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Foodservice leaders on the impact of Brexit on the restaurant industry

With the uncertainty of a potential no-deal Brexit drawing closer, leaders in the restaurant industry are becoming less confident about their sector, with only 30% optimistic about the future of the general market, according to insight consultancy CGA’s latest quarterly Business Confidence Survey.

Verdict Foodservice spoke with industry professionals about the impact Brexit is and will have on the restaurant industry.

John Trueman, CEO of leading guest management system Quadranet Systems, has been in the restaurant industry for decades

“Aside from the obvious concerns restaurant and hotel owners have about the European migrants currently working for them, whose future remains uncertain, the impact on staffing has already been negative. Europeans are returning to their native countries rather than face uncertainty, making the pool of staff available to the industry ever smaller.

“Brexit is already having a seismic impact on our sector in other ways, too: the devalued pound is naturally resulting in fewer people eating out, choosing instead to pinch their pennies until after 31 October or whenever Brexit may be, when they will be able to assess what their disposable income looks like.

“Many of us feel left in the dark and planning for the future has become nigh on impossible. Brexit would be bad for hospitality, but uncertainty is worse. The sooner we have some clarity on what lies ahead, the better.”

Peter Hale, spokesperson for Business Electricity Prices (BEP), which specialises in helping businesses reduce their energy bills 

“With businesses seeing an average of a 43% increase in their electricity bills over the past ten years, and Brexit’s uncertainty lurking around the corner, it’s no wonder business owners are looking for smart ways to cut costs.

“The hospitality industry, especially restaurants, could potentially see a big change in their number of covers, as dining out is a luxury that people to tend to cut out when tightening their belts. In order for the restaurant industry to have the best chance of survival, it is important to look at cuts that will not affect quality of service.”

Chris Miller, founder of White Rabbit Fund, a creative development platform that backs and invests in food entrepreneurs 

“Without question, Brexit is a disaster for the hospitality industry in the UK.

“We have already seen increases in the cost of ingredients. Be that driven by the declining value of the pound, or simply giving suppliers a good reason to trigger raises. Under a no-deal scenario, with the implementation of tariffs, this will only get worse.

“As for the staff, a lot of our best staff are from Europe. Where they would often come to the UK to work and send some money home, with a weaker pound this is a less attractive proposition. In addition, I do believe there is a factor of feeling unwelcome. So, where many workers went back home over the summer, they simply are not coming back in the same quantity. This is creating a real shortage of staff.

“In the UK, hospitality has not been seen as a career and there simply isn’t the local talent pool to fill vacancies. The result comes from economics 101 – shortage of supply means increased price – so we will continue to see inflation in staff cost.

“The picture does not look good and I think it is pretty clear we are heading into a recession. We are ten years into a bull run when historic averages show recessions happen every seven years.

All that said, people still need to eat and drink. The restaurant market will not disappear, but there will be a massive shakeout. Operators really have to be at the top of their game to survive and prosper in these challenging times.”

Gareth Ogden, partner at haysmacintyre, who has 12 years’ experience in hospitality and advises his restaurant clients on topics such as financial planning for Brexit

“The restaurant industry is currently facing complex challenges. When we speak to operators the most common buzzword is ‘uncertainty’ which is partly, but not entirely, attributable to ongoing Brexit deliberations.

“Economic uncertainty is a serious concern in respect of its impact on consumer demand. The impact of Brexit on food costs is also causing anxiety, dependent as it is on the nature of the final Brexit outcome: deal, no-deal or no Brexit. Both of these factors are holding back many operators from further investment as they wait to see how the political situation plays out.

“However, it is the uncertainty over staff recruitment which is perhaps most obviously being felt currently. The uncertainty over the impact of Brexit on the availability of labour is compounding an already prevalent problem: recruiting good quality staff, including chefs.

“In the 2018 haysmacintyre UK hospitality Index, 77% of respondents stated that they felt Brexit would negatively impact their ability to recruit staff. Initial results for the 2019 Index suggest this figure has increased to over 80%. Operators are seeking clarity over the Government’s immigration policy and whether freedom or restriction of movement of labour from the EU will ultimately prevail.”

