Category Archives: operational support

Amazing News! Hospital Food Gets Tasty!


Realizing the importance of high staff morale, and high quality ‘fuel’ for all guests, the Executive Staff at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas, decided to try a different, more innovative approach to what is really a Hospital Restaurant Food Court. Because the majority of the Operations Assessment projects Synergy completes involve the commercial restaurant industry, the Parkland team decided that a totally different, ‘outside-the-box’ perspective was needed. Having analyzed more than sixty (60) restaurant companies via their Operations Assessment protocol, Synergy was the perfect choice. Thus, Synergy Restaurant Consultants was retained for a full Operations Assessment by Parkland Memorial Hospital. Synergy optimized operations efficiencies and product quality keys to their retail foodservice assessment

Synergy representatives spent five days with us performing their Operations Assessment, observing all aspects of our business, following the flow of purchasing, receiving, production and service to our guests through the Breakfast, Lunch and Evening meal periods”, related Celia Krazit, Operations Director for the food service venues. “They left no stone unturned, and prepared a detailed report with untold numbers of valuable recommendations that we feel will improve guest satisfaction, guest counts and revenues while making us much more productive and efficient, resulting in reduced operating costs.”

In addition to the Operations Assessment, Synergy provided Celia and her team with objective judgments regarding food and beverage quality, price-value perceptions, plating/presentation recommendations, alternative menu selections, new product opportunities, and product display suggestions all designed to enhance the overall ‘feel’ of the café. Finally, they prepared a rough draft plan for a potential café renovation, with suggestions for new café stations that will move Parkland into the next generation of food innovation, all designed to maintain a high degree of staff ‘dine-in’ retention and satisfaction, all leading to improved bottom line performance

Employee Theft at Restaurants

Part one of Three.
A commentary by Dean Small, Managing Partner of Synergy Restaurant Consultants.
One recent study puts the financial loss to retail companies in stolen merchandise at $52 billion. National Cash Systems completed research last year showing that the average restaurant employee steals $220 per year in cash and products.
During the last few years, there have been growing concerns about the need for continued careful screening of prospective employees to ensure a safe work environment with honest, responsible and trustworthy employees. Many clients are dissatisfied with current assessment tools that purport to assess counter-productive behaviors. Clearly, this is a time when employees and customers need and want to feel safe and secure in the workplace. Bottom line: it falls to you to make sure of your business safety and honesty in the marketplace.
In this first of a series, let’s focus on daily activities. There is a pattern, a rhythm in your operations. When you detect changes in that tempo, start looking for unusual changes in your employee behaviors.
Signals From Employee Activities:
1. Are there secretive conversations among employees or phone conversations that stop abruptly when you approach?. Is there any one engaged in sending or receiving cryptic messages?
2. Is there excessive loitering of around your business of off duty employees, ex-employees or their friends.?
3. Do you find frequent “shortcuts” in procedures to expedite deliveries? Is there rapid checking in of some deliveries while others take much longer for no legitimate reason?
4. Do employees bring in large shopping bags or wearing unusually loose clothing to work regularly?
5. Do certain employees attempt to distract or hold the attention of a supervisor for no good reason while another employee is in the work area or signaling by hand gestures, whistling, etc. when a supervisor approaches?
6. Are there repeated violations of such security regulations as use of unauthorized exits or keeping personal packages in the work area? Do you keep finding an employee in an area he/she has no legitimate business in?
7. Do you discover the signing of another employee’s name or signing illegibly on invoices or packing sheets?
8. Are there employees habitually returning to the work area after others have left to retrieve something left behind?
9. Do you receive complaints by employees or customers that personal effects are being lost or stolen?
10. Are there frequent cash shortages on the same employee’s shift? Is there an unusual eagerness to “make up” the shortages rather than relinquish cash handling responsibilities?
11. Do you discover frequent cash overages on the same employee’s shift? This may indicate that an employee is stealing cash at the register but not “light ringing” sales enough to totally cover it.
12. Do you find an unusually high number of “no sale” transactions registered on any one shift?
13. Are there excessive undocumented voids on any one shift or voids left unrecorded until the end of an employee’s shift?
14. Do you see numerous receipt slips held by an employee until the end of a shift or notes found in the trash indicating that the employee was keeping a secret count of transactions?
15. Is there an employee who insists on ringing up his/her own employee meal after turning over cash handling responsibilities to another employee?
16. Do employees make excuses for theft? Employees who steal, rather than believing theft is wrong, may condone the acts of dishonest employees as, “It’s no big deal. It was only a few bucks.”
17. Employees who violate restaurant policies and procedures should be watched. 18. Are there overzealous work habits? Employees who work through their lunch breaks, seldom take a breather and never ask for time off may be running a game with the cash register. Also, employees who refuse to go on vacation may be afraid that their substitute will discover their dishonesty.
Yes, this all takes extra time and effort on your part. Granted, you trust your people. However, with a high cash and credit card number transaction business, the temptation may just be too great for many. Remember, it is estimated that 95% of all businesses experience some employee theft. Halting that drain will help your bottom line. Ignoring it will only cause it to expand and hurt you and your clients.
In our next edition, we will share additional signals regarding employee theft.
Dean Small

Everything old is new again.

