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Restaurant Retention and Hiring Strategies

Staff wanted sign hanging in window

Hiring restaurant employees:

Make the most of retention and hiring strategies during the pandemic

The perennial challenge of staffing in the labour-intensive foodservice industry has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Widespread staffing shortages as restaurants reopen, coupled with serious financial losses due to long periods of closures and restrictions, mean savvy foodservice operators are looking for effective retention and hiring strategies that won’t break the bank.

 

Understanding the Issue

Objective analysis of a problem’s root causes is the first step to finding solutions. While some reasons for staff shortages are beyond your control, be open to the possibility that your own practices may be a factor. For instance, ongoing government support programs may be one reason foodservice staff aren’t flocking back. But telling staff that their colleagues who haven’t returned would rather collect a benefit cheque than work could backfire: finger pointing may be part of your retention problem. 

 

There are many nuanced reasons that many have chosen to leave the foodservice industry — or perhaps your establishment — including:

  • Pandemic downtime that led to reflection about career and life priorities, with some workers choosing to retrain online or start businesses from home.
  • Safety concerns about serving the public and/or taking public transportation to work in a pandemic that’s now in its worsening fourth wave.
  • Childcare shortages or the need to stay home with children who are schooling remotely.
  • Your wages, benefits, advancement opportunities and workplace culture may be less attractive than the competition’s.

 

But What About Cost?

Some retention and recruitment strategies come with a price tag. Assess that against the costs of losing valuable employees you’ve already invested in and operating short-staffed. You may find that you can’t afford not to implement some of those strategies.

 

The cost of turnover can run to several thousands of dollars per departure, based on hiring process and training costs, lost productivity, and other factors. In pandemic times, turnover cost cuts even more sharply. Without enough staff to run your restaurant, tables may sit empty; some restaurateurs have even had to cut back on operating hours or close altogether. 

 

 

Which Comes First: Hiring or Retention?

It may seem counterintuitive, but think about retention before hiring strategies. Why? Because the reasons your staff want to stay are also why people want to join your workplace. A poor reputation in the job market due to high turnover has a chilling effect on hiring; being known as a great employer attracts applicants.

 

The pandemic created a seller’s market in real estate, but when it comes to foodservice jobs, it’s a buyer’s market. Job seekers have their pick and so do your current staff — retention is more important than ever. 

 

 

Retention and Hiring Strategies


Pay Increases

In addition to providing competitive starting wages, consider implementing pay ranges with increases at set intervals. On a four-step scale, the starting rate could be followed by three incremental increases every six months to a year to encourage employees to stay.

 

Tip Distribution

Is your tipping policy — or lack of one — a source of staff dissatisfaction? You may not be ready to build gratuities into menu costs, but tip sharing could address compensation inequities between front- and back-of-house staff. 

 

Benefits

Jeff Dover, principal at the foodservice consultancy fsSTRATEGY Inc., says health and/or dental benefits can be cost effective for small operators. “Benefits are important and, given that many restaurants don’t offer them, can make a restaurant an attractive place to work. Help with childcare is very beneficial as well.” Dover says paid sick days are timely given the pandemic. While some employees may treat them as vacation days, there is a pressing need for employees not to come to work sick.

 

Referral Bonuses

“Referral bonuses are becoming more prevalent,” Dover adds. Not only are they attractive to current staff, but he says they work well too. “New hires are more likely to stay if they know someone, especially if that person has stuck their neck out to recommend them.”


Offer ongoing training and development for staff who’d like to learn new skills, rotate through different jobs, or advance into leadership.

 

Ongoing Training

Training isn’t just for new hires. Offer ongoing training and development for staff who’d like to learn new skills, rotate through different jobs, or advance into leadership. Ask what they’d like to learn more about to keep it timely and meet their needs.

 

Establish Career Paths

Communicate the career paths in your establishment. Dover says, “Teaching people what it takes to get promoted and helping them do so is great for retention.”

