Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Question. Do you know what your guests want?

Have you observed, analysed or worked out what your guests want from your restaurant or cafe?
If you’re operating currently in this competitive industry, seeing through your guest's perspective is indispensible.
Your guests can see shortcomings that you yourself might not. Details can be missed, such as a staff member with a poor attitude. 
Don’t assume that because your restaurant/cafe is doing well, your guests are happy.
Today I’ll examine five things that your guests are looking for in your restaurant/cafe.

What do guests want?
Guests need change based on a large amount of factors, including location, season, and even personality. However, there are factors that all guests are looking for.
I have assembled five examples of factors that your restaurant cannot be without: 
  1. Your guests want to feel welcomed. Your restaurant has eight seconds to make a first impression. Generally, it is your reception person or wait staff member on the floor who accomplishes this task. With the first point of contact, the wait staff can set the tone for the entire dining experience. Is someone waiting to greet your guests? Are guests standing around, looking for someone to take notice of them?
  2. A clean and well-organized restaurant. You may forget the impact that your building has on your guests. Are the acoustics in your restaurant too loud? Is it too cold or too warm? Is your décor sending the wrong message? These little thoughts can have a big impact on attracting return guests. Paying attention to all the details, both big and small, shows your guests that you take pride in your restaurant/cafe and care about their experience.
  3. Thoughtful, suggestive and kind wait staff. The appearance and behaviour of your service staff stands out to your guests. Service is a crucial factor for your restaurant. How many online reviews have you read where the guest cannot forgive bad service? You need to make sure that your servers are trained well and have a strong focus on guest satisfaction.
  4. A clear and concise website. Potential guests want to be able to find out information about your restaurant/café - and quickly! A great website has the ability to draw guests in, while a cluttered, non-mobile friendly, site can deter guests completely.
  5. Value! Guests are looking for value with the food, beverage, the location and the entire guest experience. However, value does not mean cheap. Your guests want to be sold on the whole experience, guests are willing to spend more when there is quality and value to the experience you are selling them. 

It is important for you to find a way to take time to see through your guest’s eyes. By connecting with your guests and giving them what they want, you will improve their experience. People have a better experience when they are enjoying themselves. They are more likely to become a return guest and recommend your restaurant/cafe to their friends, family and to their online social contacts. 
However, in the restaurant business, it is very difficult to separate yourself from your own business. The answer is to see it through the eyes of a mystery diner - someone with the expertise to recognise the good the bad and could be better in your business.

Bill Shirley Training is now offering you this mystery diner service. For further information please contact me at or +61 2414 992 404

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A New Risk-based Licence Fee Scheme

For those considering taking out a liquor licence make sure you know the licensing fee scheme. 

From the 2014/15 financial year, every holder of a perpetual liquor licence will be required to pay an annual risk-based licence fee. The fee payable by each venue will be calculated using a risk-based model comprising:
  • base fees, plus 
  • risk-based loadings that reflect the level of risk posed by a venue and its operation.
The scheme is designed to provide venues with a financial incentive to adopt and maintain safe, low-risk practices, with a renewed focus on the Responsible Service of Alcohol, in return for a lower annual licence fee.
The base fee will be set according to the licence type. It will range from $100 to $2,000 as follows:
  • Hotel licence (full hotel)- $500; hotel licence (general bar)- $250; Small bar licence- $200
  • On-premises licence- $400
  • Package liquor licence (less than 4 outlets)- $500
  • Packaged liquor licence (more than 9 outlets)- $2,000
  • Producer/wholesaler (small scale)- $200
What will licensees pay?
Once a year, a licensee will pay a base fee of between $100 and $2,000 for each licence held (indexed to the CPI annually). Licenses which pose a greater risk or compliance cost will also pay risk-loading according to the type and level of risk. In the first year of the scheme only the trading hours risk loading fee is payable. From the 2015/16 financial year onward, licensees will be assessed for all risk-based loadings.
Risk-based loadings will be calculated according to:
  • authorised trading hours; 
  • compliance history; 
  • patron capacity; and 
  • venue location.
Risk-based loadings will escalate to reflect the level of risk that a venue poses. High risk business operators with a large, late trading venue located in a major entertainment precinct and with poor performance history will attract the highest fees.

