Monthly Archives: November 2014

  1. What Skills Should Servers Have?

    What Skills Should Servers Have?

    Thanksgiving and Black Friday can be true tests of your waitstaff’s ability to cope with pressure. Great income, but highly stressful. If they didn’t do so well, it may be time to take a look at your training systems. Under pressure, bad habits can come out and these need to be nipped in the bud even if they only pop once or twice a year. What should you be hashing and rehashing to your servers?

    Learn the Signs

    Your waitstaff should be able to read the signs that a patron wants something. There are specific signals, like making eye contact, that they must learn.

    Learn About Your Customers

    You’ve probably heard about the 80/20 principle. 80% of your income is probably made from 20% of your customers. Your waitstaff should learn to recognize the regular customers and learn their likes and dislikes. It not only keeps them coming, but an attentive waitperson can earn a lot of tips this way.

    Be Careful With Your Words

    The wrong word can turn off a customer, but so can the wrong tone or level of formality. Even with people who are regulars, there’s a certain decorum that must be maintained. The necessary level will depend on your style of dining, but in general it’s best to be more formal than less formal. Even when stressed, your waitstaff should maintain composure.

    Be Aware of the Basics

    When someone has worked in a job for a long while, they might become too comfortable with it. Their uniform might be dirty or their hair might be askew. Clean servers are necessary for great service. A dirty waitperson is one of the biggest complaints at restaurants.

    Give Out the Attaboys (One for the Restaurant Managers)

    Or attagirls.  Don’t be afraid to praise the people who work with you when they’re doing a good job. They’re busting their butts to make sure that your customers receive the best possible experience. Praise goes a long way. It shows that you’re noticing their efforts and that you’ve got their back. And the happier your people are, the more likely they’ll spread that joy to your diners.

    Face the holiday season with happiness and joy, and you’ll be set to not only fill your coffers, but make customers for life.

    Thanks go out to Alan Light on Flickr for the Creative Commons use of his picture.

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  2. Top Customer Complaints For Restaurants

    Top Customer Complaints For Restaurants

    Today, we’re going to take a look at the complaints that are most often received in restaurants.  I think that everyone’s had at least one of these things happen to them.  Do you consider these to be dealbreakers for your returning to the restaurant in the future?

    At 76%, the biggest complaint that people had about their restaurant was that there were dirty utensils or the table was dirty.

    73% complained that there were dirty or ill-equipped restrooms.

    72% complained about impolite or condescending servers.

    67% had servers with a sloppy appearance or poor hygiene.

    66% had meals or beverages served at the incorrect temperature.

    62% didn’t receive what they ordered.

    61% were feeling rushed to finish by the server.

    59% complained about the server removing the plate or beverage before finishing.

    54% had food that did not look or taste like what it was described like in the menu.

    51% had a slow server.

    50% claimed that their table wasn’t ready 15 minutes or more after their reservation time.

    50% complained about the 18% gratuity (or higher) being automatically added to the bill.

    48% had an inaccurate calculation of the check.

    38% had a poorly situated table near the kitchen, near the air conditioning vents, or some other location that made the environment uncomfortable.

    27% complained about servers not bringing water until asked.

    With a little more attention, training in customer service, and the right restaurant supplies, these issues can become a thing of the past for your kitchen.

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  3. What Type of Bakery Are You Opening?

    What Type of Bakery Are You Opening?

    One of the best things about a freshly baked cake is the love that goes into its making.  It’s hard to encapsulate what ‘love’ tastes like, but you definitely know if the love is in your cake, cupcake, or any other pastry. In honor of National Cake Day, we’re going to talk a little bit about starting your own bakery.

    Like with any business, you have to start somewhere. Before they go pastry-crazy, many fresh bakers decide to start their careers by setting up a cottage business and baking their delicacies at home and then bringing them to the rest of the world through food trucks and art shows. Most early business is initially gotten through word of mouth, and the business usually expands from there.

    While you know that you like to bake, you may not be completely sure as to what type o bakery that you want to open.  There are several types, and the type you open depends on many factors including available money and your location.

    Online Bakery

    These bakeries will get their licenses, put up a website, and sell their baked goods online. Cupcakes, cakes, and pastries get shipped all over the country. The challenge is getting people to buy who can’t see or taste your wares first.

    Specialty Bakery

    Specialty bakeries are the bakeries that specialize in a certain type of pastry.  These are usually boutique stores that have only cupcakes, only cakes, or perhaps only puff pastries.  These types of bakeries really take off if there is a lot of foot traffic in the area.