 

Prioritize Staff Health and Safety

Health and safety is top of mind these days. Make it a topic at all staff meetings, reviewing protocols to bolster employees’ confidence that they and their co-workers are doing the right things the right way for safety. Be proactive about discussing mental health, and consult industry and community resources to address any issues.

 

General Culture

Is your culture rigid or flexible? Do schedules take staff needs into account? Are minor repairs and interpersonal issues addressed quickly to minimize day-to-day work frustrations? Do you communicate openly with your team? Do staff feel safe bringing forward concerns? Do you offer open recognition but private criticism (constructive, of course)? Never underestimate the retention and hiring power of your staff feeling supported and heard.

 

Think about recruiting online, offering applicants the choice of submitting traditional or video résumés, and conducting Zoom interviews.

 

Hiring Strategies that Reflect the Times

Asking applicants to drop off paper résumés can be off-putting for a digital-savvy labour pool. Trendy speed-dating-style hiring fairs are problematic during the pandemic. Think about recruiting online, offering applicants the choice of submitting traditional or video résumés, and conducting Zoom interviews. If you want to meet in person before making the final decision, use those tools to shortlist candidates.

 

Use Your Website for Hiring

Your website is an important tool in your hiring process. Amina Gilani, co-founder and COO of Sociavore, the independent restaurant website platform and Brand Points PLUS partner, says: “Use the Sociavore job creator tool to create customized job listings and generate mobile-friendly application pages right on your restaurant website. You will receive virus-screened application packages directly in your email — no third-party recruiting website required. Accept and manage application submissions all from one dashboard.”

 

Go Social for Recruiting

You work hard to build your social media accounts, so why not harness them for recruitment? Your followers just may want to work for you or refer candidates to you, so let them know you’re hiring and link to your website job listings.

 

Signing and Retention Bonuses

Signing and retention bonuses can sweeten the deal for potential new hires. 

 

When it comes to hiring and retention, Dover says, “The best thing you can do is make your restaurant a great place to work. […] Treat employees like a valuable commodity (which they are), and do what you can to keep people happy. […] Make your restaurant a place where Gen Z wants to work. They want to work for a company whose values align with theirs, so be environmentally friendly, address social issues, etc. Get the staff involved in implementing programs. If you nail this, you will have a way easier time than other restaurants finding and retaining staff.”

 

Written by Marlene Cornelis. For more great articles visit chefconnexion.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Flanagan Foodservice at 11:19 AM
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10 Creative Marketing Strategies

Restaurant worker on an ipad

10 Creative Marketing Strategies to Increase Revenue

 

Marketing your restaurant brand successfully, meaning you’re actually experiencing a return on your marketing dollars, can often seem an insurmountable task.  

 

It’s important to keep in mind that some of the most effective restaurant marketing strategies are designed to produce long-term results, as guests need constant visual reminders and communication about your brand to persuade their decision-making.

 

Here are 10 restaurant marketing strategies to leverage with the core objective of increasing revenue in the short- and long-term: 

 

1. Targeted Digital Advertising

Instagram and Facebook have made it extremely easy to attract and gain new guests with targeted digital advertising. Set your ad objective to target audiences similar to who follows your social pages, and drive them right to your website for reservation bookings. You can track the results, and not only begin seeing your social community grow, but also your reservation bookings.

 

2. Ticketed Events and Experiences

Create a seasonally inspired ticketed experience or event that requires guests to secure their spot in advance with a ticket. Not only does this guarantee a full house, but also allows you to manage the profit margin to increase your revenue, while creating a unique experience for guests. Try EventBrite for ease of ticket management. 

 

3. Promotional Marketing

Promotional marketing has a reputation of hurting the bottom line, but that isn’t always the case if planned strategically. There are many ways to maintain your brand experience and reputation, while offering a nominal perk to encourage guests to dine with you, and spend a little bit more. The objective with promotional incentives should be to increase the average check, by upselling the order on profitable menu items. Themed menu nights, pre-set menus, menu specials, alcohol features, and combos are all forms of promotional restaurant marketing that can increase revenue.

