Need to boost your bottom line this holiday season? Consider how you schedule your staff. Your methods may be increasing turnover (and at an average cost of $4,000 to replace an employee, turnover can get expensive quickly). A new study by the employee relationship management platform WorkJam found that most service companies use ineffective scheduling methods that eat into profits. Consider these survey results to see how you stack up:
* More than 33% of employers report a quarterly turnover rate of at least 26% -- and that rate has been increasing in recent years.
* 56% of employees receive their schedules a week or less in advance and 29% say they rarely get consistent schedules, which makes it difficult for them to juggle work and other obligations.
* About 67% of employers still use paper schedules and spreadsheets to plan hourly shifts and communicate about shifts with employees, compared to the 31% who use online tools or shift management software.
* 48% of employers report their employees are frequently or sometimes scheduled to work back-to-back closing and opening shifts, which are difficult for employees to sustain.
* These practices often lead to understaffing – with 46% of employers reporting being frequently or sometimes understaffed – and a likely impact on your restaurant’s ability to serve customers well.
Sustain shifts in the prepared foods market
Restaurants, meal kit startup companies and grocery stores are all vying for a similar slice of the consumer market these days. About 69% of consumers buy prepared foods from retailers three times per month, according to food industry research firm Technomic, and restaurant consultants Aaron Allen & Associates predict that through 2022, these sales will increase 10%. So how can a restaurant stand apart? Aaron Allen & Associates recommends restaurant operators stick to their strengths: preparing food just as customers like it (much like the current fast casual trend of customization would indicate), stressing convenience (it’s still not consumers’ first choice to fully prepare a takeout meal or to purchase it from a grocery store unless they’re already there to pick up bread and milk), and quality. The firm notes that even though 50% of consumers think food quality at grocery stores has “greatly improved” since 2010, about 40% wish the quality were higher. How can you make your restaurant memorable for visitors – and preferable to the growing competition?
More schools serve up Food 101
Want to tap new talent or spot the next food industry trend? Look to a growing number of college campuses that have launched programs designed to groom the next generation of foodies. The Los Angeles Times says about 30 U.S. colleges and universities now have formal interdisciplinary food studies programs that offer degrees or minors. This fall, new programs launched at Syracuse University, the University of California Berkeley and the University of the Pacific. Many more traditional programs in
agriculture, the environment and nutrition are becoming increasingly food focused as students show an interest in the intersection of food and social justice issues including pollution, climate change and world hunger. These universities are becoming centers for food-centered academic research and trend spotting: For example, the Berkeley Food Institute think tank, the Times reports, is drawing scholars and other experts on scientific and policy research.
Go green and save green
You don’t always need a grand plan to find extra room in your budget or make your business more eco-friendly. Food Management reports that the University of Connecticut made a simple change in its dining halls – moving napkin dispensers off of tables and onto walls – and it’s had the two-pronged benefit of cutting down on waste (2.3 million fewer napkins were used after the switch) and saving its dining services department $20,000.
Big food companies band together on climate change
The Paris climate conference is making big headlines this month and food manufacturers are among the organizations speaking out about the effects of climate change. NPR reported that 14 global food companies including General Mills, Mars, Nestle and Unilever recently released an announcement detailing steps they are urging government representatives to take in an effort to limit the planet’s temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees Celsius. They say these actions will help protect the future of the raw materials their businesses count on, from corn to cocoa, and the farmers who produce them. Mars, which has representatives attending the Paris conference, already has a strategy to help suppliers adapt to climate shifts – providing trees, tools and training to cocoa farmers in West Africa, for example, so they can weather a difficult harvest.
First USDA-certified organic fast food restaurant opens
Californians now have a new option for meals on the go. A San Francisco suburb boasts the first USDA-certified organic fast-food restaurant, Organic Coup, according to Food and Wine. To presumably make it manageable to adhere to the comprehensive certification process for organic restaurants, Organic Coup has a small, fried chicken-centered menu featuring a sandwich, a wrap and a bowl. The company aims to open 26 new locations by the end of 2016.
McDonald’s McMakeover continues
Customizable menus. A la carte pricing. Table service. McDonald’s? Yes, reinvention continues at the burger chain. On the heels of a series of changes at McDonald’s, the company is now launching a customizable sandwich menu at 600 of its southern California outlets. Visitors will have a choice of bun, protein and toppings for prices ranging from $4.59 to $5.19, according to the Orange County Register. McDonald’s will also offer table service at these locations in a bid to compete with fast casual burger competitors. The focus on reinvention may be paying off: In October, McDonald’s announced a quarterly increase in sales for the first time since 2013.
New York City launches its assault on salt
Starting this week, New York City chain restaurants will have to label menu items with a salt-shaker symbol if they exceed the recommended daily allowance of 2,300mg of sodium. The new rule, issued by the city’s health department in a move to bring nutritional transparency to consumers, affects restaurants with 15 or more outlets in the city. The National Restaurant Association is suing the health department for issuing the regulations, claiming that establishing a local versus a national standard will negatively impact New York City restaurants.
Franchise for sale
The number of franchise outlets for sale is up and lenders say terms favor borrowers (though with interest rates expected to begin a gradual ascent soon, buyers should act quickly). Nation’s Restaurant News reports that franchises have earned a reputation as safe places to invest because they have a proven business model and tend to generate a lot of cash once they take off. As a result, increased numbers of lenders and consumers have entered the industry in recent years. Take Tom Garrett, former Arby’s CEO, who founded GPS Hospitality Inc. in 2012 and quickly acquired a few dozen Burger King locations. Since then, the group acquired has 221 outlets total and has plans to nearly double that figure in the next few years.
