An “A-Player” is someone with great personality, stellar product knowledge, a true understanding of service and a strong desire to please the guest.
Imagine if your entire team took this approach!
In this week’s episode of the Restaurant Rockstars Podcast, I’m speaking with Zaylan Jacobsen. Zaylan is a veteran server, bartender and team leader who saw a gap in staff training and service. He not only found a way to up-level the guest experience in his own employer’s restaurants but is now disrupting the industry.
Listen as Zaylan describes:
- How great restaurants create a strong culture
- The importance of effective training on the guest experience
- Seeing your staff as valuable “assets” not replaceable commodities
- Valuing and encouraging team contributions
- Technology that unfortunately detracts from true hospitality
- Better ideas to combat the labor crisis
- Turning restaurant jobs into careers with limitless potential
You’ll want to stay tuned as Zaylan describes how and why he created a game-changing restaurant training App that will transform service in restaurants and hospitality operations. Get your free Demo at www.srvnow.com
Now go out there and ROCK Your Restaurant!
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We need to be in the perspective that we should be seeing our team as an asset. And so rather than $138 is flowing out of my pocket tonight, and that’s how I should be looking at this server, let’s look at them as an asset and see their perceived value as how much money they’re bringing into our organization. So let’s say in that eight hour shift, they brought in $3,000, for your business, then the value, the perceived value should be looking at that server is that $375 An hour, not 1725. And if we were to look at our team members for the value that they were generating for our organization, it would change the way that we treat them change the way that we invest in them, and allow us to really focus on you know, meeting each of their individual needs as people and optimizing them so that that hourly rate that they’re bringing into your organization can become higher and higher and higher.
welcomed back, everyone. My guest today, Mr. Zaylan Jacobsen offers his unique perspective on true hospitality culture, the importance of a mission statement and the labor crisis from his unique perspective as a veteran server bartender and team leader, not only that, Zealand and I have also recently partnered on a game changing restaurant staff training app that we’ll be talking about towards the end of the podcast. Don’t miss it.
You’re tuned in to the restaurant rockstars podcast powerful ideas to rock your restaurant. Here’s your host Roger Beaudoin Webb
imagine both your front and back of house teams are so well trained that they’re executing flawlessly. Your front of house is doubling your sales, boosting repeat business, and creating five star dining experiences. While your back of house is consistently preparing each dish to perfection on time and to spec having a restaurant this dial takes a unique trading system. That’s where serve comes in. Serve means study restaurant variety, and it is a powerful mobile training system custom built to meet the needs of your restaurant serve will uplevel your team’s knowledge and skills, maximize your profits and create experiences that guests will rave about serve is the key to unlocking your restaurants hidden potential, and more. The more your team is able to learn, the more your restaurant will earn. And it’s a game changer. Ready to serve? Get [email protected]
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Welcome back, everyone. This is the restaurant rockstars podcast with me today, Mr. Zaylan Jacobsen of P NW restaurants in the Pacific Northwest. And we’re going to talk all about service, we’re going to talk all about the challenges and pain points that restaurants are having today. And what really strikes me Zaylan is the fact that I just thought to myself, You are who I was decades ago when I was starting my first restaurant. And it’s an interesting story how we got together. We’ll talk a little bit about that. But welcome to the show.
Thank you really excited to be here.
So in this podcast, one of the more gratifying things is all the interesting people I meet in this business and how you know, we all care about the ultimate guest experience. And that word hospitality is the foundation of our business. And it’s so so important. So I was really pleased that you reached out to me months ago on LinkedIn, and I connect with several people that way. It’s a great network for our industry. And we just seem to have a lot in common. And you see, you just suggested, hey, let’s have a phone call. And let’s just get to know each other and see if you know we can just talk shop and collaborate in some way and it’s turned into a really fruitful collaboration. But after that happened, we just started having discussions and it’s interesting what your background is because you’ve worked a lot of different jobs in this industry. So take us back to your backstory tell us about what You’ve done in this industry. What’s important to you what you see happening today, but one thing at a time, let’s just start with your backstory. And we’ll go from there.
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So I started working in restaurants in 2015. I started as a host and then moved worked as in the dish pit for a little bit worked as a busser. As a barback, just kind of bounced all over the place in a small Italian restaurant. Back in my hometown, Sumner, where I grew up. And then when I went to college, I got a job as a server out at a Tuscan grill in Chestnut Hill. And then I kind of have been bouncing between coasts. So I moved back to Washington State for a little while work in that Italian restaurant again. And then recently, I moved back to Boston, that was in 2020. So I spent about 10 months there, I was working on all kinds of different technology projects in the morning. And then at night, I would work as a server out at a couple restaurants in Boston. So two sister concepts, Joe’s American on Newbury, and then Joe’s American on the waterfront there. So I worked in those restaurants as a server and helped to open Joe’s waterfront, which is a really unique experience and kind of going through a massive corporate training system and getting to know all the tools and getting to know all of the leaders there, which was an amazing experience. And then most recently, I moved back to Washington State and worked at an upscale Bar and Lounge, where I worked as a server, bartender and then as a floor manager slash shift leader. And so I’ve kind of been able to experience all sorts of different roles throughout my time in restaurants. And then as of late, I’ve been working as a technology operator, building custom training systems to help restaurants unlock team potential and maximize their sales through a mobile training system. And we can get into that a little bit later. But yeah, it’s been really interesting, especially working in the industry, during the last two years where everybody has been facing really difficult times. And, you know, I think it’s unique to hear from the perspective of a staff member during these times, because a lot of times the people that are able, that are given a platform to speak from the industry are owners, or they are investors or people that are really at the top of the the organizational hierarchy within a specific Restaurant Group or specific restaurant location. But it’s important to hear what your staff is thinking about, because at the end of the day, they are the pillar of your business. Restaurants are made up of collections of people and they represent your brand. And if you’re not investing into your team, your restaurant is just not going to go anywhere. And so I think these last two years have been very revealing in that, you know, hospitality is incredibly important. And even though that technology is kind of infiltrating every industry in the world, hospitality is one of those industries that people don’t want technology necessarily to be the forefront of their experience of that business. You know, recently I went to this Moroccan restaurant in Seattle with some friends. And when we get in there, we had to check in our phones. And then we just start using these paper menus. And it was a beautiful experience, because we’re got to know the culture of the restaurant, the waiter came over, and they had a really unique experience where they came in, had our hands washed. And then it was this five course meal that was just really elegant. And it got into the roots of hospitality. So I want to be able to talk about those sorts of things. And yeah, just really excited to be here and share my perspective and experiences over the last few years.
