Simple Ways to be a ‘Hospitality Thought Leader’ and Build a Reputation

A recent comment on LinkedIn got me thinking:

“LinkedIn is an amazing B2B lead generating tool, but if you are not actively reaching out to prospects and showcasing your thought leadership through regular posting it’s unlikely that you will generate any quality leads…”

‘Thought Leader’ – can’t say I love the term, but I realised there are many ways to share ideas and observations, so people become interested in your experience and opinions. You will stand out because you put them out publicly.

Here are some suggestions to get started, and LinkedIn is a great platform for sharing most of your content. When people Google your name, the LinkedIn profile is usually the #1 entry, so it makes sense.

Share some photos of something interesting you’ve seen, with a comment about their relevance to the industry eg a new shopfront, a plate of new food, modern kitchen equipment, a bar design or some clever lighting. 1 photo + 1 sentence is all you need.

Take better photos with your phone. Concentrate on the lighting and composition, then crop and edit so it’s focused on the main subject. Find photos that tell a story eg the busy restaurant with staff flying past, or the untidy back-lane that gives a lesson about hygiene – this is a very visual industry.

Review places you like on TripAdvisor or Yelp – it gets you in the habit of writing and thinking about how businesses operate. 3 or 4 sentences is plenty, plus a photo if you have one.

Write in a positive tone, focusing on what is useful and interesting. If something is poor quality, talk about it being ‘disappointing’ or ‘not what you expected’. Explain why, and also find at least one positive. Don’t just describe things as ‘crap’ or ‘rubbish’ – only write what you’d say to someone’s face. If it’s really bad, write nothing and move on – negativity shows you up in a bad light.

Share interesting articles or videos you find online – this is much easier than writing everything yourself. It also shows that you’re watching industry trends – most people don’t have time to do this, and depend on people like you as ‘curators’. It’s an important role.

Focus on LinkedIn – here’s how to update your profileAlso consider having a separate Facebook business page and Instagram business profile. Keep your private Facebook profile firmly locked – don’t mix business and personal content. Here’s how I keep a  separate business Facebook Page.

 Use good Facebook Groups to share information and opinions on the industry. I find the Australian Chef Network and the Australian Cafe Owners Network are excellent for this.

Build your confidence writing short posts and opinions, then you’ll be ready to write something longer… like this blog! Or submit opinion or knowledge pieces to trade magazines – they’re always after good, factual content.

Join panels at industry events when you get the chance, and push your way forward if you see one that’s being planned. Especially if you’re not an ‘old white guy’, you will add important diversity to the line-up – organisers are acutely aware of how important this is. Check any trade fairs or conferences coming up.

Whether we like the term ‘thought leader’ or not, there’s a hunger by most people for industry information and thoughtful opinions. Put your fingers on the keyboard and start leading!

8 Simple LinkedIn Profile Improvements for Chefs & Restaurant Managers

Want to be taken seriously as a professional? A good LinkedIn profile is essential, and this means more than just dumping your CV into a new location.

People who want to know more about you for a job, as a referee or even for a presenting opportunity will always Google your name. Your LinkedIn profile will appear high up on the first search page, and usually influences their opinion. Let’s get started on some simple upgrades – install the LinkedIn app on your phone if that’s the easiest way to edit. Each of the terms used below eg ‘Summary’ refer to the heading you will see when you edit your profile.

Update your Photo – no cheap selfies or party shots! If you need a new photo, use ‘portrait photo’ mode on your phone, and get someone to take it in bright, flat light, to avoid shadows eg in a room facing a window. If you want to go further, professional portrait photos can be done at relatively low cost – get a few done, maybe also with family or partner You can also add a horizontal banner photo up the top of your profile – use a favourite picture of hospitality or a travel location. I use one of a beachside beer garden 😉

Use ‘Keywords’ in your Headline. This is more than just your job title, which is listed separately as ‘Current Position’. Use words in the Headline that people search for (keywords), and make it descriptive Eg not just Head Chef, but ‘Head Chef with 20 years experience in fine dining, gourmet catering and casual bistros’ – you can use up to 120 characters.

Expand the Summary – show your enthusiasm for work, and what you’ve learned about the industry. This is where you show how you can help people. Have at least 3 paragraphs in this very important section. If you find it hard to write about yourself, ask a friend to assist. Write this Summary in the first person eg ‘I have set up new food safety systems’ not ‘She set up new food safety systems’ – this is more personal and real.

Add some personal details to round out your image eg ‘volunteer with trainee baristas at the local refugee centre’, ‘renovating an old timber house in my spare time’, or ‘training with my local team for the 2020 Hockey World Cup’.

