Archive | July, 2013


27 Jul

Great Service Builds Restaurant Customer Loyalty

by Stu Leventhal

Great customer service can catapult any restaurant onto a 5 star restaurant list. People don’t have to eat out. Even if they want to entertain family or friends, it will save them a lot of money throwing the party at their own residence. Tossing a turkey in the oven, tossing up a salad and cooking a few side dishes and asking one or two of your visitors to bring a dessert is not that hard, really. Just pop a few trays of appetizers in the oven and tune the big screen to the big game and the party is in full swing in no time. Going out is a conscientious choice and in most cases the food quality or drink variety is not the deciding factor nor does price figure into the decision of where people choose to go. Americans spend money to have fun! And when Americans are having fun, money is no object!


We can stay home and watch the newest release on pay per view TV, crack a case of beer, invite a few friends over and boil up a couple of pounds of pasta and be known as fairly decent hosts and hostesses. When we show up at a restaurants place of business, especially a high end establishment, it rarely is because we’re starving or even hungry! Think about what motivates you to want to go to your corner bar again and again. You are feeling a little down and want to lift your spirits up. You want to be around people who are going to cater to your ego. You feel like being pampered, jested with and made to feel special! This is the culture you as a restaurant manager or owner need to foster in your staff. This is the atmospheric goal you must strive to create if you want to have tons and tons of repeat customers.

Certainly, great food, unique dishes and innovative drinks that customers can’t get anywhere else is a plus. Cleanliness, especially clean and well stocked and maintained bathrooms are a must. Fast attentive service is an attraction too. But when it comes right down to it, if we have a choice, we are going where the fun is! And we are bringing plenty of cash to spend! Creating an openly, fun, receptive atmosphere takes real planning and training. Keeping the fun going constantly and consistently, day after day, hour after hour, takes hard dedicated work. If you can get your staff to buy in to the idea that they’re #1 job is to make the guests feel special, it won’t matter if your competition down the street gives out half price coupons or imports a celebrity chef who studied at a fancy culinary school overseas; your customers will not be lured away!

How does a good restaurant manager create a fire under the butts of his team concerning customer service? Let’s first look at how it’s not done! Great customer service is not accomplished by threatening your staff. Or, by posting a ridiculous long list of must follow requirements in the break room, that keeps getting bigger week after week. Those cute posters with famous sayings like this quote by Katherine Barchetti – “Make a customer not a sale!” can only go so far as a reminder as to who is really signing our pay checks, our customers!

First off, all great managers realize their staff takes their cues from their own actions and attitudes. This means, the staff is a reflection of you. As a manager you are always on stage. Your staff is watching you and paying attention to how you act and handle things. You are the Captain of the ship, so you set the tone. If you run your restaurant like a Gestapo agent, your staff will always be on edge. Up tight people can’t project a natural aura of friendliness and good cheer! Now is the time to set not only a good example but set the bar for how you expect everyone to act too!

Great managers walk the walk not just talk the talk. Show your staff how they should treat people, treat your customers and treat each other, by first treating your staff with the respect, courtesy, honesty and always giving them the full attention they deserve! Show your staff that these words are not just lip service. They are the values you live by. The same values you take into consideration with every decision you make. Set your restaurants standards of conduct high, starting with your own standards of conduct and those standards will rub off on your employees. Notice the extra efforts of your staff when they go the extra mile to please a customer and reward them with recognition, a smile, a thank you and with raises, titles and other numerous nonmonetary perks; choice of work schedule, a holiday or weekend off or by letting a high performing servers pick their work station.

Now for this article we are taking for granted that all the basic, common sense, customer service standards are already in place and being encouraged at all levels of your restaurant tiers. To elevate a restaurants service from good to great then to exceptional, there is going to have to be a commitment to putting into place some ongoing training. You may even need to revamp your recruitment criteria and train anyone involved with the hiring process to look for the traits that support your customer service mission first and start valuing those standards the highest among your hiring requirements.

Remember your restaurant is in competition not only with the taste and quality of the food served but most importantly with the atmosphere and pleasure of the dining experience you offer. There will always be restaurants nearby having a sale. The way to counter act that is to focus on always giving your visitors an over the top, exceptional, great dining experience! Learn your customers’ names and use them! When your restaurant or business is busy and a regular walks in take that extra minute and acknowledge them. Don’t chat for fifteen minutes neglecting all your other customers, just say hi, wave and make them feel special.