That’s awesome. You know, one of the things that really struck me as you approach everything with a business mind, and I guess that we have something in common in that, you know, we both went to Babson College and just west of Boston, in business school at different times, of course, because you’re, you’re obviously younger than I am. But we had that in common. And then I also used to hang out at some of those restaurants that you talked about in Boston that that you had a chance to work at. So we also have that in common. Now you’ve had quite a few restaurant experiences. And, you know, it’s interesting to me that a guest will have a certain perspective of a restaurant that they either frequent or they’re visiting for the first time. And then there’s also the staff perspective, what’s it like for the team to work there? In your mind based on all your restaurant experiences? What do you see restaurants doing really, really well? And what do you see them sort of falling short on and, you know, it’s got to be frustrating sometimes when you’re there for the right reasons, and you just want to please the guest and maybe the way it’s set up, or the policies, the procedures or whatever it is isn’t really designed to deliver the best experience, but what are the what’s the good and the bad that you’ve seen out there in your own experience?
Yeah, I think that a lot of restaurants. They do a good job of providing a environment to when they give you the tools to succeed. To some extent, there’s some tooling that could go on in the background to really amplify your experience. But as far as you know, all the new POS systems that are in place that make taking orders and calculating sales a lot faster, that’s always great. I like to be in close relationship with the managers, whether I’m working alongside them as a manager, or if I’m working as a server, I like to be in good communication with them. And recently, like I was at an organization that they would share our metrics and things we were able to manage and monitor. And that was the first place that had ever done that with me, which is they sat me down and said, hey, you know, here are your sales over the last few months, here’s what you’re doing really well, here’s what you need to improve on. I think that’s important. I haven’t, I’ve only experienced that in one of the six restaurants that I’ve worked at. But I really love that I think some of the issues that are going on, you know, we talk about retention problems in restaurants, and how there’s such a high turnover. And I think a lot of that stems with this concept that restaurant employees are replaceable, because there’s so many of us, and there’s so few of those leaders, right, there might be three, three main leaders in this organization, and then a team of 100 or 150, staff members. And so because there’s so many of us, they look at us as replaceable oftentimes, and what I’ve found is found is that there’s this really vicious feedback loop that’s taking place there where and I’ve even been in an organization where an employee was told by the manager that they are replaceable, and that if they were to do this one more time, we’ll just find another one to fill your role. And I think that comes down to like perceived value of the employee, if you’re not looking at them as a really high value asset in your organization, which they are because people are the cornerstone of restaurant organizations, then you’re going to, you know, you’re you are causing from that perspective, people to want to leave. And so I think that comes down to you know, when you’re calculating labor at the end of the night, and you’re looking at, let’s take a server, for example, in Seattle, the minimum wage is just above $17. So you’re looking at a your cost sheet, calculating labor on some specific server that just worked an eight hour shift that night. So let’s say they are making like 1725 an hour, that’s how you’re perceiving their value is 1725 an hour. So an eight hour shift about $138 is what their perceived value on your cost is that night, but we need to be in the perspective that we should be seeing our team as an asset. And so rather than $138 is flowing out of my pocket tonight, and that’s how I should be looking at this server, let’s look at them as an asset and and see their perceived value as how much money they’re bringing into our organization. So let’s say in that eight hour shift, they brought in $3,000, for your business, then the value, the perceived value should be looking at that server is that $375 An hour, not 1725. And if we were to look at our team members for the value that they were generating for an organization, it would change the way that we treat them change the way that we invest in them, and allow us to really focus on, you know, meeting each of their individual needs as people and optimizing them so that that hourly rate that they’re bringing into your organization can become higher and higher and higher. And as you you know, focus on improving each individual staff member and continuously developing them, which starts when they come in the door with the onboarding process, and the training system that you have in place, which is incredibly important. But it also is a matter of like, how are they improving every single day? And what standard are you setting to make sure that they are operating at the absolute highest level, because all of the revenue that’s flowing into your business is going to come through those people in the front of house team. And if you haven’t really taken the time to develop each and every single one of those people, then your revenue is completely under optimized, like you need to go into every person and really treat them as an important asset. And I think that that perceived value thing of looking at them as minimum wage labor, rather than as the value that they’re generating for your organization, is that piece that’s really missing to make people start to value their teams, which will cut down on this constant cycle of people coming in and out. And it’s because they know that the managers are looking at them as replaceable assets. And so it’s like, well, just on to the next one kind of thing. And that can stop as soon as teams. Soon as leadership teams are willing to say, You guys are great. You guys are the foundation of my business. I’m going to do everything I can to invest in you and to support you. And if they see follow through on that, then they’re going to stay there for months for years. And that’s when you can really start to develop a culture and start to develop a team that will really move the needle for your business.
