The spring health check

Posted on In Focus Mar 2011 - by Tandoori Magazine
The spring health check

With spring in the air, Tandoori's regular contributor Ajmal Mushtaq looks at how restaurateurs can evaluate their business

As restaurant owners we are always ‘busy' with customers or with the day-to-day running of the business and facing all the challenges that this presents. I carried out a Spring Health Check on my business. This forced me to evaluate exactly where the restaurant is and where it is heading for the forthcoming year, which is vital as this helps maintain the focus for our goals.

As a business expert, I have delivered multi-million-pound projects for some of the UK's biggest companies and now I have implemented the same practices to Mushtaqs restaurant and have seen some incredible results. In this edition of Tandoori, I want to look at some of the steps that Mushtaqs undertook as part of the Spring Health Check.

Confident Pricing - Business is all about generating profit and this seems to be increasingly difficult given the significant food inflation over the past two years, not to mention the recent VAT increase. If you deliver great food with great service the customers should not have too much trouble paying an extra few percent. Mushtaqs have increased prices by 8%. The publicity surrounding food inflation made it easier to increase prices as customers were expecting price increases.

Review contracts - It is important to review contracts on a regular basis to ensure to you are paying the most competitive price for your raw materials and services. In this climate, suppliers would do anything to keep your business but it is up to you to scope out potential money saving avenues. This month I have saved £779. Here is an example of how I saved £144 on my phone bill. The BT quarterly payment charge is £9. I signed up to pay by Direct Debit as this incurs no charge. (£9 x four quarters = £36 per year, multiplied by four telephone lines = £144).

Don't underestimate training - Customer service is vital for success. This is a great time to ensure the team is focused on great customer service. Following the snow disruption, harsh winter and Christmas period, it is sometimes difficult to gain the training momentum. Refocus on training to ensure that every member gets the correct training and is adding value to your restaurant.

Focus on sales - It's easier selling 10% more to current customers than trying to find 10% more brand new customers. Ensure all customer facing staff are English-speaking and are fully trained on the menu and upselling - I find upselling is the fastest way to boost sales. Also, first impressions last, and having a confident, knowledgeable, English-speaking team member can get the customer experience off to a great start.

Focus on hygiene - Customers are becoming increasingly demanding and they now have access to online hygiene reports. It is more important than ever that you achieve high standards of food hygiene. The benefits of a clean kitchen include- increased confidence in the team, safer working environment, elimination of cross contamination and finally, it gives your customers added confidence.

Being in business is all about profit, not turnover. Having a Spring Health Check can be very advantageous as it helps you to take a closer look at the financial and operational aspects and then make improvements accordingly.

Ajmal Mushtaq is a business expert and is the chef-director of Mushtaqs Restaurant in Hamilton, Scotland

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