Training staff in a busy restaurant, cafe, or bar is not hard if you are consistent, and you give your staff a reason to come to work. Again, it's the "why" -- why did we hire you? why do you love working here? If your staff aren't asking those questions then you should read on!
Some owners don't know what this hipster term means: Mindset. Or perhaps you don't know how it works in restaurants or cafes. That's because there are so many tasks for a cafe or restaurant owner: improving sales, marketing, keeping up with changing food costs, changing the register keys, and training staff. This list goes on! You know that! This blog is not trying to be the Encyclopedia Brittanica of ownership. This blog is to help you in very real ways. Help you know what to do when you get stuck. Help you when you feel blue. Help you when you need help on sales, marketing, etc. You CAN be the boss, and be happy, and profitable. On a mediocre Monday, or a disappointing Thursday all you'd like is someone to remind you of exactly what you need. Help to stay motivated. Help to keep your eye on the prize. Hence, MINDSET TRAINING.
This post takes you inside Curry Leaf Cafe in Kemptown, and it's chef-owner Kanthi Kiran Thamma. He is building on the momentum of two ongoing restaurant successes. The latest incarnation of Curry Leaf Cafe is shared plates and small plates, of the street food of southern India. There's even a small masala dosa on the menu.
Marketing for your restaurants is an individual journey. Yes ,it's your story to tell. The story is central to growing your business. You'll be developing your story, which in turn creates a florishing business. Make that action active, but not urgent. Do it right, don't keep doing it over and over. Be patient. Slowly and consistently share your story. In fact, it's alot like a slow food dinner--where the food takes hours to prepare, bring good people to the table, and community arises and is nurtured. If that image, that tiny story, helps you start to market your restaurant, awesome. Now, read on, and you'll find that you have it inside you, but it's about to develop into your unique skill set, that works for your exact restaurant!
Sixth Pillar Approach -- one of the pillars is about your customers' experience. This digs into how to give your customers a great experience, and keep them coming back.
Baltimore has a habit of being ahead of the curve. Going Cashless is Baltimore's new topic -- eliminate cash from your restaurant or cafe, and shift your business to credit cards only. Guests and customers will be facing this reality. The phrase for this action? Going Cashless. Here are pros and cons, plus examples of businesses who already have hopped on the bandwagon.
REASONS to GO CASHLESS
- Handling cash is a dirty business. As owners, we already know this. Customers are aware of this! Asking a staff member to stay at the cash register, to ensure the germs from money handling are not transferred to the food you are selling, is standard procedure, yet that's a dedicated job. Labor costs are associated with that dedicated job.
- Eliminating cash, eliminates frequent bank visits/deposits. Eliminating the need to run to the bank to get bills, and make change daily does have an impact on monthly bank charges. Certainly each owner has wished they could relieve their business of that nuisance charge.
- There is no drawer counting. Staff no longer have the tedious end-of-day drawer counting. Gone are the managers worries over a $27.88 unrecorded paid out. Gone too, is the double checking that the right bills are back in the drawer, and "do we have enough quarters". While all those items are not a huge struggle, time is saved, and labor costs are saved.
- Focus is now squarely on the customer. Instead of counting back the twenty, a staff member who recognizes a customer can proceed right on to a friendly interaction.
- Cash is simply becoming the only part of our economy that is untraceable, and unrecorded, which also means it's largely illegal activity. Improving credit card use will also put more pressure on less than savory activity.
- Wave of the future. In 2016, only 22% of all transactions in the US were conducted in cash.
- Sales will go down with credit card only transaction. Actually the opposite phenomena happens. Yes, a few people only have cash and have to be turned away. This is a small percentage, and we are facing this cultural shift already.
REASONS YOU'LL RESIST GOING CASHLESS
- "Cash carriers". We all know, that there are just those people who prefer to purchase their coffee in cash. What would you do? Let that over ride all the positive reasons to go cashless? Or come up with a plan that is inclusive for cash transactions--gift card, for example.
