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?

Amazing public art in Brisbane

Do you know the work of Fintan Magee? He’s one of Australia’s most prolific and talented public artists – his large wall murals are all over Australia and around the world.

This work, called Head in the Clouds, was recently completed on the side of a building in South Brisbane. Below it is another one he did in 2016 on the side of a silo in Victoria, as part of the Silo Art Trail. Follow Fintan Magee’s work on Instagram to see lots more – he’s amazing!

Silo Art in rural Victoria…

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7 restaurant decoration ideas – make a splash without much cash

When you deal with thousands of customers a week, everything is on a BIG scale – and the decorations should be the same. If you want to make an impact, here are 7 ways to get tongues wagging and photos being taken (and shared).

100 balloons. Don’t waste money on helium to have them floating to the ceiling. It looks great, but the next day they’ll be sinking to the floor – all that money for only 24 hours. Instead, tie them onto strings, or a long ribbon. Blowing them up is a fun exercise for 3 or 4 people – stick to one or two colours, and the metallic gold or silver ones look very deluxe. They will last for a week, then remove – balloons are cheap.

BIG vase of flowers, preferably not like they have in a hotel foyer, but something more rustic – as if you grabbed 3 fabulous bunches from the markets. Here’s my collection of flowers in cafes, and you can see more of them on Instagram under #cafeflowers.

BIG decorations. Not Christmas decorations from the department store, but you’ll find them at specialty retail display shops – a giant red bow, massive red baubles or big red hearts for Valentines Day. Where you could use K-Mart decorations is filling big glass vases with shiny red or gold baubles – masses of one colour look great.

Old-fashioned Bunting. The coloured flags that were strung up for the village fairs of times gone by. Not plastic – go for the wonderful cotton ones from the Cotton Bunting Company. Buy several lengths, then roll them up to use again in a few months. The nautical flags are fun.

Fresh produce. Don’t hide all those bright red tomatoes, fresh lemons and shiny eggplants in the cool room. Put them in a big bowl on the counter or side table. Showing fresh is more believable than saying it.

Party lights. Strings of coloured lights are always available from a hardware, or the tiny white bud lights that we see everywhere at Christmas. For coloured lights, the cheap ones will make an impact, and if you can find them, brighter and bigger bulbs make a much bolder statement, especially in a big space. Same for bud lights – the K-Mart lights are OK in a small room, but brighter (and dearer) commercial ones will get the comments in a big courtyard or garden.

Chinese Paper Lanterns – they look wonderful illuminated, and are way beyond just being used in Chinese restaurants. Check the huge range at the Lantern Shop, and also buy the bulbs or strings of lights to illuminate them – can be very inexpensive. Ideal for an occasional splash, then fold them up for another six months.

Harassment: Urgent Action to Protect Your Restaurant Staff and Reputation

Sexual harassment is all over the news, and likely to remain there for some time to come. And as journalists and celebrities find the courage to speak up, everyday workers will also find the confidence to talk about their past experience, or draw the line on something they are going through right now. The smart restaurant manager or owner is doubling down on anti-harassment action  – here’s what I suggest:

  • Bring out your Anti-Discrimination, Anti-Bullying, and Anti-Sexual Harassment Policies and give everyone a printed copy in a plastic binder, with their name on it. This shows how seriously you take the issue. Don’t have one yet? The Profitable Hospitality downloadable versions are an excellent start. Put some extracts or quotes in poster form on the noticeboard.
  • Hold a number of short staff meetings where attendance is compulsory. Go through the policies line by line and invite questions and discussion. Listen more than you talk. Ask for examples of what people may have experienced at another workplace. Request that it not be named, but by talking about somewhere else, this can sometimes give people the confidence to take part in a discussion.
  • Talk about those jokes. It’s challenging for many people to accept that what they think is just funny, could be regarded as harassment by someone else. That joke about the apprentice’s new girlfriend? All the guys laugh, but how did the women in the kitchen react? Talk about his car instead, and respect his relationship. Does Sleazy Stan the barman need a private chat about his behaviour? Hopefully he’ll get the message and clean up or move on.
  • Be real. Acknowledge that you’re uncomfortable talking about this, but it’s in the news and you know people may have questions. Renew your ‘my door is always open for a private talk’ promise – provide your email and phone number. Is there a rumour you should act on, and reach out to someone vulnerable?
  • Explain that managers have a special responsibility. Meet separately and explain their duty of care, and how they should handle infractions. Get them to listen to this podcast interview on Reducing Sexual Harassment Risks with lawyer Richard Edwards and HR specialist Natasha Hawker. This is hard but necessary work for all managers to do – role-play some situations and promise backup when they need to handle a situation.
  • Get rid of questionable products from your menu: how can we have a serious discussion about this and still sell ‘Blow Job’ and ‘Sex on the Beach’ cocktails? Delete them, and no-one will notice.
  • Be friendly, but not friends with your staff. This is a challenging one – so many hospitality businesses are run like a big, unruly family, with all the usual banter, joking and excuses. Get real – your staff already have friends and family of their own – as owner or manager, they want you to be kind and friendly, but they’re not after friends who may be twice their age.
  • Cut the swearing. It’s ironical that the F, C and Sh words are now used freely on TV,  but I’m suggesting they should be eliminated from daily use by staff, managers and owners. There are other ways to express your anger and frustration. When you clean this up, there’s an improvement in the emotional tone and the way people relate to each other. A challenging one!
  • Protect your staff from customer harassment. Alcohol changes everyone’s behaviour, and young attractive female and male staff are often groped or ‘hit on’ by customers. It’s not OK. Give staff a method to alert their manager if they feel threatened, and be ready to politely but firmly ask those customers to leave. Another challenging situation, upending decades of tolerated behaviour in bars and everywhere alcohol is served.
  • Make the Christmas party a test for future socialising. Many restaurants have their party in January, after the rush. It’s good for everyone to relax and let their hair down, but the same rules apply about behaviour, intoxication and harassment.
  • That’s my quick list – any other actions you have taken? Drop them into the Comments below, or on the Ken Burgin Facebook page…

