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.

How to Get Employee Training to Stick!

Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor has shared another excellent training article that will strike a chord: How To Get Employee Training To Stick Like Gum To The Sidewalk On A Hot Summer Day.

He’s not just talking about the skills and awareness staff need to learn, but also the bad habits we need to correct and remove: how customers are addressed, how products are recommended, and essential etiquette. Taught in a way that will change behaviour quickly and minimise resistance – the 5 key training targets are well worth applying with your own staff.  It’s also a reminder that there’s a lot we can learn about restaurant sales from our retailer friends – how they work with fussy and fickle customers, deal with ever-changing trends, keep entry-level staff on their sales game, and handle relentless competition.

It was great to interview Bob for the Profitable Hospitality podcast – he knows hospitality well and shared some great insights with us. Listen and enjoy…

Remember books? Still useful for menu and wine training, gifts etc

Illustrated books can still be useful as chunky visual aids for training, and are very inexpensive if you look for them second hand.

Abebooks is the best source for finding exactly what you want – they will probably come from a bookseller in rural England or Missouri, but the postage is minimal. Here are a few finds that could liven up your food and wine training sessions:

World Atlas of Wine (several editions) – useful for the maps and pictures, and descriptions of varietals. From $5.57, including postage!

1900 Ingredients: Encyclopedia of World Foods – for when you don’t have real life examples of daikon or celeriac or mastic or honeycomb. Most of these are richly illustrated. Only $7.38 including postage.

Larousse Gastronomique – the classic French cooking text, 95% of which is never out of date. Also a good gift for an apprentice (plus a voucher for your local bookshop). From $6.69 including postage.

The Culinaria series of books on the food of Italy, Spain, France, China etc – from $7.38 including postage.

Use books for training, gifts, decoration for the bar or front of the restaurant – excellent value…

How Your New Restaurant Training Supervisor Can Make it Happen!

Once you have more than a few staff, training needs multiply – different skills needed for different people, and various stages of development. Appointing someone as a training supervisor takes it out of the manager’s hands and ensures it will be handled, not forgotten. Training is one of those ‘important but not urgent’ projects that is easy to put off…. yet again.

Make this a part-time job for an enthusiastic employees – for you it’s just one more thing on a long list, and for them it can be an honour and a source of pride. So what will they do?

  • Organise the training calendar – one of the simplest and most effective ways to get training actually happening. You know how it’s been in the past – other priorities taken precedence. Use a simple diary, or Google Calendar, and plot out the next 6 months.
  • Gather training material – copies of your menu and wine list, take photos of menu items, Profitable Hospitality articles, other relevant articles, YouTube videos – there are many options.
  • Run ’10 minute’ training sessions – focused on chunks of practical information and skills. Short menu tastings, handling a difficult customer (with a role play), review a video together, learn a selling technique, review of last week’s sales numbers, safety procedures, product knowledge quizzes etc. Keep them focused on short, single-topic sessions to start with.
  • Organise induction for new staff. The training supervisor can make sure the necessary policies are explained, menu training happens and questions answered. Ticking them off a checklist so nothing is missed.
  • Organise suppliers who can offer training e.g. cleaning chemicals, the coffee roaster, fish and meat suppliers, vegetable suppliers – it’s surprising how many  offer this, but it’s often not taken up. Sales people definitely get brownie points from their bosses when this happens.
  • Organise regular performance reviews – they’re easily postponed, and then another 12 months has passed. The supervisor is the person who will make sure these appointments are in the manager’s or head chef’s diary, with plenty of reminders for all parties.

Praise their work – give regular feedback, and see what they need to develop the program. Little by little the business culture is getting stronger, and fewer people are leaving…

Once you have someone in the swing of training and enjoying the process, you can encourage them to develop their training skills, perhaps pursue some qualifications and take on more detailed tasks like a training needs analysis for the business and for individual employees. Find your enthusiast and get them started on the diary!

3 Great Podcasts for Restaurant Training Inspiration

I loved the two Profitable Hospitality podcast conversations I had with restaurant trainer John Isbell. In the first one, we talked about Creating an Effective and Affordable Training Program, and in the follow-up episode, we talked about How to Start Online Training for a Restaurant. John explains how to make and use short videos, and a host of other simple training techniques that will liven up your staff.

Another podcast with lots of snack-size episodes on training methods is the Creative Training Techniques podcast from the Bob Pike Group. I did one of their great workshops years ago, and it’s had a permanent impact on how I present training. Each week they cover topics like:

  • How to get people talking at your training session
  • 5 rules to follow when presenting to senior executives
  • Tapping into gamification for motivation
  • How to improve your speaking voice – tips and examples

These are just a few and there are dozens more – a rich feast. Here’s to your training success – let me know in the comments or via LinkedIn what other resources you find useful.

Training: 5 Tough Challenges for Restaurant Managers

It’s not hard to become a supervisor or a manager – titles are often given out freely. Organising the roster, orders and bookings is straightforward, but higher level  leadership-management is not. Managers don’t just manage processes, they manage people: with their hopes, fears, and emotions. You really earn your management stripes when you handle situations where the right answer is also the hardest answer.

Training for managers is effective and interesting when it’s based on real-world scenarios –  they have to come up with the best solution when none of them are perfect.  This excellent article outlines 5 tough management challenges, each of which could have a hospitality application. Great for a management team discussion –  ask people to come up with real-world restaurant or bar examples that they’ve seen or experienced. Here are the 5:

  1. You know things you can’t share with employees.
  2. Balancing standards against financial considerations.
  3. Enforcing policies at the risk of losing a superstar
  4. The dreaded “He said, she said,” conflict.
  5. You have little that’s tangible to offer a talented employee.

Spend 15 minutes discussing a couple of these at the next meeting, before you get into sales figures and staffing. Learning and growing…