All it takes is teamwork …

SeatsIt’s only a ten minute drive along the A56 & A57 to get from Old Trafford to The Etihad but even though they’re in pretty close proximity to each other, the similarities in atmosphere within the two giant clubs ends there! ‘City’ are already talking about conquering Europe while Man-U ex-captain, Roy Keane is urging his old club to ‘get tough’ and is also suggesting that some other personalities need to step up to take responsibility for the Club’s showing over the season and not lay everything at Moyes’ doorstep.

A lot of what Keane says can be translated into one word, “teamwork.” Clearly, City was the more successful club of the two from Manchester that gelled as a team and they have the results to show for it. A disjointed team, for whatever reason will result in below average performance and sometimes even cause the whole shebang to leave the rails completely.

Sometimes the main players in a team forget that there are others who are also part of the same team, just not as prominent. Like the chap who carries the drinks, or the one who arranges the bus for the team to travel in, or the person who makes sure that nothing gets left behind in the change-room when the players go back to their hotel. They’re all part of the team but most people don’t even know they exist. And if their particular function breaks down, it impacts on the whole team – sometimes as a minor irritation and sometimes with catastrophic consequences.

Well, someone dropped the ball at Jamie’s Barbecoa Butchery recently and the whole team felt the impact. But, it only came to light after a freedom of information request was submitted (I suppose some things don’t liked being aired to the public). It revealed that the establishment had received a ‘hazardous‘ assessment and closed down to remedy the situation. This is not the first time this type of problem has plagued Jamie – last year his Portsmouth branch of his Italian chain paid £17 000.00 after pleading guilty to breaching the Food Safety Act.

Many establishments will agree with Jon Rutter and his team of professionals when they say that their stocktaker is definitely part of their team. They work in the background and most folk aren’t even aware that they exist. But without them the wheels of an operation can come off rather rapidly. Stocktaking services provide all the figures needed to keep up to date with exactly what is happening at the premises. Specialist stocktakers ensure that the their extensive experience avoids unnecessary wastage or losses (whether accidental or otherwise) and recommended action is passed on to the client to keep everything running smoothly. Just what a team needs! 

Some restaurants have had a team member suggest installing fish tanks as they can create an ambience of peace and tranquility. Others have tanks so customers can choose their own particular fish or crustacean to have prepared for them. One hotel in the Maldives has gone to the other extreme and has their restaurant built under water to give diners a view of the free-swimming fish, turtles and other sea creatures all around them.

The hotel is inviting the guests to “dine with the sharks” … hopefully the sharks don’t get confused and start thinking the ‘tank’ is showcasing diners for their benefit.

Advertisements

“Big Brother” also slips up from time to time …

Line Of Police Cars In EnglandMany have complained that we live in a society where our every move is scrutinized. Others embrace the concept arguing that if we aren’t doing anything wrong there is no need for concern. But Sophie Vaughan was minding her own business in traffic, in a traffic jam no less, when she took a sip from her Slush Puppy.

A sharp-eyed policeman on a bike spotted her actions and handed her a £100 fixed penalty for ‘driving without due care and attention.’ Perhaps he thought she would throw cold Slush Puppy in his face and felt he needed back-up, so he called for reinforcements and another three colleagues came to his support. Ms Vaughan will now have to go to court to have the 3 penalty points that came with the fine rescinded, even though there is no clarity in the law on whether eating or drinking while driving is illegal. The law merely states that ‘if you present a significant danger’ and if the police think ‘you are not in proper control of the vehicle.’ So it appears that this particular band of four officers felt that sitting in a stationery vehicle and sipping a drink rendered Ms Vaughan reckless.

But for the Met officer who was caught on camera, sipping at his drink while he was driving his patrol car there seems to be a bit of the pot calling the kettle black going on. I’m sure the Met would argue that police officers undergo stringent driver training before being placed in charge of a vehicle, so presumably being able to “sip-and-drive” comes into their training regime.

What happens if someone is seen chewing gum while driving?

Another ‘Big Brother’ moment occurred when it was mooted that pubs or restaurants should have glasses with lines marked on them that indicate how many units of alcohol are in the glass. The campaigners for this move appear to think that if the lines are prominently displayed on each glass then consumers will suddenly suffer a dose of ‘guilt and responsibility’ and only consume what the recommended plimsoll line indicates. Or consumers will decant their drinks into their own glasses or they will develop ‘line-blindness’ as a consequence.