- "It'll never work". Going cashless sounds like you just stepped into the Jetson's high-tech, space age world. We cannot possibly be in the future already. Fact is, we are probably going there now, so consider the pros and cons. If you decide to go cashless, like anything else in your business, set a date when you plan to go cashless, and find all the avenues to share that idea.
- "No one else is going cashless". That may seem true in this very moment, but "Going Cashless" is gaining a following among owners. Tune in to the discussion. Here are some case studies that will help you understand why other owners have hopped on this bandwagon.
- "Credit cards cost our businesses so much". This is a real problem. Fact is, we are receiving this charges whether we are cashless or not. The time and money of not having to run to the bank, and receive bank charges makes for an efficiency.
- The owner of Park Cafe and Coffee Bar chose to go cashless after facing repeated robberies. It was a recurring robbery, by the same individual. Eliminating risk of yet another robbery tipped the scales for David Hart, the cafes' owner. Was it the perfect solution to eliminate robberies? No. Police needed to catch the repeat offender. However, it did take a huge factor out of the equation.
- Sweetgreens created this model, and is completely satisfied with their decision. They switched to credit card only as a 2017 policy. Their reasons? Staff security was their primary reasons. That is attractive to applicants, and shows that the owner values staff safety.
GOING CASHLESS -- NEWS ARTICLES
Chris Mim of the WSJ just wrote this story from a tech perspective.
DC area Sweetgreens has been a topic of interest since the experiment began one year ago, Jan 2016.
The concept of a Cashless Society is global fascination with India at the forefront of the movement.
Catch those images when they happen, then you have materials ready when you need to post or send a newsletter
Idea sparks for a healthy new culture in your restaurant or cafe in 2017. Good food just isn't enough these days. What are you doing to pay attention to what customers notice, and what actually is the inner workings of your cafe or restaurant.
Ensuring that your business is healthy means you must face the number. Look at your inventory. Discuss menu costing with your chef and your managers. Read your financial statement. Each of these three actions ensure that you are following The Three Financial Truths.
Hiring practices can improve if you are willing to face the fact that staff need to represent your mission and vision. When you hire, do you explain the mission of the restaurant during the interview. Does the applicant have experience working with a restaurant that thinks about hospitality, over basic customer service?
Building community is necessary on every level, including owners of restaurants, cafes and farms.
Rare Opportunity Bakehouse prepares jars of jam for one of 7 markets (per week). Markets are the best method of distributing their product.
Staff Engagement's Critical Role in Business Growth
As a restaurant owner, how do you keep your employees engaged. Making customers happy is elemental, and yet the daily grind of serving food can wear staff down? Here are three ideas to motivate your staff.
Be receptive to your staffs' ideas. If you allow them to execute their ideas and they are successful, the rest of the staff will buy-in. Your employees will experience a taste of success by helping your business succeed.
Here is an example: When I ran my cafe, we had daily specials. We invited staff to choose a lunch special that was fun, interesting, and a riff on well-loved favorites. At first the staff was timid—afraid to make a mistake. I encouraged them and assured them that I felt their engagement was important in growing the business. After a few days when they saw no idea shot down, everyone jumped in. A competition started. They called it “The Chicken Salad Throwdown.” Our menu had two different chicken salads: a curry chicken salad, and a traditional chicken salad. Customers often claimed one version or the other as their favorite. Staff put them on special, polled customers during the day and posted the results on FaceBook. like, “Curry Chicken Salad stole the show today.” The staffs’ social media posts created customer engagement and an excitement about the cafe. We expanded the contest by making other chicken salad specials. Our foot-traffic increased and morale among the staff was high because they played a crucial role. By keeping the employees engaged in the business, the, in turn, encouraged customers to come in to see what was happening.
Sharing business profits and losses seems like an incredibly daring move. My staff finally understood our business when I let them in on numbers, asked them to set goals, and taught them food costs! It was the single most valuable lesson I learned from running my own cafe--give them the tools (numbers) and they will make smart plans. When they see the statistics and trends, negative or positive, they are empowered to act on that information. If staff are unaware that sales are up or down, every day is the same to them.
