McCormick & Schmick’s highlights local fare | Nation’s Restaurant News

What are you doing in your restaurant to incorporate local ingredients?

McCormick & Schmick’s highlights local fare | Nation's Restaurant News.

Quick tips – Update your menu often

You can greatly improve your cash flow by adopting a policy of smaller, more frequent price increases instead of waiting for a year or longer before raising prices a larger increment.

Use this simple example to catch my drift:

Chicken tenders $5.99 from January 2008 – January 2009
Price raised to $6.99 after January 2009
4000 orders of chicken tender sold during whole year
$23,960 in sales for year

Chicken tenders $5.99 from January 2008 – March 2008
Chicken tenders $6.29 from April 2008 – July 2008
Chicken tenders $6.49 from August 2008 – October 2008
Chicken tenders $6.79 from November 2008 – January 2009
Price raised to $6.99 after January 2009
4000 order chicken tender sold during whole year, 1000 order per quarter
$25,569 in sales for year

By not waiting to raise the price, you gain an additional $1,609 in profit for the year off one menu item. You also help mask the price increase by doing it incrementally. Your customers are much less likely to notice $.20-$.25 increases compare to a $1 increase.

Who's in charge of your restaurant?

Charlie said….. Marla said….. Patrice said…..

He said, she said. It’s a game that gets played in a lot of businesses. Not having a defined “pecking order” that is understood by every person in your organization can lead to a lot of unneccessary headaches. Here’s a quick lesson about avoiding this business pitfall.

Who is in charge when you’re not in your restaurant? Who is your second when you are/aren’t there?

Every good business structure includes a management tree. At the top is the owner(s). Just below, the CEO or General Manager. Underneath may be assistant managers, shift supervisors, trainers, tenured employess and new employees. Any which way the hierarchy of your restaurant shakes out, it’s very important that your entire staff understands who is in charge at any given time.

Not having a set chain of command leads to confusion. To a new employee, any person in your business is someone to be obeyed and learned from. As I’m sure you know, different employees of yours have different methods for doing the same thing. One may be better, one may be worse. Either way, the only way things should be getting done is yours. This is only possible with accountability through creating a chain of command that allows you to police your systems and correct errors within the system.

When creating a system of hierarchy, avoid this one common mistake; do NOT give equal, shared authority to two different employees. Sharing authority equaly creates stalemates and sets you up to lose track of who is accountable when the wrong decisions are made. He said, she said.

Create a management tree. Don’t split authority. Hold your staff accountable.

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

What's the difference between retail and restaurants?

Many new owners think that running a restaurant will be easy if they’ve worked in the retail world. While all their retail skills do help, there are major differences between owning and operating a retail shop, and operating a restaurant.

These include:

In the food biz, you are also the warehouse and manufacturer of the product you are selling, which together both make up more work and require much more managing than a business that just sells the product. This is the major difference.

In the food biz, your product is perishable. After it is manufactured, it has to make it to the customer within a few short minutes in order to be satisfactory. A retail stores product isn’t worthless 5 minutes after it goes on the shelf.

In the food biz, you are also managing a distribution system. Whether it’s only coming from the kitchen to a tray on the counter, or all the way to a table, or even all the way to their home, you have to have a system for getting a highly volatile product to your customers before it’s ruined. They aren’t just plucking something off the shelf and bringing it to your register to pay.

There are a LOT more expenses involved in a restaurant compared to retail. The line items of things you must manage in a restaurant dwarf that of a retail shop.

Inventory procedures and control are much more complicated for a restaurant than a retail shop. While both types of businesses require you to track your cost of goods sold, the process in a restaurant is MUCH more complicated, as you will likely have more items on your inventory in more various stages of prep that all have to be counted, tracked, and ordered more often. These items are also much easier to waste and steal than in most retail settings.

Managing a food business and managing a retail business just aren’t the same thing. Not even close. While managing a food business requires all the skills used in managing a retail business, those skills are only a fraction of the skills you need.

The most difficult transition isn’t going from retail to food, not if you have worked production in the food business, it’s going from employee to owner. Managing in a business and owning a business are not the same thing. Not to say that people don’t successfully make that transition because some do. Most need experience running a business with someone else’s money first though, in a structure with support and mentors to teach you what you don’t know.

I would suggest reading a couple books to give you some insight on being an owner that you may not have considered. Any book on opening and operating a restaurant will help. One that I think is good is “The Everything Guide to Starting and Running a Restaurant” by Ronald Lee, a guy who owns and operates restaurants. I would also suggest “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michel Gerber, and any and all books by Al & Laura Ries or Dan Kennedy. They are real world marketing gurus.

While you can’t realize it until you open your business, the toughest part of the restaurant business isn’t making and serving great food. Doing that is relatively easy. The toughest part is creating a concept that speaks to people, and creating a system of marketing to get people into your business.

The biggest mistake new restaurant owners makes is thinking that all they have to do is “build it and they will come”. They believe their food is so good, or their idea so revolutionary that people will flock to them. They talk about building their business by “word of mouth” instead of having a real marketing plan, and more often than not, they fall flat on their faces. Don’t make these mistakes. If you do nothing else, study restaurant marketing. I think everyone who owns a restaurant will tell you they greatly underestimated how important marketing is. Remember, word of mouth marketing can’t work if no one knows who you are.

