What Employees Should Never See or Hear

We want to be open with staff and involve them in decisions and success. And the team may feel like ‘family’, but there are some things the kids shouldn’t know about – personal and business! New managers can find it difficult to be discreet – do they need some guidance?

Here’s my No-Go list – how does it compare with yours? Comments and examples very welcome…

Pay Rates and Employee Perks. Most people know what others are paid, but your discussion with each person is about their pay only. If possible, have a manager handle the negotiation for an increase. It’s good to keep your distance – a little bit of ‘good cop, bad cop’ can be useful. I usually found my manager was less generous than I would have been, and his decisions were accepted!

Personal Issues – Yours and Theirs. Gossip spreads fast, and one of the challenges of being a manager or owner is keeping your emotions and personality much more private. Most of the staff just aren’t interested in your hard times or difficulties or crazy new romance. Nor do they want others talking about their breakups, family issues or dramas. A firm ‘No Gossip’ rule is essential, and you lead the way.

Disciplinary Actions. Most staff know who’s not performing, and it’s usually no surprise. It should be handled privately, discreetly and preserving the dignity of the employee. If a termination is likely, have the ‘go away’ envelope of pay and documents ready. If someone leaves, the message is very simple – ‘Greg is no longer with us and we wish him all the best’.

How Much Money We Made!! Success is exciting, but your discreet face is still important. That goes for boasting about the brilliant sales on a huge weekend, the new BMW that is oh-so-tempting, and those Italian shoes you would love, love, love! You deserve success, but most staff don’t understand how long it took to get these results, the capital you invested, or the massive costs you cover every week. Never be seen taking cash from the till, and keep the sports car at home 😉

Politics and Religion: How you vote and how your employees vote may be very different – employers are usually more conservative. And what they believe or how they practise a religion is also private. When your friends disagree with you, they will argue back – staff don’t have that freedom and probably find your opinions oppressive. The ‘United Nations’ that makes up your workforce may also be offended by the cheap racial slant that infects so much politics. Protect them.

The Dumb Boss and the Stupid Rules. She may be hard and fair, or hard and unfair. Or weak and ineffective – whatever it is, you chose the job and have decided to stay. As have the other employees – keep your opinions to yourself. Changing from within is a challenge, and worth pursuing – how that happens and how the boss reacts needs to be handled discreetly. Bitching and rebellion doesn’t get you very far.

Your Potty Mouth. This was one of the hot issues discussed in a recent podcast about Reducing Sexual Harassment Risks in Hospitality.  Swearing and ‘adult themes’ are all over TV and the net – where do we draw the line? And laws are stronger than ever to protect people from abuse, bullying and harassment – keep it very clean.

AND… there are so many positive things you can talk about… what’s working on the spring menu, new seasonal produce, how well the Sunday night team handled the rush, new craft beers or desserts, the Chef’s new baby, the trainees doing so well, the crazy new colour scheme, a great new shop in the street nearby, celebrating Chris’s tenth anniversary at work, Jessie’s birthday – there’s no shortage!

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 one where I write, apart from here 😉

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

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!

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…

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.

How to Build Your Career in Coffee or Cooking – 2 minute advice video

You may find Chris Baca’s enthusiasm annoying, or his message spot on. I like what he’s saying, and he got it out in 2 minutes flat – that’s way quicker than most career advice. And maybe it’s a model for how to share video information in a way that will be watched right to the end.

What’s he on about? If you’re a speedy barista who knows all about flavour, or a chef who can cook blindfolded – congratulations.

But if you want to get ahead in coffee, or become a head chef or manager, the real skills to develop are how you lead, teach and communicate. Simple. Get off the tools and work on doing these better – that’s what business operators are looking for. Otherwise, you’re just one of many in a crowded field.

Another great discussion starter video for a team meeting…

Understanding the Science of Timing – When to Take Action [Short Video]

Social psychologist Dan Pink has released a fascinating new book called When – the Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.

I love the way he does a massive amount of research, then presents his conclusions in an appealing way that can assist us all to be more effective. Here’s a short interview with Dan Pink about his research, and how to work out when is the optimal time to do our best work. Short videos like this are great discussion starters for staff development sessions…


Also check Dan Pink talking about his previous book Drive: the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

When You Take Over a Cafe or Restaurant – How to Do It Right

A while back I wrote about the decline of a favourite cafe now under new ownership. I was challenged to give suggestions for how this could be done well, so here’s my To-Do list for the new business owner:

New Faces: own it, and let people know who’s who. Now’s the time for name tags (yes!) and the owner or manager could even add a cheeky label to say ‘Proud New Owner’.  Could you get a ‘best wishes’ message from the old owner? Put it up on the wall for all to see.

