50 Great Ideas

50 Great Ideas

41. Menu to amuse parents

In a clever way to market to parents who come in with fussy kids, hotel restaurant Fager’s Island Restaurant & Bar in Ocean City, Md., calls its kids menu “Kid Friendlies,” with items named for kids’ moods. The “I don’t care” is a grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich, the “I don’t want that” is code for french fries, and the “What?” is a cheese quesadilla, among other offerings. As an added perk, when a child tells a parent they aren’t hungry, the adult can say there’s something on the menu for that.

50 Great Ideas

40. Chef tech

When CaliBurger introduced robotics into its back of house, it repositioned both staffer tasks and training. Tasks that staff don’t love doing—scrapping on the grill, working the fryer, etc.—are being automated, and jobs are being repositioned to “chef tech” roles, with training programs in place for how to run automated equipment.

Customization options continue to expand. Jose Andres’ Mercado Little Spain in Hudson Yards in New York offers a gazpacho bar displaying several varieties in pitchers set on ice. Customers choose their variety, it’s poured into a cup and they get a choice of garnishes.

The White Chocolate Grill in Naperville, Ill., provides slips of paper that say “gum” in the sugar caddies for patrons to dispose of their gum before eating. Gross? Maybe. Necessary? Yes. No more wasting the restaurant’s sweetener packets looking for a place to stash gum.

Third-party delivery drivers are the in-person representation of a restaurant brand, even though they don’t work for that concept. So restaurants should think about winning those drivers over: Make them feel welcome and treat them as guests, said Skip Kimpel, VP of IT for Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, at the Restaurant Innovation Summit.

To build business during its slower dinners hours, fast-casual chain Fresh & Co. in New York City is testing Fresh & Co. After Dark, an exclusive delivery dinner menu that customers can’t get in stores. The curated, scaled-down menu includes composed salads prepped for delivery as well as entrees, a few desserts and small plates.

To encourage dialogue among staff, Brother Luck, chef and owner of Four and Lucky Dumpling in Colorado Springs, Colo., set up private group text chats for back-of-house and front-of-house employees to give encouragement and feedback to one another. “[The group chats] are where the communication happens. This is where they switch schedules, where we give high-fives and where we do corrections,” Luck said during the National Restaurant Association Show. “[The employees] hold each other accountable. They’ll post a picture [in the group chat] and say, ‘This is not how we set up this coffee station’ … and all of a sudden, they’re talking back and forth.”

In a package targeted at part-time employees, Chipotle announced it will award crew members bonuses of up to a month’s pay over the course of a year. The quarterly bonus program, which awards bonuses equal to a week’s pay to staff on teams that meet certain sales, cash flow and throughput targets, is designed to help attract and retain top workers.

Former Chili’s COO Kelli Valade starts conversations with line employees by asking them about their tattoos. It establishes an instant rapport, she says, and serves as a good conversation starter between hourlies and corporate officers.

Instead of having trainees sit in a back room for eight hours, Golden Corral breaks lessons into short shifts. After a trainee watches a few of these 15-minute “microbursts of learning,” the computer locks them out, forcing them to do hands-on training with a staffer.

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