When I owned my cafe, my GM or I updated staff every morning on events affecting business for that day. For example, I would say, “We are going to be busy today. We have two catering for 100, great weather AND opening day at Orioles' ballpark. The cafe will be swamped. Lines will be long. Get organized, get stocked. Check your station. …and have fun!” They enjoyed knowing what was coming up and felt prepared for the day's business. Maybe even appreciated being given an overview, so they were psychologically prepared.
PLEASANT WORKING ENVIRONMENT
Seems obvious, right? It’s up to the owner to create workplace ambiance, it doesn’t just happen. A key to creating a pleasant working environment is by setting up effective systems to support your staff. Strong systems keep your staff professional, your customers confident and your staff turnover down. Good music helps too. If Operations and Distribution systems are strongly in place, the staff will invest their time in your business because they know they have owner support. A pleasant working environment is the byproduct of these techniques.
The best example of employee engagement is Zingerman's. Look them up and add the link to your case study library of good business practices. This delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan has become much more than just a place for a sandwich. The carefully educated staff handles all situations with aplomb. Zingerman's created their own employee training program called ZingTrain, which they share online. Their passport tracks what they know. Employees feel empowered in customer interaction because of good training. The business has grown tremendously in a healthy way. I recommend you start your study with Zingerman's 12 Natural Laws of Business.
It is essential to engage your staff in your business. Involving your employees, sharing the numbers and making a pleasant working environment makes your business stronger and attracts more customers. Use these three ideas. They will lead to positive results. Here are some helpful links to read further about growing your business through staff engagement.
HERE ARE SOME ARTICLES THAT WILL EXPAND YOUR KNOWLEDGE
WHY SOCIAL MEDIA WORKS
Many of my clients and restaurant owners ask me if social media is effective. Overall my answer is a resounding "yes". After that, the devil is in the details, and you need to know the best practices in social media. Staying active and engaged is a relatively inexpensive way to expand brand awareness, increase website traffic and build a community of loyal followers that translates into purchases in your establishment or of your product. To explore this idea, let’s look at three do's and three don'ts that can benefit your business no matter whether it's a cafe, a farm, a restaurant or a maker.
THREE DON’TS of SOCIAL MEDIA
DON’T ASSUME IT HAPPENS ORGANICALLY
You cannot just hope that your posts work. Just like all marketing projects, you need a plan. Write out an organized plan that includes items such as the social media outlets you plan to use, the number of posts or tweets per day and/or per week you will write, and the time you need to research ideas, take photos (ahead of time, and in the moment), write posts, track analytics and engage with your followers.
DON’T GET TOO FORMULAIC
Keep it fresh, keep it real, keep it timely. You can tell yourself “I don’t need to post on this cool event we created because I am just too busy running the event.” That is a missed opportunity. Remind your staff, set a timer on your phone, whatever reminder you need to keep adding content. You will find that your mind's eye will set off an alarm saying, "capture that for social media!" Another creative method I have seen in use, is people that love a restaurant or an event post, and you merely need to add it to your feed.
DON’T IGNORE THE STATISTICS
Get the most from social media by tracking the metrics provided by the media platform. There are performance indicators that help you analyze which posts work the best. With analytics and research you can learn the following tricks:
- Impressions and Reach. Impressions are the number of times a post from our page is displayed in a newsfeed, whether the post is clicked or not. People may see multiple impressions of the same post. For example, someone might see the original post then see it again because someone shared it. Reach is the number of people who received impressions of a page post. Reach might be less than impressions since one person can see multiple impressions.
- Follower Growth. Track the number of followers on your networks and watch how it grows over time. You might notice one particular post or promotion attracts a lot of followers.
- Competition. With a little research you can determine why similar businesses to your own focus in a certain direction. This is how you can learn to differentiate yourself. If they are making fish sticks, and they are making millions, do not feel like fish sticks are the answer to your business.
