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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Tips For Ensuring The Safety Of The Kitchen Staff

Tips For Ensuring The Safety Of The Kitchen Staff

Working in a kitchen is rewarding, but it does present some dangers. Between sharp knives, hot oil and crowded work conditions, you are daily risking your health. So, you want to stay in this job without injury for as long as possible. How do you do this? Well, it’s actually as simple as following some safety guidelines.

The Right Shoes

The first element in safety is equipment, and one of your most valuable pieces of equipment is your shoes. Invest in non-slip, comfortable work shoes that can take you standing in them all day. The non-slip part will prevent you from slipping on the inevitable spills that kitchens are notorious for. The comfortable part will spare your back, legs, and feet from stress injuries.

You will also want something that repels water, as standing in soggy shoes for hours after mopping up a spill threatens your toes with fungus. Such slip-resistant, water-resistant and comfortable shoes may take time to find and cost quite a bit when you find them, but the investment will save you a lot of money lost in time off and doctor’s bills later on.

Cover Your Arms

Hot water and hot oil flies in kitchens, and they can leave burns worse than actual fires. To limit the damage that hot oil splashing out of a pan and landing on your arm can do, wear sleeve protectors. These are cloth coverings that cover your wrist to your elbow. This will put an easily-removed barrier between you and the heat.

Find The First Aid Kit

Every restaurant should be equipped with a first aid kit that the kitchen staff can quickly access. Bandaging an injury immediately prevents infections and other future complications. If your kitchen doesn’t have a first aid kit or the one you have is running low, get one. An emergency could happen at any time, and you don’t want to be scrambling around for gauze in the middle of a shift.

Handle Knives Correctly (And Generally Be Aware Of Your Surroundings)

Remember what you learned about knife safety when you were learning to be a chef. Tuck your thumb under the hand you’re using to hold something still when cutting. Hand knives to people handle first (or put it in front of them handle first if possible.) Don’t run, especially not with sharp objects in your hands, and just be aware of your surroundings. Busy kitchens can get crowded and have lots of cutting edges. Don’t fall victim to them.

Change Up Your Tasks

People tend to associate injuries caused by repetitive motion with factories and offices, but any job that requires you to make the same motions over and over stresses the joints and muscles in your body. The stress causes inflammation which leads to pinched nerves, weakness and pain. The best way to avoid this is to change activities and give the stressed group of muscles a rest. Let the line cook take an afternoon off of frying to chop vegetables. Give the prep chef’s hands a break by letting them do the dishes. Variety is both the spice of life, and a dose of prevention in this case.

Watch The Heat

Kitchens get hot. Restaurant kitchens can get particularly hot because they are crowded and have sources of heat running all day long. They should be properly ventilated, with a screen door that allows hot air to leave and a fan to move the heat along. A line chef, of course, doesn’t have much control over that, but he or she can take along bottles of cool water to sip from throughout the day and dress in layers. Try to wear breathable clothes as much as possible, and make sure any ventilation available is on.

Every great job has its risks, but you can mitigate them with a little care. Follow these guidelines and you will enjoy a long, safe career in the food industry.

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The Best Line Cooks Have These ‘Set Shifting’ Traits

The Best Line Cooks Have These ‘Set Shifting’ Traits

Multitasking… there are a few people in the world who seem to thrive on it, but those people probably mastered the art of rapid set shifting, something a little different from multitasking. Set shifting “… means consciously and completely shifting…attention from one task to the next, focusing on the task at hand.” Giving full attention to a task in the moment improves productivity and creativity and causes fewer mistakes. “Set shifting is a sign of brain fitness and agility…”

If there is any life that requires this ability for rapid set shifting, it’s the life of a line cook. The best line cooks work quickly and with absolute focus. Receiving instructions and requests from multiple directions at once and with several different mini-events happening on different schedules under their watch, a line cook requires this rare ability for rapid set shifting.

If line cooks didn’t have this ability but instead multitasked in the way most of us think about it, order fulfillment would suffer; orders would slow and be filled with mistakes. Unanticipated problems occur in any commercial dining scenario, and line cooks, without this rapid set shifting ability, cannot create solutions.

Beyond set shifting, line cooks require a few other specific skills and lifestyle preferences. Let’s take a look.

“Set shifting is a sign of brain fitness and agility…”

Sharp and sharply focused

“Set shifting is a sign of brain fitness and agility…” A line cook is the person in the room who catches subtle cues quickly and whose responses are quick, intelligent and on target. Issues don’t sit on their mind while they weigh alternatives — they don’t have time for that. A line cook resolves issues instinctively and immediately and moves on to the next mini-event with complete focus.


