Photo by Josh Keown
Pizza Antica was not selling much bottled mineral water. The servers at the four-unit concept, part of the Bacchus Management Group of restaurants in San Francisco, were not even mentioning bottled water to customers. So Pizza Antica launched the Bottled Mineral Water Sales contest. The winning server was taken, as guest, to one of Bacchus Management’s fine dining restaurants.
“The server could observe the refinement of the service there,” says Robert Smith, director of operations for Pizza Antica. “This had a great impact on why to suggest certain items.”
The free dinner didn’t hurt. Offering free food and other incentives can help motivate employees to sell more add-ons. Pizza Antica also held a dessert upselling contest, and the winner received a free dinner after their shift. The restaurant used the point-of-sale system to track the items sold. “I find it best to set up a spreadsheet with all participants, which is updated daily with the individual’s performance and posted near the staff schedule,” Smith says. “This creates friendly competition, which in turn creates the best motivation.”
Friendly competition does indeed motivate, says Bridget Keeler, manager of marketing and public relations for Whitewater, Wisconsin-based Toppers Pizza. The 50-unit chain holds quarterly sales contests. Recently the competition centered on which store could sell the most two-liter bottles of soda, as a percentage of sales. Before the contest began, Toppers Pizza sent posters to the stores to generate interest and to explain the contest.
Every week the corporate office e-mailed the current rankings to each store. “The stores liked seeing the results,” Keeler says. “If the list was not out by Tuesday we would hear from them.”
The winning store sold two-liter bottles that totaled approximately three percent of sales, and the store won a $75 gift card to Amazon. Year-end grand prizes include a $500 Amazon gift card. Keeler says the store manager could use the card to purchase a personal item, something for the store, or t-shirts or other prizes for employees. Other prizes have included Live Nation dollars that stores used to buy concert tickets.
Keeler says it helps if the upsold item adds dollars to the sale without much labor. For another promotion, staff had to encourage customers to order extra cheese. The prize, shoes in Toppers colors of red and gold, were a big hit. “Everyone wanted those shoes,” Keeler says. “Employees were getting customers to add cheese to everything, even wings.”
Todd Ordal, a Denver-based certified management consultant, says small prizes can be good rewards for employees, but the operator needs to be strategic about motivators. “Changing behavior is hard,” Ordal says. “To get it to stick you have to get people to buy into this long term. There has to be some sense of pride and value.”
Customers can tell when a server is simply reciting a sales script. The process is more effective if the staffer actually tasted the item, and, even better, they perceive that they are participating in the success of the restaurant.
Or, as Cody Pierce, vice president of marketing for Orange City, Iowa-based Pizza Ranch puts it: “You have to decide strategically what is important to you as an organization and what are the metrics you measure, and how you incentivize around those metrics.”
The 175-location Pizza Ranch offers buffet meals, so it’s up to the phone attendants and to-go staff to suggest add-ons such as Ranch Stix breadsticks, Cactus Bread for dessert, or new items such as freshly made coleslaw. The incentive program compares a store’s rate of upsells to the previous year. The managers from the winning stores earn Disney Dollars, which they can spend at Pizza Ranch’s 30th anniversary meeting at Disney World in June. “It is tied to the restaurant, not to the person,” Pierce says. “We are leaving it up to the restaurants how they distribute the Disney Dollars.”
Other chains also let individual units decide how to incentivize employees. Scott Bauer, a Papa Murphy’s franchisee in Chico, California, says in addition to the official corporate-wide incentive programs, he provides informal awards to managers and crews at his five locations. The add-ons include Cheesy Bread, chocolate chip cookie dough, Cinnamon Wheels and salads. Phone and counter staff are instructed to suggestively sell an add-on that makes sense. “If the customer ordered cookie dough, you don’t offer a Cinnamon Wheel because they already ordered dessert. You say, ‘Would you like a salad?’” Bauer says.
Bauer gives managers bonuses, which they see in their paychecks. To reward crew members, Bauer buys candy, almonds and other snacks and distributes them to the stores. “The crew member comes in and the manager says, ‘Hey you met your goal, go through the box and pick out something,’” Bauer says.
He occasionally buys gift cards too, and keeps the whole program casual. “If you make it too hardcore and technical and they miss their goals, they will give up,” he says.
Pizza Antica’s Smith says it’s important to make workers feel good about upselling. He says: “The key is to show the progress of who is performing well and use it playfully to incentivize others to perform well. Like any good management technique, this is about really celebrating great performance rather than belittling poor performance.”
To get customers to fill out surveys, operators have to turn to their servers. Some operators offer incentives such as movie tickets and gift cards to the staffer who gets the most tables to fill out a comment card or complete a survey. The actual feedback is as important as the number of surveys, so some operators give incentives to servers who score well on the surveys. Newton, Massachusetts-based On the Spot Systems offers mobile data collection solutions, which means surveys that customers can fill out on a smart phone or iPad while they are waiting for their check. “The server can say, ‘Your feedback is important to us, can you scan the QR code on the back of the menu and answer five questions?’” says Ken Kimmel, co-founder and president of On the Spot Systems. At some restaurants, the server who earns the highest scores gets to pick their shift and section in the next schedule. “That doesn’t cost the operator anything,” Kimmel says.
Nora Caley is a freelance writer specializing in food and business topics. She lives in Denver, Colorado.
Photos by Rick Daugherty
Money is why we work and you may think that it’s the reason employees leave their jobs. But while compensation is a factor, it’s simply one reason that workers move on, and is an easy problem to fix.
We’ve found five other significant reasons why employees chose to not stick around to make and serve your pizzas:
Work isn’t fun. It’s not possible to have fun all the time, but if work is a place employees dread going to, they’re likely to leave.
“People quit because the energy level and the excitement in the store is not something they look forward to,” says Al Newman, director of training for Hungry Howie’s Pizza in Madison Heights, Michigan, which has more than 550 restaurants in 20 states.
Charlotte, North Carolina-based Brixx Wood Fired Pizza runs occasional games or contests to bring fun to its 21 stores. The company rotates job functions for kitchen workers on slower days to keep things interesting and for cross-training purposes.
“Employees have fun when they are succeeding and it is our job to make sure they have what they need to succeed,” says managing partner Jeff Van Dyke. It’s so important to have fun that at Nick’s Pizza & Pub in Crystal Lake, Illinois, it’s one of the core values. “We create an environment of team work, which relieves stress,” says owner Nick Sarillo, who also penned the book A Slice of the Pie: How to Build a Big Little Business. “We have games and contests every night and big celebrations when someone accomplishes something positive,” he says.
Ensuring your employees have fun is pretty easy, says Larry Vivola, owner of Inline Business Advisors, a business coaching company based in Phoenix, Arizona. “Have contests, themed days at work — favorite sports jersey day, Halloween in July, etc.,” he says. “This makes work fun, plus engages the customers and fosters more conversation.”
Employees are poorly trained.
“When employees are not trained properly they don’t feel good about the job they’re doing and feel incompetent,” explains Vivola.
If all employees are thoroughly trained it’s easier for everyone to work together since they’re all on the same page and all pulling their weight, says Joe Liguori, owner of four-unit Pizzeria Valdiano, in Winter Park, Florida. “It makes sure everyone is working as a team and creates a positive work environment,” he says.
Nick’s Pizza & Pub is very thorough with its training. New hires have a two-hour sit down with a trainer before starting work and they receive a package that spells out the company’s expectations of them. And finally, they work with a trainer until the trainer believes they’re ready to work on their own.
Managers at Nick’s also talk with new hires at the end of each training shift about what they think went well, what they could have done better. “What is essential about this first step is that it builds a relationship right from the start,” Sarillo says.
Failure to train your staff undermines their personal security and delivers a message that they are not very important to the success of your organization,” says Bill Marvin, a restaurant consultant based in Gig Harbor, Washington. “If you don’t care, why should they?”
Employees feel unappreciated. In the fast pace of pizza restaurants it’s easy to focus on what employees are doing wrong, but that’s a mistake.
Managers at Brixx are proactive about showing their appreciation of workers. “We ask them to keep score every day to make sure they positively enforce each employee once or twice,” says Van Dyke. “So they have a little scorecard and when they catch an employee doing something they like, they praise them, preferably in front of everyone, and put a check mark privately on their card. I think that goes a long way.”
Nick’s Pizza & Pub celebrates the little behaviors every day. “What motivates (employees) is the recognition from myself and the leaders,” Sarillo says. “It’s a high-five, it’s verbal recognition in the moment, focusing on the positive.”
“Notice even the small things your employees do,” says Marvin. “As a manager you don’t manage people; you inspire people. If nothing else, your job is to be a cheerleader.”
Poor communication from management. You have to communicate with your employees in the way that most resonates with them and Newman has found that most of Hungry Howie’s workers are in the Generation Y age group.
“They don’t like long drawn-out processes for communication,” Newman says. “They like it short and sweet and to the point.” Another aspect of Generation Y employees is that they need feedback, reassurance and recognition regularly. “But they’re often not getting it because Baby Boomer bosses think they want them to be hands-off,” Newman says.
Hungry Howie’s will give recognition verbally in the moment, in a team meeting, or mention employees in a blog or newsletter. “And when we award monthly bonuses, we perform presentations in front of the entire management team,” Newman says.
But simply communicating — actually talking to your employees — is the most important thing, since it makes them feel important and involved in your company, says Marvin.
“We ask our leaders to be coaches not cops,” says Sarillo. He also asks his managers to provide direct feedback during shifts. “We are coaching in the moment and giving feedback,” he adds. “There’s no need for annual reviews when everyone knows where they are with their performance every day.”
Not fitting in. Working with people you don’t get along with can really be a drag. And if your employees are unhappy with their colleagues, they’re going to look for another opportunity. So what’s vital, says Van Dyke, is that owners and managers hire the right personalities for the right jobs. At least two Brixx managers interview job candidates and often an hourly worker will meet them too, “which gives a broader picture of that candidate,” Van Dyke explains.
The right personality is the most important thing to look for during the interview, says Newman. “It’s not so much about skills because you can train skills.” And to make it fair for all candidates, Hungry Howie’s has a list of standardized interview questions to follow.
Sarillo takes a different tack: “We interview for value alignment — do they align with our values because those are the personalities we are looking for. That means they also align with the other employees — they all have similar belief systems.”
There’s a simple way to ensure employees will fit in, Vivola says: “Make sure that team members are part of the hiring process, since the current staff now has a vested interest in the new hire working out.”
Amanda Baltazar is a freelance writer in Anacortes, Washington
Photos by Rick Daugherty
Pictured above, Mike Rutledge of Farreli’s Wood Fire Pizza worked his way up through the ranks to director of kitchen operations.
In 1996, a then-16-year-old Clayton Krueger began working as a dishwasher at Farrelli’s Wood Fire Pizza in Lacey, Washington. Krueger later moved his way through various spots in the kitchen, earning more responsibility and praise along the way.
Today, as the Washington-based chain holds six locations, Krueger serves on Farrelli’s executive team as the director of marketing and communications.
Among Farrelli’s leadership team, two other senior members share a similar tale. Both IT Director James Mickelson and Director of Kitchen Operations Mike Rutledge have ascended the company ladder from entry-level spots.
For Farrelli’s President of Operations Jacque Farrell, the company wouldn’t have it any other way. Cultivating internal talent, she says, has helped Farrelli’s establish itself as one of America’s top pizzerias, including past honors as Pizza Today’s Independent Pizzeria of the Year.
“A core strength in our senior management team is the number of people who have grown with the company,” Farrell says. “They understand our vision and are committed to the business.”
Convinced that a culture of talent development motivates employees and heightens productivity, many pizzerias share Farrelli’s penchant for internal promotion. “We’re a stronger company because we promote people who understand our culture and know what it takes to be successful here,” says Gabriella Streicher, director of human resources for 35-unit, Chicago-based chain Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria.
Streicher says that 81 percent of Malnati’s store managers have been promoted from within, while Farrell reports that each of Farrelli’s current GMs has been elevated from the inside. Both restaurant leaders champion the benefits and advantages of promoting from within the restaurant’s ranks.
Most notably, hiring from within often carries less risk. No matter how comprehensive the interview process, it’s a gamble that an outsider will embrace the restaurant’s internal culture. With a current staff member, however, an operator knows the employee’s character well enough to make a more informed personnel decision.
That employee’s familiarity with the restaurant, meanwhile, will mean less training and, ultimately, cost savings. Mary Dawson, assistant professor at the University of Houston’s College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, says one executive for a regional casual-dining chain confided in her that recruiting, interviewing, and training a new manager over a six-month period cost the company an estimated $20,000. In contrast, a current employee innately understands the processes and culture of the organization and can therefore spend more time learning how to manage rather than discovering systems and policies.
“We know them and they know us,” Streicher says, adding that the mutual awareness also breeds a consistent guest experience.
By promoting from within, restaurant leaders also show current staff that the restaurant offers possibilities rather than dead ends, a reality that improves recruiting and retention efforts. When Georgia State University hospitality professor Debra Cannon asks her students what they desire in their careers, most name advancement opportunities before salary. “People want to see the ability for upward movement,” Cannon says.
For all of internal promotion’s benefits, however, the practice is not without its challenges. Industry insiders share five common problems created by promoting from within and offer battle-tested solutions:
- Problem: A newly appointed manager encounters trouble supervising her former peers.
- Solution: If possible, transfer the promoted employee to a different store rather than having her work in the current unit. If a transfer is not possible, consider providing progressive steps of heightened responsibility. Cannon says this should lessen some of those peer-to-manager challenges and provide the employee — and her co-workers — time to adapt. “It’s difficult when someone goes from peer one day to manager the next … and you could be setting up that employee for failure,” Cannon says.
- Problem: Feeling the need to promote based on seniority.
- Solution: The goal is to promote the right person from within, which doesn’t mean elevating staff on tenure alone. Cannon calls seniority-based promotions “dangerous” and a practice that quality-minded restaurant companies reject. “You have to be prepared for tough conversations … and understand that not everyone is meant to be a boss,” Farrell says.
- Problem: Charges of favoritism or bias follow an internal promotion.
- Solution: Announce the reasons someone was elevated, such as experience in different roles, performance metrics, or the particular skills the employee possesses that will help the restaurant succeed.
“Share the story of why someone was promoted,” Cannon says. “This can help eliminate the negative talk that goes on, while also helping other employees see what’s necessary to get ahead.”
- Problem: Wonderful workers who, when promoted, struggle from a lack of leadership qualities.
- Solution: Recognizing this problem within their ranks, Malnati’s began working with its managers to identify the skills necessary to be an organizational leader and then charged managers to assess those traits in promising employees. This, Streicher says, has helped curb the dicey situations that can arise when a quality worker earns a promotion, but then trips in the new position.
- Problem: Accurately assessing an employee’s leadership chops.
- Solution: To gauge one’s leadership potential, both Dawson and Cannon suggest making an employee a trainer first or involving them in new tasks, such as ordering, receiving, or operational duties for closing the restaurant.
“This helps the operator get a better sense of the employee’s abilities, but also allows the employee to feel valued and invested in,” Cannon says.
When to Scrap Internal Promotions
Even among the most devoted proponents of internal promotion, there remain times when restaurant leadership would be wise to look outside the organization to fill a particular role.
As restaurants evolve, the need for new perspectives (understanding of a franchised system or catering) or skills (tech knowledge or menu development) may simply not be present in-house. In knowing the restaurant’s present and future as well as current employees’ strengths and capabilities, an operator can make more strategic and informed hiring decisions — even if it means ditching the internal promotion mindset.
“Decisions have to be business based and made to set the operation up for success,” says Georgia State University hospitality professor Debra Cannon. “Operators can’t just hire for today’s needs, but need to look at potential needs down the line, which may mean bringing in new blood.”
Chicago-based writer Daniel P. Smith has covered business issues and best practices for a variety of trade publications, newspapers, and magazines.
Photos by Josh Keown
A drink together after work, watching a college football game over the weekend and friending each other on Facebook: all great activities to take on with buddies. But things get complicated when you’re laughing over cocktails with your employees. Suddenly, the work dynamic at your pizzeria is different. There are rumblings among the staff about favoritism. And your friend/employee is quitting work 30 minutes before the end of his shift.
The camaraderie among restaurant staff often sets the stage for friendships to form between employers and employees. There are benefits to nurturing these relationships; forming friendships with your staff helps lighten the large workload and eases the stress caused by the occasionally irate customer. But problems can arise. Christy Pearson of Opus Leadership Group says: “the risks to having a ‘friendship’ with an employee when we are the boss is that the boundaries of the relationship can get blurred and the focus can be more on the friendship and less on the business relationship.” Suddenly, you are no longer the boss in charge — you are someone your employees can hang out with, laugh with, drink with. The respect you’ve worked so hard to earn from your staff can be destroyed.
But the disadvantages of forming friendships with staff go much further than a loss of respect. For one, explains Roberta Matuson, CEO of Matuson Consulting and author of Suddenly in Charge, “sometimes friends take advantage of one another.” Your friend’s breaks start getting a little longer, and he treats your kitchen fridge as his personal snack bar. Your employee isn’t acting like one, and it is having a negative effect on your business. When you confront your friend and ask him to change his behavior, he brushes it off because you’ve lost all authority with him. “It’s hard to fire an employee,” cautions Matuson, “and it’s even more difficult when that employee is now your friend.”
Or your staff could start to feel resentment toward both you and your pal. Every time you praise your friend for a job well done, they’ll wonder why you’re not praising them. Every time your town’s big tippers are seated in her section, they’ll feel short-changed. Feelings of jealousy will start to brew among your employees, creating a negative environment your customers are sure to pick up on. And employees who feel they are being ignored in favor of the boss’s pet will start to search for another job where they will feel valued and appreciated. What’s more, Matuson warns, “claims of discrimination may easily surface if you are indeed treating certain people differently than others.”
One way to avoid the problems that come with mixing friendships with business is to keep things professional. “Bosses should be friendly,” advises human resources expert Andrea Ballard of Expecting Change, LLC, “but that doesn’t mean they have to be friends with their employees.” A professional relationship will not only make it easier for you to give your employee orders, you’ll be capable of honestly evaluating their performance without seeing it through the rose-tinted glasses of friendship.
But if you are already buddies with your staff, you can take steps to keep your friendships without losing control of your pizzeria. AP Grow, author of How Not to Suck as a Manager, says it starts with both parties recognizing “where the work relationship and the friendship both start and end. It may seem overcautious, but having a very direct conversation on this topic would not be a bad idea.” Set an example for your friend; if you want him or her to treat you like a boss at work, treat him or her like an employee. Save the gossip and the inside jokes for the times you spend together after hours, and keep at-work conversations on the topic at hand — work.
Both you and your friend should also have a clear understanding of his work responsibilities and the consequences of shirking them. “Just because a friendship has been established (or previously existed), does not mean that special favors are given,” explains Pearson. “The employee should understand that their role at work is to be a good employee and a good team member to the other employees.” When they see that you are expecting the same level of work ethic from your friend as you are from them, your employees will stop resenting your friendship and start working with you as a team. And they’ll cancel their job search.
With one person in the relationship wielding so much power, conflicts are bound to arise in boss/employee friendships. When they do, Pearson suggests you “take time to discuss and resolve the disagreement. Be mindful that having this conversation may not be appropriate at work. Wait until closing or when customers are not around so that adequate time and attention can be allowed to take care of the relationship.”
Above all, be honest with yourself. If you can’t manage being both boss and friend, it might make sense for your friend to find another job. Your pizzeria needs a strong leader; your friend needs a compassionate confidante. Take on only one role at a time, and your pizzeria and friendship will be all the stronger for it.
A Friendly Workplace
While you might not want to invite your employees on your family vacation, you shouldn’t treat them as nothing more than walking social security numbers. “When employers take care of their employees, their employees take care of the business,” says Christy Pearson of Opus Leadership Group.
To build a better work relationship with your employees, start by talking about your love for the pie. Bruce Markoe, Owner of Union Pizza Company in Manhattan Beach, California, sees results with this approach. “If they can feel the passion that I have for making a great pizza and understand why I feel that way, I can see that some of that passion does rub off on them so they care more about the quality of their work.”
And remember to celebrate your pizzeria’s success with the people who helped you achieve it. “Every time we break a daily sales record,” reveals Markoe, “I buy the beers and cake to share with the team.”
Toronto-based freelance writer Amy White covers business, management, and lifestyle issues for trade publications and magazines.
Photo by Josh Keown
I have a large group meet here on Thursdays, and they spend a lot of money. My staff gets bummed when they come because it’s frantic for a few hours. What gives?
One of my customer service counter people turned to the kitchen and announced that four carloads and a tour bus just pulled into my parking lot. The heads up was appropriate but the choice of nouns was shocking to me. I like a good laugh as well as the next person and love a practical joke. But there is one thing we cannot joke about: our customers.
They are the reason we go to work. They pay all of our bills, send our kids to school, put food on our tables and a roof over our heads. It was obvious that I hadn’t been reinforcing this message with my staff. At least one of them and probably a few more were mentally whining that they would have to bust their tails for a while.
It was obvious to me that I had the beginnings of a fatal disease creeping into my staff’s thinking. I was going to have to give them all a check up from the neck up.
Loving customers isn’t culturally hip. A lot of attitudes learned by our employees are absorbed from what they see and hear from their peers, television, radio and video games. The real world is not the real business world. Reality restaurant is not a joke du jour.
Your staff cannot deliver excellent service to your customers if they have never personally experienced it themselves. Many of your crew might think that great customer service sounds like, “Would you like ketchup with your fries?” It’s our job to educate them on what the standards of great customer service are in our restaurants.
Often, my staff would go above and beyond in numerous ways. For example, my delivery drivers would sometimes replaced burned-out light bulbs on front porches. This mindset of true, sincere customer service is exactly what is missing today. The nextopportunity you or your staff get to blow the customer away by fixing a problem, do it. Then smile and say, “It’s my pleasure.”
For more on customer service and a look at how Pizza Today encountered its own disappointing follow-up service recently, flip to the letters to the editor section on page 12 of this issue.
Big Dave Ostrander owned a highly successful independent pizzeria before becoming a consultant, speaker and internationally sought-after trainer. He is a monthly contributor to Pizza Today.
Photo by Josh Keown
Last year, the week before Christmas, Carmelo Lamotta needed to fire a server. He did not want to wait until after the holidays because then other workers would suffer. “If you keep someone an extra week because of the holidays, business drops because customers do not come in because of the poor customer service,” says Lamotta, who owns LaMotta’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria in Fort Myers, Florida. “You hate to let someone go, but here, we are a team. If one player is not playing, the team is not united, and the person brings the rest of the team down.”