THREE DO's of SOCIAL MEDIA
1. POST GREAT PHOTOS
When I was growing up, pets and food defined good advertising campaigns. This still holds true today and social media allows you to present your photos without the expense of a “Mad Men’esque” advertising campaign. Food posts can be easily planned and the photography work can be shared with your staff and even your customers. Once you figure out who has a great eye for photography, you can start planning ahead and building a gallery of photos ready to go. Here are some statistics that might inspire you and and help you accept social media’s ability to attract and engage customers:
- 72%of food photography is of a main meal. That could be your food in the photo.
- 49% of consumers learn about food through social networks. That means you can reach about half of the people on social media just by becoming active.
- 24% respond to conversations about food on social media. Engaging with your followers about your food photos helps build your brand and gain trust.
- Need more information like this. Here is one of the many good iconographics on the topic.
2. PROVIDE RELEVANT CONTENT
Keep your content short, simple and on point. Impact improves with simplicity. Say more with fewer words. If your goal is converting followers to paying customers try a give away, a gift card for the 25th person who likes the your post. Try taking pre-orders from your posts by enticing followers with an incentive. For example, a restaurant in the Baltimore area delivers a mason jar filled with thick-cut maple bacon with your check in on FB, or mention their restaurant on Instagram. Always seek new ways to ask your audience to sign up for your newsletter. This will direct them to your website.
3. ENGAGE WITH YOUR FOLLOWERS
This is interlocked with content. If you give your followers some way to engage, then they will engage. Give them helpful tips about your business and engage with them through education. When they respond to a post, respond back to them. They want to get to know you and the personality of your business. Interacting with them will help them get to know you better.
LESSONS TO TAKE WITH YOU
In summary, engage your guests with good content, good photos, and education. This will take your social media from dull and lackluster, to colorful and interesting. If you wish to indulge yourself in more statistics, here is a great article. If you would like a virtual coffee with me, Martha Lucius, feel free to email me when you are next at your iphone/computer. I look forward to hearing your successes.
GETTING NEW CUSTOMERS WITHOUT SPENDING BIG BUCKS
Do you wish, just once, you could find out what an ad in your local paper would do to boost business? Do you wish, just once, you could get a fabulous PR person to promote what is awesome about you and your business? And do you wish, just once, you could see how a Facebook Boost or a Twitter ad would increase business, without spending a dime?
Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, let me click my heels and take you home to the truth!
First, some bad news.
As you probably already know, mass marketing only serves large restaurant groups and chains who have enough leverage to make it an affordable deal. And, it takes months, even years, to see returns on mass marketing.
So why not PR? Isn’t that free marketing? Writers are picky and it’s simply not easy to get noticed. You could hire a PR firm with strong connections to the right food writers but they are expensive!
How about social media? This is a big time sucker! You could hire a social media expert but that’s more money off your bottom line.
So now the good news!
Anything is possible. Like most things, it is persistence of great hospitality with a quality product that pays off. Restaurantowner.com makes this point in last week’s newsletter, “Restaurants spend thousands of dollars annually trying to draw first-time guests in hopes of turning them into repeat customers. Considering that repeat customers make up as much as 80% a restaurant's sales, impressing those new customers enough to make them want to return is absolutely essential.”
... more good news!
Like most things, it is persistence of great hospitality with a quality product that pays off. Restaurantowner.com makes this point in last week’s newsletter, “Restaurants spend thousands of dollars annually trying to draw first-time guests in hopes of turning them into repeat customers. Considering that repeat customers make up as much as 80% a restaurant's sales, impressing those new customers enough to make them want to return is absolutely essential.”
So here are three goals to keep your guest coming back:
Quality product, presented well, each and every time. serve a quality product every day with well-trained staff. You do not know when you will be interviewed, reviewed or mentioned, but if your operation is running well, it will get attention and maybe some good PR!
