Category Archives: Customer Service

Increase Speed of Service and Efficiency in Your Restaurant

An unexpected rush, being short staffed or a menu item that slows down speed of service each time it is ordered.  There are many of reasons why customers may wait longer than they want to be seated, get their meals or get the check.  While you cannot have a plan in place for every possible situation, you can use these tips to minimize the negative impacts of slow service!

Increased Speed of Service: Restaurant Best Practices

Before you can critique how fast or slow your speed of service is, you need to define what great service is at your restaurant.  According to foodwoolf.com, restaurant owners should “get clear on what great service looks like for your restaurant and write it down”.  Once you have established what level of service you expect, you can work on ways to do it better and faster. This is an important and often skipped, first step.

Once you have your service levels defined, it is important that you provide your team with the proper equipment.  Simple things like making sure you have enough silverware, dishes and basic inventory items all the way up to making sure your cooking equipment, dishwashers and refrigeration are working properly and have the proper capacity for your needs.  This can all shave time off of everyday tasks and have a large impact on your speed of service.

Now that you know your service targets and your equipment is operational, it’s time to spend some time on the human side. According to delaget.com, restaurant owners should “prioritize training” and “schedule the right people for the right roles”.  The more comfortable people are with your systems and processes, the more accurately they will perform, which in turn increases your speed of service.  A training program should include the following:

  1. Practice in the POS system
  2. Role playing and menu overview
  3. Time job shadowing a more experienced team member.

Conclusion:

There are many factors that impact the speed of service at your restaurant, and not all can be planned for.  However, if you take some time and implement the tips above you will find your speed of service won’t suffer when you get an unexpected rush or find yourself short staffed!

Grow it Yourself! Hopping on that “Hyperlocal” Bandwagon

Spring has sprung and gardens are beginning to bloom. If you’ve ever thought about growing your own ingredients, or hopping on the urban farming bandwagon, this is the perfect time of year to start!

A trend among sustainability-minded establishments seems to be growing their own herbs and produce. This urban agriculture trend has taken big cities by storm, encouraging the ideal of growing local products in heavily populated areas instead of purchasing ingredients from national suppliers.

What are the pros of growing your own ingredients?

Consumers love knowing where their ingredients come from – not to mention supporting their local community. In fact, “hyperlocal” foods (foods grown by the restaurant themselves) has been a major trend for the last few years now.

These foods are often viewed as healthier and fresher, and there is a financial incentive to growing your own. One of the largest expenses restaurants face is the cost of goods. This could easily make or break newer businesses. Growing many of your own products cuts this cost down significantly, and it adds to the appreciation of where your food comes from.raised garden bed

Where to start…

If you’re new to urban farming or growing your own ingredients, we suggest starting small and working your way up. Raised beds are a great idea for beginners, especially if space is an issue. Raised garden beds are usually three to four feet wide and constructed of a solid wood frame, and almost any crop can be grown in them. For more benefits and instructions on constructing raised garden beds, check out this great resource.

You can also garden certain products, like herbs and spices, indoors. The most popular herbs for indoor kitchen gardens include:

  1. Thyme – spicy and clove-like; good with meats or vegetables because it lightens the profile of the dish, increasing the balance.
  2. Chives – thin, hollow leaves with mild onion flavor; great for a garnish.
  3. Mint – sweet, cool and refreshing; great for savory dishes.
  4. Sage – rich flavor with notes of citrus; combines well with other spices such as thyme.
  5. Basil – aromatic with scents of pepper, anise and mint; adds richness and depth to sauces and dressings.

One of the benefits of trying your hand at herb gardening is that many, like lavender and rosemary, thrive under less than ideal conditions.

Tips on Growing

If you’re growing your own herbs, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Soil and Light Requirements

The soil doesn’t need to be rich for herbs, but must be able to drain well. Also, make sure they receive at least five hours of direct sunlight a day.

Watering

Most herbs require about 1-inch of water a week.

Fertilizing

Most herbs don’t require fertilizer unless you have remarkably poor soil.

Harvesting

Cutting leaves and stems will allow your plants to become thicker, fuller and more productive. It is recommended that you harvest early in the morning when essential oils are strongest before the sun warms the leaves and releases them.

Deadheading

Certain herbs require deadheading the blooms as to maintain plant productivity. Basil and mint, for instance, both benefit from having the flowers pinched back before they mature.

Cleaning Up

After the first killing frost in the fall, pull up the annual herbs like basil. In the spring, cut back dead stems on perennial herbs like mint, and prune overgrown ones by removing about one-third of the plant before new growth begins.

window garden

Urban farming and herb gardening are both fun and rewarding, providing a great opportunity to save money while growing fresher products. For more tips, check out our GIY – Grow It Yourself – board on Pinterest!

