This blog series is brought to you by the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA), the leading trade association for the foodservice industry. This series will focus on ways to optimize across the entire supply channel and bring consumers back to foodservice.
Changes are in store for the foodservice industry this year, and foodservice leaders will be tasked with making the necessary changes to ensure their operations continue to run smoothly. Higher rates of staff turnover, an increased focus on customer service and the growing importance of technology will all be prominent in 2012. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Flexibility is key to retaining valued employees. With the slow improvement of the job market, many foodservice employees don’t feel the same pressure to hold onto their jobs that they did just a few years ago. With voluntary turnover expected to increase this year, managers should take precautions to hold onto their most valuable team members. “In 2012, HR efforts need to be focused on attracting and retraining top quality hires. There is a growing emphasis on schedule flexibility and professional growth opportunities in foodservice HR,” Nate DaPore writes on PizzaMarketPlace.com.
To encourage employees — both old and new — to stick around, let them know how much you value them and provide unique opportunities to let their individual talents shine. “I try to replace the motto that everyone is replaceable. I want people to feel that they’re part of our family and that they are not replaceable,” Nancy Batista-Caswell, owner of Ceia Kitchen + Bar in Massachusetts, told Restaurant Management. She uses different activities to keep her staff interested, such as a contest to see who can sell the most wine or the opportunity to teach an in-house wine class.
Competition for customers is stiff. Consumers are still picky about where they spend their dining dollars, and most expect stellar customer service from any establishment that’s going to get their hard-earned cash. “To meet customers’ expectations and maintain their loyalty, restaurants’ service efforts will need to set them apart from competitors,” DaPore writes. To make sure Russo’s Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen stands out in the crowd, owner David Martinez explains in QSR Magazine that he makes sure to spend plenty of time on the floor with customers, and gives some unique advice to employees when telling them how to treat guests. “A common example of good customer service is telling your staff to treat them like you would treat family. The problem with that is some people might take that with a more relaxed attitude. I tell my staff to treat every customer as if they were my family,” he said.
Experiencing your own business from a customer point-of-view is crucial to making sure things are running the way they should. “If you’re at the corporate level, just because you eat quickserve doesn’t mean you know how to run one, and you especially don’t know how to deal with customers,” said Martinez, who recommends taking a turn on the floor as an employee to gain valuable insight that can be used for training new hires and improving customer service.
Let technology work for you. When it comes to the customer-service experience people expect, an increasing number of customers are looking to interact with a computer. Automated menus, online ordering and mobile technology are constantly making it easier for diners to pick where they want to eat, and to place an order once they decide. These tech options can make it easier for restaurants, too, if managers and employees know how to use them. Automated menus that use tablets such as the iPad or E la Carte’s Presto can bring a lot to the table. “Besides making the dining experience fun, Presto also has advantages for the restaurant. It tends to result in more ordering because you don’t have to wait to track down the waiter. Presto also has extensive analytics to give an idea of what menu items are generating the strongest profits,” writes Tom Taulli.