Lessons from Las Vegas

Lessons from Las Vegas

The deadliest shooting in U.S. history, will force the nation’s hotel industry to rethink security procedures, but there may be little new they can do now to prevent such events, experts say.

Hotels can’t install metal detectors or other elements deemed intrusive without damaging the whole concept of hospitality that is at the heart of their business. Hotel operators will have to rely even more on the eyes and ears of regular employees such as housekeeping staff and front desk workers to detect and report unusual behavior.

Hotel operators will have to rely even more on the eyes and ears of regular employees such as housekeeping staff and front desk workers to detect and report unusual behavior.

“No matter what we do, there are always going to be security issues. The responsibility has to be on every level and not just security personnel. Everyone should be flagging odd behavior,’’ said Mehmet Erdem, a hospitality professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

While casinos and hotels do not permit people to walk through their private property with concealed or unconcealed weapons, there is little to stop them from letting guests enter with guns hidden in bags.

In the aftermath of the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas, it’s important to refresh yourself and your staff on the best practices that have been in place for many years.

Casinos will likely add more security personnel in the aftermath of the massacre, said Michael McCall, a professor at Michigan State University’s School of Hospitality.

“Security being present to the extent that they are noticeable would be a disincentive’’ to criminals, said McCall.

“Security being present to the extent that they are noticeable would be a disincentive’’ to criminals.”

McCall agreed with Erdem that metal detectors would not be a viable solution as it would hurt the guest experience. People will not want to stand in long lines like they do at airport security posts.

“Vacationers want to relax, they don’t want to be reminded of the dangers in the world,’’ said McCall.

Hotels will need to beef up their training programs so that all employees, and not just security personnel, can learn to detect suspicious behavior, said Erdem. Strip casinos could consult with airlines on how they spot suspicious behavior, he said.

During a call with Homeland Security and the FBI, The Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association learned that the perpetrator of this heinous act:

  • Checked in as one person with 9 suitcases and did receive bellman assistance to his room.   Over the course of the four days he stayed, he brought an additional 6 suitcases into his room.
  • Refused cleaning services in his room for multiple days
  • Ordered room service, but met them in the hall and never allowed access or even the door to be opened.

Odd behavior in isolation can often be explained away, but if several employees notice unusual behavior and report it to a central location, hotels can respond before tragedy happens, Erdem said.

For more information on what should be considered suspicious and what you should do if you see suspicious activity, please download the FBI’s “Potential Indicators of Terrorist Activities related to hotels and motels” by clicking here.  In addition, through their Hometown Security program, the Department of Homeland Security offers multiple resources and training tools, including “See Something, Say Something” and active shooter training, for businesses to help prepare for and protect themselves from attack.

This article was brought to you in association with the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the CHLA.


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Employee Turnover: Get Ready, It Happens — 5 Ways To Slow It Down

Employee Turnover: Get Ready, It Happens — 5 Ways To Slow It Down

Turnover rates in the hospitality industry are going up, hitting a whopping 72.1% in 2015. Compare that to the average employee turnover rate for all private-sector workers, 45.9%. If you own or manage a restaurant, according to the laws of averages, you should expect to replace almost three-quarters of your workers each year!

In addition to giving you headaches, disrupting the work flow in your business and disrupting the customer experience, this kind of turnover impacts profitability. The Center for American Progress reports that an employee earning below $30,000 a year costs 16% of that annual salary to find, hire, and train. Replacing a waiter or waitress earning an average $20,880/year, then, costs about $3,340. More highly trained employees like chefs and head cooks, earning an average $46,620-$74,240/year, cost $7,460-$11,880.

Looking at it from a different angle, if you have 20 waiters and waitresses, you can expect to lose 16 of them in the coming year. At a cost of $3,340 each, that’s $53,440 subtracted from your bottom line.

Why is the employee turnover rate so high in the restaurant industry? Low pay, long hours, minimal or no benefits and limited advancement opportunities make it likely that employees consider restaurant work a temporary situation rather than a career.

