Whether you’ve been running a successful restaurant for years or you’re just starting out, there’s always something you can do to work smarter, not harder.

By Michael Zhou

Small changes in the way you operate can yield big results in terms of profits and customer satisfaction. Try one or all of these ways to improve the efficiency of your restaurant, measure the outcomes and stick with what works best for you.

Develop Standard Procedures

Have a standard way of performing each task in your restaurant, including food ordering, storage, preparation, following recipes exactly to achieve consistent food quality, customer service, handling complaints and cleaning. Eliminate guesswork and disagreements by being very specific in your expectations.

Ensure that all your team members follow the standard procedures and know their responsibilities. You can do this through a written manual, checklists, staff training and meetings to discuss what is working and what isn’t. The procedures are the same for everyone, but they are not set in stone. Be open to feedback and suggestions from staff and guests and use this feedback to improve your operations.

Optimize Your Menu for Profits

A good menu caters to your clientele’s taste and budget and, at the same time, leaves you with a healthy profit after all expenses are paid. Your point-of-sale (POS) system is a rich source of information about your guests’ preferences. A product mix (PMIX) report by category (entrée, salads, mains, desserts, drinks, etc.) will help you determine the top sellers. This report will also identify the items that don’t sell and can be taken off the menu or replaced. Test new options by having regular chef’s specials and asking for feedback.

Reports will give you an idea of the gross sales, but not of the profitability of your menu. To ensure that your menu prices cover all your expenses, have a recipe costing of each item, which includes not only the cost of the products, but also the overheads in the business. Identify the dishes that have low food cost percentage and are well liked by your customers, and encourage your staff to promote those menu items.

Invest in Staff Training

Every restaurant is unique in its systems, culture and clientele, and even experienced staff need training. Take the time to outline your expectations and show new people the work process. When they get used to doing things the way that works for your restaurant from the outset, you will spend less time correcting them and re-training them later.

Include product knowledge and suggestive selling in your training routine. This will give your customer service staff the knowledge and the confidence to offer items that satisfy your guests’ taste and have a higher profit margin, as well as additional sides, desserts and drinks.

Minimize Waste

Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of all food restaurants and cafés purchase for their businesses is wasted. If you’re not taking control of your food waste, you’re throwing profits in the bin, literally. Food waste can occur in different areas of your business: storage, preparation and leftovers on the customer’s plate. Make it a regular practice to run waste audits in your restaurant and notice where your waste is coming from.

If you have food going off before it even reaches the kitchen, review your storage conditions and the amounts that you’re ordering. Alternatively, your waste may be occurring in the kitchen, because you are not selling all the food you’re preparing. In that case, check your POS reports to gain a clear idea of the demand you can expect throughout the day, as well as on each of day of the week. Use this information to prepare and cook enough but not too much. If you notice that your guests are consistently leaving food on their plates, experiment with reducing the portion sizes or introducing small and large meals. Excessive portions are not only costing you more, they can put people off their favourite meal.

Automate, Automate, Automate

The importance of the human factor in hospitality is undeniable, and it makes many restaurant owners reluctant to automate. It’s true that you can’t automate genuine smiles on your team members’ faces, but there are many other aspects of your business that you can and should be automating.

Today’s technology makes it easy to preset online sales and marketing tasks, such as email campaigns, social media updates and responses to contact forms confirming that you have received the inquiry. With 42 per cent of all reservations now made online, a good online reservation system will make it possible for your guests to book whenever it’s convenient for them, whether it’s during their lunch break or at midnight. Automated booking reminders will reduce the number of no shows. Some other tasks that can be automated fully or partially include sending out purchase orders to suppliers once stock reaches a preset level, bookkeeping and staff rosters.

Michael Zhou is a Senior VP of Business Intelligence Development and has assisted the Fortune 1000 company with expertise in the web as a whole, including ground-zero marketing efforts that benefit both consumer and vendor. He is also contributor on Esprittoday.

Restaurant stock photo by HAKINMHAN/Shutterstock