Plan B for when the next COVID lockdown hits your cafe or restaurant

As COVID controls and vaccination helps business return to some type of normal operations, government policy in Australia and New Zealand now seems to be using selective lock-downs to control spot fires and outbreaks.

Your Lockdown Plan B needs to be permanently at hand, so you can move within hours to protect your business, and alert customers, staff and suppliers. Here’s a bunch of areas where you need to have emails, social posts and communication at the ready – almost like a putting the fire drill into action…

  • Alert your customers – through email, text message, social media posts and signs on the window. Hopefully you’ve been steadily building your email and SMS list (here are 10 ways to do that quickly). Spend some money to boost your social media posts in the local area, so you make a greater impact. Use Canva to design catchy signs – look sharp and professional.
  • Alert staff about roster changes and different work needs – through group email, texting, their private social media group and the messaging service. Stand down those not needed, and understand your rights in this situation.
  • Contact function & event bookings, if there are restrictions on group size or service style. Your event contract should now allow for rescheduling and deposit arrangements in the event of health-related restrictions.
  • Increase delivery and takeaway – expanding the services you are already using.
  • Simplify the menu and reduce stock – most operators are now much savvier with their numbers and cost of goods. Use your digital system or menu app to slim down the offer. Is there equipment you’ve delayed purchasing that will be part of your backup plans? Eg fridges and freezers. If equipment needs to be shut down, follow the correct procedures.
  • Alert suppliers about reduced needs and hours of operation.
  • Alert finance companies about what’s happening, You may not be delaying payments, but keeping them in the loop increases trust in case you do need to negotiate.
  • Alert landlords – they’ve been through the wars in 2020, and although they don’t love the idea of rent reductions, your regular communication can prepare them for possible concessions.
  • Build your diversification – it’s not an instant change, but the more you can diversify sales and add multiple income streams, the stronger you will be. Here’s a great list of options.
  • Prepare reopening promotions – it’s called Disaster Recovery Marketing, and there are lots of options using the communication channels you’ve developed. Move quickly and sound positive.
  • Strengthen your administration system – many operators have a new appreciation for working from home. Is your PC or Mac up to date, with a good backup for data? Is it time for a larger screen or a better office layout? Do you have POS integrated with bookkeeping, rosters and payroll?
  • Encourage COVID vaccinations for everyone – led by the owners and managers! Show staff how to book for their ‘jab’ and arrange for time off. Maybe even a bonus for doing it?

Fingers crossed this remains theory! 🤞

Social & Environmental Issues Calendar for your Cafe or Restaurant

There are special days and months all through the year, to celebrate and commemorate important themes and social issues. There may be ways to include them in the calendar of events at your cafe or restaurant, on social media or just as a reminder to staff. Customers respond very positively to your support for social issues.

January – suggestions welcome.

February – suggestions welcome.

March
March 8 — International Women’s Day. Here are some ways to celebrate the women you work with.
21 March – Harmony Weekcelebrating the diversity of cultures and races in Australia.
21 March – Clean Up Australia Daycommunity campaigns for reducing litter
22 March – World Water Dayhighlighting the importance of sustainable water supplies.
Share the Dignity Month – giving those experiencing period poverty the dignity they deserve. Twice a year the public is asked to donate pads, tampons, period underwear, incontinence pads etc. to Dignity Drives across the country.

April
April 22 — Earth Day, supporting environmental protection.

May
May 9 — Mother’s Day. Celebrating the mothers who raised us, mothers who work with us, and the women who raise children in the face of difficulties. There are many ways to celebrate this throughout the week.
31 May – World No-Tobacco Day. Highlighting the health dangers of tobacco, and an opportunity to support your staff to Quit. Hospitality workers smoke at more than twice the rate of the general population.

June
June 20 Refuge Weeksupporting the needs and achievements of refugees in Australia and internationally
Pride Monthsupporting Gay, Lesbian and Trans Pride with events and celebrations

July
4-11 July – NAIDOC Week. Celebrating the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders in Australia.
Dry Julysupporting people to go alcohol-free in July, and raise funds for cancer support.

August
Share the Dignity Month – giving those experiencing period poverty the dignity they deserve. Twice a year the public are asked to donate pads, tampons, period underwear, incontinence pads, menstrual cups etc. to Dignity Drives across the country.