You said three key words you said leader you said develop and you said culture and all those things are intertwined. And I think the old manager model is dead. It’s long gone. And I think that pandemic and the current crises are really forcing that old way of approaching your business. To move into leadership, you know, I’ve been talking a lot about that lately, because, you know, it’s a very clear link between a manager and delegating, versus a leader who empowers. Those are two separate things. And that’s a paradigm shift. You can either run a restaurant, or you can build a business, build a brand. And like you say, develop your people, nurture your people, give them responsibility and treat them like they’re valuable assets, especially now, I mean, all the horror stories we’re hearing about, you know, the restaurant down the streets, camped out in my parking lot. And when my staff come out, I’m offering you two or three bucks an hour to come to my restaurant, you know? And it’s like, okay, maybe you’re paying a little bit more. But is the grass really greener? And can you have a competitive advantage in how you approach leadership in your organization, and have an open door policy and offer to fix what’s broken? If you don’t ask your people? How can it make your job easier and more fulfilling for you? And what can I give you for more responsibility that will really empower you to take the next step, and to move up and to get more, you know, get more opportunity here, people aren’t going to tell you that. But they feel valued if you have an open ear to what they have to say their ideas and opinions. And I’m really glad you brought that up. That was one of the successes we had in our restaurants was incentive programs to develop people. And if they came up with any idea whether it was a cost cost saving idea, or a new profit center, or just a better way of doing something we were all ears, and if it sounded like it would work. And if we tried it, and it had a trackable return on investment to it, we would always give people a piece of that return. And you know, we had a seasonal business, my audience knows that I had several seasonal restaurants, which meant I had to do a really great job of keeping people happy, because they had to go out and get a new job. And my season was over and I wanted them to come back again, I didn’t want to have to keep them looking for employees year after year. And based on some of the things you just brought up, we were able to, you know, have like a 98% retention rate. So that all sounds like pie in the sky today. Because the biggest challenge is where do we find people and businesses booming and I can’t staff my restaurant, and I have to close hours and close days. But it really starts with keeping your good people happy now and then recruiting not hiring, you know, going to your good people and saying everybody out there has got a job, everyone earns a paycheck. But are the friends that you know, that might fit our organization? Are they really treated? You know, the way they’d like to be treated? Are they treated with respect is teamwork a part of you know their situation. And you recruit people and I was really successful doing that. And that was kind of the first step in building what I call the Dream Team. So okay, labor challenges being what they are definitely, right, you know, prime importance right now, what else were you seeing? Because you talked to me earlier about when you’re working in the restaurants, you know, seeing a need for training tools, and all that sort of thing, because you were able to onboard a good number of employees. Post pandemic, right, people started coming back to your restaurants. Do you know why that was? And why was there such an influx in the restaurants that you worked for? And why did those people just suddenly flock to your organization? Was it a word of mouth thing? Was it a specific unique way of your restaurant reaching those new people to hire them? What What do you recall seeing back then? Is there any kind of information there?
Yeah, so we were running a program, we had incentives for the current employees, they would get $500 for bringing in a new team member. And so I think that goes to something that you’re touching on is that if you can make your current team really, really fall in love with your organization, because the culture is there, yes, the pay is good. They’re being treated well by the management team. And then you give some incentive for your team, current team members to help build grow your team, that is going to be far more effective than any advertisements you could be putting on Indeed, or LinkedIn or anywhere that is a job hunting site. You’ve got to invest in your team right now. And then they can do the work. And even if you don’t incentivize them, if you’ve really created an amazing place to work, they’re going to tell their friends, they’re going to tell their family, they’re going to tell people at school or at their other, maybe they’re working another side job, just man, I can’t wait to go to my other job because it’s so much fun and my manager really cares for me. You’re going to find people and that we’re not in we’re not in a staffing crisis. If you’re running a really elite organization that people want to work for, that has high standards. You’re not going to have any issue in finding people right now. I think it’s a matter of creating the right work environments. That is the first and foremost issue.
And then you’re going to be able to find those people that are that are out there looking for jobs, I think right restaurants or have become known for not being great work environments in not everywhere. But a lot of people have that perspective. And they don’t really realize how much money they can make in a restaurant organization and how good their life can be, because it’s become known as this thing, or oh, I’m going to be working these terrible hours super late into the night, and I’ll be dealing with customer issues, and managers are going to be angry at me. And there’s become a lot of negative connotations associated with being a part of the industry. But I think if you can really build a great business and a great culture, the team you currently have is going to help you to construct to construct your next the next level of your team. And I think another piece you talked on training. And I think the the training system that a team has in place when they onboard a new staff member or cohort of new staff members, is extremely critical. Because if you have your training system dialed to such a level that you know, any new employee that comes into our business, within one week, or within a week and a half of whatever number it is that you’ve determined, you can get that team member completely up to speed with everything on your menu, they can know the menu inside and out. And they can understand the tools that you use, they understand your brand. And they’re able to meet and understand the team members that they’re working with. If you can have that guaranteed by assist a training system that you have in place, then that actually changes the nature of the scouting function of your organization when you’re looking to hire new people. So this is another big element of of the training price or the staffing crisis, it’s like, we need to open up our eyes to looking at a different set of people maybe cut down that barrier of oh, I need, you need to have two or three years of serving experience. In order to work here, you need to have worked in two different kitchens in order to be a chef here. Like if we can remove that barrier. And say we’re looking for people with a great work ethic, with integrity, with kindness, with optimism with all these qualities we want to see in a person. And we know if we can find those qualities in a person, that if we get them in the door, our training system is so good that we know that they can be a great employee in our business, then that opens the door to looking at all different kinds of people that are out there. Rather than trying to find people that have already worked in the industry, and then adapting them to your model, I think we’re actually going to have better team members in the future, but have never worked for restaurants. But that really comes down to having the right training system in place. And something along those lines as well. I think that if you want to have a really great organization that’s attractive in people’s eyes, and that the current team is proud to work out, you need to have really high standards for your employees. I don’t think that there’s any excuse for team members, especially servers, and bartenders to not know every single thing on your menu, because if they don’t, then they cannot properly feel the questions that are going to be thrown at them by guests. And that makes them lose confidence in their ability to sell. And very simply put, you can’t sell what you don’t know. And so you know that if your team doesn’t have the proper knowledge of all the food and all the drink items on your menu, then they’re not going to be able to properly suggestive, suggestively sell or pair those items with other items. So you’re losing out on a lot of money when you do that. And if you have the right training system in place, there’s no excuse for your team not to know everything on the menu. And if that can become a standard of product knowledge. And you mix that with finding the people with the personality and those more qualitative traits that you’re looking for. You can find some really amazing employees. And I think we’ll get through this staffing crisis, with the right training systems with investing in our current teams. And you know, things will begin to fall into place, but we need to focus on really creating amazing work environments again. And because if you don’t have a location that’s people are proud and proud to work for. They enjoy showing up at work. You know, you can’t expect new people to want to come and join you if the current people there are complaining. And one thing to know is that, you know, if you’re a restaurant owner or manager listening to this, you probably are already aware of this, but your staff is talking about you. And I don’t know what context that is in but staff at restaurants tend to be very chatty. And so there’s definitely things that are being thrown out there. They’re talking to each other. They’re talking to people that work at other restaurants or talking to family members. And we want to make sure that they’re talking really highly of our organizations and highly of our managers. And so checking in on them and seeing you know where people are at is very important, so that we can begin to solve some of those issues that are arising, get rid of them, and focus on just creating an amazing culture for people to come in and earn great money, have a great time and really enjoy the fruits of this business.