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like our posts on Farm to Table: What is It? and Earth Day and Your Restaurant: Ways You Can Help!

new years resolution ideas

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Restaurant or Foodservice

New Year’s Resolutions

Happy 2017 everyone! With a new year means it’s time for New Year’s resolutions. It’s a time to reflect and see what you can improve for the next 365 days. Here are some New Year’s resolution ideas for your restaurant or foodservice with some blogs and articles to get you started. Please share your own resolutions in the comments below!

homer laughlin china

Vintage Homer Laughlin china advertisement–which you can still get today! Just search our website! Photo credit: jbcurio / iW / CC BY

1. Review How to Handle Upset Customers with Staff

Let’s face it, there are going to be times when customers are unhappy. It could be a weekly or daily occurrence–it happens! We are all human, different things make us tick or we make errors. In the foodservice industry, it’s extremely important that anyone serving customers, especially upset ones, handle the situation calmly and with the customer’s best interest in mind. Because at the end of the day, staff is angry or rude at a customer, it will reflect poorly on your business.

It’s important to help staff know how to handle difficult and stressful situations to bring everyone to a more positive solution. Below are a few articles to get you started:

2. Make Sure Food Safety is a Top Priority

Does your restaurant ensure food has met a food safe temperature before serving? Do employees know how long to wash their hands, and how often they need to? What about allergies, do you have a plan in place if you have a guest with food allergies? These and more are all important to ensure customers do not get sick from the food you serve.

new years resolution ideas3. Increase Budget for Equipment and Supplies

Ah, coming from a foodservice equipment and supply distributor, that headline sounds a little tricky and salesy, I know! But bear with me for a second. I’m going somewhere.

When you need to rely on something in life, do you buy the cheapest thing to get you through? Or if you need to make sure it will be there for you through and through do you spend a couple extra bucks? That definitely applies to equipment and supplies. You get what you pay for. Sometimes by spending a little extra, you will get more life out of a product (i.e. oven, refrigerator or even a knife) which in the long run saves money. The next time you purchase equipment, talk to your product consultant about all options and ask them what long term savings are. Sure, sometimes you might be on a tight budget and buying the cheapest thing makes sense. But other times, a little more upfront can go a long way in the long run.

Okay, and for one quick shameless plug, you can visit CentralRestaurant.com for anything you need for your restaurant or foodservice. We also have a nifty new “live chat” feature that goes to a real person here in Indianapolis if it’s more convenient than calling 800-215-9293.

4. Consider Social

If your restaurant isn’t using social media, you may be losing out on business. But you might not be! It’s definitely not for every business. However, if it’s something you have written off as not important without even trying…you may want to re-evaluate that. With many different platforms out there (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.!), it might be overwhelming. The National Restaurant Association put together “Social media options: Which is right for my restaurant” to help you determine which are best for you and your establishment.

What are your New Year’s resolutions?

Are you creating goals for the new year? Share below! Happy new year and Central wishes everyone a safe and happy 2017.

Image at top photo credit: Bob Jagendorf / iW / CC BY-NC

Stay Out of the Doghouse; Know the Laws Surrounding Service Animals

“No dog. Get out. Just get out.” These were the words James Malone heard when he visited a Sacramento area restaurant with his service dog Hilton earlier this year.

Hilton is a black lab that helps his owner maneuver through everyday tasks. James is blind. Hilton acts as his eyes, and according to the Service Animals provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act, persons with disabilities are permitted to bring any dog (and in some cases, miniature horse) that is individually trained to perform a task for their owner into any public area of your business. This includes restaurants, stores and restrooms. This provision even supersedes local or state health codes that prohibit animals. This restaurant owner later admitted he didn’t know what the ADA laws allowed, but said he would train his employees to understand and follow the guidelines. Do you know how your employees would handle the situation?

Know the Law and Minimize Your Liability

The Department of Justice created a simple document outlining the ADA regulations.

The Department of Justice’s simple document on service animals.

Understanding the ADA, including the Service Animals provisions, is serious business. As an example, California law allows a person denied entry to an establishment (due to ADA violations) the right to sue the business for up to $4000. Knowing the regulations can help you both limit your liability and help you to continue to serve these valuable customers.

While it may be easy to recognize a service animal when it is wearing an identifying vest or actively pulling a wheelchair, it is important to realize that service animals can provide many more life-protecting tasks. The National Restaurant Association outlines some of these tasks in a recent Manage My Restaurant article.

“…a service animal can alert its handler to an oncoming epilepsy seizure. Other dogs perform specific tasks for individuals with psychiatric disabilities, such as disrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. Those animals can remind their handlers to take medicine, separate them from their environments or conduct safety searches or room checks for people with post-traumatic stress disorder.”

It is important that a protected service animal is not considered a pet, but a working animal. They are trained not only to help their owners, but behave appropriately in public environments. Unless the service animal is disruptive to your other patrons or uncontrollable by its owner, the best course of action for all is to allow the animal and owner access to your business.