Terminating an employee is never easy, but it is necessary when the worker affects others. Lamotta had repeatedly told the server that during slow times she was supposed to learn the menu. She declined, instead opting to stop other servers every time her tables asked her a question. That slowed everyone down, and it caused the better performing servers to neglect their own customers and even lose some tips. “We have a three-strike policy,” Lamotta says, adding that the policy comes as no surprise to employees. “They get the handbook and they know what’s demanded from them.”
Sometimes the decision to terminate an employee is not that clear because it’s hard to tell whether the staffer has a poor attitude or simply does not understand what to do.
It’s the difference between performance and values, says John Mazarakis, chief operating officer for Wilmington, Delaware-based Seasons Pizza. “I like to break it down as not being higher up on the learning curve versus someone not caring what you stand for,” he explains. “If someone is taking the pizza out of the oven slowly, I can’t fire them for that. I can train them. But if someone says, ‘I will not take the pizza out of the oven faster,’ that shows me their values.”
Performance is measurable, Mazarakis says. At the 28-unit Seasons, the person taking phone orders must say, “thank you” to the customer on the phone. Otherwise they get two verbal warnings, and then a written warning.
“The write-up is not reprimanding, it’s an opportunity to learn,” Mazarakis says. “It’s not, ‘Why did you do this?’ but, ‘This is what we want you to say on the phone.’ ”
The third write-up can end up being the exit interview. The manager has the choice of terminating the employee or giving them another chance. If the person is really trying and demonstrates a good attitude, they should be trained more. “I would not fire that person,” Mazarakis says. “You have to be candid with your employees. You have to give them enough chances to redeem themselves.”
You also have to document everything, says Carolyn D. Richmond, a partner in the law firm Fox Rothschild, LLP in New York City. “When I get a call from a client saying ‘Can I fire this person?’ I say ‘send over the personnel files’, and they are inevitably too thin,” says Richmond, who chairs the hospitality practice for the firm. “In a perfect world you have files with performance review forms and disciplinary documents with all the right boxes checked.”
In general, restaurants employ people at will, which means they do not have a contract (as some executives do) and they are not members of a union. With at-will employment, the person can quit any time, and the employer can terminate employment any time for any reason, but it cannot be an illegal reason, such as that the person is in a protected class. Richmond explains that the operator can fire the employee for making a mistake so grave that the restaurant loses $5,000 worth of cheese, but the person might sue the operator and claim they were fired because they were 50 years old or Jewish.
That’s why it helps to document everything. If the manager reprimands the person for mouthing off at a customer, the reprimand should be written, signed by the employee and placed in the file. (Incidentally, no one has to give the employee three tries. You can fire someone the very first time they use foul language to a customer, Richmond says.)
The documentation does not have to be on paper. It could also be an e-mail. “It should not be informal,” says Margaret Parnell Hogan, a partner with the law firm Littler Mendelson. “Write it with the same care as you would write a letter to the employee.” A worker can delete an e-mail, but the messages never really go away.
Just make sure you have a “paper” trail. “Employers think, ‘everyone will believe me, I am an honest businessperson,’ ” says Hogan, who works in the firm’s Denver office. “But jurors like pieces of paper.”
Richmond says the exit interview can be constructive if the person is resigning to take another job. The employer can gather information on how to improve the culture or benefits of the establishment. “It’s different when it’s a termination,” Richmond says. “Really you want to get in, get out.”
At least be honest. “Do not say you are eliminating that position, because they are going to look for a job on Craigslist and they are going to see you posted the job, and they will run to a lawyer,” Richmond says. “Tell them they weren’t right for this job.”
When you conduct a performance review or write a warning, the employee has to sign the document. “We want them to acknowledge they’ve been warned and another action will result in termination,” says Carolyn D. Richmond, a partner at the law firm Fox Rothschild, LLP in New York City. “But the employee never wants to sign it.”
Richmond says one of her clients found a solution. The employer would make a big show of how furious he was that the employee didn’t want to sign the form. Finally he would turn over the page and tell the employee to indicate that they object to the bad review or the warning. “He even had a stamp made that said, ‘I object,’ with a line so the employee could sign it.” The employee would sign it, happy to record the dissent.
That’s all the employer needs. “It doesn’t matter that the employee objects,” Richmond says. “They acknowledge that they saw it, they read it, they know they were warned.”
Pamela Mills-Senn is a freelancer specializing in writing on topics of interest to all manner of businesses. She is based in Long Beach, California.
Photos by Josh Keown
There is something noticeable about the staff’s look at Cocco’s Pizza in Primos, Pennsylvania, — expression of individuality and brand awareness. Employees sport graphic T-shirts with the pizzeria’s name and logo. Owner Michael Cocco says his dress code reflects his crew’s personalities.
Everyone is wearing something just a little different from one another. They can select from new and retro designed T-shirts. With 35 years of designs, they have a lot of options. Cocco works with a neighboring printing company to keep the shop’s designs on file. If someone doesn’t find one they like, Cocco says, they are welcome to buy their own style tops and he’ll have the print shop screen print on them.
“They are able to express how they want their shirts to look,” Cocco says. “I like the individuality of our shirts. It makes us a little different.”
It may appear like the pizzeria doesn’t have much of a dress code, but at closer examination there’s method to Cocco’s casual presentation. The dress code standards are outlined in its employee handbook, though he always verbally reinforces his expectations.
Cocco supplies the shirts — the more days they work, the more shirts he gives. If employees want extra, he charges $5. There is a $10 replacement penalty if employees forget their shirts.
Cocco isn’t too strict about the rest of his employees’ attire. He doesn’t allow sweat pants or gym shorts. There has been confusion on what constitutes sweats or gym shorts. In those instances, he says he makes the final decision. He doesn’t mind a few holes in the jeans, but he has sent people home for wearing pants with an overabundance of holes.
“They just have to use common sense,” Cocco says. “We really try to set a family atmosphere. Customers watch what you wear.”
Having your dress code spelled out in writing, formally stating specific uniform standards — no matter how loose — and courses of action for failures to comply with requirements, is good business.
After all, employees’ appearance reflects a restaurant’s brand. Choosing not to have a set dress code creates confusion, says human resources expert and trainer Roberta Matuson. “You just have to be very specific as far as what does a clean, neat attire look like? The more you can do to eliminate people from having to make those decisions themselves the better.”
Haley’s Pizzeria in Litchfield, New Hampshire, also has a loose dress code. In fact, staff members simply wear jeans and t-shirts. The key, says owner Mike DeMarco, is outlining what is not acceptable — no sleeveless shirts, no low-cut or sagging pants, nothing vulgar or explicit on t-shirts, nothing that shows cleavage or posterior and no Yoga pants or jeans. DeMarco gives each employee a Haley’s T-shirt when they are hired, but it is not a required piece of uniform.
Having a uniform accessible and clean can be stressful for employees, DeMarco says. “I would rather them put their energy into the product and the customers,” he explains.
While Cocco’s and Haley’s take a casual approach to dress codes, Mama’s Famous Pizza & Heros in Tucson, Arizona, and Aldo’s Ristorante Italiano & Bar in Naples, Florida, have stricter requirements.
Mama’s four locations have a dress code, requiring employees to wear kakis or white pants, a brown Mama’s shirt, green apron and hat. Manager Liz Biocca says, “it’s the image that we want them to present and staff appearance should be consistent.” The restaurant supplies one of each, costing the restaurant under $10 per piece. But if the uniform gets stained or torn, Mama’s will replace it free.
Common violations of Mama’s dress codes are forgotten hats and shirts that are not tucked in. There’s a warning process when the policy is violated, Biocca says.
Kelly Musico says Aldo’s goes for a classy, sophisticated look — black button down shirt, black pants, black bistro apron and black non-slip shoes. The uniforms, she says, also make staff easily identifiable to customers, especially when Aldo’s caters off-site.
Aldo’s dress code is always enforced and gives employees multiple chances. “First offense, we will issue a loaner; second offense, employee will get sent home; third offense, employee will receive a written violation; and fourth offense, termination,” Musico says.
It is important to set reasonable standards, Matuson says. Expecting a white shirt to stay clean in an environment filled with red sauce is not going to be effective. Nor is supplying a style of uniform that does not fit everyone. If skirts are a piece of the uniform, she suggests also offering pants as an option. Be flexible.
Success of a dress code, Matuson says, comes down to communicating what’s in it for the staff. “You have to appeal to people’s self interest,” she says.
Also, make sure you and your managers are modeling the attire policy, Matuson says. It difficult to get employees to adhere to the rules when they see management disregard them.
Whether your style is extreme casual or formal, let your employees know how you expect them to dress for work. It is your image that they are representing.
Tips for Success
Dress codes are not complete without appearance standards. Many requirements, like pulling hair back in a ponytail or a hairnet, come down to local health code mandates. Some things like not displaying visible tattoos are image representation.
Where your dress code can get into legal hot water is if it violates federal and state employee discrimination laws. The rules are in place to protect employees from “unfair treatment because of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 and older), disability or genetic information,” enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Make certain that the policy you’ve set into place doesn’t leave you vulnerable to lawsuits. Run your dress code standards by your attorney.
Denise Greer is associate editor at Pizza Today.
In far too many businesses leadership has fallen by the wayside. That includes owners and managers in the pizza business. The economy, rising costs, fierce competition and long days and nights have caused most owners to have little, if any, time to think about their ability to lead. They are simply trying to stay afloat.
Even those pizza business owners who are experiencing strong growth rarely stop and think about how much more productive and profitable they could be if they paid more attention to this critical area of business.
Smart owners however, have recognized that success starts and stops with an organization’s leadership. They know that no matter how mouth-watering and delightful their pizza is, and how creative their marketing, advertising and promotions may be, they can never accomplish their goals without a highly motivated staff. They operate with a basic business fundamental that many small business owners seem to forget: Employee performance is the key to success and long-term business growth. Within the motivated employee are ideas, solutions to problems and the ability to bring customers back.
In an ideal world, every person you hire is self-motivated. However, in the pizza business, there are obstacles, including limited opportunities for advancement and ceilings on pay increases. Therefore, it’s up to you and your managers to keep employees motivated to deliver the highest level of customer service each day. This is not an easy task, and much depends on how employees feel about their boss.
The Boss Vs. the Manager Vs. a Dynamic Leader
Although these three roles are supervisory in nature, they are distinctly different. Which one are you?
Boss: Simply put, a boss is someone who owns the business or someone with a title who tells people what to do. He or she passes out orders as easily as salespeople pass out business cards. Interestingly, the number one cause of job dissatisfaction in America is working for a bad boss! These bosses micromanage people, show favoritism, talk down to their staff and shoot down ideas. There should be a policy of “Zero-Tolerance for Bad Bosses” in every company.
Manager: A manager directs, decides, and interacts with his or her staff to oversee operations, make sure customers are happy and watch over the cash register. Managers in the pizza business are responsible for much more. Regardless of what type of business they work in, managers are accountable to owners for results.
Dynamic Leader: A dynamic leader has a vision of where he or she wants the business to go. They eloquently communicate their vision and have an innate ability to motivate, inspire, and influence their staff to do what needs to be done – and do it well. Smart pizza business owners practice dynamic leadership and insist their managers do the same. They also recognize that because they have a title, they don’t automatically get respect. They have to earn it.
Be a Dynamic Leader
To determine your ability to lead and motivate your employees, start by considering your core values. Hopefully, you have established them, and have posted them on your website, placed them in a frame and put them on your walls. Some common core values include: honesty, integrity, respect, ethics, excellence, teamwork, accountability – you get the idea.
Set the example for others to follow. It's the one leadership principal most people have heard and it seems like its simple enough. Think about the type of person you would want to follow; be that person. Work alongside staff and demonstrate your core values, a strong work ethic and the highest-level professionalism.
Being open-minded is a mindset that rock-solid leaders possess. It's one of invitation and collaboration, where you are genuinely interested in hearing the ideas and opinions of their employees. While it's important to ensure focus by adhering to an overarching vision, leaders who welcome the input of their employees are typically the ones who are most respected. Far too many business owners and managers fall short by not asking for ideas and opinions.
Effective Communication – An Essential Element of Leadership
Studies have proven that 85 percent of an individual’s overall career success is directly proportionate to his or her ability to communicate. That doesn’t mean you have to become a public speaker. It means you need to get your message through to people and apply effective communication. Here’s how:
• Be a straight shooter. Your staff should always hear the truth and know that you tell it like it is. They should also know your opinions.
• Practice the “One Minute Manager.” Catch someone doing something good and appreciate them. Catch someone doing something wrong, and correct them in private, never in front of others.
• Avoid miscommunication. Always ask your team if your expectations, instructions, etc., are clear.
• Know how to communicate with people on all levels and ages. Never talk down to anyone.
• Be confident, consistent, and caring. Your employees are listening for the attitude behind your words.
• Listen. Don’t worry about trying to express yourself better (you don’t have to be talkative to be a leader). Think instead about asking good questions. Resist the temptation to think about what you want to say in response when carrying on a conversation. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn, and how much better you understand people you thought you understood before. People rightly see leaders as those who understand them, or who make the effort to try to understand them.
• Listening is a function of asking questions. Spend 20 minutes each day talking to individual employees and asking questions similar to those below.
Often, your biggest challenge is time. But taking the time to talk to your staff individually and in teams is important. Your pizza should be perfect, but it is your staff – from your pizza maker to your drivers to your servers – who are developing the reputation of your pizza business.
• Make your pizza place a great place to come to work every day.
• Expect people to make mistakes. No person or team is perfect.
• Focus on what is really important and set priorities. Simplify the business as much as possible.
• Nip problems in the bud
• Reward and recognize employees for great service
• Always know what’s going on in your business and your team
• Set the highest standards for customer service and performance
• Be very clear on what, specifically your employees should be accountable for.
• Involve your team in the creation of “guiding principles” on how you agree to treat customers and each other.
• Do not tolerate underperformers or negative employees
• Never let a day go by where you don’t thank employees, individually and in teams for their hard work.
As you interact with your staff, remember: Dynamic leaders motivate and inspire employees to follow their lead and deliver their best performance. They demand that their managers also practice dynamic leadership, which ultimately improves your businesses bottom line. Now, ask yourself this question, “Would you want to work for you?
Christine Corelli is a business speaker and author of five business books, including the best-selling “Wake Up and Smell the Competition” and “Capture Your Competitors’ Customers and KEEP Them.” She will give seminars at Pizza Expo 2013 on leadership and how to handle problem employees.
For more details on International Pizza Expo 2013, visit www.pizzaexpo.com.
Tired of having another week of employees calling off, being late or making complaints like, “I hate it when it’s busy”? Feel like you are in the dark, with no idea where to turn to help improve your pizza operation?
Stop the insanity! While there is no one simple solution to this restaurant dilemma, there are a number of proven strategies to help make running a pizza restaurant more efficient, effective and profitable.
If you’ve ever played darts, chances are you never did so with the lights off. You wouldn’t know if you hit the target, how many points you scored or if you won the game. However, too many pizza operators and franchisees take this approach to building their team: ill-defined or non-existent hiring profiles, interviewing by “gut-feel,” training by the seat of their pants and little-to-no recognition or rewards. And then they wonder why their restaurant struggles!
Stop playing darts in the dark. To move sales, service and profits forward, these effective points of light can help you perform better:
1) Have hiring traits established by position. A delivery driver or server requires an entirely different skill set than someone in prep or a cashier. What traits do your top performers in those areas have? List them, and then interview for those traits. Hire only those people who have the characteristics needed. Examples vary by position but often include integrity, friendliness, attention to detail, sense of urgency, and so on.
2) Know your needs. Do you need full- or part-time? Nights or weekends? Over 18 to use the slicer/mixer? To effectively recruit, these needs must be known, and the way to do that is to create a manpower plan.
3) Know your employee turnover and recruit BEFORE you have a hole to fill (so you can avoid crisis-hiring). If you have 20 employees and your turnover is 150 percent, you hire 30 people per year, or 2.5 per month. Build this into your plan to be proactive.
4) Use behavior-based questions that search for the personality traits you’re seeking. Avoid hypothetical questions such as, “What would you do if ___?” You will get hypothetical answers. Instead ask, “The last time ____ happened, what did you do?” These types of questions will be answered by what they did, not what they know they should have done.
5) Seek a cultural fit. The final point in the recruitment and selection process is where you should ask, “Will he or she fit in here?” If your environment is a bit edgy, for example, you’ll want different employees than if it’s mainstream.
Once you hire the right person, the next set of lights includes training, rewards and recognition—all designed to help retain that employee and ensure he or she performs at peak levels.
Training today’s generation is a far cry from even 10 or 15 years ago. Long gone is ‘linear’ training filled with manuals, videos and memorization. This generation simply wants to know what is needed, when it’s needed, where it’s needed. Think Google versus VHS. Make it easy to find out information when it’s needed (i.e. Google) instead of relying on a large operations manual or lengthy training videos that are hard to navigate through to find specifics.
Training content should be short bursts of information, followed by intense practice of that skill. Build behaviors more quickly by ensuring the trainers have more time to spend on skill practice and coaching versus giving out information.
Have staff members create short video snippets or PowerPoint presentations (basic “e-learning”) to ensure the consistent delivery of information. A new employee watches the video or module and then practices with the trainer to refine quality, accuracy and the speed required in the position.
Additionally, link QR codes to the short video clips to make them available for ongoing training, such as refresher courses or as pre-shift meeting topics. As the GM Truck Ad says, “Amateurs practice until they get it right. Pros practice until they can’t get it wrong!”
The last light is reward and recognition. Think “MBA” (Mutually Beneficial for All). Reward performance that drives your business. Here’s an example: Instead of a raise to get the kitchen staff to lower food cost, create an incentive of 10-20 cents per hour for the kitchen team to get your food cost down to ideal/theoretical levels. No change in food cost? No incentive pay out of your pocket!
Need to drive sales? Put an incentive together for employees who bring you large orders of five pizzas or more. Reward them with 5 percent of the orders they bring in. You save/make more money and also reward those who helped you get there…MBA!
We’ve all tried to run a pizza restaurant by ourselves, and it can’t be done … very well, at least. Those operators who are successful surround themselves with talented people who are matched best for their positions and the brand. Intense focus on hiring standards, rigorous training and an MBA approach to rewards are the lights to help you see the bull’s-eye—and hit it by creating a team of top performers.
TJ Schier is a speaker and consultant with one foot in the restaurant business, as operator of more than a dozen Which Wich sandwich shops. He will give seminars at Pizza Expo 2013 on Training Tactics for Pizza Pros and 10 Tactics to Make Your Frontline Improve Your Bottom Line.
For more details on International Pizza Expo 2013, visit www.pizzaexpo.com.
Every business owner wants a company culture in which employees are happy to work hard to foster business growth and profits. But achieving this winning atmosphere can prove elusive.
First and foremost, you must have a well-defined company vision, mission and set of values. What is your company all about? Where is it now? Where is it going? Next, develop a strategic action plan for getting there. When it’s time to execute the plan, your company culture should be evident in every aspect—from your marketing materials to your menu items to your employees. The first two are relatively easy to implement, but the real return comes from your employees.
When your employees buy in to your company culture, they’re motivated to help you increase pizzeria profits. Your employees aren’t simply hired hands; they’re the people who make and deliver your pizzas, who maintain your equipment and restaurant, and who represent your company directly to customers. Thus, it stands to reason that happy employees who believe in your mission have a direct impact on business growth and profitability. Implementing a winning employee company culture is paramount to achieving the highest possible level of success, and you can do so by understanding the following three keys:
Performance-based incentives are some of the best tools for motivating employees to follow company culture. Recognize when employees do something outstanding and then reward them for it. Make sure your other employees know who is being rewarded and why. Reasons to reward your employees include perfect attendance, handling a busy period well, coming up with a great idea, or anything else that aligns with the company culture you’ve implemented.
Often, recognition is reward enough, but add in incentives such as gift cards, concert tickets or a paid day off to make employees feel extra-special. Your employee reward program can also serve as a launch pad for promoting your company culture to customers. You might, for example, place photos of honored employee in your dining area along with an explanation of their reward. Or, when you give out a large reward or team reward, you could submit press releases to local media to highlight employee excellence and showcase your company culture.
Telling your employees about your company culture isn’t enough; you have to involve them in it. Your employees are in the trenches, if you will, and often have great ideas for making your business more efficient and profitable. Invite them to submit suggestions, and reward them for it. You might have a “Great Idea of the Week” board, for example. Make it fun to get involved; your employees will respond.
Ideas with merit should be further developed by those who originate them. Make this work by empowering your employees to investigate whether their proposals will succeed. Be open and honest about your business issues. If you are, your employees will come forward with solutions—so long as their ideas are genuinely considered and they do not have to fear failure. Involve employees with your business this way makes them feel important and highly valued, and they will feel responsible for your company’s success. Such a sense of responsibility is an outstanding motivator.
3. Follow Through
Many companies begin to implement company culture, only to find that time constraints prohibit them from following through. The best intentions then become good ideas never enacted. Involving and rewarding employees is critical to your success, but these strategies can only work when consistently applied. Employees won’t buy in to company culture if they’re continually disappointed by a lack of rewards and involvement. Actions speak louder than words, and as a pizzeria owner or manager you must practice what you preach.
Continually track and measure rewards and involvement levels for each employee. Make sure those who consistently work to grow your business are recognized for their efforts. If an employee’s big idea continues to be profitable long after implementation, take the time to thank them again.
Rather than chastising underperforming employees, take the time to learn what their interests and motivators are. Maybe you haven’t provided the right incentive. It can be a small thing: One of your delivery drivers, for example, might be more interested in coming up with ideas for route efficiency if she were to be rewarded with concert tickets rather than movie tickets. If you know that, you know what button to push.
You want your employees to be excited about coming to work and making your products and services better and more profitable. To do so, you must educate employees about your culture, involve them in fostering business growth, reward them for their efforts with motivational incentives, and consistently measure employee performance in regards to company culture. When your employees buy in, they go all in to help your business achieve growth and profits.
Company culture is one of three topics World Champion Pizza Maker of the Year Shawn Randazzo, of Detroit Style Pizza Co., will be covering at the Pizza Expo in March. He also will present seminars on “Maximizing Delivery Profits” and “Making the Most of Online Orders.”
For more details on International Pizza Expo 2013, visit www.pizzaexpo.com.
Managing and motivating the younger employee can be one of the most challenging situations a manager faces. How in the world do you get optimal performance from someone in the “younger generation” who may not seem to want to be motivated?