On that note, I’ll leave you with this famous thought. “Customer satisfaction is worthless. Customer loyalty is priceless.” – Jeffrey Gitomer




17 Jul


Good Restaurant Management Means Managing the Bottom Line!

By Stu Leventhal

Chefs, managers, shift managers, owners; don’t we all hate the subjects of accounting. Number crunching for people who proclaim themselves creative food and drink artisans is like receiving a cold, wake up, slap across our face! There are two areas that great restaurant key employees excel at; back of the house culinary wizardry and/or front of the house hospitality. Both jobs command a hands-on attitude with one’s personal presence being physically where the action is! People don’t go into the restaurant business because they envision themselves someday hanging out in their plush back office talking on the phone with their feet up on the desk. Restaurant management is a commitment to a life style where one is partially married to the restaurant. It is not a nine to five, 5 days a week, profession. You work over fifty hours on average, rarely take a weekend off or a holiday and key personnel are always on call!

Restaurant managers take pride in creating culinary delights and hosting pleasurable experiences for their guests. We aren’t bookkeepers! We judge our success by the smiles on our guests’ faces and the size of the line at the door waiting for a seat! If we wanted to crunch numbers we’d have gotten a job in a bank! Yes, I get all that but still, periodically you will have to answer to the numbers! Monthly numbers, quarterly numbers, yearly numbers… I’m afraid to mention, shift numbers, daily and weekly numbers too! And then we can break things down to departmental number! And individual staff member’s numbers…Ouch!….yuck!….Cough!

If you don’t keep track of how much money you’re restaurant is making, you have no idea whether your business is successful or not. You can’t tell how well your marketing is working. And I don’t just mean you should know the amount of your total sales or gross revenue. You need to know what your net profit is and exactly where in your restaurant it is coming from. If you don’t, there’s no way you can know how to increase it. Heck, you may have a problem with spoilage due to over ordering that can be solved simply by placing smaller orders to be delivered more frequently. You may be over staffing Wednesday nights and you aren’t aware of it because Wednesdays were much busier last year. But, this year the movie theater down the block has implemented an early bird half price movie special that is cutting down your normally high, dinner rush traffic. When you notice the gradual loss of customers on your reports, you can look into the cause immediately and start counter actions. Like, offering an after movie late night snack discount to take advantage of the audience restlessness once the movie lets out!

If you want your restaurant, catering or entertainment business to be successful, you need to make a financial plan, including a budget and check it against the facts on a monthly basis then take immediate action to correct any problems. That is the minimum!

This report covers the minimum basic steps you should take to start monitoring your bottom line NOW! Remember, how successful you are at managing your bottom line is the ultimate factor that will determine your salary potential. Even if you are the owner, you can’t take out more than the restaurant can afford to give you. The bottom line affects everyone’s salary. It determines if you can remodel, purchase new equipment or afford to higher that genius young Chef from Paris. If you are to have a long career in the restaurant business you need to get in the habit of reading your financial reports and managing accordingly. Upper management will at some point, also expect you to talk the talk, meaning when you present your brilliant ideas, you need to project numbers and state facts or the big wigs won’t pay you any attention.

It will show your professionalism and go a long way to building your authority and credibility once you get in the habit of backing up your vague statements at meetings with proof. For example “Well colleagues, sales are up on Thursday Nights, I contribute that to the new exotic drink menu we rolled out at the beginning of the month. Congratulations Shirl, it seems the customers love your new island rum flavored umbrella fruit drinks. I apologize for my skepticism when you first brought the idea up last meeting. You truly are a genius Mixologist and we’re all thankful to have you on board. On the bad side, Saturday’s breakfast business is declining. We need to focus on finding out why and then reversing this trend. We are going through too much salmon according to our reports on how many salmon dishes we sell. That may indicate we have a salmon loving thief but let’s not jump to conclusions yet. It’s all backed up in the reports I’ve laid in front of each of you. I’ll give you a moment to look over the reports then we’ll start our discussion on how we shall proceed to build up our bottom line this coming month.”

Good restaurant management decisions are not winged or based on gut feelings they are determined by facts and figures!

The first step to getting a handle on managing your restaurant’s bottom line is to create a comprehensive financial plan for your restaurant or catering operation. Estimate how much revenue you expect to bring in each month, and project what your expenses will be.