Positioning is why people don’t ‘get’ your special food concept

Feel like eating out?
Let’s go to a Thai place – red curry, stir fry, fish cakes… mmm
Or maybe Mexican – spicy beans, tacos, burritos… yum!

What about that new Filippino place? Or the Ethiopian one? Huh??
Most people are fairly conservative in their tastes, and 8/10 want the same as last time. They may range across Pizza, Mexican, Thai and Subway, but each of these concepts has a clearly defined position in our brains – we understand the flavours and experience when just one word is mentioned.

It can even happen with countries – if you’re thinking about a holiday in Italy, Spain or Thailand, each of them brings up clear images that have been built up over a long time. What about a few weeks in Belgium, Estonia or Bulgaria? You hesitate because their positioning is weak, and people who are unsure usually decide not to spend.

Positioning as a marketing concept was first popularised by Al Ries and Jack Trout in their classic book Positioning: the Battle for Your Mind – there’s a new 20th anniversary edition now available and it’s a great read. It’s one of the basic books I’d like everyone who does my Restaurant Startup workshop to study!

Understanding positioning is also important if you’re not the first, the best or the most famous cafe, gelato shop, Italian or Turkish restaurant – you need to create a new and understandable space not claimed by the leader.

And if you do want to showcase food from the Philippines, or Ethiopia, Sudan or Myanmar, you will have some special challenges to help people understand what your food is like and why they should plan to visit this week! Not unsurmountable, but just being proud of your cuisine isn’t nearly enough – there’s a big city you also need to educate.

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…

Getting it right with Sponsorship Applications…

Do you have an endless stream of community groups asking for sponsorship and donations, way more than you can afford? Or maybe you are after sponsorship from a liquor or food company for an event.

Most sponsorship applications are poorly thought out, offering few tangible benefits to the sponsor. They talk about how worthy they are, and offer ho-hum ‘opportunities’ of logo placement, banners, mentions and dinner invitations. But no mention of how the sponsorship will help drive the sponsor’s sales, or promote their business objectives. This is not denying the value and integrity of the organisation or event, but when you receive an endless stream of these applications, it’s only the ones that stand out and offer mutual benefits that will get a second look.

One of the best people to explain this, and the whole world of sponsorship, is Kim Skildum-Reid. Here she is with a short, sharp pep talk on how to create a successful sponsorship application. Highly recommended, and could also be useful for your sporting club or charity group if they’re seeking funds from an organisation…

How Amazon Will Eat Up Restaurants, Not Just Food Delivery

Amazon is much more developed in the US than in Australia, with it’s Prime delivery service and many more shopping options. But they land here any minute, and services will be easier to establish ahead of the vast warehouses they’d need to sell books (remember them?) and widgets. In this episode of The Barron Report, Paul Barron crunches the numbers to predict how Amazon will impact the restaurant industry in the US… and in due course here.

He sees it taking out many of the current food delivery services and heavily impacting restaurants – it’s not pretty, and we need to be ready – this short recording is well worth listening to…


How to tell if your Job Ads discourage female or male applicants

We’re all keen to avoid bias against females or males, and sometimes the language we use in job advertisements will subtly discourage one or the other. The Gender Decoder is a great tool to check your ads – it picks up words we commonly use but may not realise have an inbuilt bias.

I checked this typical ad for a Barista (below), and it highlighted the words in red as ‘masculine’ – it would not be hard to rephrase, to be more inclusive. You can also check their long list of masculine and feminine words – interesting for a discussion with your managers and HR people…

Barista for busy cafe in Bondi – immediate start. We’re after a self-confident champion with at least 2 years experience.
Call Matt on 12345678

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