Many managers think it’s impossible to bridge the gap. Others, however, have successfully obtained high performance and loyalty from Gen Y. These managers realize that the idea that young people cannot be motivated and do not want to be strong contributors to an organization is just a myth.
Don’t get caught dismissing the possibilities of Gen Y. You have the potential to hire younger workers and turn them into superior employees. Assuming that you’ve hired someone with a good attitude, you can rely on these young workers to rise to the occasion. They are technically savvy and energetic, and they can be challenged to be top performers. Here’s what they wish they could tell their managers:
“I want an interesting and challenging job.”
Most members of this generation have a short attention span. If you want to retain your younger workers, give them more than a “job.” Give them problems to solve, challenging situations and a stimulating environment. They are attracted to and will likely stay in workplaces where they are continually stimulated.
If their job role is repetitious, they will get bored easily and feel less productive. In addition to current job responsibilities, give them assignments that will make them feel their feedback is vital to the organization. Assign them to a task force or put them on a project.
“I want to work for a company with a great future.”
Many young employees do not know the “vision” of their top executive—most likely because it is not clearly and frequently expressed. A younger employee will not be satisfied to stay with an organization that doesn’t communicate leadership direction. Describe your company’s direction with clarity and consistency. Ask your younger workers how they interpret that direction. Share your strategy for creating and sustaining success.
“I want to work for a company that is well managed.”
Younger employees may not have experience, but they do recognize the importance of management’s performance. They become discouraged when their “leaders” are not performing well and are not taking action where needed. If the management of your company cannot effectively lead, nothing else matters to the younger generation. They will become frustrated. Worse, they will become demotivated and leave as soon as they get another opportunity.
“I want to work for a company that has strong values.”
The younger generation likes being with company that espouses values in sync with their own. While the work and pay are important to younger workers, never underestimate the importance of values. Your core values should include honesty, integrity, teamwork, respect, customer focus, accountability, excellence, continuous improvement, health and safety, family, commitment and environmental stewardship. The latter is important to them because they grew up learning about the importance of “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” in school. An overwhelming majority of young workers have expressed this in numerous surveys. They will lose respect for a company that doesn’t take sustainability seriously.
“When you hire me, I want to prove myself, but I don’t necessarily want to work as hard as you do at first. You will need to give me a reason to be motivated and that would be YOU.”
Unless they have an MBA, most young employees have not internalized the importance of customer service or making a profit. To motivate them, you need make them want to be motivated and perform well. They must want to follow your lead.
“I want a great boss who plays down authority, mentors me, recognizes my talents and believes in me.”
Just because you are “the boss” doesn’t mean you automatically have the respect of the younger generation. You have to earn it. You earn it by building trust and by playing down authority. Take personal interest in them, mentor them, and display honesty, integrity and fairness. Continually exhibit every aspect of dynamic leadership. Once a young worker trusts and respects you, he or she will perform for you even if the job is not their dream job.
As busy as you are, find the time to ask your young employees what they enjoy doing in their spare time and what hobbies they have. Ask where they see themselves in the future. Ask if they have personal and professional goals. Show an interest!
Once you are confident of the competency and quality of their work, tell them you have every confidence in them and that you trust them. (Doing so is a very strong motivator.) Then let them run with the ball. Don’t micromanage. Giving young people the responsibility and authority to accomplish results is one of the most effective ways to obtain the most from them.
“I want to understand how my boss thinks.”
The days of “do what I tell you to do” are over forever. When interacting with younger employees, take a few minutes to explain your rationale and why you do things the way you do. Just three short minutes of explanation can make a young employee feel special and provide invaluable insight into your organization.
“I want to be accepted and treated exactly the same as every other employee, even if I don’t have the same amount of experience.”
Treat young employees the same as your seasoned employees. If you don’t, they will pick up on it immediately. Remind your seasoned employees that younger employees must be treated with the same importance and respect as others and explain why diversity in age groups is beneficial to every team.
“I want to have a voice in the decision-making.”
Young workers enjoy organizations and departments that have a high level of employee involvement. They want to participate in idea-sharing and problem-solving sessions. Their ideas are often fresh and new. Include young employees in these sessions or place them on task forces to help in this area. Ask for their opinions on a frequent basis. Give them a say in how work their work gets done.
“I’d rather go home on time to be with friends and family because I value life-balance more than you do.”
Young employees look upon their job as what they do between weekends. They value life balance. If they have to work longer hours, they become unhappy unless paid or rewarded.
“I want great technology and social media access.”
Studies have proven that young employees prefer communication via technology. If you want your younger worker to be able to relate to you and you still don’t know how to send a text message, now would be a good time to learn. Young people are constantly connected to information and constantly communicating with peers. Their brains are programmed to absorb and process information from many sources quickly. The good news is that their ease in mastering new technology can help others in your company learn how to use it. Ask them for their assistance.
“I want training.”
Training young employees demonstrates that they are important to you. Smart managers set up regular teaching sessions for them on different parts of the business. Some companies set up workshops to expose younger employees to different aspects of the business. If you recognize leadership ability, tell the employee that you recognize them as a future leader in your company and train them on how to demonstrate leadership. Remind them that they don’t need a title to be a leader.
“I want to be appreciated for my work.”
As Dale Carnegie said, “All human beings have two invisible signs. One says, ‘Make me feel important.’ The other says, ‘Appreciate me.’” Younger people want and need approval; they also want to feel a sense of accomplishment. Tell younger workers that you have observed their hard work and how much you appreciate it. No manager can expect high performance from any employee without praise and appreciation.
“I like informal environments and may not have the understanding of professionalism as you do.”
When you hire young people, explain how to answer the phone, what to wear, and what not to wear, and other aspects of being professional. Ask them to define “professionalism” and help them understand what it means: coming in on time, helping others, respecting company property, refraining from gossip and negativity, and recognizing that they should think and act as ambassadors of your company.
“I want to work at a place that I look forward to going to work each day, and maybe even have some fun.”
Fun in the workplace. What a novel idea! Most people think that we need to take our work seriously. Of course we do, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a little fun along the way. Learn to make work as fun as possible. Sales contests and games work very well with the younger generation. Have friendly competitions between teams for predetermined goals.
Managing and motivating the younger generation involves a great deal more than I’ve noted in this brief article. For now, imagine you are in your 20s and ask yourself this question: “Would you work for you?”
Consultant and author Christine Corelli will present two seminars at Pizza Expo 2013 in March: “Are You a Boss or a Leader?” and “How to Handle Problem Employees.”
For more details on International Pizza Expo 2013, visit www.pizzaexpo.com.
Our country is still experiencing high unemployment, yet many employers are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to hire people who will stick around. How can this be? If you’re one of those businesses, you’ve also probably noticed other pizzerias in your area that don’t have any trouble bringing in new staff members. Here’s how you, too, can grab your slice of the talent pool.
Reputation matters. It’s critical that you hire right the first time; your reputation depends on it. Can teenagers (your future workforce) hear you yelling on the street at a bad hire? Are former employees advising their siblings and friends to steer clear of your business?
We all know things can heat up rapidly when working in a pizzeria, but that’s no excuse for acting like the “Soup Nazi” we’ve all seen on Seinfeld. Tempers can rise when operators are frustrated with their staff—a situation that can be avoided by picking the right work force.
Here’s a page right out of my book, Selecting for Success: The Complete Guide to Hiring Top Talent. You hire right the first time by:
1. Identifying what your best employees (past and present) have in common. We call these “traits.” For staff members of pizzerias, these may include being conscientious, dependable and outgoing. But you must go deeper and understand how traits will vary depending on position. How vital, for example, is it for a delivery driver to be outgoing? You absolutely must have a manager who is conscientious, but if a server is less organized does that qualify as a deal breaker?
2. Taking the time to learn how to properly assess candidates and training your staff to do this as well. Most of my clients readily admit that interviewing is one area where they most likely wouldn’t receive a passing grade. That may explain why their turnover rates are sky high. However, doing nothing doesn’t stop the problem of costly staff churn. You can become a better interviewer and assessor of prospective employees, and there are many resources to help you.
3. Being patient. This is probably the most challenging part of the hiring process, as most owners want to just get it over with. And they do, by accepting someone who is competent but not great. Why shouldn’t you have great? If you’ve identified exactly what you need and trained yourself how to look for it, the quality of your hires will rise significantly.
Are you selling the right thing? You’re probably selling prospects on the fact that this is a job. Period. But that’s not what most people are looking for. They want an experience. Employees want to feel a connection to their employer, and more importantly, to their co-workers.
I remember my first job at The Ponderosa Steakhouse. I still have fond memories of that job, even though I came home every night smelling like salad dressing and I always had to wear a yellow shirt and a cowboy hat. Why? Because it felt like we were a family. Management made it a point to provide tables for us to dine together prior to our shift. Some of us spent more time at that table than the one in our homes. We worked with a great crew and had solid managers who quietly corralled us if we strayed.
What type of experience are you offering your people? Is your crew part of a company-sponsored bowling league or today’s version—a Wii League? Are you coming together monthly to support the community? Are you promoting from within and allowing people to build their skills, so that when they leave—and almost all of them will, eventually—they can say this was time well spent? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then that’s what you should be selling when you hire a top-notch staff.
Are you casting your net wide enough? The restaurant business is said to be a young person’s province because of the physical demands that are required of the job. At least that used to be the case. Sadly, today’s youth are often less fit than their parents, who may be in need of extra income to send their offspring to college.
When recruiting, cast your net wide. Be open to the possibility that your ideal hire may look nothing like the person you imagine in the job.
Social media can also help expand your search. Be sure to post job announcements on your Facebook page, LinkedIn and Twitter. But don’t forget about some of the more traditional tried and true ways of recruiting. These include networking, establishing relationships with local colleges, career fairs, sponsoring high school clubs and placing a posting in your church or synagogue bulletin.
Your slice of the talent pool is there for the taking—if you’re willing to take a closer look at your recruitment process to see what’s working and what’s not, and then make the necessary changes.
Human resources consultant Roberta Chinsky Matuson (Roberta@matusonconsulting.com) is the author of The Magnetic Workplace: How to Hire Top Talent That Will Stick Around, which will be published in 2013. See PizzaExpo.com to find out more about her scheduled appearances at Pizza Expo 2013.
Roberta Matuson will present two seminars during Pizza Expo 2013, “Find and Keep Your Slice of the Employee Talent Pool” at 9 a.m. on Tues., March 19, and “Gen Y Strategies for Business Growth,” also on Tuesday and at 2:30 p.m. In addition, she will speak on the subject of hiring staff for a newly opening pizzeria during special pre-show programming on Mon., March 18. See PizzaExpo.com for details.
Submit your questions via e-mail to Jeremy White (email@example.com) — make sure to put “Ask Big Dave” in the subject line.
We’ll pass the best questions on to Dave each month for his highly sought-after advice.
Dave, I just opened my first pizzeria a couple of months ago. Labor has consistently been running
between 20-22 percent. At times, I feel short-staffed, but I really can’t afford to hire new help right now until I get sales higher. Do you have any suggestions for me? Is my labor where it should be?
Davie P’s Pizza
The industry average pushes 30 percent of gross sales. If you are computing wages, salaries and benefits correctly, you are running a phenomenal operation. Since new operations generally are not well-oiled machines, they will often run labor in the high 30s. By the way, to clear up a common misconception, labor cost is not what the computer says in its on-the-fly report. Most POS systems are fantastic time clocks that can keep a running total of clocked-in employees to the minute. Divide that amount into the sales (less sales tax) and you get a labor report.
Most accountants worth their fees will describe labor costs as the sum of:
1. Hourly wages
2. Salaried managers
3. Workers’ comp insurance premiums
4. Unemployment contributions
5. Medicare and Social Security matching fees
6. Any paid vacation or medical insurance charges
8. Basically, any cost associated with providing a job for someone
You are to be congratulated on your 20 to 22 percent labor. Please ask your financial person to compute in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and get back to me. I believe you are working your guts out with a fair amount of in-training crew.
If you feel like your customers aren’t receiving extraordinary guest service at every step of the hospitality process, you are doomed.
My drivers are complaining about doing extra work during non-peak times, such as cleaning and answering phones. But I don’t have enough delivery orders for them to do nothing but deliver. What should I cross-train them to do?
A&K’s Pizza Pub
Your problem started at the time of hire. As the owner, you have failed to make job descriptions crystal clear. I developed an employee handbook as well as a power point presentation that new hires had to watch. Afterwards, they were tested to make sure they understood the material.
I’ll assume that you accidently hired a couple of ‘prima donnas’ and they are resisting doing the dirty work. If you think you can turn them around, take them back to square one. If you know they are not going to adapt, help them with a career change. And get to work on that employee handbook! u
Big Dave Ostrander owned a highly successful independent pizzeria before becoming a consultant, speaker and internationally sought-after trainer. He is a monthly contributor to Pizza Today.
Photos by Rick Daugherty
Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of a two-part series on tip reporting. Part I was published in our March issue.
Your employees are required by law to report 100 percent of their tips. As the employer, it is your responsibility to make sure employee tips are accurately reported. To assist with this, there are several tip reporting agreements designed by the IRS to encourage employer diligence.
The Tip Rate Determination Agreement (TRDA) requires at least 75 percent of employees to sign a Tipped Employee Participation Agreement (TEPA) and report tips received at or above the rate determined by the IRS and the restaurant. The Tip Reporting Alternative Commitment (TRAC) is where an employer agrees to establish and maintain a quarterly education program for all directly and indirectly tipped employees as well as formal tip reporting procedures as outlined by the IRS. Employers assume responsibility for tip reporting, and the IRS doesn’t assess the business employment taxes on unreported tips unless the employees are audited first. There’s also the Employer-Designed Tip Reporting Alternative Commitment (EmTRAC), available only to businesses where employees receive both cash and credit tips. The newest effort by the IRS to simplify tip reporting is the voluntary Attributed Tip Income Program (ATIP). Eligibility requires that at least 20 percent of gross receipts be charged receipts with credit tips, and at least 75 percent of tipped employees must sign employee participation agreements. ATIP provides a formula for employers to determine tip rates. The IRS will not initiate tip examinations if ATIP requirements are met satisfactorily.
Employers who operate large food or beverage establishments (food or beverage is provided for consumption on the premises, tipping is a customary practice and more than 10 employees who work more than 80 hours were normally employed on a typical business day during the previous calendar year) must also annually file Form 8027, Employer’s Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips to report employee tips. (See IRS.gov for forms and more info; The National Restaurant Association also provides information on income laws, see www.restaurant.org).
None of this sits particularly well with pizzeria owners, and the information overload and complexity of the issue is dizzying. Melissa Klein, operations manager and finance director at Stone Hearth Pizza (which has three locations in Belmont, Cambridge and Needham, Massachusetts), says pizzerias are especially vulnerable to negligible tip reporting by young employees who don’t understand either the actual legalities regarding tip reporting or the serious consequences associated with taking them for granted.
“Tip reporting is one of those areas where people like to interpret the law to their own benefit, which, quite frankly, when you’re dealing with the government, you can’t do that,” says Klein. “You don’t want to do that. When you’re a young server — a lot of kids in college will become a server and they don’t fully grasp the implications of tip reporting — it’s so tempting for them (to under-report) … Say, at the end of a typical night, they make $125. (It’s tempting when) they do their cash out (to say) … no one really knows I made $125 — let me just put in $75!”
Klein counters potential confusion by making education a priority from the moment a server is hired. “From the first day of training, they are explained how it works, and that is that you declare 100 percent of your tips,” says Klein.
She also explains to employees that it’s beneficial to them to correctly report their income, because not doing so can be detrimental when seeking a loan or other income-based agreement.
As the IRS continues to interpret and develop tip-reporting regulations, experts advise showing a resolute effort and respect for the law. “What I can suggest and what I always focus on, is creating a procedure and audit trail that shows that you understand the legal requirements and have taken all available steps to ensure compliance,” says James Sinclair of OnSite Consulting. “While good faith might not be good enough, it certainly does not hurt and also ensures without question that you cannot be accused of letting compliance be ignored or fueling any violations.”
When in doubt, pizzeria owners are making concerted attempts to show compliance. “We make sure that, in the aggregate, employees report their tips in an amount that is consistent with the tipping percentage that customers tip on their credit card charges,” says Peter Cooperstein, president of Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria in San Mateo, California. “Now that almost all of our sales are by credit cards, life has become much simpler — both for us and for the IRS. There is no way for us to assure that our servers declare every dollar; however, if we were audited, the IRS would certainly see that we are making a serious effort.”
The best way to avoid an audit is to make sure your operation has an accurate system of checks and balances for tip reporting in place, and continuously educate yourself and staff about income laws. Tip reporting should be a priority, not an afterthought. “If this topic is just one of the million things on a pizzeria manager’s list, it’s a sure thing the ball will get dropped,” says Dan Simons, principal at Vucurevich Simons Advisory Group, a restaurant consulting agency. “This is one fumble, that if picked up by the IRS, either on audit or due to a complaint from a disgruntled employee, can be devastating to a business. While it may seem tedious to stay up to speed with all voluntary compliance guidelines, the alternative is far worse than tedious.”
Lee Erica Elder is a freelance writer in NYC.
When it comes to scheduling, it must seem as if the skills of a magician are called for, especially when it comes to waitstaff. In this case, there are numerous things to consider: how many tables to assign to servers; the number of people needed on the floor at a given time; how to keep employees busy when they’re not serving and ensuring fairness so as to avoid complaints of favoritism, just to name a few.
Doing it well is a “thought-provoking exercise,” says Dennis Lombardi, executive vice president of foodservice strategies for WD Partners, a Columbus, Ohio-based integrated design, operations and development firm.
“It’s a balance between what the restaurant needs against the availability and requirements of the employees’ needs,” he explains. “For example, you can’t ask an employee to come in for just two hours, but that may be all you need. So the question becomes, how do you keep that employee busy for six hours?”
Efficient scheduling is crucial to the bottom line, Lombardi adds. “Labor is generally the most expensive cost to a restaurant, so there’s an awful lot of profit that can be made or lost depending on the scheduling.”
That’s not all. Poor scheduling creates a host of other concerns. Understaffing can result in fatigue, increased accidents, order accuracy problems and diminished customer experience, Lombardi says. Overstaffing not only undermines profitability, but it can cause higher turnover as servers leave because they can’t get enough tables. It is also the case if servers feel they’re always ending up with the least desirable tables or hours (and the complaining they’ll do before leaving won’t exactly enhance staff morale).
As challenging as scheduling is, getting a handle on it and keeping staff humming along harmoniously is entirely possible but first, accept the reality that scheduling, like life, is rarely fair, says Tom Bianco, CEO of Atlantic Consulting, Inc., an Atlanta-based restaurant operations and marketing firm.
“If you’re an operator that has great servers and weak servers, the better ones will get the better shifts and sections; that’s only fair to the business,” he says.
Suzette Megyeri, owner of Bambino’s Italian Eatery in Colorado Springs, says her schedule is based on ability and seniority. Megyeri, whose dining room seats 200, has
Most of her servers, who handle seven to eight tables apiece at peak (a load made possible by bussers) “own” their schedules, says Megyeri, who relies on a scheduling manager. The work schedule doesn’t change much, especially since turnover is quite low.
Megyeri references her “holiday guide,” a historical compilation of every single event and holiday and the associated traffic, to determine staffing requirements. If unexpectedly caught short, “waiters in waiting” (bussers that can also serve) pitch in. Thus over or understaffing situations are rare.
Claire DiLullo, owner of Joseph’s Pizza in Philadelphia, uses historical data and cross-trains staff to step in when needed as well. DiLullo has 30 employees; her dining room seats 80. On Friday nights —“definitely pizza nights,” she says — there are four servers, two runners and two hostesses on the shift. Each server handles about five tables; hostesses seat and clear tables.
DiLullo’s turnover is also low. Consequently, the schedule “runs itself” and is determined by the crew. Managers become involved only if there’s a conflict, which seldom occurs.
One issue Megyeri says they’ve faced is when servers clamor to leave early because of dwindling customer traffic. To prevent this, the scheduler notes what time waitstaff can leave for the day.
“And they can’t leave earlier than this,” she says. “There are certain nights we make them stay on the floor (giving them other tasks to do) even if it looks slow, because we’ve gotten caught short before with a late-night rush.”
Megyeri believes in the early identification of potential schedule disruptors by recording in an “expectations log” those employees who exceed expectations and those who fall short, such as calling in sick even if they do cover their shifts as required. This, she explains, alerts her to an employee who might be becoming a problem and provides a better record than memory.
Other sanity-saving scheduling strategies include:
Historical data is useful, but if the schedule is the same week after week you run the danger of overlooking what is unique about the current week, cautions Lombardi. Actively manage the schedule, responding to real-time variability.
Server abilities being equal, you can make it standard practice to rotate waitstaff so everyone gets a busy and a slow night if this has become an issue, says Bianco. Use platforms like e-mail, Facebook, Twitter or your Intranet to facilitate communication between employees, suggests Lombardi. This makes it easier and faster for staff to cover their shifts, to have this approved and to make everyone aware of the change.
Realize that reducing scheduling issues/complaints starts at hiring and continues on through training, says Bianco.
“When I was an executive chef and manager I was told to first hire nice people, that you could teach them to do everything else,” he says. “Nice people get along with one another so scheduling doesn’t become an issue.”
Pamela Mills-Senn is a freelancer specializing in writing on topics of interest to all manner of businesses. She is based in Long Beach, California.
Keeping Your Dream Alive
ESOPs five Employees a stake in success
BY DIANNE MOLVIG
PHOTOS BY JOSH KEOWN
In the midst of the bustle of running your restaurant, perhaps you sometimes pause to remember when you first opened your doors. Do you think about that future day when you’ll make your exit?
Barbara Gabel and Zach Zachowski, who are self-described “think-ahead types,” began to consider their exit strategy when they reached their early 50s. The husband-wife team had no family member to take over Zachary’s Chicago Pizza in Oakland, California, and they balked at the notion of selling to just anybody.
Would a new owner maintain the product quality and workplace environment that had made the restaurant a Bay Area icon, as some observers have described it? What would happen to employees, many of whom had worked at Zachary’s for a decade or two?
“Even a benevolent owner could come in and change the dynamics, the mojo, the benefits, the pay,” Gabel says. “We didn’t want that.”
The solution the couple struck on was an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), established at Zachary’s in 2003.
