A wise person (James Clear of Atomic Habits) once said, “you do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.” This truism is particularly applicable during the kind of seasonal surges at bars and restaurants which test the assumptions related to the durability of daily practices. During these moments when systems fail, staff enters survival mode which often involves an adrenaline-fueled attempt to keep it together. At night's end, we see high-fives amidst dining room carnage and an 86-list as long as a CVS receipt. Comp tickets? You betcha! When the kitchen is backed up and the bar is slow, you must keep customers happy, right? Freebies may pacify disappointed guests, but it does not mean that they are going to be coming back for more.
What went wrong? How do we tame the chaos and ensure every guest has a consistently remarkable and remarkably consistent experience whether they are the first person to enter the door or the last to leave? Here are two key opportunities for managers to spring into action and create baseline procedures that will unify your staff, improve customer experience, and provide a foundation upon which your business can grow and thrive.
Establish Standard Operating Procedures:
This isn’t the dark ages, and you are not a traveling bard, so why do your bar systems rely on an oral tradition passed down from bartender-to-bartender? Top performing bars always have a codified binder of best practices which serves as a road map for quality service and a foundational tool for training new staff.
Building out these SOPs is not as intimidating as it may seem, so there is no reason to delay the activity for another fifteen years. Bringing together your senior staff is a great way to both get these daily activities on paper, and gain trust and buy-in from the frontlines. Win-win! From ordering and inventory management, to storage and quality, to staffing metrics, to presentation and order of service, leave no stone unturned. Once your daily, weekly, and monthly baseline SOPs and PARs are established for all to see, you can work with your team on continuous improvement projects to ensure that these systems remain relevant and up-to-date.
I am also an advocate of setting the expectation that on-site managers are the centralized source of accountability for onboarding, adoption, and ongoing implementation of SOPs throughout the organization. While pen and paper can be a great starting point for canonizing your internal systems, investing in software to lighten the lift is an important consideration as your team grows. For example, training platforms that include daily tablet-ready checklists are lightyears ahead of old-fashioned clipboards. Inventory management tools that save time and add precision to measuring COGS is also an excellent way to both unify procedures and gain more visibility into your variable costs at a micro-level. Any hospitality SaaS option worth its salt will provide you with meaningful reporting (more on that later).
Unless you are a newbie in the industry, the acronym ‘PPP’ is likely forever burned into your psyche. Tack on two more ‘P’s’ and you will find a phrase that will continue to bail you out: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance (PPPPP).
Data Driven Forecasting:
Have you ever experienced the dreaded food and beverage holiday amnesia? While many foot-traffic-boosting events may come but once a year, they come every year, so why does it always feel like we are starting from scratch? Demand forecasting involves predicting future sales based on current and past trends, which in turn prevents overstaffing, understaffing, stock-outs, and pouring green beer until June. So, where do you find these current and past trends? That depends on the tech stack (or stack of paper for my more analog friends) you use to manage these key processes.
Reporting is critical, and I am keen on building a suite of services that integrate, simplify, and expedite my demand-planning fact-finding missions including SaaS solutions for accounting, POS, staffing, reservations, delivery, inventory, ordering, etc. All those data points come together to tell the whole story and will demystify your to-do list for upcoming surge business, to not only survive the onslaught but thrive, as those well-earned 5-star reviews brighten your Monday morning.
A rolling meeting with your team to pro-actively collect information about potential non-recurring sources of surge business is another worthwhile addition to your monthly meeting cadence. Blending in assumptions related to the impact of weather, sports, conferences, and community events into your overall forecasting model will create additional accuracy.
Follow these simple best practices and your team will always be prepared for the inevitable unpredictability that the warmer months bring, and the next time you see a tour bus pull up at 8 p.m. on a Friday evening you will greet that brewery-tour-bachelorette-party with the resting heart rate of an Olympic athlete.
David Bower is Director of Growth at BrewLogix, a technology solutions company influencing the next trajectory of growth in the beverage hospitality and craft brew industries. The company uses the unique insights of cloud-powered and Internet of Things (IoT) technology to help bars, restaurants, taprooms, and breweries elevate customer and staff experiences that drive profitability and brand loyalty. Bower recently served as President of Upland Brewing Company, where he rose through the ranks starting as VP of Sales and Marketing and Chief Sales Officer to the top position. During his time at Upland, David opened four restaurants and oversaw growth at seven concurrent locations. He is a homebrewer (both beer and kombucha), recognized BJCP Beer Judge and Cicerone Certified Beer Server.