2. Stay In Touch With Social Media
Regularly scheduled blogposts and newsletter are essential…and cheap when you do it in house. You forget, when you are in your business each and every day, how many interesting things happen each and every day. As I stated earlier, this is a time consuming project so you need to plan well. Schedule time into your day, or, better yet, get your staff involved. Your customers will like hearing from everyone. Generally it is best to assign one or two people to manage the job of social media marketing but there could be many other staff members who could take turns writing Facebook posts and snapping photos for Instagram.
3. Regularly Scheduled Staff Training
This should be a monthly, weekly, even daily habit. Structure your training to consistently reinforce these four points: making a personal recommendation; focusing on guest delight; giving people something to talk about; and, inviting guests back on a specific day for a specific reason. Role-playing, coaching, rewards and positive reinforcement are all necessary pieces of your sales-building program.
BIZ Bootcamp is around the corner: In April. BIZ Bootcamp will give you some great skills you can take back and use immediately in your own business. Mary Romeo, a social media expert, shares how best to improve you social media, effectively! And Martha Lucius will lead a working group on how to improve your customer service and the culture of your business. Sign up to receive updates.
INTERVIEW: Martha Lucius
HERE ARE EXCERPTS FROM A RECENT INTERVIEW ON THE SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF OPENING CAVALLETTA FOR BUSINESS OWNERS.
HOW DID YOU BECOME A BUSINESS ADVISOR FOR RESTAURANTS, FARMS, AND MAKERS?
The real answer? Because I needed a "cavalletta" when I owned Boheme Cafe. I could not find a professional to turn to. Like most owners, I had no formal training to become an owner. There were times I just needed to talk out my plan, and get help with the big picture questions. Yes, I could find a PR firm/graphic design firm/a social media gal and alot of information on how I COULD improve my business... but the vision to lead a staff with my formula--that is what I needed.
HOW DO YOU HELP OWNERS? WHAT IS YOUR METHOD?
Cavalletta Media and Cavalletta Solutions supports owners of food-based businesses (farms, restaurants, makers--cheese, jam, granola). Trainings are done on-line, and/or over-the-phone. Call it consulting, or business advising or DIY training-- depending on clients budgets. We build a language for improvement by focusing on Cavalletta's Six Pillars of Business: Vision, Financial Stability, Operations, Product, Distribution and Customer Experience. I have two different programs that satisfy most of my customers.
WHAT ARE THOSE TWO DIFFERENT PROGRAMS?
My easiest way to explain them is when I work with soon-to-be owners, and owners of existing restaurants, farms and products.
- Entrepreneurs Program—people are at different stages of start-up. My goal is to give them tools to be financially sound, and healthy as a business and as an owner. What does that look like? We step into the logistics, complete a mindset training, and set their six pillars of business to support their business. 12 week one-on-one training.
- Owner Program—owners are in different positions of stability, and different on timeframes depending on how old they business is. My goal is to remind them of where they are going (vision energizes everything), then reset each pillar of business. Examples are: is the business financially sound, we address that. Is the owner keen to improve their hospitality/customer experience, we address how best to do that. The timeline is set between the owner and Martha Lucius—mutual agreement of time and money.
WHAT ARE YOUR QUALIFICATIONS AND WHERE DID YOU GAIN YOUR EXPERIENCE?
My experience comes from owning three separate businesses since I graduated from college in 1985. Ten years as a calligrapher taught me so much about branding, graphic design, and the power of good clean design. The most recent business was Boheme Cafe, a fiercely independent cafe in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, for eighteen years. Our customers appreciated that every day we provided a healthy, tasty, made-from-scratch meal--soups, sandwiches, always with flavors from around the world. They still tell me they miss Boheme Cafe. Then, there are my skill as a board member and committee member of two fantastic non-profits--Baltimore Green Works and Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland. All this experience and fantastic contacts, which I share with my clients. Traveling and living overseas until I was 17 years old, meant eating from markets. Life before "farm to table" was a term! Together these skills have been my journey and my education. The result is that I am able to use my life experience and my business acumen to guide clients with branding, messaging and marketing, vision and financial stability, operations and distribution... and last but not least, improving customer experience.
