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50 Great Ideas

50 Great Ideas

32. Microtrainings

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.

50 Great Ideas

3. Cutting down for delivery

Mexican fast casual Moe’s Southwest Grill moved to simplify delivery orders, limiting the menu to the most popular items and reducing the ingredient options to 12 from the 21 available in-store. Moe’s also eliminated sides from the delivery menu and got rid of tacos, because corn tortillas didn’t hold heat.

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.”

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.

To make the popular breakfast option feel and even sound more like a dinner spot, Black Bear Diner launched a nighttime-only menu of four homestyle entrees, with additional options on the weekends. After 4 p.m., servers sport different uniforms, lights are often dimmed and restaurants play what headquarters describes as “ambiance-setting evening music.”

Each table at Pieces Board Game Bar & Cafe in St. Louis has a flag with three flowers: One can be raised to order a drink, another to get the check and the last to ask a question about the game. This service style limits interruptions while patrons are playing games.

After investing in wind farms to power its restaurants late last year, Starbucks stepped up its use of solar energy. As of this spring, two solar-powered complexes in Texas now supply electricity to 360 Starbucks outlets in the state.

To drive delivery before peak times, Cornerstone Restaurant Group offers loyalty points or perks such as free delivery for orders placed during off-hours. It has been effective, Director of Operations Elizabeth Tomlinson said at the Food On Demand Conference.

Starbucks is launching its 20,000-square-foot Tryer Innovation Center with the goal of bringing new ideas to life in 100 days. The incubator-style lab will look at store design, beverage platforms and customer experience, said CEO Kevin Johnson in April.

When guests are seated at Granite City Food & Brewery, each diner gets a coaster printed with an icebreaker such as “What’s the worst lie you ever told your mother?” that the server must ask the guests to answer. It’s one of several things servers have to do under the concept’s new image, designed to be more “fun.”

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