September
September 5 — Father’s Day – celebrating the fathers who raised us, other fathers in your family and the many fathers who work in hospitality. Make it more than just a day for a packed booking diary.
September 9 – RUOK Day. Supporting mental health, when people are urged to support colleagues and friends struggling with life’s difficulties by asking ‘are you OK?’
September 21 — International Day of Peace, supporting the end of war and violence.

October
Breast Cancer Awareness Monthraising awareness and funds for breast cancer support and treatment.
7 October – Teachers Day in Australia, often extended into Teacher Appreciation Week. Dates vary internationally.
19-25 October – Gambling Harm Awareness Week. Talking about the harms associated with gambling and the effects they can have on communities, families, friends, workplaces and individuals.
31 October – Grandparents Day. To celebrate the bonds between grandparents and grandchildren.

November 2021
Movember monthgrow a moustache and raise funds through sponsorship to raise awareness of men’s health issues and suicide.

December
1 December – World AIDS Day. Raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic, and remembering those who have died from the disease.

We will keep adding to this calendar, and your suggestions very welcome. Many more dates are listed on the Social Justice Calendar and the Health Events Calendar.

Smarter Forecasting to Boost Restaurant Sales & Stop Cost Blowouts

With smart ‘future-watching’, you can adjust staff and purchasing to reflect expected business much more accurately.

Caterers work with 100% certainty for much of the time – they get low food and wage costs because they work with exact numbers, not guesswork. So how can a café, restaurant or bar also forecast more accurately?

  • Keep daily logbooks & diaries: record customer numbers, weather, special events, the pattern of customer visit etc. Logbooks are more informative than a blank diary page. The immediate past is often a good guide for the coming weeks or months – use a printed diary or online system – many available.
  • Make sure staff understand the numbers you talk about. For example, how many more customers to expect if the bar will be 10% busier than last week, or 20% down on last month? Rephrase this as a number – ‘we’re expecting 120 people instead of the usual 90-100’ so everyone gets it.
  • Predict the effect of TV and sporting events. Your staff TV and sports fan can monitor these – some events mean more trade, some mean less. If you know football means a hit in trade, organise an event for ‘everyone else’ eg a wine dinner. What about Married at First Site or The Bachelor – good for trade or not?
  • Watch for local events that will boost business. Adjust your opening times accordingly, eg popular concerts and local festivals. This can be a great time to open especially and catch the crowds. The local tourist information office and internet will have information – subscribe to relevant newsletters.
  • Use a good weather app and track regularly eg Yahoo Weather, and TV weather channels will show up to 7 days in advance. Will you need extra staff for the weekend?
  • Track the effect of changes in temperature, snow and rainfall. Many bakers adjust the cooking of hot snack items like pies to the temperature and have become quite exact with it as a money-making exercise. What’s your equivalent product?
  • Develop more flexible staff schedules and rostering systems. Explain how changes are decided, so it’s not ‘unfair’ when shifts are increased or decreased. If you are developing a new workplace agreement, take this into account. Online rostering systems allow you to put out urgent calls for more people – make sure everyone knows how this works.
  • Develop a staff standby system. If someone is on-call, pay them an agreed allowance to be available, and also pay it if they are called in. You will build staff loyalty and overall your costs will be lower, even if you occasionally pay someone for just being home and watching TV.
  • Reduce ‘just-in-case’ over-staffing. Prepare your Plan B for an unexpected rush – it may be more profitable to maintain normal staffing levels but institute a smarter queuing system and ways to turn over customers more quickly.
  • Work out the ‘strike rate’ for product demand. For example, if 100 people dine out of 500 visitors to your club or bar, you have a strike rate of 20%. This will be a guide for when you are expecting 200, 500 or 2000 visitors.
  • Develop a standby order system for the weekend – you want just enough stock on hand, and be able to cover an unexpected rush. Emergency runs to the supermarket are expensive – what alternatives can you set up?

    In the longer term:
  • Watch population changes in your area, both residents and workers. Census data can help but this is only updated occasionally – local observation may be a more reliable guide. This can also give you a guide to negative events that may be looming, eg a business relocating from an office block may mean the loss of hundreds or thousands of potential customers.
  • Watch industry trends to keep your business ahead of the game. Faster service, table ordering, healthy options, the obsession with ingredients and new flavours, legal regulations, the ageing population – all changes that can have a significant effect on the type, preferences and number of customers you see.