Jamie Shail, managing director at Rothay Manor Hotel & Fine Dining 

“Since the referendum one of the biggest impacts on the hotel and restaurant industry has been the shortage of staff. We rely on a pool of talent from European countries, and not only have they felt unwelcome, the euro-sterling exchange rate has meant a 20% decline in their salaries, and many have made the decision to return to their home or other European countries.

“The UK doesn’t have the experienced workforce to replace them. It is also this decline of sterling against the euro which is currently leading to higher costs of imported food goods. We have seen a significant price rise on many food products from dairy to fish.

“If the UK leaves the European Union with a ‘no deal’ along with the continued staffing issue, which may, in fact, get worse, we will also suffer a serious supply and demand problem. With the UK falling into WTO regulations this would immediately increase the price of imported foods by 20% and many imported products could be left at ports while lengthy checks are carried out.

“We are also likely to see further price rises from the continued decline in sterling and the increased demand for the limited production in the UK, with in excess of 30% of food products being imported.”


Who’s on the Move in F&B?

NATIONAL REPORT—Hotels across the country are revamping F&B operations. Here’s a look at the new additions to hotel culinary teams:

HGU New York Partners with Chef and Restauranteur John DeLucie

HGU New York Hotel has partnered with star chef and restauranteur John DeLucie to launch new food and beverage concepts across the luxury boutique hotel. The partnership includes a phased overhaul of the hotel’s bars and restaurants including the 1905 Lounge, rooftop, lobby bar and the creation of a signature restaurant set to open this fall.

Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead Welcomes Executive Chef

Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead has welcomed Executive Chef Christophe Truchet as the leader of the hotel’s culinary team. Truchet is responsible for the property’s culinary and banquet operations, menu development, concept and programming for the hotel’s signature restaurant, café & bar and oversees in­-room dining. He joins the hotel with nearly 20 years of experience. Most recently, Truchet served as executive sous chef at Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills.

The Peninsula Chicago Appoints Executive Chef 

The Peninsula Chicago has appointed Executive Chef Baasim Zafar, a native of England with more than 25 years of experience in restaurants and luxury hotels in the United States, London and Saudi Arabia. Chef Zafar will oversee all Peninsula restaurant kitchens for The Lobby, Shanghai Terrace, Pierrot Gourmet and Z Bar, as well as banquets, in-room dining and pastry kitchen operations. Most recently, he led culinary operations at The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago that included the launch of Italian steakhouse Torali and accompanying bar, rooftop lounge and café.

Innisbrook Resort Appoints New Director of Restaurants

Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, FL has appointed Dan Brown to director of restaurants. In his new role, Brown will oversee restaurant operations at each of Innisbrook’s four restaurants, to include the implementation of creative concepts, showcasing the talents of the resort’s culinary team as well as the inviting indoor and outdoor spaces for dining and entertainment. Brown brings more than 26 years of management experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry. He has maintained positions ranging from manager to assistant director for multiple restaurant outlets, and has been employed by properties including the Sheraton Harbor Island Hotel & Marina in San Diego, the Fairmont Plaza Hotel in NY, Mohegan Sun in Connecticut and The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa, FL.

Hyatt Place and Hyatt House Charleston Historic District Appoint Executive Chef

Hyatt Place and Hyatt House Charleston Historic District has appointed of executive chef Albert Kunco. Kunco has more than 20 years’ experience in the hospitality industry focused on honing his culinary skills. Most recently, Kunco served as the executive chef at Atlanta Marriott Peachtree Corners. Kunco will lead the development of a new catering program for group, corporate and social events and launch seasonal menus for the hotel restaurant, bar and happy hour.

Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows Revamps Culinary Team

Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows has introduced a new culinary team led by Executive Chef Nate Larsen and Sous Chef Chelsea Cummings. The new team under the direction of Chefs Larsen and Cummings will drive the culinary program at Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen, Turquoise Pool Bar and Palo Verde Spa & Apothecary as well as in-room dining and banquet operations. Larsen most recently served as executive chef at Hyatt Centric Park City. Cummings most recently moved to Arizona as a corporate management trainee with Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch.


8 chefs share the red flags that a restaurant isn’t worth eating in

Going out to eat should be an enjoyable experience full of brilliant food and lovely wine, that you can’t stop thinking about for days after. Sadly, though, that’s not always the case, and the chances are you’ve been victim to a bad meal at one time or another.