You talked about about people not having product knowledge in some restaurants and how that leads to negative impressions and how guests will ask questions. And as an ambassador or representative of that restaurant, it’s really up to you to know that menu inside and out and to be able to deliver the proper information to a guest that enhances their experience. And there’s two different words that come to mind. There’s a mission or mission statement, and then there’s culture. And just like the old management model that we kind of threw out the window a few minutes ago, I think the mission statement should be so much more than just words that are on the wall that, you know, we typed these up a while ago. And nobody really practices that this is what we believed in once and essentially a mission statement is, what does your restaurant stand for? What do you care that your guests perceive about your operation? How do you want your team to work together as a team to deliver to deliver service? What does that mission look like? And yes, it could be a bunch of fancy words. But if you don’t practice that mission every single day, you’re really not going to build the culture, you know, and culture is so important, because not every business has a company culture. And if they do, it’s not necessarily a positive culture, if you got high turnover, that is not a positive culture. It speaks volumes about you know, the way people are treated, and you know, what their job responsibilities are, or lack thereof. So culture is also at the sort of heart of hospitality. So if you do develop a mission statement that should be talked about all the time, it should be practiced, leaders should lead by example, and demonstrate those best practices to their staff. Never be a manager figurehead that’s just management by intimidation, like that story you tell about, you know, people are era, or people are replaceable. I mean, that’s just horrible. Nobody can afford to run a business like that today. Right? Just awful. So I think we’ve touched on a few key points that hopefully, you know, if you’re in a business right now, and you’re having some challenges with staff, I think taking a few of these notes or pages out of what we talked about, will really turn things around and increase morale. Because obviously, your goal is to like you said, Build longevity. And one of the other things we talk about all the time is jobs in the restaurant business have not traditionally been perceived, as, you know, good jobs, or however you put it sure they were, they were considered just another job and maybe a stopover on the way to somewhere else, because I need a paycheck. And that just leads to that C team mentality where people just show up for the paycheck, and they don’t really care about the guest experience, they don’t really care about doing things the right way, they’re going to skate by doing the linum the minimum possible just to earn the paycheck, they’re going to show up late, they’re going to call in sick. I mean, that’s rampant in this business, unless you have a different approach, you know. So that is also so so very important. And turning jobs into more career opportunities, is really the key to building your business, not just running a restaurant, but building a business building a brand. Because I’ve always believed the staff, you know, the foundation of any businesses, the staff there, they’re leaving hundreds of impressions each every single shift on your guests, and they’re, they’re either leaving positive impressions that brings people back again, or they’re sabotaging your business, and they’re turning your customers away to your competition. It’s that simple. I’ve seen that happen so often. So it’s really, you know, it’s just in the approach, and definitely a new approach is needed. And now’s the time, you know, now that business is booming again, and guests aren’t necessarily receiving the levels of service that they’ve come to expect pre pandemic with short staffing, and, and all that kind of stuff. I mean, communication is key. Also, you know, you got to be communicating with your guests constantly. And you got to be communicating amongst your team and just pulling everyone together. So that, you know, everyone has that mission in mind. And they’re practicing it every single day. That’s super Yeah,
yeah, I think having a purpose that goes beyond just delivering food and drinks is really important. You know, that might be as simple as saying to your team, you know, our purpose is that everybody that walks through these doors, when they leave, they’re going to be walking out, walking out of these doors in a better mood, or they’re going to be feeling elevated or they’re going to be feeling you know, that they were really, they were made to be important. And they felt special in when they were being served. And so when they leave this building, they’re going to leave feeling better than they did when they walked in. So if you have something as simple as that, that is one example of a purpose that can really underlie how your staff are going to go about the basics of their job, like yeah, they are serving food they are taking, you know, they are suggestively selling, they are writing down orders, they’re doing all these things. But if there’s an underlying purpose that’s driving that, then that hits on one of those, you know, those three critical drivers. And if you’re familiar with Daniel Pink’s model of mastery, autonomy and purpose, do you have that purpose piece down? That’s huge. And then mastery comes to what I was saying earlier about raising the standard. So When if you raise the standard in your organization and say, Hey, in one month from now, everybody needs to know everything on this menu, front and back. And even if you think that your employees are there, based on the food test that they did three months ago, I can almost guarantee they’re probably not because there’s not a lot of systems that are put in place to help people continuously touch up on their knowledge. So raising the standard to the level where you’re going to say everyone is expected to know everything about this organization, and the menu and to be able to effectively sell or prepare these dishes or drinks, then that goes to the mastery piece where they know that there they can feel confident in being a master of their menu of, of the products that they’re talking about or creating. And then that third piece, autonomy is really huge in the restaurant industry. And that’s actually why I stayed in