How to become ‘Employer of Choice’ for local Hospitality Teachers (and help solve your staff shortage)

Short of young staff? Hospitality is a very popular subject in secondary schools, and there are many students looking for opportunities. Here’s how to make the right connections:

  • Get to know the careers counsellor and the hospitality teachers. the counsellor works with every school student on their career and training plans and is keen to meet local business operators who have genuine opportunities. Once they know you are honest and fair, they can often give you the ‘inside running’ on the best students.
  • Offer to be a guest speaker for hospitality students. Think of it as a Q&A session rather than a prepared speech – it’s less nerve-wracking. Take one of your young staff along, or send the chef along to help a teacher with the dessert class, meat preparation or knife skills. Or your sharp barista to give the finer points on speedy latte production.
  • Sponsor an Award for School Speech Day. There are usually ‘Best Student’ awards for most subjects. Why not sponsor one with a Gift Voucher for the local kitchen supply shop? Knives and kit are always needed. Add some fun with a restaurant voucher for them to come and visit with their family. This is a lot more exciting for students than the dusty History Prize! If the school is hesitant about private sponsorship, organise it through the local Chamber of Commerce, who should be involved anyway.
  • Sponsor a school activity. You may be asked to help with excursion costs or sporting equipment, but focus on events that lead straight back to your business. The sponsorship may not be money, but it could be a celebration coffee back at the café. You may also hear of kitchen equipment that the school needs. Sometimes they’re well-equipped with heavy stoves and refrigeration, but missing out on utensils or a food- processor. The parent association is another group looking for support, and your donation of a dinner prize for the raffle or coupon book will be much appreciated.
  • Create a cookery or coffee event for the school. Put on a cooking show, and make it more than just fancy pans and flames.
  • Focus on nutrition, food safety and safe work practices to help teachers cover those essential parts of the curriculum.
  • Run a barista workshop at your cafe. With growing chef shortages, we have to do everything possible to show cooking is a fun and attractive career. Jamie Oliver has done great work with young students turning around their perceptions of ‘healthy food’. Watch his short videos, in which he shows students exactly what is in chicken nuggets. It’s a good format for how to do an engaging cooking demonstration in a short time (alhtough it’s not about cooking as a career).
  • Help students with an assessment event. Find out what dishes students must master for their assessment, and bring your insights to their preparation. Include a discussion of how you manage temperature, storage and quality. Recruit some student assistants and leave them with a souvenir for helping – a fun certificate or the restaurant’s postcard, cap or t-shirt.
  • Remember, schools have changed. Education is now more focused on career skills, and students are much more ‘worldly’ and assertive. They may be asking you things you’d never have discussed back when you were at school, and the language may be as colourful as in your kitchen! Relax, and be guided by the teacher on what’s OK and what’s not.
  • There’s a strong emphasis on protecting students – it’s part of modern work training. You may even be asked to obtain a ‘working with children’ clearance if you will be dealing with students over a period. Don’t be offended – schools are required to be very vigilant about keeping predators away – you see the news.
  • Relationships in action. Michael Fischer built up long-term relationships with schools in Parramatta, Australia, when he had Barnaby’s Restaurant. After building bridges with schools and developing trust, he was able to be more insistent that the students sent along for work experience were those genuinely interested in hospitality as a career, not just a soft option for school. He had many of these students continue on as apprentices and floor staff. Word gets back to teachers and other students if the workplace is fair and the opportunities are worthwhile. It was not only hospitality ‘lifers’ that he needed, but people to work weekends and regular casual shifts. Maybe they are training to be an engineer, but during the four years of their course, if they work for you most weekends and holidays, that’s long-term employment in this industry!
  • Is this all worth the effort? We all prefer to do business with someone we know and trust, and it grows over time. As you build the relationship with principals, teachers and students, you are the natural recommendation to the best students who want a career in hospitality. In a labour market with fewer and fewer choices, here’s to your unfair advantage!

C.R.C. – 3 Words to Get Much Better Results

If your staff management, menu updates, and marketing is inconsistent, these 3 words will get you back on track. They create much-needed discipline in an industry that’s often ‘hit and miss’, and they also show staff and public that your business is professional and reliable.

Calendar + Reminders = Consistency. And consistency is what makes the difference between smart ideas, and the implementation of them that creates results. Consistency is what your competitors rarely achieve – on again, off again marketing, staff who don’t know what’s happening, unhappy suppliers – it weakens them.

What does Consistency look like, from the outside?

