The power of Google… and how the food profit pennies soon add up to a nice holiday!
Click the image to see the new Hard Stuff!
Industry bods have recently commented that menu flexibility is a key tool in context of volatile food prices – but rigid food controls are vital to maintaining profits.
The biggest problem to implementing profitable menu flexibility for most pub and restaurant owners is that unless they are ‘hands-on’ in the kitchen themselves they are placing the profitability of the business in the hands of their chefs; people who by their nature more familiar with a whisk and a choux bun than a calculator and gross margin.
The doubling of UK potato prices alone could unwittingly wipe over £2,000 from the bottom line of even a modest food operator and yet Carter says she is constantly seeing business owners who unwittingly wipe £’s off their bottom line by leaving chef in control of the numbers. This problem is exaggerated for independent multiple operators, where it is particularly difficult to keep a check on every chef and menu. Carter has recently seen £20,000 restored to the bottom line across five sites by challenging and changing expensive garnish procedures – alarmingly most salad garnish ends up uneaten in the bin anyway.
This year will see food suppliers increasingly passing on food price increases to operators so the only way to fight back and maintain profitability is with robust monitoring systems. This means creating accurate food specifications with detailed food costing – something chefs are averse to doing on a regular basis. It is truly shocking how much ‘ad-hoc’ goes on in pub kitchens – portions not measured, inconsistency of plating up and guessing of costs and margins.
Operators need to treat food preparation and delivery as an exact science and totally quantifiable if they are to maintain their profits during volatile times. Carter estimates in an average outlet without proper controls loses between 2% and 5% of potential food margin through lax food spec procedures and poor menu engineering. “The problem is” she says “when looking for missed profit opportunities in a catering kitchen, you are chasing a few pence here and a couple of pence there on many component parts and multiplied by many repeat sales, making it a time consuming and difficult task.”
“as always the devil is in the detail! “
Not being a stalker!
I don’t mean trench-coat, eye-holes in the newspaper style, but there are some great ways of keeping an eye on your followers, without having to trawl through hundreds and hundreds of tweets. It’s more about spying, with a few detective skills thrown in. Creating ‘Lists’ in Twitter means that you can sort your followers into types (eg. ‘Sunday Lunch Regulars’, ‘Darts Team’) that make it easier for you to jump in at the right moment and start a conversation.
Mistake No. 2 – Blatantly Selling
It’s easy enough to do; ‘Come to our BBQ tonight’, ‘Book now for your table at next week’s Tapas night’, ‘Happy hour 5-7pm this evening’ – but is completely void of any imagination or tact whatsoever! You wouldn’t stand behind the bar bleating the next three months’ events calendar when your customers are having all sorts of interesting conversations, and it shouldn’t be any different on Twitter. Instead of broadcasting about this week’s quiz, why not congratulate last week’s winners? Instead of writing what’s on the Monday £5 Menu, Tweet a photo of whatever’s being prepared in the kitchen.
Pubs are the perfect place to meet people in different social circles. It’s hardly surprising that smart operators have cottoned on to this and are getting themselves into new circles too – I’m talking about Social Media; the online hub where literally millions of conversations are happening every day. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Blog sites, Social Media is everywhere, and more and more licensees are taking the plunge when it comes to promoting their pub in this way. There’s no hard and fast rulebook, but over the next fortnight, I’ll be sharing my top 5 tips for how to avoid the mistakes that everyone else makes (and some good Tweeting manners too!)
Mistake No 1. – Not standing out from the crowd
If you search ‘Pubs in London’ on Twitter, how many do you think come up? Hundreds! Scrolling down the search results it’s amazing how many identical ‘Pub Exterior’ profile pictures and bios saying ‘Great food, real ale, best pub in London’ there are… same old, same old – yawn! Then one catches my eye; ‘Legendary All Black Buzz Cousins brings a Kiwi twist to this iconic Thameside Pub.’ I’m intrigued, especially as there’s a pic of the team smiling at me too. Being brave and not just the same as everyone else will pay dividends when it comes to getting new followers.
You may think your customers don’t want to know what’s in their food let alone how fattening it is, and yet the M&C report * revealed that 67% of people would like to receive nutritional information before ordering food in a pub or restaurant!
The Government introduced the Public Health Responsibility Deal in September last year, offering pubs and restaurants a chance to sign up to a voluntary code with a food pledge to “promote and enable people to adopt a healthier diet” with “out of home calorie and salt labelling” helping give people the information they need to make healthier choices when eating out.
You may have noticed that big chains have already signed the pledge- McD’s , Harvester, Starbucks, Pizza Express – the list goes on, and customers are getting used to being able to see exactly what’s in their food when they order. What happens when they come though your door and demand the same info?
If you run a menu and food offer in your pub and want to give your customers nutritional info, it may seem yet another body blow of how much easier it is for the big boys with their seemingly limitless resources. Yours is an already overcrowded day with so many other pressures on your time, and this appears to be quite an onerous task – particularly if you operate a daily specials board, make a lot of dishes and component dishes from scratch and have different menus for different times of the day.