    Food Truck

    This would be a hybrid of the online bakery and the specialty bakery where you travel around to where the customers are.  You bake your goodies in the commercial oven at home and take them on the road.  Now, if you’ve got the space, you can even install all of your baking equipment on the spot.

    Traditional Bakery

    This is a brick and mortar bakery which offers traditional breads, pastries, cookies, cakes, and more to the public.  They might have perfected a roll recipe, but there’s nothing that speaks to the specialties that the baker might have.

    Bakery Café

    These bakeries are the ones that you’ll see in more upscale neighborhoods.  You’ll see them serve coffee to their patrons, maybe little homemade candies, all within a European cafe environment.

    This is going to be your bakery, your baby. Before you make the investment of your time, energy, and money, it’s always good to know what the vision of your final restaurant will be. That way you’ll have something to aim for. Happy baking!

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  4. How to Spot a Bad Restaurant

    How to Spot a Bad Restaurant

    I love going to new restaurants. It’s a real treat when we are able to land on a treasure.  Most of the restaurants that we go to are really solid C+/B- style restaurants.  They’re reasonable all the way around, but nothing’s outstanding either way.   I do have to admit that I check out their restaurant equipment, too – it’s a bit of a habit.

    Every once in a while, we stumble upon a restaurant that is remarkably bad.  The care isn’t there, the love isn’t there, or something is just so far out of place that we never want to return. Sometimes we can spot the warning signs early and avoid a bad dining experience. Here’s what we like to look for.

    1. Funky odors

    Occasionally, the scents of the restaurant are going to make it outside.  You can often get a hint of this when a place cooks a lot of bread, or if you drive by a place that grills.  If something sours your tummy and there’s no paper mill in the area, just stay away. Thankfully, this is a rare problem.

    1. Read the Reviews

    Reading reviews is sometimes a dubious practice, because there will often restaurants who pad their reviews toward the ecstatically good.  Look up your prospective restaurant and see what the overall impression is across multiple sites – certain themes will make themselves known when you take a look.

    1. Personnel

    If the people who are working at the restaurant don’t seem to care, there’s a high likelihood that attitude will have spread throughout the entire place. The person might be just a simple bad apple, but if there’s more than one take heed.

    1. Look at the health inspection

    Health inspectors come by and see if restaurant owners are living up to federal, state, and local standards. These standards include guidelines about temperature, sanitation, hygiene, and more. We try to stay with places that are rated 95% or higher.

    1. Check out the dirt

    If you’re looking around and you feel like you’re in a dirty dining room, like the place hasn’t been vacuumed in a while, like there’s a lot of items which haven’t been washed, you are probably in a bad restaurant.

    1. Trust your gut

    You’re the expert on what a bad restaurant is.  If you go into the place and you feel that it’s a bad place, it’s a bad place.  First impressions mean a lot, so go with your gut.

    Landing in a bad restaurant is a waste of time and money. Fortunately, with the power of social media, you have every chance to warn others about the experience – and with your warning, the owner might get the idea to shape up.

    Thanks go out to Chris Blakeley on Flickr for the Creative Commons use of the picture.

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  5. How to Sharpen a Knife With a Sharpening Steel

    How to Sharpen a Knife With a Sharpening Steel

    One of the things that all chefs have to contend with is the sharpness of their tools.  Having a knife that doesn’t cut through fish, meat, or vegetables without sawing through them doesn’t do any good. Also it can be very dangerous to cut things with a dull knife. A dull knife can skip or slip through food and accidentally cut the user’s fingers.

    In order to keep the edge of a knife in top condition, chefs regularly hone their blades using a sharpening steel. This keeps the edge in good condition. Knives will also be sent in around every year or so for a more thorough sharpening by a professional. Every chef or aspiring chef should know how to use a steel.

    Here is how to sharpen a knife using a sharpening steel.

    1. Hold the steel point down with the end of it on a wooden surface like a cutting board.
    2. Using your other hand, position the knife with the part nearest the handle touching the steel.
    3. You want the knife and the steel to meet at a 22 degree angle.  Remember it as half of a 45 degree angle.
    4. While you keep the angle, lightly pull the blade upward and toward you.  You’re going to be pulling so that the entire length of the blade touches the steel.  You want to do this around ten times for optimum effectiveness.
    5. Do the fourth step again, this time using the other side of the blade.

    Good chef’s knives can last quite a long time but only if they are maintained right. The steel grinds out imperfections in the blade’s edge that have formed through normal use. Proper honing allows the blade to perform in top condition.