 

4. Sampling and Tastings

What better way to encourage sales than by giving someone a complimentary experience first! This marketing tactic allows you to communicate one on one the key selling features of the menu item or beverage, while making the guest feel special with a complimentary tasting. Work with your suppliers to create the experience and provide additional support and product, which will also reduce your expenses and increase your profit. 

 

FACT: Customers are 93% more likely to purchase an upgraded bottle of wine ($10 more) when offered a sampling. 

 

5. Pop-Up

Why wait for the guests to come to you, when you can go to them? Pop-up carts, booths, and street activations can be very a cost-effective way of reaching a new audience and marketing your brand experience directly. Be sure to hand out a promotional piece, such as a complimentary appetizer or dessert card, to invite guests to your physical location to dine again!  

 

6. Private Label Products To Go

Consider leveraging your most popular dishes, sauces, or made-in-house products that have the highest profit margin, and packaging them to go for guests to enjoy at home. This out-the-door form of marketing keeps your brand top of mind in guest homes, sparks word-of-mouth advertising, and provides your business with another revenue stream. 

 

7. Dining Rewards

Most restaurant point-of-sale systems have built-in rewards programs that track guest’s information and dining history. The systems are extremely sophisticated, and often provide digital marketing opportunities to reward guests based on their dining behaviour and milestones, such as birthdays and anniversaries. Whether it’s a complimentary birthday dessert or points towards achieving a unique experience, be sure to maximize the preexisting marketing tools in your point-of-sale, or reservation booking systems, to encourage repeat business. 

 

8. Brand Collaborations

You know the saying – “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”? This rings true for restaurant competitors too! Over the last few years, as restaurants have struggled with new industry challenges, we’ve witnessed the birth of restaurant and chef collaborations with the objective of bringing unique experiences to guests and driving new business. Consider hiring a well-known chef to design your seasonal menu, or feature some unique menu items designed by another popular restaurant that serves a different type of cuisine, or collaborate on a pop-up to share costs. The ideas are endless, and with the right collaboration the results can be very positive for the bottom line.  

 

9. Google Business

When it comes to marketing your restaurant brand, Google Business is a tactic that many restaurant brands have still not tapped into fully. Google Business pages provide a platform where you can showcase images, post daily updates, create digital promotions for guests, link to your website and social platforms, and encourage guests to reward you with 5-star reviews. When a guest Googles your brand, your Google Business page is likely the first thing that pops up, which is why it’s so critical to manage this platform. The best part, all of the digital tools are free. 

 

10. Own Your Restaurant Website

Let your website be the front door to your restaurant where diners can learn about you before they make a reservation. Your online strategy isn’t complete without one and sites such as the all-in-one platform Sociavore was developed for independent restaurant operators like you to be in full control of your brand, content, online ordering and reservation booking system. Your website attracts visitors and drives sales, so take control of your online presence. Book a Sociavore demo here.

 

Take your marketing efforts to a more profitable level by implementing one or more of these creative strategies for your restaurant brand. 

 

Written by Kate Engineer, originally posted on chefconnexion.com.

 

Visit chefconnexion.com for more articles

 

 

 

 

Flanagan Foodservice at 1:11 PM
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The Art of Food Plating

Steak and shrimp plated

The Art of Food Plating

Top tips to raise your plates to new heights

 

You don’t need a fine art degree to execute beautifully presented plates. Somewhere between Chicago restaurant Alinea’s Da Vinci-esque attention to detail and a cafeteria scoop and slap, there is a style of food plating that represents your very own establishment. Plating, like art, is personal and should tell the story of your menu.

 

Menus changed dramatically in the last year to cover losses from restrictions and shutdowns. Entire menus were downsized, menus became hyper-focused and the individual menu items remaining were squeezed to maximize profits. Has your plating adjusted accordingly? 