Currently there are about 11,500 ESOPs in the United States, covering 10 percent of the private-sector workforce, according to The ESOP Association in Washington, D.C. “An ESOP is similar to a profit-sharing or 401(k) plan in many ways,” explains Corey Rosen, executive director of the National Center for Employee Ownership in Oakland, California. “But unlike those plans, an ESOP is designed to invest in company stock.”
The company puts money into the ESOP and gets a tax deduction for doing so. The ESOP uses that money to buy company shares from the owners; employees don’t pay for shares out of their own pockets. That’s a tough concept for people to comprehend, Rosen acknowledges, but it’s critical to an ESOP’s essence.
“If employees had to buy stock with their own money, it would never happen,” he says. “An ESOP is a way for the company’s tax-deductible future earnings to purchase shares from the existing owner.”
To be a viable candidate for an ESOP, a company should be profitable and have a healthy cash flow. Depending on company size, it costs at least $40,000 to create an ESOP, plus $12,000 or more for annual maintenance fees, Rosen says. A restaurant should have at least 20 employees and sales of $1 million or more for an ESOP to make sense, he adds.
ESOPs are complex, and, because these are tax-deferred employee retirement plans, they’re subject to Internal Revenue Service and Department of Labor rules. For instance, all employees age 21 or older who work at least 1,000 hours a year must be allowed to participate.
To install an ESOP, a company must be either an S or C corporation, or convert to one. In a C corporation, an ESOP allows the owner to defer capital gains taxes on the sale proceeds by reinvesting that money in other securities. The ESOP must own at least 30 percent of the stock for this deferral to kick in.
An S corporation with an ESOP offers a different tax advantage, according to Jude Anne Carluccio, chair of the ESOP practice group at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, a Minneapolis law firm.
“In an S corporation, which a lot of small businesses are, the ESOP is considered a tax-exempt shareholder,” she explains. “So cash that otherwise would go to pay taxes at the shareholder level is instead used to help fund the ESOP’s stock purchase. Or, if the S corporation is owned 100 percent by the ESOP, (it is) kept in the company to fund company growth initiatives.”
Still, with all the tax advantages, another factor often poses the strongest appeal to owners. “Most small business owners I’ve worked with want to keep their dream going,” Carluccio says. “That’s one of the big pluses of the ESOP as a transition vehicle. It allows owners to perpetuate the dream they’ve actualized.”
In 2000, Johnny Huntsman set up an ESOP at Johnny’s Pizza House, headquartered in West Monroe, Louisiana. The company now has 28 area locations. “He wanted an exit strategy,” says president/CEO Melvin DeLacerda, “and he wanted to reward employees who had helped him build the company. The ESOP accomplished those goals.”
DeLacerda, who started at Johnny’s 30 years ago when he was a high school student working part time, believes the ESOP is a valuable retention tool. “Our turnover for managers, and even assistant managers, is extremely low,” he says. “A lot of things enter into that, but the ESOP plays a big part.”
Still, employees often are skeptical when they first hear about the ESOP, DeLacerda admits. They can’t believe it costs them nothing, and they don’t fully comprehend the benefit until they see it. “We have store managers and even delivery drivers who have account balances that amaze them,” he says. “They never could have saved that much on their own.”
Today the ESOP owns 62 percent of the company’s stock, while Huntsman retains 19 percent. Two other individuals hold the remainder. “Johnny is tickled to death about how well this has worked,” DeLacerda says. “We now have an ownership culture among our employees. Even though we had a good culture to begin with, the ESOP has solidified it.”
At Zachary’s Chicago Pizza, which now has three locations, the ESOP owns 100 percent of the company. Gabel and Zachowski turned over the last 25 percent to the employees on July 25, 2010, the company’s 27th anniversary. “As Zach put it, ‘It’s their turn now,’” Gabel says. “This was a good way for us to go out.”
It’s also a good deal for employees. Kevin Suto started out at Zachary’s in 1984 as a dishwasher and rose to the position of general manager. “I’ve done pretty much every job there is here,” he says. Last summer, Suto became the new CEO and chief financial officer. Now 44, he looks forward to the ESOP providing him an attractive retirement payout.
That’s if, of course, the business continues to succeed. “Your stock is only as valuable as the company is,” Suto says. “So there’s a motivation for all of us to leave the company even stronger than it was when we arrived.”
Dianne Molvig is a freelance writer in Wisconsin.
License to Drive
Hiring delivery drivers demands attention to detail
BY DANIEL P. SMITH
PHOTOS BY RICK DAUGHTERY
When TJ Banning opened his first Rosati’s Pizza in suburban Chicago in 2000, he carried low standards for his delivery driver hires.
“If you had a pulse and a car, you were hired,” says Banning, who’s swapped his early waywardness for more stringent driver standards at both of his Rosati’s locations.
Banning entrusts his drivers to represent Rosati’s in a positive light, certain that their presence influences customer perception and satisfaction.
“Sixty percent of our business isn’t me, but rather somebody I’ve hired to deliver pizzas and hold money until the end of the night, so you bet I’ve learned to pay closer attention to the drivers I hire,” says Banning, whose delivery crew is a mix of “career drivers,” delivery veterans with at least five years’ experience and part-timers filling either hours or income gaps.
Yet, the importance of hiring responsible drivers extends well beyond perception and deep into an operator’s pocketbook, as ignorance to a driver’s insurance coverage, vehicle condition and driving record can prove costly.
While experience and area familiarity often shoot driver candidates to the top of the employer’s pile, wise operators, recognizing their assets and livelihood could be at risk, activate a number of critical, judicious steps to protect their business and others.
“Our philosophy is ‘hire tough and manage easy,’ ” says Glenn Mueller, whose RPM Pizza operates 150 Domino’s Pizza restaurants in the southeast. “If you get the right people in place, you’re going to save yourself a lot of stress down the line.”
While some operators run driving tests for applicants to assess road decorum as well as street knowledge, three key, universal checkpoints before hiring a driver will help insulate the business from time, money, and emotion-consuming battles. Here are some considerations:
The driver’s motor vehicle report (MVR). One’s driving record provides operators a glimpse into behind-the-wheel responsibility. While insurance companies can access MVRs, EPIC Insurance Brokers’ Cheryl Downey, who specializes in restaurant delivery coverage, suggests operators require drivers bring a copy of their MVR to the interview along with proof of insurance on the car they will use.
The MVR will list moving violations, including citations for driving too close, speeding, or intersection violations. According to Downey, two or more violations could reflect the driver’s personality and prompt reason for concern with operators. Should an accident occur, operators can be liable for putting a driver with a spotty record on the road.
“All programs have their own criteria, but I can’t imagine any provider insuring anyone with three or more moving violations,” Downey says. “And virtually no program will insure a driver with a major violation, such as driving under the influence.”
The driver’s personal insurance.Before hiring drivers and turning them onto the streets, operators should hold current, accurate documentation detailing the driver’s auto insurance coverage. In addition to checking the policy’s expiration date, make sure your applicant is named on the policy along with the vehicle he will use.
“If the driver substitutes a different vehicle that doesn’t have insurance, then the driver’s personal policy, active or not, doesn’t do the operator any good,” Downey says, reminding that operators can amass thousands of dollars in bills for driver-caused damage.
While operators can do this fact-checking themselves, Banning leans on his insurance company to help him hire and retain responsible drivers. His carrier, Hub International, runs MVRs every six months, while also providing updates on drivers nearing coverage expiration and ongoing driver safety training.
The car’s condition. While no one expects pizzeria operators to be auto mechanics, a review of the condition of the driver’s car helps limit unwarranted risk. Many insurance carriers can provide a multi-point inspection form to guide policy holders on basic car safety functions they should examine, such as seat belts, brake lights, turn signals, windshield wipers.
“In the event of an accident, the plaintiff’s attorney will almost certainly investigate if you allowed the driver to use a car that wasn’t roadworthy,” says Keith George, managing director with AmWINS Program Underwriters.
While many long-time pizzeria franchisors have a built-in safety culture culled from years of experience, many independent operations neglect an important piece of the delivery equation: possessing a non-owned auto liability policy that shields the business from damaging claims.
“If you think the driver’s policy is enough, then you’re playing Russian roulette,” George says. “As the employer, you are vicariously responsible for the actions of your employees.”
A driver’s personal insurance usually provides coverage up to a pre-defined limit — $15,000 is typical, Downey says. Even then, however, the restaurant will be liable for claims exceeding that limit. In some cases, a driver’s personal auto policy may have an exclusion for business use or, more specifically, for pizza delivery. As a result, non-owned auto liability coverage serves a critical business safeguard.
“I know if something happens out there with one of my drivers that I’ll likely be the target (of litigation),” says Banning, who’s happy to swap the $8 a day charge for non-owned auto liability coverage for the peace of mind he gains.
TIP: Operators should hold current, accurate documentation detailing the driver's auto insurance converage. Look for the policy expiration date as well as the policy holder's name and vehicke listed.
Chicago-based Daniel P. Smith has covered business issues and best practices for a variety of trade publications, newspapers, and magazines.
Photos by Josh Keown
Keeping an even staff level throughout the year is a great thing. You know your employees, they know their roles and staff turnover is steady and predictable. But for some pizzerias, that’s not an option. Summer comes on strong, and with it, a huge spike in demand. Pizzerias in tourist areas have to bring in large numbers of temporary workers. Pizzerias in college towns can see half their workforce packing up and heading home for the summer. But how can you find good seasonal employees — and how can you train them efficiently?
Terry Perrella has found a way to avoid the problem entirely. The owner and manager of Sammy’s Pizza in downtown Duluth, Minnesota, is definitely familiar with the summer rush — he goes from eight tables a night in winter to around 30 on a busy summer evening. But to avoid the time and expense of training temporary workers, he asks his staff to work more instead. Since school is out for the summer, his part-time workers are able to work extra hours, and they’re often glad for the opportunity. “I got high school and college kids, they don’t work more than two shifts,” Perrella says. “In the summer they want to work five shifts.”
Giving your workers extra hours is a simple solution, but it’s not always an option. Many employees want time off for travel or vacations, and college students from out of town may go back home for the summer. This can leave gaps that are difficult to fill. As the co-owner of Bulldog Pizza and Grill, a Duluth pizzeria sandwiched between two colleges and a high school, Sue Wright has a lot of experience with student employees. She says that when graduations and summer plans start to shrink her pool of workers, she just takes out her Rolodex.
“When we’ve been in a bind we’ve called people who are former employees, who left on good terms,” Wright says. “These people who are leaving to go to college, they’re always welcome back if we feel they’re doing a great job.”
Of course, not everyone wants to come back. Dave Coleman is a founder and co-owner of Prospector’s Pizzeria and Alehouse and two other restaurants near Alaska’s Denali National Park. The three restaurants together go from seven employees in the winter to 200 in the summer, and only 25 percent return from previous years. “You really want to retain the best employees summer after summer, (but) a lot can happen in eight months,” Coleman says. “That’s what’s so challenging about seasonal hiring.”
Coleman and his partners start screening applications on January 1, and they conduct two rounds of phone interviews. They look for people who are truly determined to get the job, because those people are motivated to keep it.
“Eighty to 90 percent of all our hiring is done in those first couple weeks in February,” Coleman says. “The earlier hires usually are ones that have already determined they want to come here. What is key is getting the staff motivated.”
Motivation is especially important for seasonal employees, who are hired specifically to deal with thick crowds and long hours. For this reason, it’s important for owners to vet temporary employees themselves.
Brian Hutchinson has learned this the hard way. As manager and part owner of Pazzo’s Pizza, a three-unit chain in the mountains of Colorado, he’s seen his share of ski bums and the generally unmotivated. But some of his worst workers have come from a temp agency. “Last year I ended up with a couple of real duds,” Hutchinson says. “They started in November, they weren’t very good workers, (and) they wanted to leave in February. From then on I said, ‘I’m not hiring until they get here.’”
Even after you find motivated workers, you have to train them. Howard Cannon, CEO of Restaurant Consultants of America, recommends that operators keep training tightly focused for their temporary employees.
“Don’t cross-train the employees,” Cannon says. “Just hire them for one area in one specific time slot.”
Hutchinson, however, says that even temporary employees should have a full understanding of the business. His approach is trial by fire, and he expects short-term workers to know nearly as much as veterans.
“Just give them the standard training program,” he says. “If they’re not great in a couple days, we can kind of tell.”
A third option is group training. David McCarthy, also a founder and co-owner of Prospector’s Pizzeria, says that they’ve refined a system that allows them to train 200 one week before they open for the season. You probably won’t have the luxury of a dedicated training week, but you can apply the principles behind it. By providing hands-on training, matching less experienced workers with more experienced ones, and printing out step-by-step instructions for each and every position, you can give your temporary employees a chance to excel from their very first day.
“When guests show up, the No. 1 compliment we receive is ‘this feels like this has been open all year,’” McCarthy says. “That is the secret to success of a seasonal business.”
Robert Lillegard is a freelance writer in Duluth, Minnesota.
Josh Keown & Rick Daugherty
No one likes to think about it, but employees do steal from their employers. The SBA reported that 10 percent of businesses filing bankruptcy cited employee theft or fraud as major causes. Pizzeria operators have two options: ignore the possibility or take proactive steps to protect the business.
The three main kinds of employee theft in restaurants today include swiping inventory, pocketing till money and fudging the books. Even in this age of computerized controls, employees find ways of taking product or money that can’t be easily detected. When it comes to the books, the most common methods of embezzlement include forging checks made out to phony accounts or vendors. Frequently the employee who embezzles is a “trusted” employee and therefore avoids close scrutiny.
Hence, here are several suggestions that serve as either positive or negative deterrents:
Give employees generous discounts on offerings. Many employers allow a free meal for each shift worked. The staffer’s rationale might be, “The boss is being reasonable, so I’ll be fair with her.” Even with a liberal employee discount, don’t ignore potential product theft. Have two people do an inventory count, one at the beginning of the day and one at the end. Occasionally switch counters. Notice holes in shelves.
Set up computerized systems to prevent cash withdrawals. This is especially easy to do with a POS system. Each clerk has a register and returns the same amount at end of shift. Only that employee can work his register. Set up computerized registers so that if the order isn’t punched in, it can’t be processed. Provide customer displays so that they see what they are paying for.
Michael DiBona, general manager of Mamma Mia’s, a five-store company in the Boston-area, says of such procedures: “If the clerk is over or under bank, that’s technically theft, and we’re very watchful. ”
Do cash register spot checks. If nothing else, it will alert employees that you are trying to keep tabs of the cash situation. If a spot check reveals a discrepancy, try to isolate it. Is it occurring in the morning, during certain shifts? If the problem persists, switch staff assignments around in order to isolate the possible thieves.
Install video cameras. Set them up behind cash registers, in storage areas and even in the basement — and connect them to an office screen. This makes an excellent deterrent, as well as investigative tool if someone is suspected of stealing. Alert employees that they are there, and monitor off-site if the systems allow.
Study management reports for potential problems. When reviewing routine business reports, be on the lookout for irregularities, changes or inconsistencies. For example, if you find the cash in/out discrepancy becoming larger and larger, you can be sure someone is taking money from the till. Or if you see your gross margin down from last month, for no apparent reason, a good bet is that someone is pilfering product. If one shift has much more cash register errors than another, it’s probably due to some unwarranted employee withdrawals.
“We have discount codes,” says Chris Wolff of Dewey’s Pizza, a 15-store chain in Cincinnati, Ohio. “Employees can key in these discount codes and pocket the difference. We examine these discount code use reports carefully to see if something’s going on. ”
Hire spot checkers. If you suspect a problem, hire a spot checker to act as a customer. This person doesn’t have to be an expensive security expert. Your next-door neighbor, a cousin or a family friend will do. By paying cash and saying he doesn’t want the sales slip, the spy gives the clerk an opportunity to pocket the transaction. The important thing is to make it clear to your spy what to look for. Does the clerk make change from the register? Does the clerk fuss with the register after the sale?
Create a profit bonus system, in which all employees benefit if the restaurant does well. This turns employees into committed company staffers.
Discuss the theft issue with employees. At company meetings, let your staff know that you are aware of the temptations. Point out that taking money from the till is not only a crime punishable by time in prison, but that it also is a despicable act that unfairly puts all staffers in a bad light until the perpetrator is caught.
If you catch a thief, work with your attorney to make sure you properly dismiss him or her immediately. Do not give second chances. No matter how long-term or how valuable the employee is, trust is broken.
As for bringing criminal action, that seems like a logical step. Be forewarned, however, that successfully prosecuting a dishonest employee will cost you a lot of effort, time and money. The chance of recovering any lost money is remote. u
Howard Scott, a former business owner, has published 1,400 magazine articles and four books. He is a former accountant.
PHOTOS BY JOSH KEOWN & RICK DAUGHERTY
In 1993, Tony DiSilvestro and his wife, Cynthia, opened Ynot Pizza and Italian Cuisine in Virginia Beach. “We were 24 years old and doing it all,” DiSilvestro recalls, operating a store with little more than hope, previous experience and used equipment.
Within the first year, DiSilvestro had a revelation. Neither he nor his wife could maintain the breakneck pace. He promoted one of his delivery drivers, an entrepreneurial young man with promise and a responsible nature, to manager, asking the newly installed leader to motivate employees, enforce store policy, and learn all areas of the business.
“In the beginning, it was tough to let go, tough to let someone else close the store and make decisions, but … I had to trust,” says DiSilvestro, who still didn’t take a full day off until the store’s fifth year.
The decision to hire a manager was central to Ynot’s success then and now.
In 1996, the DiSilvestros opened a second location. In 2010, they opened a third. A fourth spot opened earlier this year. All locations have a general manager who oversees a team of operational managers (driver manager, server manager, counter manager, bar manager, and so on) and up to 80 staff members.
“These managers are in the trenches every day and their presence has freed me up to do big- picture thinking,” says DiSilvestro, who holds weekly meetings with his managerial team.
For many independent pizzeria owners, DiSilvestro’s early plight is a familiar one. The owner- operator model, though invigorating to some, can leave one wearied and absent the gusto to pursue new opportunities, a reality making a managerial hire an important — even critical — step as the business seeks growth and prosperity.
“As an owner-operator, you just can’t work all the hours,” says Adam Goldberg, who opened his first of five Fresh Brothers in southern California in June 2008. “If the business was going to go where we wanted it to go, we knew we’d have to bring someone into the store to give the daily tasks undivided attention.”
When hiring a manager, many owners insist on previous restaurant experience. Goldberg’s first managerial hire was a longtime server. Subsequent managers at Fresh Brothers have come from other front- and back- of-the-house positions at chains and independents. Jill Mather of Trifecta Management Group, a California- based agency that helps restaurant concepts maximize their operational efficiencies, sees benefits in experience on both fronts.
“Those from the independent climate often have a spirit of entrepreneurship and self-guided work history, while applicants from a corporate structure have experience reporting and responding to a higher up. The challenge is to then figure out what and who fits with your business,” says Mather, who recommends creating hypothetical scenarios and asking managerial applicants for their response.
Mather will also assess the longevity of one’s employment in previous positions. In Mather’s world, “job hoppers” lose points.
“You’re putting a lot of investment and responsibility into this individual’s hands,” she says. “You want to know that they’ll plug away at the work.”
DiSilvestro hires most of his managers from within, which not only allows him the opportunity to learn their character and show them growth opportunities in the business, but also grounds them in the Ynot system and culture.
Hiring from within “allows managers to learn in our trenches and understand what we’re about,” DiSilvestro says. While the owner will handle big-picture issues and financial decisions, the manager directs the operation’s daily tasks, being visible to both guests and team members throughout the shift to troubleshoot, lend a hand where necessary, coach staff, and promote restaurant opportunities, such as parties, fundraising, or catering.
Managers at Ynot, who can receive 401k contributions as well as health care, must be focused on details, treat others with respect, have a rapport with fellow staff members, and motivate the restaurant team. DiSilvestro leans on his various operational managers, most overseeing eight to 10 employees, to manage labor costs, uniform discipline, policy upkeep, and provide hands-on training for team members. He then wants the general manager to be a hands-on, jack-of-all- trades type able to jump in or delegate responsibility as needed.
“They’re cutting pizzas, walking the floor and filling beverages,” DiSilvestro says of his GMs. “When the store’s on fire, you need someone who can fill any position.”
Mather wants a manager to embrace what she terms the Four Fs: first, to demonstrate skills and communicate to team members what needs to be accomplished; firm, by enforcing rules and protocols without exceptions; fair, in treating team members as equals and not playing favorites; and flexible, in understanding the uniqueness of individual situations and respecting the lives and responsibilities staff have outside of the restaurant.
“You want managers to feel as if that restaurant is their own when they’re on duty,” says Mather. “You want them to share in your vision.”
Adds Goldberg, whose new managerial hires endure several weeks of training and a 90-day probationary period: “They need to know our heart, mind and temperament as well as they know our product. It needs to be a good fit because we’re going to lean on them to do the right thing.” u
Chicago-based writer Daniel P. Smith has covered business issues and best practices for a variety of trade publications, newspapers, and magazines.
WHAT TYPE OF MANAGER DO YOU NEED?
The general manager is a direct extension of the owner and, quite often, the key cog in a restaurant’s development. An excellent communicator and motivator, the GM is eager to train staff members and develop talent. Needing to write checks and maintain the restaurant’s numbers, the GM also possesses financial knowledge.
Operational managers oversee specific areas of the restaurant. A kitchen manager, for instance, is often a culinary-trained individual who understands quality standards and performs the hands-on kitchen work, including training and directing back-of-the-house staff. The kitchen manager monitors inventory, examines margins and handles the kitchen’s immediate and long-term tasks.
Similarly, operational managers in other areas of the pizzeria environment, such as the bar, delivery and customer service, possess the narrow job description, frontline experience, and know-how to direct employees in their specific area with complete focus and attention. Depending on the restaurant’s structure, operational managers report to the GM or owner.
Photos by Josh Keown
“So if I don’t pay attention to my expenses, I just don’t make money,” Lanz says.
In the margin-tight restaurant world of volatile commodity prices and ongoing overhead costs, labor remains one of the few business costs an operator can moderate.
To be certain, rising labor costs remain a significant concern to pizzeria operators and the livelihood of their outlets, particularly as wage regulations jump. Last January, eight states raised their minimum wage floor; meanwhile, 2013 will deliver additional rate hikes to operators. Such raises often put upward wage pressure on other positions within the restaurant.
According to the National Restaurant Association, labor costs now represent about one-third of sales in America’s full-service restaurants, outdistancing food and beverage costs. If labor costs are not managed through scheduling, planning and monitoring, experts warn, the expense can sprint away from operators and weaken the profit line.
