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a theory

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
this one's for all you people who are in a management position, when your sales are down, which would be better, taking all steps necessary to cut expenses, or focusing on getting people into you restaurant, to boost sales ?. my opinion, although I'm not a manager, is to focus on getting people into the restaurant, and then worry about costs. Because I figure that if your restaurant has a steady flow of customers, then you really should'nt have to cut expenses, as long as you're not dramatically increasing them.
post #2 of 9
It all depends on the specific numbers. If you restaurant normally does 1k at lunch and your kitchen labor is 18%, this means you have $180 in labor. OK, suppose you predict your sales for today's lunch to be only $900 and you still keep all that labor. Your labor is gonna be 20%. That's a 2% increase. If you are like normal restaurants and operate on a low margin you cannot afford the extra 2% in labor. In this case it's ONLY $18!!! Funny to see the numbers work out sometimes. You're better off selling shoes :) If your average check is $10 then it's an extra 10 people you have to get in the house. It's not as easy as it seems. You either make 90 people buy extra fries, a drink, coffee, ice cream, or you go bust for the day. Can you respond THAT fast? Are you gonna go down to the mall and start handing out fliers?

There are a coupla basic principles which, I think, can be applied here.

1) You cannot change the market overnight, you have to respond to the market overnight.

2) Take the sure thing, you can never predict the future.

And that's my conservative view for today :)

post #3 of 9

I've been there...

...And it's one of the most frustrating things to handle. You're doing what you want to do but the situation is not condusive to success. We had our restaurant in a very, very small town with NO foot traffic. We had regular customers who loved our food but you can't fault someone for not eating out every night.

It's such a hard business to "call." If you decrease the amount of staff or food you prepare, it will no doubt happen on a day that everyone within a hundred mile radius is in the mood for your food.

Some things to examine:

* Is your restaurant in a location where it's even feasible to anticipate more business? Or have you maxed out? Sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor and a good hard objective look might open your eyes.

* Beef up advertising. Do you offer catering?

* Are there any charities in your area that you could donate services to with the stipulation that your name is prominently displayed?

* Offer a promotion - "free" dessert, blah, blah, blah. Yes, it does cost something but if people are coming in for a meal for the first time, it's your opportunity to impress them enough to make them want to return...when you're not running a promotion.

* Take a good hard look at your waitstaff and ascertain whether there's any "dead weight" there.

* Take a look at the hours put in by the waitstaff and ask them if they'd consider working less hours. Unless you're afraid someone might abandon ship at the implication that things are not going well.

* Take a good look at the menu and decide if there are any "extraneous" items that don't get much demand.

* If your place is sort of shee-shee, could you do a wine tasting or other kind of "theme" evening? Perhaps advertise it well in advance for people to make reservations? My husband and I attended a wine tasting dinner at one of the best restaurants in Durango and there was not a ticket left. You could coordinate with a winery and have them advise you what dishes could be served with each wine course. (This is not a strong area for me, so I'd depend on them. If you are confident in your wine-pairing skills, go for it!)

The whole process begins with you taking a good hard look at your current situation and making what might be some tough decisions.

Good luck :chef:
Food is sex for the stomach.
Food is sex for the stomach.
post #4 of 9
If I may add another point or two to Chiffonade's excellent list:

* Take a good hard look at all your processes:

- Do you have waste beyond an acceptable level? If so, why, and what can you do to decrease it? Are you cooks and prep people just a little careless, and in need of retraining? I've heard of a chef who would periodically empty the garbage cans onto the prep tables and look through everything for stuff that need not have been thrown out -- anyone found to have been sloppy got some constructive criticism on how to work better.
- Could you make better use of the product you bring in (dovetailling, maybe)?
- Would it be more cost-effective to bring in pre-fabricated cuts of meat, fish, or poultry that you don't have to break down (trade off of less waste & time against higher cost to purchase) or vice versa?
- If you find you have excess capacity in your staff, how can you use their time more efficiently (rather than letting someone go, which as Chiffonade points out can be really risky)?
- Can you flip on a make-or-buy item and save money while still maintaining quality?

