40 Photo Ideas for Your Restaurant’s Christmas Social Media

Social media posts thrive on visual content, and there are dozens of opportunities to take all sorts of photos during the Christmas season – food, decorations, people and local scenes. They will look good on Facebook, Instagram and your website. Snap and share, and many can be used again next year.

  • Gather props – Christmas balls or decorations, Santa hats and strings of lights – they will all be useful.
  • Starting the Day – setting up the kitchen, turning on the coffee machine, hosing the courtyard, Christmas food deliveries, first customers etc
  • A Special Christmas Offer – your Christmas Hamper offer or photo of a special menu item
  • On the Christmas Menu – food or beverage item from the special menu – different items can be added every few days
  • Christmas Gift Card – held proudly by a typical customer, or with Christmas decoration around it
  • Something Funny – a Christmas joke – add it to a seasonal image using Canva.com
  • Christmas Quote – find some suitable quotes from this Quotes Website – add them to a seasonal image using Canva.com
  • Christmas Cracker jokes – put them on a background of a Christmas cracker and share the best or worst ones. A Christmas tradition – find a bunch of them here.
  • Something that Sparkles – add tinsel or shiny Christmas balls to any of the images you already use. Garnish a dessert with something sparkling.
  • The Weather Today – a photo of the beautiful day outside, whether it’s sunny or snowing
  • Seen on the Way to Work – a local landmark or something unusual or amusing – a local sign, quirky shop, landscape formation etc
  • Seen in the Neighbourhood – outrageous Christmas decorations, big Santa, house with the most Christmas lights
  • Someone we Remember – used to work here or a favourite customer or local character
  • Festive Fashion – staff or customers wearing Santa hats or reindeer ears, Santa suits etc
  • Santa’s Helpers – get some elf hats from a party shop and take a photo of staff hard at work, as if this is what they always wear!
  • Customers in the Christmas mood – have a basket of Christmas hats and props and share with your party customers. Take photos of them dressed up and having fun.
  • My Morning Drink – the coffee, herb tea, chai or juice you have to start the day
  • On My To-Do List – take a screenshot of a list in bold text, with some serious and some amusing
  • Our Christmas Tree – if this is something special, show it off and take close-ups of special decorations
  • Our Christmas decorations – if they’re big and wonderful, take a photo, especially with light shining on them
  • A Special Tradition – something that’s done every year in your area or household, or in the restaurant
  • On the Front Door – if you have a Christmas wreath, share a photo
  • Something We Made – the food the dessert, the Christmas scene etc
  • How We Relax When Not at Work – a photo of staff relaxing – at the beach in Australia, or in the park, Christmas shopping etc
  • Your Christmas Workspace – a photo of your busy desk or workbench, but style it so it looks productive, not just a mess
  • Outside the Window – busy people, a busy street, birds flying, a Christmas scene – something amusing or interesting
  • A Symbol of the Season – a star, crib, Christmas decorations – local shops or churches may have good subjects
  • Something Sweet – Christmas desserts, special drinks, a gingerbread house
  • Best Part of the Day – having a well-deserved break, or when customers arrive or closing up at night
  • Bright Lights – take a slightly blurred photo of Christmas lights, or of local buildings lit and decorated
  • Work Hard, Play Hard – staff playing sport on their day off – ask them to take some photos and send to you
  • My Christmas Family – ask staff to share some photos of people they will be having with them on Christmas day
  • The Spirit of Christmas – photos of local charities who will be helping people on Christmas
  • Your Inspiration – a saying, a photo, a holiday memory, a special person – explain why
  • A Happy Customer – photo taken of them enjoying food or a drink
  • A Happy Party – photos of party groups having a good time – best if you take groups of just 3 or 4 at a time so everyone is seen clearly
  • After the Party – busy and happy staff stacking chairs or cleaning up after a party. Use the Instagram app Hyperlapse to take a short, speeded-up video of the action
  • Chefs at Work – up-close video of them decorating desserts or garnishing canapés or preparing food – hands is enough. Use the Instagram app for a video of up to 30 seconds.
  • Selfie Time! Have a selfie stick available for customers to borrow and ask them to text or email you the best photo. Show them how to use the trigger by linking with their Bluetooth phone settings
  • Warm and Cosy – if it’s cold outside, a photo of a scene that’s warm and glowing. These can look good from outside looking in at night
  • Cool and Relaxed – if it’s summer at Christmas time, photos of cool drinks and your garden or outside seating with relaxed customers
  • Something Brand New – some new equipment, a new menu item, new decorations etc

What’s your Business Plan B for when the Caronavirus hits Australia?

I’m still trying to process and understand the implications for restaurants, cafes and foodservice – the news keep unfolding every day. I’ll keep updating this over time – so much to consider…

  • Last year we had more than 1.4 million tourists from Chinese, many of them travelling in groups – new bookings have now been stopped. How exposed is your business to overseas tourists? Even my Uber driver this morning said he often has Chinese passengers in the city areas.
  • Export industries – rock lobster exports from Western Australia to China have stopped, because of transport and logistics problems in China. Where will they be redirected to, and what effect will it have on prices? What is their Plan B?
  • Imports – we depend on Chinese manufacturing for almost everything, from cooking equipment to electronics, clothing, utensils, furniture and quite a lot of food manufacturing. Much of it is delivered at very low cost through an extraordinarily efficient transport system – how will that be affected? The world is addicted to low-cost Chinese goods…
  • Australia hosts over 200,000 students from China, almost half of them university students, and the academic year is about to begin. Difficult timing for a health crisis – what will be expected of them when they return to campus? Many of these people also work in hospitality, and are foodservice customers.
  • Some schools are asking students returning from China to stay away, until their health status is clear. Who handles childcare, and what precautions are teachers taking? When do we get a unified national response?
  • We don’t need racial profiling and scapegoating – there’s way to much of that already. People become paranoid and lash out when there’s fear and uncertainty – we need compassionate, trustworthy leaders to reassure people and give direction. More science, expertise and rapid response – this will be very expensive.

