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

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.

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!

The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us [Training Video]

You may have seen this short video, but have your staff? Motivation is one of those constant issues with employees, just like ‘productivity’ and ‘wage costs’. You want to motivate them, and get your managers and head chefs to help with the process. And hopefully you’ve employed people who are self-motivated?

But what is motivation?

This short animated video from Dan Pink is an excellent starting point for a discussion with managers, or with all your team. Stop it several times and ask for feedback, then seek comparisons with places that people have previously worked and the current workplace. In what areas is motivation lacking, and what are some quick changes that could be made to improve it? 10-minute videos like these can be a powerful part of a staff meeting or coaching session – they get everyone thinking outside the daily issues.


Two Restaurant Service Techniques That Add Style and Pizzazz…

People keep saying that ‘fine dining is dead’ – maybe. But there are lots of techniques from traditional fine dining that add flair, service speed and a point of difference. And with the first one shown here, silver-service, it’s also quicker and more efficient – one of the many ways you can exceed expectations.

If you have employees who have worked in a traditional restaurant, ask them to train the other service staff – it’s a nice thing for them to use when there are bread rolls or vegetables to share out.

How to do Silver Service…

Napkin folding also adds flare – worth checking the cost of cloth napkins compared to the heavy paper ones, as the real thing may not be much more expensive. If you want to upgrade your function service, stylishly presented napkins can make a big difference…

Here are more napkin videos and you’ll find lots of them online.

6 Ways to Influence and Persuade Customers and Employees

The classic book Influence by Robert Cialdini was first published more than 20 years ago, and his findings are as important as ever. Not only is it a bedrock for successful marketing, it also helps us understand the motivation of employees and ‘what makes them tick’.  He describes 6 influence patterns: reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, liking and consensus – you probably use some of them already with colleagues, employees, friends and family.

Cialdini created this excellent short video as an explainer – it’s also a great resource for a training session with your managers. Ask them how the 6 patterns apply to customers, and the staff they supervise – each one shows a way to be more effective.

How to Run an Effective Trial Shift at a Cafe or Restaurant

For a waiter, server or bar position, a trial shift can give a snapshot of the applicant’s abilities and suitability for the job. You want to check their speed, skills, attention to detail and personality, all in the space of a few hours and when they’re going to be nervous.

What you don’t want is to have them doing too much ‘real work’ with customers that could go wrong – taking orders, making drinks your special way, or answering questions about the menu.

Here’s how to check Speed, Skills, Attention to Detail and Personality:

  • Delivering orders and clearing – how they carry plates, cups and trays. Can they clear a table of two or even four in one pass? Do they collect dirty items as they return from delivering to a table? Good tests for speed and aptitude.
  • Watch for bad habits that need fixing e.g. collecting dirty glassware by the rim, or stacking dirty plates?
  • Resetting tables – they should watch how it’s done and follow the format precisely. A good test for observation.
  • Greet and seat a customer – a simple task that doesn’t require menu knowledge. A test for warmth and friendliness.
  • Handle a mistake (e.g. food to the wrong person), how do they correct it and receive your feedback?
  • Food & beverage awareness – this is not the time for menu training, but you do want someone familiar with flavours, food types and possibly wine. Don’t make this a make-or-break issue – it’s trainable.
  • Strength – can they carry 3 heavy plates, a tray of beers, or bulky items needed in the setup?
  • Clean up a mess – we all have to do it, quickly and graciously. Are they OK with checking the toilets or mopping up a spill?
  • Observe the customers. At the end of the shift, ask them what they notice about the people. A good indication of how ‘wide eyed’ they are, and their understanding of personality types.
  • Do a mystery shop – if you have a regular customer in the house, ask for their feedback. They know the place and who will fit in.

If the applicant is good, and you’ve done the reference checks, make your decision quickly. Good people are in demand, and you don’t want them snapped up by a competitor.

Don’t forget to pay them for their time – it sets you apart from most other places. It’s the law, and a strong signal that this is a business with integrity. Once they start, give them a Welcome Pack, organise Induction, and set up their Training Program

How to Use ‘Strike Rates’ to Improve Sales Performance

Maths is not a strong point for many of your staff – even the manager or head chef. So when you talk about percentages, markups and discounts, they’re probably hoping you don’t quiz them too deeply. A survey of adults some years ago found that 47/100 (almost half) could not calculate a percentage. Chances are, some of them work for you!

Explaining results as a ‘strike rate’ makes the point more strongly: 
Not so clear: ‘only 26% of customers are ordering dessert’
Clearer: ‘only 1 in 4 customers are ordering dessert’

Not so clear: ‘62% of customers have one drink at the bar then leave’
Clearer: ‘3 out of 5 customers have one drink etc etc…’

Here are examples of under-performing businesses I’ve seen:
* At a seafood restaurant, only 1 person in 12 ordered dessert.
* At a pizzeria, only 1 customer in 8 ordered a side salad.
* Only 1 customer in 4 orders herb or garlic bread with their meal.
* At a club, 300 people visited on one day and only 90 ate at the bistro.
* Only 1 wine drinker in 4 also ordered mineral water at a restaurant.
* Out of 120 function inquiries last month, only 20 became bookings.

And sometimes the results are good:
* 2 out of every 5 customers will order a second coffee if asked.
* Complaints have gone down from 1 customer in 100 to 1 in 350.
* 2 out of 5 take-away customers add a drink to the order if  suggested.

The information is in your POS and dockets, but it’s often in a mess of printouts and percentages. When you untangle it and present the numbers as a strike rate, the results are crystal clear, and the basis for comparison and action. And everyone ‘gets it’.

Photo taken at Grounds of Alexandria.