you discuss your plans and policies with your legal advisor. Industry associations usually have excellent experience in this area.
There’s no escaping this – it’s called human nature! Take a stand, be fair, and make sure all your policies are in writing.
As the COVID crisis drags on, there are many operators who are contemplating closing up shop and walking away. Before it was hard work and OK profits, not it’s still hard work and no profit for the forseeable future.
The best way to get out is to sell your business, and a good broker will help you to do that quickly. But what if that’s not possible?
Here are some resources that could be useful…
- The Australian Tax Office has a long checklist of what’s involved in selling or closing a business – tax, company issues, employee issues and business registrations.
- If you default on your loans and stop paying – Business Victoria goes through the options.
- Manage your creditors as fairly as possible – many of them are small businesses just like you, and unpaid bills make their life difficult. You don’t need more negative comments.
- Check your personal Credit Report – it could be affected by what you do.
- There are different ways you could terminate or break your lease.
- Understand what’s involved for staff and employers if a business goes bankrupt or into liquidation.
- Talk to a Small Business Financial Counsellor for advice and referrals. Your lawyer will also be an important source of advice and support.
- It’s important to know what’s involved in Bankruptcy, Insolvency, Voluntary Administration and Liquidation.
- Look after your mental health and wellbeing – this can be a very stressful time.
- Protect your reputation – there’ll need to be an announcement to staff and customers. Be clear and honest, and talk about how you’re moving forward. Keep in mind the many ways that word of mouth spreads.
Customers want fresh, not stale; inspiration, not gloom.. One way to do this is to think about all the things that we love, our staff love and our customers love! We all need to find more ways to keep a smile on our faces and share our love of food, customers and business success.
It’s easy to share stories, photos and events – post them on Facebook, on a corner of the menu or add to your newsletter – they create great word-of-mouth and conversation starters. Suddenly there’s a personal connection between staff, managers and customers. Here’s a whole bunch of themes to get you into the groove for sharing some love!
The locals love to be acknowledged. Has a neighbourhood community or business completed a mammoth project, or students achieved excellent results? Offer a special treat for winners of the school sports carnival, debating competition or best achievers in exam results. Ask local bosses to nominate a winning worker for special commendation.
Staff love to be acknowledged. How do you recognise this? At Silver Chef we have our 10 minute ‘daily huddle’ and at the end, there’s an opportunity to acknowledge the work of others – how they’ve helped you or the business. Setting up systems for this will make it much more likely to happen, and leaders should model the process.
People love to be inspired. Share the story of one of your workers who’s overcome the odds to hold a job or achieve something special – customers give extra points to you for supporting them. Or how you support a local non-profit. Put a photo and a brief story on the noticeboard, and get staff to wear name tags so connections can be made. If there’s a local organisation you support that’s done something special, ask them to share a story.
People love the business owners. If you’re an independent or family-run business, when’s the last time you shared a photo of your family, or one of you (without grey hair) when you opened all those years ago? Pictures make stories easy to share, with milestones, awards and staff events. Add a news diary (blog) to your website and keep adding more. People love to hear ‘how we made it stories’ – they won’t make the TV news, but you do make thousands of people happy each year. Share your pride.
Many people love their town or local area. Regular support for sporting teams, the school and charity groups keeps customers loyal and connected. Get behind local causes like parking issues, over-development and conservation – now you’re one of us.
People love photos. Snap, snap, snap with your mobile phone or a camera kept at the shop to record food, parties, special customers and behind-the-scene activity. But don’t post them up without checking and editing – easy to do with on your phone or an app like Snapseed. Take several shots of each scene and choose the best, then brighten it and crop out the garbage bin on the side. Post them to your Facebook page – this will drive constant visitor traffic.
People love to laugh. Add a weekly quote about food on the noticeboard – like the one from baseball player Yogi Berra “You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat eight” or “There’s no better feeling in the world than a warm pizza box on your lap”. Google for restaurant or cafe quotes and jokes – there’s no shortage!
Many people love animals. No, don’t bring them into the shop, but whether customers are a ‘cat’ person or a ‘dog’ person, people love hearing about them, seeing them and even getting life lessons from them. Could Henry the dog be the one that offers a Tip of the Week on your noticeboard? Could the best pet photo earn a prize in a random competition for one month?
People love events. Beyond the usual ones on Valentine’s Day and Mothers Day, every month has possibilities. Here are a few ideas for October, so you can be prepared:
Oktoberfest – think German flavours and great beer.
World Teachers Day – every year on October 5. Make friends with your local schoolies.
Halloween is on 31st October – find new ways to be creative with pumpkin!
Staff fall in love with each other – it happens! Some businesses have strict ‘no fraternisation’ policies, which will always be hard to police. Better to recognise that a lot of great relationships have started through working together – just make sure your staff manual covers issues about conflict of interest and the different power that supervisors may have over others.
Have a life and a business. It works fine if you have a Monday to Friday cafe in a business area. But if you’re part of the raging weekend cafe market, Saturday and Sunday are top earners – they can’t be neglected. Maybe you can’t have office hours like your corporate friends, but there’s a lot you can do to have more time away from business and still have control.
