Lesson 5 - Day to day operations
13 September 2018
Most management goes wrong when they treat routine as work. Both need to be differentiated. While the staff will do the routine, the Manager and the Chef should indulge in things other than the routine. Perfect ambience, hygiene, cleanliness, staff reporting on time, clean uniforms, perfect AC, music, conducive atmosphere, making of good food, timely service and other protocols related food and service will be defined under routine work. Making of bills, creating sales report, generating data, purchase order from vendors, receipt of supplies, bill payment of vendors also come under routine. So, you will ask if this is not work, then what it is. The Chef has to keep his eyes open and adapt himself to situations on daily basis. While, on one side, he has to ensure each item on the menu is available, well made and served artistically, but, he also needs to ensure that he is the leader of the team and has to come across as a role model. He is the father figure of the team who needs to take care of everyone’s needs – from skill training to leaves to loans and emotional support. He has to be inside the restaurant speaking to guests, customising their food, guiding them what to order and taking constructive feedback. He has to update his menu all the time. He has to come out with new ideas, not only in creation of food, but, also in its presentation. He needs to educate his colleagues in understanding and respecting food. He needs to be well travelled and well-read to know what is happening around and in the world. He has to support the Manager for perfect coordination; decent is welcome. He should come out with ideas for offers, promotions and pairing of food with beverages. He needs to guide the staff for dishes which need to be promoted, either for fast turnover or because of high margin. Similarly, the Manager is no more a black coat wearing gentleman roaming around in the restaurant looking at the service and handling complaints. Anyone can do that. Manager, in modern terms, is the owner of that outlet. He has to constantly think how to increase revenues and save cost. He has to build a good team, keep his people on toes and motivated. He has to create a very positive atmosphere. Even if the guest is coming daily, he should feel some difference in the outlook, but, huge consistency in the product and its delivery. The Manager should be very hands-on on marketing aspects, be it, the collection of database or using it for the outlet’s advantage, doing analytics of all the sales’ data, celebrating festival/important days, focusing on home delivery/parties, creation of offers/promotions, procuring branded gifts for distribution, creating a line of merchandise, interacting with guests, reaching out to them and making everyone feel at home. Effective Managers and Chefs will focus on marketing done inside the restaurant with the guests who are already in, than, with the ones who have not yet come. If anyone can crack the above differentiation between work and routine, they should feel arrived.
Lesson 4 - How to remain relevant – change!
09 February 2018
Once you’ve entered the restaurant business, you have to be on your toes all the time. It’s a very dynamic and perishable business. You’re as relevant as the quality of food and service you serve today. You need to do something new every day, all 365 days of the year. People will not keep coming back to you if you don’t change, upgrade, improve and be ahead in the race. They’ll have other options to go. You, your manager, your chef and the entire team needs to have their antenna up all the time – to smell, organise and execute change. It has to be in food, its presentation, in ambience, with uniform, music and in the offers. Go beyond and anticipate the change in society and technology. Be the first one to embrace the technology and implement it. Be the first one to anticipate social changes and adapt accordingly. We can’t just sit back on the laurels of what we did yesterday and manage our business on that today. Today is a different day, be a different person and let your customers know that you’re alert. They’ll appreciate that and you’ll be rewarded for it.
Lesson 3 - The business, budgets, revenue targets, controlling costs
06 December 2017
The launch has happened. People have started coming in due to PR activities, other marketing, word of mouth and mostly due to inquisitiveness. This is the time when the spendings have started pinching you. So, it’s time to take a break, sit on the table and do some number work. Let there be a budget in place for all major expenses like rentals, staff cost, food cost, electricity, fuel and other expenses. And on the other side, the feasible sales now and projected. Once, you’re done with this, sit with your team leaders, discuss this put and delegate the responsibilities. You need to get your daily, weekly and monthly MIS on a given format to explain the budgets, actuals, variants and reasons. The corrective action and course change has to happen real time. Any delay for more than 24 hours maybe costly. Tracking each thing is easy. The difficult part is analysing and making sense of the trends. If you can do so comfortably, this is easy business. For example, people say that the most difficult part is to control the food cost.