Trading hours risk loading
A loading of $2,500 will apply to venues authorised to trade between midnight and 1:30am on any day. Venues authorised to trade after 1:30am on any day will incur a loading of $5,000.
This risk loading does not apply to:
  • an on-premises licence relating to a restaurant provided that it does not have a primary service authorisation (PSA)
  • an on-premises licence relating only to accommodation and/or a catering service
  • a packaged liquor licence
  • a small bar licence
  • a limited licence (multi-function)
It is possible to apply to the Liquor Authority to reduce trading hours after midnight to reduce the risk and lower or avoid the trading hours risk loading.

For more information on “compliance history risk loading”, “patron capacity risk loading” and “venue location risk loading” 

Call Dru Gillian - solicitor
Direct: 02 8215 1584  
Web site: 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Social Media and Restaurant Design

With social media changing the way people enjoy their dining experience, more restaurants are incorporating the 'Instagram-factor' into their design.

Good restaurant design has always been about finding a balance between customer comfort, functionality and style but with more and more Aussies Instagramming and Tweeting their dining experiences live from the table, it's becoming increasingly important for restaurants to think about the visual impact of their design and decor.

The restaurant Din Tai Fung in the new Central Park Development in Sydney has a younger generation market who is led by social media, the space has been designed to be highly Instagrammable with supper graphic branding and an authentic hawker street bike cart which can be shared through social channels.

Diners love to see their food prepared and this photo below of the chefs in full swing at Chefs Pantry in Sydney gives the diner a sense of theatre and again very popular on social channels

Restaurant or bar features are also a magnet for social media grabs and is so important when marketing the venue.

Social media has a huge impact on a restaurants success. Word of mouth, which can happen through social media can accelerate the success and interest in a venue. People express their thoughts based on their experiences and their perceptions of the environment, and that creates an enthusiasm in others to want to come down and experience the place for themselves.

However at the end of the day, the right design for any given venue is the one that attracts the demographic you're after, be it a smart phone happy crowd excited by 'visual noise' or those who are prepared to let your food do the talking.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

5 Habits of Successful Restaurants

Though opening a restaurant is a dream scenario for many aspiring entrepreneurs, running one can quickly turn into the stuff nightmares are made of. Too many people think that "if you cook it, they will come," but based on the staggering number of restaurants that fail before they even hit their first anniversary, things just aren't that simple.

There isn't one secret to success that promises your restaurant will stand the test of time, but there are some habits successful restaurants seem to have in common. 

Here are the top five as researched by Ezra Adler Ecommerce Marketing Director for Culinary Depot Inc.

1. They're built on respect

Enticing though they may be, a Michelin-star chef and cutting-edge concept are useless if all the elements in place to support them aren't given the regard they deserve.

Respect for the food: You can't make five-star cuisine out of one-star ingredients, and food waste will tank your budget faster than you can say “bankrupt.” If you have to cut corners, by all means find a way to do it, but don't do it in the kitchen. Falling food quality is the leading cause of falling guest counts.

Respect for employees: The restaurant industry is a stressful place. When the dinner rush threatens a manager's sanity or corporate is calling for the fifth time that day to check on the numbers, it's easy to unload on the people who can't answer back. But beware — what trickles down from management to the employees tends to keep trickling down to the guests. Greet your staff with a smile and they're likely to pass it on. Berate them mid-shift, and expect guest complaints.

Respect for the guests: Nobody likes the silent treatment, and failure to respond to guest complaints or address guest issues is a recipe for disaster. Not every mistake should result in a comped meal, but errors do need to be addressed. Diners aren't children, and they're not always right either, but there is a middle ground between pandering and completely giving away the farm, and successful restaurants find it.

2. They're consistent

Every time a dish leaves the kitchen, it has to look, smell and taste the exact same as the time before, and it has to be delivered with the same hospitable service no matter what mitigating factors may be at play. Guests crave consistency; give it to them and they'll come back. Fail and there might not be another opportunity to impress.

