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The WEBstaurant Store > Food Service Help > Articles > Proactive and Profitable: Bottom-Line Tips From Foodservice Pros
Proactive and Profitable: Bottom-Line Tips From Foodservice Pros
What are the ideas you've used to save the most cash, and how did you find them? What do you look at, in addition to the P&L statements, to grow your bottom line? These are the kinds of questions we pose to, and have answered by, operators in this series.
Our first budget-benefiting tips come from Bill Hansen of Bill Hansen Catering in Coconut Grove, Florida. BHC has been in business since 1980, and Hansen is the founder of Leading Caterers of America, a fast-growing online membership organization of catering professionals and vendors.
"We're in the people business and, when you manage your people well, you're actually controlling costs,: Hansen explained. :A big mistake many of us are guilty of is keeping someone on staff who clearly isn't right for the job. One of my favorite sayings is, "If you've gotta swallow a frog, you don't wanna look at it very long." That is, it's a very unpleasant thing to have to let somebody go, but if you have to do it, get it over with and move on.
"The costs of hiring new staff, training them, then having to pay severance and find new employees when they're not a good fit are all numbers that don't necessarily show up on a financial statement," Hansen continued, "Nonetheless, those costs can be huge. I highly recommend that operators use pre-employment personality testing to make sure the people they hire actually fit the available positions. If you hire the right people for the right jobs, they're going to perform so much better over the long run."
Trim Energy Use
At bi-monthly staff meetings, employees of Chapala's family-owned Mexican chain with six locations in four Idaho cities are often reminded that it's the little things that make the biggest bottom-line impact. To discourage offering paper napkins by the handful or overfilling baskets of complimentary tortilla chips, this restaurant company's consistent theme is "Watch, Don't Waste."
"This year we've concentrated on [doing something about] our high utility costs," says Chapala owner Fabiola Marin. "When things are slow, between 2:00p.m. and 5:00 p.m., we turn lights off in back areas such as dishrooms, and we turn ovens off, too. Just doing this has saved as much as 20% on our electric and gas bills."
Such business acumen earned Fabiola and husband Margarito Marin honors as the 2002 "Minority Small Businesspersons of the Year" in Idaho from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
What are you doing with your customer database? Do you even have one? New York City-based Restaurant Associates'a group that owns or manages operations at more than 130 restaurants and foodservices reaches out to its primarily urban clientele online, with a sophisticated e-mail direct marketing program, originally designed to coax customers back onto the dining scene after the September 11 terrorist attacks had sent business into a tailspin.
The company's "Dine Out, New York!" database grew to more than 142,000 names within six months, as customers printed out discount coupons, and were entered in drawings for free meals and other prizes for referring friends—all by e-mail.
"Not to be "New York-centric,"" remarked Kay Nelson, RA's director of Public Relations, "but it's probably the most direct and cost-effective way we've found to reach out to our target audience, and it's convenient for them. We ask that people call and make reservations by phone, but they can do almost everything else online. The internet is now one of our most powerful marketing tools, and I would absolutely recommend it."
This online marketing program continues to boost business, as Restaurant Associates is now tailoring its offers to slower times and seasons. At first, the company assumed it would generate a 10% to 15% redemption rate for its online coupons, which are coded so RA personnel can track who's using them. So far, redemption rates for some offers have hit 37% enough to make any restaurateur "google" with envy.
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