“If you have too many people on the clock, it’s like deciding to pay the landlord a higher rent; each cuts off the bottom line,” says Dave Pavesic, a former Italian restaurant operator who spent 26 years on faculty at Georgia State University’s School of Hospitality.
While the temptation for Lanz and other operators is to run a leaner workforce and toil every possible hour themselves, such short-term relief often places pressures on areas such as service and productivity, thereby threatening to unleash long-term impact upon sales and traffic.
“If you cut on labor, odds are good the service or quality will suffer and that can become a vicious cycle,” Illinois-based restaurant consultant Izzy Kharasch says.
In the restaurant world, where it’s easy to be consumed by routine, set labor patterns can be disastrous. Operators will over or under-schedule staff to maintain harmony, effectively ignoring the fact that sales may dip or rise by the day, week or season.
“The ones who control labor costs best know and monitor their numbers,” says Jennifer Wiebe of SpeedLine Solutions, a Washington-based provider of restaurant POS software. She adds that labor savings come from building a schedule that’s “reflective of labor targets.”
To that end, Lanz utilizes software tools that allow him to compare sales to labor costs as he compiles upcoming schedules. He’ll review past sales on POS reports and plan his labor accordingly. As he inputs schedules into the POS system, the software will display his labor costs and allow him to pivot as necessary.
“Tools save time and time is something you can never have enough of if you’re running your own restaurant,” Lanz says.
Operational and managerial changes can also help restrain labor costs.
Operators who understand the production of their products also should know how many employees are needed. Then, adopting an assembly versus preparation mindset, the staff should be able to work more efficiently. “Be prepared and organized for the volume of business you anticipate,” Pavesic advises.
Kharasch, meanwhile, encounters numerous operations that don’t have a time clock, which, he argues, deteriorates accountability.
For those who do require employees to “clock in,” time thievery is not uncommon. Employees might punch in early or linger before punching out. At one recent operation Kharasch visited, employees “milking” the clock was costing the restaurant $30,000 a year. “We’re in a pennies business and pennies add up,” Kharasch says, adding that operators cannot be afraid to “cut people loose during slow times.”
Yet, the most important labor cost-controlling tool, many operators and HR pros agree, is hiring the right people for the right job from the start, training them appropriately, and investing in them to heighten retention.
“Having the right people in place is the beginning and end of this conversation,” Lanz says, who subscribes to the well-adopted philosophy of hiring for personality and training for skill.
Kharasch suggests operators expand the horizons and skill sets of current employees. For instance, train someone on the register to serve tables or train the dishwasher to be a line cook.
“Look at the people you have and train them to do the next thing,” he says. “They’ll save labor costs by being a more versatile employee, but you’ll also be giving them confidence and improve retention by investing in their development.”
Kharasch advises operators to avoid looking exclusively at dollars and cents, a rather narrow-minded view that ignores the value of retention and someone who knows the business. In one recent case, Kharasch encountered a restaurant riding 11 consecutive months of losses. Within 60 days, the restaurant eliminated its workforce turnover and turned a profit.
Says Lanz: “Efficient workers who know your system help you control labor costs more than anything.” u
Chicago-based writer Daniel P. Smith has covered business issues and best practices for a variety of trade publications, newspapers, and magazines.
CUTTING LABOR AT THE POS: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE
Jennifer Wiebe of SpeedLine Solutions offers operators step-by-step instruction on how to utilize a POS system to control labor costs.
First, set a labor goal and plan a schedule to meet it:
1. Review the sales forecast and analyze the breakdown by daypart, order type and hour.
2. Copy the previous week’s schedule in the POS and adjust it to meet targets. Set staff availability for ease of scheduling and overhead for accurate labor costs.
3. Set restrictions for overtime and teen staff to comply with labor code.
Second, track labor costs throughout each shift:
1. Set limits on early and late clock-ins. Force a manager override for any exceptions.
2. Use fingerprint security to eliminate time clock abuse.
3. Track pay rates for staff performing multiple jobs.
Finally, audit labor performance:
1. Monitor labor dashboard metrics and send staff home during slow times.
2. Take a shift snapshot to review labor metrics.
3. Track breaks and overtime for labor audits as well as manger overrides.
4. Export time clock data for payroll to reduce paperwork and accounting costs.
PHOTO BY JOSH KEOWN
With four Blue Moon Pizza stores spread about the Atlanta area, Kelvin Slater cannot make every pizza and touch every table. It’s why Slater feels so compelled to draw and hold on to first-rate employees.
“I need to make sure quality is coming across to the customer every time,” says Slater, who oversees about 150 employees amid the Blue Moon enterprise.
Slater surely knows that part of attracting –– and retaining –– skilled and qualified employees is offering competitive wages and an enticing array of bonuses, promotions, incentives and perks.
“It’s beneficial to reward employees because the employee who knows my business and its nuances is invaluable,” Slater says, adding that employee retention generally breeds customer retention as well.
For many operators, competitive pay as well as bonus and promotion opportunities not only drive talent management but expense management as well. By building a strategy around pay, both base pay and variable components, operators address their single largest cost –– people.
So how does one build a competitive payscale, especially when the practice relies on factors as diverse as regulations, geography, tasks, job skills, and even certifications, such as TIPS or ServSafe?
First, Stacey Carroll, director of professional services for PayScale, a Seattle-based firm that tracks compensation data, urges operators to make payscale decisions based on credible, current data about market rates and job responsibilities.
“You need to ask: is this data relevant and does it provide a good benchmark from which to build a payscale?” Carroll says.
In some cases, operators may decide to offer lower base pay and bolster the overall compensation package with tempting incentives. Others may elect to ignore bonuses and pay $1 more per hour beyond competitors to build a perception of higher pay.
“There are no right or wrong answers, but you want to make sure you’re where you want to be relative to the competition,” Carroll says. “It’s about gathering the right data and setting a strategy to make sound decisions.”
Jeff Mease, who runs five pizza shops in Bloomington, Indiana, including the delivery-dominant Pizza X and the pizza brew pub Lennie’s, monitors the general state of competitors’ hourly fees, while also reviewing his own pricing and revenue to determine what he can afford.
“The higher the ticket, the more room there is to heighten compensation,” says Mease, who directs a staff of 100.
With a mix of knowledge of the competitive landscape and years of trial and error since opening his first Blue Moon in 2003, Slater maintains a set minimum for all new managers and operating partners, shifting that rate if the new hire possesses proven experience and know-how. Later, when it comes to raises, he does not cap pay bumps.
“If the employee is good for the company and helping us perform, there’s no reason to put a limit in place,” he contends.
While Carroll understands that few operators will unveil a published salary scale to employees, lest they risk relinquishing flexibility and discretion, she urges operators to be as transparent as possible with employees, letting them know about salary ranges for specific jobs as well as how pay increases and promotions are determined. “Give employees a sense of things, so they can see the opportunities,” she suggests.
For Mease, a 30-year industry veteran, compensation is a tool to spark extra motivation and attention to detail, particularly when it comes to compensation beyond the base rate.
At Pizza X and Lenny’s, Mease returns 20 percent of each store’s income to its GM, while another five percent of company profit is spread among the five GMs equally. Mease says his compensation plan fosters positive peer pressure among the managers and inspires them all to perform their best. He says that the simple nature of his plan –– rooted in the basic P&L statement and devoid of any complicated metrics –– puts ownership and management on the same page.
“If you set the compensation structure just right, then you don’t have to manage the staff,” he says, adding that his assistant managers receive bonuses tied to labor costs and efficient commodities usage in addition to their hourly rate.
In fact, many operators turn to incentive programs to boost base pay and heighten employee performance, particularly for those in the managerial, kitchen, and support staff ranks who are not naturally motivated by tips.
Carroll says the most productive incentive programs feature attainable results, reward on results not activity, and include measurable metrics that allow an operator to assess ROI.
“A properly designed incentive plan should pay for itself because it boosts profitability,” Carroll says.
While some contend that an employee should not be rewarded for filling the job’s requirements, Slater actively seeks opportunities to recognize those who exceed expectations. He’ll frequently run daily contests for salesmanship at each of his four stores as well as regular contests between the stores for gift cards, event tickets, or staff adventures.
“If nobody was getting rewarded, it would certainly change the culture of the restaurant,” Slater says, adding that employees enthusiastically share news of their rewards with colleagues, which heightens the overall level of performance throughout the Blue Moon ranks.
INSIDE THE KITCHEN: USING INCENTIVES TO DRIVE HIGH PERFORMANCE
At his five-store, Indiana-based pizza empire, Jeff Mease has tried to tie incentive compensation throughout the system. While servers and drivers are naturally motivated by tip income, Mease explored adapting the incentive idea for other hourly staff, specifically those in the kitchen.
At his commissary operation, Mease performed a time study to baseline production of specific elements, such as making dough balls and slicing green peppers. He posts a goal time each week. When achieved, the staff receives 70 percent of the saved money.
“The message is clear: ‘When you’re more efficient and the company saves, you’ll get back the bulk of those savings,’” Mease says.
As a result of his incentive-laden plan, Mease doesn’t need to ride his kitchen staff or worry about being overbudget.
“These guys get into the kitchen and it hums along,” Mease says. “They’re empowered to be productive and get a sense of accomplishment from the bonus.”
Chicago-based writer Daniel P. Smith has covered business issues and best practices for a variety of trade publications, newspapers, and magazines.
In the Know
Educated operators know to fight an unjustified unemployment claim
BY HOWARD SCOTT
PHOTOS BY JOSH KEOWN
& RICK DAUGHERTY
You receive a notice in the mail that an ex-employee is filing for unemployment. But he quit the company and one doesn’t receive unemployment for that. He wasn’t fired; he wasn’t demoted and sulked off in dejection; he wasn’t harassed into submitting his resignation. Even though you believe that, in these tough times, ex-workers need all the help available, you decide to appeal the claim on the principle that the former staffer doesn’t deserve the benefit.
The question is, how do you do it so that you win the challenge? Unemployment is state mandated, so each state does things a little bit differently. Nevertheless, the basics are the same. The employer can challenge the claim. There’s a hearing, then a binding determination is made. The employer generally needs to prove his case to win.
One issue is that most employees feel that unemployment compensation is their given right. They feel that they pay into the system –– that money is taken out of their paychecks, which becomes part of the unemployment pool. That belief is incorrect. Employees don’t pay into unemployment. Only employers do. So they don’t deserve the aid just because they are out of work.
Here’s why it matters. Each state sets an experience rate ranging from 1.5 percent to 12 percent of payroll (up to the first $14,000 of wages for each staffer) that employers pay into the pool. That rate is based on a formula of how much unemployment claims the company has had as a percent of the total staff contribution. If low, the rate will be 1.5 percent. If high, the rate will be 12 percent. So if you have a $50,000 payroll contribution, paying 1.5 percent would mean $500 outflow while paying 12 percent would mean a $6,000 outflow. If you maintain a low employee turnover rate, you pay $5,500 less into the system each year. Thus, having a low unemployment experience rate is to your benefit.
The first step in fighting an unemployment claim is to request a hearing. You will be assigned a date and place at some unemployment office. There will be an arbitrator, who is an attorney, who will listen to your case. Both sides give their version of the story. Each side can ask questions.
The arbitrator asks some questions. Then he dismisses the parties and the hearing is over. The whole session takes maybe 20 minutes.
Three or four days later, you’ll receive a notice in the mail announcing the ruling. The decision is binding, and the ex-employee will begin to collect unemployment compensation if he/she wins or may not collect if he/she loses. A few states, including Massachusetts, are attempting to handle these claims via the Internet.
What do you have to do to win the case? If the employee actually did quit, you need to prove that he quit beyond a shadow of doubt. Having something in writing or on tape –– such as a voicemail –– is often a clincher. For instance, bring along the employee’s letter of resignation or a video or audio of the phone conversation in which she would not work unless the company did such and such. However, in the absence of anything written, you have to be persuasive. You could bring a witness. One owner won the case because he brought an employee who said the ex-employee was getting more and more disgruntled, and was threatening to quit.
Preparation is key. Come up with a presentation that indicates the ex-employee left on his/her own volition. Just saying the person quit, when the other side denies it, doesn’t typically work. Secondly, conduct yourself professionally. Don’t act aggressively. Stay calm and state the evidence as clearly as you can. Don’t get into a shouting match with the ex-employee. Don’t be bullying. The arbitrator will not look well upon your case if you try to overwhelm him with power. Remember, everyone in the room is a human being.
Lastly, there is another possibility. If the employee willfully disobeys company policy and continues to do so, then he can be terminated and it can be construed as quitting. For instance, if an employee is not supposed to accept tips, but does so and insists he has a right to accept tips despite the fact that it is against company policy, then he is in effect, asking to leave the company. The employer has a perfect right to fire the individual. But, in the hearing, if the ex-employee questions the provision, you need to have this policy in writing. A company manual will be sufficient. Having an employee signature stating that he or she did receive and read the manual is efficient and effective.
Make your unemployment challenges count by marshaling the facts and preparing your case in advance.
The following are situations in which a former employee might file for unemployment, and how you argue why the benefit is not deserved:
An employee quits because he feels he’s being unfairly treated, and applies for unemployment. Your argument: ask the ex-employee to document the unfairness.
An employee takes a month off for injury and will not come back and applies for unemployment. Your argument: the employee still has a job.
An employee doesn’t go along with the program and refuses to do several tasks. Your solution: don’t fire him, lower his pay. Thus, he still has a job.
An employee quits because he feels discriminated against and files to collect. Your argument: There is never any company discrimination. It is just that the employee is not doing the job he was hired to do. Secondly, if there was discrimination, it must be proven in black and white.
Howard Scott is a former business owner and longtime business writer. He has published 1,600 magazine articles and five books.
Out in The Open
Letting employees in on your books fosters goodwill
BY ANNEMARIE MANNION
PHOTOS BY RICK DAUGHERTY
Nick Sarillo, owner of Nick’s Pizza and Pub, takes home $120,000 a year, and he doesn’t care who knows it, including –– and perhaps most importantly –– the 200 full and part-time staffers who work for him.
Sarillo, who operates pizzerias in Elgin and Crystal Lake, Illinois, has an open books policy, which means he makes available to his employees every detail of how his business operates financially, from daily sales information to how much paper napkins cost to how much he and his managers earn and how much it costs to rent space.
Ian’s Pizza, which has four locations in Madison and Milwaukee in Wisconsin and Chicago, also follows an open books policy.
“We find it breeds a culture where employees take a bigger interest in the company and have a bigger interest in the success of the company,” says Nick Martin, general manager at one of Ian’s two locations in Madison, Wisconsin.
Since establishing open books in 2002, Sarillo says his business has seen profitability increase from an average of between 8 and 9 percent to between 12 and 16 percent. At its highest, pre-recession point, he says profitability was 18 percent.
“The average net profitability in the restaurant industry is three percent. With open books, profitability goes through the roof,” says Rudy Miick, president of Miick and Associates in Boulder, Colorado, which worked with Nick’s to put open books in place.
The policy allows employees to see and understand financial information, to take a role in trying to push those numbers in a positive direction, and to have a share in profits or in some other way reap a reward from the company’s success, such as with a party or a salary increase, says Miick.
The main cost centers around which information is shared, and which have the most potential for being moved in either a negative or positive direction, include food, beverage and labor costs. Other information on money going out also is shared, but is not as variable, like the cost of renting a business space, Sarillo says.
When instituting the policy, Sarillo also established a daily cost system that provides up-to-the-minute numbers and started holding weekly meetings for staff that he calls huddles, at which they review financial information and set goals.
Each employee takes responsibility for a line item such as lunch sales or average amount of check per guest. The employee reports previous data on that line item, such as how the restaurant fared the week, month or year before on that day of the week; looks at what factors might affect that number, such as an impending snowstorm or a weekend homecoming game; and forecasts a goal.
“We have everyone from 16 year olds to 40 year olds involved in our numbers,” Sarillo says. “It energizes the team. It gives them something where they feel like they have a real impact on the business.”
Sarillo says he has white boards at the meetings on which important financial information is outlined. “If there’s any area that needs attention, we’ll put it on the board,” he says.
Knowing how much the owner earns also dispels any misconceptions employees may have that a business just opens its doors and the owner rakes in the dough.
“When the team comes in and sees that a pizzeria is really busy, they think those pizzas, at $10 a piece, is pure profit,” says Miick. “This takes away any sort of misunderstanding from the team and we get to deal with real, hard data.”
It also helps staff better understand why when a shift is slow, the restaurant may need to send some employees home.
“It energizes our people to be the best crew and do the highest number of sales they can,” says Martin. “They’ll say, ‘Look at all the sales we did with just this few number of people.’ And any employee can punch in their employee code and see what our labor costs are. They understand why they’re being cut on a slow night.”
Both Martin and Sarillo agree that the most challenging aspect of the open books policy is putting in the time and effort to educate staff in what those financial numbers mean.
“There is a big teaching aspect to open books. Employees get a crash course in bookkeeping and finance,” says Martin. “We hire a lot of college students, and for a lot of them it’s their first real job. It’s great for them to see how a real business operates.”
“It’s a matter of getting in the habit of having those weekly meetings,” Sarillo adds. “The hard part is getting started and you have to be disciplined to not give up.”
Armed with knowledge, employees are more likely to make better financial decisions even in small details, advocates say. “They aren’t going to grab a stack of paper napkins when they just need two,” Miick says.
Another challenge of the policy can be assembling a management team that is willing to share information. “You need to have managers who aren’t afraid to be open and transparent,” Sarillo says.
Employees at Nick’s are rewarded with the potential for profit sharing that can range from as little as $2 to up to about $120. “Every four weeks there’s a potential for a bonus,” says Sarillo.
Those amounts are paid based on how many hours an employee works and other factors in their control such as taking additional leadership training classes offered by the pizzeria or getting a certification.
“A server who wants a pay raise goes after a certification to be a bartender and that makes them more valuable to the restaurant,” says Miick.
Sarillo adds that even during trying economic times, he has found open books to be a benefit. “When things are down it’s almost like you don’t want to tell anyone,” he says. “But having more heads working on a problem are better than one. The team rallies together.”
For people used to playing their financial numbers –– representing either increased or decreased performance –– close to the vest, Miick says embracing the concepts behind open books may be hard, but worth it. He says: “It’s counter-intuitive, but it works.”
Annemarie Mannion is a freelance writer living in the Chicago area. She specializes in business and health stories.
Who and what is Gen Y? The sheer variety in this young workforce makes it difficult to define Generation Y. This group is so ambiguous that it doesn’t even have its own generational name. The popular expression merely morphed from Gen X to Y.
This how I define Gen-Y: They’re a group of people who have been given everything—a defined path, a defined sense of worth, a laser pinpoint focus on how and what success is. All they know is to follow the path. This is both a positive and a negative. Never before has a group of kids been so highly talented while completely lacking any self-drive.
Trying to teach them the way you were taught—or expecting things of them in exactly the same way they were expected of you—will most likely lead to re-instruction and certain frustration. I’m generalizing here, but if you were trained with a 1,000-page manual on what to do and when to do it, then you might be great at giving the micro-managed direction that this group feeds off of. If, in contrast, you give minimal direction, don’t be surprised if one out of every 50 new hires “gets it” and gives top job performance.
I can say with absolute certainty to every single person reading this that there is a better way. There is a better way to train, a better way to manage, and a better way to thrive with this up-and-coming work force.
My father is a Retired Marine lieutenant colonel and every male in my family has served in the Marines at one point or another, including myself. I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 20 years old and changed my life to become a restaurant owner instead of a career Judge Advocate General lawyer. What I witnessed in the Marines is that young people when presented with a path—a path that leads to respect, self worth and a sense of accomplishment—can carry out any responsibility your pizzeria can set before them and then some.
Think about the power of the path to self-worth. What does your pizza place do for your employee’s mentality? Does your workplace create a consistent mindset fore the employee of, “We crank out a semi-decent product while I wait for the next thing in my life to flop into my lap while old man pizza-owner wastes his life inside these four walls”? Or is yours a place where it might instead be said that, “I the employee am learning how to conduct myself in a business, pushing my own boundaries and abilities to be a valued commodity when I one day leave this job or, fingers crossed, learn to manage and run my own store with this boss I respect and value?
All employees worth a damn want this. They are out there. The Marines transform kids smarter and dumber than your staff into focused, driven young people—who are motivated, ready and willing to deliver on their tasks.
However, you are not the Marine Corps; you are not dealing with life and death. You deal in pizza. The good thing is that you don’t have to be a drill sergeant and yell to get your point across. If you conduct yourself appropriately, the fear of having you be disappointed in their results will be fear enough. Look at what high school and college sports teams accomplish with young people. They achieve focused efforts from kids not through monetary gain but through a feeling of self-worth.
So how does that translate to Gen Y more than any other generation? Gen Y is used to the quick course. Go to this place; get this Facebook page. Text instead of talk; use GPS instead of mapping it out. They have always had a path. SO GIVE THEM ONE.
Create a rank structure. Not just manager and assistant manager, but different hats, shirts, or jackets for each level of skill and knowledge. Create programs and classes with direct expectations, arduous prerequisites, and pay raises and social incentives delivered upon completion.
Money alone is not motivation enough. I know that sounds crazy. You might have been willing to clean toilets all night if it meant extra cash, but that is not the norm for this group. There is an exception for servers getting tips, but for staff that needs to complete a prep list or get food out fast and perfect while maintaining high morale, a direct motivator like status in the restaurant works best. This is where ranking status and differences in the uniform parts they wear can work to your advantage.
Create a sense of positive competition, and reward results over effort. Appreciate those who try, but reward and openly compliment those who perform. As for staff that can’t get on board, create defined, emotionless structure of what will happen when they don’t meet expectations—and then act. Never give a lot of attention to negative actions, because Gen Y is attention-starved, only feed good attention to those who deserve it and punish negative behavior swiftly and directly.
Gen Y has several advantages. Show them how, watch them do it, and then tell them that is the standard and they can perform consistently. If your staff is proud to work at your restaurant and glad that they work for someone like you, than turnover, labor costs, food quality and quality of life can and will fall in line.
For more details on International Pizza Expo 2013, visit www.pizzaexpo.com.
Mike Bausch operates two Andolini’s Pizzeria stores in Tulsa, Okla., with a total of 140 employees. He will give a seminar at Pizza Expo 2013 on Thursday, March 21, titled “Managing and Motivating Gen Y Employees.”