In addition, characteristics of restaurant employees factor heavily in turnover. Younger employees are more likely to leave as are part-timers. Often younger employees are students, and restaurant work is secondary to other commitments. Older employees sometimes take on a restaurant job when they lose work or experience money difficulties. When challenges ease, they leave.

You can cushion yourself against losses in productivity and profitability and reduce turnover by developing solutions based on the reasons restaurant turnover occurs:

  1. Characteristics of restaurant employees. The ideal employee is one who sees work in the restaurant industry as a career path. This means during the hiring process, you’ll want to get a sense of a potential hiree’s life plan. Hopefully they have not only past experience in the industry but future plans that include work in some area of hospitality. Even verifiable volunteer experience showing engagement with food and hospitality is promising. Since most turnover occurs among younger and older workers, look for mid-range in age, mid-twenties to mid-forties. Verify that a hiree’s skill set fits the particular job description.
  2. Compensation. When you consider the real cost of replacing valuable workers, higher pay doesn’t seem as costly as replacement. Work out your compensation policies so wages are at least competitive and workers receive regular raises. Find ways to recognize extra effort and on-the-job achievement.
  3. Working conditions. Workers are more likely to develop a sense of loyalty to your business if they experience a cooperative, optimistic work environment and have good opportunities for communication. Holding regular staff meetings which all attend and where respect is the basis of conversation do a lot to build team-spirit and a well-coordinated effort. These meetings can include working out challenges that affect the whole group, but save private grievances for individual monthly review sessions. Be sure to build in flexibility with things like dress codes and scheduling. Encourage creativity and ingenuity. People like to exercise these characteristics!
  4. Advancement. In brief, monthly review sessions, provide opportunities to raise more personal issues, but focus these one-on-one meetings on growth and improvement for your employee. How is your employee experiencing their job with your organization? Are there areas in the employee’s current job where they can improve? Where they excel? What is the next step for your employee? This question is especially critical. Long-term employees want to know there is room for them to advance, and they want to see a clear path to it.
  5. Benefits. Long-term employees look for and want benefits. If you have 50 employees or more, you must provide them. Even if you employ fewer than 50, consider providing something. Benefits can serve as a perk to make you more competitive. As a smaller operation, even if you can’t provide big benefits like health, you can offer other things that let your employees know you value them. Free food is always appreciated.

In addition to policies and best practices that make your restaurant environment a great place to be, cultivate personal practices that inspire loyalty: greet your employees each day, praise them when you see extra effort or something you appreciate, include them in planning and problem-solving. If you hire thoughtfully with an eye to the long-term, offer competitive compensation and extra perks, and create a pleasant, energetic, creative working environment with opportunities for growth and advancement, why would an employee ever want to leave?

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Why Employees Quit And What You Can Do To Keep Them

Why Employees Quit And What You Can Do To Keep Them

The restaurant industry suffers from a high employee turn-over rate. If you have worked in the industry for long, you are well aware of this, and it is probably annoying you. Constantly having to train new people is no fun. So how do you get people to stay? Well, the first step is to figure out why people are leaving, and then work on taking away those reasons. Here, in no particular order, is a list of some of those reasons.

1. Co-worker Problems

One bad apple can make life at your restaurant hard. Someone who constantly calls in sick clearly doesn’t care about the work, or is just generally incompetent reduces productivity. Additionally, relationships with co-workers is a major component in how much satisfaction people get out of work, and having good friends at the workplace is an indicator of being happy on the job.

So how do you deal with this? Well, your first step is to make sure you hire people who will fit in your restaurant. Be sure you hire people who exhibit a real passion for the work in the interview and look for a cultural fit. Once you have your team, keep an eye out for arguments between team members and try to integrate all new employees into the team as smoothly and quickly as possible. And if you have an employee whose incompetence or personal issue is affecting the team, step in quickly to fix the problem before the problem employee makes the good ones want to quit.

