5 Restaurant Management Tips from Hart House

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Ashley Ringham

The following is restaurant management advice from Edwyn Kumar, the Operations Manager of Hart House a lake side fine dining establishment.

Edwyn grew up in Coquitlam, BC and started working in the restaurant and hotel industry at the age of 19, drawn by his appreciation for fine cuisine and the romantic atmosphere of a candlelit room. He has held management positions at some of Vancouver’s premier restaurants, including Lumière, Cin Cin, and most recently at Chambar.  

Edwyn returned to Hart House in the Summer of 2017 as the Operations Manager after his previous role of General Manager from 2008 to 2015.

Restaurant management guide table of contents.

  1. Menu Planning
  2. Lower Food Waste
  3. Employee Training
  4. Employee Retention
  5. Customer Service

1 - Menu planning.

When planning out your menu Edwyn had three important factors to consider:

  • Know who you are serving and what style of restaurant you want to create and make sure the menu caters to that ideal customer
  • Take ingredient seasonality into account and highlight the best flavor, avoid the use of products grown in a hot house to decrease product cost and increase flavor palette
  • Have a menu vision and stick with it
  • Ensure your menu has good ingredient crossover lowering the cost by allowing for larger purchasing power and decreasing waste by using more of the product
  • Cost every item in a dish out, even garnish and understand what each dish costs your restaurant to make sure your menu is in the 20% to 30% APR sweet spot

When thinking of a menu make sure you keep the vision and customer in mind. If your customers want products out of season all year long, you will not need to worry about the use of seasonal products. If your restaurant is a chain or franchise is there a way to sneak local flavors into a dish? It is ok to have a menu that is a mix of food items as long as that matches your customer base and vision for the restaurant. As Edwyn puts it the menu is like your restaurants mission statement.

Ingredient crossover has two important factors you get a better buying power when using more of one item and produce less product waste. Have your chefs use all of the product, for example using a carrot gives you the option of pureeing the carrots in a soup, shaving them for a salad and using the heads as a garnish. By using the entire item you are removing waste and creating a cost effective system.

2 - Lower Food Waste

Make sure that you're receiving is correct by checking your actual invoices. Watch the product amount and cost until you trust your supplier.

Ingredient crossover and good menu or portion planning will help lower food waste. Hire skilled and trained staff who know how to butcher and turn vegetables, and understand what is and what isn't waste while they're in the midst of preparing.

Proper fridge rotation using the first in first out stocking procedures reduces the risk of items going bad before use.

Monitor your inventory know what you have and what you need when you need it. Prepare for busy and slow selling seasons.

And the most important way to lower food waste is to simply check you garbage. Walk over and take a look at what is being thrown out the most. Is the customers helping too large and you consistently see waste coming from purchased food? If your preparing food in the morning and your already running a full garbage then you can use this to help pinpoint what products can be used further.

3 - Employee Training

Start your training plan with a solid hiring plan. Before thinking about training understand your company culture and prepare to protect it. When interviewing new employees look for their abilities as well as the personality and culture fit. It is far more expensive to introduce a toxic employee than taking the time to hire the right employee.

Set up employee onboarding and create a good first impression. Introduce your company culture and expectations. Give them an employee manual - this is important. Without a manual you will explain the same thing over and over again wasting time and causing frustration. A manual empowers the new employee to look up answers on their own. Managers can ask new employees to find the answer in the manual without coming down too hard on the new employee.

Have a plan in place for continuous training. Update the employee manual as things change. For example at Hart House people are lingering longer with appetizers while traditionally the plates would be removed before getting to the main course. When this was noted the employee manual was updated and staff were emailed to ensure every member of the team was on the same page and service stayed consistent. After updating the employee manual complete staff follow up to make sure everyone understands the change and make sure that the changes are working for your team.

4 - Employee Retention

Protect your culture bubble at all cost. In a Gallup survey only 12% of respondents believe that their organization does a great job at onboarding. While you may believe onboarding is an important part of training, it is also an important part of employee retention. There have been many studies on the effects of negative people on a company culture.Make sure when hiring to take the time to find the right people not just for that position but to mesh with your team and culture.

Once you have the right team and position fit put your employees on a growth path. Allowing employees to become stagnant creates boredom and dissatisfaction in the workplace. Make new training goals achievable and appropriate for the position and the person.

The team at Hart House goes through continuous training and improvement based on the employee and their desired career path. The team at Hart House uses new menu changes and wine pairings to keep younger employees engaged in growth while using a mentorship program in the kitchen for chefs to keep them engaged. Each head chef has a team to train teaching them the skills required to get them to the next stage of their career.

Have fun at work. The average person spends 13 years and two months of their lives at work so it's important to get to know your staff. As a manager you cannot be too far removed because people are looking to enjoy the experience of coming to work and they want to make human connections.

5 - Customer Service

Customer service is a huge part of any restaurant success, it impacts ever aspect of your store and is also a big part of growing restaurant profit.

Top 3 customer service tips:

  • Know who your best client is and let them know it, thank them for always coming, remember their name and let them try new dishes while asking their opinion
  • Analyze why your best customers continue to visit and figure out how to amplify that
  • Make sure each customer knows you care

When analyzing your top customers ask them why they keep coming, figure out who they are and understand what strength or need your restaurant fills. If they are coming to you for human connection or because they like a staff member can you continue to replicate this or does it rely on one person? Make sure to listen to your employees. They are on the front line and hear the good and bad from your customers and have the most knowledge on why someone is leaving happy with their experience or why they are not happy with their experience.

Advice for a new restaurant manager

A final word of advice from Edwyn to a new restaurant owner or manager is to get super clear on what you are trying to achieve then find the people you know can help achieve it. Trust that the people you have chosen will accomplish the vision you have set because you were crystal clear with your vision. As the “captain of the ship” the owner or manager must understand the parts of the job they do not excel in and use employees to fill those skill gaps.

When building out your store be sure to consider what back end systems you can use to improve your operations. Restaurant payroll, and workforce management solutions that integrate with your front of house POS make restaurant management a breeze.

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