* Remember that lost profits can’t be recovered! Lots of well-meaning entrepreneurs compare their projections to reality and find earnings too low and/or expenses too high then shrug and conclude, “I’ll make it up later.” The problem is that you really can’t make it up later. Every month that your restaurant’s profits are too low is a month that is gone forever!

* The restaurant business is very competitive. You have to be able to make adjustments right away. If revenues are lower than expected, increase efforts in sales and marketing or look for ways to increase your rates or get better deals with lower prices on your purchases. If overhead costs are too high, find ways to cut back. There are other businesses like yours around, some in the restaurant business, and some not. Study other business models. Can you figure out what their secrets are for operating profitably?

* Think before you spend. When considering any new business expense, including marketing and sales activities, evaluate the increased earnings you expect to bring in against its cost before you proceed to make a purchase.

*Once you’ve mastered the basic restaurant’s overall financial plan, your next step will be to break things down further by each department. Follow a similar fashion to the larger, less specific financial plan of your whole restaurant which we just went over. Again, estimate how much revenue you expect each department to make and how much you expect each to have in expenses.

*Depending on the size of your restaurant, you may need to break each department down even more specifically. Follow the same format. The more you break it down, the more exact you will know what is making you money and what is costing you money. Now managing decisions become a piece of cake! A walk in the park! And as far from guess work as you can get!


Always evaluate the success of your restaurant based on profit, not revenue. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of dollars you are bringing in each month if your expenses are almost as high, or higher. Many high-revenue restaurants have gone under for this very reason… Don’t be one of them!

As always if you need some restaurant related management advice leave a comment or question. I’ll get you an answer.

If your restaurant problems are more severe ask us for a Philadelphia Restaurant Consultant, PRICE QUOTE they are always confidential.


Don’t forget to check all the fine advice for building up your catering sales at:

Catering is a market share every restaurant should explore grabbing a piece of!

Need some website copy written that actually brings you customers:



PS. I know by your flattering comments that a lot of you have been itching to read another one of my fiction tales. I’m happy to announce, HIGH SEA by Stu Leventhal is now live at Amazon Kindle! Here’s a direct link! I don’t want to ruin the read for you so I’ll just leave you the links to the two entertaining Kindle Youtube book trailers:


I’m looking forward to hearing all your critiques. Do you like that cover?

(More) Ways For Restaurants To Increase Sales (part Two)

14 Jul


                             By Stu Leventhal

In this day and age it has become mandatory for any business wishing to compete in the market place to have a good internet presence. The communication technology has advanced so much that a restaurant business ignoring social media, email campaigns, blogging and advertising online cannot possibly keep pace with competitors who are internet suave.


Going into all the many different opportunities the internet offers to capture your share of any market, would take a lot more time and space than what we have here in this article. Let’s just say, it is important for your restaurant to have a website, a blog, a Facebook fan page or two or three and a twitter account at the bare minimum. A presence on Pinterest, Google+, and management that is Linkedin, would be the next goal. And, it keeps going from there; Youtube, flicker…The list keeps getting bigger and bigger. And each of these platforms can produce customers for just about anyone who takes the time to learn the best methods of utilizing them. The problem is they all work differently and they all take time and effort to master and then implement.

Now is  good time to state that all our other sales tactics, marketing ideas,  promotion attempts and advertising must be posted and shared on as many of these big social media sites as we are using; Twitter and Facebook being priority number one! Every time you implement something new offline, you need to reinforce it through your online presence. Done properly, this will maximize each new promotional effort you implement because it will be magnified on all your different platforms.

Social media is an ongoing commitment. To be successful, you must start to view yourself as the social butterfly of your community. Heard it through the grapevine, must become heard it through your restaurant blog! Heard it on your Facebook page! Read it on your website! There are truly, tons of things to talk about. Once you accept the awkward rule of successful Social Networking which is never to post advertisements about yourself or your business on your own website or blog. This goes for all social media sites as well. It is considered tacky! If you insist on breaking this rule, soon no one will be reading your posts.

Now, since 90% or more of your posts have to be about something other than your own self-promotion and/or the promotion of your business that opens many doors for possible material for you to publish. Any topic of local interest is free game as well as national and international news and developments in your industry, field or specialty. Now I know you are getting tire of hearing everyone babble about how social media is the big new power when it comes to marketing and in particular internet marketing. I mean, really, how much can one restaurant blog about? Won’t a small local restaurant exhaust all its topics in about a month or two? So, how can we keep leveraging the power of the web, Facebook, Twitter and our blog?