2. Scheduling Conflicts

Get everyone’s schedules to work is a major hassle, but it is well-worth it. A large number of restaurant employees quit because they cannot get their work schedules to mesh with their lives.

Be upfront about scheduling, and take the time to make sure people have the time off that they need. Also, post schedules as far in advance as possible. People want consistent hours: it gives them the ability to make appointments without constantly worrying about work.

3. Poor Management and Poor Relationship With (Gulp) Boss

Bad bosses and management are frequently cited as the reason people leave their jobs. Bosses and the management team are integral to everyone’s work day, and they have the ability to make an employee’s life awful.

So, quick check on your managers: are they rolling up their sleeves and getting into the work, or are they lounging around and doing as little as possible? Are they relaying important information to everyone in a timely and transparent way, or do they wait until the last possible second to mumble something about people calling in? Do they provide directions clearly and assign tasks, or are they changing their orders constantly and garbling directions?

If you see a lot of the second scenarios, it’s time to upgrade your management team. Write policies for them that promote consistency and clear communication and fire the layabouts.

Hey, no one said being the boss was easy. It is, however, easier if you develop working relationships with your employees and treat them with respect. You don’t have to be everyone’s buddy, but you have to spend a little time with everyone, providing feedback about work and supporting the cohesiveness of your team. Then you will see the management team in action and the interaction of co-workers first hand, which will give you a good handle on the situation in your restaurant.

4. No Challenge And No Opportunities

Restaurant work suffers unfairly from the stigma of being a ‘temporary’ job. The perception is that you can’t have a career in the industry. Your employees want to disprove the perception; they believe that they can have that career, and that it will use all their grace and skills, bringing them job satisfaction. Otherwise, their work is just tedious time-filling.

You can help them find job satisfaction by providing them with opportunities to try new things and stretch their skills. Encourage innovation and reward folks who excel. You can set up a suggestion box for new ideas, and give new responsibilities to people who seem to be getting bored at work. Maybe the cashier can start trying out waitressing, or the sou chef can introduce a new menu item. People just want to feel challenged at work.

The restaurant industry may suffer from high turnover, but you don’t have to. If you work on these aspects of your restaurant, you will find more employees staying for longer.

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Is Teaching Butchery the Secret to Keeping Good Chefs?

Is Teaching Butchery the Secret to Keeping Good Chefs?

For any profession, employees need professional development. There needs to be a feeling that an organization, or in this case, the restaurant is invested in them and their growth in the culinary world. The food business is evolving, and there will always be a need for diverse skill sets and new techniques. It is fast becoming clear that while there are establishments opening up at a rapid pace, finding employees that have the right skill sets is becoming a challenge.

In order to set yourself apart from the crowd, whether as a restaurant or as an employee within a restaurant, there needs to be constant cultivation of new skills and techniques. It might not seem important to care about what other kitchens need, but thinking about what your kitchen needs – both short-term and long-term, is incredibly important.

There needs to be constant cultivation of new skills and techniques

Hiring talent that is right for you, as well as a good fit is key. This also means that there must be a sincere effort in cultivating a good work environment, and ensuring that your staff has the right tools for the job rather than opting for the cheapest tools. But the ultimate secret in keeping good chefs is to invest in them.

In the article, Why Teaching Butchery Is the Secret to Keeping Good Chefs, the author touches upon several key points that demonstrate the sheer importance of investing in chefs. The articles states that, “We try to take quite inexperienced chefs at the lowest level in the kitchen and train them in all the aspects that we do…We also like to promote from within because it’s good for the culture and good for morale to see you and your colleagues getting promoted.”

There are two important notes to take from this. Not only is there a significant amount of training provided that pushes employees out of their comfort zones, but there is also constant effort to improve overall morale. Once the push has been made to invest in employees, it is also imperative to show them real life examples and incentives of what their newly acquired skill set can bring them.

The author underscores this point, writing that “it’s also about giving someone the opportunity and showing faith in people. If we’re seen to be giving people opportunities and promoting people when we could go external, it means that they’re less likely to look elsewhere because they enjoy working with you and are able to grow and develop.”