If the move was introduced, would the Palace also follow suit at their State Functions? Would restaurants be able to order colour-coded lines on their glasses to match their décor? It would be a maître-d’s nightmare trying to get his table settings to look good in a Michelin-starred establishment with all those lines, logos and information printed on their finest crystal.

For hard-working stocktakers there was some cost-cutting good news from the USA recently. A 14 year old student in Pennsylvania has advised the USA Government how they can save $400m by making a simple adjustment to the way they print out things. He worked out and analysed that by merely changing the font on their documents from Times New Roman to Garamond the amount of ink saved on the less bulky font will save that massive amount of dosh!

Now if Jon Rutter and his professional team recommended a pub or restaurant change their menu fonts in order to be more profitable, it is unlikely to save them $400m – but the principle of using less ink on the fonts and not so many twiddly bits as decoration could reduce the number of times the print cartridges are changed, which mean savings. Stocktaker’s job done!

Or you could just use a blackboard – chalks are probably cheaper than paper and print cartridges. It would save more trees too.

Champions have routines … don’t knock it

Boring? the routine of figures and procedures?

Boring? the routine of figures and procedures?

Go into any well-run business and look behind the scenes. You will find procedures and routines that MUST be followed or heads roll. From the small things like making sure that the last one out turns off the lights to putting the shop keys in the office, on the same hook each time, so that they can always be found. There are also more significant routines too, like making sure that every item is checked off the manifest when a delivery arrives instead of just taking the van driver’s word that it’s all there.

Some might argue that these routines are mundane repetitions that take the fun and spontaneity out of life and make work “boring” … but others rigorously defend them saying that they help the business, or the individual to function at their best. Take the chef who needs to have all the pan handles facing the same way, with the pans of varying sizes in a particular order so that without thinking he will reach up, select what he wants and then slam it down on the counter in just the right position for him to add whatever ingredient he needs before moving it onto the stove burner and the dish can be cooked. No mess, no fuss, job done. Now imagine some free spirit in the kitchen deciding to make chef’s life more “fun” by storing the pans in an assortment of sizes with some handles facing the wall, some handles facing the range and others upside down. They are likely to find themselves with a “fun” bump on the head from where chef has chucked the 9 inch pan at them when he wanted the 14 inch one but it wasn’t where it should have been.

So the routines that Jon Rutter and his team of professionals employ are designed to make their client’s businesses work at maximum efficiency – there is a specific sequence that they need to follow to achieve the end result, making their clients the best they can be. Some might scoff and suggest that one or other process is a bit OTT, but “over the top” routines work for champions. They help to keep them focussed on the task at hand and on track to achieving their goal. Another champion that uses routine has been criticised recently – Rafael Nadal. His penchant for lining up his drink bottles with labels facing the right way and the sequence he uses as he touches himself in various places before serving has irritated many watchers. It has even been suggested that he has OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Well, if he does, so do hundreds of other successful athletes, among them Sharapova and Andy Murray. Which begs the question, are children learning tennis taught to bounce the ball a few times before serving? Why do players do it?

Rafa probably does have fun in his life when he’s not working at tennis. As does Maria and Andy. But for them to achieve the right result in their trade, they need the focus that their routine provides. No restaurant, club or pub is any different – as any stocktaker will tell you, the “same-old, same-old” boring stuff needs to be done to keep the business moving forward to make them champions in their own field.

Perhaps we’ll see Chef juggling pans for fun on Britain’s Got Talent, but not in his kitchen!

Innovate … or go backwards!

Innovate!

Innovate!

Richard Branson has expressed the view that “if you aren’t innovating, you’re going backwards.”

Now that all the fuss about the “new-year-resolutions” has died down and everyone is back to normal, creative stocktakers all over the country are planning strategies to continue to help their customers stay in profit in spite of indications from some that people have less money to spend on going out to pubs and restaurants. So people like Jon Rutter and his team are determined not to let their 2013 efforts be “good enough” for their clients. Results show that regular stocktaking provides the accuracy and experience needed that helps improve a venue’s profitability, minimises waste, and enables the owner to concentrate on the key role of running the establishment. But using a stocktaker like Rutters doesn’t absolve the owner from the need to come with their own ideas to innovate.