Thankfully, chefs of Reddit have been sharing the red flags they look out for in restaurants, that might indicate that you don’t want to eat there. And from oversized menus to dirty bathrooms, these are definitely things to consider next time you step out for dinner.

‘If they have a really big menu’

“If a restaurant has a giant, multi-page menu that’s a gigantic red flag. The longer the menu, the better the odds that you’re paying to eat a boiled bag frozen meal. Conversely, if a restaurant has a one-page menu that’s usually a pretty good sign, it means their line cooks have become specialists and can usually nail all the dishes listed.”

‘If the staff don’t seem to like each other’

“I always [base a good restaurant on] how the staff interact with each other. If they all seem to enjoy being there, and coordinate well, more often than not it’s because everything is running smoothly and they have a good system, which usually means they know what they’re doing and you can expect good food. That’s how it always is for the smaller, family run restaurants I frequent anyway, which I believe always have the best food.”

‘If your food arrives too quickly’

“If you order a meal that should take a long time to cook and it comes out very quickly. It’s been pre-cooked. This applies mostly to quiet nights. If it’s quiet and it comes out immediately it’s just been sitting there. But if it’s busy than there’s enough turnover that it’s likely alright and chefs are just being prepared.”

‘If the presentation isn’t nice’

“Presentation is a big thing. Even the cheapest greasy spoon should be taking a couple seconds to make it look nice. If you see your meal look like utter dog crap, the kitchen crew doesn’t care about the little things, which means they likely don’t care about the bigger things like food safety.”

‘If the bathroom isn’t clean’

“Not a chef but a friend of mine is a health inspector and he says if the bathroom isn’t clean, the kitchen is invariably not clean as well. The first place he checks is the bathroom in every restaurant he eats in, and if it’s dirty he walks right back out. I guess it’s just something that is easily overlooked by restaurant staff and indicative of lenient management in regards to cleaning.”

‘If there aren’t enough staff’

“Pay attention to the size of the seating area versus how many servers are on the floor. If it’s a large busy restaurant with lots of tables and only a couple of people serving, don’t bother eating there. That’s your first clue that the owners are cheap, and will happily sacrifice quality for a couple extra bucks.”

‘If it’s open 24/7’

“If the restaurant is open seven days a week, chances are your food is being negligently prepared by a burnt out chef, your vegetables are not being washed properly and more than likely everything is old because it was prepared in huge batches that are then frozen.”

‘If all the food looks uniform and identical’

“Food items that look uniform in size, shape and consistency are not made on site, but ordered in, frozen, and then thawed and heated. It’s somewhat usual in places that serve large quantities of food in a short period of time, like lunch buffet places, but shouldn’t be in a la carte places. A decent restaurant takes pride in actually cooking everything they serve and try to avoid processed crap as much as possible.”


Kirkintilloch pub and restaurant in final of top hospitality awards – by public demand

A well known pub and restaurant at Kirkintilloch is in the running for a top hospitality award – thanks to public votes.

The Stables is a finalist in the Scottish Hospital Awards 2019 which recognises the champions of the industry.

The event is hosted by marketing consultants Creative Oceanic but the results are in the hands of the Scottish public.

A spokesperson for the awards said: “After a tremendous number of nominations received, the list of the top contenders has been compiled.”

The Stables is a finalist in the Best Pub/Inn category.

The local establishment will find out if it has won at the presentations ceremony at The Crowne Plaza Hotel in Glasgow on Tuesday May 21.

The spokesperson added: ”Working for the hospitality industry can be challenging at times and these awards aim to recognise those who have succeeded in this sector, despite the difficulties.

“There are people who have dedicated their whole career in making the country a special destination for visitors. It is time to give those professionals the recognition they deserve.
“The awards will provide a platform to thank and honour those who have contributed to making Scotland a friendly and welcoming place, enhancing the country’s reputation nationally and internationally. We would like to congratulate all the finalists for their nomination and wish them the best of luck.”


The Happiness of Hospitality Through Service

A restaurant’s front-of-house team represents the brand as arguably its most valuable asset. They embody hospitality and serve to rectify, assuage, or adapt to the customer’s needs. FOH is the face of the brand.