In this article, butchery is what the restaurant is offering these inexperienced chefs. But this is just one example of how restaurants should work with their chefs to understand what their needs are, and what measures are needed for long-term, sustainable growth. This benefits both your business, and the employees and makes them feel like they are not just cogs in a machine but nurtured and cared for.

With professional development opportunities though, many establishments are afraid to take the risk. What if it is too successful and chefs end up leaving? What if there is time and resources invested but all it results in is chefs finding other opportunities?

These are certainly risks, but those are associated risks no matter what. Chefs leave restaurants for numerous reasons, most of which are difficult to predict. However,  if these professional development opportunities are not offered, perhaps chefs will get bored and decide to leave where they are challenged and cared for. Giving them the chance to acquire new skills gives them an incentive to stay and use these skills to help grow the establishment for the better.

Giving them the chance to acquire new skills gives them an incentive to stay and use these skills to help grow the establishment for the better.

Ultimately, it may seem like a risky move at first but investing in your people is the best way to show them that they are valued. Both inexperienced and experienced chefs will always benefit from cultivating new skills and directly applying them – whether it is butchery or something else.

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Making Restaurants Sustainable: Some People You Should Know

Making Restaurants Sustainable: Some People You Should Know

Nutrition experts predict that sustainability and plant-based protein will be the most important restaurant trends in 2017. Plant-based protein, primarily pulses, continues its popularity from 2016, which the United Nations declared the Year of the Pulse. Organics continues to trend as well. Both organics and plant-based protein are closely tied to sustainability.

Sustainability is a critical issue in our world as we anticipate almost 10 billion on the planet by 2050. How will we feed all those people without depleting our resources? We’re all concerned about it! Yet anyone who has ever owned or worked in a restaurant knows how difficult it is to maintain a “sustainable consciousness” in the current environment.

Consider, for example, disposables, a significant budget item in any place that includes carry-out or catering as part of their business model. If well-meaning operators try to move away from styrofoam to something more environmentally friendly, they can anticipate sticker-shock. On the other hand, washing real dishes isn’t automatically more sustainable. Restaurants use 5,800 gallons of water per day on average.

Or consider health department rules that require leaving the water running while a worker dries hands with a single-use towel so the towel can act as a barrier between clean hands and shutting off the faucet. Then there’s recycling that requires washing recyclables before adding them to the recycling bin. Regulations that prevent people from bringing in their own dishes to fill. Air-conditioning and heating that runs as people enter and leave.

We haven’t even gotten to the food yet! Food that has already been wasted in its path to the restaurant, culled in the fields, in grocery stores and by other handlers. Food that is rarely from local farmers. Food that travels a long way, using precious resources. City regulations that don’t allow composting vegetable waste within city limits — and who can come and pick it up to take out-of-town? Frying oil and other grease.

Most restaurants, to keep their prices down, build on a scaffold of unfairly priced food, food that relies on a farm work force that in the U.S. is 70% low-paid undocumented migrant workers, food that with current practices adds to environmental degradation without paying for restoration. Food that uses (and wastes) increasingly precious water resources.

A few leaders in the U.S. and other countries are setting off boldly in new directions. Meet some of them:

Laura Abshire, Director of Sustainability Policy and Government Affairs, National Restaurant Association. According to Laura, consumers are driving the trend toward more sustainability in restaurants. “People like local sourcing, and like knowing where their food comes from,” said Abshire. “They like knowing that they’re helping their community and that their food didn’t travel very far and hasn’t been packaged as long.” The National Restaurant Association proactively established its own environmental education program called Conserve. Information on this initiative is online at conserve.restaurant.org. The program is free and open to anyone looking for information on running a sustainable restaurant. As Laura says, “You can save a little bit on your bottom line, and you can show your customers that you really care about them and their values while also doing something good for the environment as well.”