We’ve all seen the videos that have gone viral on social media about men proposing to their sweethearts, or the flashmob announcements etc. Recently there have also been couples using these means to announce to their family the arrival of a child. The most recent is the couple in Toledo, Ohio who have produced a horror film type trailer announcing the “Bun-in-the-Oven … Coming June 2014.” Instead of just posting a message to their family saying, “Relax, we’re pregnant” this was a clever way of turning the announcement into something unusual and memorable. The video has had over 135 000 views and people are sharing it all over social media.

An innovative landlord, restrauteur, club or guest-house owner might consider making their own unusual and innovative video clip to announce something. And the wonderful thing about the way social media works is that even if something is not produced by Pinewood Studios or a professional videographer, if it’s clever and a quirky enough to get someone’s attention, it will be “liked” and “shared” and “advertised” with little or no effort made by the originator of the video. Today, using mobile phones and some basic free-editing software, anyone can make and publish a video. All it needs is for someone to think a little bit differently to the way they have been and then to have the “oomph” to try something different. So, landlords, don’t be surprised if your stocktaker comes to you with an idea about producing a short video clip of your chef making his special, or of the local choir singing in the grounds of your garden to advertise your community involvement – they’re just thinking “out the box” for you for 2014!

One wrong way of “thinking-out-of-the-box” was when Michael Gearty supplied a Dreambox decoder to a Nottingham pub. The set top box allowed Sky Sports coverage to be shown via an internet connection. The problem was, there was no Commercial Viewing Agreement with Sky Business and Mr Gearty is now watching TV from a prison cell. It has been reported that over 1500 licencees have been convicted for showing Sky Sports without a commercial agreement.

There’s innovation and there’s incarceration – the difference is stark!

(PS: There’s no license needed if you produce, publish and broadcast your own video!)

Like it or not, use it or not … social media is here to stay!

Social media is regarded by some as a waste of time. They take the view that, “I don’t do Facebook or Twitter. They’re rubbish!” While others view them as a means to spreading the word about the business or a message that they’re trying to portray to the public and their potential customers.

The bad news for the detractors is that whatever their sentiments, social media is here to stay and they might as well accept and even embrace it. For those who are already “sold” on it, they’d better learn to use and exploit the possibilities or be left behind.

Image by Diego Eis: eyesmiles.tableless.com.br

Image by Diego Eis: eyesmiles.tableless.com.br

Social media and its spread was highlighted this last fortnight during the build up to the Wimbledon finals and also will be in the run-up to the the arrival of new Duke or Duchess of Cambridge. Within seconds of an event’s occurrence, the news hits the streets and there’s no retraction that come quickly enough if the details are not completely accurate or if they’re not presented in the way that isn’t totally compliant with what the PR machines dictate. For instance, the moment John Inverdale made the disparaging remark about Marion Bartoli’s looks, Twitter erupted with comments and outrage and he had to issue a “grovelling apology” which might even not have prevented his early retirement from the commentary box.

And even as the grin was rising on Ewan McKenzie’s face in Brisbane, the rest of the world knew that Robbie Deans had been axed as the Wallabies Coach – before even the news wires had updated their websites.

Social media DOES work and it is a force to be reckoned with, embraced and utilised, rather than pooh poohed. So much so that an Enterprise Lessee has even launched their own pub version of a social media, called “Pub Network” that is aimed to help pubs engage more with their customers. The site enables pubs to create their own profiles and is seen as a way of letting their customers know about their latest events, offers and promotions. However, one wonders whether those who have successful social media sites will forego them in favour of the new Pub Network – personally, I would use both, as I’m sure the new network could also work and achieve the aim for which it was set up.

With all this marketing and promotional effort going on, I’m convinced that stocktakers like Jon Rutter and the lads take things like planning for social media into account when they give advice and deal with planning strategies of their clients. There was an excellent article in the Morning Advertiser this week that dealt with the need to use a qualified stocktaker and the services they provide in order to be successful in the trade (not, incidentally, commissioned by Rutters nor anyone else) but highlighting the need for business people to use those expert and proficient in the trade in order to make things work out well.

As the article pointed out – you wouldn’t get your car serviced by an unqualified mechanic, would you?