With thousands of potential failure points in any guest experience, the server is the primary key to the identification and resolution of any issues. Well-trained and valuable employees provide service to keep guests happy and returning so that their frequency drives same store sales, which means we need to know how well each server delivers happiness.

Any restaurant operator will tell you talented staff with adaptive training is the cornerstone for running a good business. Consider insight from chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands David Novak:  “The most important thing you can do as a leader is create an environment where everyone knows that what they do makes a difference.”

How can a restaurant ensure their servers are evolving, growing and continuing to be a positive representation of the brand?

On-boarding is often the extent of training, but it’s actually only the start of building hospitality-focused talent with an understanding of their impact. Most brands expect those first few weeks to convey everything necessary about hospitality and therefore dedicate ongoing training to perfunctory menu change knowledge or regulatory safety. Training programs also typically treat all employees the same rather than identifying each team member’s unique needs, largely because we’ve never been able to identify individualized need

How can a restaurant ensure their servers are evolving, growing and continuing to be a positive representation of the brand? More importantly, how do you have a happy and productive workforce who knows how to truly deliver hospitality? The answer is data at scale to understand how each server is performing every day and what their unique opportunities are.

Data on the facilitation of service has transformed other industries as best illustrated by the Amazon retail effect, yet hospitality largely relies on what can be observed by the human eye when it comes to anything other than sales. That’s arguably supplemented by a mystery dining shop to manage their front line staff with the extremes of online reviews being their best effort of understanding the day-to-day perceptions of the brand. Data on service should provide insight into what elements are working overall with more detailed insights available by individual server. With access to such information, an operator can better celebrate the wins, coach and counsel on the negative, and create training plans based on information that historically hasn’t been available.

How would a restaurant get such quantities of data to inform service with the same granularity as it manages costs? The answer: ask the guest.

How do you have a happy and productive workforce who knows how to truly deliver hospitality?

Technology can enable a direct and at-scale solution as to how your staff is performing overall and in detail against metrics that you define, typically known as steps-of-service. Comment cards included in the check presenter and post-dining emails have been used, but rarely deliver data at scale. Likewise, post-dining emails engage a select number of guests with incentives. Feedback must be at scale to create a happiness score by server and to inform staff training, 

Engaging the guest at the point of payment delivers the right time and reason to start a conversation. A device like Yumpingo’s digital bill, is given to guests with the check presenter post-meal with a few questions related to product and service.  Its brevity, timeliness, and appropriateness allows for the digital collection, organization, and digestion of guest data on sentiment at scale.

If an operator has hundreds of data points by server per week, they can have conversations based on fact rather than feeling or observation. 

If an operator has hundreds of data points by server per week, they can have conversations based on fact rather than feeling or observation. This makes managing a team easier because operators work best to manage what is measured. From there, they can create merit-based scheduling, and peer-to-peer programs by linking strengths/weaknesses. For example, if an employee’s recent reviews showed they lack wine knowledge, a manager can require that the server completes a wine module of training prior to the next shift.  Similarly, a server with a perfect ‘happiness score’ can be recognized.

If an operator has hundreds of data points by server per week, they can have conversations based on fact rather than feeling or observation. 

A digitally driven approach to the collection of guest feedback and the implementation of that data to inform staff training will create an environment where your team can thrive because you then help each employee succeed by knowing exactly where they may be struggling. Time is money, as they say. Make your staff training effective by first informing management on where your staff performance stands.


We have to stop marketing junk food to children

Imagine being able to walk into a grocery store with your children and not have to fend off endless demands to buy kid-branded food products because there are none in sight. This peaceful scenario could become a reality if Bill S-228 passes in the Canadian senate.

The bill, introduced in 2016 by former senator and Olympic ski champion Nancy Raine Greene, would prevent food and beverage companies from marketing to children under age 13 across all forms of media – TV, Internet, billboards, magazines, radio, bus stop posters, and even food packaging itself. Marketing of foods and beverages that contain more than 5 percent of the recommended Daily Value (DV) for sodium, sugar, or saturated fat would be restricted. Currently, this includes the vast majority of foods that are typically marketed to kids. Mary L’Abbé, researcher at the University of Toronto, wrote in the Star that her lab has examined more than 15,000 foods (roughly three-quarters of the Canadian processed food market):

“We found that with the proposed DV threshold, only 16 percent of all products could be marketed to kids, and just 2 percent of products which currently have child-directed packaging meet the threshold.”

