It’s true a restaurant is only as good as its weakest staff member. That means the sauté cook who uses wine too liberally or the server that checks on tables one at a time instead of their entire section or ignores tables in other sections clearly trying to get their attention are going to bring down your restaurant faster than paper napkins or poor design.

–What potential problems can you avoid?

Hiring family members is a disaster waiting to happen. There is the rare hidden gems that will outshine other staff members and are truly good at their jobs, but they are few and far between.

Typically family members use their biological ties as an excuse to slack off in their role and believe their relationship will save them from severe consequences when they fail to come to work, don’t complete side work or struggle to memorize menu items.

Inevitably when you fire them family members will see this as a personal slight and not a business decision—and perhaps rightly so when your hiring decision was justified in the first place as a personal reason.

Next, limit the number of people with access to the cash register. Serving staff should never have access to the register and managers should all have key only access.

–On staff management

Although it is an unfortunate evil, staff with access to the cash drawer needs to be held accountable for missing money. The drawer needs to be counted at the start and end of the shift for each person that has access to determine who is accountable for any missing money.

Depending on which state you live in the law may not allow you to deduct the amount from the employees earning, in some cases you can if the policy is in writing and in other cases you can request the employee to pay the missing balance or simply choose to let them go.

Educating staff on expectations, guidelines, dress—including uniform standards—and other specific requirements can save a lot of time and problems later on. Provide staff with either a handbook or post expectations in the break room where staff can refer to them if they are unsure.

Hold your staff accountable to your expectations and develop a three strike rule where staff is written up for violating policy. If staff is written up three times under the same violation consider letting them go.

Regular meetings are a great way of ensuring staff is all on the same page and has a complete understanding of what is expected of them. Especially if the menu changes regularly or new items are introduces this is a way for servers to ask questions and become knowledgeable about new offerings.

Requiring staff to know the entire menu and drink list should be one of your expectations as a manager or owner. This allows staff to confidently answer guest questions and ensures guests will never hear the words, ‘I don’t know.’

–How can you handle problems when they arise?

The restaurant industry typically has a bad name among employees for being gossip mines. All employee problems, issues and complaints should be handled privately and respectfully. At no time should complaints be ignored and problems between servers must be addressed immediately.

If you receive a customer complaint about your serving staff or quality of food, plate presentation or kitchen related issue discuss the complaint with the staff member responsible and use the situation as a learning and training tool. If the situation calls for it consider doing a mock service where the server is required to serve management a meal and be evaluated on their service.

The evaluation can range from using proper scripting, having adequate knowledge of menu items and knowing how to meet timing expectations between courses and check backs with the customer. In many establishments it is customary to require a two minute check-back after dropping an item at the table.

Coach staff to alert management to even the slightest issue with customers, this allows management to address the problem and prevent it from becoming a larger issue or manifesting itself in a poor online review.

For example, if a guest asks the server to remove a plate that has barely been touched that is a clear indication of a problem. If staff accidentally spills on a customer or linens leave residue on a customer’s trousers take steps immediately to rectify the incident and consider offering the customer a gift card so you and your staff have another opportunity to please the customer.

Next, one of the biggest issues you may face comes in the form of theft. Unfortunately theft can run rampant in the service industry and a whopping 75 percent of inventory loss is generally credited to employee theft according to the National Restaurant Association and it amounts to a loss of three percent of total annual sales.

Keep strict inventory so missing product will be very obvious and make sure management staff is keeping a presence on the floor to monitor for food or beverages being given away.

Closely watch tickets to ensure food is being rung in and delivered within 15 minutes of the order being taken for lunch and generally 30 minutes for dinner depending on your establishment, but also so you can catch unauthorized discounts.

Finally, your Point of Sale (POS) system can be your biggest asset. It will help you track inventory and sales, you can add software that will catch certain types of theft and at the end of service it will document exactly how much cash was made in sales and should be in the cash register. This system will help you identify theft or losses in inventory in addition to identifying waste and items that aren’t selling well in your establishment.

Author’s bio: Jillian Schumaker spent close to a decade in the restaurant industry and as a manager has seen it all. Jillian now spends her time sharing the skills she learned concerning inventory, branding and management.

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