  • The email newsletter goes out on the first Monday of every month.
  • Members of the Birthday Club always get a text message on their big day.
  • The Summer Menu starts… on the first day of summer!
  • Post a photo on Instagram every. single. day. (so fans are more likely to see you)
  • Loyal suppliers are paid on time, just like you promise.
  • Food cost figures available for the chefs every Tuesday morning.
  • Maintenance is organised for less expensive times (e.g. fridge checks in winter), so fewer breakdowns and less cost.
  • New staff have a review scheduled 7 days after they start, without fail. And if they’re unsuitable, the issue is handled quickly.
  • Regular staff have an organised ‘how’s it going’ review every 6 months – it becomes a positive part of their job, not something unknown and scary.

A Calendar creates the system – when you put a date on an event, or a deadline for preparation, it’s much more likely to happen, specially when you set up Reminders. Set it up your calendar with an online system like Google Calendar that can sync across your PC, phone, iPad etc – wherever you are the calendar is the same. It’s easy to set up automatic repeats, and notifications for multiple people – if others know, there’s less chance of a miss.

Add Reminders so that the tasks are not forgotten – these could be an email, or a phone notification. Or a project management system (e.g. we use Teamwork.com) that sends reminders and can be accessed by others in your team. Or a person who is tasked to prepare some documents or newsletters so they’re ready on the agreed time and date – they don’t just remind you, they have the essentials ready for you to send.

Now you’re creating Consistency – people see you and the business as organised, reliable and true to your word – qualities we all admire in a business. Our example: the Hospo Reset newsletter goes out every Wednesday morning. It’s empowering to have deadlines – they add discipline and strength to the often chaotic world of hospitality.

What’s first for your new calendar?

9 Ways Staff Will Take You For Granted – if you let them

You’re a good manager – fair, not too emotional and you care about the staff.

But over time they’ve taken more and more for granted – feeling entitled to extra favours, and assuming you make so much money it doesn’t matter. Why did this happen, and how can you make a change?

For most people (like your staff), if you don’t give them rules and reasons why things have to be done a certain way, they will make up their own. If you don’t provide guidelines, they’ll ask someone else, or base decisions on what they did in the last job – and many of these assumptions will be wrong.

Here’s a hit-list based on businesses I’ve visited – do any of them need your attention?

  • Left-overs taken home. Funny how there’s always extra left over when that’s allowed. Food safety regulations might be one way to close down this lurk, or just a change of rules related to a ‘food cost review’. I’m all for offering staff meals, but not take-outs – a clear Theft Policy may be needed.
  • Endless roster swaps. No one loves organising this, and it’s very easy to let people make fixes and changes themselves… and fairly soon there’s chaos. Swap to online rostering where it’s handled digitally with much more control. It still needs ‘parental supervision’, but the process is much easier for everyone online. What do the rules say now?
  • A staff drink at the end of a busy shift has turned into a free-for-all. Toughen-up the policy on ringing up staff drinks, or take a deep breath and go dry at the end of the night. Either way, a written Drug & Alcohol Policy will help to standardise the rules. Staff drinking and smoking is often the elephant we don’t want to look at.
  • Lateness. Texting ahead that you’re ‘running late – sorry!!!’ does not make it OK. Is it time to give someone an official warning? Everyone knows who the offenders are, and wonder why it’s tolerated. See the Memo example.
  • Mobile Phone Use. Where do we start with this?! It can be brought under control, even though for some staff it’s like taking away a child. Share the rules and make sure there is secure storage for phones not being used. Do you have rules set out clearly?
  • Scrappy grooming – you’re told it’s the modern way. For men, the daily shave now seems to be optional – hey, if you’re growing a beard, let it grow. But if you only bother to shave every third day, it will now have to be daily. Your staff manual may need more explicit guidelines, with pictures and clear examples of what is OK and not OK. Discreet facial studs and rings are also common, but our role is not to alarm the customers – do you need to tighten up on blue hair, big rings and crazy studs? It’s not ‘discrimination’ to restrict appearance that turns off your customers.
  • The place is untidy, and it’s not busy. The famous slogan ‘time to lean is time to clean’ needs regular reinforcement – what’s the standby list? Develop your list of Jobs for When It’s Not Busy and have it on the wall.
  • Coffee for the boss? I met a cafe owner recently in her own business and she had to wave down a staff member to order coffee for us – not a good look. Some staff are thoughtful, some are not – the standard instruction should be ‘if I’m meeting with a visitor the closest server should always ask if we’d like a beverage’.
  • Playing off partners and managers like they do with their own mum and dad. As kids, we all knew who to ask for certain things, and when. Same happens in a business – you don’t need a 10-page Policy on everything, but there need to be clear written directions to give certainty. If you and your partner have been played, put a list together and write up the standard response. Maybe just for you two, or put it on the noticeboard.