Jack Cheney, graduate student at the University of Washington’s School of Marine and Affairs, studies Washington’s raw oyster industry, the largest in the U.S. and home to Taylor Fish Farms in operation for five generations supplying fish bars, shipping worldwide and always sustainable. Of oyster farming, Jack says, “What’s more farm to table than a raw oyster? There’s nothing that’s done to an oyster from the time it’s taken out of the water to the time it’s put on your plate at the restaurant.” Cheney talks about the positive environmental impact of oyster farming in addition to a minimal carbon footprint: “Oysters are sustainable. They’re clean for water. One oyster filters 50 gallons of water per day. It provides a wide berth of environmental benefits to the ecosystem.”

Arthur Potts Dawson, owner of acclaimed London restaurants Acorn House and Water House, opened in 2006. Potts Dawson hit the international scene in 2010 with his Ted Talk, A vision for sustainable restaurants. He “wants us to take responsibility not just for the food we eat, but how we shop for and even dispose of it.” His restaurants feature rooftop gardens, low-energy refrigerators and wormeries that turn food waste into compost, proving a sustainable approach is profitable and serving as training grounds for the next generation of green chefs.

Betsy Fink, co-founder of Millstone Farm, an incubator for community-based food systems. Betsy works with local markets and restaurants to expand local food networks. Through the Betsy and Jesse Fink Foundation, she combats food waste.

Fedele Bauccio & Ernie Collins are the founders and owners of Bon Appétit Management in California. Frank and Ernie believed the restaurant industry, colleges and corporate cafeterias wanted and needed something other than what they were getting in the 1980s. What they needed was real food, freshly prepared. Their made-from-scratch food goes out to a contract market and 650 restaurants with which they work. They have been committed to health since their beginning and pioneered environmentally and socially responsible practices designed to create a more sustainable food system. In 1999, they launched Farm to Fork, widening their focus to the communities in which they operate. They have been front-runners in all the issues related to sustainability including antibiotic use in farm animals (2003), switching to rBGH-free milk (2003) and cage-free shell eggs (2005), food’s role in climate change (2007), farmworker rights(2009) and animal welfare (2012). Many nonprofit and industry groups honor Fedele’s work.

Douglas McMaster, owner and operator of The Silo in Brighton, UK, is the first zero-waste restaurant in the UK. Features he introduced in this minimalist environment include a special compost machine displayed near the entrance that will process all the restaurant’s food scraps, supplies delivered in reusable containers, ingredients mostly from local farmers and producers, flour milled on site and booze brewed in the basement. Meals come on plates made from recycled plastic and drinks in recycled jam jars. A chef and activist, McMaster says, “Choice is something which is wrong with the food industry. The places with more choice create more waste and have lower standards, that’s an absolute fact.” He offers just six daily main courses at Silo.

Ted Turner & George W. McKerrow, founders and owners of Ted’s Montana Grill, are passionately committed to Planet, Plate and People. Their motto is, “Eat Great. Do Good.” Their Sustainability Metrics are impressive. Further, they work hard to engage other restaurants in the idea of “going green.” In 2008, McKerrow and Turner visited five cities as part of a national tour, “The Green Restaurant Revolution.” Created to heighten awareness about the restaurant and hospitality industry’s environmental impact on the planet, the tour brought together industry leaders and future influencers to talk about the opportunities and challenges of going green and to stimulate conversation and ideas on solutions. More than 800 restaurateurs, hospitality leaders and culinary professionals attended five industry events. A front page USA Today article featured the company’s environmental commitment: Can restaurants go green, earn green?

What Can You Do? Every restaurant can contribute to sustainability by raising consciousness throughout its operation and paying attention to four areas:

  • Waste reduction
  • Water conservation
  • Energy efficiency
  • Renewable energy

Experiment with locally sourced and seasonal foods. Engage your customers in your effort to create a more sustainable experience. Take advantage of free resources like Conserve from the National Restaurant Association. Find out what is available in your community to assist you in your efforts. And while you’re doing all that, remember that appreciating beautiful, delicious, fresh food is the first step toward a conservation program in your restaurant.

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