 

With a splash of art, a touch of math, and a dollop of common sense, you will be on your way to palatable plating. Follow these handy tips:

 

  • Find your focal point. All meals have a focal point. Likely the starting ingredient you used to design the flavour of the dish. Focus on that one ingredient, usually the protein, and build complementary flavours around it. Apply the same principle when plating.
  • Splash some colour. Plate colour should enhance the food. White plates are popular because they provide a blank canvas and great contrast for your dishes. However, a flavour-popping special’s ingredients that lean towards beige would benefit from a coloured plate instead.  Black dinnerware gives a negative contrast matching well with brightly coloured ingredients.
  • The colour of the ingredients can be adjusted for further visual appeal without compromising on design flavour, like using purple fingerling potatoes instead of white.
  • Mix up your texture. Offer different visual textures on the plate by mixing and matching to find a balance. Adjust textures while maintaining flavour. Hard, soft, smooth, grainy, fluffy, flaky and coarse.  
  • Find your best size. Choose plates large enough to accommodate food without overcrowding. Oversized plates offer a dramatic flair but can give the impression of too-small portions. The less on the plate, the more precision required as focus is tight.
  • Scale down. Perception of quantity increases if your portion sizes match the scale of the plates, bowls or platters. Simply put, smaller portions on smaller plates. Reducing portion sizes by 10 per cent but visually filling the plate is good for your bottom line. However, if your dinnerware inventory doesn’t contain the size you need and purchasing a new size is out of the budget, strategic placement and arrangement of smaller portions on larger dishes can still deliver.
  • Follow the rule of thirds. In food, the rule suggests placing the focal point to the left or right side of the plate. Go further and apply a well-used photography rule to your plates (or bowls or platters) no matter the shape or size to artfully showcase your focal ingredient.
  • Work the odd numbers. Although never scientifically proven, many chefs believe an odd number of elements, like shrimp or meatballs, is more visually appealing and gives a perception of more food. Even numbers typically require more precise placement for balance. 
  • Consider shapes. Consider the shape of the food and the plate.  Circles (dots of sauce, a timbale of grains, brussels sprouts) on a square plate add instant drama. Include height and depth.

Common Sense

  • Learn to fit in. How the dish reads on the menu should translate easily to the plate.  The customer shouldn’t be confused as the order is placed on the table. Plating must fit within the capabilities of the kitchen and skill level of staff.A poor choice of plate, its size and colour, can throw off a well-organized kitchen if it doesn’t have a logical place.
  • Watch the trends. Tightening and reducing portion sizes on menus is smart business.  Turn it up to brilliant by marketing your menu as nutritionally balanced to hit those customers craving healthy, tasty and beautiful food.
  • Make it a movable feast. Walk around with your plated meal. Does it move?
  • Step back. However beautiful your plate looks, it always comes down to how it “eats.” Sit in the diner’s chair and dig in. Is it the experience you were aiming for?

Remember:

  • Use a clean plate – no chips, fingerprints, scratches or markings
  • Plate quickly enough to maintain proper food temperature
  • Don’t let food touch the rim
  • Pick a focal point/ingredient
  • Ensure servers know the direction in which the plate should be served

Elevating your food with thoughtful plating gives a memorable first impression before your customers even take a bite. If they grab their cameras before their forks? Your food plating is a masterpiece.

 

Written by Cheri Thompson, originally posted on chefconnexion.com

 

Visit chefconnexion.com for more articles

 

Flanagan Foodservice at 1:06 PM
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Managing guest expectations during times of constant change

Managing guest expectations during times of constant change through effective communications tactics

 

Social media icons on a tablet

 

Keeping your guests informed and up to date about what to expect when dining at your establishment has never been so critical to the success of your foodservice operation. The restaurant industry remains in a state of constant change, and to maximize the allowable dining capacities, you need to up your communications game.  

 

Start off by keeping these key questions top of mind for a more tactical approach to your communications: 

  1. What do guests want to know right now about my restaurant?
  2. How will the message we’re communicating make them feel?
  3. Where and how do they want to receive messages?
  4. How will they respond and how can our team be ready?

Transparency is a Winning Tactic

First and foremost, a transparent and authentic approach is critical in achieving effective communications that will leave your restaurant guests feeling comfortable, safe and informed about the NEW dining experience at your establishment. Be first to share your health and safety procedures, operational changes such as seating and team updates, and menu modifications, so guests know upfront what to expect without having to ask. This tactic will help to demonstrate that your team takes the changing circumstances seriously, you’re informed, and you want to provide the best guest experience. 