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

Are your dirty bathrooms scaring customers away?

The bigger a city gets, the more small restaurants with great food and dirty bathrooms there are it seems. I noticed this phenomenom recently when visiting Kansas City from Wichita, Kansas. In Wichita, we have a shortage of independently owned, small, interesting restaurants. There are a load of chains here, and plenty of restaurants to choose from, but most independents are either simple Mexican, Chinese or burger joints.

I visit Kansas City quite often, and while it isn’t a huge metropolis like Chicago or New York, it does have it’s share of small, interesting, independent restaurants. The type of restaurants I like to eat at. To that point, Kansas City scores big. What I have noticed though, is a serious lack of cleanliness in these small restaurants. Bathrooms are normally smelly and not stocked. Furniture and fixtures are in disrepair, menus have food stuck on them, and glasses are often dirty. I’m not sure if it’s my poor luck or not, but I seem to have an easier time finding scary restaurants I’ll never go back to than truly impressive ones.

Its these experiences that have inspired me to write a blog about cleanliness. Cleanliness is an area of running a restaurant that is often ignored by small restaurant owners, but ranks very high in importance to customers. A small restaurant owner tends to spend as much or more time at their business as they do their home, and it leads them to sometimes overlook the cleanliness of their business as they would their home. While they don’t feel they live/work in filth, they do get complacent about every day tidying up and small project cleaning which tends to build up after time.

Bathrooms in particular get overlooked in small businesses. Paint gets old and dirty. Floors are mopped with the same mop used on the greasy restaurant floors. Mirrors are broken and never fixed. the hot water doesn’t work, and soap/towel dispensers aren’t kept full. Disinfectants are used regularly to clean toilets and sinks, and the bathroom ends up smelling like a porta-potty.

While you may see a bathroom as more of a necessity (and maybe a nuisance) than your customers, it’s their opinion of them that matters. They have to be able to make it out of your restaurant feeling clean enough to touch bread before putting it in their mouths. They’re the ones who don’t want to have to leave and go somewhere else if they have to do something in the bathroom that requires them to sit down.

One thing that independent restaurant owners can learn from chains, is how important it is to keep a clean bathroom. McDonalds has one person on every shift designated to keep the bathrooms clean. They make hourly forays into the bathrooms to clean up excess water. Mop up any “spills”. Replenish soap. Empty the trash. Make sure paper towel dispensers are full. They wipe down a dirty toilet if necessary, and basically do everything they can to make sure their customers know they will always have a clean, stocked restroom to use. Without having any studies to quote, I’ll bet a significant portion of McDonald’s business is gleaned from people who stop just because they know they can use the bathroom there. A very successful regional convenience store named Quiktrip also applies this philosophy. Their bathrooms are always clean, and they are rewarded with residual business from people stopping to use the bathroom. This policy builds respect from their customers, and a reputation as a clean, upstanding company.

You may feel I’m overstating the importance of cleanliness, but I assure you I’m not. I would suggest asking yourself all these questions on a daily basis, and take a hard look at how your business may be scaring away customers because it’s just too dirty.

Is there plenty of toilet paper in my bathrooms?
How about paper towels and soap?
Do my bathrooms smell?
Is there buildup on sinks or toilets?
Are the bathroom walls clean?
Are there holes in the walls or ceilings?
Are there missing tiles in the ceiling or on the floor?
Is anything in the bathroom broken?
Is there graffiti on walls or stalls?
When is the last time the bathroom has been painted?
Are the colors and finishes attractive?
Do my toilets and/or urinals leak?
Is there ever standing water on the floor?
Do the appropriate doors lock when they’re supposed to?
Do my bathrooms offer enough privacy for each individual in the bathroom?
How often do I have the bathrooms checked on?
Is there an employee on every shift assigned to keep the bathrooms clean and stocked?

Answering these questions and remedying the situation should provide you with bathrooms that even the pickiest customer will be satisfied with. Take pride in your bathroom’s cleanliness. Sure employees hate cleaning bathrooms, but it has to be done. If you have to, offer the person who cleans them each night a free meal. Do what it takes. Your efforts will be rewarded.

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

O’Dell Restaurant Consulting Webstore!

O’Dell Restaurant Consulting would like to remind you of our online webstore! In our store, you’ll find lots of on-site, email and telephone consulting service packages to help you solve the most pressing problems in your business. You’ll also find some great Microsoft Word, Excel, .pdf and graphic file restaurant tool downloads, some available for only $5 each!

Whether you’re searching for help solving labor issues, trying to lower your food costs, wanting creative marketing and menu ideas, or you just need someone to talk to, you can find it in our webstore! If you have already visited, but haven’t been back lately, make sure to check in and see if there is anything new!

Here it is……….. O’Dell Restaurant Consulting Webstore

Thank you for your time, and check the webstore often. I will be updating it with new downloads and services frequently.

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