Build your Remote Control Systems: modern POS systems are designed to share information in the cloud, which gives you access from your phone or iPad, or PC. They can also be set up with email or SMS alerts to zap you with the final sales or variations that indicate problems (like a refrigeration motor that’s failed). Surveillance cameras are inexpensive and can give a view of anywhere in the business – the till, the spirit shelves, the front door and the storeroom. There’s a whole industry grown up around remote control monitoring – it’s available for your business and your home.
Good Systems Help Staff To Do a Great Job. Amazing people are hard to find, and they usually have a job already! Once you systemise your business with easy-to-follow Start-up Lists, Ordering Sheets, Cleaning Rosters, Recipe Cards and Manager Checklists, it’s much easier for everyday employees to perform well. Get these forms onto an iPad or PC, so you watch the input from somewhere else – on the beach and still in control.
Delegate Counting and Reporting Tasks. Now that online bookkeeping, rostering, reporting and communication are so well established, you can have a skilled helper doing the bookwork, checking invoices and making phone calls from anywhere. It might be a relative or a Virtual Assistant – working from their home office. Google ‘virtual office assistant in Australia’ and see the choices – an admin assistant without the need to provide a desk. Tedious office jobs are often the ones that suck up your recreation time.
Simplify, Simplify. Sometimes it needs an outsider to cast a calm, critical eye over the crazy, complex menu you’ve created, or the eccentric set up of your counter. The flavour, the smiles and consistency are what matters – most menus could be cut by 20%, and no-one would notice. Plus fewer chances of staff getting it wrong, and you getting upset.
Cut the Days or Hours That You’re Open. Sound radical? Even scaling back from a 4pm to 3pm close for a weekday cafe could give you massively more time with family. Or closing on Monday or Sunday instead of opening 7 days per week. It depends on your area or style, and sales figures will guide you. Many places have been operating the same hours for years, while competition increases and customer demand changes.
Build Profits So You Can Afford Better Staff. I recently spent a week in a tourist town south of Sydney, and it was depressing how 90% of the cafes were selling the same-old food with the same sloppy service and mediocre coffee. And the business owners were running the show! Two places were doing a great job and no visible sign of an owner in attendance. Good staff need to be paid more, and if you’ve cut profits to the bone, you probably can’t afford them.
Employ Staff Who Want to Work on Weekends. There are plenty of people wanting part-time work, and they’re increasingly aware they should be paid more on Saturday and Sunday. Once you have the good systems and monitoring in place, the weekend team can be as strong as when you’re around. Watch the numbers and give regular feedback. Remember the saying: ‘When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the improvement accelerates’. The weekend team needs their own care and attention – they can do a great job even if you’re not in the building.
Which of these 7 areas is your weakest, and demanding most of your time or giving the least return? That’s the one to work on first…
Customer BS radar is on high alert – they’re swamped with hype, and can learn a lot about your business before they even visit. Have you googled your name and business lately?
Make those buzz-words ‘transparency’ and ‘integrity’ your marketing advantage – share real, honest information about the management team, staff and daily activities. Consumers find ‘behind the scenes’ of hospitality endlessly fascinating, so give them facts to feast on.
Keep the Menu Honest: is ‘home made’ really made in someone’s home? How fresh is ‘fresh’ and can we trust the terms ‘organic’, ‘local’ and ‘made daily’? There are plenty of ways to write an enticing menu without overloading the adjectives. And reassure people that allergy-friendly items are the real deal.
Upgrade the About Us page: with real names of owners and managers, plus information about how the business has developed – timelines can be interesting. So many of these pages are full of fluff, and when no names are mentioned, we wonder if the place is run by robots!
Show Real Faces on the Website: we all relate to ‘people like me’, not glamour models or people with perfect CV’s. Take care if you’re promoting a celebrity chef – other staff are also doing great work. And be careful with stock photos – the photo libraries are handy (we use them too), but the images are everywhere. Taking decent digital photos is now a basic restaurant skill, like typing and Google searches – a project for one of your team, if you’re too busy.
Share Videos of Daily Life: not big-budget productions, but a quick look at daily activities eg meet the new staff, watch us make pasta, the barista at work, installing the pizza oven. Share them on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. A local media student can make these look sharp in no time.
Be Authentic on Social Media: an interesting Facebook Page is essential, and it needs to be updated at least daily with content that is informative, inspirational and sometimes entertaining. Include plenty of people shots, behind the scenes and produce stories – always of interest. Twitter is popular with chefs and restaurateurs, and Snapchat should also be on your list.
Share a few Mistakes: we all make them – the wine you chose that no-one would buy, a recent kitchen drama, the new stove that wouldn’t fit through the door. Now we can relate to you! Facebook, Twitter or a Blog can be a great way to share the daily bustle of hospitality life.
Actively Encourage Feedback: whether it’s on Facebook, feedback cards or a special website page, most comments are positive and you’ll be glad the negatives come directly to you. Most businesses make giving feedback too much of an effort – how is it at your place?
Respond to all Online Feedback: if it was good ‘thanks for the very nice comments…’. If it’s critical, it still needs a response – ‘thanks for letting us know – please call or email so we can follow up’. Unanswered online criticism looks bad, and makes it appear that you do not care.
Talk with Pride about your Area: places to visit, a popular park, places for children to play, recent events – share them on a web page with a map, and make sure staff know where customers can find an ATM, transport and parking. This can also be the basis for a good local-knowledge training quiz for staff – they all need to get 100%!