So, it’s clear that such legislation would have a serious effect on manufacturers, which is why they’re fighting it fiercely and the bill has stalled after its third reading in the Senate last fall. The CBC recently published a confidential letter from the heads of advertising, food processing, and retail companies, asking senators to withhold their support.

This is unacceptable, considering the good such a bill could do. Children are vulnerable citizens, lacking media savviness and susceptible to popular opinion. They are developing their own taste preferences and establishing eating habits that will stick with them for life (or be very hard to shake, especially if they’ve gained weight at a young age). They are also in great need of healthy nutrients to support rapid physical and mental growth. Dietitian Cara Rosenbloom makes the argument in Today’s Parent:

“There’s a known correlation between current food marketing and the rising rates of childhood obesity and chronic diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. Currently, 90 percent of the foods marketed on TV are high in salt, sugar, calories and fat, and that’s what our children are being encouraged to eat.”

Bill S-228 would work in two ways, as described by Prof. L’Abbé in University of Toronto magazine (Spring 2019):

“It reduces the amount of marketing that children and parents are exposed to, and it also works as an incentive to the food industry to reformulate foods. We saw that happen with trans fats: virtually every company has reformulated their foods to get below the regulations.”

Both points are important, but I think the latter is particularly profound. Of course people need to take responsibility for themselves, but for too long we’ve shouldered all that responsibility without expecting much from the companies that produce and sell us our food. It’s the same argument we’ve used many times on this website for plastic packaging; it shouldn’t be our job to clean up the detritus of a broken system.

This has to change. To quote L’Abbé again, “We want more of the onus to be put on the system rather than the individual to find the healthiest food… We want to help minimize the [parent’s] struggle.”


UK’s first cannabis restaurant raided by police

The UK’s first cannabis restaurant was one of three addresses raided by police in Brighton today – but the owners insist the “significant quantity of herbal cannabis” seized is legal industrial hemp.

Officers executed a warrant at Canna Kitchen in Duke Street, along with the Hemp Life head shop in London Road and a home address in North Place where a 36-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of money laundering and supplying class B drugs.

On Wednesday night, she was still being questioned by police.

A spokesperson for Canna Kitchen said: “A quantity of stock was seized from our shop today. Our products are defined as industrial hemp, and are clearly and transparently imported as such, with all taxes and duties paid.

“Our products contain CBD and trace elements of THC in line with the UK legal guidelines for pharmaceutical definitions and UK legal definitions of CBD products.

“If trace elements of THC render these products illegal, then by default all CBD products must be illegal in the UK. This would mean that many large high street chains are currently breaking the law.

“We have never in the past year and a half had any confusion over the legality of these products, and are disappointed with the heavy handed approach of the Sussex Police force today.”

A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “Police in Brighton carried out three raids across the city on Wednesday (May 8).

“Warrants were executed at shops in London Road and Duke Street, and a home address in North Place, in connection with an investigation into money laundering and supply of class B drugs.

“At London Road drugs and cash was seized and one man attended a police station under caution for a voluntary interview.

“At North Place a 36-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of being concerned in money laundering and the supply of class B drugs. She remains in custody.

“A further warrant was conducted at a shop in Duke Street and a significant quantity of herbal cannabis was seized.”

Canna Kitchen opened in December and features vegan and vegetarian food with the option of added cannabidiol or CBD, a non-psychoactive legal cannabis extract.

It also offers other cannabis extracts CBG and CBN as well as cannabis-derived flavours and fragrances.

Diners can also vape on the roof terrace.


Pizza restaurant to open in Finzels Reach development

A lot of work has taken place in the ever-evolving area over the years – now the prominent building at the heart of it is in the process of becoming something very special.

The former sugar refinery is being transformed by Cubex into a multi-use site which will include a new brew-pub headed up by Left Handed Giant and development kitchen led by Casamia’s Michelin-star head chef Peter Sanchez-Iglesias.

Sanchez-Iglesias’ restaurant will have a small number of tables and will rustle up innovative food of the highest order, while LHG’s brewery will produce incredible beer.