Make Yourself Easy to Contact – include your personal email and a relevant phone number, especially if you want to be reached for career opportunities. Do whatever you’re comfortable with, and at least an email is important for credibility.

Expand on Your Experience – add a couple of sentences about each of your previous jobs in the Experience section. Include some numbers to add credibility eg ‘ran a team of 12 people’ or ‘Organised 3 offsite kitchens feeding 600 people every day’. If one position was a particular favourite or a huge learning opportunity, say so!

Add All Your Education – include the location of where you trained. Include any short, relevant courses eg a Food Safety Certificate. If you speak additional languages, include those as well – a bonus.

Add Links to Relevant Websites or Social Media – the website of your workplace, or your food-related Instagram site. Maybe you contribute to an events or hospitality blog – if it adds to your reputation, add it.

Update Privacy & Security Settings – this is simple to do, and offers a lot of options. You’ll find them listed under your Profile picture on a PC/Mac browser, or under the little cog that’s top right on the phone or iPad app.

Once you have a good professional profile, you’re ready to reach out to build your list of connections – here’s how I’ve been doing it over the last 12 months.

Invisible? How to Stop Customers Forgetting Your Restaurant

Unless you’re a major industry icon, or they’ve visited 5 times, most people don’t remember your business name…

True story: 2 people in café, one on the phone. She looks at her friend and asks ‘what’s the name of this place?’…and the friend doesn’t know! Worse, there was nothing inside the café to tell them – no signs, nothing on the table or staff uniforms. Future business lost for sure.

Before you go spending big money on expensive promotion, check that you’ve covered all the small, personal promotional items within your 4 walls. You could double your business if everyone came back at least once!

Increase the number of times your business name is seen:

  • The business name on the wall or menu – make it part of the decoration.
  • Business name on awnings and the front window – if it’s just on the awning, people walking or driving by may not see it.
  • The name on the side and back of your company vehicles – include the website so it’s easy to find you later.
  • Name and contact details on the docket a customer takes away.
  • Business cards for people to keep. Makes sure there’s one with every account.
  • Souvenir menus at the counter, even if it’s just a sample.
  • Auto-response to inquiry emails. It automatically bounces back saying something like:
    Thanks for your inquiry – we will be in touch with you shortly. Don’t forget all our menus are online at’…
  • Business name on staff uniforms – just as important as the staff name.
  • Prominent website address – as big as every other mention of your name. If it’s not logical eg instead of, fix this – register the easier name as well, and have them both directing to the same website. If you spell the web name with some capitals (like this example), it’s easier to remember and won’t affect search behaviour.
  • Business name used in menu items eg at Café Troppo we had the ‘Troppo Burger’ and ‘Troppo Trifle’ – distinctive and memorable.
  • And of course your website comes up first when we do a Google search – many businesses still don’t have this happen.

Make contact more personal to reinforce the memories:

  • Hand written ‘thank you’ on the docket or account
  • A personal acknowledgement: ‘Thank you Mr Burgin’ – when my credit card is brought back to me, or when my account details are present eg checkout. If Qantas can do it loading 200 people on a plane, so can you!
  • Real faces on the website gallery – happy staff and happy customers, plus busines owners and managers with short biographical details.

Nice place, but where am I?

How to Celebrate the Smart Women At Your Restaurant on International Women’s Day

Use International Women’s Day on 8th March to celebrate staff and customers. There are many simple ways to mark the occasion, and you’ll get top marks for showing you notice and care – this is marketing with a heart. Women hold up half the sky, and as visitors and workers, at least half of your business…

  • Make it a week not just a day – there’s plenty to talk about, leading up to 8th March. Highlight one promotion, photo or story each day.
  • Feature the women who work for you – a group photo, and extra mention of the long-time workers and how they’ve developed. Share photos and stories on Facebook, Instagram and other social platforms – posts like these will be widely shared.
  • Talk about women who inspire your staff: more to post on Facebook. Kate might be inspired by Kylie Kwong, the chef and entrepreneur. Jan the floor manager loves the way Adele the singer has handled her struggle. You get the idea – post the Facebook with a picture of the staff member or their hero – this is easy content to prepare.
  • Ask staff to share ‘About My Mother’ on Facebook: these posts can be an inspiration. You just need a photo of a staff member with their mum or grandmother – ask them what’s special about the relationship in just one sentence. This needs organising a few weeks in advance, and the results can be very moving.
  • Share a food angle: favourite recipes from mothers and grandmothers. ‘Nanna food’ is still popular and something to feature – mention whose mother it is!
  • Support a women’s cause for the week: a local women’s shelter, or an aid project overseas. You’ll find information and photos about the cause on their websites.
  • Push it further and get staff thinking about gender and harassment issues – a conversation that all staff should take part in. It may be a little uncomfortable to start with, but good things come out of these discussions.
  • Hold a special dinner or event: work with local community groups and give them a chance to raise funds by selling tickets. Organise a speaker and showcase the work of your women chefs with pictures in a Facebook album the next day. Start something regular.
  • Learn and share about the history of International Women’s Day – it’s inspiring!

