Bill Knapp

Controlling Employee Theft


None of us want to think that we are working with a kitchen full of thieves, but there are times when product suddenly starts missing. How can we, as chefs, control our inventory without seeming too much like Big Brother? This month, we’ll take a look at some simple controls to put place which will help curb any runaway supply lines you may have going out the back door.

First, we have to realize that there is always going to be some theft. It would be naïve to think you can clamp down on everything. The truth is, many of us don’t even realize how much theft goes on right in front of us: over-portioning a sandwich for a co-worker, dropping some extra fries to munch on, adding side dishes to a plate but not charging, etc….There are two main ways to keep theft in check; don’t set yourself up to be an easy target, and two, don’t make your employees feel like they need to steal. These are very simple ideas, but they are effective. Let’s examine each:

Don’t be an easy target. The staff needs to see you doing regular inventory, weighing products, counting your shelves,… Continue reading

Cutting the budget? Start in advertising!

Food & Business Tips


What?!?! Cut the advertising budget!?!?! I know-every person that has gone through marketing 101 knows that if you cut your advertising budget because of money concerns, you are only going to be in a worse position. If you aren’t making sales, then how can you expect more money by not advertising?

First, don’t confuse advertising with marketing. We have talked before about using smart marketing; using Twitter to alert current customers about nightly features or emailing people who signed up for the service a few coupons. Think of advertising as vinegar and marketing as honey—well, which one attracts? We live in an age where people can say anything and post it for everyone to see. Because of this, people have become very wary of claims made by even the most respected of businesses. Every commercial has paragraphs of disclaimers on the bottom, so you automatically think they aren’t telling the truth. No, my friends, placing a big ad in a magazine or newspaper just isn’t worth the money. So how do you let people know about you? The answer: public relations and marketing.

Does your restaurant have a unique story? Do any of your… Continue reading

One of the bigger problems facing the hospitality industry, specifically…

Food & Business Tips

Business Sense

One of the bigger problems facing the hospitality industry, specifically restaurants, is the huge turnover in our staff. Many of us just accept it as a cost of doing business, but it doesn’t need to be that way. We all hear about how much it costs to lose an employee, but many chefs really do not understand how it is a true cost to the restaurant, so let’s clarify this oft-repeated phrase with some tangible costly situations, and then explore some things you can do to make work fun (and profitable) for your employees.

Remember, for this article, we are not discussing turnover which is the result of employee termination. This month, we are focusing on losing employees to other restaurants simply because they are leaving for better working conditions, job pay, or job security. Although chefs will argue that losing a long-term is actually beneficial because a lower-waged employee can be brought in, or that a new worker can be trained without the negative habits of the previous employee, these are actually excuses. Any employee developing poor work habits should be dealt with immediately; that is the crux of being a manager.… Continue reading

Don’t panic!

Food & Business Tips

Even though these are tough times economically, don’t fall into the mistake that so many restaurant owners make when there is an downturn: cutting corners. Simple reasoning explains why this would be the biggest mistake anyone could take at this time. Our customers are feeling the pressures of lower income, or income that does not have the buying power it once had, so why would they continue to frequent a restaurant that is charging the same price for a dish which had been done better in the past? There is no easier way to upset regular guests then to keep a price of a menu item, only to cut portion size, use a lower grade of ingredient, or take away previously included side items. Taking away even small amenities such as the after-dinner mints or the complimentary snacks at the lounge bar may not seem like enough of an issue to make a person no longer come to your property, but look at it from their point of view, “Hey, if these guys are hurting so bad they can’t put pretzels on the bar, what the heck else are they slashing back in the kitchen?” Honestly,… Continue reading

Business Sense II

Food & Business Tips

As mobile marketing becomes more and more like a science fiction movie where you are addressed by name as you walk into a store, we must begin looking at the technological side of attracting customers and stop relying on marketing strategies from the 1920’s. I am sure all of you have seen television ads asking you to text to a number and receive deals or promos. The companies doing that kind of advertising get your cell number when you text, and use that to target you for future promos and store you in their immense data banks of consumer profiles.