 

 

Consistent and Timely Information is Key for Restaurant Marketing

In a recent poll, 59% of respondents shared that they use Google to find out information about a restaurant, while 41% use Instagram.

 

Reservation booking platforms, search engine listings, your website, social media, and review websites all share pertinent information about your restaurant that informs guests decision-making. The information listed on these digital touch points must to be current and consistent for maximum awareness. There is nothing more frustrating for a guest than showing up to find a closed restaurant, when online it says it’s open. 

 

Here is the key information guests are looking when they search; be sure to keep it updated:

  1. Health policies and procedures
  2. Hours of operation and seating times
  3. Menus 
  4. Reservation system 
  5. Takeout and delivery options
  6. Specials 
  7. Contact information

 

 

TIP:  Help reduce email inquiries, direct messages, and phone inquiries by providing a few frequently asked guest questions and up-to-date team responses on your website, Facebook, and Google Business page! 

 

 

Focus on the Fun

It’s easy these days to overuse the pandemic in our communication, however when the time is right, focus on the new and exciting things happening at your restaurant to entice guests back in to dine and continue to take out. New menu items, improved service, seasonal drinks, revamped décor and design, weekend events, and special occasion celebrations are all things to communicate that will remind guests of why they should choose to dine with you versus a competitor.  Promote what you’re best known for, and feature it on all of your communications platforms! 

 

 

Get Even More Social

Social media is your simplest and quickest way to share what’s happening at your establishment with guests, and to spark two-way communication. Up your posting to daily, and share the unique brand experiences that will excite guests the most. With health and safety top of mind for diners, ensure your photography and video content showcase your team following the proper procedures, in order to resolve any guest concerns; transparency is absolutely the best policy. When boosting your social media presence be prepared for increased guest inquiries through direct messages and comments, and have a plan in place to respond within less than 24 hours. The FAQs and responses are also a useful tool when responding on social media. 

 

 

Land in the Inbox

Whether you send monthly emails or have never sent email communication from your brand, now is the time to get in the inbox. You’ll be fighting for space, however email communication is a great tactic to provide more detailed information for guests to help keep them informed of your weekly or monthly happenings. E-newsletters should be short and sweet, with a catchy subject line, and include hyperlinks either back to your website or a direct email for more information. Utilize email communication to feature operational and safety news, menu features, and special events.  

 

 

 

TIP:  Can’t afford a graphic designer? Try Canva at no charge for a well-designed branded e-newsletter you can create in no time. 

 

Guests are eager and excited to get back to in-dining, and the most effective approach to filling your seats is to communicate timely and accurate information that sets a clear guest expectation. Your brand can’t over-communicate right now; it’s time to get loud!

 

Written by Kate Engineer and shared with permission from chefconnexion.com

 

Visit chefconnexion.com for more great tips

 

 

 

 

Flanagan Foodservice at 1:21 PM
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Add smoke flavour to your menu

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire: how to add smoke taste to your menu

Smoke on a black background

 

Our love affair with the scent and flavour of smoke is primal, evoking memories from deep within us. Canadian diners continue to be enchanted with all things smoke.  

 

Gone are the days where customers only want smoky flavours associated with BBQ. Smoke continues to waft across menus. Although proteins (both animal and plant-based) continue to dominate the smoky spotlight, this delectable flavour profile now permeates salads, desserts and even drinks.

 

Go all in with in-house smoking or utilize the flavour packed offerings from Canadian suppliers who know their smoke. Fan those delicious smoky flames and ignite your menu.

 

Not fizzling out

 

Smoking and smoke flavours have been around for millennia, but restaurant customers still can’t get enough as smoke continues to waft through menus across the country.

Technomic’s foodservice industry intelligence platform tracks flavours and preparations on menus. And they see smoke!