This is also time to say goodbye to staff who weren’t adding to the business – the slow and the negative. In most situations, you have a unique opportunity to let go of previous employees without any obligation – the previous owner should be paying them out, or compensating you for any accrued benefits they have (eg long service leave). New owner, new start – talk to your lawyer.

Do More of What Was Done Well: the great cakes, the friendly greeting, excellent coffee (don’t change the blend!) and the special services. Keep buying flowers and providing newspapers.

Fix the Weak System: businesses are rarely sold because they’re making too much money… it’s usually the opposite, no matter what stories you were told by the broker! Audit and start upgrading the ordering systems, stocktaking, recipe costing, booking and customer service procedures. Are staff signing on and off correctly? Assume that there’s been internal theft, and look for system gaps that have allowed this eg stocktaking, POS not being used correctly, cash handling etc. Once you close off these opportunities, the thieves will soon leave.

Dig Into the Numbers: the figures you were given from the old business are probably a bit sketchy, but you will soon find valuable information from your POS and the bills you pay. A well-setup cloud accounting system is essential eg Xero or MYOB, so you can track results day by day – get your accountant onto this immediately. Detailed figures from the POS will soon show best and worst sellers, plus sales by hour and day. A good roster system like Tanda or Deputy let’s you compare wage costs against sales – even a spreadsheet will help to find areas of strength and weakness. Slice and dice all the numbers you can – opportunities will be right there in front of you.

Clean and Repair: businesses for sale often look tired, and cleaning is one of the first things to be neglected. Blitz the floors, and ceilings, plus behind counters and shelves – you’ll be surprised at what you find. Fix the broken appliances, toss out old platters and pots, ditch the broken furniture. Front of house, fix wobbly tables and repair all the dings and scratches on furniture. Paint the toilets and install new toilet seats and amenities.

Don’t Redecorate Just Yet: if you’re launching a whole new concept, go for it. But if you value the concept you bought, minimise the redecoration until you’ve settled in. Once you know more about the customers and service rhythm, you’ll be clearer about new decor.

Leave the Menu Alone: there will be weaknesses that need to be fixed, but in the first few months you are stabilising the ship, sorting out the staff and making friends with customers. You’re also finding out what customers really like, so use the specials board to try new ideas. Ask questions and listen.

Improve the Marketing: another area where the previous owners were probably economising or forgetful. Increase the friendliness and frequency of posts on Facebook and Instagram, including targeted ads. Check that your ‘Google My Business’ listing is up to date and has plenty of photos. The website may need a major improvement – this should be a high priority, with better photos, more relevant information and optimised for mobile phones. If an email newsletters was being send, use it to spread good news – another area where things had probably slipped.

Improve Staff Culture and Conditions: that includes fairer treatment, proper pay, better rostering and good communication channels. There will be times you are told ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’ – just smile and explain why it needs to change. Don’t be surprised if within 3 months all the old staff have left – it usually happens with new management. Yes, even the ones who say you’re much nicer than the old boss! Staff manuals and policies, job descriptions and a noticeboard – they’re all part of the healthy new broom.

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

Watching the Decline of a Cafe Under New Owners

It’s painful to watch the decline of a favourite cafe – it’s been under new management for the last 2 months. It was probably not an easy business to sell, as the menu is complex and standards high – that would make it intimidating for many potential purchasers. The previous owners set it up ten years ago, and it has a passionate following – for the product and for them as people. But new owners should expect this –  it is too personal a business for them to assume people won’t care about changes. Just doing the same as before is never enough in situations like this.

What else have I noticed?

  • The beautiful fresh flowers on the front table are now skimpy, or missing. No more quirky signs or humorous touches.
  • Instagram action has fallen away – previously we would see something wonderful just out of the oven almost every day.
  • Most of the familiar staff have gone. That is inevitable with a changeover, but we miss the friendly greetings, especially from the previous owners. This ’emotional leadership’ can be replaced by new faces, but there are no obvious owners taking on this role – who is running the show? Who is the new chef? Many people like to know this…
  • Cake cabinets are a little less full and abundant. They may have been overstocked before, but all that great food piled high was part of the attraction.
  • Signs of carelessness – staff touching hair between serving, cash sales not rung up properly. Maybe I’m watching too closely?
  • Decline in coffee quality – have they changed brands?!? This can be a disaster for regulars, and I’ve heard comment from others.

Taking over a popular business will always be a challenge, and the last thing that regulars want is change. There’s a strong need for stability, continuity and even more friendliness. Once a slide starts to happen, it can be reversed, but it needs ‘turnaround marketing’ skills that many people don’t have.

>> Check the positive companion article to this: When You Take Over a Cafe or Restaurant – How to Do It Right .