  1. Utilize the power of the daily special – Taking the time to come up with innovative specials that change each day, allows you a daily opportunity to communicate with your customers. Letting everyone know todays special is a legitimate reason to Tweet, blog and text message! And since you connected your Twitter account and your blog to your Facebook account this allows you to update all of them at the same time rather quickly and without appearing too spammy.

Social Media is still the lowest costing advertising and marketing method you can find, mostly free except for you time and efforts. But yes, it is hard to come up with fresh, entertaining things to discuss all the time. So, now we have taken the pressure off, by establishing that we always have at least one post we can make every day; the daily special! Now all we have to do is add a few tid bits of info on something else and we’re done. Blog posts don’t need to be huge.

  1. Chef tips – posting some general kitchen, cooking and/or dining advice is a way to keep your customers interest. Time saving food prep tricks, recipes, health info calories, fat content etc. food storage tips, reheat info and food safety advice; all make appropriate topics.
  2. New staff members names and a short few lines stating their role or position as well as a few lines about them. And, you can blog and post about crew members too, it doesn’t have to only pertain to key employees like chefs and upper management. Remember the best social media posts are friendly and informal posts. Your customers are interested in learning more about your wait staff, bartenders and prep-cooks too.

Any good marketer will tell you that besides finding new customers you must also not only continue to satisfy the needs of your current customers but also convince them to purchase more. You need them to visit and dine more as well as bring their friends and recommend your establishment to everyone they know!

  1. The trick to getting your customers not to opt out of your email list and your social media platforms is to create some social media only events and offers. Reward your loyal customers for taking the time to engage with you via your social media sites. Post discounts that they can only access on your Facebook pages. Tweet a special offer! Create fun contests where they can win free deserts, such as, the first to answer a trivia question placed on your blog or website wins a free meal. Leave them a funny line or two of a poem that must be recited to their server when they place their lunch order (today only) to get half price. Make it fun! This will keep them looking forward to your next posts, tweets and blogs. Plus post the names of the winners (with their permission of course, so they have to log back in, to see who won.) It could be their next door neighbor.
  2. Have a special event just for your social media participants. Shut off a section of the restaurant and serve free appetizers. Rent a few big screen TVs for a special sports game. Again, they have to print the invite ticket online to get in.
  3. The same goes for getting your opt/in customers to actually open their emails you send them. Once they realize you periodically send email contests that can only be entered with the emailed code, they will joyfully open all your emails in the hopes of another contest. Again make the contests timely, the first 5 people to answer correctly win a glass of wine or a dessert.
  4. Customer surveys are another great way to get even more out of your social media. Ask for feedback on your new menu items and how their last visit was service wise. How can we serve you better suggestions are always good and helpful. Keep the questions short and to the point or most won’t take the time to fill them out. Yes or no, multiple choice and rate us from one to five are the best survey type questions.

Stay tune for part three of WAYS FOR RESTAURANTS TO INCREASE SALES. We will be discussing some neat and unique offline methods; Loyalty Programs, Bounce Back Promotion, holiday parties and much, much, more…



9 Jul

                                by Stu Leventhal


There’s no doubt about it, asking your service staff to push for wine sales can boost your restaurant’s revenue. But, what is the best wine sales building strategy? Obviously, your accountant will be quick to point out, if your wait staff sells glasses of wine, you make more profit than if they push for the bottle sale. But, ask your bartenders and they’ll tell you filling all these glasses, is a lot of unnecessary work, not just for the bartender but for the server who has to run back and forth to the bar re-filling the glasses. Just open up a bottle and leave it on the table or in a bowl of ice and let them serve themselves. It’s cheaper for the guests too, so everybody wins. But you say, it is your servers’ job to run the bill up, not make things easier for your bartender. We’re leaving money on the table. And so, should we be couching our staff to push for the bottle sale or the glasses? And so, the debate goes on…

To find the answer we went to the source; the waitresses and waiters who rely on their tips, which are based on a percentage of the total bill. Any top server will tell you selling by both bottle and glasses are necessary. Experienced servers know how to gage each table full of customers based on the circumstances to know whether to push for wine by the glass or bottle. Many issues apply and the answer is determined by past experience that is hard to explain. Let’s just start by saying different circumstances require different tactics. Listing both choices on your menus, allows your seasoned wait-staff to determine the best way to go. Your best servers know how to run up the tab, don’t handcuff them. Let them teach your new hires the tricks of the trade.

