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

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…

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.

It’s World Backup Day – When Did You Do It Last?

March 31 is World Backup Day – and apparently 30% of people have never backed up their data, ever. Or maybe you did it a long, long time ago…which is equal to never. All your employment records, emails, sales data, recipes, booking information, customer lists, tax records, your website… let alone all the personal information and family photos. One in 10 computers is affected by viruses every month.

You need to be backing up to a local hard-drive, and a cloud service. I now use cloud-based service Backblaze, for a measly $50 per year. Very easy to set up, and it quietly backs up my new and changed data every hour, without me noticing. Double security, and highly recommended.

Imagine your laptop, phone, iPad and POS system all stolen or destroyed, or your system hijacked – what would it take to recover?

Time to Tighten Up Your Facebook Privacy – How Long Since You Checked It?

I like Facebook for keeping in touch with friends and family, but worry about the privacy side – who else knows what I say and like? The latest news about political use of Facebook data shouldn’t come as a surprise – it’s just a sophisticated extension of what you can do to target local customers with Facebook ads.

It’s important to review your privacy settings – the options keep changing and you might be surprised at the information you make available. If you’ve never done this, chances are that strangers can see all of your posts. And what about your staff? It’s amazing how unaware they are with privacy – challenge them.

Here’s Canadian tech guru Steve Dotto, showing how to tighten up access to your private Facebook information. Read his article or watch him show you how on the video…

UPDATE: Seems like the data Facebook collects from our phones is way more than imagined, although I’m sure we gave permission in those Terms & Conditions we agreed to. This tweet alerted me to the range of data, and how you can access it – read the details here on TechCrunch

8 Enterprise Skills – the New Essentials for a Well-Paid Hospitality Career

The New Basics is a very interesting report on the Enterprise Skills young people need for the new work order. It’s been prepared by the Foundation for Young Australians, and they have a steady stream of good articles about work and wellbeing.

Enterprise Skills are transferable skills, and Technical Skills are those specific to a particular industry. It’s a good checklist for people who are thinking about moving into or out of hospitality, and finding a well-paid job.

I’ve had some recent conversations with chefs and managers about where they will take their careers after restaurant work – this is useful to see what they need to strengthen. I’m guessing #1 would be on most people’s improvement list…

I’ve taken the 8 Enterprise Skills they’ve listed (in the order of increased demand for these skills), and added some examples from hospitality – what else would you add under these headings?

  1. Digital Literacy – using business software, POS and cloud-based services, typing, Google searching, managing email, using photos and editing images, managing social media.
  2. Critical Thinking – comparing supplier quotes and proposals, weighing up options for menus and events, choosing between a number of job candidates, examining options for business changes.
  3. Creativity – recipe and menu development, music and entertainment, events, improving restaurant design and atmosphere, motivating staff in new ways.
  4. Problem Solving – handling conflict between staff, managing a sudden growth or decline in business, dealing with critical customers and staff not performing as expected.
  5. Financial Literacy – recipe and menu costing, working out wage costs, using a calculator and spreadsheet, reading POS reports, working out Return on Investment for equipment purchases, understanding a Profit & Loss statement.
  6. Presentation Skills – explaining changes to a team meeting, talking on your feet, presenting a new menu to senior management, justifying the cost and benefit of a proposal, using PowerPoint, talking to prospective employees eg school students.
  7. Communication – having a constructive conversation with staff, writing a report, expressing praise or dissatisfaction to a supplier or staff member, effective emails, having a good sales manner with prospective customers – phone and in person.
  8. Teamwork – organising and running a meeting, monitoring performance and results, supporting staff who are not performing, creating a team with a positive mix of skills and personalities.

The biggest increase in demand is for skills in 1, 2 and 3:  Digital Literacy, Critical Thinking and Creativity.

How to Get Work Instructions & Recipes Written Up Quickly & Cheaply

Two finger typist? You’re not alone, but when it comes to typing up the recipes in your black book, or preparing an instruction manual, it can be yet another excuse to put it off… again.

Two low-cost online services can do the work for you in a few hours – I use them, and find them fast and accurate.

1. Typing Up Notes with Fiverr

Fiverr is a service that does a wide range of small tasks, usually for about $5 each – photo or video editing, logo design, menu translations, fixing spreadsheets, resume writing and lots more. I recently used Fiverr to have 40 hand-written forms typed – it cost $US 11 and was done overnight! A job that would have taken me hours, or more likely never be done – I scanned them as a pdf and uploaded to Fiverr.

Have all your recipes typed: I know of chefs who have scanned their hand-written recipes and sent the images to a Fiverr typist. Use a PDF Scanner app on your phone, and as you photograph each page it turns into a pdf, adding one page after another.

Tip: send the person you are considering for the work a message with a sample page, to see how they handle it – can they read your writing? If you want the recipes set out in a particular way, give a sample with your instructions. The $5 fee is for a short job – expect to pay more for longer jobs, but it’s still way less than the value of your time.