How to Handle The Situation

If a customer comes to patronize your business with their service animal -treat them like any other valued customer. Remember, ADA regulations prevent you from asking animal owners to present ID cards or training documentation. If in doubt, your employees should only ask these two permitted questions:

  1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

While it is not permissible to forceably isolate the service animal and owner for other patrons, you can politely ask them if they wish a table out of a higher traffic area, or if a specific table might be advantageous in allowing the animal to perform its trained task. Also, you may have to placate other patrons of your business. Fear of dogs or allergies are not legitimate reasons for denying entry to a service animal. If a patron has concerns, you should remind them that the animal is permitted under ADA regulations and offer to move them to a different table or location.

The only permissible reasons for asking an owner to remove their service animal is if it becomes uncontrollable or is not housebroken. If this situation occurs, the ADA regulations require you to still serve the owner without the animal’s presence.

Shop Central for ADA-Compliant Equipment

ADA-Compliant Worktop Refrigerator with a lower 34" working height

ADA-Compliant Worktop Refrigerator with a lower 34″ working height

While Central Restaurant many not sell service dogs, we do have a wide variety of ADA-Compliant equipment that can help your serve customers and employees with disabilities in a respectful and convenient manor.

Several of our refrigeration vendors offer Prep Tables and Worktop Refrigerators with a lower 34″ working height that allow employees or customers in wheelchairs easier access. Ensuring your restroom facilities are ADA-friendly can also go a long way with your customers. Check our our selection of ADA-compliant hand dryers, sinks and faucets.

Our product consultant team can also help you find more ADA-Compliant products when you call them at 800-215-9293 or start an instant chat.

Keeping Your Tiniest Customer Happy

Are you really doing all you could to keep your tiniest customer happy? Even though they might not be the ones footing the bill, in many families, toddlers have the most power in deciding which restaurant will earn the family’s patronage. If they are not happy (and therefore screaming or causing a scene), then neither is the rest of the family, the restaurant staff or the other patrons.

The Child Development Institute, a California organization whose mission is to be a clearinghouse for “information, products and services related to child development”, created a list of seven ways to keep toddlers busy and entertained in a restaurant. We’ve grouped these ‘parent tips’ into two categories so we can look at how your family restaurant win over the toddler crowd.

Maintain the Family Environment

Kidsitter 597-018

The Kidsitter™ Multi-use High Chair shows you are committed to kids!

The CDI’s first suggestion tells their readers to ‘choose a family-friendly restaurant‘ – a place where a moderate amount of family noise and activity is expected. If you want to be a family restaurant, show your customers that you welcome the whole family. Create a wholesome looking exterior and interior free of questionable decor. How about your seating arrangements? Many parents will judge your ‘family environment’ by the type and quality of your children s seating. Do you offer the basic plastic booster seat, or have you invested in a more upscale option like the Kidsitter that we profiled in June? Don’t forget your restroom. What’s your baby changing option? You don’t want to think of the alternative.

How about your children’s menu? The CDI tells parents to choose restaurants that serve simple food options that toddlers will enjoy. While  “fast food” type meals are not always the healthiest –  they admit that for the occasional dinner out, finger foods like chicken nuggets and hot dogs will usually ensure their toddler will enjoy themselves.

The next tip tells parents to order their children’s meal at the same time the adults order their drinks. Toddlers sometimes have problems dealing with the down time before their food arrives. By ordering their food early, the toddler will be occupied with eating while the rest of the family is waiting for their meals. Do your servers offer this option?

Keep them Entertained


Still, there will be dead time before and after the meal, and the toddlers will insist on attention. The CDI provides several tips to parents on ways to keep them entertained. If space allows, a family restaurant could consider investing in some play equipment. A full-fledged McDonald’s PlayPlace is not necessary. The CDI says to look for restaurants that offer something as simple as an area with “blocks or other toys for children to play with.” Central even offers a selection of child-height activity tables that can be placed in a corner or waiting area.

No space for toys? The CDI suggests a simple walk around the restaurant to burn off some toddler energy. Is your dining room layout too cramped for a little exercise?

The last two suggestions offer ways to keep toddlers entertained at the table. From little ‘bags of toys’ like crayons and coloring books to educational place-mats, these are little items that can keep children of all ages content and occupied.

Pulling It All Together

Of course, even after providing the right dining environment and offering all the child amenities, the task of keeping a toddler occupied and content at your restaurant lies with the parents and there may be times when you or your staff need to get involved on behalf of your other customers. Remember to approach the situation calmly and look for ways to smooth the situation. Offer additional activities or ask parental permission to serve the child a complementary scoop of ice cream or other treat to keep them happy. Even with a temperamental toddler, there is still opportunity to earn a repeat customer.

Cover image Photo credit: Lars Plougmann / Flikr.com / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)