How to teach in 10 easy steps

One of the primary reasons that some businesses training programs work, and some don’t, is in the method their managers and trainers use to teach new skills. This seems to be especially true in restaurants and food services, due to the prevelance of leaders without formal educations. Sorry if that offends anyone, but it’s true.

While proper teaching technique is not something that comes naturally to everyone, it is easy to learn following a simple multi-step procedure.

    Write procedures on paper for whatever skill is being taught.
    Distribute written procedures to anyone being taught.
    Review the written procedure with the person(s) being taught.
    Answer any questions or concerns about the procedure.
    Confirm the person’s comprehension.
    Demonstrate the procedure to the person being taught.
    Observe the person demonstrating the procedure to you.
    Identify any wrong steps in the person’s procedure.
    Re-demonstrate the procedure specifying the correct.
    Repeat the Observe, Identify and Re-demonstate steps until the person is able to perform the procedure error free at least three consecutive times.

You can commit this process to memory through repitition yourself. Simply memorize the first words of each of these steps until you do. They should help you remember the step that each of them represents.

Write, Distribute, Review, Answer, Confirm, Demonstrate, Observe, Identify, Re-demonstrate, Repeat.

This method will work to teach pretty much any skill or process, but you have to have the patience to repeat the Observe, Identify and Re-demonstrate steps until your student has the skill mastered. As with anything, practice makes perfect.

This technique should not only be used to teach new skills, but also to correct any procedures performed incorrectly by an employee or student. A steadfast resolve by yourself and your managers to use this technique will result in greater compliance to existing procedures by employees, and increased speed of implementing new procedures.

Brandon O’Dell
O’Dell Restaurant Consulting
Office: (888) 571-9068

Are you overloading your kitchen stations?

Long ticket times are a common problem in restaurants, and nothing will scare a potential regular customer away like having to wait 45+ minutes to get their food.

There are many factors that can increase ticket times. In this post, I would like to cover one of those issues, overloading a kitchen station.

Part of designing a menu that works is making sure you are not overloading one station in the kitchen, or one piece of equipment. Your menu needs to be designed with constraints in mind to prevent you from doing this. Here’s some tips.

    create a graph showing which kitchen station(s) each menu item is prepared in
    within that graph, list which piece of equipment is necessary to the production of each item
    balance your menu items between each kitchen station and each piece of equipment within stations
    eliminate or change menu items that require production from more than two stations

It really can be as simple as that. Without the graph as a visual tool, it’s easy to overlook the fact that you have overloaded a particular station. You’ll likely have a propencity to do just that, based on your own tastes and experiences in cooking particular dishes.

When you sit down to write a menu, I think it’s a good idea to have a rough “sketched to scale” diagram of your kitchen in front of you. You need to constantly be thinking about how many burners you have, how many ovens, how much flat top space, and what your fryer capacity and recovery ability is. With a sketch in front of you, you’ll consider all these factors during the origination process of your menu, instead of after your first 45 minute ticket time.

Remember, you only have one chance to make a good first impression. Work out details like this before you open your doors, or you’ll be closing them a lot sooner than you want to.

Brandon O’Dell
O’Dell Restaurant Consulting
Office: (888) 571-9068

Does your restaurant have an identity?

Who are we?
What do we want our restaurant to be known for?
What style of service do we offer?
What kind of food do we cook?
What can our customers get from us that they can’t get anywhere else?
How can we make our customers FEEL?
What is our color scheme?

These are all questions you should ask yourself about your restaurant long before you open your doors. The answers to these questions will determine whether potential customers will ever make their way through your doors. They need to know the answers before they will make their decision. Planning to answer them after they get to your restaurant is not good enough. Answering these questions for your customers is what marketing is all about, not promoting discounts, coupons and specials. Answering these questions, in addition to getting your customer’s feedback on your performance, IS communicating, and a lack of communicating with customers will close a restaurant faster than an “F” from the health department.

There are many ways to answer these questions. All of them are forms of marketing, and work together to make up your marketing plan.

Who are we?
What do we want our restaurant to be known for?
What style of service do we offer?
What kind of food do we cook?

These are all questions that can be answered without direct communication. You don’t have to send everyone in the town a personalized letter to tell them what you do (though that would be effective too) if you design your name, logo and decor correctly.