 

Among the foodservice establishments Technomic tracks, 45% of operators have menu items featuring smoke flavour or smoke preparation methods. And depending on the segments, the rate is even higher. Food Trucks – 75%, Upscale CDR – 68%, Fine Dining – 66%.

 

It all makes sense when you consider that poutine appetizers, specialty burgers, sushi and even breakfast platters boasting this flavour profile continue to show growth. When you look at meal parts, desserts that feature smoke are showing an astonishing 33% growth.

 

Yes, smoke for dessert. And well beyond s’mores, banana boats and mountain pies. How about Smoky Banana Bourbon Bites, Apple Pie with Smoked Cheddar Crust or Smoky Spiced Chocolate Cake?

 

 

Blaze a trail  

Hanging out at the cottage, delighting in bonfires and watching grandpa at the BBQ are fond memories evoked by the smell and taste of smoke for Victoria Horton, sales and quality assurance for Horton Spice Mills.

 

“People love smoky flavours because of the memories. It reminds us of summertime, nice weather and social gatherings.” And who isn’t craving that right now? “The scent gives us a moment to reminisce, but the flavour is delicious and keeps us coming back for more,” she adds. 

 

“Operators should add smoky flavours for the experience,” Horton suggests. “And for the nostalgia.”

 

“Smoking meats and other ingredients takes time. It’s a low and slow process,” she reminds us. “If operators want to achieve dishes with smoky flavours without all the work and time needed, spices and seasonings can do the trick. Add them before, add them after, or both, to whatever you are cooking.”

 

Horton Spice Mills has a few items that can bring smoke to a dish without all the time and effort. How about a Smoky Salted Caramel Pear Tart using their smoked salt. Or a quick Portobello Mushroom Paprikash with smoked paprika.

 

“Our chipotle seasoning adds a hint of smoke and we have created a Smoked Montreal Steak Spice,” says Horton. 

 

All fired up

“Smoky flavours offer a sensory experience like no other,” says Steve Hutchinson, VP of marketing for foodservice for Parmalat/Lactalis.

 

“It’s a flavour adventure not easily replicated with in-home dining and can therefore make dining out an incredible experience. Operators who can create these unique smoky flavour experiences and link it to their signature dishes can keep customers coming back.”

 

Cheese and cheddar are top ingredients paired with smoke. Lactalis takes it a step further with Balderson’s Double Smoked Cheddar. Using it on the menu can impart intense wood smoke flavour, and the fact it pairs well with dark and amber beers, ales and lagers is a bonus.

 

Kick it up a notch higher and pair smoky appetizers with smoke-infused cocktails. A Manhattan, Bloody Mary or Martini will take centre stage when you add smoky elements – infused spirits, smoked ice cubes, smoking the glass or adding a smoked garnish. 

 

Smoke signals

“Differentiation and craveability are key to gaining new customers,” says Unilever Corporate Chef Kyla Tuori, who has been working with operators to help their businesses excel for the past 14 years.

 

“The flavours we associate with “smokiness” add complexity to so many recipes, craveable enough that they are now being incorporated into vegetables dishes,” she says.

 

“Smokiness in your dishes allows for simple, yet impactful, enhancements for a variety of cuisines. Adding smoke flavour, or the process of smoking can be introduced as a subtle background note or leading flavour.”

 

Not all operators have access to smoking equipment or the inclination to add another process to their busy kitchens. But there’s always another way.

 

Says Chef Kyla, “Unilever created the Knorr Intense Flavours Deep Smoke. This concentrated liquid seasoning allows you to easily add the rich smoky taste.” 

 

She also reminds us that yes, smoky is amazing but adding other flavours can further enhance your dishes. Knorr Citrus Fresh Flavour is a great example of a complement to smoky dishes but can also be used multiple places on your menu.

 

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Grab your ingredients, add the fuel of your imagination and creativity, stay true to your brand and add some major heat to your menu.

 

Written by Cherie Thompson and shared with permission from Chef Connexion. For more great articles and recipes visist chefconnexion.com.

 

Visit chefconnexion.com

Flanagan Foodservice at 12:56 PM
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