the industry so long, is I love the fact that because my management team has confidence in me as a server, I can show up for my job, and I can really run my own business within their business, right, they’ve set up an environment for me to win, they’ve taken care of all of the hard things all they’ve done all the investment, to ensure that I have the right environment to run my own autonomous, small business within their restaurant organization. So they give me my POS system, and they give me my section of the restaurant. And then they are the ones that have done the marketing in order to get people in the door. And now it’s up to me to on my own terms, primarily on my own terms, there are some rules that I think are good for restaurants to standardize the experience, like maybe some method of, you know, pouring water or some method of suggesting an appetizer to start, like there might be some standard way of every employee operating. But there is a huge level of autonomy that’s associated with these jobs. And so it gives you the freedom to be an entrepreneur, intrapreneur. And really innovate on you know, how you want to approach a table, how and start to measure and test how you can optimize your check averages, how you can sell more desserts, all these different things just based on these really tight feedback loops, because you’re you’re interacting with so many people are in a short period of time, that it allows you to really hone in on your sales skills. And I think that’s a huge element of, you know, anybody that wants to get into sales, like food and drink sales is such a foundational,
such a foundational thing to sell that it brings in people from all walks of life, all ages, all ethnicities, and it really allows you to hone in on your ability to communicate effectively to all kinds of different people. So I think that, you know, restaurant jobs are perceived by some people as not ideal, but there are elements of it, that if we can really hone in on just creating the right environment, and setting people up to succeed, we can make the industry attractive again. And I also would say anybody that’s getting into the industry like one other cool thing that I see about it is that it really becomes a passport for you. If you become an amazing server, or an amazing bartender or chef, there are restaurants in every city across the entire planet. And so once you really develop the skills, you can take those skills anywhere you want, and restart a career there and restart a career in an industry where you are going to make friends no matter unless you are I mean, there’s, there’s no way around it, you’re not going to be hiding, if you’re a server, you’re not hiding in the back corner, like you’re forced into these constant conversations and meeting new people every single day. And so being able to just fly over to to London, for example, and start working in some restaurant in London and be able to meet not just the staff that I’m working with, but also all the guests that are coming in on a day to day basis. It can be an incredible opportunity for growth and for culture and for travel. And, you know, we need to I think as leaders in the industry really begin to, you know, if we want people to come to our industry and apply to our restaurants, we need to have some kind of mass level re education program or the reteaching of pay. Like this isn’t something that is just for people that are looking for a way to make money at night when they’re were in school like yeah, that is one example of restaurant workers. But I’ve also worked alongside career servers, worked alongside a woman in Cambridge that had been a server for 13 years in Somalia for six years and watching her work was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen in the way that she would approach a table the way that she was able to describe every single dish on menu, she carried one server book that she had to use the last 10 years and was writing within every three lines, she would draw two more lines. So she would break up one line of her notepad into three, and just these tiny little scribbles throughout it. And so she had kept a catalogue of every order she had taken over the last 10 years and was super passionate about what she was doing, it was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen going from working alongside someone like that, who can really move the needle for your business. And then working alongside people that just saw it as some job that they were doing at the end of the night that they didn’t really care about, they’d show up and get their paycheck. But if we can make people, if through training, and through investing in our team, we could create, you know, 50 of those type of really passionate and dedicated servers or front of house workers, or chefs as well that really understand the menu and understand what it means to work in a restaurant and how to effectively sell and how to treat guests, then, you know, one, one server like that can literally be a foundation for your entire business, if they really know what they’re doing, they can generate so much sales that they could keep your business alive throughout hard times, like we faced over the last couple of years. And so how do we make, you know, 50 of those within our organization, I think, like I said, it comes down to training comes down to investing in your team, I think one, you know, really unique and helpful tool to think about is Danny Meyer’s virtuous cycle of investing in your team, then your customers, then your community, then your suppliers, and then your investors. And if you focus on your team, first, everything else falls into place. So if we’re willing to invest into our team, we’re gonna have happier guests happier customers, we’re gonna have a happier community, because the our team is able to serve our guests, our community at a much higher level, we’re gonna have happier suppliers, because our team is able to be able to effectively sell all the items in our menu, and all the cases that we’re ordering are flying through. So now all of our suppliers are getting more orders from our business and they’re happy. And then at the end of the day, if all is going well, and our guests are buying more items, our guests are coming back more often than our investors are going to be happy. So I think it starts with that team piece, and really focusing in on them, investing in them and taking them to the next level and everything will fall in line and our businesses can can get to that next step.