I pride myself in obtaining the very latest in up to date information on foodservice trends and innovations. Today there was an article about a London restaurant that came up with a revolutionary idea for these hard economic times.

Their approach was simple: Suggest prices, but let the customer pay what they want for the meal. This establishes trust in the customer, provides feedback on the quality of food and service, builds reputation and customer base…and the list goes on. According to the restaurant, very few people actually try to ‘take advantage’ of the eatery and claim a free meal.

What a great, new, cutting edge idea…except for the fact that it was already a hugely popular concept here in Southern California…over 75 years ago.

Yes, back during the REAL Great Depression of the 1930s, a fellow named Clifford Clinton started a diner called Cliftons in Los Angeles. He was a third generation foodservice man, having grown up in his father’s cafeteria in San Francisco. His grandfather began the family tradition at a train station in San Bernardino, California in 1888.

Let me mention one prominent factor here: The family were devout Christians who created their diners and then went off as missionaries for the Salvation Army in China. Their successful restaurants kept them in enough money to continue their charity work.

Knowing few people could afford to eat out in the depths of the Great Depression in 1931, he made a pledge to the public that they could pay whatever they wanted or could afford. He vowed that none would go away hungry. Suggested prices were on the menu, but people could pay little or even nothing if they were not completely satisfied with the quality of the food. In our jaded day one would think the conniving public would rob him blind. However, people are generally good and honest. And they appreciate someone whose heart is truly set for the good of all. For every 3,000 customers served, only about 12 would scofflaw and demand a free meal.

Customers became “guests” and none were ever turned away hungry, even though they had no money. During one 90-day period, 10,000 ate free before Clifford could open an emergency “Penny Cafeteria” a few blocks away to feed, for pennies, the two million “guests” who came during the next two years. They survived and thrived via creative means. But that is another story for another time.
Cliftons in downtown Los Angeles is still operating…and thriving massively — using all floors of the three story building for the crowds of people who come to eat there. After 113 years and four generations. You may scoff at the approach, but the success is undeniable! And no, very few are down and out types.

Innovative approaches and solutions are the hallmark of successful businesses. Synergy Restaurant Consultants provides those long term and creative ideas.

Line Checks – Check to Inspect

Do you currently subscribe to line checks in your operations? Chances are that most of you reply “No” and an even better chance that many of you want to use one, but don’t know where to start. I have visited many properties where this was the case, and I have helped them design what should be mandatory for all restaurants….a Line Check.

I’ll briefly explain for those of you not familiar, that a line check is a practice, and I can’t stress this point enough; it’s a practice and not just a piece of paper. It’s a practice by which a lead line associate, or managers check the quality of everything. What you don’t check will be the place where you have some issues, guaranteed. If you cook your nachos in-house, for example; and don’t check the rotation of them, then anywhere from 1-10 tables may get stale chips before someone notices enough to say something. How much were those 1-10 tables worth to you tonight, and on the return visit that they may delay or cancel as a result of poor food quality.

Depending on what you read, the days of very qualified chefs or KM’s in every unit are either gone or going. As a former chef myself, I must clarify that I am not saying that there aren’t very talented and capable chefs and KM’s. I’m simply suggesting that due to the volume of casual operations out there; and the expansion of their duties, that attention to detail is a daily challenge for most operators. So if not the chef or KM checking food quality, then who? Whatever your answer, we would suggest that they hold a checklist in their hand to make sure nothing is overlooked, and that your expectations aren’t just a function of memory.

What one should find on the actual line check form should include the product name, the visual characteristics that you expect (shiny, charred, etc.) and the temperature expectations (are they changing the ice enough?) and the most overlooked identifier…flavor. A batch of soup can be both hot and creamy, but if you don’t taste it, then you won’t find out that it was heated incorrectly until the letters start arriving. All of that hassle can be prevented by creating a thorough checklist, and enforcing it without exception among your staff and managers. Please keep in mind the whole time that a tool is only as good as the hand that’s holding it.

Mark Ladisky
Restaurant Consultant