3. They make education a priority

The best restaurants take an active role in educating their staff — not just in the beginning, but throughout their employment. It's essential to give new hires the tools they need to be successful. For the front of house, this might include detailed descriptions of menu items, information on the history and mission statement of the restaurant, a list of the required steps of service, training on the POS system and so on. Back of house should be trained not just on recipe execution, but also on sanitation and food safety.
Continuing education is also key. Successful restaurants keep their staff up-to-date and involved by mandating attendance at classes that focus on upselling, wine pairing, alcohol awareness, new menu items and customer service issues.
As they say, knowledge is power and when you empower your employees, you set them, and your restaurant as a whole, up for success.

4. They embrace social media

If there is ever any doubt as to how intertwined food and social media have become, the sea of smartphones littering the tables in every restaurant should make things crystal clear. Whether it's hunting down the newest culinary hot spots, making reservations, posting photos of their meals, rating the service or blogging about the overall experience, guests are all about weaving technology into their dining experience, and most successful restaurants take full advantage of that fact.
Increase your visibility by posting photos of chef's newest off-menu offerings, or tweet out a limited-time deal redeemable only if the diner retweets it. Take pictures of guests celebrating a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary and give them a shout out on your Facebook page; they're likely to "like" it and share it, two things that instantly expand your audience, all at the low cost of a mouse click.

5. They believe in accountability

Great leaders clearly state what is expected of their staff, and then hold them accountable for adhering to those standards. Too many bosses rely on so-called "seagull-style management," meaning they swoop in, squawk at an underperforming employee and fly away. It's demoralising, and demoralised staff aren’t motivated staff. Catch employees doing things right, and they'll be left with an indelible and overwhelmingly positive impression.
Take the time during pre-shift to read out guest feedback and reward high-performing servers with gift cards or coveted shifts. Hold annual performance reviews so your staff knows where they stand. Weed out subpar employees who fail to respond to positive reinforcement so their co-workers understand that when standards aren't met, there are indeed consequences.

There is no blueprint for creating a successful restaurant, but implement these five noteworthy strategies and you have every chance of cooking up something incredible.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A few tips for running a successful café

Café ownership is a dream job for a lot of us; for many of us, it would be our first taste of business ownership. On the surface, it appears to be a fairly simple type of enterprise to own and run – just think of how effortlessly and seductively things happen at your favourite café. But deep down you just know there’s going to be more to it than that, particularly if you want to be successful (rather than just getting by). So here are just a few guidelines….

Planning and Preparation
A good place to start is to work a few shifts in a café before taking the plunge and opening your own – you need to know whether this is your type of work.
Next, put together a business plan for your café, because every good business starts with a sound business plan. Begin with a summary, which defines what the business is and what it plans to do. You need to know your business objectives, planned keys to success, mission, ownership structure, startup expenses and budget, funding and location. A business plan helps you to work all this out.
Furthermore, your business plan should identify what you intend to sell, who you’re intending to sell it to and what sort of competition you’ll face.

Coffee is at the heart of a good café. Before you do anything else, make sure that the coffee you intend to serve tastes good. Sounds pretty basic, but there’s a lot of choice when it comes to beans, roasters and suppliers; and you need to be happy with the product you choose to serve. Equally important, you’ll need to learn how to make good espresso coffee.
When it comes to the food you serve, try setting your sights higher than just pastries, cakes and biscuits. There are a lot of delicious menu items you can offer that don’t require you to hire an expensive chef, such as fresh salads, sandwiches, wraps and soups. Remember, customers will return to your café again and again if you can offer them variety and choice.
After you’ve been in business for a time, remember to rework your menu: eliminate the items that don't sell well; capitalize on the products that are winners; and offer new lines that reflect the latest trends.

For a café, atmosphere is everything. If you’re wondering what I mean by atmosphere, here’s a simple exercise that might help: visit a few of your local cafés and make a note of the things that you do and don’t like about them. What’s the furniture like? How’s the lighting and music? Do you like the cups, plates, knives and forks, etc? Do you enjoy the service?
Here are my suggestions:
1. Mix up the size of your tables and chairs even add a comfortable couch.
2. Be sure to keep you café spotless, inside and out.
3. Don't close your doors at 3pm, stay open until at least 5pm; if possible even a little later on Fridays and Saturdays.
4. Get a liquor license so you can serve wine and specialty beers in the evening.
5. Play music that will enhance the atmosphere of your café.