You strike me as being unusual is not the word. A typical is the word you and the lady you just described, you wish you had an army of people like that, and they can be developed. But it strikes me because I’ve often seen for so many years that I’ve been working with restaurants, coaching, consulting, whatever, it’s it’s almost oblivious to certain owners and manage well owners really, that they’re taking such a huge risk to open the doors to a restaurant pay the cost of goods, the labor, the payroll, the insurance, all the overhead and in such a low margin, shrinking margin business. And then like you said, they’re just letting people come in and just let the chips fall where they may without the training, be order takers leave 1000s of dollars a week or a month on the table, and not work to build that business to build that guest relationship that then translates into increased sales. It’s lost on me. Why? I mean, that was my approach to business. Because again, I didn’t run a restaurant, I ran a business and those things were clearly just ever present all the time. And hospitality was the basis of it. But you know, I empowered my team. It’s like I train them to be salespeople, I train them to treat every guest as if they were the most important guests, even if they just walked through the door for the very first time. And that was so fundamental. And how now during these challenging times, it’s more important than ever, that restaurants can capitalize on every single sale that comes through the door and then maximize profit on every one of those sales. But you can’t do that without training. It’s impossible. Right? There’s no place for order takers in a business that is fundamentally about hospitality. Two different things. You’re either providing experiences, or you just got people showing up for the paycheck, going through the motions, taking the orders, bringing the food and delivering the check. And to me that is just ordinary in any restaurant can do that. You don’t want to be that restaurant, you just want to rise above like you said, so. Thanks for bringing that I think that point is crystal clear. That’s awesome. Absolutely.
Yeah, I think, you know, a lot of restaurants especially over the last few years, we’ve been backed into a corner and having to think of new ways to cut costs because our profits are shrinking, our revenues are shrinking. And so a lot of people are shifting towards implementing technology to cut down on labor. But like I said earlier, you know, we need to be seeing, seeing our staff as assets, not as liabilities and investing in empowering them so that they can help bring in more money for our business rather than trying to cut those costs. And then hope that, you know, we can still generate the same amount of revenue. And you know, one example of this technology that’s being used to replace people rather than Empower, you can see that in this rise of QR code ordering. So now restaurants are putting QR codes on the table, or maybe they have a tablet on the table. And the guests are able to just order through there with an expectation that there’ll be bringing in the exact maybe the same amount of money or more money. But that to me, is a testament to the fact that we have really lowered we’ve we’ve lost the standard and lost the expectation for having great service in restaurants. Because if you ran a restaurant, or you’ve been to a restaurant that had amazing service, there’s no way there’s no way that you would genuinely say that a great, great service is going to lead to the same amount of sales as a QR code. Like if you have ever been in a restaurant where you had an incredible server that could take you through the entire dining experience. And they were able to suggest things they were able to meet your specific needs, because they knew the menu so well that they could, you know, come to understand, hey, what what is your what’s your what’s your favorite food in the world? What kind of tastes Do you like? What kind of cultural cuisines are you interested in? What kind of wine do you like, you know, and be able to get an understanding of who that individual person is, and then curate that dining experience to them. If you’ve ever been in a restaurant with that kind of service, then there’s no way you would be looking to just replace that person with a QR code and expect the exact same amount of sales to flow through that table. And to have the same level of a check average, like there’s no way that you would honestly be able to say that. And so I think this rise in implementing technology is, you know, it comes down to we have a lot of employees that are not, you know, that are not really moving the needle for our business. And that comes down to what you’ve been doing as a manager as or as an owner to set the standard at your restaurant, and then to be able to give the tools and take the time to develop your team to meet that standard. But if you have a high enough standard, you’re not going to want to shift to just
QR code ordering and things like that. And so, you know, investing in your team, through technology, rather than looking to replace your team with technology, I think is where people’s minds need to be at. And technology has been on the rise in every industry over the last couple of years. But hospitality is in my eyes, one of those last final frontiers that we need to protect at all costs, like if it becomes a norm to go into a restaurant and see a robot that is roaming around and picking up dishes, or to see every table has a QR code in the center. And the servers are now just there to drop off the food. Or maybe it’s a robot that’s dropping off the food. Like that’s not a world I want to live in, I go into restaurants, because I like to interact with people, I like to be able to put my phone away, talk to the Doc Talk to the server, hear their passion for the food and for the drinks that I’m going about to experience, allow them to kind of curate my experience for me, you know, it’s fun to be a part of, to know that you can even go out to a restaurant on your own and still have a social experience. Like that’s something that we have to remember, we cannot let go of. And even though there are all these new tools and bells and whistles that are coming out, as owners and managers, we always have to be thinking through the lens of will this tool help my team grow? Or is it looking to make my business a technology business because over the last couple of years, like a lot of restaurants have become essentially food manufacturers with third party delivery systems connected to them, right go kitchens, and all that right ghost kitchens, and there is a place for that they’re 100% is but it cannot become the standard for the industry, you know, these third party delivery systems are not going away, these new consumer behavior trends of wanting to dine at home and be able to just order from an app, I get it, those will be there. But we also have to remember that we cannot just let our industry slip into that we have to be able to hone in on you know what the fundamentals are of this is hospitality. This is a people first business. And so we need to make sure that the tools that we’re adopting, are not working against those people are not trying to replace those jobs because there’s so many families and so many individuals that rely on restaurants as their form of work. I’ve met 1000s of people through my time in restaurants that you know, these these organizations mean a lot to them and they mean that they can relocate their family and find good work and you know, support their their mom or their dad or or put their kids through college or put themselves through college and and if we’re just going to, you know, look past that and just focus on how do we cut costs, like I think that’s the wrong way to approach it. You’re trying to save your bottom line. Think first through how you can increase revenue Use rather than cut costs by investing in your team through technology rather than replacing them.
Awesome. You know, it’s so interesting because there’s an old expression. You know, necessity is the mother of invention. And you have a unique skill set and talent in that you’re also a developer. And when we first got together, we started talking about technology and everything we’ve talked about today and how it will enhance hospitality not detract from it. But when you were working in these restaurants, you saw a real need to train your staff. It was a challenge you had, it was a challenge that your coworkers were having. And you also had the talent besides being a leader in your restaurant, you also had this development talent where you could create a tool that would help people do that. Might you tell us about that?