Normally, all sensible hoteliers and restaurateurs will track the top 10 items consumed in the kitchen by volume and value, and they’ll be able to control more than 60% of the cost. They need to check at what cost they are purchasing or they can reduce it further without compromising on specs and quality, what extended credit period can be dealt, how do they store, how do they maximise the yield out of it and finally if the consumption is matching the sales, that is, there is no pilferage or wastage. On the team cost, if you can budget it to the maximum of 20% of revenue, you will never suffer a problem. So, when I say staff cost, it should include everything – from salary to PF, service charges/tips, ESIC, insurance, accommodation, medicals, bonus, incentives, etc. also, to be fair to the chef, you need to remove any cost of food item which you are not selling but giving complementary or at discount to guests and attribute the same as marketing cost. You can’t control cost beyond a limit, if you have to be in business.
So, once the systems are in place and you’re tackling in discipline, your focus should always be towards increasing the amount which reflects at the denominator of the equation, that is, the sales. As the sales go up, the costs automatically seems to be in control. Remember, initially, guests don’t come in, they need to be brought in.
Lesson 2 - How to go about it
05 October 2017
Once you’ve decided on the concept, have a core team in place which will comprise of your head chef, architect and interior person and kitchen consultant. Do brainstorming on the kind of menu that is going to be served and have a detailed discussion on how the restaurant will look and function. Have the budget and finances in place. Go to the drawing board, finalise the restaurant layout, kitchen and back area design with expertise thrown in for civil work, plumbing, electricity, air conditioning, kitchen exhaust and fresh air, music, telecom, IT, signage, carpentry and the rest. Nothing should be left to chance. Once the civil work begins, have carpentry done for loose furniture side-by-side for the kitchen equipment and every other thing which will form the hardware of the restaurant.
Once these have started falling in place, you need to order your cutlery, crockery, glassware, hollowware, small kitchen equipment, uniform, signage, menu stationary printing, etc. while these are getting delivered, you need to be ready with various licenses, permissions, IT software solutions, telephone connections, music, etc. You need to place an ad for hiring staff and have a senior HR resource on board for hiring processes. Once the recruitment is done and the restaurant has taken shape, it’ll be the time to finish all the opening formalities and start with the training of staff as per the product requirement. There need to be few days of trials to assess dealing problems and address them. Once everything is in place, it should be time for you to go for a soft launch with guests.
Do it for 15-20 days for a month slowly before you announce it to the world through a grand launch party with PR. Now, you are all set to enjoy your passion and product of love. The only thing which is left now to implement is marketing. Put traditional and digital marketing in place and you’ve done everything.
Lesson 1 - Concept and Business Plan
16 August 2017
I’m assuming you’ve done your due diligence and you know very well what business you’re getting in because this business is neither glamorous nor easy as it seems to the world outside. My first suggestion to anyone is to learn this business at somebody else’s cost. In short, work at a restaurant in all departments, atleast for one year. Then you’ll realise how people (staff, guests and authorities) behave, issues related to food production, service, dishwashing, legal, software, etc. very closely. One year of working will discourage you enough not to get into this. Yet, if you’re sure then this is the place for you.
Define your concept and business plan. Start the work accordingly. The concept has to be very clear, distinct/unique. Don’t add your wish list into it. For example, you want to open a restaurant with a Chinese food concept. Then forget any burger, pizza or kali dal in it. Further, define if it is a QSR, casual dining or fine dining, with or without liquor.
Answer to the above will define your entire business plan. What kind of area, location, investment, price point and target audience. This completes your positioning. Once you’ve defined, don’t deviate as the entire budget will be made depending on that. Now, we are ready to execute the making of the restaurant. How we go about it? Let’s wait for lesson number 2!