Until recently, nobody in the food service industry was thinking about applying some of these new technologies to the end game of improving sales and customer retention. All of that is now changing, and one of the agents of change is Fishbowl Inc, a technologybased marketing company for the food service industry. This company has built e-mail and internet marketing campaigns for over 30,000 restaurants and has the endorsement of the National Restaurant Association. Currently, they are getting into the mobile marketing side of advertising, which is proving a boon for many of their clients. Some… Continue reading

Business Sense

I know we have all been made aware of the “greening” of the restaurant industry and society in general. I am also aware of all the excuses for not implementing any of the ideas; “It costs too much…”, “We’re too etc, etc… I know the excuses, because I, too, have used them. The truth of the matter, however, is that this is neither some passing fad, nor does it have to be a burden to you and your staff. Just a few new ideas, implemented as new standing procedures, will really begin to have a positive effect on your current costs. In the next few newsletters, we’ll easy ideas to start this very day, and let you know what our hospitality association is working on for state “green” certifications.

One of the fastest, easiest things to do is to stop using disposables for employee meals and drink. A few plastic cups that are washed at the end of the shift will save you hundreds of dollars at the end of the year; the McCutchen House switched to re-usable plates and cups from the Styrofoam, and our paper expenses have already dropped two to three hundred dollars a month! Now I… Continue reading

Effective Management II

We often become callous to just how dangerous a kitchen can be as a workplace. How many other “offices” require employees to work with scalding pots, sharp knives, or slippery floors? As managers, we can never allow ourselves to become complacent when it comes to the safety of our employees. Proper training and internal feedback are keys to establishing a safe work environment.

By following a few simple rules, and authorize employees to make sure the rules are followed, kitchens can become both safe from injury and less physically demanding as well.

Rule #1: Form and empower a safety committee

The best way to discover possible safety hazards is to simply talk to the employees. The people working in the kitchen know firsthand any area or action that may be hazardous. Every employee recognizes dangerous activities or occurrences that put them at personal risk. Allow them to voice their concerns and listen. Work together to establish new safety rules, without dismissing these actions as being too inefficient or toocostly. Think of the costs involved should an employee become injured. Also, empower any employee to stop any action or situation that is dangerous. There is no excuse for putting a co-worker… Continue reading

Effective Management

Over the past two months, we have discussed hiring employees and involving them within the restaurant. This month, we will focus on the unpleasant task of disciplining errant employees.

Remember, disciplinary actions should be viewed as an opportunity to reinforce company rules and to recognize any lapses in our training programs. Sometimes we can get caught up in the day-today operation of the restaurant and find it easier to simply accept an employee’s no-show or chronic tardiness with a “don’t-let-it-happen-again” speech. Unfortunately, some employees will take advantage of our laissez-faire attitude and continue the unwanted behavior until we are forced into a corner. Proper and timely action will help build a stronger understanding and respect for accepted behaviors.

No manager should boast about the number of employees they have fired. The failure of an employee to become an asset to the company is also the failure of a manager. At some point during the employee’s association with the company, the manager shirked their responsibility to the employee. They may have slipped in the interview process, they may not have kept the employee abreast of company rules, or they may have projected an unreasonable image. In any case, there are certain… Continue reading


The best hiring process is to promote from within. This not only creates goodwill within the operation, but also preserves the corporate culture and reduces training costs. However, the position that was vacated will also have to be filled, and the following are just some of the many suggestions for an effective hiring program. Adhering to these rules may be difficult because no one wants to be understaffed for very long, but patience will definitely pay off in the long run.

–Rule #1: Set specific times to accept applications

If you run a help wanted ad, state that applications will only be accepted at certain times on a few dates. It is much easier for staff to have applications and pens already waiting for the applicants than to constantly be called away to do this. Also, only those applicants who are truly interested in the position will make the effort to set aside time in their day to apply, as opposed to people who will come in at their own convenience.

–Rule #2: Conduct a phone interview

After screening the applications, conduct a phone interview with potential employees. The purpose of this interview is to answer basic questions, such as:… Continue reading

October 3rd meeting Conquest Brewery

November 7th meeting TBD

November 20 Saluda Shoals Chairman's lighting

December 4th Sunday Holiday Party

January 29 President's Award Dinner