Yeah, so one problem that I found in all six of the restaurants that I worked at was a very high expectation for product knowledge from both the management team, as well as from guests, they wanted us to know everything about the menu, but you can’t expect to know your employee to know everything about the menu without giving them tools to do so. And so I found that a lot of organizations I was working for would hand me the menu to Alright, go home and study this, come back on Thursday, and we’re going to quiz you on everything we’re going to do a mock dining experience, or someplace has handed me a paper packet, I’ve worked at one place that had an online minute learning management system, but nothing really hit the mark for me, as far as you know, really being able to understand the food and drinks at my organization. And I think people underestimate the amount of learning that goes into becoming an effective team member. And if they are not having to go through an extensive learning process, then you’re not doing training, right, because there’s, you know, knowledge is a foundational element to being a good restaurant employee, or a good restaurant manager. And so if you’re skipping that piece, it’s it’s very problematic. And so that was something that I was seeing at all the restaurants I was working at. And so I originally started working on a tool back when I first moved back to Boston, after I’d spent more time in Washington, I moved back to the Boston area, was interviewing at a few different restaurants. And during those times of trying to learn those menus, in order to pass my food test, I was coming up with just a menu study tool that I created to allow myself to learn the menu. And then when I moved back to Washington, I started working at an organization where we needed to know every ingredient in every item on the menu. So that ended up being like five or 600 ingredients that you needed to memorize, which is a good amount of that’s a good amount of studying that needs to take place in order for that to work. And so I was up at three in the morning, creating flashcards before my test the next day, trying to just cram to you know, some up writing all these note cards trying to memorize everything. And during that I was going, why is there not some system for this already in place. Like I can’t imagine every new team member working here having to create their own flashcards. So I wanted to create a digital version of those flashcards that I put together. So that’s kind of where my journey into building these tools started was trying to solve the problems that I was seeing in front of me as as an employee, and eventually moving into a leadership position and trying to solve those problems on behalf of the new team members that were coming in. They were having issues on passing their food tests are passing their bar test to become a server become a bartender like they I noticed that they needed more tooling. So it started with those flashcards. And as I just kept, you know, working at this place, I the restaurant was that floor one of this building, and four or five was an office space, like a shared office space. So we work. And so after work, I you know, my schedule at that time was show up for my server or bartender job or manager job at like 5pm work until midnight, or one or two, and then go down, grab my laptop from my car, and then head up to the office where I would then work until five or six in the morning, trying to work through all the problems I had just been facing that day, and try to come up with a digital tool that really could take these new employees to the next level is knowledge wise. And yeah, so that’s where this idea for a training tool came about. And it ended up becoming known as serve, which is an acronym for study restaurant variety. And it’s essentially my attempt at creating the most simple but comprehensive mobile training system you could possibly have. So that you know that any new employee on your team, when they you know, join your workforce, and they’re given this application within a week or two weeks. They should be an absolute master of everything on your menu. And then also have the sales skills that that pair with that product knowledge to become effective sales stars in your organization and really be able to move the needle on you know, creating amazing dining experiences for your guests. producing five star reviews, increasing check averages, if they’re in the back of house or or working as a bartender to be preparing these dishes and drinks to spec in on time. And so there’s a lot of elements that go into the app. And it’s basically been a two year journey and is still in constant development working on new features all the time. I think that, you know, like I said earlier, investing in your team is the most critical part in moving your business forward. And we need to make sure that our teams have the right tools in place for them to be able to be effective in our organizations. And so serve is my attempt at creating that tool that can really take your team to the next level, and act as their sidekick to find any detailed information that they need on your restaurant or to use quizzing tools and card tools and interactive lessons in order to really gain mastery over over your, your product catalog. And so it’s based on a theorem written back in the 1970s, called the good regulator theorem, which essentially states that any effective regulator of a system must be an isomorphic model of that system. And so what that means is that if you’re going to regulate an environment, or let’s take an example of like a safety on a football team, if that safety wants to effectively regulate the offense, he needs to have a model of how that how that offense works, in order for him to know, you know, to be able to predict the patterns of that team and where to where to go when the ball is being thrown to this wide receiver or etc, right. So what that means in the context of service in the context of the restaurant industry, is that if you are serving a section of the restaurant of your tables, you need to have a model of the restaurant menu and brand and a layout in your mind in order to effectively regulate those tables, because they’re going to be asking you questions, and throwing out comments that if you don’t have a perfect model of that restaurant in your mind, you’re not going to be able to handle the questions, or the variety or the complexity that is proliferating from that table. And so being able to create a model of the restaurant menu, layout and brand is what serve does and how I’ve paired this kind of technical term with the service industry, in order to match this law of requisite variety that you basically, it’s a foundation or it’s a necessity in order to have perfect product knowledge, it can no longer be looked at as some ideal that we strive for, it needs to be a foundational part of every restaurant organization. And when you have that as a foundational part of every, you know, all of your team members have that product knowledge, then you can focus on sales skills, and personality and really having fun at the table. So yeah, that’s a little bit about the tool and happy to go into some of the more details about the features and how it can help out with with any restaurant organization. So
yeah, one thing that comes to mind is every restaurants menu is different, their product mix is different. And you talked about branding.