    Have you had to use a dull blade? Did it take you a long time to use a steel properly? We’d love to hear more about your culinary adventures in the comments.

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  6. Kegerators: Drafting the Best

    Kegerators: Drafting the Best

    With the craft beer revolution, there has been a push for restaurant and bar owners to get on board with curating and offering the best beers in the land. You can see in the rise in popularity of beer bars across the United States. That also means an increase in refrigeration equipment!

    To keep all of those wonderful hop-laden elixirs cold, you need to have excellent refrigeration systems.  Yes, our ancestors in the middle ages drank beer at room temperature. And there are some people who still love a warm brew. But we’d like to think that beer’s chilling adds to the flavor.

    And, what makes the perfect refrigeration addition to any bar?

    Kegerators are affectionately called that because they are refrigerators for beer kegs.  There are many sizes of kegerator, fitting one, two, and four kegs underneath the counter.

    A kegerator allows you to not only store kegs but also keep the beer cold on it travel through the hoses up through the tap.  Systems of old used to have to run these hoses through and ice bin in order to have the same effect.

    These draft beer miracles start out at 24 inches wide (for the one-tap mobile kegerator) to the 91-inch behemoth that takes four full kegs and will refrigerate other items on the side.

    No bar owner who is serious about beer should go without a kegerator in their restaurant supply arsenal.

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  7. 3 Traits of Successful Restaurant Managers

    3 Traits of Successful Restaurant Managers

    Running a successful restaurant requires a whole host of skills.  It’s necessary to get along with your servers, your chefs, your vendors, and your clients.  Your first steps onto the scene as a restaurant manager will most likely be the scariest steps that you’ll take.  We can assure you that it gets easier if you have passion, organization, and persistence.

    Passion

    The passion that you have for the business and your line of work will shape the establishment that your restaurant becomes.  Passion is often the cornerstone of a restaurant’s personality. The enthusiasm that you put into the effort will be reflected by those around you.

    If you are ambivalent about what needs to be done, it will come back to bite you as fast as you can say crème brulee. Passion will help you research, experiment, purchase proper restaurant equipment, and make your restaurant a better place.

    Organization

    The internal structure of your restaurant means that you’ll be prepared when something goes wrong.  Your people won’t be running around like chickens with their heads cut off.  And through organization and structure, your restaurant will significantly run better.

    What happens when someone is sick?  What happens when the press tries to talk with you?  What happens if there’s a fire?  Take a moment to think about contingency plans and write them down.  These types of contingency plans should be written down in the employee handbook. You do have a handbook right?

    You, as the head of the ship, must know these procedures, too. Here are some sample handbooks.

    Sevens On the Go Employee Manual

    Ventura’s Offshore Cafe

    Round the Clock Restaurants

    Sample Employee Handbook for any industry

    Persistence

    Persistence is the ability to keep going, try new things, and study your way into being one of the top restaurants in the world.  A successful restaurant manager is always learning new techniques, and ideas that they can use to further the goals of the restaurant.

    So you have 70% sustainability in your restaurant?  Let’s try for 71%.  Let’s say that you’ve knocked down your turnover.  Can you make it better?  Always try to be better. That persistence that you put in will make you better and help you stand out above the rest.

    There’s nothing that can truly replace the traits of persistence, organization, and especially passion.  With that passion you have for the company and the business, you can truly go further than you ever thought possible.

    Thanks go out to Tourism Victoria on Flickr for the Creative Commons use of the picture.

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  8. How to Clean Glasses In Your Commercial Dishwasher

    How to Clean Glasses In Your Commercial Dishwasher

    In a bar or restaurant, washing glasses is one of those tasks that can really sneak up on you if you’re not paying attention.  At first glance, you can have one, then five minutes later, you can have a thirty glasses just waiting for your attention.

    Even if you have a bar glass washer or commercial dishwasher on your side, it can still get a little crazy trying to keep all the glasses clean. No one wants their drink in a dirty glass!

    Here are some tips to help you get the cleanest glasses possible.