Watch Out for These Problems with ‘Perfect’ Staff

Do you have a dream employee?

They smile a lot, cover extra shifts, keep the bar clean, and know how to fix the fryer and the coffee grinder. They can cheer up cranky guests and sell them all dessert… and they know how the boss likes her coffee.

And because everything is going so well, it’s easy to leave them alone while you concentrate on fighting fires. But putting time into managing these people can be a much better investment than constantly chasing problem staff. And if you don’t, there’s a bunch of bigger issues that may come up.

So what could go wrong?

  • They may burn out from taking on too much. A key goal for all staff should be a work-life balance – it’s not just a new fad. Enthusiasm can slide into feeling exploited, and then resentment. Work with them on career plans and ensure (insist!) they have good holidays.
  • You may be overpaying them. The relief of having reliable help tempts some owners to be too generous. Make sure that the pay is not out of line with other key staff.
  • Are they good because your other staff are not? If the systems are faulty, lacking or chaotic, you need super staff to hold the place together. If you’ve got good, clear systems and everyone ‘follows the manual’, it’s surprising how well a 20-year-old can run key shifts.
  • They may not be great team players. Don’t let resentment build – suddenly Mr NewGuy is getting all the love and attention. Other staff may be good ‘B team’ workers but they just don’t share this person’s mad enthusiasm for being at work. Developing teamwork is a key skill for supervisors and maybe an area where this person is weak.
  • Do they know more about the business than you do? It’s never a good look when the staff know more than the boss – how to fix a POS problem, find an emergency wine delivery or handle large bookings. You don’t have to do everything yourself, but you need to show you can make it happen.
  • They have no life outside work. This is a business, not a religious order – is something happening at home that could affect future performance? Do they find it hard to form normal adult relationships? It may affect their teamwork.
  • Is doing a ton of shifts just a short-term fix? Why do they need so much extra money? Is it a gambling (or drug) problem, family drama or crazy spending habits? Technically it’s not your business…until it becomes your problem.
  • They might fall in love. Be realistic – everything will change. If they’re single, someone (else) perfect may come along and suddenly the world is different. Long hours at the business come second to evenings with someone special.
  • Someone will steal them. Your star may be tempted by a dazzling offer – more money, responsibility or glamour. Time will tell if the new job lasts – your competitive advantage is your reputation, the ease of working there and the ‘solidness’ of your business. Make these factors more obvious.
  • Even perfect staff don’t balance the till and count the float. There have been too many tragic tales of supergirl helping herself to the proceeds. Keep audit systems strong, and make sure they take regular holidays. People who are genuinely good don’t mind proving they are honest.

Does this mean less trust or lower expectations? Not at all – just make sure ‘how we do it here’ (your systems) are of the same quality as the person in the limelight. Careers change quickly and even golden staff can be tempted by someone else’s crazy pay offer. No problem, we have good systems and we’re covered…next!

How to use QR Codes for restaurant marketing and management – dozens of easy examples

Everyone understands QR codes, now that they’re compulsory for COVID check-ins. Point your smartphone camera at a QR code, and a website or app will pop up.

In fact QR codes have been around for many years, and widely used in Asian countries – now that they’re understood here, you can start to leverage them for restaurant & cafe marketing, recruitment and daily operations. How many of these ideas can you use?

It’s easy to create your own QR codes – for a web page, WiFi access, a feedback form or to check off a worklist. Use a web service like Scanova.io or BeaconStac or QRcode-monkey.com, or a QR generator phone app. The Chrome web browser now automatically generates a QR Code for every web page you visit – click on the right side of the URL address bar. Download the square code you create and add it to signs or stickers – easy.

📸 .. Check dozens of ways that QR codes are being used on this special Instagram Account – new examples added all the time.

Put your Front Window to Work: a couple of QR codes can lead to a welcome video from the owners, a downloadable copy of the menu, TripAdvisor reviews or more information about opening hours and bookings. Now you have a 24/7 billboard – place the codes on a poster or on a digital slide.