PHOTOS BY JOSH KEOWN
For Mia’s Pizza and Eats, a small mom-and-pop shop in Georgia, cross-training is a cost-cutting necessity. “There really isn’t a time at Mia’s when an employee can claim ‘That’s not my job,’ ” says owner Clori Rose-Geiger. “We try to instill in them the idea that everything that needs to be done should be done, regardless of who you are or what you’re doing on any given day.”
A versatile team is just as helpful for larger stores and chains. “In a business with take-out, delivery, and dine-in, it’s all-important,” says Scott Anthony, a franchisee for Fox’s Pizza Den and a marketing consultant. To ramp up efficiency, he ensures that his waiters and cooks are constantly occupied, and that his drivers are uniformed and ready to lend a hand during lulls.
Low turnover and reduced labor costs are the greatest advantages of a cross-trained crew. Lori Karpman, former master franchisee for Pizza Hut in Quebec, says larger skill-sets allow employees to work longer, more lucrative shifts. Cooks can stay busy throughout the day, and waiters can bus, clean, and even prep food between ser- vices. In the long run, everyone wins: employees get the hours they need, and proprietors don’t have to waste time and money to constantly train new people.
Karpman notes that a wide variety of tasks also reduces boredom and makes workers feel more invested in the success of their shops. Though their short- term training costs may be higher, a few multitalented employees can be even more helpful than a much larger but less-experienced group. Rose-Geiger keeps her payroll down with a skeleton crew of just nine people, four of whom have been with her for several years.
Not every worker is suited for every job, however. “When I hire employees for the front of the house, I’m hiring for personality, people that automatically smile,” says Jon Jameson, a founding partner of the Bellwether Food Group. On the other hand, the people he picks for the back of the house “need to understand process and have stamina.” He doesn’t care whether they’re introverted or extroverted –– they simply need to prep food quickly and correctly.
Karpman also strictly separates cook- ing and serving responsibilities. “I don’t believe in training the back-of-the-house staff to be waiters or barmen,” she says. She trains her cooks to prepare every- thing on the menu and her servers to handle every task up front. Overall, each worker “needs to be skilled in their job and what’s ancillary to it.”
“The best managers are people who work their way up through the system, people who know all the operations of the store,” says Anthony. They have to be the “go-to” workers who can jump in on any station, front or back, in case of call-offs or unexpected rushes.
That kind of adaptability doesn’t come without a price. To encourage it, Jameson offers wage increases based on the number of stations an employee can work. Regardless of tenure, people who can host, serve and supervise earn more than those confined to singular roles. The same is true for head cooks who take on managerial tasks.
In fact, some owners coordinate multiple rates for each cross-trained employee. Karpman has workers who may serve, host, and supervise in the same shift, and they’ll record separate hours for each task. This is especially important in shops where tips comprise large portions of employees’ incomes and where some positions are eligible for lower than minimum wage-rates.
Still, smaller operations often require greater versatility. At Nikoli’s Pizza in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, owner Jeannette Magaro has employees who can handle the oven, serve customers and work the register during the dinner rush. Deliveries account for nearly three quarters of her business, and she needs people who can take on every in-store responsibility while her drivers are out.
Though Rose-Geiger usually separates her cooks and waitstaff, she also says her servers “can do a lot when push comes to shove.” They’re all trained to make salads, sandwiches, and other simple fare, and some will even help out with desserts when the cooks are swamped.
It’s especially important for higher- ups to prepare for every situation.
As with any strategy, great customer service should be the impetus for cross- training. Anthony notes that servers trained to cook “can better sell a dish and share the cooking process with a guest.” Even Karpman, who rarely mixes the front and back of house, says: “customer service is my No. 1 priority.”
When a problem arises, “I don’t want the floor to tell me it was the kitchen, or for the kitchen to tell me it was the floor,” she adds. Whether or not they normally share responsibilities, her cooks and servers are all focused on delivering consistent, quality products to customers. Cross-training doesn’t just save money –– it fosters an involved, dedicated and customer-friendly staff.
UP TO SPEED
Cross-training current employees can be tricky, especially when you’re already short-staffed. You need to be as time-efficient as possible and focus on the most critical tasks. A few tips for smooth implementation:
Start from the bottom. Dish- washers and bussers have the most to learn — and the highest turnover rates. Pave the way for promotions by involving them in simple prep work, stocking and other quick-to-learn tasks.
Focus on cash-up. Customers hate waiting at dirty tables when their meals are finished. To reduce turnaround time, train as many people as possible to deliver checks and use the registers.
Talk to your staff. You’ll invariably have employees who excel on certain stations and perform poorly on others. When you’re working with little time and a low budget, cross-train people for the tasks they’ll enjoy.
Offer incentives. The most versatile employees are usually the busiest. Reward their hard work — and encourage extra effort from others — with raises and bonuses. The efficiency of a cost-trained crew should offset the cost.
Maximize time. Slow days and mid-afternoon lulls are perfect opportunities for newbies to learn new jobs. Impromptu training sessions are also cheaper than formal, day-long affairs.
David La Martina is a Kansas City-based freelance writer specializing in food,health, and fitness.
CRITICAL ISSUES 2012
Employee Hiring Retention
It might surprise you to hear Brett Steiner’s No. 1 priority for his servers at Russo’s New York Pizzeria in Germantown, Tennessee: “School comes first,” says Steiner, who owns one of the 30 Houston-based franchises.
Five years ago when he launched Russo’s, Steiner started with “a choppy, sketchy staff.” But he wanted the reputation of an owner who cared about his employees’ education and personal welfare. With that, a steady stream of loyal workers grew up from area high schools, community colleges and universities. Within six months of opening, Steiner had his dream team. He was told that labor would be his biggest challenge, but he turned it into his strongest suit.
“They’re a great group of kids,” he says. “A lot of them have been with me since age 15 or 16 and are finishing college now. I keep a larger waitstaff, only because I am very happy to tailor my schedule depending on their school schedules and their needs. As a result, I have a higher quality and more enthusiastic individual that works here, plus loyalty.”
Steiner has hit on a salient point: Employment is a two-way street by which people’s performances are commensurate with the way they’re treated and respected, say restaurant consultants. True, most restaurants thrive on good food and libation –– but the service often leaves something to be desired. So how do you hire and inspire good servers, hosts and bar staff for your front-of-the-house operation?
First, what traits are you looking for in a server? James Sinclair runs OnSite Consulting of Los Angeles, a national restaurant consultancy that focuses on challenge, distress and growth models for restaurants operators. His advice is to look for one talent: greatness.
“That can be defined as the willingness to be great, to try hard to resolve issues, and more importantly, to execute common sense. So you are hiring for a great attitude and great outlook. Everything else, I can train,but you cannot train someone to be instinctively great,” Sinclair says.
The server is the marketer, the advertiser and the pacifier –– and you need someone who fits all three attributes, he adds.
David St. Louis is HR manager for Field Staffing for Pizza Hut, a division of Yum! Brands. He urges: “Hire for personality; train for skill.” A strong front-of-the-house employee “is someone who connects with people and is energetic,” he says. “Think about it from a personal standpoint: Which would you rather have as a customer? Someone who is grumpy? So strive for people with an over-the-top mentality.”
Pizza Hut ferrets out that type during the selection process, using a personality assessment test provided by an outside vendor. “If you want an animal to climb a tree, do you want the squirrel or the moose? It’s harder to train personality traits that you desire,” he says.
Follow up with training. The trick to hiring a great employee is to be a great boss, Sinclair says. It’s incumbent to “give them the tools to be fantastic.” Identify systems and processes and train heavily: what to do during down time, what to do when it’s busy, what to do when they have a crisis? “Without training and expectations being defined and without strict processes, you are solely setting them up for failure,” he says.
For example, Sinclair recently went into a busy restaurant and asked what was on tap. The bartender impatiently pointed to a lineup of bottles behind her and exasperatedly quipped that she didn’t have time to list them for him. “I could get angry at that person, but no. I get angry at the manager for not training her on how to deal with the crisis,” he says.
Pizza Hut also heavily emphasizes training, St. Louis says. “We have a lot of data on this. The better trained the employee, the more productive and less turnover you have. If the cook quits, the server is interacting with a guest who may not be happy. That is something we coach very aggressively on and work to build skills to diffuse situations.”
Steiner doesn’t leave his workers hanging. They’re trained to get a manager and not handle customer complaints alone. “I’m a field marshal, not a General Underhill, who is the last to get the information,” he says. “If you’re in the trenches, you’re the first to know about problems and build camaraderie. I don’t sit at a table drinking wine. You’ll see me cooking and washing dishes. I’m always the first to know if there’s a hiccup within the four walls, and by doing that they acknowledge you as the leader. How you manage conflicts will affect whether people come to you with open arms.”
Finding The Talent
If you wait for candidates to walk into the door, you’re already losing in the hiring game, says Pizza Hut’s David St. Louis. “We encourage the restaurants to be active. We hit career fairs regularly. Depending on the needs of the restaurant, we typically will hold fairs once a month or so. Our great stores will have a regular process. They have a day blocked out in the week for interview times and build it into the monthly process.”
And the company is getting involved in the social networking space, too. “The application process can feel like a black box. You submit it online and hope that it gets acted on, so we’re trying to break that feeling,” St. Louis says. The company has created a Pinterest page for all recruiters.
“We talk about all things interesting for us. I have beach pictures, charities, different organizations I admire and applicants get the personalized feel about each of us,” he says, adding that Pizza Hut has also just launched a Facebook page. And some recruiters are on Twitter. “We’ve learned that candidates have different ways they like to be interactive, so we take a multifaceted approach,” he says.
Heidi Lynn Russell specializes in writing about the issues that affect small business owners.
Photo by Rick Daugherty
Admit it: you’ve Googled people you know to find out more about them, and you’ve used Facebook to look up old friends without actually contacting them. You might even have used social media to do a quick background check on a job candidate, or to help you see what employees have said about your workplace. Using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other sites can be an efficient way to research people, but you have to be cautious about how you use the information.
A survey by CareerBuilder indicated that 45 percent of employers said they use social networking sites to research job candidates, and another 11 percent said they plan to start doing so.
Kurt Drennen Mirtsching, whose title is Head Cheese at the two-unit Shakespeare’s Pizza in Columbia, Missouri, says that sounds like a good idea, but he hasn’t tried it. “I don’t think there would be anything wrong with that,” he says. “If they put information on Facebook for the public to see, they are allowing people to see it.”
Some Facebook users don’t publicize everything. Instead they “friend” people to let them view more personal content. Mirtsching thinks that information is more useful for friends than for potential bosses. “Some employers say it’s a requirement that you need to friend me,” he says. “I think that is inappropriate. It’s like saying, let me read your diary.”
Jerry Thurber agrees. He’s senior vice president of product innovation and development for Sterling Infosystems Inc., a pre-employment screening service based in New York City. “We absolutely recommend against ever friending anybody when recruiting them,” he says. “There is enough information in the public space.”
Often there is too much information. “Social media offers a wealth of valuable data clouded by irrelevant information,” Thurber says. “The real challenge is to understand how to edit out or avoid the irrelevant information.”
For example, one relevant area would be trustworthiness. “If you find people brag that they cheated their boss today, that’s a red flag,” Thurber says.
Other details are not relevant. “An employer should be careful of information they look for online because some of it should not be used for hiring,” says Daniel A. Schwartz, an attorney with Pullman & Comley LLC in Hartford, Connecticut. “Say they participated in a gay pride parade. There are laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.”
According to the CareerBuilder survey, the top reasons employers did not hire people after viewing their social media presence were that the candidate posted inappropriate photos or information, the candidate posted content about them drinking or using drugs, or the candidate badmouthed their previous employer.
Sometimes people complain about current employers, so some companies have developed social media guidelines and added them to their employee handbooks. Schwartz cautions that there are limits to what these rules can say. Last August, the National Labor Relations Board released a report on 14 cases of people who were fired over their social media activity. In several cases, the NLRB found that the workers were wrongfully terminated because the employers’ rules, such as one prohibiting “inappropriate discussions,” were overly broad. A better rule, Schwartz says, would be one against posting pictures of customers without their knowledge, or posting confidential information, or making discriminatory or harassing posts.
In other cases, the NLRB found the employees should not have been terminated because they were engaged in “protected concerted activity,” which means conversations about improving the working conditions for the benefit of other employees.
Of course that wasn’t the case in certain highly publicized firings. In 2010, a waitress at a Brixx Pizza location in Charlotte, North Carolina, was fired after complaining on her Facebook page about having to stay hours after her shift ended to serve one table of customers who left her a paltry tip. Also in 2010, a server at a California Pizza Kitchen in Long Beach, California, was fired after complaining (with expletives) on Twitter about the new uniforms. In both cases, the employees violated specific rules, such as one about disparaging customers.
Tim McIntyre, vice president of communications for Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Domino’s Pizza, says the chain’s rules and guidelines encourage employees to show restraint. “We know you’re going to be on there,” he says of social media. “If you identify yourself as a Domino’s employee, we ask if you have a problem with your boss or your manager or something that is related to the office or the store, please use the established systems we’ve set up for you.” One system, he says, is the toll free number to the human resources department.
The rules also concern representing the brand. “If you feel compelled to go to a bar, please don’t wear a shirt with the Domino’s logo and then post inappropriate pictures of yourself,” McIntyre says. “We own the trademark.” Domino’s uses Google alerts and other technology to monitor online chatter about the chain and about competitors Pizza Hut and Papa John’s Pizza.
Mirtsching says Shakespeare’s Pizza does not have a policy on social media. If someone did complain online, he would likely talk to the worker. “I would probably say, ‘If you’ve got problems, don’t tell the whole world because then it sounds like you’re just complaining. Tell us and we can do something about it.’ ”
If an employee uses social media to deride your business, it gets tricky if the complainer works not for you but for one of your franchisees. Tim McIntyre, vice president of communications for Ann Arbor, Michigan based Domino’s Pizza, says if an employee at one of the 4,200 franchised locations does something inappropriate online, it’s up to the franchisee to take action. “We don’t manage with a hammer,” McIntyre says. “We don’t get involved in their HR policies and practices.” In a 2009 incident that has been covered exhaustively, two workers at a North Carolina franchise posted a hoax video on YouTube, and were fired by the franchisee.
Nora Caley is a freelance writer specializing in food and business topics. She lives in Denver, Colorado.
Photos by Rick Daugherty
After my fifth sub-$1 tip, I decided to stop keeping track altogether. I wasn’t doing this for the money, but if I were I would have been horribly disappointed. I was delivering pizzas for one of the Big Three national chains. Despite being a huge fan of all things pizza, I had never actually worked in a pizzeria — so last winter I initiated a long-term project of working a variety of jobs within the industry. First, I worked the line at a neighborhood pizzeria on a busy Saturday night. Then I slung slices at a New York pizzeria during the lunch shift. But the job that surprised me the most had little to do with food. Over the course of three weeks I experienced the ins and outs that come with being the pizza industry’s unsung hero –– the delivery driver.
My first shock was that I was being paid more than the folks who actually made the pizza. As I got to know my coworkers, I realized that older staff members were making deliveries, while students and other part-timers with fewer bills were in the kitchen. This sent a clear message that delivery was important to this company. With most orders being placed via mobile devices and online, the delivery driver was often the pizzeria’s only direct point of contact with a customer. What I always thought of as a menial position was turning out to be far more valuable than I anticipated.
The financial benefit of my gig quickly decreased when I realized how much of the money I was making would end up going into auto maintenance, but some unexpected responsibilities arose as I worked more shifts. Customers would ask questions normally directed toward an in-store manager, but since I was flying solo in the delivery car I was forced into a crucial position.
There were several instances in which my limited training left me unprepared to tackle problems, and the worst time to seek guidance from my superiors was on those busy Friday nights when I needed them the most. Management may have thought I was just a delivery boy, but in reality I was the company’s sole representative on the doorstep of every customer.
The stereotypical disheveled pizza delivery boy I’d always seen in movies driving a beat-up car with candy bar wrappers on the floor who couldn’t care less about the three large pies and two bottles of soda he’s dragging across town was far from the reality of my job. As much as the pizza snob in me hates to admit it, I even felt a sense of pride while wearing my uniform. It made me feel like part of a team, rather than a lowly messenger.
A delivery driver is not only part of your team, but in many ways the most crucial position when it comes to non-kitchen staff. Do as much as possible to prepare them to represent you out on the road and the benefits will be felt throughout your business — especially in the driver’s tip cup.
Scott Wiener owns and operates Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City.
Photos by Rick Daugherty & Josh Keown
With 130 Domino’s Pizza outlets under his charge, Glenn Mueller signs plenty of checks for delivery drivers. The head of Gulfport, Mississippi- based RPM Pizza, Mueller, a30-year veteran of the pizza world, has watched competitors throughout the restaurant landscape rush into the delivery business with little understanding of its nuance and complexities.
And the delivery business, Mueller contends, is nothing but nuance and complexity.
While running delivery service looks easy to many, it remains a convoluted array of local, state and federal directives, including how drivers — who can be employees paid an hourly rate or tip-credited wages — are compensated, as well as how they are reimbursed for use of their own vehicle.
Adrian Sawyer, a San Francisco- based attorney with Kerr & Wagstaffe LLP who defends nationwide employment class actions, says there are various pitfalls to employing delivery drivers, including the requirement that employers report tips — a process simplified given the rise of credit card purchases and online ordering — as well as regulations in some states that prohibit an employer from applying tips toward a driver’s wage.
Further problems can arise if operations pay their drivers under the table or compensate drivers as independent contractors.
“You have to be careful drivers are being paid the appropriate amount or you can end up violating federal labor laws,” Sawyer says. “The balance here is complying with the law, which imposes significant burdens and requires attention to detail that isn’t readily apparent to everyone, while simultaneously controlling expenses and running a profitable business.”
Under federal law, restaurants are required to pay delivery drivers $2.13 per hour if they utilize the tip credit, though gratuities must push each driver over the $7.25 federal minimum wage. In the event that the $7.25 hourly rate is not met on a workweek basis, an employer must make up the difference.
For instance, an employer using the federal tip-credit rate of $2.13 per hour would pay his driver $31.95 for a 15-hour workweek; yet, that driver’s tips for the week would need to total $76.80 or more to ensure that the operator was meeting the minimum wage requirements ($7.25/hour) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
“If that driver only received $70 in tips, then the operator would need to add $6.80 to the pay period to meet federal requirements,”American Payroll Association (APA) Director of education and Training Jim Medlock explains, adding that many computerized payroll systems compute weekly minimums at the federal and state level to secure compliance.
In addition, Medlock reminds that drivers working more than 40 hours in a given workweek would also need to be compensated at the standard overtime rate of time-and-a-half.
Beyond driver wages and tips, there also remains the issue of reimbursing drivers for use of their own personal vehicles, a particularly thorny subject as fuel costs rise.
Operators can reimburse delivery drivers in one of three ways: mileage logs; a flat-rate policy; or to set the base pay high enough that the minimum wage will be covered even as expenses are accounted for on the paycheck.
According to the internal Revenue Service, the standard rate of driver reimbursement is 55 cents per mile, a tally that addresses fuel, repairs, insurance and automobile depreciation.
Mueller’s RPM Pizza reimburses its drivers by the mile and shifts the number on a weekly basis according to local gas prices from AAA and a third-party agency familiar with local mileage reimbursement rates for food delivery. he says clarity and transparency is key.
“You can’t just be tossing out arbitrary numbers,” Mueller says, adding that state restaurant associations can often direct operators to sound advice on local reimbursement rates. “Our drivers want to know how mileage rates are set and how they will be reimbursed… and appreciate that we’re doing our best to be fair.”
Rather than logging miles and compensating at a per mile rate, operators might set a flat rate for mileage reimbursement that considers the typical distance a driver travels for a delivery and the average tip he receives. A flat rate, Sawyer says, offers operators predictability and maintains fairness to employees.
“Involve drivers in this process, as they know how far they’re going and what they typically get for tips,” Sawyers says.
Furthermore, Sawyer suggests operators also have a policy in place for additional “unexpected” expenses, such as a flat tires or lockouts. While smaller operations might deal with unforeseen situations on an as- needed basis, larger chains might have a defined policy in an employee handbook.
“The idea here is clarity and predictability,” Sawyer says, noting that unpaid driver expenses could spark problems with FLSA compliance.
Finally, there is the lingering issue of delivery fees, which customers can easily — and mistakenly — confuse with a driver tip and, in doing so, bring unnecessary pressure upon operators. Sawyer suggests all pizzerias have a clear message on their menus, Web site, and receipt that details the difference between the delivery fee and the driver’s gratuity.
As one example, delivery kingpin Domino’s shares this message on its homepage: “Any Delivery Charge is not a tip paid to your driver. Please reward your driver for awesomeness.”
Compensating the cross-trained delivery driver
At nine-unit Colorado-based pizza chain Borriello Brothers, management considers drivers back-of-the- house staff who also deliver.
“Our drivers aren’t just drivers and we train them accordingly,” say Borriello Brothers Operations Specialist Adam Rickett. “They’re able to prep food, jump on the register, take phone orders, and so on.”
Rickett says cross-trained drivers builds operational cohesiveness and enhances customer service. For those benefits, however, such job swapping throughout a shift can also leave an operation susceptible to FLSA violations as the tip credit can only be applied to certain staff positions.
To avoid any errors, Borriello Brothers requires its staff to clock in and out for individual jobs. Though sometimes tedious, the APA’s Jim Medlock calls that practice the “safest way” to ensure appropriate employee compensation.
“In clocking in and out, operators know how many hours a staff member worked in different positions of the restaurant that have different pay rates,” Medlock says.
Chicago-based writer Daniel P. Smith has covered business issues and best practices for a variety of trade publications, newspapers, and magazines.
Photos by Josh Keown
In a typical day, Woodstock’s Pizza in isla vista, California, will make about 60 deliveries
across the lunch and dinner dayparts.
To homes, office complexes, industrial spots and the nearby campus of University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), a daily staff of 10 Woodstock’s drivers will hit doors across the Isla Vista area. The sheer number of deliveries, including some to less traveled parts of town, Woodstock’s marketing representative Jeff Willis confesses, leaves room for errors, wrong turns and delays.
“When you have that many drivers out on the road, mistakes can happen,” Willis says, recalling one driver who got lost on his return trip from a nearby oil refinery. “he hadn’t been in that area before and mistook a left for a right.”
Fortunately, pizzeria operators and drivers alike have a number of contemporary tools capable of streamlining the delivery process.