* Maybe you have theft you're not aware of -- stop that and you save a bundle. (Remember that flashback scene in "Slums of Beverly Hills"?)
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
post #5 of 9
Speaking of waste, I remember one of my first jobs. There was only one trashcan in the whole kitchen and it was right by the chef's desk! You guys make some really excellent comments, but here's where I'm torn. While I agree that better practices do make for a better run business, many of us in the restaurant industry will pick the easiest and most immediate way to meet our goals. We've covered this before <sigh> and it always put a knot in my stomach when I had to cut hours. I agree, this is BAD for employee morale and as you all know, can really easily come back to haunt you.

I think the difference is between short and long term thinking. (what's short term anyway, 2 months? Long term) Streamlining your processes seldom work out in the short term because of high turnover in the industry. This is something which cannot be overlooked in the restaurant business. People are part of the process... someone needs to flip that burger. If you're thinking of taking a good look at all your processes then you'd better be thinking that the person you train will be there for at least six months.

post #6 of 9
Well, yeah, Kuan. Quite right. My point, which I guess I didn't state clearly enough, is that if you've been following good practices all along, it's easier to "kick it up a notch" (forgive me!). We all get a little sloppy, and take the path of least resistance sometimes. But if you've set a precedent of efficiency, and remain vigilant, you'll get to the savings sooner. You should be able to respond faster to changing business conditions. Also, some of the best-run places have the lowest turnover, and attract good quality staff in the first place. Good staff needs good management, and vice versa.

Just think of the great start Marmalady can get at her new place! Maybe she can be a test case for all the theories we debate????? ;)
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
post #7 of 9
Looks like you're either a success right off the bat or doomed to failure! It all sounds so good in theory. Good plans with good practices built in and good management lead to happy staff lead to low turnover lead to better practices and so on.

Bad plans with lousy practices lead to unhappy staff leads to high turnover leads to frustrated management leads to high management turnover leads to worse practices and so on.

There's nothing like the sinking feeling you get when your store is budgeted to do less and less each year. This being no fault of your own but due to the current economic situation in the surrounding area. All you can do is sit and wait for the hammer to fall.


BTW how many restaurant startups have 2 years worth of cash reserves, is there a number you can throw out? It'd be nice to see how many people actually do.
post #8 of 9

"Play to Win"

Our business was down @ 20% this Fall. September was abysmal. We should have started getting busier in October, instead it was December before my numbers turned around. What did I do?
1. Curtailed discretionary purchases. I waited 3 months before I decided to spend money on non-critical purchases, like the new office.
2. I worked more. Since I am a salaried employee, I am exempt from overtime rules. I covered the call-outs for cooks or waiters, so instead of calling someone in on their day off, I worked. Now I am using my accrued "Flex Time" to go on mini-vacations, and our current numbers can justify the extra labor cost.
3. Inventory reduction. Instead of running a large inventory, I used that time to pare down my inventory, get the freezer cleared out, wait till I ALMOST ran out before re-ordering, and kept my grocery purchases down.
4. Don't over prepare. All employees came in half an hour later. Not only that, but careful watching of our prep kept waste to a minumum.
We survived the slowdown and have been back to our projected numbers although we are not getting the growth numbers this year. The economy is rough all over.
The good part was that with our cost-control measures, the employees and customers were minimally effected.
Its all about priorities.
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
post #9 of 9
Thanks, Suzanne! I certainly will put a lot of ideas to the test! And y'all are making my head spin with things I hadn't even thought of!

One thing I am a big stickler about is waste - both in prep and finished product; I have seen so much waste in the catering I've done; understand why, but it still breaks my heart to see perfectly good food thrown out because it won't get used for a week and tehre's no place to store it! I'll never forget the first guy I ever worked for doing prep; tiny restaurant, tiny kitchen - but - all the little ends of pepper scraps and onion ends and whatever got put in their own little plastic container; at the end of the day, we'd take all those 'scraps' and either turn them into a stock or mince the pepper scraps for a sauce or garnish. It was a well-learned lesson!

I am a bit nervous about the restaurant opening in such crazy economic times; but the village is pretty white collar (lots of AT&T and pharmaceutical firms in the area), and after all, (this sounds cold, I know!) it's not my restaurant! My bottom line is to get in there and do my best at being prudent with inventory and my staff.

I also worked for a chef who kept the trash can by his side, although he never dumped it out on the table ----hmmm, maybe I'll file that one away!!!:D
"Like water for chocolate"
"Like water for chocolate"
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