And as if that wasn’t enough to get excited about, it has now been revealed that we will also be able to get our hands on top quality pizza once the new site opens its doors.

Anyone who’s had the pleasure of sinking their teeth into one of Mission Pizza’s creations will tell you just how delicious they are.

Headed up by former artisan bakers Jim Bishop and Sandie Tomlinson, Mission Pizza began life in August 2016 when it made its debut at Left Handed Giant’s taproom in St Philips and has appeared at markets and events in and around Bristol since then.

All of its pizzas are vegetarian and its most popular options include the Proper Job, which is topped with chilli flakes and fennel sausage, and the Kale Rider, with toppings including kale and red onion.


How Important Is Live Music In The Hospitality Industry?

Spring fever is currently taking effect in New Jersey and all across the East Coast. For the Hospitality Industry, the start of Spring season means an influx of people coming out of the woodwork to enjoy local restaurants and bars. The combination of good food, sincere service, and entertaining live music have become the key factors in a community member’s decision to come out and play on nicer Spring days and evenings.
“Start the fire buddy! C’mon man, play something from The Stranger!” screams an event attendee. “We strictly do 80’s Joel music sir…” reasons the musician.

Any idea where this situation goes after this interaction? Even if this Step Brothers reference just flew overhead, it’s no secret that live music is amazing–until it really isn’t. What’s more, young restaurant upstarts along with their guests do not realize that there is a ton of ground to cover in between the time that restaurant managers decide they want to have live music and when the event actually occurs. From booking the bands, setting a music schedule, playing music to the vibe of the restaurant, and doing it all over again; restaurant managers, servers, bartenders, and live musicians are constantly working to get on the same page in order to make dining out with live music an enjoyable experience. 

“There’s so many restaurants out there, so it’s nice when you have an opportunity to give a customer some added value to enhance their experience. Everyone can serve a burger and everyone serves pasta with shrimp but, live music is something that makes you different from everyone else,” said Joe Amore, a restaurant manager at The Blue Horse Restaurant in Highland Park. Amore and the team at CAM Hospitality Group recently opened the new restaurant back in October 2018 and decided almost immediately to introduce live music every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Since The Blue Horse is so new, the team had to start from the bottom up when looking for musicians and when setting a schedule. However, as soon as word got out that musicians were in demand, “there were weeks where I had six different bands coming in, asking if they could play. So, how do you organize that? We linked up with this gentleman John Bianculli. He’s a local artist with so many connections. He keeps track of our scheduling so we can focus on what we do best, which is food, beverages, and service,” said Amore.

A definitive schedule of events is one of the most important aspects when trying to successfully pair the Music and Hospitality industries. As much as customers appreciate a band or solo performance whilst sipping wine or slurping spaghetti, there is such a thing as “overplaying” live music. The Blue Horse, has three days of music each week and never more. Other restaurant owners like Kevin Trimarchi of 22 West Tap and Grill also have their own scheduling methods when it comes to booking musicians.

“When we opened, we had entertainment every single Friday and Saturday for the first five months. We really evaluated things after that, and instead we wanted to make it something special rather than make it repetitive or washed up,” said Trimarchi of his location in Bridgewater, NJ. “We switched every Friday to a band and every Saturday to a DJ. We focused on the acts that really brought in the money as well as special themed nights like 90s Night or Techno Night.”

Once a band has been hired and added to a restaurant’s schedule, the work still does not stop for restaurant owners and musicians. Restaurant managers must begin to anticipate the crowd that each live act may bring through the door.

“We get music from New York, South Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Each band always has followers, so it introduces the Blue Horse to different people every single week,” said Amore. “We have our regulars but we also like to have new artists as well because you get another 10 to 20 people that may have never been here.”

However, once the night begins and the music goes live, the restaurant staff and performer(s) must always prepare to adjust spontaneously. Being a proper judge of the crowd’s mood or the restaurant’s atmosphere is a necessary characteristic for both musicians and staff. 

“It is important that they are in tune with what’s going on around them. If there’s a musician that just plays the same 20 songs no matter what the situation well, that’s not the right person for us,” said Amore. “As we look for quality food and the right ingredients, we also have to look for the right musicians that can adapt to the crowd. Is it an older crowd or is it a younger crowd?  Is it too loud to converse or not loud enough? It’s music volume, it’s interaction, it’s music selection, it’s all of that stuff.”