Sometimes the most intelligent people in the world move slowly or clumsily. The best line order cooks move quickly and gracefully, positioning their bodies and hands effortlessly and instinctively exactly where they need to be. The objective is to preserve every ounce of mental and physical capacity for the food prep task at hand without distraction.


Seriously. Sounds crazy, but if a line order cook is conventionally multitasking instead of rapidly set shifting, they accumulate stress, contributing to a poor health profile. Add to this proximity to sweets and processed foods with little time to stop and focus on eating, and you are on the way to poor health. Poor health chips away at mental capacity, reduces focus and invites sluggishness. In contrast, someone who eats the right foods, drinks plenty of water and is active is more alert, focused and energetic.

A line cook who loves the taste and appearance of food knows instinctively when something isn’t quite right.

Love food and food preparation

If you don’t love good food and have some artistic sensibility about it, you cannot prepare a tasty, visually appealing dish. A line cook who loves the taste and appearance of food knows instinctively when something isn’t quite right and makes adjustments. Someone with no feeling for it or passion about it? Not so much. And there’s no time to check a recipe. While it’s true that line cooks don’t make the menu choices or have final responsibility for dishes that go out, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and in establishments with fixed menus, a line cook is often the only person preparing food.

Strive for excellence

Of course, we should all strive for excellence in whatever we do, no matter how great or small the task. The story is in the details, and a good line cook takes pride in every item they prepare, in its taste, aroma and appearance. Serving good food with flair and attention to detail ensures customers return.

A natural and trained awareness of food sanitation best practices

Of course you want your line cook to have sanitation training and certification, but hopefully that line cook reaches a level of ease and naturalness with best practices. Interrupting focused rapid set shifting to remember whether you should turn off hand-washing water before drying your hands or after adds unnecessary distraction to the work.

A line order cook is someone with a natural gift honed by training and experience. A good one is a rare find, and restauranteurs who find great line cooks are smart to show their appreciation to these employees.

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Implementing Responsible Alcohol Service in Your Establishment

Implementing Responsible Alcohol Service in Your Establishment

Each state regulates alcohol — from its manufacturing, to selling, and the actions resulting from its use. This includes assessing the liability of any violations. If you serve alcohol in your restaurant, it is important that you and each staff member are aware of the laws, rules, and best practices in your state. Serving alcohol involves many risks. 

The failure to act responsibly may result in fines, loss of your liquor license, increased costs of insurance, or even imprisonment. Ultimately, it could result in losing your business.

Consequences of Serving an Intoxicated Guest

In almost every state, it is illegal to serve alcohol to an intoxicated person. There are numerous types of liabilities associated including criminal, administrative (liquor control commission), and broad civil liabilities via the Dram Shop Law. Therefore, it is imperative that you develop specific policies that ensure the responsible serving of alcohol in your establishment. This includes having a clear concise process for the difficult situation of denying service to an intoxicated guest.

Alcohol Awareness Training

Most liability insurances now require that all members of a restaurant, bar, or tavern staff undergo this type of training. Additionally, it is important because it helps underscore the importance of responsible service as well as the consequences of failing to do so. It also provides bartenders and servers with a factual base that enables them to make informed and often difficult, service related decisions with confidence. In addition to outside training, it is important that you have internal policies that define what to do when faced with these judgment calls.

The failure to act responsibly may result in fines, loss of your liquor license, increased costs of insurance, or even imprisonment.

Situational Awareness Training and Empowerment

Each member of your staff, no matter if they serve alcohol are important in the success of these policies, as often situations like these can be prevented. Train your staff to be observant. They should be listening and watching what is going on in your restaurant. Encouraging them to use their best judgment, empower each staff member to report any person or group they believe may present a problem. This is the best opportunity you have to prevent an incident from occurring. Once a report has been made, that is the time to have a manager or the owner drop by the table, speak to the patron, further assess the situation, and perhaps intervene.

Other Preventative Measures

  • Servers and bartenders keep track of how many drinks have been served.
  • Don’t serve drinks ordered for someone who is not yet present. As this person could already be intoxicated or perhaps even underage.
  • Have a visible authority presence in the bar area. This could be security or management.
  • Have signage posted with your policy

…it is important that they have the trust and support of management.

Tips to Refusing Service to an Intoxicated Patron

Because this is a judgment call that servers and bartenders are in the best position to make, it is important that they have the trust and support of management. Having a written policy that outlines the process is also helpful. These factors make it easier for them to exercise good judgment of how and when to refuse service. Robert Plotkin, founder of Bar Media offers the following advice on how to cut off an intoxicated guest.