Many restaurants seem to struggle with wine sales. That is usually because just having a few bottles of vino on a list doesn’t constitute a wine program. Have you ever walked into a restaurant and the first thing you notice is there seems to be a bottle of wine sitting on every table? Even if you aren’t really a wine drinker, you sort of feel obligated to start the meal off with a bottle. This is because the whole restaurant has built up a culture, of building a spectacular dining experience around their wine offerings. There may be a wine steward ready to share his advice on what he recommends pairing with the chef’s specialties of the night. He’s ready with a quick colorful story or two about the history of the vineyard or the founding vineyard owner. The opening of the bottle, allowing it to breath, pouring of the sample taste; is a whole, well-rehearsed dramatic little vignette that no one wants to miss out on.

If you want to sell wines, really sell wines, you have to invest in creating the whole grand production. That is not to suggest that you need to install the biggest wine cellar in town. But, you do have to put some thinking into the wines you are going to offer.

Obviously, your wines by the glass offerings have to be limited. You can’t offer to open every bottle of wine for a one glass sale, especially the real expensive bottles! But, we need to have a decent variety of tastes and price ranges represented. Your bottle list should present a much deeper selection as well as some big money names to capitalize on celebrating big occasions as  well as sating customers with big egos that enjoy showing off by ordering the most expensive bottle in the house. When you are new to wine, selling it is normal to get nervous about investing in inventory when you aren’t sure which wines are going to sell. The key to being successful is working with your vendor.

Trust that the vendor has your best interest at heart. No decent wine vendor wants to make one sale off of you. They all are in this for the long haul and repeating orders. That means suggesting a wine program to you that will work for your type of restaurant. Wine Vendors are always excited to have new restaurants join their platform. They are used to answering the questions and solving the concerns of new managers and owners who are skeptical and unknowledgeable about wine. They know they must get involved with the training of your wait staff and invest with promotional bottles as well as helping you with marketing if you are to be successful. Utilize all the free stuff they offer and listen to their experienced advice. The vendor only succeeds when you succeed.

When it comes to introducing your new wine program to your staff as well as to your customers, your vendor is your partner. All good wine vendors should offer to teach your staff everything they need to know any time they add a new wine to your program. The training should include a history lesson on wines in that category, including what types of food it pairs well with, as well as background info on the particular label and what to say to sell more of that particular wine. They should be anxious to spring for a bottle so your staff can taste the new vino. Actually knowing what the wine tastes like will help the servers better describe it to their customers. Your vendor should also supply you with plenty of complimentary bottles for you to use to promote your new wine list. Don’t be shy about giving free tastes away. Supplying sample tastes to your customers makes launching your new wine services a breeze. Once your customers are aware you have a real wine program word of mouth will build this lucrative new addition to your business model fast!

Scheduling a wine tasting event with your vendor on the day you plan to officially introduce your customers to the new vino list is a no brainer because, once again your vendor will supply the wine free and they usually offer to contribute to your marketing cost for the event also! Welcome to the fabulous business of wine! Everyone is treated like family!

*The best tip I can give you is not to worry about the big name wines that everyone has on their lists. The real key to building up successful wine sales is having a decent selection of wines that no other restaurant in your vicinity can get. That is why partnering with one good wine vendor, medium to smaller is much better and more important than trying to have the biggest wine list in town. Besides, often having too many choices can be a hindrance to wine sales. Americans traditionally aren’t very knowledgeable about wine. We know beer! So, when it comes to choosing a bottle of vino to toast a special occasion information overload from a ten page wine list is more annoying than impressive.

Smaller wine vendors understand the value and prestige that exclusivity will bring your restaurant! They can guarantee that no one else in your area will be serving your bottles! That’s powerful! Together you and your vendor will slowly turn your beer drinking clientele and community into wine connoisseurs! And your relationship with your wine vendor will only grow stronger and stronger with time! Plus, the best part is once your customers fall in love with a particular wine, they will have to come back and dine with you to enjoy it!

As always feel free to blog comment us with any and all of your restaurant management questions and we’ll get you the answers. That is how we come up with the future topics for your blog.

*If your restaurant caters or is considering catering check out our sister website for great free catering sales advice:  Adding catering or expanding a restaurant’s catering services is a fantastic way for any restaurant to build sales and profit. Here, you’ll find out the effective ways to grow a strong catering business.

*If you are having trouble creating your business advertising copy and marketing text try browsing through some of the free business writing tips at:  They also have very affordable web writing services at:


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