Vic Della Pello, a musician out of Asbury Park, NJ agrees. “The place I’m playing tonight, I noticed that when I do their Happy Hour there’s an older clientele. So, I can’t go in there and hit them over the head with some of my harder material. I find they respond to things like the Beatles, James Taylor, or America. The types of bands that are a little bit lighter, a little bit more of the singer-songwriter type.”

Playing to a crowd is a tough, but a necessary skill when it comes to this line of work. Musicians like Della Pello have to be in sync with managers like Amore or Trimarchi when it comes to taking breaks in performance, keeping customers in the restaurant, and responding to the ever changing vibe of the evening.

Often times, a live performance can allow a server, bartender, or manager to take their time and get a dinner or drink order correct, instead of having to rush something out. “Music definitely gets a customer’s mind off of the question, Where is our food, when there’s something nice to listen to,” said Trimarchi. “I would say customers are also more inclined to hang out a little longer, get another beer, order appetizers before entrees, and stay out a bit later.”

While live music isn’t directly correlated to increased restaurant sales, studies do show that louder music volumes (such as those that are produced at live performances) do tend to lead to higher consumption of (alcoholic) beverages. Della Pello has noticed instances like this first hand… 

“I think for the most part people are going to leave when they’re going to leave, but the other night a lady asked if we played any Bad Company. So, I said Hang out a little and when we come back on we’ll play a Bad Company song,” Della Pello recalled. “We played, the night continued, and then I saw that this individual was ready to leave. I turned to the band and said, let’s Play Another Bad Company song. And she ordered another drink [laughs]. That’s a very specific instance, and I can’t think a whole room is doing that, but there you go.”

There is never any guarantee that a restaurant’s food or a band’s music can satisfy the palettes of each guest who comes in–that has to be why Yelp exists. However, coming to the table or the stage with a plan of action and the know-how to make adjustments will assure waitstaff, barkeeps, entertainers, and administrators are satisfying their guests during this budding Spring season and during the busiest time of the year for two industries that couldn’t be more suited for each other.


Can Platforms And Payments Solve Restaurants’ 73 Percent Turnover Problem?

Good waiters are hard to find. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they are even harder to keep, as the restaurant worker turnover rate is 73 percent every single year. This was a problem that Ron McCulloch, executive chairman and co-founder at Jitjatjo, decided he wanted to solve after decades in the hospitality space in Europe, Australia and the U.K.

The chronic churn isn’t new. During his 30 years of working and running venues, he noted, it has been an endemic problem. However, in recent years, particularly with the rise of gig marketplaces, it’s become even more of a drain in the industry.

“I felt that combining technology with this problem could be a real help and a real service to the industry,” McCulloch said.

The technological solution he eventually came up with was Jitjatjo, a platform that offers hospitality industry players — of all shapes and sizes — access to a stable of skilled, vetted, tested and profiled hospitality professionals. They can be booked for as little as one hour and for as long as two months, with all manner of customization in between.

In a sense, McCulloch told Webster, it looks like many gig work platforms out there (the term “Uber for restaurant workers” has come up more than once). While the comparison is apt in some ways, it misses much of what sets Jitjatjo apart, starting with the fact that it doesn’t have gig workers on its platform at all, but employees.

Picking Professionals

To go with 1099 or W-2 workers, McCulloch said, was actually one of the foundational questions the firm had to answer within its first six months. The company was aware that many big things were going on with that 1099 model at the time, but ultimately decided that W-2 workers would be both easier for the firm to manage and important in developing the offer it wanted to make to its hospitality operator clients.

“In the early days,” he explained, “we picked the W-2 model because we knew it was important to look after the whole process of doing temporary work on an ongoing basis. The commitment we make includes the talent and the operator community, and what we can do to empower good work. It is very important for us to have vetted the talent properly so we have productive workers available on the platform when our clients are looking for them.”

Restaurants and hospitality are specialized segments, more than most people know, he said — and there are various skill and operational capacities, like knowing how to use certain machines that are mission-critical to keeping services up and operating.