Your name itself, and the font you use should answer many questions for your customers. If your business is “Joe’s Crab Shack” and it’s written in a silly or fun font, your customers can deduce without asking that you are a casual seafood restaurant specializing in crab, that you are most likely “kid friendly”, and that you are probably a sit down restaurant, as “crab shacks” usually are. This is a name that communicates who you are and what you do very well. It answers questions, and people who are looking for that type of restaurant will feel very comfortable making the decision to eat there.

A logo can convey many of the same things a name does. The words and the font the name is printed in is a major part of the logo. In addition, a logo can reinforce your identity by using pictures or symbols that also say what you do or sell. Keeping these pictures or symbols simple and easily recognizable is key. A person should be able to recognize a logo at a glance. It should convey everything it needs to convey in less than half a second, as that is all the attention it will be given. If a logo is too busy, uses too many colors, too detailed of graphics, or has too many words, it’s not as likely that a person will get the message they are supposed to out of the logo. A busy logo is like a long winded storyteller. Though they think they are communicating more effectively because they are going into greater detail, the average person’s attention span isn’t near long enough to absorb all the information they offer, so much of the message is lost. Another key element in making a logo easy to remember is using a basic geometric shape in the design.

What can our customers get from us that they can’t get anywhere else?
How can we make our customers FEEL?

These are two often overlooked aspects of running a successful restaurant. Most new restaurateurs see how other restaurants run themselves, and they think it looks easy. They convince themselves that all they have to do is to do the same thing, only better, and that this will make them successful. The problem with this philosophy is that it doesn’t give your customers any reason to eat at your restaurant than they have to eat at the next one down the road. You’re the same. You think your food is better. All your competitors think their food is better. Both your messages tell your potential customers that YOU are the best at what you do, but by having the same message, you are essentially the same in the eyes of those customers. You need a different message, and the easiest way to have a different message is to offer something your competition doesn’t.

When we’re talking about differentiating you from your competition, we’re not talking about having a couple dishes different on your menu. That’s not enough. You need to have a conceptual difference between you and the restaurant down the street. You need to offer not just food, but an experience they can’t get there. Your concept has to be deeper than your food, because good food and service isn’t a special reason to dine with you, it’s the minimum expectation your customers have for the money they are spending. So your food is great. So what, it’s supposed to be!

What you have to do to differentiate yourself is to create an emotional connection between yourself and your customers. You need to make them FEEL something! Choose a particular emotion to build your concept around. Hardrock Cafe offers “nostalgia”. McDonalds was built on “convenience”. Applebees gives their customers a “neighborly” feeling. Hooters feels “sexy”.

Strong brands are built around strong emotional bonds with your customers. Long after people forget what they ate, and who served them at your restaurant, they will remember how eating at your restaurant made them feel. Then, when they get an urge to feel that way again, they will think of you.

What is our color scheme?

The easiest way to get people to identify you, your building, your menu and your marketing is by using a set color scheme. Choose two to three colors, and possibly a pattern, to use in the design of everything you do. Use it in your logo, your signage, your newsletter, your menu, your indoor and outdoor decor, and anywhere else you can. Having a color scheme makes you easy to identify and easy to find.

Whether you are just entertaining the thought of opening up a restaurant, or have been open for 30 years, ask yourself all these questions. Then ask some of your customers. If they can’t answer these questions, your concept isn’t communicating well with them. If they aren’t having the answers to all these questions effectively communicated to them, imagine how hard it is for them to communicate who you are and what you do to others. Remeber that “word of mouth” advertising you thought you were going to build your business with? There’s a reason why it’s not happening. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t though. Take these questions and build an identity for yourself! Let people know who you are! Communicate! Make your customers FEEL! You’ll soon have more business than you know what to do with.

Brandon O’Dell
O’Dell Restaurant Consulting
Office: (888) 571-9068

O’Dell Restaurant Consulting Weblog moves to new address!

Hello everyone. Thank you for tuning in to the web log for O’Dell Restaurant Consulting. We have decided to move our blog from WordPress to our own web host! Please make note of the new address. You can follow links on the top right of the page to subscribe to this new address.

We hope to see you at our new address. All new content will be coming to that address, and not to this one, so don’t miss out! Please join us there.


