Why do some restaurants succeed while most struggle ?

There are many factors that lead to the success of a restaurant.  You have heard the saying; location, location, location, but if the food is inconsistent and service subpar it will be hard to have long term success even in the best location.  You must have a combination of a good physical location that matches the food you are serving, an inviting and clean interior, consistent food quality, great customer service, a good marketing strategy that matches your brand and the funding to start and operate your new venture.

Often very hard working, ambitious people fail because they only focus on one or two aspects of what will create success.    One of the very first and most important tasks you need to tackle is your menu.  You may fine tune it as the process moves forward but you should have a good idea of what you type of foods you will be serving and the price point for each.  You must write a mission statement describing what your brand is about.  This should be two or three sentences.  If a friend asked what type of restaurant you are opening, this is what you would say.  Here is an example;

XYZ is a sit-down casual dining eatery that specializes in high quality made in house charcuterie, cheese and wine locally acquired and imported from around the world and artesian breads made in house fresh daily.  Sandwiches, soups and boards served in an artesian style of table service.  There is a small market area where customers can buy the offerings to take home.

I have a clear vision of what this facility will look like and what type of area it should be located.  It would be perfectly located in a walking area of a town, possibly where tourists frequent or near a theatrical venue.  At this time, we also should think about the equipment we would need to produce the menu items.  This is critical before signing a lease.  You must have the space to fit the equipment necessary and provide a kitchen that can prevent cross contamination.   One last thing before signing lease, make sure you have sufficient funding to build out the facility and operating capital to get started.

When the location is secure, you will need to contact an architect and plan out the facility layout.  You will need to submit drawings, the menu and in Maryland a HACCP plan to the local planning department.   There is much involved here and beyond the scope of this article, but we can help you wade through all the requirements.

When the plans are approved and construction is underway, you will have a lot of decisions to make.  From selecting finishes that match your branding, hiring upper management, securing contracts with food suppliers, pest management, refuse management, POS and credit processing, janitorial supplies, and the list goes on.

Before the facility opens the doors there is much to do.  Training the staff is critical. Not only should there be a certified manager on duty, you must train each and every team member.  Training should be job specific and ongoing.  When the facility is open, the person in charge (PIC) must be active and making sure that everyone is following procedures.

Finally, social media is an important aspect of any food service business.  Prospective customers will check customer review services like Yelp, Facebook and Google.   Any complaints must be addressed in a professional way.  Advertising should match your brand and be varied.  Some common mistakes are posting “stock” photos of food, incorrect information, getting into online arguments with customers and not addressing customer questions online.  The person handling your marketing can be a qualified in-house person or by hiring a marketing consultant.    The key is to be consistent with the brand established.

If you are thinking of starting a food facility, congratulations, it will be one of the most exciting times in your life.  We are here to offer our professional advice and walk through the process with you.  We have experience from conception through continuing operations.   We work with contractors and planning, menu planning, writing your HACCP plan, creating your food safety plan and training.  Do not hesitate to contact us at 410-687-1015.

 

About us;  Sue Farace, CP-FS has been in food service since 1997, before that she worked in the construction industry for 13 years.  She has owned several restaurants.  She provides training, HACCP plans and consulting and inspection services for over 10 years in Baltimore Metro Area.

Disclaimer: The information provided is intended to provide basic information that can increase your chance of being successful and does not guarantee success. Opening a restaurant is a risky venture. 

 

Retail: Is your food safety management system healthy?

Food Safety Management System

Food safety management system

When a facility has a functioning Food Safety Management System (FSMS), team members perform better, and customers will receive a consistent message when visiting.

In Maryland a HACCP plan is required for every moderate and high priority facility when they start up.  Often, they become forgotten until a health inspector asks to review it.  A HACCP plan should not be looked at as “just another requirement”.  A well written HACCP plan should be part of your overall food safety management system and should be part of your day to day operations.  However,  HACCP is only the beginning of your full Food Safety Management System.

What is a FSMS?

The short answer is;  Team members understanding,  consistently following and documenting the processes and procedures you have in place to minimize the risk of contamination of food.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at what your system would look like.

Commitment

The first step in creating your Food Safety Management System is to have a commitment to food safety.   No matter what your brands message is your team needs to understand that without food safety you cannot provide a consistent message to your customers.  This starts from the top down.  When team members think the “bottom line” and sales is all you care about food safety will not be a priority.  Unfortunately, the two go hand in hand.

SOP’s

Next establish your Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s).  This would include; your purchasing program that ensures your food is from a safe source, personal hygiene program, employee illness, cleaning and sanitizing program, how your facility avoids cross contamination, and establishing time and temperature controls to avoid bacterial growth.  The person writing the SOP’s need to have a good understanding of food safety and the current practices and procedures of the facility.  This is the core of preventing contamination to food.

Hazard Analysis

After your SOP’s are established you must look at every menu item and determine where a biological hazard could occur.  These are called critical control points.  In a Maryland retail food facility this would be steps in the process like cooking, cooling, reheating and hot holding.   Again, the person doing the hazard analysis must have a good understanding of food safety risks.  There are special considerations when the facility does certain practices like; using time as a public health control, cooks using sous vide, does any reduced oxygen packaging, uses additives or preservatives, cures food like bacon, displays seafood, squeezes juice or offers live shellfish in a display like a lobster tank.

Food Process Charts

Using data from the Hazard Analysis, create the food process charts.  The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene offers four methods of creating charts.  I prefer to use method #2.  I feel that it is the easiest for food handlers to understand and follow along.   For every CCP identified in the Hazard Analysis you must list the critical limit, how monitoring will take place, what corrective action you should take if there is a deviation in the critical limit and how will you verify the monitoring took place.

Training

Congratulations!  You now have a HACCP plan.  Now we need to make sure that team members are on the same page.  That is where training come in.   Training should be job specific and ongoing.  Divide your facility into stations, for instance, prep, expo, servers, warewashing, etc.   Review your SOP’s and make sure you include all necessary points in the training.    Remember, everyone in your facility should be trained in personal hygiene and employee illness.  Training can be computer based, group, one on one or a combination.  I believe the best training starts with computer-based or group training and then one on one with a qualified team member providing the training.  During training, be sure to correct the team member when doing something incorrectly. This can be done gently and politely but now is not the time to worry about hurt feelings.

Monitoring and Verification

Our system would not be complete without making sure that it is working.  We do this through monitoring the critical limits established in the food charts and monitoring team members to ensure that all SOP’s are being followed as well.  Monitoring is an action, for instance, it could be a visual observation or actually taking a temperature reading of cooked food.   Verification occurs when monitoring is documented through charts and logs.  The team member performing the task documents the result.  Managers must review these logs and documents to ensure the system is working the way it should.

For instance, if a team member had to cook the chicken longer than the procedure states they would document this as a corrective action.  Managers then review the corrective action documents and can then investigate why the corrective action had to be taken.  Perhaps, they deep fryer is not working correctly, or the team member placed too much chicken at one time in the basket.  Management can make corrections by either repairing equipment or retraining the team member.

Revise

When you make menu, equipment or structural changes the entire system needs to be reevaluated.  Maryland requires your HACCP be revised every 5 years or when significant changes have taken place.