IN CLOSING, WHAT IS YOUR MOST IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO OWNERS OF FOOD-BASED BUSINESSES?
Be willing to change. I could say it in fifteen different ways but it all comes back to creating new habits that lie in the willingness to change. You'll only see the benefits if you try...then your business will grow, and your staff will think you are a rockstar, that you are just that nimble in an ever changing foodie landscape!
What does Peace and Joy have to do with being a business owner? Simple: You chose to be a business owner, and there should be peace and joy in your heart for your business and the people who run it with you. We all know that it has it's thankless moments. This blogpost is not focused on the thankless moments. Rather, this blogpost is about the peace and joy you can get from being a business owner. The best way to explore such an idea, is to look at a living legend: Ari Zingerman. Last month I attended a two day workshop called “The Zingerman’s Experience”, with one of my clients. The Zingerman's brand has a whimsical look, but thankfully for us, his whim took shape with vision, systems and laws of business. When you, as an owner, get stumped, you might need vision, systems and laws for you and your staff. The workshop confirmed for me, yet again, that owners need support that keeps them on track. Consider if you have vision for your business, systems for you and staff to follow, and have you read the Zingerman’s Twelve Laws of Business?
No doubt you have heard that your business needs a vision. You might have done a brief exercise in vision, and even put it in your employee manual. But honestly, it needs to be deeper and wider. Vision is only useful if it permeates your business and is the message each staff member shares with fellow staff and guests/customers to your business. The most effective way to make that happen is to set action steps that are based on the vision. With action steps you achieve consistent strategy, and weave the vision into your business culture; it even matches the vision to the daily habits in your business. Vision is your five year plan. Action Steps place you on that road map to getting to the goals of the five year plan.
Simply put, systems are what makes your world go ‘round. Systems keep your product consistent, your daily operations functioning (void of chaos), create a method for distributing your product, and creates the vibe/culture that keeps customers/guests delighted, and coming back. The systems helps guide every aspect of your business. It is even true that a clear vision attracts the right staff to your business, which naturally builds solid foundation for growth. As a business advisor I know that the concept of systems is cringe-worthy: if you do not have them, it seems like it will take forever to build them. If you have some systems but they do not give you positive results then you have to revisit whether they actually match the action plan (which supports the vision). If the systems are not based on expectations then they are simply not useful, and are not supporting you. Your business can be chaos-free and embody peace and joy. And you have to jump in and create systems that your staff follow. This will build the consistent and beautiful business you envisioned from the start.
TWELVE NATURAL LAWS OF BUSINESS: You may never have thought of laws for your business. In the words of a yogi, “it is returning to your center”. In the words of a Wall Street businessman it’s what drives your business forward. In the words of Martha at Cavalletta, “it’s a set of rules that reassure you, when faced with a new and different issue in your business. With that brief introduction, read through the Twelve Natural Laws of Business, and see how pertinent they are to your business.
I wish you Peace and Joy for this holiday season, and I wish you Peace and Joy for your business. Be assured that it is possible. Start off the new year thinking and planning of how to achieve more peace and joy in 2016.
Marketing is a super-corporate word. It's very succinct definition is, keep in touch. As an owner, everyone is tuning into your voice, and your message. That includes your staff and your customers. The easiest way to make sure your message is clear and concise is to literally sit down, uninterrupted, with a blank piece of paper (or 10), and a calendar.
Are you looking at your financial picture? If not, it's time: let's have a conversation about numbers. Where are you this year/this month/this day in terms of your goals and projections? Have you ever set financial goals and projections? Are you only focused on basic financial information in your business: prime costs, food costs, labor costs? Do you manage your own bookkeeping or source this out? Do you enter all your numbers in house, using Quickbooks? Do you hate the topic of numbers?!?
Imagine that you magically have fantastic customer service, and great hospitality in your business. As you read that, you probably know and feel that your staff cannot read your mind, and cannot be you. So training your staff is essential.