With GPS, satellite images, smartphones, and customizable mapping solutions, we’ve come a long way from the rand McNally road atlas. Though
a trusty part of any delivery driver’s arsenal, the traditional printed map has largely given way to tech-charged solutions that make delivery execution more efficient and predictable.
In recent years, many pizzerias, including independent stores like Woodstock’s, have turned to customized delivery maps in which operators identify the center of the map, typically their restaurant, and then select a custom area defined by radius, distance, or drive time. at Woodstock’s, for instance, red lines define different delivery zones and each zone’s accompanying fee.
Featuring large graphics, high detail levels and an a-to-z street directory, these printed maps help staff easily locate an address, verify its place in the delivery area and approximate delivery time. Drivers, meanwhile, can use the map as a large-scale visual tool to plan their route.
Robert Burns, director of marketing at California-based Maps.com, a provider of mapping products to businesses, says that while drivers might utilize a GPS or smartphone to travel from the store to a customer, the customized overview maps assist in the journey’s planning stage and provide a level of detail and reliability absent in digital solutions.
“Print maps provide a quick reference (and) instant answers that digital solutions do not,” Burns says, adding that operators utilizing a Maps.com solution can define the size of their map and finishing treatment. “This really benefits independent and small chains the most, where they have very specific delivery areas or where multiple stores serve adjacent areas.”
At Woodstock’s, Willis has observed a “huge improvement” in driver performance since the store posted its customized map in late 2011. he says many of his drivers use the poster- sized map, which sits directly above the driver’s station, as an easy-to-read reference tool to understand where they’re heading. on the road, drivers can then pull out their smartphone or a GPS unit as necessary.
“Our map has become an essential communication tool. There is now less confusion about driving areas, fewer lost drivers, and fewer mistakes,” Willis says.
Another no-frills, but tech-enabled tool, driver map books provide extensive on-the-go details on specific communities. Often laminated, these portable maps can include a whole territory or different subsets with extensive details for convenience of use.
“These are most popular to break larger territories into smaller pieces and hand out to drivers to keep in their vehicles,” says Jorge Azpilicueta of DeliveryMaps.com, a leading resource for delivery maps and applications.
On the more high-tech side, digital maps can offer the same level of detail and data as the printed options, but be integrated into POS systems.
Digital maps “are very useful for zooming and viewing with more detail any portion of the map,” Azpilicueta says, noting that many single-store operations tend to favor wall maps, digital maps, driver maps or a combination of the three to plan delivery routes, while larger chains invest in more complex applications to automate the routing.
DeliveryMaps.com can also create web applications, the most high-tech — and costly — of all delivery solutions. Typical web applications provide an interactive interface that allows operators to customize delivery routes, provide directions, offer time estimates, and identify alternative routes. Maps can then be created and printed for each delivery.
Azpilicueta says the web application technology is best suited for small chains with five to 10 stores to larger regional or national chains. he adds that operators using web applications have access to a custom-made system to organize deliveries, as well as the ability to match the delivery address against the territories assigned to each store location. The system can then decide which store should receive a given order.
“Clients can improve delivery times, reduce delivery costs, and save all this information for further use analysis,” Azpilicueta says.
As technology continues its charge, Burns says future driver solutions might include enhanced visualizations, as well as mapping of customers and deliveries against demographics.
“This would enable even the owner- operated business to see who the customers are and tailor offers and publicity to suit,” Burns says. “This type of software is currently used by major multiples, but in many smaller stores is the type of data that the owner carries in their head, sometimes inaccurately.”
Chicago-based writer Daniel P.Smith has covered business issues and best practices for a variety of trade publications,newspapers, and magazines.
By nature, humans resist change. We’re comfortable with what we know and often rally against new applications and procedures, particularly when it comes to technology’s rapid pace. Operators introducing a new POS system frequently confront an imposing hurdle, namely staff cooperation. Yet, some careful planning can ease the transition and promote teamwork.
• Alert the staff of the impending change and, more importantly, why it’s being done, which includes making their job easier.
• Keep the staff abreast of your decision-making process and provide a calendar of key dates.
• Let the staff see the demos and provide their input so they can contribute to the process; after all, they’ll be using the system most.
• Remind the staff that in learning a new POS system, they’re also gaining a new job skill.
• Be patient and create a non-intimidating environment. Everybody learns at different speeds and mistakes will happen. Remain positive and encouraging.
Rather than flipping new staff a book for their self-study or allowing a new bartender to learn the poor habits of a shoddy veteran, integrate these key elements into bar staff training for maximum effectiveness:
Engaging and Interactive: creating a hands-on training experience improves the likelihood that staff will retain and utilize the information.
Pre-Training Ritual: having house policies in place before training standardizes the process and answers common questions such as what to do about fake IDs, taking away keys and designated drivers.
In-house Training: keeping the training in-house rather than sending employees to an outside school for generic training allows an operator to blend the house policies into a general bar training curriculum.
Taste the Difference: allow staff to taste a drink made properly and another with a missed step, thereby offering staff evidence as to why they need to make a drink properly.
Its late afternoon Friday. Within an hour, the phones will be ringing off the wall. Your best crew is checking and double checking stock levels and doing their last minute prepping and fine tuning of their work stations. Then the phone rings and one of you best staff has just called in sick. And then it happens again –– two call offs in ten minutes. It’s going to be pretty hard to call in a pinch hitter employee at the last minute. You, the owner or manager will probably be able to fill one of the empty slots. What about the other one?
If you have a cross-trained staff, you’ll make it through the rush without making customer service or meal quality suffer. After a little reshuffling, you’ll have your bases covered again. The highly cross trained staff can fill any position that is getting buried. I call it “make it, bake it and take it” training.
During my applicant screening and probationary process, I analyze the new hires chances of being cross trained. Do they have the right stuff to grasp mastering more than one skill set? Do they have a driver’s license and good record? Do they have the basic building blocks of customer service mentality? Do they have a sense of humor and do they smile? I can’t teach people how to be friendly. The higher they score on their ability, attitude and likeness of being cross-trained the higher their chances of being hired.
I’m not proposing that your entire crew be cross trained nor am I suggesting that your best prep person be your best phone/counter person or driver. I am suggesting that when extenuating circumstances arise your cross trained staff will rise to the occasion and be able to flawlessly complete their shift. In today’s economy, lean and mean beats fat and sluggish every time.
The more your crew can do, the better your operation will run
In baseball, triple threats — players who can hit, field and run brilliantly — are rare gems. Entertainers who can sing, dance and act are called triple threats. In our world, my definition of a triple threat is crew people who can “make it, bake it and take it.” The more of these gems you have, the more successfully your restaurant will run — and with a noticeably lower labor cost.
You can replace two, and sometimes three, average employees with one motivated, hustling, cross-trained triple threat. Where do we get these keepers? Occasionally they find you. Maybe the place they were working for just closed down and they are seeking a new job. Maybe they have heard through the pizza grapevine that you are an awesome person to work for. More often than not, however, you have to mold them by training them from scratch.
I’m not suggesting that every new hire will evolve into a triple threat. This is unrealistic. I do suggest, though, that when you are evaluating job applicants you look down the road a year or two and determine if they have what it takes to become one. I’m also not advocating that you need an entire crew of triple threats. Many times you need to hire one person to do one job for a given period of time.
Triple threats have characteristics that have a common thread. I look for these six key traits:
• Positive, friendly attitude. I can teach job skills, but I can’t make them smile.
• Hustle. Successful pizza shops move at high speeds. Hire people who like to pick up the pace.
• Trainable. How fast do they understand the lesson at hand and how many times does it take to have them master the task?
• Willingness to do the dirty jobs with a smile. I never want to hear the words, “It’s not my job, man” anywhere in my restaurant. I have never asked an employee to do any job I wouldn’t or couldn’t do.
• Passionate about the product. Only our best will do for our customers. We stand for and deliver the very best food we can, every time.
• A service mentality. They understand where the paychecks come from and how the sum of their actions impacts the rest of the crew. They must be customer lovers.
Make a list of all your employees’ names. Refer to the above 6 traits and give each one of them a numeric number based on their probability of achieving triple threat designation. Some may already be a 9 or 10. Some may need a lot of coaching and work.
Your next task is to create a written job description for each area of expertise. If I were to create a description for “Make-It” folks (remember, our triple threat can make it, bake it and take it), it would start like this: “This area is the hidden backbone of the restaurant. People who are stars in this area have mastered all areas of food preparation, ordering, storing, rotation and are certified ServSafe food handlers. The quality of the entire menu starts here. The basic ingredients are transformed from groceries to delicious entrees. This position will understand the how, why and basic chemistry of fresh dough management. They will understand how to make all signature sauces. They will understand that food inventory equals money and institute close prep and ordering levels. They will implement tight portion control levels. They will work and maintain a clean and safe kitchen.
This list would go on to explain every task in detail. I’ve found that prep people get enthusiastic when you let them make the lists. Involvement is the key to an emotional buy in.
Now, let’s move on to the “bake it” and “take it” areas and describe the job duties. Your drivers, servers and order-taking staff comprise the take it area. The cook’s roles are described in the bake it segment. When you take the time to actually write down how you want every important piece of the pie to be accomplished, your systems start to take shape.
Once your menu items and service delivery becomes consistent, your business will grow. Customers want the same meal every time, and hate inconsistency. Future growth stops right here if your recipes and systems are passed down from one employee to the next orally. Shortcuts start to invade the processes and recipes often take a toll on the quality and consistency of your menu items. I encouraged my cooks to improve the systems and recipes — but only after we mutually agreed and changed the manual together.
Your crew will gravitate to their areas of first love and expertise. Drivers will want to be drivers, prep cooks will want to be preppers and pizza makers will want to strut their stuff in front of the ovens. But, when the chips are down and the order rail is full and deliveries are stacking up, these folks can slip in and fill any position. What value does that have?
New hires are very impressionable. We tell them right up front that they will be in charge of getting pay rises. They have ten weeks to master one area of expertise. Generally, the new hire is being mentored and trained by a sponsor who will be rewarded with a crisp $100 bill at the end of the 10 weeks. If the new hire fails or quits, the sponsor agrees to pay me $50. Once the employee passes the 10-week training and probationary period, they get an hourly raise. The next raises are up to them. They are in control of their income. When they want a raise they challenge and prove they have mastered one more leg of the triangle. Once they have demonstrated they are proficient in their new area they get a hefty raise.
Here comes the payback for all of your hard work: Your restaurant will be staffed lean and mean. Cross-trained staffs are much more productive than average employees. Additionally, guests will enjoy consistently great meals and service. This is the first building block for expansion.
And, as importantly, your restaurant will now be able to function without your heavy involvement on a daily basis. If you need a break, your shop will be thriving when you return.
Sometimes, things happen to delivery drivers. From assaults to auto accidents, delivery related injuries are an unfortunate fact of pizza life.
Here are some things you can do to keep your drivers safe while they’re on the road:
• Make sure routine maintenance is performed on the vehicles. Regardless of whether you own the cars or you have your drivers pay for repairs to their own vehicles, you should make it a priority to keep a check on air pressure in the tires, fluid levels, brake pads, etc.
• Provide your drivers with First-Aid kits, flashlights, blankets, candles, etc. to keep in their trunk in the even their cars break down in remote areas during cold weather.
• Use a caller identification system in conjunction with your POS. If the address the caller gives does not match the address on your POS screen, question the caller before dispatching a driver.
• Have accurate mapping systems. Unless you’re in a small town, your drivers simply are not going to remember all the streets.
How do you compensate your delivery drivers?
I paid my drivers regular minimum wage, plus they earned their tips. I also paid them a 50 cent commission for each delivery. I recently started charging customers a one dollar delivery charge, which deferred the cost of the driver’s commission. Now keep in mind, paying the driver regular minimum wage, I required several things from them including: answering phones and taking orders, folding boxes, keeping the soda cooler stocked, keep dining room and restaurant floors neat and clean, trash taken out and help with clean up at the end of the night. It seemed to work out well for everyone. This way they earned very good money, which kept them around for many years. Remember, long-term drivers are very valuable since they know their way to the homes of regular customers.
The other day, I was talking to a young woman who worked her way through college by bartending at a busy restaurant. I asked her if all the second-hand cigarette smoke she had to inhale in order to do her job bothered her. She answered in the affirmative, but said there was something else that bothered her even more, which is why she eventually quit bartending before she finished school: the harassment she endured.
It seems this woman had one too many customers “accidentally” bump into or otherwise touch the curves in her female figure. She says the unwanted advances were not directed at her alone, either. “Pretty much every female bartender I worked with went through the same thing,” she said.
Sadly, she claims, when she alerted the restaurant owner about the repeated incidents he covered for the customers: “Don’t pay any attention to them,” he said. “They don’t mean anything by it.”
Before I go any further, I should point out that I have no idea whether this story is true. I suspect it is, however, because I have several friends in the restaurant industry and this is not the first time I’ve heard stories like this. It happens. The restaurant industry is tough.
My question is this: is enduring such behavior simply “part of the job,” as the female bartender with whom I had a recent conversation was told? I don’t think so, and I don’t think any reasonable restaurateur would agree. If a customer acts inappropriately, it is your job as a manager or operator to remedy the situation by making the customer leave your establishment.
I know no one wants to kick out a money-spending patron, but there’s a lot on the line for restaurateurs who look the other way. For starters, if you are aware of inappropriate behavior but choose to ignore it, you are guilty of allowing it to persist. Secondly, not intervening in situations like this could cost you to lose a good employee, who most likely will find a job in a restaurant across the street rather than put up with nonsensical treatment in your establishment. Thirdly, you are pretty much asking for a lawsuit if you don’t come to the defense of your employees. Today’s society is litigious to begin with, but if you don’t make every effort to curb harassment you are more or less getting what you deserve when you are asked to appear in court.
The bottom line? Appreciate your employees. Understand that their efforts contribute to your success. Defend them if they need defending, even if that means upsetting an unruly customer. The price of not doing so, after all, could end up being more than a restaurateur can bear.
Effective promotions are invaluable weapons in a pizzeria’s marketing arsenal. Imposters abound, but The Employee 10 Percentage Discount Card is worth consideration.
Don’t confuse the card with coupons featuring mass distribution, deep discounts and price gratification. This promotion targets local employees who possess disposable income. Unlike coupons, the discount is modest, but its longevity promotes repeat trade and customer loyalty.
Pizzeria operators distribute wallet-sized discount cards through personal contact with employers. That’s tougher than media, but yields business-to-business ties coupons envy, since contacts occasionally foster exclusive sales opportunities like catering employer functions.
But a measly 10 percent? Yes. Discount defers to exclusivity. The card grants privilege and sense of ownership. Cardholders proudly flash their cards, proclaiming, “I have a special discount.”
The card’s performance has been excellent when used as part of an overall marketing strategy. It can save a failing lunch business, launch a new pizzeria, and revive a dying operation.
First, establish goals by targeting prospective participants, determining specifications and measuring results. Maybe you need carryout or repeat trade, or face new competition. Regardless, clearly state objectives.
Next, research local employers. Use chamber of commerce workforce data to plot strategy. Record an employer’s name, workforce size, business type and location. Find out all you can, including shift times and commuting patterns. Use business directories, economic development agency figures or contact employers and ask questions.
Third, determine specifications. The Card offers a 10 percent discount, effective date is one year and initial distribution one to two thousand cards. Customize specifications to suit your market, sales needs and resources.
Design counts, and making your cards yourself is effective and affordable. Design cards using MS Publisher or a similar application. Later, develop an employer/employee database, merge files and print onto clean-edge business cardstock. Design should include pizzeria name, logo, phone number, address, expiration date and participant names. Cards cost approximately 10 cents each, depending on weight, ink required and local prices. That’s $100 per 1,000 –– costlier than coupons, but recipients retain cards a year, typically generating gross sales far exceeding those realized through coupon redemption.
Operators lacking time or technology may use a commercial printer, but expect higher cost, restricted flexibility and longer turn-around time. If you discover an easier, less expensive design and print method, go for it.
Contact & distribution
With employer research, program specifications and card design complete, it’s time to go public. Analyze data and select employers compatible with program objectives. For example, to increase daytime business select companies whose workers likely eat out or order in. Office staff, professionals and industrial personnel may fit that model, but probably not construction workers, who seldom leave job sites. If you adopted a broad objective, like daily revenue increases, business type becomes secondary. Instead, select employers closest to your pizzeria or whose workers pass by while commuting.
Draft a cover letter addressed to human resource departments and use specific names if you know them. Enclose a sample card and follow up by telephone after a week without response. Visit the employer if necessary and explain your program in person. Remember, you’re creating priceless associations.
When an employer opts in, request an employee roster. You might also offer a company discount for group functions, and then enclose a discount certificate with completed wallet cards. (FYI: MS Publisher works great for certificates, which cost approximately eight cents each when printed on light parchment stock.) You’re nearly home. Develop the employer/employee database, merge with card file and print. You can mail or deliver cards and company discount certificates.
Be sure to track response. Keep records of redemptions and gross sales generated for one month, and then analyze program effectiveness based on employer research and your objectives. Say your goal is a five percent revenue increase, your area has 6,000 employees and you distribute 1,000 cards. After a month, if sales are up 2 percent due to card redemption, distributing more cards will probably attain your objective.
Maximize the program’s potential by creating a customer database for future promotions. Obtain names, phone numbers and street/e-mail addresses using cardholder surveys or in-house contests. Then maintain contact through special offers or newsletters.
The card brings them in and encourages repeat visits, but won’t transform second-rate into world class. Fix up, clean up and stock up. Train staff regarding promotion details. Did you target lunch trade? Then run a bit heavy on daytime staff until you determine response rate.
Protect perceived program value. Don’t bypass employer contacts and flood the market with wallet cards. And don’t offer blank cards to inquiring customers who know a cardholder. Instead, explain the program and consider making it available to that guest’s employer. Do the work, follow the process.
The last word
There it is –– the Employee 10 Percent Discount Card. No guarantees, but experience speaks in favor of the Card. The program’s considerable up side and controllable risks make it worth a try.
Gary Midge is a Brainerd, Minnesota freelance writer.
The Card vs. Coupons
Don’t mistake the Employee 10 Percent Discount Card for coupon promotions. Here’s why:
• Mass distribution (newspaper or other print vehicle)
• Media circulation determines distribution
• Deep discounts (up to 50% or more)
• Objective is temporary revenue boost
• Low profit margins
• Customers motivated by price
• Price motivation does little to encourage repeat trade or customer loyalty
Employee 10% Discount Card Program
• Targeted distribution (employees with disposable income)
• Controlled distribution (circulate cards when needed)
• Moderate discount of 10%
• Objective is long-term business growth
• Very livable profit margin after 10% discount
• Customers motivated by sense of privilege and ownership
• Exclusivity encourages repeat trade and customer loyalty
• Personal contact with employers provides additional sales opportunities
One of my first assignments as a consultant was to implement a turnaround for a group of pizzerias. They were hanging on by a thread. They had cashed in all of their CDs, 401ks and charged their credit cards to the max. I had made several visits to the operations. They were buying their food at good pricing and had perfect portion control in place. After putting their financials under a microscope it became clear to me that theft was probably happening. Since the management and crew knew me by sight, I decided to insert my manager, G.I. Joe, undercover for a week. He was to be hired in as a driver / rookie pizza maker and determine who was stealing and how much was being skimmed. He checked in every night and gave me a briefing. It turned out that there was a GM who was dipping heavily and several drivers who were in collusion. They were stealing over a grand a week. We nailed them red-handed and the turnaround began. A year later my client went from losing $40,000 a year to making $75,000. The $2,000-a-week difference saved the operation.
I have been talking to dozens of operators recently, and many of them have stumbled on to some very serious theft taking place right under their noses. It seems when the economy starts heading down, the cash shortages head up. Is it coincidence or desperation?
Last week I was talking to a client and he told me how he caught a veteran employee stealing from the cash drawer. This employee ran the register during lunch and had memorized the total pricing for the lunch specials. When a crowd gathered at the register, he left the drawer open and collected the right amount from every customer — but didn’t ring every transaction into the POS system. Every 4 or 5 customers he’d close the drawer and play it straight for a while — then he’d do it again.
‘till drawer’ owes you, the average scammer uses ‘counters’. When pennies or dimes are in the wrong change slot, or paperclips or anything out of the ordinary is in the drawer, counting could be going on.
This scam is only one of the dozen or so that I have discovered at my shop. Some of the most prevalent scams are:
- Drivers using coupons they cut out and claimed the customer redeemed at the door.
- Taking perfectly good food and beverage out to the dumpster under wraps and retrieving it after closing.
- Assigning deliveries to other drivers.
- Stealing money from the petty cash box.
- Stealing cash from the night deposit and feigning an error in addition when the bank calls the next day.
- Giving freebies to friends and family.
- Theft of company property other than food and cash.
If you suspect that you have a silent partner, develop a few safeguards and traps to catch them. Unannounced cash drawer swaps are very enlightening.
Here is my quick-fix list for slowing the loss:
Drivers will not take coupons at the door that weren’t calculated when the customer called in the order. The exception is a customer can call the store back when the driver is at the door and get the transaction changed on the original order.
All garbage going to the dumpster will be bagged in clear plastic bags. Every bag will have a cup of bleach poured into it before it is tied off. These bags will accumulate at the back door in a plastic wading pool. Every hour or so the manager will walk the trash out to the dumpster.
Fingerprint recognition is a sure-fire way to eliminate accidental or intentional delivery switching at the POS system.
The manager on duty owns the petty cash box. The individual cashiers own their cash register drawers. Overs and shorts will slow down or stop. (While were on it, cash overages scare me more than shortages. This is a positive indicator of theft.)
Two employees count the night deposit and sign the deposit slip. Shortages will stop.
Cashiers can’t ring up family.
Mark all company property with your name
Never let the bookkeeper / accountant touch the money.
This list is a starter list so you can do an internal audit on your operation. Things that are measured quite often improve.
I'm thinking of hiring a store manager and want to know your opinion on promoting from within or bringing someone new into the company.
I've done both and it is definitely an easier transition to promote from within if you have the right candidate. One of the problems you could face occurs when the employee you want to promote has spent time partying with staff. They may have a hard time earning their respect as a leader. It's best to always try to groom an employee or two for future leadership. This way they will strive to climb to that position.
We all know families are the backbone of your business. Here are some tips to
make your place a welcome spot for the little ones:
• Speak directly to the child, not the parents. Ask them their name, then use it
when you reference them.
• Bend down to their level and look them in the eye so as to be less threatening.
• Offer to have the children’s meal prepared as soon as possible, before the
adults get their food.
• Have moist wipes on hand.
