Tax time coming up in Australia – what can you claim?

The Australian Tax Office has released a long list of concessions that can be claimed by small businesses – worth checking and discussing with your bookkeeper or accountant.

In addition, it’s worth relistening to these Profitable Hospitality podcast interviews on tax savings and concessions:

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!

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, Parsley, Hospitality Genie, KitchenCoster, 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?

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.

What Profits Are Used For: An Explanation for Restaurant Staff

Sales – costs = profit. It’s simple. If profits are good, there are more smiles and generosity – the fundamentals of hospitality. If money is tight, there’s not much for extras, and shortcuts will usually cut into service and quality.

It’s easy for staff to misunderstand the profitability of a business – they assume that you’re making money on the first coffee sold on Monday morning, and it’s $3.50 profit on the $4.00 price. The financial literacy of staff is another training topic, but in the meantime it’s good for them to learn more about business essentials…

So why are profits so important?

  • Profits mean more tax is paid – which pays for schools, roads and hospitals. If the tax rate on business profits is 30%, that’s $300 paid for every $1000 of profit. No profit = no taxes.
  • The business can afford better (and often expensive) kitchen and coffee equipment, which is usually easier to use.
  • They can afford better-quality ingredients instead of always hunting for the cheapest.
  • Profitable businesses can pay for good uniforms, not cheap ones. Or provide them for staff instead of insisting they use their own.
  • Profitable businesses can afford professional cleaning, so the place sparkles everywhere. They also buy flowers, quality furnishings and good tableware – small things that add up.
  • Pay for staff training and offering staff opportunities for staff development. Hard-up businesses never do this.
  • Profits allow for business expansion, which means more people employed and more opportunities for promotion, and work for your friends.
  • The boss is more likely to take staff to a trade show and dinner afterwards, or take all the staff to the restaurant awards dinner.
  • Managers don’t stress if someone has time off for urgent family reasons – they can afford to be generous.
  • A profitable business shows staff how to operate successfully – a great learning opportunity if they have dreams of their own restaurant in the future.
  • Profit gives the business a value, making it easier to sell. A business that’s easy to sell is usually fresh, lively and popular.

…and finally, a profitable businesses can give the boss a good holiday – making her more generous, smiling and easier to be around!

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…

4 Overlooked KPI’s for Restaurant Management Control

Apart from the weekly sales, F&B costs and wage totals, these 4 additional figures will give an accurate, honest snapshot of how things are working, and what’s possible for improvement…

1. Spending per Customer: it’s a simple figure and I find most operators don’t check it. Or they guess. Divide the total sales or sales in a category by the total number of customers – simple. It’s often less than you think, and a reason why guess work can be misleading. You will need an accurate customer count to do this – what needs to change to get this?do you have that?

Opportunity: look closer and divide separate dessert and beverage sales by the number of customers – there may be some surprises. I often find dessert sales are disappointing, in spite of a good offer. Fix it with better menu presentation, sales training and more popular offers. Lots of opportunity here with people who are already seated!

2. Staff Costs on the Quieter Shifts: sometimes it’s hard to predict customer counts, and you’re staffed up ‘just in case’. But there is a consistency over time that can be determined, and the roster needs to be trimmed.

Opportunity: when you have real-time rostering with costing built-in, the wage cost for a shift is obvious, and can be seen immediately to supervisors. If you’re still flying blind on this, you’ll find detailed control harder to manage. Set a cost % per shift that must not be exceeded, then help the roster supervisor to do their very best.

3. Carrying Cost of your Stock: add it all up, and if you’re a bit overwhelmed by the thought of a big stocktake, find the 20 food products you spend the most on, and just count them. It can be amazing how much overstocking can happen, especially if you have ample storage – it tends to fill up. For liquor, it really needs to be a careful weekly ritual or you will have pilfering – thieves know if the boss is watching.

Opportunity: if you’re in an urban area with 5 or 6 day deliveries, there’s no reason why stock holding can’t be brought down to 3-4 days. If you’re carrying a week’s supply, that’s a massive amount of cash that should be in the bank, not on the shelves.

4. Individual Sales (and Tips) of Staff: are you counting and measuring this? Most POS systems make this possible, but you may need to adjust how it’s used. It’s not about high-pressure (although some staff could do with some of  that), but seeing who performs best, and contributes the most to sales.

Opportunity: reward and praise these people, and get them coaching other staff on how to do a better job. We can all learn from their combination of charm and persuasion. People who consistently earn less than others, even with coaching, will need to move on…

photo at Billy Kart, Brisbane…

Payment and Ordering Systems seen at the Fine Food Show…

Credit card processor Tyro were at the recent Fine Food Show in Sydney, well known for their POS integration and keen pricing. For the very small operators, note that you can buy now buy a Square system from Officeworks for $25!

A quick win for every operator is to get onto the merchant services department of your bank and ask for a  rate review – most people don’t even know what they’re paying. Your challenge is to get it below 1%, averaged across all Visa and Mastercard transactions. It can be done.

Order management for the delivery economy had some interesting services on display, especially for people who want to avoid the 30-35% fees charged by Deliveroo, UberEats and the like. Systems like Orderup are now well established  – you can set up an online ordering system on your website with your own branding.  Foodstorm is a similar system  that allows for a white-label ordering setup – it’s more for caterers and has a great reputation. Drive Yellow is a new service that will handle your delivery logistics – another option for reducing hefty commissions. They are the delivery service for MenuLog.

Several generic kiosk systems were on display – McDonalds is educating us about these and many more options will become available. For now, they’re a bit clunky and tied to their own POS system, which limits usefulness. The suggestive selling architecture of these systems is what will make the winning difference.

Also impressive was Ordermentum  – tying suppliers and businesses together for easy ordering and fulfillment.

It’s a dynamic and competitive field with new players and constant innovation…