Yuk Factor – Simple Things That Customers Dislike (and don’t tell you about)

We get busy, or need to cut expenses, and it doesn’t take long before shortcuts start with cleaning, maintenance, repairs and service.

Here’s a bunch of familiar items – we’ve all done it, but please find a better way. Most customers don’t complain, they just stop visiting… and tell their friends – these are the opposite of Quality Signals. PRINT and share with your team – they will find more!

  • Sticky things – unwiped tables, unclean carpet, underneath the edge of tables.
  • Wet things – the table that was wiped, but with a wet cloth. The floor or seat of the toilet – they need an immediate fix.
  • The walk to the toilet – is it clean, tidy and ‘neutral’ all the way?
  • Strange smells – in the toilet, cleaning fluid, bleach and more.
  • Dead or dying plants – I’ve always seen this as a strong indicator of a failing business.
  • Grubby kitchen clothes – chef jackets, pants and aprons that aren’t freshly laundered. It’s a time-consuming process, but less than sparkling sends a negative message. And why doesn’t the kitchenhand deserve better than  street clothes?
  • Worn aprons, especially on front of house staff, plus that awful chux in the back pocket for a quick table wipe.
  • Crazy piercings, hair and tattoos – OK, I’m out on a limb here, but our job is not to compete with customers. If you’re in an edgy neighbourhoood, maybe, but if your regular customers would feel confronted, it will turn people away… and should stop.
  • Grubby view of the kitchen – if it’s open, or visible at any time, the shelves have to be tidy, pots scrubbed top to bottom, and please don’t show yellow buckets of chicken booster!
  • Things on the floor – behind the bar or visible on the kitchen floor. Boxes, pots, trays, food cooling.
  • Crap on shelves and counters – staff cigarettes, a glass of old pens, docket books and things that should be in a drawer. Walk around to the customer side and have a look…
  • Staff clearing dirty glasses with their fingers in the rim – touching people’s spit!
  • Stack-and-clear for plates, aka the ‘nanna stack’. Clear professionally so dirty plates are lifted out of the customer view.
  • Fluorescent light tubes visible – in the kitchen or a bar fridge. Surprising how often a great design is sabotaged by careless lighting.
  • Cleaning materials – the mop bucket (usually grubby) and dirty rags.
  • Excess stock – in the corner there’s the big delivery of mineral water you don’t have room for.
  • Broken furniture – rocky tables and rickety chairs. These items get very heavy use, so invest in strong commercial versions or replace every year. IKEA is not a solution 😉
  • Dirty chair legs – they’re kicked all day, and quickly get scuffed and marked.
  • Dirty bins – why are they always so filthy on the outside? Need a weekly scrub.

Italians sometimes call these small, unpleasant items colpo d’occhio – something that hits you in the eye. It’s time to walk around with someone who doesn’t work in the business and see what you find!

Working on my elevator pitch as Silver Chef’s Community Manager

With my new role as Community Manager at Silver Chef, there’s the need to explain my slightly ambiguous title to people who ask about it. Or be ready to go beyond hello at an event, when most Australians seem to make ‘what do you do’ the ice-breaker question. A recent session with the marketing team had us working on our elevator pitches, and struggling to keep them short, jargon-free and interesting.

Here’s my one-sentence version, and the follow-up two sentences if people look interested and want to know more…

Hi, I’m Ken Burgin and my job is to educate cafe and restaurant operators on the latest industry trends and how to turn them into profits. [most times, I stop here]

We do this by organising training events, exhibiting at trade shows and connecting with smart business operators to share their skills

I’ve worked in hospitality for more than 25 years, and it’s great to use that experience to help make the industry stronger.

Why just one sentence? This was a useful tip from Dale Beaumont, the business educator. Check the great interview with him (go to 18:24) where he explains the need for a short-short version – most elevator pitches would have you travelling to the 99th floor to finish, when it needs to be all over by level 3 or your listener will be switched off and snoozing!