Sources of Information: I find Twitter useful for breaking news, and there’s the Australian Dept of Health and World Health Organisation. Plus the ABC and Guardian.

Short video honours the hard work of Kitchen Hands…

This Canadian documentary spends time with the kitchen hands at several Montreal restaurants, highlighting the fast, heavy and relentless pace of their work.

Without them there are no clean plates, no pans for chefs to cook with, no clean floors or cutlery for the table. It’s a job often done by people of colour and the marginalised, showing how the hierarchy still works in manual labour. We say we ‘couldn’t live without them’, but they’re rarely given a proper uniform or a bearable, efficient work space. Ever worked in one of those plastic aprons in a hot space? It’s tough.

The video gives an unflinching view of this hard labour, and the humanity of the people who do it…

Simple, low-cost Recipe Software – some great options

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 other excellent high-end products such as Cooking the Books, MasterTracker, Menu Coster, Parsley, Hospitality Genie, KitchenCoster, and the less expensive Fillet.

New cloud-based systems like ChefLyfe and ChefNotePad have impressive features.

Plus there’s 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!

ALSO CHECK our lists of Rostering & Staff Scheduling Systems and Event Booking & Management Systems.

Interviews with Ken Burgin on Restaurant Management and Podcasting

It was great to meet Adam Yee through Linkedin, when I commented on an article he wrote a few months back. He’s a food scientist and also has his own podcast, with the discussion often focused on food flavours. It’s a topic that was on my interview wish list, and now I had found an expert!

Enjoy the discussions I had with Adam on his My Food Job Rocks podcast…

Interview: My Work as a Restaurant Management Advisor

Bonus Interview: Podcasting and How to Build an Online Platform

Reversing the tables, here’s the interview I did with Adam about Food Flavours for the Profitable Hospitality podcast – it’s well worth your time…

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…

How to Measure Restaurant Kitchen Costs and Efficiency

There’s a business saying: ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it!’

Smart managers need reliable and accurate figures on which to base decisions. If there are problems, you can take corrective action quickly. If you are having success, you’ll know what to do more of! They also give a fuller understanding of what happened – if it’s a quiet month (when  suppliers are telling you ‘everyone’s quiet!’) you may see that some of your KPI’s have improved (eg sales per-head) because you’ve doubled down on service. Well done – its not all doom and gloom!

Here’s a list of KPI’s you’ll want to watch for the Kitchen…

Food Cost % can be measured quickly by adding up food purchases for the week and measuring them against your food sales. This is based on the assumption that you are not holding much stock (as it’s perishable, you need to sell it or throw it out!). You may also do a stock-take regularly to get a more accurate food cost percentage, although the burden of kitchen stocktaking often means it is not done very often.
Total Food Costs – how much was your total food bill? Sometimes a useful figure to show staff who think you are made of money!
Food Costs per-head. It can be useful to see every week how much it costs to feed an average customer – this is an easy figure for your staff to understand. If your menu and sales style is consistent, this should also remain much the same. If it starts to go up, you will have to find out what’s happening! To measure this, use the total amount of food purchased and divide by the number of customers. eg $3000 of purchases divided by 600 customers = $5 per head food costs. If you work out an accurate Stock Value (see below), use that figure instead of purchases.
Kitchen Labour % – it’s only fair to measure kitchen productivity by comparing kitchen labour cost against food sales, not total sales (alcohol and beverage sales may be influenced by other factors).
Kitchen Labour Hours – how many hours worked in this section? Compare against sales to measure productivity, and divide total kitchen labour cost by the number of customers – it can be surprising.
Stock Value – how much food stock are you holding? It should be less than a week’s use, but can slip out if you are storing frozen seafood or cryovac meat. Opening Stock + Purchases – Closing Stock = Cost of Goods Used.
Best and worst selling items – check the weekly sales from your POS or dockets. Do you know what the best sellers were? Should some of the worst sellers be removed?
Kitchen linen costs – the cost of uniforms, aprons and tea-towels can be a shock! How many tea-towels are you using each day? (thought about laundering them yourself?).
Food waste by weight – if you’re watching waste carefully, it’s possible to measure how many bins or kilos you’re throwing out. When it becomes a focus, it’s interesting to see how this can be reduced.
Fuel and water costs – sometimes these can be measured separately for the kitchen. If so, watch the ups and downs, comparing to the number of customers served.

Which of these figures can you access quickly, and which ones are the most useful?

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.

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.

The famous risotto scene from the movie Big Night

Two Italian immigrant brothers struggle to Americanise themselves and their restaurant.  The younger one Secondo is more willing to adapt; his older brother Primo finds the food preferences of Americans strange and upsetting.

If you’ve ever worked with a chef who has ‘standards’, you will recognise this scene! Find and watch this wonderful movie on iTunes, Netflix  or on DVD – it’s a treat…