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Five common f&B mistakes
01 May, 2007

Of all the departments that exist inside an amusement park, food and beverage (f&b) is the most maligned and misunderstood. The sales and profit it can contribute is rarely tapped to its full potential. The steps needed to control this are not complex, but it does deserve to be run as a business within the business.

Here, in brief, are five issues that do not get deserved attention:

1) Not having a sense of urgency in monitoring the food and beverage. numbers is fatal in the end. Waiting for the accounting department to produce monthly results makes it impossible to research discrepancies. A weekly set of systems and procedures must be executed so trails can’t grow cold if a red flag pops up. This includes weekly inventories (daily if necessary), the close tracking of waste/comps, periodic plate costing and follow-throughs on training and how it impacts portion control. These are standard operating procedures with chain or corporate venues, and they make even more sense in an independent operation.

2) Being in denial about bad things that may be taking place. It is difficult to believe staff would be amoral or careless, but woe is the manager that thinks their employees would never think of such. Keep honest people honest by having a strict set of rules regarding deliveries, lock-ups, cash control, timecards and taking out the trash. Believe it or not, most people actually enjoy working in a stricter environment.

3) The business is teeming with f&b operations that have allowed their schedule to be tailored to the needs of the employees rather than the needs of the business. People get to the point where they expect 40 hours a week and, worse, expect overtime, mainly because management has taken the path of least resistance in hiring.

4) Embrace the art of communication rather than ignoring it. Sharing information with staff, including job performance and company results is gaining favour as the best way to do business. By nature people want and need to know what kind of job they are doing. Keeping the numbers top secret hardly promotes participation. When staff are privy to the outcome of their efforts, they feel more valued and have insight.

5) The failure to confront the reality that perhaps a ‘silver bullet’ does exist to turn things around: With a bit of planning and policy setting, hope becomes a reality. This really is more about accountability in the workplace to one’s employer, a way to say “In return for this job, my thanks to you is to maximise profits in food and beverage, even if I have to invest an extra hour or two a week.”

Committing to the above is a great start for a successful f&b operation. There is a line that separates minimising costs (or maximising profits) and affecting the customer experience. That line is always moving, shimmering like a mirage. As hinted in the last point, it is the f&b manager’s job to follow that line closely.

Mike Holtzman is president of Profitable Food Facilities, a hospitality design and consulting firm to US recreational and family entertainment operations for 15 years.