  • When in doubt – don’t serve- Make this your policy. Because of the potential liability, isn’t it better to err on the side of caution?
  • Keep it simple- In the fewest words possible, explain that as a matter of policy, you will not be serving any more alcohol.
  • If possible, be discreet- There is no need to cause a scene that may embarrass the patron and potentially provoke an incident.
  • Utilize tact and diplomacy- Avoid using inflammatory language, disapproval, or criticism.
  • Remain firm- Once you have committed to this decision there is no turning back. To do so would undermine your credibility and authority.
  • Keep everyone in the loop- Notify the other staff and servers so that they do not mistakenly serve the guest additional alcohol.

For general precaution, management on-duty should be notified to take any further action needed, allowing the bartender or server to resume their regular roles. Management should determine whether to offer and arrange alternate transportation for the patron.

Keeping the patrons safe from harm and your establishment safe from liability is a job that falls to every employee. Knowing when and how to cut off an intoxicated guest is a judgment call often left to the bartender and servers. It is sometimes awkward and difficult, however, with proper training, guidelines, and internal support it can be accomplished with dignity and tact. 

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How Restaurants Can Prevent Employee Burnout and Reduce Turnover

How Restaurants Can Prevent Employee Burnout and Reduce Turnover

Workplace burnout is a serious problem in the hospitality industry, as many restaurants are on a bootstrapping budget. Often, it is the most dedicated and hardest working employees who succumb to burnout, leaving restaurants with difficult-to-fill voids. To better prevent employee burnout, an understanding is needed, backed by a well-thought-out plan of retention.

“Even if companies haven’t literally lost their employees, many have lost them psychologically.” – Jon Gordon

Scope of Workplace Burnout

The findings from a recent study of 3,000 employees in the US and Canada, sponsored by Staples Inc., sheds light on the magnitude of business burnout:

  • 91 percent of employees say they work more than forty hours per week.
  • 65 percent cite feeling pressure at home that is a carryover from their jobs.
  • Working more hours to stay afloat is a pressure that causes many Americans to mentally check out of their work lives.
  • Frustration and cynicism are often the two main hallmarks of occupational burnout.

Perhaps the most interesting fact presented was that 59 percent of workers state that being encouraged to take breaks by supervisors helped to decrease their feelings of burnout, whether they actually took a break or not.

The response to the act of showing concern is an indicator that the Golden Rule, or law of reciprocity, is still the most important guiding principle in life and business. Simply, treat others as we want to be treated.

With this in mind, the Staples study lists the three simple “perks” that employees value above all others as wellness programs, comfortable break-rooms with technology and fresh snacks and beverages.

The Purpose-Driven Workplace

For nearly a decade, studies have consistently indicated that employees want to work for companies with a purpose. Employers that can facilitate this (marginally tangible) request seem to have better retention rates. Differentiating on this point translates favorably in today’s lean business model.

“A lack of purpose goes deeper than simple business burnout.” – Dan Pontefract

Of course “purpose” means different things to different employees but Dan Pontefract, author of The Purpose Effect, provides the following guidelines.

Be appreciative. Restaurants that have successfully implemented programs focused on rewards and recognition of their employees have reported better productivity, stronger engagement, retention, and loyalty. Cracker Barrel, for example, has a strong rewards and recognition program and boasts improved turnover rates.

Be engaging. Sharing organizational goals and plans with every team member, no matter their role, creates a feeling of purpose. In and Out Burger is one chain praised by current and former employees for its positive work environment.

Be ethical. This is key to an organization’s integrity. It says to employees and customers that the company is taking responsibility. This fosters a sense of pride in the company for the employee.

Be fair. When a culture based on fairness permeates the entire organization, the results are improved “people practices” throughout. Make sure that your organization has a level playing field for all employees to succeed and advance. Restaurants like Five-Guys and TGI Fridays consistently top lists of the “best restaurants to work” because they promote heavily from within. These brands also offer benefits that help any employ with the desire, advance to higher levels in the company.

Be inclusive. Identify and recognize all that are affected by your company, including clients, employees, families, community, and beyond. Next, seek ways to serve all these entities as stakeholders and acknowledge each group as an integral part of your success.

Be flexible. When possible allow employees the opportunity to self-schedule. This has been shown to increase employee satisfaction which is the number one driver of productivity.

Employees are the single most valuable asset of your business. Understanding when and how to show that you value your employees is imperative in management and retention. This will reflect outwardly in terms of productivity and workplace satisfaction. In the lean business economy of today, there is no easy solution for employee burnout. With these strategies, however, companies can move toward increasing employee engagement and satisfaction as well as improving retention.

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