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Solving these common issues can help relieve stress and streamline operations.

What Keeps Restaurant Owners Up at Night?

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How to deal with the stress of running a restaurant.
By Aman Narang February 2017 Vendor Bylines

What keeps you up at night? This is a complicated question, especially when asked to someone working in the restaurant industry. There are a slew of thoughts that keep restaurateurs tossing and turning. Here are four of the biggest problems, straight from food service professionals just like you.

1. "What in the world do I do about my staff?"

Jonathan Schroeter, district manager of IL Primo's Pizza & Wings, expressed concern about staff retention:"Who is going to quit on me tomorrow without giving a notice?" General manager of Paris Creperie Jack Ludden summarized every restaurant owner's biggest challenge with his two-word response: "Staffing issues." Some other responses include:

  • The dilemma of whether to fire an all-star cook who is consistently late despite warnings (Submitted by Cynthia Ivy, of Jack's Restaurant).
  • Being unsure if you can trust your employees (Submitted by Joe Guenther, general manager at O'Maddy's).
  • Stressing about covering someone else's shift (Submitted by Saara Kuure, kitchen manager at The C Shop).

This issue doesn't just plague these savvy restauranteurs. Per the National Restaurant Association, the turnover rate in the hospitality industry is over 70 percent, which seriously impacts restaurant operations.

Some top ways to beat the odds when it comes to turnover rate includes:

  • Develop opportunities for growth: Never let your staff plateau. In other words, don’t let them settle in their role. Offer to sponsor or reimburse additional management training or certifications. That way, your staff will feel invested in your restaurant and driven to put the skills they have learned into action. Highlight their great qualities and publicly acknowledge their stellar performances. When they rock a shift, tell them “great job” or “thank you.” Everyone wants their work to matter, so let your team know that this is the case as often as you can.
  • Gamification: Challenge your staff to see who can upsell the most desserts or promote the night’s special the best. This is a great way to add some immediate challenges to the work day. You can also extend this and keep a leaderboard in the back room with a prize for the best performer over the month. Set goals for your staff and see how well they meet them, and motivate them to stay involved.
  • Be attentive: Encourage your staff to give you regular input on other employees, changes to the menu, or a brilliant idea they have for the restaurant. Since they’re the ones on the front line, they will oftentimes see and experience things you might not notice. So include their input in your planning. Accept suggestions when they seem valid, and reject them if they don’t, but tell them why. If your staff feels that they have a voice, they will feel valued and involved.
  • Consider adding digital checkout and tipping: Suggested tips as part of the digital checkout flow can have a positive impact on your staff. We have seen our customers increase tips by 5 to 10 percent, which can mean hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in additional monthly income for your employees. 

2. "How can I boost my sales?"

Julie Stark, co-owner of Mongers Market + Kitchen, says the struggle of increasing business is one of her stress-inducers, while Elena Dellutri, vice president with Ye Olde Falcon Pub is always crossing her fingers for a very busy night.

The good news is the restaurant industry is doing well. Sales have grown for the past seven years, as noted by the National Restaurant Association, which means Americans are going out to eat more often. However, with more than one million restaurant locations in the country, it's easy for your restaurant to be seen as just another player in a very big game. Here are a few ways to launch a customer loyalty program and avoid getting lost in the shuffle:

  •  Make it easy: Integrating customer loyalty with credit card payments is a more accurate method of collecting customer information than having them carry a punch card. Enabling your guests to opt-in to a loyalty program right from the payment screen can seamlessly increase adoption for your restaurant’s rewards program.
  •  Implement a tiered points system: A tiered rewards system can help build a community of highly committed customers who are in it for the long haul. A never-ending points system that reassures your customers will receive their reward whenever they get around to it diminishes immediacy, which can severely lower the foot traffic to your business.
  • Track and acknowledge progress: The perception of progress has a profound effect on our brains. If you don’t acknowledge your guests’ progress, they may feel indifferent and lose their commitment to working toward their freebie or reward. It’s a simple psychological effect that can have a critical influence on your ability to retain your restaurant's customers and breed brand loyalty.

3. "Where can we save money?"

When Joe Guenther from O'Maddy's Bar & Grille rests his head at night, he can't close his eyes without asking himself, "Where can we save money?" Expenses in restaurants add up quickly. There's food and beverage inventory, employee wages (and overtime), cleaning fees, kitchen supplies, and utility costs, just to name a few.

Because of the competition in restaurants, many are operating on thin margins. And, with rising food costs, as noted in the USDA’s October 2016 Food Price Outlook report, there needs to be a way to save money—but how? Look no further than a modern, cloud-based point of sale system. Benefits include:

  • Increasing table turns, loyal customers and staff tips
  • Saving money on online ordering by doing away with percentage-based pricing from third-party online ordering websites
  • Tracking sales and labor reports to find out your strongest and weakest additions to your menu and staff

4. "How the heck do I do inventory?"

One night, Michelle Tapscott, co-owner of J-Mack BBQ, woke up in a panic because she forgot to place her inventory order. The logistics of running a restaurant are never easy. Jazmin Campbell, HR/Accounting at Flour Bakery + Cafe spoke of the struggles of invoicing and scheduling—something no restaurateur can honestly say they enjoy. Specifically, inventory is an enormous area of concern for restaurant owners. Variance, spillage, and theft lead to the unaccounted loss of inventory, which negatively impacts your restaurant's bottom line. This, of course, is why inventory tracking is an essential part of restaurant management.

An inventory function integrated into your point of sale will save you hours of time and unspeakable effort. There’s no need to manually enter all the reports from your daily sales when you can have it done automatically from one location. You can easily make inventory adjustments when needed without confusion. This allows you to unlock insight into what's selling and what's not, which lets you make more accurate orders from your suppliers.

Rest assured that you are not alone when it comes to worrying about your restaurant operations as many of your peers have similar concerns. There are measures to take and tools that can help alleviate issues from staffing to inventory. While it may seem like one more thing to add to your to-do list, finding the best solutions for your business now will save you time and money in the long-run.

Aman Narang is President and co-founder of Toast Restaurant POS. Prior to Toast, he worked on innovation initiatives at Endeca, now Oracle. Aman spearheaded the development of Endeca’s business intelligence platform as well as their mobile commerce platform, each of which became a major business units. He holds BS and MS degrees in Computer Science from MIT and currently leads innovation and business development initiatives at Toast. You can follow Toast on Twitter @ToastTab.