    1. Don’t defeat the purpose of washing by leaving fingerprints all over the glasses once the cycle finishes.  Use gloves or other means to put them away.
    2. Make sure that your dishwasher or glass washer has enough room to work by leaving enough space between the glasses or dishes for the water to get between.
    3. Make sure that your dishwasher is getting the proper maintenance.  Have someone clean out the lines or clean them yourself on a regular basis.
    4. Take a look at your commercial dishwasher or glass washer to check the seals and other areas.  Ensure that there are no leaks before running it to its highest capacity.
    5. Pour leftovers into the sink or trash it in the trashcan.  Don’t let the dishwasher or glass washer handle it.  There’s more of a likelihood that you can clog the lines.
    6. Try to get to the glasses as soon as you can.  It’s the same principle as home dishwashing – the longer gunk stays on your glasses, the harder it is to remove.
    7. Store your glasses right side up and don’t stack them.  If you’re using real glass, the glass can chip when there are a bunch of other glasses in the stack.
    8. Clean out the inside of the dishwasher on a regular basis.  It only takes a few moments and it prevents washed-off food from getting sprayed back on the load.
    9. There’s no need for pre-washing if you’ve cleared out the muck and the other things from the glasses already.  They’re ready to go into the dishwasher when you want to put them in.

    Getting the cleanest glasses is of utmost importance when you’re looking at a bar full of patrons.  You don’t want to end up with only dirty glasses, do you?

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  9. 9 Tips for Best Cooking with the Commercial Microwave

    9 Tips for Best Cooking with the Commercial Microwave

    Both professional chefs and home cooks love the microwave oven.  These ovens are used liberally across the globe.  Food prepared yesterday can always be reheated today in a commercial microwave. Some may turn up their noses at reheated microwave food, but the convenience cannot be beat! Here are some tips for using your commercial microwave oven to its fullest potential.

    1. When microwaving breads, it’s always best to cover them in a commercial microwave, else they’ll turn out hard and crumbly.
    2. While you’re at it, it is best cover all of the foods that you put into the microwave.  A clean dish towel will do the trick.  If you’re covering bowls of liquid, you will reduce the amount of splattering.
    3. Don’t operate your commercial microwave with nothing in it.  When left to go around the chamber, there is the possibility that the energy may overheat other parts of the appliance.
    4. Microwaves work by agitating water in food. For some foods, a steam hole is necessary to prevent an explosion. Use a fork or knife to stab potatoes and other foods which have a thick surface. (Admittedly, I love an exploded hot dog now and again.)
    5. Stop the microwave around halfway into the cycle to rotate defrosting food.  The heat within a microwave is often not distributed evenly. By rotating, you can make sure that the food has no frozen spot.
    6. Metal.  Just say no to metal objects in the microwave.  Metal causes reflection within the microwave, bouncing the heat back to the unit. From this, there is the possibility of explosion and malfunctions within the microwave itself.
    7. If you’re putting many things into the microwave, make sure to spread them out within the box.  They’ll heat a little more evenly.
    8. Microwaves have deceptively short cooking times.  There are very few foods which need to be microwaved more than ten minutes, and most are pretty good with about four or five.  If you think that something’s done, then it probably is. However, if you are cooking a lot of food, you may have to adjust higher than you think.
    9. Don’t use your microwave if you’re seeing warping or there’s other damage to the machinery.  That can indicate a sign of trouble, and that you’re not going to get the best cook on the device.

    When you’re using a commercial microwave, always be careful, as there is the chance for malfunction.  Otherwise, happy cooking!

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  10. Reasons Your Bar Should Have an Undercounter Dishwasher

    Reasons Your Bar Should Have an Undercounter Dishwasher

    In many large hotel operations, the foodservice is run by a central kitchen and alcoholic drinks are dispersed directly from several different bars. While it’s possible to have multiple kitchens, many have found it easier to run the bars as spokes on a wheel with the kitchen being the central hub.

    While this is an excellent setup, there are inherent speed issues associated with it.  Yes, you can order food from any of these bars at the restaurants, but they take longer than if they were closer to the central hub.  Waste and dishes tend to pile up at the bars before they’re taken back to the hub to be dispersed again.

    Bars can get and there’s often not enough time to wait for more glasses or plates to arrive.  They’re needed on the spot to maintain service.  This is one place where undercounter dishwashers can prove to be of great advantage.

    An undercounter dishwasher takes the load off of the bartender for getting fresh glasses and plates to the patrons.  More appropriately, the bartender is able to keep up with the patrons while his or her bar back can keep the behind-the-scenes show running.

    Undercounter dishwashers come in many sizes and speeds, but they all have the ability to fit under the standard bar, out of the way.  Many of them, because they’re low volume, are fairly quiet, so the patrons aren’t disturbed by the sound of a rumbling dishwasher near their feet.

    As the volume increases in bars, it makes sense to move away from exclusively using a 3-sink undercounter setup and to using an undercounter dishwasher for speed. That way everything can get cleaned in one go, and you won’t end up with unhappy bar patrons.

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