Operations – Refresh Yourself

by Peter Thor, President, Bellissimo Foods

As we transition past Pizza Expo and out of winter into spring, let’s refresh ourselves and think for a bit what we might do better both personally and in our business. It’s easy to get in a rut and not realize that the weeks have turned to months and years. Are we doing it right or doing the right things? Turning the crank day after day can almost be mind numbing, and at some point we all need to step back and put what is important ahead of what is urgent.

Some interesting articles recently have suggested the value of an annual “tune-up” which, as the name implies, suggests that we recalibrate our activities to be more effective (and happier!). For many of us, we can relate that to our business and think about business operations, personnel relations and motivation, repeat customers, and marketing. Each of these key facets to business must work in harmony to be effective. The pizza restaurant business is a fast paced but basic business with little room for error. One of the great things about foodservice is that it is a people business.

People indeed, there are lots of personalities in foodservice! But on a serious note, start by making a real effort to connect better with your staff and co-workers. Try to learn from them about details in your operation and customers you didn’t know about.  Share information with them about how the business is going, trending, performing from your perspective and you’ll be surprised by their interest. Comments by some operators who’ve had to go through tough times have said that opening up to their employees and sharing information proved a turning point and created the team atmosphere they were looking for. In addition to simply communicating more often, review training procedures and consider giving more leadership roles and responsibility. In addition to empowering those individuals, you may be surprised to find you can refocus your efforts in other areas needing attention.

“Operations” is the heart of every business, because without a smoothly operating kitchen and consistent quality nothing else matters. Having both the front and back of the house on the same team and pulling the same direction is key to this success. Educating all employees about food quality and what makes your menu special will return many dividends in the form of employee morale, new ingredient and menu ideas, and customer up-selling through a knowledgeable wait staff.

Social media is much discussed but needs more individual attention by most independent operators. Chains have clearly led the way in utilizing social media to their advantage. The combination of new technologies and social media have made it imperative that independent restaurants follow suit. Not to copy, but to utilize social media to promote your local neighborhood roots and participation. Stories of neighborhoods supporting local business demonstrate that you can compete successfully against the omnipresent marketing of chain pizzerias. A social media presence and increased involvement in community activities go hand in hand to building increase local traffic. If you don’t know what to do, look at other restaurant websites and see what they use. Then choose the one that appeals the most. If you don’t, you’re missing an opportunity to gain more customers.

Commit to two easy to manage commitments this year. The first is to create a new promotion for each quarter of the year. Be creative and try something new. They do not have to be elaborate, just creative that fits with the personality of your restaurant. Maybe it’s a “sports” theme, or a “giving back” theme, or a something to support the local community. Whatever it is, find ways to get the word out via the local paper, radio, and social media.

The second commitment is to get personally involved in one new community based activity, something you’ve not been previously associated with. Perhaps it is the local school sports league or adult league. Alternatively, you could support one of many local charity foundations, golf tournaments, or church based fundraising efforts. All of the above will not only generate good will for the business, but introduce new friends and energy. Don’t forget your partner Delco Foods Sales Representative who also lives in your community and can be a valuable resource. Good luck!

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