Food and Beverage: Some key rules on how to keep satisfying your customers and running a good ship

By Stephen W. Ayers, CEO of STAY Ahead Hospitality

Having written the title of this article, I have to say that it is easier written than done. So what is necessary to keep your reputation high, a smooth operation and customers satisfied?

The first and most important part of any successful food and beverage operation is the staff, as it is in every service oriented industry. Your team must be well taken care of, trained properly in all aspects of their job and appreciated for what they do. If we are discussing a F&B operation in a hotel it is important that general managers offer advice and support to their F&B teams, but it falls upon the F&B director to direct, oversee and rally the troops to deliver a great experience and product.

It is an exciting daily challenge, whether a restaurant or a multi-outlet hotel. Without trust and teamwork, there is no way that one can possibly succeed or build a great reputation that keeps traffic coming through those doors and delivers the profits. This is even truer in today’s competitive world where the bottom line is everything and a high level of operational excellence must be attained to reach targets.

I have been fortunate to have been involved in the planning, design and concepts for many hotel food and beverage facilities during my career. That included opening a 420-room resort hotel with over 10 F&B outlets which I opened as executive assistant GM and director of food and beverage. It was the best F&B schooling and experience I could have wished for, as it included dining rooms, restaurants, coffee shop, café and a hugely successful pub. So, how do you go about creating and running a good ship?

Here are some of my important, key ingredients for a good operation:

Hire the right staff

Make sure that you not only hire qualified staff but that they are ‘team’ people. Each team member should be strong in some aspect. Find that strength and encourage them to excel at it. Each team member should complement the others.

Create a great culture in the department or restaurant.

While we are here for the guest, the staff is here only because we do something well. Happy staff will be created when all team members, whether in stewarding, production, or service respect each other and understand the importance each one has in the success of the department or restaurant.

As manager, make time to visit all your departments and mingle with your staff. Appreciate them and treat them fairly, recognizing their diversity and backgrounds. Words of encouragement go a long way in today’s impersonal world. A great culture cuts out much of the daily operational stress and promotes smooth cooperation.

Distribute responsibilities to managers that will cover all areas where things can and will go wrong.

Areas that come to mind are correct procurement, food production, storage, hygiene, storerooms, dry goods stores, beverage stocks, breakage, operational equipment, maintenance, with those being just the tip of the iceberg. Continuous controls of menu popularity, guest satisfaction, staff satisfaction and of course financial results are some of the others.

Give each of your management team additional jobs that report back to you so you know that these are covered. It will also keep them interested in the different aspects of your operation and help them become better leaders in their field.

Make sure that you keep up to date on the competition and in-house statistics

Pricing, menu items and trends are extremely important, so keep your eye on the competitive set hotels and restaurants around you. Encourage your culinary team to innovate and refresh the menus from time to time to keep interest high.

Perform weekly checks on in-house guest capture rates for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ask yourself how you can improve them. Even in a hotel that is making F&B GOP of 25%, it may be that the reason for this high percentage comes from banqueting and not in-house capture. That means that the results and the bottom line could be significantly improved with additional traffic from the pool at your disposal your in-house guests!

Market and sell your facilities

Happy with your service standards and food offerings? Shout it out loud in the community.

Get food critics in, advertise and make sure surrounding businesses know about your great food. Encourage reviews on social media, and make every effort to increase every mealtime traffic both from in house guests and from the community.

‘Trust but verify’

A good F&B manager will not rock a steady ship unless necessary. However, you must pick areas that you decide to check out against the reports that you receive. This will show that while you respect and appreciate the reports, you are still willing to revisit the areas of responsibilities and show appreciation for a job well done, or help guide the operation back on to a steady keel. It will keep everyone on their toes, and that is always good in a dynamic operation.

Equipment and maintenance

Make absolutely sure that there is enough operational and service equipment in all areas to run service smoothly. This will allow staff to focus on delivering a great experience to the guest. It is also critical to make sure that all equipment is kept in good operational shape to produce excellent products.

I always developed a close relationship with the chief engineer who allowed me greater ‘privileges’ in the pecking order of repairs. Make sure that all furniture and decorations are clean and in good operational shape. There is nothing worse than sitting in a loose chair or at a rickety table. Restaurants should keep a list of qualified contractors who will make themselves readily available for repairs.

Staff and promotion

Make sure to carry out job performance interviews at least every six months. Staff that does not know what their boss thinks of them are sure to be more insecure, and that can affect performance. Promote from within and discuss career timelines where relevant. Thank your team for work well done and incentivize them, preferably with bonus programs but also with bonding events outside of your establishment.

Summing up

My sincere hope is that all that I have written is known and is the standard operating procedure for all who read it. However, in my career both in operations, in asset management and also as an F&B consultant I have come across blatant shortcomings in many of the points above.

I hope this helps some of you in the daily challenge of running an excellent facility, whether a restaurant or a hotel outlet. One thing I do know for sure is that the F&B department is both the most complicated, challenging and yet the most fascinating of departments in hotels and stand-alone restaurants.

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