10 Smart Ways to Save Time on Restaurant Management

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The Restaurant Performance Index, or RPI, measures the overall health of the U.S.  restaurant industry. The RPI has declined over the last two months, in part due to concerns about the larger economy and speculation that wholesale food prices will rise in coming months. This could pose a problem for your business, but it doesn’t have to.

In order for restaurants to continue to thrive in this climate, it’s important to run a tight ship, keeping employees organized and on-task so that money isn’t wasted through inefficiency.

One of the most important places to maximize efficiency is at the managerial level. Restaurant management is a complex job function, requiring a wide range of skills to execute tasks ranging from public relations to inventory management to customer service and beyond. An efficient restaurant management team will have positive effects on every other employee and the overall health of your business.

So, how can all the major players - franchisors, district managers, and store managers - work together to ensure maximum efficiency? Here are ten common places where most restaurants can optimize their activities to save time on restaurant management:

1. Plan Ahead

Because managing a restaurant can quickly become harried, it’s important that managers find a time during the week -- well outside of service hours -- to calmly plan ahead.

According to FamilyHospitality.com, it should only take about one hour each week to create a schedule for the week that blocks off time to execute the most important tasks.

This is also a good time for restaurant managers to check on the staffing schedule for the week, go over any changes to the menu, and reflect on the previous week’s challenges and successes. Sunday night or Monday morning are excellent time blocks to use for this purpose.

2. Clearly Articulate Job Expectations

One of the most time-consuming aspects of a restaurant manager’s job is overseeing the staff. While it may be tempting to simply respond to personnel issues if and when they arise, it’s far more efficient to lay out clear expectations ahead of time for each job function.

Everyone from the wait staff to line cooks to the cleaning crew should be well aware of what is expected of them. It should all be down in writing to make sure that all new employees sign off on their responsibilities.

This way, if someone is not meeting job expectations, managers are empowered with a mutual contract to refer to when handling issues.

3. Be a Smart Marketer

It depends on the company, but marketing sometimes falls under a district manager’s job description (especially when it comes to executing local promotions). This, combined with all of the other responsibilities this person has, can be an overwhelming and seemingly endless task. But, luckily there are several restaurant technology tools that can make this easier.

One sure way to increase efficiency when it comes to marketing is to take advantage of free and low-cost social media tools to more effectively market to current and potential customers.

As with planning ahead for the week, it makes sense to carve out a dedicated time, perhaps 30 minutes three times a week, to spend marketing the restaurant via social media. You can use Facebook and Twitter to get the word out to your following about daily menu changes, special events and promotions for no cost.

You can also use these tools and others to purchase ads that are targeted by location and interests or even aligned to your email marketing list, ensuring that you reach people who will be interested in what you have to offer. Additionally, you should monitor your Yelp reviews on a daily or at least weekly basis and respond to comments in a timely manner.

4. Use Data to Carefully Monitor Cash Flow

Did you know that many delivery services will offer a five percent or higher discount for payment on delivery?

This is one unexpected way that you can save money. It’s possible that you can discover more of these hidden gems through better monitoring of the business data. This is where a digital reporting platform like Squadle shines: You have better tools to collect the data, and rather than locking that information away in traditional logbooks, you can access it through an online dashboard to help you drive your strategy.

5. Keep Consistent Daily Logs

It’s easy to forget small details during the daily rush, but tracking them can mean the difference between a well-oiled machine and an inefficient restaurant.

Rather than writing notes down - which can easily become lost in the shuffle - managers should technology to their advantage. Digital reporting solutions come with built-in accountability. If a manager at one of your locations isn’t taking proper notes and logs, you’ll be able to clearly see that right within the app. With traditional logbooks, this could go on for months and you would never know.

6. Automate Where You Can

When possible, it’s a good idea to automate repetitive tasks within the restaurant environment. Technology can help you increase efficiency by removing manual labor from the equation.

For example, installing sensors like our Sense product in your coolers that automatically track temperature will ensure that foods are stored safely and save restaurant managers from manual tracking while also removing the possibility of human error and decreasing the amount of time spent troubleshooting. Moreover, automation can help you track trends over time using analytics tools to understand how well your restaurant is doing and course-correct when needed.

7. Get the Most Out of Your POS System

The point of sale system shouldn’t just be used to ring up purchases. It’s a vital technology tool in your arsenal of efficiency boosters and should be treated as such. POS systems can help track everything from sales to cash flow to food inventory, avoiding the need for manual, paper-based processes that are prone to error.

An intelligent POS system can simplify the process of managing your restaurant while also identifying opportunities to cut food costs and payroll. It can also help you figure out which restaurant items are most popular and even aid in your marketing efforts.

8. Make a List of “Slow” Tasks, then Delegate

During planning, managers should take a few minutes to walk around the restaurant and make a list of “slow” tasks -- ones that can be completed during low-stress, low-activity moments.

As they make the list, they should indicate how often they need to be completed. These tasks could including cleaning out your refrigeration compressors (here’s a how-to), organizing the walk-in freezer, or exterior clean-up like emptying ashtrays or sweeping walkways. Once a comprehensive list of slow tasks has been established, a manager can assign them out. It will give them something to do during off-peak hours and ensure that managers don’t waste time taking care of these activities when they could be focusing on more strategic tasks.

9. Don’t Let Problems Fester

Having an issue with an employee’s tardiness or lack of attention to detail? A lot of these problems go unnoticed due to lack of accountability with typical reporting solutions. However, a digital reporting solution can give district managers clear views into what’s going on at their restaurants and keep managers more accountable for dealing with problems as they come up. Personnel issues and employee turnaround seems like a given due to the nature of restaurants. So, these one-off situations may not seem like a massive deal. But consider the impact at scale across hundreds of employees at many locations, and you can imagine how this could change your business.

10. Track How Time is Spent

Finally, the most important way to increase the efficiency of your restaurant’s operations is to track how employees’ time is spent -- including managers’ time. Managers should keep track of how much time they spend on each area of responsibility, including marketing, staff management, customer service, inventory, clean-up and whatever else falls into your sphere. Additionally, you can use technology to manage employee schedules, track activities and measure labor costs accurately. This will help you make intelligent decisions about how to increase efficiency in your restaurant moving forward, ultimately saving you both time and money.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to save time on restaurant management and increase overall efficiency. Many of these tips rely on organizational skills, a clear view into data, forward thinking, and the smart use of technology. Combined, they can make a huge difference for your business.

What steps have you taken to save time on restaurant management and increase efficiency? Tweet us @GetSquadle and let us know your thoughts.