2. Typed Notes from a Voice Recording

An interview with a staff member may need to be written up, or it could be quicker to read aloud instructions for your new Kitchen Systems Manual, have them transcribed, then tidied up in a Word document. Get the words out of your head and onto paper!

For these transcriptions, I recommend Rev.com – a brilliant service that turns transcripts into recordings, usually within a few hours – all for $US 1 per minute! Use their recording app, or upload a recording you’ve done from the voice recorder on your phone. I recently had a 10 min. recording written up for $10, producing an 8 page document – something I could never have done myself. Another time I sent them the link to a fairly technical YouTube video, and shared the transcription with people who wanted to read it.

This is just the start of outsourcing the time-consuming jobs in your restaurant – start here and look around for lots more possibilities…

Also relevant: this Profitable Hospitality podcast on How to Outsource Hospitality Administration & Design Work.

Simplifying Business – a Good Theme for 2018

Simpler is usually better. Processes can be done more quickly, there are fewer costs, fewer moving parts, less need for highly-skilled staff, and fewer mistakes – this is not about ‘dumbing down’. Make SIMPLIFY your theme for 2018, rather than a list of ‘resolutions’ that are soon forgotten.

To get started, make a list of things that seem to be complicated and difficult. Ask your staff – they’ll have plenty of suggestions! Here are a few more…

Simplify your Website, and be especially conscious of how it’s seen on a mobile device. The key information people want are phone number, hours of opening and address – are they easy to find? Have common inquiries on a Frequently Asked Questions page eg function information, menu variations, group sizes etc…

Simplify Customer Bookings – usually they don’t want to call, but just book online. Time to join one of the booking services or add a simple form to your website – the small cost of fees will be more than covered by increased customer numbers.

Simplify Recruitment – standard job ads, an automated application process with a web form (check Wufoo) and SMS responses, standardised interview questions and a set induction process. Maybe a little bit of work to setup, then it will flow smoothly.

Simplify Rostering – get rid of the paper roster and clunky spreadsheets. Online systems like Tanda make it easier to design and cost your staff schedule, and notify staff. Also cuts costs – you can tell hour by hour how much staff are costing you each week.

Simplify Recipes – how many moves or touch points are involved in each dish? Is that justified by the price and staff skills you have? This is not about removing style or flavour, but making it easier to serve quickly and economically.

Simplify the Menu – a useful report on your POS shows the best and worst selling items. Check it over month so there’s plenty of data. How many of those slow-sellers can be removed and no-one will notice? Can garnishes and ingredients be used across more dishes? How many individual food items do you keep in stock – it might be a surprise!

Simplify the Wine List – apply the same ‘best and worst seller’ process to your beverages. This can lead to big, big savings – cellars can easily balloon into massive investments if you’re not careful.

Simplify the Bar and Front Counter Setup – make it easier to serve, especially when it’s busy. Have equipment and supplies in their logical place – run what used to be called a ‘time and motion study’. Staff can do a lot of this for you…

Simplify Purchasing – start to deal with suppliers who allow you to order online and work off agreed lists. Simpler, and easier to do price comparisons. Some small operators are slow to embrace this – remind them that this is 2018, not 1998.

Simplify Payments – ready to be radical and eliminate cash payments?! It’s been done by a few businesses, and they’re loving easier POS systems, greater security and simpler end of shift reconciliation. It’s coming…

Simplify Bookkeeping and Accounts – online services like Xero put all your bookkeeping on a web page, accessible from anywhere. There are a raft of skilled people who can help set this up – the cost is more than covered by savings on business expenses, tax filing fees and the daily access you have to the real state of your business.

Simplify your Text Messaging Routine – I’ve seen so many owners and managers who are dominated by random and unnecessary messages from staff and suppliers. Set some new rules…

Simplify your Daily Routine – how is it now? One hint – don’t start the day by checking emails – it will dominate your morning.

What else can you do to simplify business? Watch for updates on this list…

Let’s Help This Cafe Add Some Pre-Opening Excitement…

It’s big opportunity missed – this shop is due to open as a cafe, but they’re keeping the good news well hidden. What could they add to this wasted publicity space?

  • Essential information – website, phone and email address in large print.
  • Facebook and Instagram address, with a request to ‘checkin’ and ‘like’.
  • Run Facebook local ads, targeted to the neighbourhood – look what’s coming!
  • How to get on the email list – when they do, an auto-response zips straight back with an exclusive opening offer.
  • Giant version of the menu – costs a few dollars from the local print shop.
  • Menu highlights – large hand-written text, big enough to read from a passing bus.
  • Joke of the day – keep people checking back. Or quote, food fact or drink of the day – have some fun.
  • Information about the new owners – photos, travel and cooking pictures etc.
  • Recruit staff members – tell us who you need, how to make contact and what a great place it will be to work.
  • Put peepholes in the paper so we can watch the renovations. Have them at several heights (including for children and dogs) – arouse curiosity, and leave a light on in the evening so there’s always a view.
  • A count-down clock, marking off the number of days until they open… 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

What else would you suggest?