Brandon O’Dell

How do I figure my food cost?

Calculating how much the food you sell costs you to sell is a very important practice in running a profitable restaurant. Knowledge is power, and knowing your food cost compared to your sales and your ideal food cost is very empowering information. By figuring your food cost percentage, you have an early warning system to alert you to potential theft and waste.

Before we get into the process for calculating food cost, it’s good to talk about how often this should be done. I suggest calculating your food costs at the end of every week. If you happen to have a cost control issue, it’s best to know as close to the time the occurence happened as possible. The farther you get away from an occurence that caused a cost problem, the harder it is to determine what that occurence was.

You are going to need to track a few pieces of information to calculate your food costs. You will need to know:

  • How much is my starting inventory for the period I am evaluating?
  • How much is my ending inventory for the period I am evaluating?
  • How much food did I purchase during that period?

This is all the information necessary to calculate actual food costs for any given period. How long that period is depends on you. As I said, I suggest evaluating food costs every week.

In addition to knowing your actual food costs, you’ll need a couple other pieces of information to compare the actual food cost to:

  • What is your ideal food cost for the period being evaluated? (we’ll discuss how to calculate ideal food cost also)
  • What are your total sales for the period being evaluated? (you’ll also need to track your sales by item to calculate your ideal food cost)

Now let’s go one step at a time to get these powerful pieces of information.

Calculating actual food costs

Calculating your actual food cost starts by taking an inventory of all your food items at the same time every week. Choose one time as the starting and ending time for all your reporting for that week. I suggest ending your reporting after the end of business on Sunday, but before the beginning of business on Monday. Inventory levels are usually at their lowest on Sunday, so inventory takes less time to count and calculate.

The inventory that you take every week will serve as the starting inventory for the week to follow, but also the ending inventory for the week that is concluding. It will be used in both capacities to calculate food costs depending on whether the calculations are for the past week or the coming week. By counting your inventory, and using a spreadsheet to multiply out the value of all your items on hand, you will come up with a dollar amount that shows you how many dollars in inventory you have on hand.

This starting inventory is the beginning to the food cost equation. The equation looks like this:

starting inventory + purchases – ending inventory = cost of food for period

By taking a physical count of all your food on hand, you’ll have the starting inventory and the ending inventory parts to this equation. From there, you simply have to track your purchases within that time period. For this number, you’ll use dollar amounts from invoices received in the period being evaluated. It does not matter to the equation when that food is actually paid for.

Start with an inventory you took on the Sunday before a week started. Add all the dollar amounts for food received during that week. Subtract the amount of your inventory counted on the following Sunday. The resulting number is the cost of goods sold, or food cost, for the week.

Calculating ideal food costs

Ideal food costs are the amount of money the food you sold during a given period should have cost you. Compare your ideal food cost to your actual food cost to help you identify when there is a breakdown in your system. If your actual food cost goes up for a period, your ideal food cost should go up too. If it doesn’t, then you’ve just identified a problem, possibly theft or waste. If your ideal food cost does rise with your actual food cost, then you know your food cost is high not because your staff did something wrong, but because of the sales mix of your menu items for the period. This is important to know, because most high food cost menu items also contribute more gross profit dollars to your bottom line, so a high food cost for that period is not be a bad thing. The only way to know whether it is bad or good, is to compare it to your ideal food cost.

Here are the equations to figure your ideal food cost:

recipe cost for menu item × number of item sold = ideal cost for item

ideal cost for all items added together = ideal food cost

In a perfect world, your ideal food cost should match your actual food cost exactly. Since it’s impossible to perfectly measure every piece or food, or track every piece of waste, you will see some variance between your actual and ideal food costs. You have to decide how large a variance is acceptible. I believe you should expect to keep your actual and ideal costs within .5% of each other. Variances larger than this tend to point to problems in your system. These problems could include theft, waste, under-portioning, over-portioning, poor prep procedures, bad food receiving procedures, or other problems.

What we haven’t covered yet is the “percentage” part of food costs. I’m sure you’ve noticed that other restaurateurs express their food costs in a percentage. I also suggested your ideal and actual food costs stay within .5% of each other.

Food cost percentages

A food cost percentage is an expression of what your food cost you to serve compared to the sales you made during the period you’re evaluating.