What Jitjatjo clients most want — whether they are an individual proprietorship coffee shop or a 50,000-seat arena — is staff that can walk in the door (mostly cold, with minimal explanation of local customs and quirks), and get up and running in minutes. If the firm doesn’t offer that, McCulloch told Webster, its offerings aren’t doing these organizations any favors. That means the first layer of vetting is to make sure people are walking in with the right skill set. That is not the only layer, though: The technology must go further.

“Hospitality is a broad sector, and a dish washer who is used to a small space might freak out in a stadium. We also have to develop personas of our staff and operators’ clients so that the skills and the environment are a match. One of the classic errors staffing firms and apps make is they don’t go far enough into the persona of the talent or the client,” he said.

Better matches mean fewer surprises, operationally speaking, and that is strongly preferred by clients — even as their client portrait is shifting.

Meeting The Diverse Needs Of Hospitality

Given that hospitality is such a wide and varied space, Webster wondered if Jitjatjo found a market sweet spot in the industry — in terms of size or vertical — that stood out above the others. McCulloch noted that, though it literally runs the gamut when it comes to operator sizes, the composition of the firms it serves has shifted a lot. In the two and a half years that it’s been in the market, it has seen its lineup of operators shift from 80 percent small businesses (SMBs) and 20 percent enterprise-level firms to the exact opposite: 80 percent enterprise and 20 percent SMBs.

As for the types of orders it sees, again, the firm runs the gamut — though it does vary by size. Situations that would qualify as emergencies would be, for example, if the dish washer called in sick an hour before their shift, or if the head waitress eloped and wouldn’t be back for two weeks. Larger operators, stadiums and corporate functions, on the other hand, tend to be high-volume, high-skill, short-duration events that need large-scale staffing of all kinds.

As a draw to the talent side of the platform, Jitjatjo pays well. Workers can make up to $30 an hour, and those payments are, by and large, offered instantly to workers when their shifts are completed.

“When we first came here, no one was doing [instant payments], including the big guys, and it seemed like such a natural add,” McCulloch told Webster, noting that it was also a complicated offering at the time — an offering that workers, in some sense, need to earn. Instant Pay is only available for workers who show up on time, and who get positive reviews from clients when their jobs are done, he noted.

Jitjatjo offers its clients a variety of ability levels from which to choose, depending on what skill level they need. The firm also offers access to solid, outstanding and epic workers, depending on whether clients need to be assured that their “minds will be blown” or if their sights are set somewhat lower.

“From our point of view, there is also a progression in our platform,” he said, “so that servers can move up, depending on how they do and are reviewed.”

Changing The Hospitality Model

One of the great difficulties of hospitality as an industry is nailing down staffing properly, because the industry is known for having peaks and troughs. The only way to manage that, McCulloch noted, is to be slightly overstaffed, which is inefficient and not even guaranteed to get the job done.

“This opens up a different way of thinking. We have had clients that were actively trimming down their event offerings, because they couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of staffing them, that are now turning up this part of their business,” he explained.

Today, Jitjatjo is open in New York, D.C. and Chicago, with plans for expansion to Philadelphia “very soon.” The challenge, as is the case for most marketplace businesses, is to make sure its supply of talent keeps up with demand, which can be substantial and unpredictable. It has succeeded in that endeavor so far, with a lot of internal referrals bringing new workers to the platform and the savvy use of social media recruiting others. Moreover, he noted, Jitjatjo is the beneficiary of changing trends in the labor market, as workers with skills are preferring greater self-determination.

“There seems to be plenty of people out there to come into a trusted platform, to be offered jobs when they want and are available, which is all logged by the technology itself,” he said.

There is also an expansion of the services coming soon, offered through the platform and “other advances” that are designed to make Jitjatjo an even more attractive platform for talent to come work on, so it can continue growing strong.

Jitjatjo is a slightly unusual platform — down to its unusual name. It’s memorable, though it has heard many pronunciations in its early days. However, different is good, he noted, because different is exactly what it wanted to be.

“We didn’t want to get pigeon-holed into a shift company or a gig company,” he said. “We wanted to stay away from that, and create an environment and an ecosystem that lays a foundation so that people on both sides of the platform can trust what is going to happen.”

Plus, Jitjatjo is a fun name to say. Any other explanation of how it picked the name, he noted, is a strict company secret.