Finding good staff and hanging on to them is a key ingredient in your plan for a successful café. You’re looking for conscientiousness, loyalty and positive attitudes; people that make your customers feel wanted and well cared for.
Your staff also needs to be able to take direction and follow the systems and procedures that are attached to your business. If they’re making coffee or preparing menu items, it’s important they understand the need for consistent quality: the same great coffee every time, the same delicious wrap or salad, etc.
And be sure to overlap employee work schedules: this ensures a seamless transfer of staff throughout service.

Offer something extra
Admittedly it might sound like it’s everywhere, but why not offer wireless Internet? It will enable customers to check their email or conduct business during their coffee break or lunch. And if you’re concerned that some customers might potentially abuse the privilege, while sipping on the one coffee or drink, you could always consider a reasonable time limit on the access. Of course, buying another coffee might extend the usage.
You’ve probably seen it in a lot of places by now, but what about offering bonuses to loyal customers? For example, coffee cards that get punched or stamped with each purchase: after so many coffees they get one for free. You could even consider things like prepaid gift cards.

I’d love to hear you ideas and thoughts about the keys to successful café operation and if you are interested in more information.
I have over 25 years experience in running cafes and restaurants so shoot me an email if you need some guidance:

You might also be interested in the following course:

For a great 1 day course ‘Starting Your Own Restaurant or Café’, visit Ken Burgin’s Profitable Hospitality web site:

Until next time,


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Does your staff know the menu?

My first entry for 2014 starts with a confession: I’ve been off work since early December 2013 to get a hip replacement. Six weeks of recovery and rehabilitation has given me plenty of time to reflect, plan, observe and generally recharge the batteries (however, a hip replacement is something I recommend everyone try once, and only once, if possible).

Normally I’m a bit time-poor, so being in recovery has given me the chance to experience a few of my local cafés and restaurants. I’m happy to report that I’ve had some great experiences as a result (and just a few I wish I hadn’t walked into).

First observation: we really are so spoilt for choice in my backyard (Eastern suburbs, Sydney). Food styles are a-plenty; and you only need to read Good Food in the SMH or any food magazine to know that. What we lack is the time to enjoy all that’s available to us.

So to my second observation (and sorry, it’s a bit of a gripe): why is it that floor staff are stumped by simple customer questions? For example,  “can you do the eggs poached; what sort of bread do you use?”

I’m sorry to be blunt, but answers to these questions are really basic customer expectations. It all gets down to secure menu knowledge and the confidence to use that knowledge.  If staff don’t have the benefit of thorough menu knowledge, they’re liable to feel embarrassed when quizzed and may spend valuable time finding out the answers.

So I have a question for chefs and owners: do your floor staff know your menu? Can they explain to guests how a dish tastes, its size, what the ingredients are, where they come from and what beverage would be a suitable match for each dish? Please be honest now, is the answer NO?

So here’s how I see it: there are a lot of great venues that make a point of training staff in food, wine and menu knowledge. And that approach often has its rewards, like hats, stars and social media buzz. But there are so many restaurants and cafés that fall behind badly, simply through a lack of commitment to staff training – today this blog is aimed at them.

Floor staff are your sales team! Give them all the information they need to sell your menu and they’ll have the pride, confidence and determination to recommend and sell your menu.
Lets face it, the aim is for each customer to feel that they have made the best choice possible and it is our responsibility to help them make that choice.

Sometimes the only person in the place that knows the menu is the chef, an amusing photo I took just the other day.

I see it time and time again: undertrained staff don’t know a single thing about the menu. It’s like they’ve been given the job, handed a waiter’s pad and pen and told to ‘go and serve that table over there’. I honestly feel sorry for them, and sometimes I want to get up and tell the chef, owner or manager my feelings.

Well that’s my rant out of the way. Now for some solutions:
  •        When you employ staff, give them a menu to study that includes tasting notes. Let them go home and study it. On their first shift, bring them in early and go through the menu with them, answering any questions they may have. The same process can apply to current staff when a new menu is introduced.
  •         Regularly question your staff about the menu (at the beginning of the shift is always good).
  •       Let your staff taste the food: when a new menu is launched, when a special is created or when a new ingredient is introduced

The same rules apply with beverage and wine knowledge.
It’s not hard to do, it’s just a question of awareness. If you want your menu to sell, if you want the sales performance of specific products to lift…your staff can do it for you. Just give them the right training and encouragement.