The simple formula for figuring this percentage is:

actual food cost ÷ total food sales = actual food cost percentage


ideal food cost ÷ total food sales = ideal food cost percentage


The resulting percentage is the percent of your sales that go to pay for the food you sold, whether it’s actual or ideal. These percentage make it easy for you to compare your actual and ideal costs to each other, but also make it easy to compare food costs from different weeks, months, quarters or years to each other.

I hope this explanation helped you learn how to calculate your food costs. Calculate them every week, along with your ideal costs, and you’ll find that the extra attention you are paying to your costs will open your eyes to many opportunities to save money in your restaurant or food service. If you need some tools to help you calculate your actual or ideal food costs, please visit the webstore on our website.

What reports are needed to run a restaurant right?

That’s an important question. There isn’t enough reporting and record keeping in the restaurant business. Many chain restaurant can see by the end of the week whether they made money or not. Most independents have to wait until their accountant returns the monthly numbers anywhere from 4 days to 4 weeks after the end of the month. In my opinion, this is too late. If you don’t know how you did in the first week until the end of the month, you’re not managing proactively in my opinion. You need to be on top of a problem as close to when it happens as possible to solve it.


Minimum reports I suggest for every restaurant owner:

Sales by item – day/week/period
Purchases & Expenses – week
Inventory – week
Ideal cost of sales – week
Prime cost – week
Budget – week/period
Preliminary P&L – week/period
Actual P&L – period/year
Guest counts – day/week/period
Gross profit per customer/item – week
Labor – day/week/period
Cash reconciliation report – server/shift/day

Each of these reports should include the necessary comparisons to sales, budgets, etc. Reports have to be designed properly, and include all the information needed. With just the budget, labor, purchases, inventory and sales reports, you can generate about anything you need, most importantly a preliminary P&L. If your reports aren’t enough to build a preliminary weekly P&L or cash flow statement out of, most POS software don’t, they aren’t enough in my opinion.

Of course there are other useful reports to have, but most I think can be ran on an “as needed” basis. There are also shift reports that are necessary to the operation of your business, but those aren’t included here.

Quick Tips – Keep your menu simple

Large menus have a lot of downfalls. Large menus require excessive prep, cause long ticket times, are hard to educate service staff on, need too much storage space, and generally drive down the profitability of your restaurant. Keep your menu as small as you can, focused on your concept, and easy to produce.

Quick Tips – Use color on your menu design

A great way to make your menu stand out, and to draw people to certain items, is through the use of color. When you add color to your menu, use the color scheme you’ve chosen for your restaurant. Use other colors to highlight, surround, or shade menu items you want people to notice. Color icons are a great way to tell more about a menu item, whether it’s spicy, a customer favorite, or a great value.

How can I make my employees accountable?


When you work in an excuse-driven culture, how do you change the mindset and teach others to become accountable?


Unfortunately, the most effective method for me to implement quick changes in attitude is through forcing it. That almost always requires “executing a hostage in front of the firing squad”.

Words are the first step. Accountability has to be taught as an expectation. You tell employees that your business expects them to be accountable, which means doing everything THEY can do to fix a situation rather than concentrating on what someone else should have done to avoid it.

I teach that they only have control over themselves, and they will get the most accomplished by concentrating on what they DO have control of (themself) rather than what they DON’T have control of (others).

Once they know you expect them to be accountable, you have to hold them accountable. That means no exceptions to the rules, no favorite employees who get away with things, and unequal punishment. It also means having pre-determined punishment for violations to documented rules, and making sure employees are taught those rules and sign an agreement to follow them.

Once the rules and the punishments are in place. The only thing left is equal and fair enforcement. Even a tough boss will be seen as fair if everyone is playing by the same rules. The bad attitudes most often come when there isn’t enough accountability, and people are allowed to break the rules. Then, employees who follow the rules are the ones who feel slighted, and they end up being the ones who leave. When rules are fair, and enforced consistently, the bad employees are the ones who leave.

Any time a situation gets bad, I’ve found it’s often necessary to fire someone to get compliance from the rest. This is especially necessary when there has been an extended lack of rule enforcement.

When I observe an “excuse-driven” culture, it almost always means there is a lack of consistent enforcement of the rules.