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Focus your training on understanding

Q: It seems like our training is not as effective as it should be. How do I make my training investment pay off?

There is a clear industry slide downward in service over the last few years. There is likely one culprit—understanding the “why” of hospitality. Effective training needs to focus on understanding—not imparting knowledge. Employees can know a lot about something but not really understand the important reason behind it. Why do you want them to offer appetizers, beverages, special entrees, dessert, a legitimate greeting and a thank you? Why do you want excellent product quality, prepared quickly? Why do you want a sparkling clean facility? People can forget what they know but they never forget what they understand. When was the last time you needed a refresher on tying your shoes or brushing your hair? Obviously, you understand how to do these things and will never have to be taught again. When was the last time you recited a few of the elements from the Periodic Table in chemistry? Likely, you would need to brush up on it. What’s the difference? Tying your shoes and brushing your hair have real meaning and application to your life and are more important to you and you have a high level of understanding. At one point you may have known the Periodic sign for Iron, yet today you may not be able to recall it at all. The most successful companies continually train their people to a level of understanding and where there is understanding there is breakthrough and paradigm shift. Take the time with each training technique to answer the key question of “Why?” Use these techniques to move your training to a culture of understanding:

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Grow profitability by retaining loyal guests

Q: Recently, I spent a week straight in my restaurant covering for my manager while she was on vacation. It appears that fewer regular guests are visiting as I didn’t see many of the people I’m used to seeing. We’ve lost some, so how do I make sure we don’t lose anymore and build some back?

There are several tactics to make and keep loyal guests, including consistency, cleanliness and community impact among others. There is nothing more important than creating a place of connection. Starbucks has grown to over 20,000 stores worldwide; many stores are within a few blocks of one other. Howard Schultz’s vision was to create a third place, beyond work and home – a place to belong. Starbucks is successful because of consumer connectivity to the brand; consumers are part of it and live inside it. Sales from loyal, frequent guests contribute 60 to 80 percent of annual sales for an average restaurant. Those numbers can be higher in a rural or neighborhood location and lower in a tourist location. According to the Gartner Group, 80 percent of your future profits will come from just 20 percent of your existing customers. Further importance is highlighted in a study conducted by Bain & Company, in coordination with the Harvard Business School. This study showed increasing guest retention rates by 5 percent increases profits by 25 percent to 95 percent. Loyal consumers spend on average 33 percent more than a typical consumer and return more often with zero cost of acquisition.

What keeps loyalists coming back is an “ownership” stake in the business and a personal interest in building it. They recommend the business, post about it, brag about it and invite others while spending more; they’re evangelists. What happens in the restaurant is what makes them feel this way. The food is expected to be good, the facility is expected to be clean, the service is expected to be timely and appropriate and the atmosphere is expected to be right—those are entry points. The variable in all of this is connection and engagement of EACH guest.

Working with some of the best restaurants in the United States provides a rare glimpse into success and failure of many restaurants. Some are busy because of popularity of the food or the chef, but those draws fade and slow down eventually as the next new, hot spot opens and thrives. Restaurants that make the experience about the guest, not itself, have the highest, longest lasting success. Well-conceived restaurants find what consumers want and attract guests because the guest is the star of the show, not the restaurant. Those businesses build and become legendary.

To make sure your business is set apart measure these things daily:

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Drive profitability through better beverage management

Q: I’ve recently decided to focus on my beverage program. Where should I focus to run better beverage numbers?

A: Beverages are a significant part of your income statement and your balance sheet. Most full service restaurants sell 20 percent or more of total sales in beverages. A great ratio to drive to is 30 percent or better in beverage sales as these sales are incremental in restaurants and build sales through increased check average. Beverage costs tend to be lower than food costs so you make more on every dollar sold. Additionally, to assemble and serve a drink requires less effort compared to preparing and serving food. If you want to create better results in beverage management, focus on these areas:

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