Food businesses may have some more explaining to do. From the uproar over the introduction of label-free, genetically modified salmon to California’s recent decision to allow consumers to sue farmers for mislabeling food as organic, it’s clear that consumers want to know exactly what they are eating – and for their food labels to back that up. Consumers will expect transparency from you and your suppliers. Do your food labels provide it?
When using substitutes, anticipate pitfalls
Sometimes you need a substitute – whether an employee calls in sick or you’re running short on an ingredient needed for a menu item. But a recent Food Management report recommends using extra scrutiny when substituting so quality doesn’t suffer. If an employee substitutes an ingredient, is that made clear to customers? If you use a contracted firm to help you staff up when an employee is out, does the firm ensure the person is healthy and trained on safety procedures? Are you weighing and inspecting packages that arrive at your facility to ensure their substitutions or lapses in quality control don’t negatively impact your business? Thinking a few steps ahead can help spare your business from interruption, lost revenue, or bad publicity.
What to watch for when outsourcing
Do you outsource your food testing in an effort to protect your business? According to food technology firm Sample6, a recent Food Management survey found that 48% of respondents outsource at least some of their food testing. Just beware of these potential down sides to outsourcing and ask your contracted laboratory how they will help you minimize them: How quickly do samples arrive at the lab for testing? Delays in transporting and testing can alter results. How many people test those samples
and record results? More hands can mean more errors. How quickly can the lab share results? How much more are you paying to have your food tested off site? Depending on the answers, you may find you can manage quality and expenses better by establishing a food-testing facility onsite.
New Twist On Marketing: A Bus Tour
If you have been to New York City, those double-decker touring buses seem to be everywhere… from Broadway to the new World Trade Center. But, the Meatpacking District? Arby’s recently hosted a bus tour of the very same, with stops at Ottomanelli's, Katz's Delicatessen, and, of course, Arby’s new Manhattan restaurant. Why the tour with all of the guests donning 10-gallon hats? "It's really about paying homage to all the places that inspired us as a brand," Christopher Fuller, VP of brand and corporate communications for the Atlanta chain, told Adweek.
Myth Buster On Wine
How many times have you heard about some wine snob ordering some fancy aged wine at a cost that leaves your heading spinning? Well, here is a little secret from the wine cellar: very few wines, about 1% to 2%, actually age well, says wine expert Michael Austin, who writes The Pour Man column for The Chicago Tribune. In fact, if guests press your servers on how well wines will age, there are two rules they may follow. First is the classic “silence is golden.” But if they must have an answer, tell them that no wines for under $25 dollars at their local wine shop is meant to last more than a few years for red and no more than a year if it is white.
Thai Union Group Throws Bumble Bee Back Into The Sea
Facing Department of Justice (DOJ) opposition to its bid for Bumble Bee Seafoods, the Thai Union Group is abandoning its $1.5 billion acquisition of an American icon. DOJ feared the combination would hurt competition, since Thai Union also owns Chicken of the Sea. The company pledged to sell off that brand if the Bumble Bee deal was approved, but now Chicken of the Sea’s future has entered murky waters, CNBC reports.
Chipotle Saga Continues
Still reeling from the devastating effects of an E.coli outbreak that affected several stores across numerous states, Chipotle recently unveiled a comprehensive safety program across the chain that includes a series of DNA tests, end-of-shelf-life testing, tighter supply lines, and continuous employee training. “I am happy to report that our proposed program was adopted in its entirety, without any modification. While it is never possible to completely eliminate all risk, this program eliminates or mitigates risk to a level near zero, and will establish Chipotle as the industry leader in this area,” says Mansour Samadpour, Ph.D., and CEO of IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group.
Your Restaurant Is Toast
If you are still estimating your business’s performance, you are toast. Or maybe you actually need Toast, a turnkey management software company started in 2011 that automates your restaurant’s daily operations, the company claims. Why is that so important? “We sought to build a platform to manage all of their operations - a platform that allowed for mobility, easy access to data and updates, and an improved consumer experience,” Steve Fredette, Co-founder & President of Toast, says. Here are some other key findings from TOAST:
* 73% of restaurants are planning to upgrade their technology within the year.
* 46% of restaurateurs look at their business reports and metrics every day.
* 52% of restaurateurs said "advanced functionality" and "ease of use" would be their top reasons for replacing their existing method or software.
* 50% of restaurateurs currently pay for 2-5 restaurant technology vendors.
* The top features restaurateurs are looking for in a POS upgrade are: inventory management (20%), online ordering (13%), and PCI compliance. (9%).
Quiznos Launches A Possible Reinvention Of Itself
Struggling fast-food chain Quiznos recently opened Quiznos Grill in a bid to reinvent itself, The National Restaurant News (NRA) reports. Quiznos Grill is designed to be a “more elevated concept” that goes furthest in pushing the envelope for the chain, Doug Pendergast, Quiznos president and CEO, says Quiznos, if you remember, emerged from bankruptcy in 2014. Since then, the company has revamped its distribution and supply system, which has been a long-time issue with franchisees.
Fast-casual Restaurants Struggling
If you happen to run a fast-casual restaurant, you are probably like most of your peers – hurting for more business. While all food sectors did well through the end of summer, the fast-casual market grew by less than 1% in same-store sales. Things get no better at the big-name restaurants, such as Famous Dave’s, Maggiano’s Little Italy, and Carrabba’s Italian Grill. Red Lobster and Olive Garden, on the other hand, seem to have righted their respective ships, even though profits were quite modest. So what is at the bottom of all of this? According to Nation’s Restaurant News, many diners are still a bit queasy about spending serious money at a casual sit-down restaurant with a wait staff. While there are always exceptions, critics say that consumers are being much more circumspect when it comes to their fine dining experience and no longer want to pay higher prices at restaurants that fail to meet their expectations.
The Skinny On Fat Courtesy of Bunge