Steven Brown: Gaining control of your F&B operation

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir November 6, 2011 17:42

Someone once referred to me as a ‘control freak’. Now whilst I readily admit to being the latter I dearly would like to claim to being in the former state!

Over many years of providing guidance and advice to purveyors of food and drink, I have never ceased to be amazed at the range and variety of control, or possibly the lack of it, that I have encountered.

Having conducted a recent ‘Business Whealth’ check for a client, I was disconcerted to be challenged by him to my suggestion that “staff must not be allowed to carry money on their person during service”. Now I thought that this was a fairly basic control that all F&B outlets adopted, understanding the reason for its inclusion in their house rules. My client however seemed to think that I was suggesting that all his staff were dishonest! Now, far be it from me to even suggest such a thing, but I am a great believer in ‘prevention is better than cure’ and that to adopt such a control is simply to remove any area of ‘confusion’ – but what do I know?!

The concern that I have for my clients is that, in cases of the many disputes that can occur between employers and employees regarding their responsibilities and activities, I have seen far too many investigations into alleged wrongdoing collapse due to the fact that no clear guideline was given by the employer as to how the employees were meant, in all areas of working practices, to perform. This in turn leads to a defence from staff of “you never told me that I had to do that!” Even job descriptions (where they have been issued!) fail to be updated to reflect the changes that today’s operational procedures demand.

Well, let’s not fall foul of any future personnel minefields by reviewing the case for an operations’ manual. Throughout my working life I have been instrumental in compiling a large number of these for both individual and corporate clients and they all have one theme in common: to set out clearly stated, tried and tested working methods that identify, in great detail, every individual’s responsibilities. By establishing this there can never be a defence of “you never told me”.

Now I thought it might be a good idea to give you a flavour of precisely what it is that I refer to. Space does not allow me to expand greatly upon this subject. (I have, after all, written operations’ manuals that range from 10 to 60 pages). No, but I have, for your delectation and delight, listed five key pointers under each heading, in key areas of control for F&B managers and their staff, that you might consider worthy of inclusion in your own F&B operation and control manual, and remember, all I seek to do here is to protect the rights of employers and employees alike. This is not a bible to assist in the search for the guilty. It is a guide to provide you with benchmarks for performance.

Here then are both suggested topics and tips:

Stock taking

• Liquor and food stocks to be obtained only from nominated suppliers;

• All free of charge goods to be declared on the same invoices and delivery notes as all invoiced goods;

• All keys to stock stores and safes to be kept on the manager’s (or nominated assistant) person at all times;

• Manager to accompany stock taker on all counts but is never allowed to assist in the physical count or the recording of information;

• All delivered stocks must be checked at the time of delivery and into an area away from both existing stocks and returns.

Stock results – analysis

• Conduct irregular line checks on a daily / weekly basis;

• Review actual performance of gross margin, surplus / deficit, yield and wastage against your previously set targets;

• Insist that your stock taker provides you with a written report after each stock detailing all concerns followed by solutions;

• Ensure that your bar manager receives a copy of the stock result and that he or she provides you with a report detailing actions taken to improve profitability and reduce inefficiency;

• Remove all slow selling lines to improve cash flow and reduce possibility of out of date scenarios.

Cash transactions

• Ensure the bar supervisor is allowed to count and sign for the float prior to trading;

• Investigate the need to recount floats on shift change overs;

• Ensure that all change is counted back into the customer’s hand;

• Ensure that all change / notes are placed in the allocated section in the till drawer;

• Place large domination notes on the top of the till (clip) until correct change has been taken and given.

PDQ (credit and debit cards) operating procedures

• All payment slip details must be confirmed prior to signature;

• All completed individual slips must be retained and cross referenced with the ‘Z’ report;

• All slips must be retained and stored safely for on site inspection;

• Any sales vouchers, which are subsequently rejected after banking due to incomplete details, will become the responsibility of the staff member involved in the transaction for repayment of any shortfall;

• All details and transactions must be recorded daily on the administration sheet supplied for that purpose without exception.

Complaint handling

• All staff must be informed of the procedure for dealing with customer complaints and be fully aware of their levels of authority;

• Keep a complaints record book and record all such instances;

• Acknowledge all complaints calmly and politely and, if possible, away from the public’s gaze;

• Staff must establish ‘fact from fantasy’ and provide outcomes within their level of authority;

• Follow up on the complaint by ensuring all staff are aware and, where possible, ensure that no such incident can occur again.

Training and development

• Ensure that all staff are properly inducted into their working environment to ensure both compliance and safety is assured;

• Provide training support in terms of job relevance;

• Keep records of all training, assessment and achievements in the personnel files;

• Conduct a training needs analysis to ensure that all staff are competent at their defined job roles;

• Keep all training materials up to date, legal and relevant.

