January is a relatively slow time for both the restaurant business and most people’s social calendar after the madness of December, but restaurateurs and managers should not rest on their laurels this month. January is a time for renewed vigour and purpose, and you should be using the lull in business to re-assess, refresh, and put together your plan of attack for 2019. If this year is going to be more successful than the last, riding the wave of purpose that January can bring along is absolutely essential.
On the other hand, knowing where to begin and keeping track of all your tasks is a challenge in itself, especially with a head still reeling from NYE revelry. With this in mind, Tenzo have put together the ultimate restaurateur’s January checklist to set you off in the right direction. Follow this to get off to a galloping start in 2019.
For those who like pen and paper, the checklist is also available as a PDF to print out.
Alternatively, if you like to use a task-management tool, the checklists can be found here as a Trello board template. Just follow the instructions by clicking on the Tenzo logo inside the Trello board to make your own copy.
1. Set goals for your managers (or yourself).
High-level goals can be to improve three key metrics:
Sales - Target perhaps a 6% increase year-on-year. Be more ambitious if you are new in town. Do this via two paths:
a) Increase footfall by 3%. Closely monitoring your social reviews on platforms such as Google Places is one key to this - it has been found that 33% of restaurant customers won’t dine below 4 stars. Respond quickly and politely to bad reviews to increase the likelihood they will be retracted. Also make sure your concept is clear and your menu is 2019-ready (see other checklist items)
b) Increase upsell by 3%. Average Transaction Size (ATS) should be monitored regularly by optimising menu item combinations - (see other checklist item)
Cost of labour as a percentage of sales (COL) - 27% is a healthy goal. Perhaps target a 1% improvement each year, or choose to keep stable at around 27%. Technology such as a good labour planner coupled with Tenzo, our business intelligence platform, is a great path to reducing COL. Click here to learn more about Tenzo's labour forecasting.
Cost of goods sold as a percentage of sales (COGS) - aim for a goal of 25%. Keep this stable or reduce it by a small increment at a time by paying attention to your menu items, portion sizes and prices, your suppliers, and your ordering efficiency/wastage. Tenzo’s best-in-class sales forecasting can drastically reduce wastage and improve COGS. Read how here.
2. Give each waiter a spend per head target.
Look at spend-per-head averages for each of your waiting staff and set them realistic targets for improvement over the next few months. January is the perfect time to do this, as your staff will be primed for positive change, and the relative lull in business will give them the space to experiment and spend more time with customers. Base your targets on a realistic convergence with the spend-per-head of your strongest performers. Also, set your star performers targets; there is always room for improvement. Schedule check-ins with each staff member at monthly intervals to check on progress and renew motivation. Promising a bonus for those who smash their targets can help with motivation, but not always. If you sense that your staff are already well motivated to improve, offering a financial incentive can "crowd out" their desire to perform well for its own sake and actually cause them to lose motivation. For many, genuine praise, appreciation and the satisfaction of a job well done is a much stronger motivator than money.
Make sure there are up-selling opportunities available to your waiters.
Waiters can't do much to increase spend per head if your menu is too rigid. Make sure you are offering enough add-ons and sides. Good examples of add-ons are guacamole added onto a brunch, vegan cheese added to a veggie-burger, protein add-ons for salads such as sliced chicken breast or grilled tofu, and edamame beans or bread and olive oil as an appetiser. Offering the option to upgrade the size of drinks, especially on more expensive items such as smoothies and wines, is another beneficial idea.Once added to the menu, educate your staff on which add-ons should be offered with which meals.
3. Recognise and reward your staff.
You may wish to reward or give special recognition to your staff, and particularly your strong performers this January. Your gratitude may not have shown during the hectic Christmas period, but don't forget to let your staff know how much you appreciate them while you have the chance. January is the time for change and if they don't feel valued, key staff members may do their own new year appraisals and leave your business. Show them some love.
Use quantifiable metrics
Make sure that if you single out particular staff members for recognition or reward, you do not sow resentment with others. A good way to avoid bad feeling is to make your rewards based on tangible, quantifiable metrics. Spend-per-head is a good one, as is average tips. You may also choose to recognise a member of staff for working a particularly high number of hours in 2018.
Don’t miss out on training opportunities
If one of your waiters had a particularly outstanding spend-per-head this past year, don't miss out on the opportunity to let your other waiters learn from her. During the January lull, while your staff are less busy, they can be encouraged to take a step back and appraise their performance. Getting staff to observe a strong performer doing their stuff is a great way to have this happen organically. Just make sure the observation is subtle so as not to disturb customers. Tenzo can help provide quantitative sales performance metrics with its employee leaderboard module. Read more here.
4. Make sure your menu is ready for 2019 trends.
The big food trend for 2019, as in 2018, will be an increase in the number of customers eating a vegetarian or vegan diet. The proportion of strict vegans to more traditional ovo-lacto-vegetarians is massively increasing, so be sure to add another fully vegan option to your menu. The gluten-free and wheat-free trend is also set to continue in 2019, so make sure you offer enough suitable options here too.