In the same way, those who advise that social media can work and if they have already it made it work for them, should be listened to … or will businesses listen to the mantras of a few years ago when they said, “this Facebook thing will never take off.” They were wrong.

Over 1 billion Facebook users must be viewed as a potential market. As could 500 million Twitter users sending 340 million tweets per day. So, potentially, Pub Network could be the next biggest thing in Britain. However you view it, people like Rutters and their customers will need to take various social media into account in getting the word out to their prospective clientele as to what’s on the menu, what the specials are and what other news there is … because if they don’t someone else will. And right or wrong, the public seem to be paying attention to what’s out there in cyberspace!

When waiters and customers work together …

The notice at the foot of the menu invited me to ‘tell my friends’ if I had enjoyed my meal, but to ‘tell the management’ if I hadn’t. I wondered how many had actually made the effort to say anything to management when they had a less than pleasant experience because I saw a lady, clearly unhappy with her waiter’s service storm out the restaurant. She would probably be relating the incident to her friends in short order and the management would be blissfully unaware of the situation.

She probably didn’t read the small print at the foot of the menu.

But this got me thinking as to why people are quick to complain to their friends about some place they’re unhappy with but say nothing directly to the owners or managers. They’re also quick to “review” establishments on TripAdvisor but cut out of the loop the people who could change things for the better. Is it because their experience has taught that there are managers who really don’t care what the customer thinks and just get aggressive and defensive when confronted by a complaint? Is it because those complaining feel embarrassed at bringing something to the attention of their “host” and don’t want to draw attention to themselves?

I know that Jon Rutter WaiterWaitress and his professional staff receive many compliments and accolades, but when something needs attention, Jon is the first to know and he sorts it out quickly and efficiently. He knows that the Rutters Stocktaking team’s first priority is giving the customer what they want in the best way possible. Their customers know that they can approach the team with any problem. So why is there a reluctance of diners, hotel guests, and pub patrons?

The answer could be seated in “relationship” – the better the relationship, the more likely the customer will be frank in their assessment of service. Which got me thinking about the way folk like waiters interacted with their tables – those disinterested waiters who merely “take the order,” who offer no suggestions, who have no interest in the customer’s experience are those who create the barrier that the customer feels they cannot cross to lodge a complaint. Or else they overreact, which is just as bad if not worse. Of course, all the “blame” cannot be laid at the waiter’s door – there are times when customers can be difficult and cannot be satisfied at all regardless of how many hoops the management and their staff jump through!

And of course, there is the right and the wrong way to complain – there are books written on the subject! Some will tell you to be polite but firm, to clearly state what your grievance is and to suggest a solution in an even and unemotional way. Others will tell you to go “straight to the top” and let the boss-man know. Still others will suggest that you cool off and then write to the establishment. All are correct and valid – and as with all answers the correct method hangs on the “it all depends” scenario. Either way, there are always going to be things people are going to complain about, there are always going to be difficult customers, and there are always going to be some unresolved issues.

What would be more helpful is that waiters and servers work with the attitude that their table is special and deserves their attention and care – this will go a long way to ensuring those being served enjoy their experience and won’t be reluctant in mentioning something not quite right.

Even more helpful, would be that those being served enjoy their experience and remember that nothing in life is perfect, not even their waiter, and responding to their server’s efforts will make it an enjoyable experience all round.  Bon appetit!

“And the Winner is …”

The start of a year brings with it, apart from some really cold weather and bills from Christmas, the roll-out of the “awards season” … the BAFTAS, the EMMYS, the OSCARS and more. The hospitality industry aren’t left out either. Two that caught my eye are the “BII Licensee of the Year Award” and “The Publican Awards”. Both soirées will take place later in the year, but the process is now in place and some semi-finalists have been named.

There are some who are a teeny bit cynical about award do’s suggesting that they are just an excuse for a good party at someone else’s expense. But on examining the various criteria and some of the categories for these awards, it’s difficult not to feel respect for those making it through to the short list.

newyears_fireworks

The search for the BII winner is about to enter another phase of analysis and judges scrutiny as they look for “genuine passion, outstanding drive and the highest level of professionalism.” And after that is done, those still standing will be grilled in front of the judging panel until the winner is whittled out and finally announced on 14th May.

March 11th at the Grosvenor Hotel will see the presentation of the Publican Awards. These will focus on specific aspects of the industry and recognise their achievements. Awards for ‘Best Late Night Operator’ and ‘Best Pub Employer’ are among the many categories.