House standards

• All areas accessed by customers must be cleaned / serviced to the standard laid down in the manual prior to service;

• Chalkboards (if used) must be amended prior to service;

• All product displays must be clean and tidy, and the product display appropriate to the consumer profile;

• No extraneous items are to be left on display on the back fitting. (Invoices, mobile phones, Spanish donkey, salt and pepper pots and so on);

• All equipment (AWPs, coffee machines and so on) to be switched on and replenished.

Preparation for service

• All toilet stock must be replenished;

• All pump heads must be cleaned and polished;

• All containers and casks must be readied for dispense;

• All shelves must be stocked up and rotated;

• All condiments, serviettes, ice and fruits must be ready for service.

Closing procedures

• Leave the till drawer open to reveal no money contained within;

• Hard peg cask beers on tap (turn off CO2 on keg beers);

• Cash declare to till and record;

• Secure all customer areas;

• Lock all doors and set alarms.

Energy checks

• Ensure all time clocks / thermostats are set to reduce waste;

• Use low wattage bulbs where appropriate;

• Ensure kitchen equipment is turned on in sufficient time to prepare for orders but switched off when not in use;

• Turn off all lights when leaving rooms;

• Do not leave televisions / videos on standby, but turn off.


• Ensure it is clean, tidy and free from weeds and glass;

• Ensure safety to comply with duty of care. (Display appropriate disclaimer notices);

• Display all relevant exterior signage to promote sales;

• See external areas are lit and in good working order;

• Review the efficiency of directional signage (for example entrance, pro shop, driving range, bar and restaurant and so on).

EPoS till

• Ensure each screen has a listing for all products to avoid cross ringing;

• Ensure that price changes are recorded immediately (back office systems or at the till);

• Give clear instructions to all staff as to all relevant functions;

• Management to access and utilise all relevant data available from the till to manage the business correctly;

• Staff are to use only the fob or swipe card allocated to them. In addition they are to surrender this to management at the end of each shift. If staff lose their fob card they will pay for its replacement.

Recording of waste product

• All liquor and food waste is to be recorded (by the manager only) on the properly constructed waste record sheet on a daily basis;

• Targets to be set regarding acceptable levels of waste (for example pipe cleaning, heavy bottom and so on) and these are to be monitored weekly;

• Staff are to be informed of poor performance relating to stock losses;

• Continuous stock losses due to staff inefficiency will be deducted from salary;

• Incentives will be offered to all staff where waste reduction is improved.

Typical house rules

• No mobile phones, ipods or other distractions are allowed to be used during service times;

• Staff will not be allowed to carry any monies on their person during service. (I’m still sticking with this one!)

• Staff will not be allowed to use the club’s stock for their own consumption but rather use the separate stocks supplied for that purpose;

• Standards of dress and appearance must be complied with as stated in the company policy;

• Staff may be required to perform tasks of a nature as yet unspecified from time to time.

And breathe! Now that isn’t everything by any stretch of the imagination but it does give you a flavour of how better to control the business and your personnel.

Are some of the things mentioned symptomatic of taking a sledgehammer to crack a walnut? Quite possibly, but all I will say is: “how bad is the problem?”

If you don’t have a control manual (total or even partial) then how can you reasonably expect people to perform to measurable standards? You need accountability for all concerned and by adopting an operations’ manual you will at least begin the process of becoming a control freak like me!

There is one area of control that I haven’t referred to yet and arguably it’s the most important one; customer control. Here are a few pointers for them:

Customer charter

1. Please remember to order drinks one at a time as we like to run backwards and forwards to keep us fit;

2. When ordering a round of drinks, please make sure you do not know what you want when you reach the bar. We enjoy standing and waiting whilst you nip backwards and forwards or shout across the room to find out;

3. Once you receive two drinks, please take them back to your table and stay for a quick chat before returning to pay, we will still be waiting and we appreciate the rest;

4. Please order Guinness last. We really want to stand at the bar with your drinks while it settles and we are especially delighted when we forget about it and are reminded by you to top it up;

5. Never put money in our hands, as we like to pick it up off the bar, especially if it is all in change and sitting in a puddle of beer;

6. Never say “please” or “thank you” as it only irritates us;

7. Always wait until you have been told how much your round is before asking for crisps and nuts. When requiring ready salted crisps always ask for the full range of flavours before asking for plain, it helps us to learn the stock;

8. When buying a drink for Ray or Colin please don’t ask them what they want, just point at them and we will guess. We get such a thrill from guessing correctly;

9. If you have been waiting at the bar for at least two minutes, please tell us you have been waiting for half an hour as it keeps us on our toes as we have no concept of time;

10. Can we remind you we only ring the bell to ensure you are awake? We don’t want you to come to the bar until 15 minutes after time has been called and the tills have been taken out and all the lights have been switched off;

11. Please refuse to take your table number, knives and forks and any sauces to your table. It provides a stimulating distraction to memorise all orders in the garden and a satisfying workout to make four trips to each table.

Joking of course. Or am I?

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir November 6, 2011 17:42
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