Yeah, so we build each serve application specific to the to the needs of that brand, and that menu data. And so you know, we use the brand’s logo and their imagery, some of like their mission and value statement, we can incorporate throughout the application, some of the highlights or features of the restaurant that you want your employees to easily be able to share, we’ll include those as well. And then the initial relationship between serve and a restaurant is that data onboarding piece. And so we’re working with that restaurant to understand what kind of food and drinks they have in their organization. And then we onboard those into our application to turn it into a interactive visual learning management system for the team. So we tried to just work with restaurants that have those pieces in place. So having images of your items, having the ingredients lists of your items, how to describe each of your items, those romance notes, as well as allergens, that people should be aware of the prices of each items. And then also as well as you know pairings we allow the manager to go in once they’ve uploaded all this information into our system, they can take a dinner entree and pair it with a bottle of wine, and then surface that to the team so that they can see which items they should be recommending together. You know, you can mark an item as a priority sale item if you’ve recognized it through a cost profit menu analysis, which is a tool within our manager back end dashboard. If you’ve used that tool, and you know that, you know pretzel bites are going to really move the needle for your organization. Then make pretzel bites a priority sale item because it has a high profit margin surface that to your team and allow them to align on the items that are really going to move the needle for your business by making it a priority sale item i I can recall a time when I was working at a restaurant and the manager there was telling me to sell New York steaks because it’s the highest priced item on our menu. And so I’m going about selling New York steaks for a couple months time. And then when I moved into a leadership role, I come to understand that New York steaks, we are actually either not making any money or losing money on those items. And so that made no sense to me as far as like, why did this manager not just let me know, hey, don’t actually push those at the end of the day, my goals as a staff member should be in line with the goals of the management team. And I think people are willing to work together if they’re able to coordinate with one another. And so serve helps you do that, as far as coordinating on which items should be pushed, and, you know, really aligning on the business incentives that are going to drive the organization forward, which should be a collaborative effort between the staff members and between the owners and managers. Going back to the virtuous cycle, you know, the second pillar right after team is your guests or your your customers. And so we also built the tool to enable new interactions with your guests, which takes place in the form of a digital menu application. So if you are in an organization that doesn’t have a optimized digital menu, then we can build a menu app that basically can take what you found from this cost profit menu analysis, and can reverse engineer that into a really nice, mobile friendly, interactive menu that can do things like auto suggestions and auto pairings between items, as well as enabled new ways to communicate with your guests, such as offering promotions through the app. So they can see that on Mondays, you get free ice cream with your order of an entree. And on Fridays, you get a free cocktail for if you order this specific item. And on your birthday, you get a free chocolate cake or whatever it may be. So you can use promotions. We also have all the delivery links for your restaurant loaded into the app so people can easily access your to go menu and your takeout menu. We also have a careers feature which allows you to surface different career opportunities in your organization to the guests that are currently in your building. Because we believe that, you know, if somebody is spending the time and money at your organization, they’re already a fan of your brand. So there’s probably a higher probability than a traditional person that they would want to work for your organization. So we allow you to surface careers and allow people to apply directly within the app. I mean, there’s also a feature for sending immediate feedback. So right after you’ve given service, the guests can then go in, fill out a quick survey about that server and the specific experience they have that night and send it in, which can help to mitigate negative online reviews. That way people are doing things internally rather than just going straight to a Yelp or Google reviews and leaving some nasty comment, which is what everyone is trying to avoid in the industry. And so then if you know the guest is to leave a higher score something that’s above four stars, then we can route them to a Yelp or Google reviews to then leave that review publicly because they already have told you internally that they liked what you’ve done. And so now let’s let’s bring that out and put that in a public forum rather than them just going right away and writing some nasty review online. So now we have a lot of different tools that can support those guests relationships as well. But really the foundation of our business and what comes first and foremost is that staff training, because we believe that if you get that piece, right, everything else will fall in line with your business. So surf is online at surf now.com. So it’s SRV n o w.com. On that page, on the homepage, you’ll find an animation video that you can watch, it’s a minute long. We also have a three and a half minute long section, which you can find as well you go into the different sections of our website, you can get a good grasp of what our tool looks like, as well as what it can do for your business. So if you go to the platform section, you can look through either staff training or the manager dashboard, see those core elements of our business. And then we also have a section for all the bonus offerings. So that includes things like comprehensive restaurant Academy, financial spreadsheets, and tools to calculate labor costs, Calculate menu, cost, profit menu optimization to keep track of inventory, all those sorts of things. Then we also have those menu engineering digital menu development pieces in place as well. And then if you’re interested in getting started with serve, you can either request a demo where we can take you through the product and show it to you in real time. Or you can go ahead and click the Apply Now button, which is [email protected] backslash apply. And that will just take you to a short form where you’re able to fill out some information about yourself about your restaurant, and then go through a quick few checkboxes to say that you are ready to get started with serve. Because like I said earlier, we only want to work with operations that are going to be able to get the most out of our tool. So we want to make sure that you have certain pieces in place already. That will help kickstart the onboarding process with serve, and really be able to move the needle for your business. So that’s where you can find the product. You can also send me an email at [email protected] So Z EY, EY L A [email protected] And happy to answer any questions through there as well.
Well, that’s fantastic sailing. It’s really incredible that you know, your experiences led you to develop a product that served a need that really up leveled our entire industry. So our philosophies are so similar and you know, you’re doing a great thing for this industry and, and our business. So thanks for being with us today on the restaurant success podcast. Absolutely. My pleasure. Thanks, everyone, for tuning in. We’ll see you in the next episode. Stay well, everyone, and thanks alien for being a great guest on the podcast. You know, it’s so awesome to share the same pride and passion for this business and the same philosophies on training and the importance of delivering amazing dining experiences. And it’s been so fun collaborating with you on the serve restaurant training app. Thank you so much to the sponsors of this week’s episode Davao, the automated sales tax platform and serve stands for study restaurant variety. By the way, profits are so important in restaurants today. So why not head on over to restaurant rockstars.com and get a free copy of how you’re killing your restaurant profits three ways it’ll offer you obviously game changing ideas you can execute immediately in your restaurant plus, the free restaurant assessment 50 thought provoking questions that will get you thinking about am I doing this? Should I be doing that? And it’ll definitely add to your bottom line. So check that out. We’ll see you all in the next episode. Thanks for tuning in.
Thanks for listening to the restaurant rockstars podcast for lots of great resources, head over to restaurant rockstars.com See you next time.