These events are the culmination of the process that various branches of the industry use to ensure their standards are at the level to which all should be aspiring. They also serve as a challenge to their peers to raise the bar in the various categories of service, décor, operations, initiative and so forth. Unlike the Oscars where it is all done for ‘entertainment value’ these awards are much more serious as they represent standards that directly impact on the public in the areas of food and drink safety, comfort and accommodation.

That the industry is taking all this seriously is good news for ‘Joe Pub-visitor’ as it ensures there are those who value him not only as a regular but that he goes home well satisfied, well fed, watered and rested too. So those not in the industry shouldn’t view these awards in quite the same light as those awarded for making them laugh and cry from a TV programme or film.

The players in the hard world of keeping the customer satisfied will value stocktaking companies like Rutters in their bid to attain and reach the standards their own industry demands. Without their professional help in the planning, feedback and advice they provide, it is virtually impossible to achieve the high standards these competitive awards are judged on.

The fact is, so many enter, but only a very few are able to achieve the acceptance-speech level. And this is where the unfairness of these awards creeps in. It is only the short list and the final winners who are paraded, photographed and lauded – that the public might conclude that the unnamed remainder of establishments are not good enough. Not so! It is a very tough competition with very high standards and there can only be one winner – it doesn’t mean the race wasn’t hard-fought.

Wouldn’t it be great to see your favourite pub with an award proudly displayed? But if it’s not the winner, it’s still the place that you choose to be – so don’t stop. Your Publican won’t stop trying, and maybe next year you’ll get the chance to have a swig out the trophy, along with the other loyal supporters.

Just a hole in the ground? … no, a marketing opportunity!

The newspapers are so full of doom and gloom lately, about the pub industry, about regulation, about tax, about licensing fees etc etc, so it was refreshing to hear reports on what players in the industry are doing to help.

Enterprise Inn’s Ted Tuppen indicated that about 800 pubs are going to get their “kerb appeal” enhanced. As any real estate agent will tell you, this is the strategy employed to make people want to stop and come in. This is a good plan and can only be of assistance – it’s much nicer to walk in to a place that looks inviting rather than a seedy looking joint, even if the chips are good.

Horse

This presents the perfect opportunity for restaurants and pubs in the vicinity of the Leicester City Council car park where they have just confirmed that “His Grace Richard Plantagenet, King of England and France, Lord of Ireland” met his fate and was unceremoniously dumped into a tight hole in the ground. An enterprising publican or restrauteur could dolly up his frontage and advertise a walking tour of the site, expound a bit on the history of the unfortunate Richard III and then repair to the pub for a “meal of the period” to enhance the experience. A package deal. Now as ridiculous as that might sound to some, there are people from all walks who would pay good money for that type of thing. And it’s current news that Henry VII’s predecessor has been confirmed as ‘the body in the carpark.’ A Shakespeare fan could even quote the “my kingdom for a horse” speech … just don’t let the chef hear!

Slangkop

And for even more enterprising folk, think of the opportunities the Bristol Channel provides for those interested in the history this stretch of water has seen over the centuries. The Gull and Leek is on the market, complete with an 86 acre beer garden! It’s a Victorian pub on an island and probably doesn’t have the problems of having to contend with binge drinkers. It even has its own lighthouse. This could be developed into the type of venue that would make it desirable and exclusive to a particular, targeted clientele. Rutters would gladly ensure that their excellent knowledge and planning skills would enhance the effectiveness of the place. All the owner would have to do would be to ensure a regular means of getting to one of the most remote bars in Britain. The Cardiff Council owns this beautiful place and it’s up for grabs.

The ongoing debate (war) about the screening of sports in bars took a twist too. Sky TV is offering discounts to tenants of certain groups. Probably as a measure to keep folk from using those foreign services. Nothing wrong with discounts, a pity they’re not offered more. Everyone has to make a living and no one really minds a bit of give-and-take in the process. Darragh O’Connor of Kenricks Bar is really smiling. He won the Sky competition and walked off with a years free subscription.

How about some more competitions, Sky?

Just not a competition like the one at the recent Super Bowl party where record-breaking food-wolfer Kobayashi made a pizza disappear in just one minute. Definitely not fine dining!