Box <If this sounds like you HELP IS AT HAND. Check out www.CaterCost.com this incredible new Cloud software is designed specifically with YOU the independent food operator in mind. > end box
With CaterCost it couldn’t be easier to get nutritional info from all your made from scratch dishes, it will accurately cost your menus at the same time allowing you to squeeze every last drop of profit from every dish (see lead article). (If that wasn’t enough, it has a price comparison function and actually prints your menus with nutritional info on too!)
CaterCost is created by the multi-award winning Pub Mentor winner of Venus Women Awards Entrepreneur of the Year 2012, awarded for innovation.
Do you really know what goes on in your kitchen – I mean REALLY know on a daily basis? Or do you wait till the figures are back from the accountant to b***ock the chef about less than desired margins?
Waiting till next month/year to find out what’s happening today is too late. You will be greeted with all the excuses under the sun … I need another chef/oven/more hours in the day/different menu/ food prices must have gone up…. whatever the excuse it’s still TOO LATE to claw back any of the lost profit that’s disappearing into thin air today.
The reality is it’s all about business basics. In order to SELL something for a PROFIT you need to know exactly what it COSTS you.
That’s easy for commodities such as bottles and measures of drink. They are consistently bought and sold in specific quantities – with food there are so many variables with every dish being a complex ‘cocktail’ of many component parts. With so much at stake – even more reason to apply the same business discipline to the food we sell on our menus as we do to the drink we sell!
The simple truth is that proper portion control, product purchasing and accurate costings will give you consistency and bigger profits.
Here’s what could be happening in your kitchen if your chef is having a bad day – on just this one dish you could be making another £5.2k a year when he/she’s not! The crying shame is that your customers will be in blissful ignorance of either, your bank manager on the other hand won’t!
Click on the picture to enlarge the image!
There have been some seismic shifts in trends in the pub trade over the last five decades – some pubs thrive and adapt to change to keep them at the top of their game whilst others think that once things are going well, sticking to the same formula will keep them there for ever. There is a place between current success and future success that is a dangerous place, where it is tempting to relax and think “I know how my business works”. It could be a slow, yet painful, decline to give way to complacency in this comfort zone.
Some things will never change – the impact of happy, friendly, well trained staff and getting the basics right (cleanliness and attention to detail) will always make you stand head and shoulders above the rest, so what’s the biggest change-alert right now? The way the world is communicating, the speed of this constant change and the impact this is having on the way we do business.
If you’re still only relying on the ‘traditional’ marketing media of ads in the paper and word of mouth, and your web site looks more like a ‘brochure’ than a professional site compelling viewers to visit you, then be careful – you could be about to fall into the trap of basing future success on what’s worked well in the past.
I’ve recently been working with some amazing licensees who are on to this and are adapting to the Social Media revolution at a breathtaking pace. It’s not that hard once you get down to it and besides, licensees were born to have an online presence; chatting with customers in cyberspace, sharing stories and jokes – it’s just an extension of the conversations you start in the bar…
Mahdis Neghabian, licensee of The Camden Eye in London has become Britain’s top publican, after winning the trade’s highest accolade, the BII Licensee of the Year Award 2012.
The judges said “Mahdis has inspired us by combining innovation, strategic thinking and excellent customer care.”
Thanks to her tenacity and drive, she has just secured the top spot in a culturally British industry, dominated (mostly) by “middle-aged men”.
Doing things her way has never been a barrier for Mahdis, whose dedication to training, events and a creative marketing approach has put The Camden Eye on the map.
“Mahdis is an extraordinary operator and embodies all the qualities needed to run a successful pub in 2012,” said former Licensee of the Year Ali Carter aka ‘The Pub Mentor’, who has supported her over the past 6 months.
Ali’s mentoring gave Mahdis a huge confidence boost, tweaked her focus and helped springboard her career to the next step.
After the award was announced at the BII Annual Lunch, Mahdis tweeted, “Thank you Ali, you’ve been amazing and what an inspiration you are to me. It’s going to be a great year.”
Ali Carter - Mentor to this year’s BII LOYA Award Winner, Mahdis Neghabian, The Camden Eye, NewPub Co.
Firstly, understand that you will never get to the bottom of your list, as fast as you cross things off the bottom new things get added to the top! Once I accepted that there will never be a blank sheet of paper or clear white-board I was much happier!
Secondly, always do your list before the day is over – while things are fresh in your mind – not only will it help you sleep better (the mind has a curious ability to problem solve while you sleep and often impossible problems you go to bed with, will have a solution by morning) but you will avoid wasting precious time in the morning as you can get on with it straight away
• A List – big things that will help move you towards your financial goals e.g:
Refurbish the snug bar to increase dining capacity by 20 covers;
Plan, create, set up and market five special events for March. These are both worthy of an A list. Always put a date (drop-dead-deadline) on these.
• B List – Important stuff for the efficient day-to-day running of the place
• C List – nice to have stuff – tidy the office, paint the car park lines – FORGET it – unless they ever move onto the B list they’ll never get done!