Boost your recruitment with a link to your main recruitment page, and liven this up with some one-minute video testimonials from staff, or an overview of daily work routines. From this page, people can click and fill out a job application form ready for you to respond.

Include a code in printed marketing material: flyers, postcards and posters can all have a QR code added for contact details, Facebook and Instagram accounts or special Coupons.

Take-Away Menus: print a QR Code on table tents, front door posters or where you’ll catch a customer’s eye. Scanning the code directs them to a digital version of your menu on the web, or as a PDF. Take it one step further and integrate this with an ordering app, so they can browse, click, choose and pay.

Share Recipes and Food Stories: put a small QR Code on your menu next to key dishes. Smartphone users can then scan the code and be taken to a recipe, or even a video of it being made. Too many codes could look unsightly, so have one that leads to a page where more links can be clicked.

Information about Wine and Cocktails: distributors and wineries often have detailed information on their websites – the QR code could lead straight to this, or to pages you’ve set up (so you don’t have to show the supplier’s pricing).

Feedback Surveys: place a QR Code on the receipt, and ask for instant feedback. This works even better when staff remind customers that it’s just 3 questions – put them on a Google Form or with a free app like Wufoo. Take it one step further and give the option to join your email list to receive promotions. Surprisingly, with compulsory check-ins now a part of every visit, most venues are not turning customer sign-ups into newsletter subscribers. Even a ‘thanks for visiting’ email can make a difference!

Nutritional Information: there’s a wide range of information available online – now you can link directly to it for the people who are interested. This avoids your menu becoming like Wikepedia – the facts are there just for those who want them.

Download a phone app: if you have your own app, or want people to use one for ordering, a QR code can be set up to go to the Apple or Android app store, according to the phone being used.

Ordering lists, instruction sheets, operating systems and food safety routines can all be accessed online with a QR code – generate it for the web page or relevant documents. Dymo Printers or A4 label sheets can be set up to print the labels with a description underneath, so there’s no confusion.

Opening and closing routines, COVID and food-safety checklists can be set up in Google Forms or specialist apps like iAuditor – a QR sticker on the wall will trigger them for each location or time of day. Even those hourly checklists behind the bathroom door can be a thing of the past!

Need equipment repairs? Have a QR code for repair information and manuals, all on one laminated sheet on the kitchen wall or in a folder.

When you need to generate bulk quantities of QR Codes on labels or as images, there are services to do that eg QR Batch, or it could be part of the software you are using eg Shopify.

QR code examples

10 Ways to Reduce Noise in your Cafe or Restaurant – and Bring Customers Back!

Why don’t people come back, after they enjoyed your food and the service? It could be the noise – too loud to talk with friends and feel relaxed.

Here’s a bunch of ideas for noise reduction, if you have to do it after your venue opens. The fact is, most architects and designers give little thought to effective noise reduction, creating hard-surface boxes with all 6 sides reflective so the noise bounces like bullets to kill our enjoyment.

It’s good to understand some of the technicalities of noise and how it’s created and reduced – the excellent Acoustical Surfaces blog is full of great articles such as Soundproofing vs Sound Absorbing – What’s the Difference? and Noisy restaurant solutions- when peace and quiet are not on the menu. Noise is measured in decibels, and the different levels are listed below. Measure it with a noise meter app from the iOS or Google App store – they’re good enough to show you the level of pain, which can quickly move into the danger level (above 80 dB) in a noisy venue.

Here are some easy ways to reduce noise in restaurants and cafes…

  • Acoustic panels – attached to walls or ceiling. These can be the expensive sound baffles like they use in a recording studio (they absorb sound) or simpler ones from a hardware like Bunnings. Even egg crates can be combined in an interesting way if your look is ‘cheap and cheerful’.
  • DIY acoustic panels – foam stuck onto plywood cut to size, covered with interesting fabric. In Australia, Clark Rubber has foams of all thicknesses and grades that they will cut to size.
  • Hang attractive floor rugs from the walls. There are many varieties at markets that could double as interesting art, and IKEA has a wide range at low cost
  • Hessian coffee sacks, filled with padding and hung as interesting wall features – another idea for a casual environment.
  • Padded panels between tables, to create more intimate spaces and reduce sound. Better in a more formal space with a large area.
  • Cushions and padding on chairs and benches – it all helps.
  • Tablecloths! Out of fashion in many places, but they do the job very well. Avoid padding under tables – it makes a slight improvement but feels a bit creepy when if you reach underneath.
  • Carpet! In my Cafe Troppo days, we had commercial carpet tiles in a charcoal grey and sound was never an issue. Steam cleaned once a month and very few spills to worry about – people don’t notice what’s on the floor. Artificial grass is also an option, and could be used in strips or as a feature – it’s done effectively by the Cafe 63 group in Queensland.
  • Turn down the music – it’s often up loud because of all the other noise, and people can hardly hear it anyway! You don’t need stereo in a large space, but you do need quality sound. Small speakers spaced around will be sufficient rather than a couple of big stereo speakers. If good music is a special feature at your place, it’s important that people can hear and enjoy it.
  • Reduce noise from the bar – blenders and appliances can be intrusive, best to have them with shields and covers.

