Ask the Experts

Food Fanatics chefs and restaurant operations consultants help fix everyday foodservice industry issues

PROBLEM: How can we increase wine sales? We’ve tried half-priced bottles, training with winemakers, pre-shift meeting tastings and sales incentives, such as prime shifts for highest sales. What’s left?

SOLUTION: What’s missing is probably the most important: sample pours. Instead of just asking if the table is ordering wine, allow servers to bring a few bottles to the table for a taste. Selling at the table is a personal sale so be sure servers actually like the wines and know the backstory as well as their attributes.

BENEFIT: Better informed staff and improved sales. 

PROBLEM: Staff members complain incessantly about a manager who never has anything positive to say. Are they overly sensitive or should I fire this person?

SOLUTION: Gather all the managers and discuss the style of catching workers doing things right. That means stop looking for all the wrongs and work on verbally commending staff at the moment they see solid work happening.

BENEFIT: Positivity builds stronger teams. 

PROBLEM: We own a newly-opened bagel and sandwich shop and have already outgrown our capacity. Space is tight and there’s no room to expand.

SOLUTION: Offer curbside pick-up.

BENEFIT: This will take some pressure off your dining area, which you may want to re-evaluate and adjust.

PROBLEM: Customers say they love our barbecue, but traffic is not living up to its potential. We’ve advertised on the radio and we do some social media. What else can we do to bring in more traffic?

SOLUTION: Dig deeper into social media. Be more aggressive by posting appetizing photos of food and drink and upcoming events and specials every day or even multiple times a day on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

BENEFIT: Your followers will become accustomed to these posts and will check in to see what you’re up to.

PROBLEM: Boring preshift meetings.

SOLUTION: Add front line staff voices—your sous chef, head bartender, the hosts and even accounting. Ask them to share news about service from their viewpoint. If they have problems or solutions, share and ask for input.

BENEFIT: A more solid, better informed staff.

PROBLEM: Hiring is in a rut. The employee pool is lacking.

SOLUTION: Are you looking for reasons not to hire someone when the job titles on a resume don’t match yours? Look for experiences that meet your need. Ask candidates for anecdotes and bring them in for a few days before hiring. In a tight labor market, look for reasons to hire that candidate.

BENEFIT: Workers with more varied experiences and a more diverse staff.