Working remotely – Amalfi Coast, Italy 2015

How ‘Quality Signals’ Silently Promote Your Restaurant and Bar

They’re the small, carefully chosen elements that, one by one, tell people that this is a quality business. Different people will notice different things, so one won’t be enough. Here are some of the ‘quality signals’ I’ve noticed in the last few months at different restaurants, cafes and bars…

  • Fresh flowers – a big bunch, not a small one
  • Good quality uniforms and aprons in staff – looking new, not washed 1000 times. Matching your staff, who are fresh and well-groomed!
  • Staff behaviour – open, friendly and attentive. Focused on the customer, not on each other or their phones.
  • Paintwork clean and unscratched, and floors not scuffed. Wooden floors can be a big problem.
  • Table surfaces polished and not scratched or worn – they need regular replacement or treatment
  • Lighting is warm and the sources usually invisible – no sight of the fluoros in the kitchen
  • Quality tableware – cups, plates, cutlery, napkins and glassware. Water glasses get pitted after hundreds of washes – replace them
  • Good quality coffee machine – it tells us there’ll be good coffee
  • Polished bottles and shelves behind the bar – thorough cleaning
  • Nice view of the kitchen – tidy, clean and organised
  • A visit to the bathroom is pleasant – clean, dry, freshly painted, no smells and a hook for your bag. These little rooms get a lot of use and need industrial-strength fittings eg toilet paper dispensers and deodorising systems
  • The cake display – trays full of delicious treats, hopefully made on the premise
  • Menus freshly printed or laminated – no torn corners
  • Phone answering and email replies – prompt, articulate and helpful

Missing or wrong signals can undermine or sabotage an otherwise-professional operation – sometimes they could be called Yuk Factors. What needs changing?

10 Restaurant KPI’s to Measure Sales Strength and Weakness

Whether it’s sales, productivity or costs – your performance is in the numbers. Most Point of Sale systems offer hundreds of report options, but unless the sales are grouped in the right way, the results won’t show you useful information. Here’s a bunch of useful Sales KPI’s to see how well your business is performing…

Number of Customers. Simple! A good measure of popularity, but how do you count them if there’s a cafeteria line or take-away food? This is one of your most important numbers, and it’s surprising how many businesses don’t know it.

Total Sales Per Head. Total sales divided by the number of customers. How does it compare to last week and last month? May vary between different times of the day and day of the week.

Food, Dessert, Beverage Sales per Head. These are divided into key areas of choice – main course and starters, desserts, non-alcohol beverages, alcohol and perhaps also side orders (eg breads and salads) and other product sales. It’s the perfect indicator of two things – how much your menu appeals to your customers (do you have all the choices they want, eg the right dessert selection?), and how well your staff are selling. This KPI can be a good basis for a bonus system.

Seating Efficiency. How well your tables are being turned over while still offering high quality customer service. Usually many small things combine to have a large impact – cooking time, seating, service and clearing. The size of tables relative to the average group size will also make a difference.

Sales per Hour. Useful in a high-volume setting like a bar where staff may have their own till. Maximising their speed by setting up the touch screen so staff can find popular items quickly, and ensure that the screen has a rapid ‘refresh rate’.

Sales per Labour Hour. Divide total sales by total labour hours and compare with your average cost of staff per hour. How does it look?

Basket Size: this is one that retailers use to measure how many items each customer buys. You may want to check how many items other than pizza, or the main course, are ordered eg drinks, salads and dessert. Count them for take-away and for sit-down.

Strike Rate. If 500 people came to your pub last night and only 100 ate at the bistro, the ‘strike rate’ would be 1 in 5, or 20%. Good enough? Compare it with similar businesses and at different times. If only 20 of the 100 diners ate dessert, the strike rate would also be 1 in 5. This could definitely be improved with a better menu and suggestive selling.

Revenue per Available Seat Hour (RevPASH). Similar thinking to the way hotels measure Revenue per Available Room. To work out RevPASH, divide total sales by the number of ‘seat hours’. Eg a restaurant of 100 seats open for a 4 hour period has 400 ‘seat hours’.

Most and Least Profitable Menu Items, plus Best and Worst Selling Items.
Grade recipes from most to least profitable, working out accurate results using recipe software or recipe cards. Compare with the number of sales of each. When you have items that are both low profit and low sales, these ‘losers’ should be taken off the menu as fast as possible.

Comparisons and Benchmarks…

Many operators are frustrated by the lack of detailed industry figures to compare with their own performance. Some industries have organised KPI comparison figures available by subscription eg the club industry. The lack of outside figures shouldn’t stop you comparing performance your own figures between periods.

Comparisons that can be useful:

  • This week with last week
  • This month with the same period last year
  • One section or unit compared with another
  • Compare the effects of different weather conditions and temperatures
  • Compare different times of the day and days of the week
  • Compare the performance of different staff or under different managers
  • Compare results with a different number of people on duty

Which of these sales KPI’s do you find most useful?

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. Add a QR Code for fast access to signup and information.
  • 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?

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