Also look out for other industry trend predictions, for example the results of the American National Restaurant Association’s annual “What’s Hot” survey. This year, the Chef’s surveyed predict that “globally inspired breakfasts” e.g. Shakshouka, plant-based sausages and burgers, and locally-produced spirits will be some of the big trends.
5. Identify your sales trends.
During your January refresh, it’s a great idea to deep-dive into your sales data for the year to identify trends and opportunities. Determine which menu items are selling the best at specific times (time of day/day of week/seasonal), which helps focus your efforts in terms of inventory management. You never want to run out of ingredients for your most popular dishes, but on the flip side over-ordering these ingredients is a common cause of wastage in restaurants. Correct, accurate sales forecasting is key to ensuring you maximise margins.
Using sales data to engineer a menu is a complex topic deserving of its own checklist, but here are a few ideas to think about, that can quickly increase sales:
If you have one or a few items which dominate sales, consider adding similar items to your menu, and ensure that this item is customisable for all dietary requirements.
Poorly selling items are bad for your bottom line, regardless of how tasty they may be or how long they’ve been on the menu. Rarely ordered items cause ingredient wastage, so take a look at your bottom 20% of items. If you see that sales are not sufficiently high to avoid wastage, removing the item might be the best option. However, there may be other reasons why the item is not selling well, such as a bad name or description, or cannibalisation by another similar but more appetising item, so be sure to explore all possibilities first.
6. Schedule a short weekly social review meeting
Scheduling a regular meeting to go over reviews is incredibly important for your staff so they see all the latest feedback from guests. This provides both accountability and transparency of business performance, while also providing a platform to give credit to your staff when reviews are good. Tenzo’s social module allows staff to see all the latest reviews in real time as well as how each location is trending over any given time. Read more.
7. Build a calendar of local events and public holidays.
Grab a few creative staff members to brainstorm whether promotions or special products can be planned for each calendared event. Festivals on your street are a huge opportunity to get a grill out and cook some unique takeaway food. Public holiday promotions are a great way to lure in passing foot traffic. The only limit here is your imagination. Build a detailed plan for 2019 events and schedule when you will start preparing for each.
8. Do an annual tech review.
Make sure the tools and software you are using are still fit for purpose and best-in-class. The world of restaurant-tech has never moved so fast and solutions that were cutting edge two years ago may now be old-hat. Get rid of any software that isn't being used or work out how to ensure that it will be used properly this coming year. Identify key problems with the solutions you are currently using that are causing staff a lot of headaches and see if you can find new, better solutions.
Software companies usually offer free demo calls so make the most of this amazing service to get a personal walk-through of the new tech available in 2019. You'll be an expert in no time, and with very little effort.This year inventory management platforms such as MarketMan, staff schedulers such as Planday, and Restaurant BI platforms such as our very own Tenzo have matured and will become more widely used. We would recommend scheduling demos of all three!
9. Do a restaurant lay-out review.
Can efficiency be improved? Talk to your floor and kitchen staff about their working space. Do they wish things could be moved around? Sometimes a small switch can do wonders for efficiency and stress-levels. They may not be aware of the issues causing them stress, so also be sure to spend time observing how staff move around your restaurant. Look for bottle-necks and inconvenient placement of frequently used items. Also, consider how you can reduce the 'cognitive load' of your staff members - a major cause of stress. Efficient layouts can reduce the number of things that each staff-member must keep in mind. The benefits of reducing cognitive load are many - lower stress, better communication, better staff relationships, and staff who are more relaxed and charming with customers. Small changes can make a big difference here.
10. Schedule your team building activities for the year.
Let your team know the dates as soon as you can. January will seem much less bleak with something fun to look forward to. This will also help make your staff feel rewarded for their hard work over the winter holidays. Team building activities don’t have to cost much either; here are some great ideas.
11. Schedule bi-monthly one on one meetings with your team members.
Scheduling regular meetings with your team members is highly important. Firstly, it gives you valuable knowledge as to what is and isn’t working in your restaurant both operationally and on the customer service side - your floor staff have a lot of useful insights. Secondly, it allows you to both receive and provide feedback on performance whether that be your management effectiveness or their sales metrics. Regularly meeting will ensure information transparency, accountability and respect for both parties, as well as help to keep morale high.
12. Do an annual review of your electricity and gas supplier.
Use a tool like Compare the Market in the UK, Power2Switch in the US, to see if you can save money on your electricity and gas bills in the coming year. It takes minutes and could save you thousands!
Even better, save money and the environment in one fell swoop by going green with an 100% renewable energy provider such as Bulb in the UK, CleanChoice Energy in the US (limited states). Given their great prices, they are also likely to be
cheaper than your current energy provider.