• Offer the kids coloring sheets and crayons to occupy them while they’re waiting.
Employee theft is a problem for any business owner. Some statistics indicate that employee theft causes thousands of businesses each year to go under. Here, I’d like to offer Pizza Today readers a copy of a very important document I used at my pizzeria: my Loss Prevention Statement.
The following Statement of Loss Prevention Responsibilities must be read and signed by each employee, and a copy of the signed memo submitted to the General Manager.
The single most important asset of Big Dave’s Pizza & Subs is its people. It is our responsibility to protect this valued asset by providing understanding, direction, and support for high standards of business conduct.
All of Big Dave’s Pizza & Sub’s assets — merchandise, property, information, recipes, services, cash and people — are intended to be used in a manner that contributes to sales, profits and customer satisfaction. Using, diverting, damaging, or taking a company asset for personal use or benefit is an abuse of the business’ intended use of that asset.
The purpose of this Statement of Loss Prevention Responsibilities is to help Big Dave’s Pizza & Subs people make correct decisions and judgments regarding activities that are considered workplace abuse. This statement is a company policy, as well as a guideline to help each employee define workplace abuse in their area of responsibility. The list of examples is not all-inclusive. Each employee should add to it from his or her understanding of workplace abuse. Any violation of this contract is grounds for immediate termination and prosecution.
Definition of WORKPLACE ABUSE:
Workplace abuse is any illegal, dishonest, irresponsible, or counterproductive act that causes loss or harm to a company, its employees, or customers.
Examples of WORKPLACE ABUSE:
1. Unauthorized taking or use of company merchandise, cash, materials, equipment, or services.
2. Taking or damaging a co-worker’s property.
3. Intentional damaging of company inventory or other property.
4. Assaulting or harassing customers, suppliers, or co-workers.
5. Stealing from or cheating a customer.
6. Giving unauthorized discounts or buying merchandise at discount for a person not authorized to receive a discount.
7. Using, possessing, selling, buying or being under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol on company premises or during work hours.
8. Borrowing or using company property, vehicles, or tools without proper authorization.
9. Unauthorized acceptance or solicitation of gifts from suppliers.
10.Operating or having a major investment or relationship in a business that competes with Big Dave’s Pizza & Subs.
11. Falsifying payroll time records, or other company records.
12. Unauthorized use or dissemination of company proprietary information.
13. Intentionally allowing merchandise to leave the physical control of the company premises without proper paperwork or financial transaction.
14. Failure to report known workplace abuse.
15. Gambling, or any other illegal activity on company time or on company property.
16. Rudeness to a customer.
17. Failing to strictly adhere to all traffic laws. Reporting any traffic stops to manager immediately.
I have read the above Statement of Loss Prevention Responsibilities and I understand my role in loss prevention and security at Big Dave’s Pizza & Subs.
[x] (Employee’s Signature)
Printed Name & SS#
[ x ] witnessed
This document is an important first step to protecting your business. Put its policies in force today.
We are in a cash business. We have cash everywhere. In the cash drawers, delivery wallets, petty cash box, night deposit and office. I wouldn’t begin to estimate how much cash has been stolen from me. The amount would probably make me ill. I can document close to a hundred thousand dollars. It’s been said that 25 percent of your employees wouldn’t take anything from you. 50 percent will occasionally take something if the chances of getting caught and prosecuted are slim. The remaining 25 percent are constantly figuring out ways to rip you off.
The National Restaurant Association attributes 30 percent of all restaurant failures to employee theft. According to them, restaurants lose more than $9 billion dollars a year to theft.
There are many reasons employees steal: they have a psychological disorder or think you’re rich or need money urgently, etc. They don’t just take cash, but will steal food, inventory, trade secrets, personal possessions, equipment and supplies and database information.
Their methods are diverse as well. They’ll under-ring orders and pocket cash or under report delivery sales. Petty cash is an easy target. They’ll give away unauthorized comps to their friends or intentionally mess up an order. They’ll leave you and take your recipes or mailing lists to competitors.
By far, cash is the primary target. In today’s tough economy even saints can be tempted. Technology has again helped by developing an online behavior trait test for all new applicants. In 30 seconds after a quick quiz a manager can get a numeric score on an applicant and see what their ethic / honesty number is. Here are some successful tactics I used to minimize cash theft.
If I suspect that a cash drawer is being pilfered, I’ll do two things. First I’ll over load the starting cash by $20 or so. When we reconcile the drawer to the register reading, it had better be twenty bucks over. Then I’ll do surprise drawer swaps in mid-rush. The under-ringers keep counters in the drawer. They ring up $10 and charge the customer $20. They quite often keep track of how much the till is over by placing coins in an unused slot in the drawer. Before the shift is over they pick the time to pull the under ringed cash and pocket it. A surprise random drawer switch and count will often show the overages. Overages are more troublesome to me than shortages.
For many years anyone could ring up sales at my pizzeria. Since we didn’t assign and hold responsible one person on a drawer, shortages were quite common. If you assign a drawer to one person, they become solely responsible for the drawer balancing. Things that are measured always improve. If the cashier can’t make the drawer balance within one percent of perfect on three occasions, then they won’t be allowed to touch any more money. I know this will slow down your system. If your bank and every major retail operation in the country can do it, tell me again why you can’t. You may need to bring in one more person for 10 hours a week to accomplish this. Whenever you allow a free-for-all in the cash drawers you might as well put up a sign that says “Take all you need. Just leave me a little bit to pay the bills with.”
Petty cash and night deposits are tempting targets for the criminal element. Again, accountability is key. Only the manager has the key for petty cash and two people count the deposit and sign the deposit slip at closing. I’m a much stronger believer in using technology as a deterrent. CCTV (closed circuit television) has been the difference between success and failure in many operations. New technologies will allow owners and managers to watch the operations remotely on their computers from anywhere in the world. I like a camera over the cash register, one over the make line and one at the front and back doors. At one time I resisted CCTV because of privacy issues, but I made a new decision after helping catch thieves that had come close to bankrupting several of my clients. When a cash drawer or driver is being balanced you never tell them how much they owe. They count it and you see how close to perfect they are. If you tell them in advance they will force the number every time.
Even more valuable than your cash is your mailing list.
This data is the lifeblood of your restaurant. It usually contains every customer’s name, address, phone numbers; email addresses, lifetime and period purchases. How much would you be willing to pay for this data from your most hated competitor? If you could put your hands on this info you could target market to these families over and over until they tried your pizza. I have legally obtained this info from my competitors because they were sloppy. It cost them dearly. Password protect your lifeblood — otherwise disgruntled or low ethical employees could download your info and sell it.
Employee theft with delivery drivers has almost taken down several chains. Before POS systems were customized for pizzerias it was relatively easy to steal big money every week. POS systems made this challenge a lot more difficult but certainly not impossible.
Coupons are generally deducted at the time the drivers settle up. They can cut and pass off coupons for legitimate discounts and often do. My stance was whatever was quoted to the customer at time of order was collected. Once in a great while a customer produces a coupon they forgot to mention when they ordered. Drivers may not honor them at the door. The customer must call the store manager and get the discount approved on their home phone. The coupon shuffle really drops off after you implement this. Assigning deliveries to another is another way unscrupulous drivers penalize their fellow workers and personally profit. I think the fingerprint recognition at terminals is the only way to go. Passwords are shouted across the store but fingerprints can’t be altered. I made it a practice to call back delivery customers and survey them on meal quality and service. I asked open-ended questions and asked them to give us a number between 1-10 based on their experience and then I asked them why. Great information is gathered this way.
To Catch a Thief – Delivery
• Have a Zero tolerance policy on unpaid deliveries
• Coupon Shuffle
• Call back customers and survey them
• No co-mingling of cash, (drivers must keep personal and company money separate at all times)
• No assigning deliveries to others
• Watch for Un-authorized discounts
Shhh! It’s a Secret.
Equally important as your cash, perhaps more so, are your trade secrets. They should be protected by confidentially and non-compete agreements. In the old days it was a visit from a bone breaker if you forgot. Now you will need to stay above the law and sue in civil court. I’ve been an expert witness 3 times and the court has always found for my clients. Protect all of your sensitive date and lock it up. Employees aren’t managers and seldom need to know all of the details.
There’s nothing sexy about food safety. But running a professional kitchen with proper food-safety protocols in place is the most important aspect of an operation. Not only can a poor health inspection be costly through fines, it can also devastate the restaurant’s reputation. And with a branding of unsafe practices, an operation has a difficult, some would say impossible, task of regaining a community’s trust and business.
So, here then, is a primer on food safety.
Getting Ready for Inspection
- Be ready for an examination at any time. To do this, managers should conduct weekly internal inspections. Follow the protocols that health inspectors use, looking at areas both outside the premises and in.
- Share the results of the inspection with kitchen staff. Those weekly meetings allow the operation to stay on top of any infractions and also keep safety issues top-of-mind with employees. Crucial areas that require vigilance from kitchen staff are food temperature, awareness of food types to avoid cross contamination and hand washing.
- Operators must follow municipal regulations on certification. They should ensure that some, if not all, staff attend food-safety training programs and become certified.
How to Handle the Inspection
- Managers should never refuse an inspection — no matter how inconvenient the timing. If an inspector has to return with a warrant, the inspection will most likely be a lot more thorough.
- A staff member should accompany the inspector and take notes on areas inspected and violations found. This illustrates camaraderie to the inspector, and allows an on-the-spot fix of smaller infractions.
- Once the inspection is over, the restaurant employee should ask for the results to be shared with the rest of the staff, so improvements can begin immediately.
What to Do If Cited
- Small problems should be fixed during the inspection to illustrate good faith.
- If violations cited need clarifying, staff should respectfully ask the inspector to explain his/her findings.
- If the operator disagrees with the findings, he/she should appeal the decision through the local health department — disagreeing with the inspector on site is not a good idea.
Many training programs are available, both online and in classrooms. ServSafe is a food-safety program that is widely recognized by local, state and federal health departments, and is administered by the National Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation. Programs such as these award food-safety certification, and are crucial to any operation. Material covered in these courses include:
- Food-safety hazards, including contaminants, allergens and foodborne illness.
- Flow-of-food hazards that covers issues such as cross-contamination; time and temperature control; safe receiving; food storage; preparation and serving; and cooling and reheating.
- Sanitation, including personal hygiene and how food handlers can contaminate foods.
- Pest control, including identifying pests and using and storing pesticides.
Many operators only certify upper-level management. But food-safety practices are so important, others certify all members of the kitchen staff.
7 Principles of HACCP
- Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points is a preventive government protocol. A strict adherence to the principles of HACCP ensures safe food-handling practices. For more information, go to the USDA’s site, http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/haccp.html
- Hazard Analysis. Hazards are identified as biological, such as a microbe; chemical, such as a toxin; or physical, such as ground glass or metal fragments.
- Critical control point identification. Points are markers in a food’s production — from its raw state through processing and shipping to consumption.
- Establishment of critical limits. Preventive measures are set up with critical limits for each control point, such as minimum cooking temperature and time needed to eliminate harmful microbes.
- Monitoring procedures. Critical control points need to be monitored. For instance, protocols need to be set in place for how long and by whom cooking time and temperature is monitored.
- Corrective actions. When monitoring shows that a critical limit has not been met, there should be corrective actions in place to deal with the issue.
- Record Keeping. Establish procedures to ensure that the system is functioning correctly.
- Verification procedures. Document your HACCP system with spot-on record keeping, such as records of hazards and their control methods.
Use these to make sure your restaurant is covered• HACCP Course Training Schedule for 2008
• National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation
• ServSafe Food Safety Certification
• State Restaurant Association Map
My favorite restaurant is quickly becoming “my old haunt.” That’s right, I’ve just about stopped going there. At least with any real frequency, that is. I used to try to stop in once a week to chat with the owner over a bowl of pasta or eggplant parm. Now I’m down to once a month. It just isn’t the restaurant I fell in love with.
It all started two years ago when the proprietors switched to a cheaper bread. It was a warning shot, so to speak, a foreshadowing of what was to come. Not long after that they opened a second location. When I noticed my eggplant was still frozen in the middle — not once, but twice — I was furious. They’d always used frozen eggplant, and that was fine. But the new crewmembers obviously didn’t know how to prepare it when some of the veteran kitchen staff transferred to the second store.
Sure enough, the service began slipping next. I used to know the servers. They were friendly and helpful. Now, I recognize only about half of them. The kitchen has slowed and the service level is clearly inferior to what it was just 12 or 18 months ago.
I’ve always longed for a regular spot, a Cheers-type atmosphere where “everybody knows your name.” I had it briefly. But, alas, change is the way of life.
I’m glad this particular restaurant was able to grow, but can’t help but wonder if it sacrificed its soul in doing so. It just isn’t the same, plain and simple. I’m not alone, either. I know lots of folks in my area who feel the same way and have moved on. It’s sad, really, and it’s eventually going to catch up in terms of declining sales. I don’t want to be there to say “I told you so” when it happens, which is why I’m moving on.
I suppose the moral of this story is to get it right before you grow. Get the proper management in place. Have a solid training program. Make sure you can add stores without having to sacrifice quality. After all, what’s the difference between one $1 million location and two $500,000 locations? Nothing in terms of sales, but there’s a big difference in terms of responsibility.
Don’t get me wrong: I encourage growth. But it must be done right, or else it really isn’t growth at all.
I see so many employers these days that are allowing the staff to call the shots. Sit your employees down. Remind them of the policy. Tell them that texting and checking texts is in fact using a cell phone and will be grounds for termination. Some kids can’t live without being plugged in to their friends or the outside world. But you need to teach them what that paycheck represents: they need to be plugged in to your business while on the clock. If they don’t like it or can’t live by the rule, then you must terminate them. Simple as that! Stand firm.
Often, seasonal employees help operators maintain service and food quality levels during particularly busy periods. Before you decide to up your crew during the upcoming summer break or the winter holidays later in the year, however, ask yourself these questions:
• Could existing staff handle the workload with increased hours?
• Is the existing staff willing to work extra hours?
• Would the cost of overtime for regular employees be greater than the cost of using additional, seasonal employees?
• What’s the labor pool situation like in my community?
• Will the season involve extended operating hours or just a heavier workload during regular operating hours?
• How many additional employee hours will it take to handle the extra work?
I have implemented an observation day. After interviewing someone that I think is a great candidate, I have them come in for a paid observation day. I explain that it is not simply to stand back and watch, but it really is like the first day of training. Tell them you want them to show you what they are capable of. It's their chance to observe your business and determine if they want to work for you — and your chance to see if they have what it takes to make it. If they stand around like a bump on a log, get rid of them, do a payout for the couple of hours they were there and save the headache of all the paperwork and training.
I’ll never forget the night it happened. It was dinnertime on a Friday night. My best-ever crew was getting ready for the rush and I had all of my aces in their places. I realized that I had forgotten to restock the petty cash box with small bills and change. No problem, the bank drive-thru doesn’t close for 15 minutes. I scooped up the big bills and trotted to my vehicle. It wouldn’t start. I had left the lights on and the battery was dead. I went back into my kitchen and asked my delivery supervisor to borrow his car so I could make the bank run. Bill tossed me his keys and I squeezed my rather large bucket into the bucket seat of his screaming Camaro. I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare and then I spotted something very disturbing. Between the roof and the sun visor were six of my guest check books. I pulled over and started thumbing through them.
These were the old fashioned, 50-to-the-book, carbonless green guest check books. These books were numerically numbered and had absolutely no business being anywhere but in the store, next to the phones, or in the case in the office. As I perused the guest checks I recognized many orders that I personally made. What the heck was Bill doing with them in his car? This guy would never steal from me, I reasoned. Heck, I was in his wedding party! He had worked his way up from driver to supervisor in five years. He was well paid and a trusted confidant.
Doing quick math I concluded that the 300 unaccounted-for orders were on average worth roughly $20 each. That was over six thousand dollars!
I left the guest checks as I discovered them and started to really keep an eye on Bill. During busy times my drivers took phone orders. Bill was very good at it. When it suited him he would take out “his” guest check book from his back pocket and write the order. He then made sure he took the delivery and kept all of the money — and we had no record of the sale. He had both the original and the copy in his pocket.
I was hurt, shocked and in denial. How dare anyone rip me off! I’d work with any employee to help them get over a financial bump in the road. I fired Bill shortly after that. Within a few weeks I purchased my first ever computerized Point of Sale System that I thought I could never afford. Almost overnight my store started making serious profit. Go figure.
I’ve got a surveillance camera, but I think I have a manager stealing from me. It looks like she’s ringing people in, but I can’t really tell. Is there a better way of catching her if she is stealing?
You want to synchronize your surveillance system to the clock on your register or computer. Watch for no sales or open drawer on the video. When you see food being handed to a customer with a simple no sale or open drawer, you have caught your thief. When looking at the video only it looks like the customer is really being rung in. Compare the two side-by-side to reveal what’s really happening.
According to YourEmployeeHandbook.com:
- Employees better understand their rights and responsibilities.
- A written employee handbook gives everyone the same set of rules to follow and informs employees of such policies without distortion or mistakes.
- Policies and procedures about legal issues such as harassment, discrimination, payroll practices, and federally guaranteed rights to which employees are included that can help owners protect their business.
- Gives employees rationale behind policies that might otherwise cause dissension or unhappiness.
- Provides a method of generating important feedback or suggestions from employees about company policies.
- Provides updated information about benefits programs available to employees and what steps are necessary to obtain those benefits.
- Employees with unsatisfactory or undesirable performance can be discharged with less risk when a handbook includes specific causes for dismissal and outlines a consistent disciplinary procedure.
- Helps to transfer much of the responsibility and burden of complying with government workplace regulations to employees.
Several years ago, my wife and I were in a restaurant in Tucson, Arizona. We had heard that the place had really good pizza, so we decided to try it. As it happened, I was sitting where I had a birds-eye view of the oven — a wood-burning oven. I suggested to my wife that we order a couple of appetizers along with a pizza. My wife said, “Why? I thought you weren’t all that hungry?” I said, “There’s no way that we are going to get a pizza too soon out of that oven; the fire is almost out.”
If it had been late into the evening and the restaurant was letting the fire die down I could understand it, but this was around 8 p.m. Admittedly, the place wasn’t too busy that night, but I could see a problem in the making. We ordered appetizers and a pizza. We ate our appetizers and I kept waiting for someone to throw another log on the fire. We finished our appetizers and the fire was still where it was when we first sat down. The server came by and told us that “the pizza was going to be a little while.”
Eventually some more wood went into the oven, and eventually we got our pizza.
My point is that wood-burning ovens can be like two year old kids: temperamental, unpredictable and must always be fed. With wood-burning ovens, there is always something to be done. Stoke the fire, add some wood, rake the ashes, swab down the hearth. The quality of a pizza coming out of a wood-burning oven is in direct proportion to time and effort that goes into it. It takes a real pizzaiolo to make a wood-burning oven worth the cost and effort.
Chicago has a dozen or more restaurants with wood-burning (true wood-burning, not gas-fired) ovens; I have had a pizza (or two) from every one of them. On the whole, I have been pleased, so it’s mostly raves, not rants, concerning those places. And to be honest, today’s restaurant owners that are getting into the wood-burning ovens have a better understanding and respect for how they work.
They’d better. It would be foolish to go with a wood-burning oven (over, say, a deck or a conveyor) and then fall short in using it the way it should be used. Yes, there are wood/gas combo ovens out there, and those should be looked into as well.
I have worked with any number of restaurants that decided to go with a wood-burning oven, so I know what’s involved and what to watch for cost aside. Should you decide that a wood-burning oven is for you and your market then stand by your decision. But you must face other factors and considerations and deal with them square up.
For example, before you do anything, you need to check your local codes as it pertains to venting, oven location, proximity to interior walls and heat exchange. Also, you’ll need to consider the size of the oven relative to number of seats and just how extensive your pizza menu will be. For example, with oven chamber size X, how many pizzas per hour can be produced? Now how does this relate back to the number of seats and the depth of your pizza menu?
In one situation I was brought in to consult after the investors had fired the initial consultant. The size of the oven ordered was way out of proportion to the space involved, to the point where a large portion of the back wall of the building had to be taken down to get the oven into the space and in place. It was a very costly situation.
Then there are a few other matters to be considered: wood storage (inside and outside, away from the elements). What kind of wood works best in a wood-burning oven? My first two choices would be oak and applewood. However, white birch, maple and beech work fine, too. In a nutshell, hardwoods that have been aged for at least six months to one year are the best. Why? Hardwoods, on average, give off three times as much heat as softwoods (pine, fir, cedar). Split logs start easier and burn brighter. Never use pressure treated woods, laminated woods, or firestarters in the oven.
The very idea of a wood-burning oven is to get the oven fired up to 700 F and higher. A wood-fired oven that gets up to 800 to 850 F can turn out a pizza in 2 minutes.
Now, the really good news: a wood-burning oven has the capability of producing some of the best pizzas you will ever taste, provided you understand the way the oven works. Considerations include:
- Tending and maintaining oven temperature by adding wood as needed
- Using the right dough formula for this style of oven (see below).
- Topping placement, such as putting the toppings on sparingly (less tomatoes, less cheese) because the pizza is in the oven for such a short time.
- Pizza placement in the oven — putting the pizza near, far, or t-h-i-s far from the fire
- Rotating the pizzas through the oven (clockwise or counterclockwise, your choice) properly
- Finishing off the pizza by holding it (on the peel) toward the domed top of the oven (where the ambient heat is the hottest).
Having digested all of that, let me add one more, one very critical aspect of working with a wood-burning oven: the dough. All is for naught without a proper dough. And I suggest to you that the dough to be made for use in a wood-burning oven be made with a soft flour (00, for example). A flour low in protein (11 to 12 percent) forms less gluten, provides a crispier crust, and gives that irregular hole structure in the crust that’s so typical of an artisinal pizza (aka Neapolitan style pizza).
But there are options. This recipe in the sidebar works great for just about any oven style, but is ideal for use in wood-burning ovens.
Neapolitan Pizza Dough
Yield: 30 ounces of dough
¼ ounce dry yeast
1 ¼ cups cool (80-90 F) water
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups soft flour
2 cups hard flour
Put the yeast in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Add water, sugar and salt. Whisk to dissolve. Add the two flours. Mix for 6-8 minutes, until the dough is pliable and cleans the side of the bowl. Cover the mixing bowl with a damp, clean towel. Let rise for one hour.
Divide the dough into three equal size balls. Cover and put in the cooler overnight. Give the dough at least one hour bench time before forming the shells and baking.