Standards and Consistency
Repeat business is our lifeblood. Customers come back again and again because they like your food, atmosphere, and service all the time, not just that one time. Specials are a great draw, but make sure the persillade on your regular rack of lamb always has the same amount of garlic and parsley. The guy who comes in every Wednesday after work wants the Old Fashioned he’s used to, not a fruity concoction thrown together by a budding mixologist. Set your standards and enforce them rigorously.
Compromising our Standards
A busy restaurant has more in common with a Roman gladiator arena than with a corporate offices. We work with live ammo and there are no time outs. We have a limited amount of space in our heads and it can be tempting to sacrifice the standards we worked so hard to implement in the name of speed and efficiency. But if tonight we decide not to notice that Julie didn’t set the forks the proper distance from the edge of the table, how soon until we decide not to notice that she stopped smiling when thanking customers? How soon until we decide that medium is “close enough” to medium rare? That the bathrooms are “clean enough for a Monday”?
Restaurants exist in a state of entropy.
There’s always a leaky toilet, messed up veg order, hungover waitress, or broken oven that we need to deal with RIGHT NOW.
We can spend all day staving off these unanticipated bits of chaos while letting the big picture stuff get pushed farther and farther down our to-do list because strategic planning and financial analysis don’t give us the same sense of urgency.
The problem is that while we’re elbow deep in a grease trap, our business is stagnating. Independent restaurant operators are a tough, proud group of people who usually came up through the ranks. It can make us feel soft and weak to hide in an office while other people do the “real” work. But unless we’re protecting and growing the business from above, they won’t have any work to do at all.
No matter how long you’ve been in this business, it’s energizing to learn and connect with what’s new. We’re guessing you don’t have time to scour the internet either. That’s what we’re here for!
The James Beard Foundation Why? Because they run Chef’s Boot Camp for Policy and Change. It’s how members of the food service industry can make their mark.
From their website (see link above):
The Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change provides a unique opportunity for civically and politically minded chefs to become more effective leaders for food-system change. During thematic retreats around the country, participants receive advocacy and media training while learning about important issues, challenges, and opportunities facing the food world. The goal is to build a growing network of like-minded chefs, provide support for personal interests and passions, and give tools and guidance that will help them act as influential advocates.
You need superpowers if you are in the food service business. No doubt about that.
And you need tools to help you acheive that superpower status!
There are thousands of apps out there, so how do you sift through everything to find the most useful ones for you?
That’s why we read blogs! With that in mind I’d like to share this link to Zapier’s blog post
10 Unsung Apps that Help You Write Better, Organize Work and Track Progress.
Learning about even one app that can relieve you of some responsibility or make remembering an easier task is a boon to your workday.
Do you run the same reports and processes over and over. We”, that was a rhetorical question. We know you do!
And we’d like to streamline that process for you.
Would you like to set these reports and process up to run on a regular schedule?
Do you import your POS data into the CostGuard Sales Mix? You can schedule this to run overnight, every night if you wish.
Want to import your order guides? Or run a variance report so it’s waiting for you in the morning?
With CG-Automator you can create the following tasks in CostGuard to process any time using Windows Scheduler. We show you how to set use Windows Scheduler, and how to associate it with a CostGuard Task.
now we have the statistics to prove it!!
Do other companies make you wait 23.5 hours for an answer to your tech support question?
Well we’ve beat that by 23 hours!!
OK, while we can’t guarantee that we’ll answer every question immediately (remember we do take the weekends off) we are here 9am-6pm EST Monday through Friday and we do try to be as responsive as humanly possible.
Here at CostGuard we often get questions about the particulars of running a restaurant. We do have a great restaurant consultant on our staff, and he’d like to share some of his knowledge with anyone who is new to the business:
In the beginning you’re working 16 hours a day just to make sure that you have food and drink for your customers. You don’t trust any of your staff enough yet to leave them alone while you do what feels like bullshit office work, and if you get too bogged down in minutiae, you sacrifice the quality of your product.
After a month or so, you’ll find that your crew can handle the kitchen alone and you have time to escape to the office. All of a sudden, everything that you used to think of as bullshit paper pushing (all that food costing and inventory control) becomes important, and you start to think of the actual food preparation as grunt work. But that can only happen if you build a solid business first. And that starts on the floor and in the kitchen.
Are you totally new to the foodservice business? The only way somebody with no experience succeeds in this business (or any business) is if he hires pros and stays out of their way. We can help you with that!!
We are often asked how frequently to take counts (and how often other restaurants do it)
Here is a note from one of CostGuard’s young, yet super experienced clients. He’s been in the restaurant business for about 10 years, having worked at high end places in New York City. Now he owns his own restaurant:
Bars count between each shift because the bar is where money and product most easily disappear. You need to know who’s paycheck to take those 5 shots of vodka out of.
In the kitchen, count your lobsters, rib-eyes, and Dover soles every night. If you get hung up on counting every sauce every day and then worry about why you have 3 eggs fewer than your ideal, you’ll go crazy for no reason.
My advice to new operators is to count but also to compare your invoices to sales to get a rough food cost.
The main focus should be on sending out a great product that keeps people coming back. It’s much easier to systemize a popular business than to popularize a systemized one.
After that, you want to do a rough count every night to prepare your orders. I think a full count once a month is fine, and if you start seeing excess waste, you do it more often to pinpoint the problem. On the other hand lots of operators do their full kitchen count every week or even every night!
Another operator we work with who has 5 locations does a count every Sunday night.
And another one who sells expensive beef and wines does his high priced products every night, and then his other inventory on a weekly basis.
As you can see it’s all about getting a handle on your particular business. It takes time to figure out the general cycle of your business, and then once you do you can institute regular counts.
We took part in a conversation recently based on Dan Barber’s WastED pop up, and how waste affects restaurant food cost and bottom line and its affect on the environment.
This from a current CostGuard Food Costing user and restaurant owner:
We don’t have much food waste at all since I was taught good habits about avoiding it since my first job. Almost all vegetable peelings go into the stockpot. Since most good restaurants have a wall mounted stock pot running 24 hours/day, you just toss em in whenever you finish peeling. Outer leaves of lettuce go into a veg stock with mushroom scraps to make a veg stock for mushroom risotto. Carrot peels go into the veal or chicken stock.
Celery leaves can be dried in a low oven, crumbled, and mixed with a little Maldon sea salt to make celery salt for bloody marys. Like most casual restaurants, we don’t have a standing stock pot so there’s not a ton we can do with peels. But tomatoes get sliced thinly for sandwich and burger garnishes, and the end pieces get diced to make pico de gallo. Portobellos get cut with a ring mold to make uniform circles for portobello sliders, and the trim gets sliced and sautéed with onions to make a garnish for a grilled chicken sandwich. Stems of other mushrooms can get ground up with shallots and garlic to make duxelles.
Bacon fat that drips off during cooking, oil left over after making garlic confit, these things are treasures. Either use them again for the next batch of whatever you made, use them as a base for a salad dressing, or use them to toast buns on a flat grill instead of butter.
Most importantly, finding multiple uses for 90% of your inventory will cut waste massively. We don’t put anything on the menu unless all the ingredients can be used in at least one other menu item.
But honestly, (without having done any research whatsoever), I feel like food waste doesn’t account for much of the landfill problem since it biodegrades so quickly. The real way that restaurants can cut down on waste is through packaging. Using returnable crates for bread and produce deliveries rather than disposable plastic boxes and bags you get at the supermarket, finding alternatives to styrofoam takeout boxes, and not using coffee capsules are all pretty important.