By Rick Braa, CHAE
Q: We have a highly seasonal business and we earn the bulk of our profit during the summer. We often get into a mode of being busy. What are some ideas to keep our crew educated and engaged through the busy time and maximize our profit?
A: Being a seasonal restaurant is the most difficult of all models. High season sales are often two to four times more than the surrounding seasons, bringing the reality of having two different restaurants with an operational survival mindset. Operational survival can bring a sense of being overwhelmed and forgetfulness that the guest is the star of the show. The leader’s job, during this time, is to maximize opportunities. An extra dollar earned during high season flows beautifully to the bottom line. To optimize high season, consider the following:
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Say yes to the guest. When a restaurant is busy, the overall feeling can swing to a position of protective automation. Front desk staff are the gatekeepers of guest flow and the introduction to the guest experience. Too often distraction wins the day and the staff shifts focus to interact with its work rather than the guest. Front desk is focused on the dining area, and when it’s full, staff members can overestimate wait times to relieve pressure or deliver a body language message of “we’re too busy for you” rather than “we want you to enjoy yourself and stay and dine with us.” The guest is visiting to be transported to an experience rather than a third-world country. A new table needs a greet with fresh energy and enthusiasm. Servers and bartenders can swing into order taking mode rather than guest engagement behaviors and check average increase opportunities vanish. The natural feeling during the rush is “when is this going to end?” where it should be “this is wonderful.” Be conscious of this tendency and coach to guest engagement. Manage and direct hard to offer the entire experience by saying yes to every bit of business the guest wants to experience: extra drinks, apps, desserts and higher ticket items.
Demonstrate and reinforce hospitality. Every day is important. A proper hospitality experience contains a strong greet, a customized experience, a strong finish at the end and a legitimate thank you. Proper behavior begins at the top; be the example always. High season is the most important time to pamper employees with how you want the guest to be treated. If employees slip in and out without experiencing a place of belonging and hospitality, an opportunity is wasted. Role model hospitality to the crew by greeting them upon first contact with a smile and great energy. Discuss their shift and how exciting it’s going to be while setting goals such as table turn times, customizing guest experiences, efficiency, teamwork and why they should be excited for the day. Leadership in a rut creates a path for others to follow while energy, direction and positivity create a channel to great performance. At the end of the shift, take the time to review the shift, key numbers and thank the employee legitimately. Most of all keep cool, smile a ridiculous amount of time, coach relentlessly and be the party.
Maximize table turns. Speed is a friend year-round, and high season sales benefit most. Consider reducing the size of the menu and streamlining production with easier to prepare food items and batch cocktails. While the menu is analyzed, consider taking a small price increase on high moving items. Measure speed in separate buckets of time to place the drink order, delivery time of first drink, time to place the food order, ticket times to produce and drop food orders, and speed to close the ticket from ticket delivery and table reset. There is opportunity in every area along this sequence to be productive and maximize table turns, which will increase sales.
Stay socially active. Watch social media reviews, Respond to every post and get direct feedback frequently from the guest. Diligently measure guest satisfaction, it typically goes down when businesses are at their peak. Post pictures on social media platforms of a full restaurant daily, inviting the guest to join the party.
It’s an exciting time when seasonal businesses heat up. Create a party atmosphere every day for the crew and guest and enjoy additional profitability that can keep the party going year around. n
For a more information on improving profitability and driving performance, contact AMP Services at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rick Braa is the co-founder of AMP Services, an accounting and consulting firm specializing in helping companies grow profitability.