Foodservice Updates is designed to help foodservice operators keep on top of all the industry news and provides tips for keeping business running smooth. We endeavor to provide the latest tips and solutions to keep you in the know.
Be clear about fees
At a time when food and labor expenses are so high, restaurant operators have to recoup costs from somewhere. Increasingly, they are leaning on check surcharges for help. These surcharges, which often total 22 percent of the bill and higher, are likely here to stay. But in the meantime, they tend to cause confusion among restaurant guests and employees alike. As a recent report from the New York Times puts it, these charges are often “tacked on with little explanation. Questions immediately swirl. Is this a tip? Does it go to the wait staff? If not, should I leave more money? Is it rude if I ask my server any of this?” It can add up to confusion, awkwardness and annoyance at the finish of a meal – not the final impression any restaurant wants to create. Part of the problem lies in calling the fee a service charge, which guests tend to conflate with a tip and consider voluntary. Some restaurants that want to eliminate tipping use the service change to do so, while others still accept tips. What’s important is to avoid surprising people. Be transparent about your fees with both guests and your staff. That includes including language on your menu and website to explain what your service charge includes and how it helps staff, as well as showing staff on their paychecks exactly how these charges are benefiting them. If you’re using these charges to pay for health benefits for your team, for example, that is a good story to share with guests and employees alike – and something everyone could get behind.
Is your patio going to the dogs?
As you open your outdoor dining area to guests, your ability to cater to their canine friends can provide an extra draw (while at the same time deter other guests who aren’t as fond of dining with animals nearby). While the FDA Food Code hasn’t historically allowed for animals aside from service animals on restaurant premises, more than 20 states and several local jurisdictions have regulations permitting dogs – and a 2022 update to the FDA Food Code could pave the way for additional areas to allow dogs onsite. If you’re considering it – and you may decide it’s not for you – the National Restaurant Association advises restaurants that are allowed to have dogs on their premises to abide by several best practices in the interest of preserving safety and harmony with guests: Understand your local health regulatory agency’s rules – while some agencies simply require a permit, others require more official notification of your intentions to allow dogs in your dining area. Require guests to keep dogs leashed, in control and off of chairs and tables – and ensure staff know how to respond and what cleaning and sanitizing procedures are required if those rules are broken. Use signage and language on your website and social media to make your policies clear to dog owners and others so everyone knows what to expect. Train staff to avoid handling the animals – or to ensure they wash hands immediately afterwards to avoid cross-contamination. Finally, ensure guests with dogs know where and how to manage pet waste while on your premises – and consider providing a refuse container for their use. If you’re on the fence about opening your patio to dogs, you may be able to find a middle ground that pleases everyone – setting aside just one day a week for a dog-themed dinner for dogs and their human companions, for example.
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