Understanding noise levels…
Loud noise causes damage in two ways: the actual volume, and the length of time exposed to it. A noisy venue could result in occupational health and safety issues – attention clubs and entertainers!

Here’s a detailed chart of noise levels, and a quick summary of decibel levels:

140 – Jet engine at 30 m
130 – Rivet hammer (pain can be felt at this threshold)
120 – Rock drill – level at which PAIN BEGINS
110 – Chainsaw
100 – Sheet metal workshop
90 – Lawn mower
80 – Kerbside heavy traffic – level at which sustained exposure may cause HEARING LOSS
70 – Loud conversation
60 – Normal conversation

Seen behind the bar in a Las Vegas nighclub…

How to Have More Success Promoting Chef Jobs in Rural Areas

Your country cafe or restaurant offers good conditions, proper pay, decent hours, a friendly boss and a modern kitchen. So why can’t you find good staff? It’s time for a shift in how you promote the opportunities – the talent is out there, so let’s update the recruitment methods.

Promote the benefits of your area. Check the local tourist authority and council websites – they know how to talk up the town. Country rents and real estate can be much less expensive than the city – don’t forget to mention this in your advertisements. If there is a problem with accommodation, solve it – it can be a deal-breaker, and needs to be part of the whole package. Your website should include information about local attractions, schools and lifestyle, and transport links, as well as opening hours, facilities and menus. This could be the chance for a chef to buy their own house, which they could never afford in a big city.

Advertise positions so the whole country finds them. On your own website and using national job websites. Savvy candidates will check your website, and won’t be impressed if it looks outdated. Facebook advertising is also an option – it can be targeted to a particular area or type of person. See: How to Write Restaurant Job Advertisements That Get a Much Better Response

Consider using a professional recruiter. Use a service that does all the work – hunting, shortlisting, interviewing and recommending. It will cost a few thousand dollars, but the cost of DIY is much more than that – and you know how that’s worked in the past!

Make use of a migration agent. You’re likely to have a lot of applicants who want help to achieve permanent residency. This can be a great opportunity, but immigration laws are complex and changing all the time. Experienced agents can help to screen and assess applicants. With drastic reductions to visitor visas, overseas workers are no longer the answer that they were before 2020.

Update the menu. If the highlight of your offer is a burger & chips, you won’t be successful in attracting young chefs. TV food shows are popular in every part of Australia, and everyone is thinking about food in a new way. Keep the favourites, and a fresh new approach is essential – it needs to be led by the owner.

Build a relationship with the local school. Hospitality is a popular subject, and your teamwork with dedicated teachers will mean you are the first to hear about the best students. Host site visits and work-experience students, offer to be a guest speaker and find out what they need to improve school-to-work transition. Make friends first and the favours will follow.

Keep in touch with former staff. Invite staff to connect with your Facebook page – social media means friendships don’t have to be lost or forgotten. Keep posting photos of staff enjoying their work, as well as the usual food and event shots. Every month or so ‘boost’ a post about happy staff to your fans, so they all see it.

Find work for the partners. If the new chef is arriving with a family, chances are her partner needs work too. How can you help with this? What about her son who will be looking for an apprenticeship in greenkeeping or pastry?

Jump onto the training bandwagon. It won’t take long to find a training provider who will support with supervision, materials and even a subsidy. Everyone needs to start ‘growing their own’, and the hospitality training sector is highly developed.

Think outside the square about who you will employ. You may prefer a low-cost 16-year-old, but the 45-year-old mum could be more stable and flexible, even if you need to ‘untrain’ a few habits as well as installing new ones. Set your standards high – if the applicant doesn’t meet them but has a good attitude, get the coaching and feedback started.